September 27, 2014
I’m a moody guy. I play with identity like a cat plays with a mouse before eating it. As a performer, you have to take what is out there and make it your own. My real name is Tosh Berman, and I used to be a roadie for a band called “Shane Fenton and the Fentones.” Shane and the boys made a demo and sent it off to the BBC. Just right before they got accepted by the media giant, Shane died as a result of the rheumatic fever he had suffered in childhood. The band was about to split up, but I told them “no, I can be Shane.” And so I did, and joined the band not as Tosh, but as Shane Fenton. The first song we recorded became a hit called “I’m a Moody Guy.” After that, I never looked back. I just recently took up the name “Tosh Berman” to be a writer. I believe that name is suitable for a writer’s name. As a singer, Tosh doesn’t really jell in my, or in the public’s mind.
I’m a so-so singer, but my main musical talent is as a pianist. My number one role model for that instrument is Bud Powell. Amazing composer as well, but I really like how he takes a song and tears it apart and puts it back together again. The Fentones don’t do jazz or blues, but rock n’ roll. That music, to be honest, I’’m not that crazy about. Nevertheless I discovered numerous jazz recordings while on tour. I tend to like to go off by myself and visit the local record shops of towns that we visited for shows. It was around this time that I started to think I could have another music career, or identity. After finishing the tour with the Fentones, I left the band and took up the name “Bud Powell the Third”.
Once I take up a new name or identity, I never allow people around me call me by my previous names. At this point, I was Bud, and like the original Bud Powell, I took up drinking. It has been reported that a single drink could change Powell into a remorseful figure. It didn’t affect me the same way, but I pretended to be drunk after the first drink. To get into the artist’s mind-set I felt it was very important to not only adopt their musical talents, but also their habits as well. It took me 12-months to totally change my identity and be recognized as a jazz pianist. I even signed with Blue Note Records, and put out a series of albums: “Bud Powell the Third," ” More of Bud Powell the Third, ” and so forth.
Critics and some of the public were down with me for taking up the name of such a classic musician, but I think they misunderstood my purpose here. There’s a need or vacancy, and I feel my role in life is to fill the void. My skills as a pianist are pretty good, but not as great as the original Bud. Still, if my work brings attention to the master, am I doing such a bad thing? I roam east 53rd street where the jazz clubs used to be. Now there is nothing there but huge buildings. Culture, or the urban life, is set out to destroy the original locations, and therefore I feel I must take a stand and re-invent a world that goes back to Bud or even my late friend Shane.
Now, it is time for me to give up music and focus on writing. I have a hard time making up narratives, so I started to focus on the books by Jim Thompson. He knew how to tell the tale. So basically I took his novels as my own. I changed a word here and there, but I somewhat made the books of my own. Of all my novels, I’m quite fond of “The Killer Inside Me.” Thompson’s father was a sheriff in Caddo County, Oklahoma. While “writing” my novels, I moved to the country to get closer to the source of Thompson’s life. Like Powell, I took up drinking again, but this time, my role model was Thompson. Without a doubt people are confused with the name “Tosh Berman” who writes Jim Thompson’s books. There is no valid reason why I do this, except that inspiration works in strange ways. Sometimes it is done by chance, and other times it is planned out like a military exercise. Nevertheless I remain truly myself in a world of illusion.