November 1980 interview with Bill Bruford
Date Submitted: 4-Sep-1997
Submitted By: Kenneth Fall (kf at melmar dot com)
This interview with Bill Bruford was recorded in Boston on November 6, 1980, by Matthew Mandell (Matt35m at aol dot com) and Kenneth Fall (kf at melmar dot com). Bruford was there for three nights of performances with Mick Goodrick and Randy Roos on guitars and Jeff Berlin on bass. The interview was recorded in the storage closet/dressing room of Pooh's Pub between sets. Roos and Berlin also participated at times. Some of the interview was previously used for an article in the Boston University newspaper, but it has not otherwise been published. The transcript has been edited. Please respect our copyright and ask permission for further use. Historically, the interview is after the release of the last Bruford band LP, Gradually Going Tornado, but before he was contacted for a new band with Fripp. Within a year, Bruford would return to Boston in King Crimson.
Q: Nice show tonight.
Bill Bruford: Good. Thank you. We're all beginners at this jazz lot.
Q: That's a good way to start off. Have you had jazz training?
BB: No, no, no. You're from Boston, right?
Q: Yes. And New York.
BB: They don't teach jazz anywhere else, really. They certainly don't teach jazz in London, no, you listen to records. You know, you play from records. That's the only way anybody knows how to do it in England. But I've always liked jazz. See, I came into music via jazz. I didn't play it much, but I always thought -- Ay, it might be nice one day to go to Boston and play with Mick Goodrick and other good people like that.
Q: You've heard of him for awhile?
BB: Yeah, from records.
Q: Do you consider what you play in the Bruford Band sort of jazz, or is that mostly rock?
BB: No, I don't know what it is. That's your job. I play the drums, and you describe what the music is. That's your job; my job is to play the drums. I've no idea what it is -- certainly not stuff they're going to play on American radio, unfortunately. So by that definition, it's not mainstream pop.
Q: No, definitely not.
BB: It's one of a gentle [?] number of different kinds of music, like R & B and reggae and new wave and everything else, that just doesn't get any exposure here, which is a real shame.
Q: Are there going to be any personnel changes in the band coming up for the new album or the tour?
BB: Which tour and which album are we talking about?
Q: Let's say the next album and the next tour.
BB: I don't have any touring plans in mind.
Q: Do you have any album plans?
BB: Yes, I do; but I'm in no particular hurry. I'm writing some stuff now. Anybody could be on it -- I don't know. I really don't know. It's hard to find better people, certainly. I mean, they're very good musicians. It's not a question of there being any necessary change in musicians. But somehow I've got to provide something that disk jockeys will feel fit to play upon their radio stations.
Q: You find that important -- that disk jockeys have to play it on American radio?
BB: It's absolutely essential, because otherwise I can't pay the freight bills here.
Q: It's the records that give you the money rather than the tours?
BB: Absolutely. I can't come here, you see, coming from England, without a certain amount of record company assistance.
Q: These three days of jamming were just for fun rather than for promotion?
BB: Just for fun. That's correct. I don't have a drum kit here.
Q: I realize that. I heard that it was rented from Wurlitzer's.
BB: No, it's just a borrowed drum kit. The only thing I've got here is Jeff. He's a good thing, though.
Q: [pointing] Him?
BB: And he's not rented.
Jeff Berlin: But I'm catered.
Q: On this new album, are you planning to do the taping of it in California rather than back in England?
BB: Well again, I think with the recession -- you must have heard of Robert Fripp and his minimalist theories. You must have heard of things called recessions. You must have seen what's happening to the dollar. You must have seen -- no! Is that a simple answer?
BB: Musicians have to operate in extremely tight circumstances now. Most of the musicians I've ever been fortunate to employ, in inverted commas [i.e., quote/unquote], have done it much more for love than money; and nobody's getting rich around here. That's for sure.
Q: Well, apparently the three days of jamming here were definitely for love rather than money.
BB: To the contrary! You'd be surprised, actually. I made more money doing this than I do in Bruford. [Laughs]
Q: Really. Are you planning to become a small, mobile, intelligent unit?
