FIREHOUSE guitarist Bill Leverty has issued a statement regarding the tragic passing of former FIREHOUSE bassist Bruce Waibel, who was found dead at his Florida home on Tuesday (September 2). No word on the cause of death will be released until an autopsy is completed.
Waibel, who was 39, was born in Dover, New Jersey, but had lived in Florida for the last 20 years. He played in FIREHOUSE for three years and had previously performed with THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND.
Leverty's statement reads as follows:
"I can't find the words to express how I feel right now about the loss of Bruce Waibel. He was such a phenomenal musician, but he was also one of the most gracious, kind, and funny people I've ever met.
"I first met Bruce when he was playing in a band that hosted a 'jam night' in Sarasota, FL. I saw him play and I was completely blown away. He did a solo that night that literally knocked me out of my chair. I knew that musically he was something extremely special. We jammed some JOE SATRIANI songs that night and he just nailed them. I talked with him afterwards and he instantly had me rolling on the floor, laughing hysterically.
"When FIREHOUSE had an opening for a new bassist, I immediately thought of Bruce and asked him if he'd like to play with us. He said he'd love to, so I arranged a meeting with him and the guys. The first thing he said when he arrived in the sweltering Florida heat on that summer day was, 'Man, it's hotter than a VCR in a crack house!' We all cracked up laughing and any awkward tension or anxiety that might have been there immediately vanished. We never auditioned anyone else. His playing made everyone rise to a new level and there was a great amount of excitement and rejuvenation that he brought into the band. His voice was so good that he could sing ANYTHING, and he could sing it really well. He had so much talent.
"Our first project together was the recording of the FIREHOUSE album: 'O2'. Bruce approached the recording with such a positive attitude, playing what the song called for, but also taking it beyond our vision. My favorite licks that he played on that album are in 'Call Of The Night', where after the solo, he just rips out this amazing bass riff that blows me away every time I hear it. He also played bass licks that I feel are some of his signature licks on 'Jumpin', 'Take It Off' and 'I'm In Love This Time'. His confident, relaxed yet articulate feel can be heard throughout the entire album. I quickly knew while recording him, that Bruce had a style of his own and that he was a total pro.
"Aside from his musical genius, Bruce was also able to fix just about anything. In the short time that I knew him, I had seen him fix everything from TV's, VCR's, stereos, cars, tour busses, telephones, and all types of musical equipment. His newest interest was computers, where he went to school and achieved many high levels of certification. I remember him studying on the flights we'd take to gigs, and I'd ask him what he was working on. He tried telling me, but it was so advanced that I couldn't begin to understand the first of it.
"When I decided to record a solo album, Bruce was the obvious choice as the bassist, especially since he came from the exact musical place that I was going for: melodic rock with a Southern feel. I mean, the guy played in THE GREGG ALLMAN BAND for over 10 years!! I had already recorded demos of the songs and I gave them to Bruce. He said that he really wanted to play on the record. I jumped at the opportunity to start recording him immediately. He would come over at about 2pm and we would record his bass tracks for one song until about 6pm. Then he would eat dinner with my wife and daughter (who he adored.... He absolutely LOVED kids.) telling great stories about his kids, and cracking us all up with his endless repertoire of jokes and impressions. After we finished eating, we'd go in the studio and listen to the song he had just worked on, touch up anything that needed to be fixed (which was very rare),and he'd leave with a big smile on his face.
"As you might have known, the album was nearly done, but I wasn't completely satisfied with my guitar tone. Even so, I made Bruce a CD of rough mixes of all the songs, and after he listened to it, he told me that he felt that this was the best performance he had ever recorded. He thanked me for letting him be himself and play to his full potential. I got the impression that in the past, some producers had kept him from really showing his stuff. My intention was to give him as much freedom as he wanted, and show the world how amazing he was. I knew that in doing so, I knew he would make each song that much better. He added so much to the entire album, but then again, he added so much to everything he touched. We had such a great time together with this project because there was no pressure and no expectations placed on anyone.
"We toured together on the Metal Edge Rockfest 2002 Tour with DOKKEN, RATT, WARRANT, and LA GUNS. Bruce was loved by everyone on the tour. He had a way of lifting everyone's spirits with his personality, which was loaded with wit and humor. After the 12 week tour, he called me and told me that he loved the band, but just wanted to get off the road to spend more time with his family. His family was so important to him. I totally understood his feelings, and wished him the very best. I knew that it was a very difficult decision that he had made.
"The last time I spoke with him, he seemed to be doing very well, playing locally, and also playing some gigs with national acts like DICKEY BETTS, RICK DERRINGER, and a few others. He told me that he missed our band a great deal, but he liked being at home and doing less traveling. I told him that I missed him very much, and to please stay in touch. The next thing I heard about Bruce was that he had just passed away. I wish that I could have had more time with such a great human being. I have so many great memories of Bruce, and I will always remember him as one of the best friends I ever had. God bless you bro..."