Proust Q 5.0 April 2010: Bernard Perusse

April 10, 2010

Bernard Perusse also works at The Gazette as a music critic and music and arts reporter. He is exactly as nice and earnest and solid as he sounds in this month’s Proust Questionnaire 5.0 (What’s this?, read the footnote.)
Ladies and germs, I give you, Bernie Perusse.

Since we are conducting this interview via email, the world is ours for the inventing. If, as I some day hope, money is no object, in what city and establishment would you like this interview to be taking place?
At Corky’s in Memphis, Tenn., having their killer ribs with the house sauce. Any place that’s good enough for both Bill Clinton — a man who clearly knows his ribs — and Elvis Presley’s karate teacher is damn well good enough for us.

Who and what would you be wearing?
If, by “who,” you mean a designer, you’re asking the wrong guy. I’d probably be wearing black jeans, a red long-sleeve shirt and gray running shoes.

And, most importantly, what would we be drinking?
We’re in Memphis, so it’s big-ass beers all the way (they actually offer them under that name there). And I believe it’s my round.

Okay then. What are the qualities you most admire in others?
Loyalty, compassion and diplomacy. I think honesty is highly overrated.

What do you like most about yourself?

I don’t follow trends. I’m OK with being a music writer who can’t stand Arcade Fire. Most of all, I guess, I’m proud of my devotion to family, friends and music. In that order. God is on that devotion list, too, of course. I work hard on connecting with God, but I’m nowhere near where I want to be. I keep hearing about the dark night of the soul. When’s that supposed to end, anyway?


My tendency to hold grudges for a long time. My compulsion to worry about nothing, too. I’m not thrilled about my pathological need to procrastinate, either. I’ll try and fix that one day. It’s on my “to-do” list.

What is your greatest achievement?
Collaborating on a great marriage and being the father of two fabulous kids. Although being asked by Rolling Stone to cover some jazz-fest shows last year can’t be ignored.

What is your present state of mind?
As a working member of the print media, serene or confident would be the wrong words. But all in all, content with life.

Where and when are/were you happiest?

Sitting on the beach in Maine in July, with Jan and Dean on the iPod.

What is your first memory?

Getting slapped in the face by a grade-school teacher for talking in line. Discipline guidelines were obviously different in those days.

What, currently, do you most love doing?
Enjoying tasty pitchers of beer with friends at Clydes in Pointe Claire Village; Thursday night listening sessions with a group of
like-minded music nerds (we call these regular gatherings dissections); Saturday morning lattes on our deck in the summer, reading Mojo Magazine.

What was your worst job?
I articled for a big law firm (1978) and that was a soul-destroying experience all the way. It’s what landed me in journalism.

Your favourite colour?
I’m looking at my wardrobe. I have to go with black.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

No health worries.

Of misery?
Yard work.

If not yourself, who or what would you be?
I suppose I would be a musician, but there’s no one in particular I’d want to be. Most of the time, it’s fun being me.

Where would you like to live?

Montreal most of the year, somewhere warm and sunny in the winter.

What is your favourite journey?
Driving to Maine in the summer, with plenty of money and beach ahead of us.

What is your favourite or most memorable meal and when is the last time you indulged?
I’m not what you would call a foodie at all. I’m thrilled with a pub burger, a slice of pizza or spaghetti with meat sauce. I do have a weakness for lobster, though, and I try to have that every year when we’re by the ocean. August 2009 would be the last time I did that.

Name the person who influenced you most and how.

That’s a real tough one. I wouldn’t be who I am without parents who supported me at all times. My CEGEP philosophy teacher, Gerry LaValley, opened my mind to a world of ideas and made it all fun. We’re still friends. Stan Asher, also one of my CEGEP teachers, gave me a love of cinema history that I still have. Lester Bangs, or any of the Creem Magazine writers, made me realize how liberating writing about music can be.

Name the film/song/book/art that influenced you most and why?
It’s a cliche for my generation, but the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964. I was 9. Equally cliched — but totally true — is that the world seemed to switch from black and white to colour that night. If I must go with a film, it would be A Hard Day’s Night, for the same reasons. Its exhilarating and boundless sense of joy pretty much defined the magic of rock n’ roll — and I’m still as infatuated with that as I ever was.

In this or any time, which real-life figure(s) do you most admire?
As a practicing Catholic, I’d say Jesus Christ goes into a category by himself. In contemporary times, Martin Luther King and Barack Obama for their vision and courage. In the entertainment field, I’d pick Paul McCartney, who seems to be a genuine, decent human being, even though his fame is inestimable and his songwriting genius incomparable in popular music, and Bob Dylan, whose life’s work and late-career renaissance have both been inspiring to me.

Who is your favourite fictional hero?
Bugs Bunny.

What fault can you most easily forgive?

Forgetfulness. Maybe because I understand it so well.

What fault can you not forgive?

Meanness and rudeness. And here’s my soapbox moment: I don’t get people who say insulting and hurtful things and try to pass it off as just being frank or “honest.” I also don’t understand people who thrive on confrontation and consider it a sign of strength. I see it as a sign of weakness. Tolerance and compassion take a lot more strength. (Not that I’m the best practitioner of what I preach.)

What is your motto?

Rock and roll is here to stay, it will never die, oh baby (Danny & the Juniors). I also like one popularized by an ancient, forgotten comedy team, Olsen and Johnson. They used to say “May you live as long as you want and may you laugh as long as you live.”

How would you hope to die?
Sitting in front of the stereo, with a just-finished pint at my side and the last track on Rubber Soul fading away. A quick lights-out.

Any questions I should have asked?
Hey, that’s my line! I use it in every interview. But no.

Any last words?
Peace and love.

Admit it. You read those celebrity Q&As and you know you’re easily as worthy of being profiled. I know I do, but my friends are way more interesting. So, with nods to the “confession albums” of the late 1800s  made famous by the fabulous Marcel Proust’s answers, to French TV host Bernard Pivot who adapted the questionnaire, to Inside the Actors Studio host James Lipton who gave it another spin and to Vanity Fair, which uses its own elegantly spun version to anchor the magazine’s back pages, I submit for your entertainment and enlightenment, my own version of the Proust Questionnaire, re-retooled for a blog age.


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