A conversation with Angelo 'Scrote' Bundini and Celebrating David Bowie

Paul Caparotta

Scrote & Todd Rundgren @ the San Jose Civic (Photo: Kevin Keating)
Scrote & Todd Rundgren @ the San Jose Civic (Photo: Kevin Keating)

One of our favorite shows the past few years has been the seemingly annual all-star Bowie tribute concert and for the first time since the pandemic started, we've seen the return of 'Celebrating David Bowie' to the Bay Area with a stop at the San Jose Civic on Saturday, October 8th. Luckily, we were able to speak with creator, producer, and featured artist Angelo "Scrote" Bundini just before our Bay Area date and you can find our full interview below! Separately, you can find our review of the show here, and be sure to look for future dates at the CdB website here

SFBayAreaConcerts: We're definitely excited to have Celebrating David Bowie back in the Bay Area. David Bowie means so much to a wide variety of people. I don't know if any other musician has been so culturally relevant or adaptable for for so long. How do you build a setlist that appeals to such a wide base of fans?

Scrote: At times, it's it's been tempting to focus on a period. Bowie has spans over many decades and crosses so many genres and styles.  When he passed away that night, I heard him say, he had 26 studio albums. And I thought, "Man, that's a lot." I looked up, how many do I have? And I had 23. I sit down, and I look at the whole thing, and I start casting the band and the artist. You know, coming up with ideas of who fits kind of what you know, and who might want to do what, and then that kind of starts piecing it together. The building process; every tour is different. So we have different cast performances. Each time I have to look at it with a new lens.

SFBAC: It definitely must be a balancing act. You have a bunch of great musicians in the mix for for this upcoming tour. We've interviewed Adrian Belew before -- he's a real master. Obviously with him being in the mix with Bowie, and considering all of the work that he's done across his discography, what do you think are some of the important contributions he brings to the experience?

Scrote: Some of that is just kind of what you said. I mean, he is so unusually virtuosic, on guitar, and also as a singer. So I mean, we've been traveling all around the planet for years now doing this. He singularly stands out and might be the only guest on there, who's equally suited to singing and playing guitar and comfortable and strong in both of those roles. I don't think we've had another person who could sing and then turn around and, guitar-wise, take over. He's such a gentleman, too. He's always been happy to sing Bowie on different things and play rhythm guitar. And we're doing it this time as well, where I sing a Bowie song and he sings the harmony with me, and we're trading solos. And he's a big influence on me playing guitar.  That's a funny little moment for me, you know, those moments where I check in every once awhile and go, "What am I doing here?"

Angelo 'Scrote' Bundini (Photo: Scrote)
Angelo 'Scrote' Bundini (Photo: Scrote)

You're no slouch yourself. You've got a rich experience working with a number of musicians. You obviously have worked with Todd Rundgren in the past. Like Bowie, he's iconoclastic and definitely a passionate individualist. Do you see some common threads that run between those two musicians?

Scrote: Oh, absolutely. I mean, they're so parallel -- changing genres and styles and always looking forward and reaching forward. It's pretty amazing. I know a certain amount about artists like Todd, but then doing research to learn more before you reach out or something. With Todd it's just humbling. His history in producing records alone is historic. So there's another example -- somebody in both worlds succeeding beyond anyone else in both worlds. It's very astonishing!

SFBAC: Yes. It's funny. I didn't even know about Todd Rundgren as a musician at first. I first knew of him as a producer. XTC are a huge band of mine. And I remember when Skylarking came out. I thought, "Oh, who's this Todd Rundgren character?" And then over time, I realized the work he did early on with Badfinger and his deep, deep, rich production history.

Scrote: Yeah, it's really crazy. It's funny XTC was one of my favorite bands. But I knew Todd way before that. So when he was producing XTC. For me, I was like, "What!? What's that gonna be like, you know --who put that chocolate in my peanut butter? What's going on?" Todd was brought on to kind of break them (XTC). They were kind of floundering in this iconic indie underground thing, that I was a part of, and a label wanted [Todd] to have them make a hit and break with an American audience. And he, of course, had this track record of doing that.  So that's the game -- he was working on that. And their mindset was not that at all. So they're rubbing elbows. In the end [Andy] Partridge said he [Todd] just did exactly what he was supposed to do. He did our biggest hit. I love XTC.

SFBAC: We're talking about all of these great musicians and how their interpretation of David Bowie is going to be driving, celebrating David Bowie. We try to categorize music so that it can be easily pushed within different genres and then worked into the algorithm; how do you believe Bowie's music will be perceived in the next over the next 20 years?