BB: I am a small, mobile, intelligent unit.
Q: I was just wondering. In your jams with the band have you jammed with particular British rock people, such as Steve Hillage -- in the context of Bruford?
BB: No, because this word jamming is misunderstood a lot. It usually means a complete waste of time. In England, you need people who have a certain ability to play their instruments without much talk and who have an inner confidence on their instruments in order to jam, as you call it -- in order to improvise, as I call it. And that more or less excludes in toto the entire British rock fraternity, who if they're not rehearsed to a T, don't know what to do.
It's simple. I mean, if you play with someone like Tony Banks, for example -- not to pick him out particularly; let's just use him as an example. I mean, he wouldn't know what to do, if you just said -- Well, play.
You see what I mean. They're stylized rock musicians. So you come here to play with Jeff and Mick Goodrick and Randy, if you want to jam, as you call it. But I don't care for the term particularly.
Q: It's more improvisation.
BB: Yeah, I guess so. But jamming is your language, certainly.
Q: Since you've left Yes and other bands, have you continued to listen to their music, and could you make any comment on how it's turned out? Such as, let's say, the Relayer album that Yes has done.
BB: I don't know that one, actually. I've heard a bit of Drama, which sounds like what it is -- an effort to get back to how it used to be -- which I always think is a very dangerous thing. It's the sort of thing you do in marriages [laughter], and it goes very badly, usually, when you try and grasp something that you thought you once had.
Q: What was your impression when Jon [Anderson] left Yes.
B: Inevitable, really. I think it's a good step, in a way -- because Jon is a courageous man. He wants to be an improvisor. He's got all the courage to be an improvisor on something -- you know, probably a voice or something. But unfortunately, he hasn't got the technical ability. I hate to be boring about this, but you need a certain technical ability in order to improvise. You need a large technical ability, actually.
Q: Have you heard any of his new solo album -- not the one with Vangelis?
BB: Yes, just one tune.
Q: Did you enjoy that?
Q: That's good.
BB: Nice tenor saxophone solo in it.
Q: Yes. We just heard it last night.
BB: Yes. Dick Morrisey.
JB: Is Dick on that ?
BB: Yeah, playing a tenor saxophone solo. Sort of a jungle kind of sound happening, and there's this nice, clear-as-a-bell tenor solo. It's real nice.
Q: Back to the album -- you weren't sure about when is it coming out, let's say, in about two years?
BB: Which album are we talking about here?
Q: The one in the Bruford context.
BB: Oh, another album would be out next fall, I guess.
Q: I see.
BB: It sounds like a long way away, but in fact it's nine months or something. Just have the music ready by the spring.
Q: There would be a tour in the United States after that?
BB: Almost certainly, yeah.
Q: Would this be geared more for the popular ear, rather than the previous music that was more for--
BB: Well, the music's always geared for my ear. I mean, I couldn't play something I didn't like! You see what I mean? It's just absolutely impossible. But as I get older, I'm liking more and more music; let's put it that way. And I'm finding it in a way harder, if you like, to write, because I can hear lots of things that I like. Lots and lots of things.
And I like music, period, actually. I mean, it's going to be awfully bad for me not to like it! There's an awful lot of bickering about what's good and what's bad, and camp-taking and quarter-taking and side-taking. You know -- Well gee, I like this. And -- Oh, that's no good! And the rest of it. Which isn't really true, you know. Some very simple music can be great, if it's got the heart and soul of the man behind it.
So, simple, complex -- I don't know. I really don't know right now.
Q: Is there a basic difference between what the British people would want to listen to and what the Americans would?
BB: A complete difference. Absolutely enormously different. Yes, Britain and America are diverging fast and furious. The American music scene is more or less sneered at by the British, because they think it's full of rancid, kind of conservative L.A. musicians, who provide backing for anybody for anything. You know, from Linda Ronstadt on up -- and down -- kind of thing. It's not considered by the British -- now this is not necessarily me, but by the British in general -- to have anything to do with 1980 at all.
