Interview with Bill Bruford in Paiste news issue

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Date Submitted: 31-Mar-1995
Submitted By: Terry F. Kroetsch (tkroetsc at mach1 dot wlu dot ca)

"double drumming in the new king crimson" by bill bruford

( from Paiste news issue 2 1995 - good issue with carl palmer, bonham etc - it's free and I think they keep you on the mailing list - Paiste America 460 Atlas St, Brea, CA 92621)

Greetings from the front. Pat Mastelotto and I are hard at work at Gabriel's Real World Studios in England, wrestilng the new King Crimson album to the ground. It's noisy, dirty and surprisingly delicate one said it would be fun, but somebody's got to do it. The music is huge bleak, drafty and ornate in dark corners - a bit like Edinburgh Castle. I only hope it doesn't frighten the horses.

Working with another drummer is an area in which I have some experience, with Jamie Muir, Phil Collins, and Alan White, among others. You have to be that much more adaptable, flexible and nimble on your feet. You may want to listen more carefully and be that much more generous in your choices. Double drummer work is paradoxically both more confining and more liberating: confining in the sense that if you've agreed to play it, you've got to play, and liberating because having a human metronome in the band can allow you to fly to areas which hitherto would have left your fellow instrumentalists with their foot in the air.

I was amused recently at a gig in Buenos Aires when, after the show, an otherwise happy customer seemed vexed by the double drumming, insisting the Pat and I were rather wide of the mark, if not extremely untogether. Now we have our less than elegant moments, but this was, for this character, a continual problem throughout the show. "You just don't play together"...and then it dawned that his idea of, and only understanding of double drumming was that both players should play the same instruments at the same time - Allman Brothers style, and rhythmic counterpoint, polyrhythms, percussion to drum kit, metrical superimposition, rhythmic illusions and the rest of the huge array of possibilities was, quite literally "untogether". I thought this was a charming view. Needless to say, Pat and I immediately resolved to avoid duplication like the plague, the better to avoid being mistaken for said Allmans.

Playing the same thing as the other guy has always seemed to me to be the most feeble place to start when looking for double drumming strategies. By all means play the same thing a sixteenth, a quarter, an eighth note, a day later, or earlier, but at the same time? Unwise. Perhaps better to look for interlocking rhtyhms each of which on its own has a life, but when played togther has a power greater than the sum of the components.

Then there's metric modulation, illusion and superimposition, the sort of thing Trilock and Gavin Harrison are demons at. Two metres on top of each other, one at a faster pulse than the other, wheels within wheels, big and slow, light and fast - oh yes folks, we've tackled it all one way or another at Real World in the past few weeks. How about assigning timbres? He gets the wood, you get the metals. He gets the high drums, you get the low...and so it goes on.

Throughout all this we've been well served by a huge supply of Paiste Cymbals, from piggy-backed trashy mini-cups to the roar of a huge China. What combinations of percussion timbres and sounds are used when, and how much has to be one of the greatest defining features of a track, and that's before you've even figured out what to play. Perhaps we all concentrate rather too much on how to play, rather than where and when to play.

You'll love it or loath it, but the new King Crimson beast makes one heck of a CD.

- Bill Bruford