Scrote: Well, that's a great question. Because I think that's what everyone's trying to figure out. When I started this, I checked in with the estate to make sure I wasn't stepping on toes because I'm not doing this to compete with anything they're doing. And so I've kind of watched them work from a different vantage point. And I always check in before we launch something for that reason. I know David said, he didn't want to endorse anything outside of that entity at this stage. And he didn't want to be Elvis. Elvis, you know, go down like Elvis Presley in that 'Barbie Doll' kind of way. But you know, in time, what do you know, there's a Barbie Doll. So I think certain things are inevitable. The music will keep going on. And you know, these kind of merchandising things -- I think they're all kind of cool. You know, and I think it helps feed the music and the legacy.

SFBAC: You're definitely right. I think in a world where album sales are in this weird liminal zone, the best way to support an artist is to go see live music. There, there is still for merchandise to support artists and their legacy, and to give consumers what they're looking for. But I get what you mean about Elvis, but the idea of not mass producing one item that are supposed to speak to a large audience.

Scrote: Yeah, you know, there's going to be cheesy stuff and cool stuff. That's the way that it's. As far as we're concerned, with Celebrating David Bowie, we're just trying to keep the music alive through our large live experience.  Because of who's involved and who we bring on the show -- the heaviness of the musicians from top to bottom, you know, these artists are to do theater shows where, literally nobody else can do that. And hopefully, we're doing it in a way that fans appreciate, and can feel Bowie in it. We might tweak and try something new with just as Bowie did, you know, just try to stay fresh. I'm looking for singers who are strong artists already. And so there's no steering them to sounding like Bowie.

SFBAC: Well, from Winterland to Cow Palace and Oakland Arena, Bowie, made an impression on people in the Bay Area. What are you hoping that concert goers get out of the experience? And what do you think that they love about the legacy?

Scrote: I lived in the Bay Area for 12 years, before I moved in Los Angeles. When we started we had the first show -- I'd never imagined we'd play more than one show. Six years ago, it was really just a way for a bunch of us to get together. And, you know, cathartic experience going through him passing. But it went viral. And finally someone's asked me to do an encore version in the Bay Area since I lived up there. It's like, okay, that makes sense to me. Before we go jumping around the planet, let's go the Bay Area. I know they'll love Bowie. You know, Jerry Harrison was on the show and then Gary Oldman. Back in 2016, shout out to those who attended that, because that had a great vibe. It was four hours long! And so, coming out of COVID it's, you know, everyone's still trying to find their feet touring. This time we are at the San Jose Civic. Next year we'll be somewhere else in the Bay. So with my roots and, and knowing the music, musicians and the vibe in the Bay Area, I knew it was a perfect match for Bowie. I love playing up there.

SFBAC: I've got to ask, what's your favorite Bowie song and favorite album?

Scrote: Oh, that's, that's a tough one. And a weird one. So favorite Bowie album... I was asked that when we were playing with a lot of the former Bowie band members and a big sold out show. And it was on Bowie's birthday, first birthday after he passed.  I was backstage being interviewed by an Italian TV show and several, several band members were around. And I hadn't really thought about it at that point. And I was like, "Man, what would it be? Jeez. So many periods." And then it just kind of hit me: Heroes. I'd have to pick that. Yeah. I'm experimental artist and I've always worked in that area. He just kind of used a paint brush with it. With sound and different approaches. But you know, there's so many that I love. When we were backstage, all of these former band members from all periods of Bowie were watching the interview. When I said Heroes I realized none of them played on it. I didn't do that intentionally! You guys are peppered through the whole catalogue! And I just happened to pick the one that none of you played on.

SFBAC: It's like saying, "What's your favorite Beatles album?" Saying Revolver doesn't mean that like you don't love Sergeant Pepper any less.

Scrote: Yes. You know, Bowie's famous for players coming and going. Except for maybe the band with Spiders from Mars, you know what I mean? So, nobody really has a claim on the whole catalog of music. But I'll tell you real quick that for a favorite song, there's one Bowie song that for some reason, I never get tired of it. (Not that we get tired of others, but this one just like -- I just want to throw that in!) So the odd one: "Absolute Beginners." It's kind of a b-side 80s tune. There's some 50s kind of chord progression about it, and it's kind of got a majestic kind of lovers vibe. It's kind of upbeat and you know, a love song. And which was wouldn't normally fit me either. But for some reason, that song, I always turn it up every time I hear it. Like, "Life on Mars," I've played it a million times on stage and I'm not tired of it at all. I love playing that live. It's kind of astonishing for the same reason that it's got this majestic thing to it, you know. But you know, the I think it's just that's kind of my world, and "Absolute Beginners" isn't. We've, we played it live, but not that often. So it's kind of sitting on the side. So maybe that's part of it.

SFBAC: Thanks so much for being generous with with your time we're definitely looking forward to having you in the Bay and looking forward to Celebrating David Bowie with you.

Scrote: Yeah, right on, I can't wait to get back. It's been a while since been up there not for lack of trying. It's just a matter of circumstance. And I always remember that San Francisco show -- that was one of the best highlights we've ever had. So it'll be great to be back.

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