Q: What does?
BB: What does? Well, the British think their scene does. That means the whole New Wave scene -- the Human League on up -- and down. So if you've got Linda Ronstadt, we've got Human League. I don't particularly want to choose between the two; neither mean an awful lot to me. But I understand the British point of view more.
Also, you have to understand the British situation, which is very different from America. They've got no money.
Q: And that dictates somewhat of the--
BB: Of course it does. Yes -- because it's kids in tower blocks who are bored to tears, and they want to fight. They've got a lot of aggression.
Q: So the music's becoming more aggression oriented?
BB: Violence orientated and aggression orientated, yeah. And simplistic and brutish, generally. Very one dimensional. I mean, the big thing there is what we call heavy metal. Which I thought you were going to get here, but I might be wrong. I thought you were in for two years' worth of Judas Priest here: but I'm not sure. Maybe you're not. I don't know.
Q: Kiss did fairly well.
Q: And Deep Purple back in the mid seventies.
JB: They weren't really indicative of heavy metal, Kiss.
BB: Heavy metal is the Denny McCloud [?] hordes. The young lads all dressed the same. 1984, really. Every member of the audience is identical, and they all go through an identical ritual every night. So it's not music for grown-ups, really.
Q. It's very driving, to get people's emotions --
BB: Yeah, yeah, good old solid 4/4 beat and crank up the guitar.
Q: Do they try to orientate the people in the audience politically towards certain --
BB: Yes, there's a lot of political factions going on in England, certainly. There's the Socialist left, and there's the Fascists on the right, and the National Front, and there's the footballers. There's the whole two-tone thing, the colors -- it's a whole scene.
If I went to a political -- if I went to a gig -- yes, it breaks down into about five political factions. And there's the women in the middle. Not as many women; it's mostly male orientated. That's all rather complicated and a bit tedious, really.
Q: Are the musicians trying to push particular political ideologies? I mean, actually in their lyrics?
BB: Sometimes they come to stand for political ideologies -- some less willing than others. But love it or loathe it, most of them seem to get attached to some kind of philosophy damned quickly. That's because of the number of magazines that are out every week that write endless pages of socio-political stuff on the latest bands.
So it's a different scene. It's hard to explain into a tape recorder in a nutshell, actually. It's vastly complicated, and I'm more or less redundant there, because I've already had my turn, as it were. You see, I'm already too advanced and too old -- if you see what I mean. I don't seem to be able to strike a chord for British youth.
That doesn't particularly bother me, because they don't strike much of a chord with me, either, but I like to be of service to the community, but it seems that I'm of more service to the American community than the British community. That's just the way the cookie crumbles. I didn't particularly create that, but I just end up playing in America all the time.
Q: Well, we seem to enjoy your music. Very much so.
BB: It's nice to be -- obviously, musicians want to play somewhere where they're wanted. I mean, there's no future, really, in consistently setting up your drums and everybody hating it.
But I aim to keep progressing, if possible, and keep coming back with bands of one sort or another. Heaven knows who's in it. But I like the looseness of things now very much. I wouldn't care to be lock, stock and barrel into some big group, with contracts and the whole business -- where you've got no freedom of movement. I can play with who I like now pretty much, which is great. I can come to Boston, and then again I'll probably play with Genesis, too. I like to cover both areas, if possible.
Q: Some of the stuff you were saying before--it made it sound like you had other things on your mind than working with the Bruford Band -- in terms of recording, maybe, or something.
BB: No, I haven't, actually. No one ever rings me up to record. No, I don't have anything else on my mind. Just direction. It's becoming increasingly hard to find a direction. I mean, everybody knows their direction when they're 18. When you're 31, you've seen a bit of life, and life is vastly more complicated than you thought it was when you were 18. So your choices become more difficult to make -- because you become better at a certain number of things and your ears get bigger.
Mine have certainly got a lot bigger over the last ten years. And life is not so simple. So you're bound to take a more mellow attitude to music, I think -- which makes you very poor on the British scene, because you're supposed to have this political kind of stance, more or less. It's hard to explain.
