Who is Biff Thuringer? ... and what is a Biffogram?
The answers to these questions are complicated, but let's get started. Biff Thuringer is a construction -- a humanoid with no father or mother, created in the mind of a state worker in 1982 as an attempt to hide his subversive nature and to avoid paying taxes on what were then a series of sporadic moonlighting jobs as a musician. The role of this alter ego has shifted through the years, as its author has morphed from social worker to computer systems analyst to cartoonist, poet, singer/songwriter, recording artist, journalist, editor, novelist and magazine publisher, and back to social worker again, sort of . During the 1980s, Thuringer published The Biffogram, distributing 1,000 copies each month to fans and coworkers as a combination calendar/gossip/humor rag with the primary goal of getting people to gigs in Albany and New York City. Oddly, there exist bound volumes of these rags in the dusty closets of a number of retired NY State Tax Department employees. What you are looking at is the rebirth of the name and general temperament of that extinct publication, coupled with an expanded mission: to entertain and provide grist for the heart, mind and soul of anyone who stumbles into this rabbit hole. Good luck getting out.
During the 1990s our founder, temporarily shedding the Biff persona, quit government work and joined the NYC funk band Milo Z, which toured around the U.S. with the Neville Brothers, The Meters, and Al Green. The band got a record deal with Mercury/Polygram and did all right until their guy at the label, Ed Eckstyne, got canned. They were friends with the Spin Doctors, Blues Traveler, Joan Osborne, God Street Wine, and others who had come up out of the Nightingale scene on Second Avenue in the Lower East Side. It was a heady time, rubbing shoulders with movie stars, mobsters and music moguls.
Success turned out, as most things do, to be a double-edged sword, especially the more popular the band got. As exciting as things were on the surface, it was a strange, lonely and not very rewarding time, when one wasn't onstage beating off the demons. Milo really, really wanted to be the next Michael Jackson and was working hard on his inner diva. Biff wasn't into living in a fantasy bubble, surrounded by sycophants. The road totally sucked and he was relieved when the band broke up. He's been avoiding the road ever since, but is starting to get over it.
Elsewhere in his career as a sideman, Thuringer under another name played with the late Nick Brignola, according to Downbeat the best baritone sax player ever. He was in a great disco funk band, Natural Essence, with the unbelievable jazz bassist Santi Wilson Debriano. He played with Tony Lindsay, Grammy-winning lead singer for Santana, with renowned Polish jazz violinist Michal Urbaniak, and with doo-wop legends The Jive Five, to crowds of over 200,000.
Thuringer also experienced a very short and very successful (if anonymous) career as a contract dance music producer. In 1995 he was paid $400 to work on a track for the producer working with a Europop group called No Mercy. With a sampled drum track and swatches of samples of the singers that had been recorded in France and linked to the keys of a synthesizer, he had to figure out the changes, construct the song and make up/record keyboard and bass parts. The song was called "Where Do You Go," and turned out to be a huge dance hit in the U.S. and U.K. Some of that feel has been creeping into his music lately, after listening to Nile Rodgers talk about it.
Most of Thuringer's music career has been playing solo in clubs, as a singing piano and/or guitar player turning down requests for Billy Joel songs from tables full of nuns and drunk sailors. He's not doing that any more. Ever. Just so we're clear.
Biff Thuringer is now in full effect. He's throwing all his shit out on the internet in one yearlong blast, doing things quick and dirty using his iPhone, garageband, the old Korg M1 from the Milo Z days and a Mexican Strat with a crappy digital effects box. Right now he plays all the parts, like Trent Reznor used to. He sings right into the phone. Fuck it. Biff resolutely refuses to choose a genre, but tends to work in jazz, funk, soul, r&b and rock. He'll start a band later, and have big parties in a barn like Levon Helm did, making the world come to him and hand him awards and money. The band is going to have to be really, really good, and everybody's going to have to sing, like in Sly and the Family Stone. That's the dream, anyway.