Q: I'm sure.
BB: I don't think the Americans think much of the British scene, and the British don't think much of the American scene, by and large. It's diverging.
Q: I'm trying to remember. I think it was 60 Minutes, where Helmut Schmidt said that the people of the world are becoming closer together -- where -- let's say drugs started in the United States and then quickly took over in England, and particular music has moved over. You don't find that to be the truth? You find that people are starting to go in different directions?
BB: Well, I don't think that people are getting closer together, no. I mean, they are physically; but spiritually they're split hard down the middle. I mean, there's just the affluent West and Third World, for a start, which is diverging fast. I mean, you're sitting on a boiler keg there, I reckon.
Yes, of course physically they're getting closer together with travel, but -- I suppose in music you'd say -- Yeah, well now we hear a lot about David Byrne and Third World percussion and Talking Heads and stuff. I mean, I don't buy all that. That's all publicity stuff. I mean, Third World percussion my eye. That's a lot of rubbish. It's Brian Eno out there with a tambourine.
[Out in the bar, the host puts on the Bruford record One of a Kind, which can be heard in the dressing room.]
Q: What do you think about President-elect Ronald Reagan?
BB: Well, I'm a bit terrified. It was amazing. I've been watching American politics a lot. It's a hard country to be president of. I think the presidency may be in trouble as an institution. I don't think it's fair on Carter or Reagan, really.
You know, you guys elect the guy up there, and you expect miracles. And miracles don't happen, so down he comes. The next cat. You know. Somehow Britain's a little bit smaller -- a lot smaller -- and somehow you get the feeling it's still just governable. But that may be a mirage; I don't really know.
Q: Maggie [Thatcher]'s having her problems.
BB: At least she's putting a plan into operation. I mean, it is her plan; and it will work out. She's not completely tied by the Senate and everybody else. She's got no opposition right now. She can do exactly what she likes, and she's doing what she likes; and if it doesn't work, God help us. But at least it is a plan. You see what I mean. And we'll know that one's no good, when that one fails.
Q: The difference here is if the plan doesn't work, he's out very quickly.
BB: Yes, that's true. And also he's countermanded. He seems to be checked and balanced so much, with the different factions and the lobbying in Congress, that it seems very hard. Who'd be president? Not me!
Q: You've got better things to do.
BB: Ah, it's difficult. It's difficult. I have every sympathy.
Q: Do you know what Steve Hillage is up to these days, by any chance?
BB: No, I don't. Why? Are you big Steve Hillage fans?
Q: Yes. We seem to enjoy his music a lot.
Q: We know you played with him a couple of times.
BB: He had about six or seven months off, I think. I expect he'll have an album for the spring, probably, I guess. He's been out for a long time. I should think he's lost his place in England, probably -- because this English scene changes real fast. You take six months off and you've had it.
Q: He put out three albums in 1979 that -- BB
: Very close together.
Q: -- were different types of music, though. He went from funk to space to funk to new wave, and now sort of Arabian-type --
BB: Well, I think you're pushing it a bit far here. It all sounds like Steve Hillage to me. But I don't know. I'd rather play with Mick Goodrick than Steve -- someone who's got an inner ability on the guitar, who's obviously streets ahead of Steve, no matter what he stands for.
Q: Another person just to check up on. Do you know what John Wetton is doing?
BB: Yeah, he's just put out a pop album.
Q: In England?
BB: Yes. Ten cuts. You know, and the first one is very like the tenth. I mean, once you've heard the first one, you've pretty much heard all. It's kind of a one-dimensional album. He's hoping for a hit album, I think.
Q: That's too bad.
BB: Well, it's nice for him, if he gets it.
Q: Right. But I mean --
BB: But he probably won't make it, I shouldn't think. But, you know, he's another one on the scrap heap, in a way. I mean, he decided that the stuff he'd been associated with, which was Crimson and so forth, was not right -- and that was his prerogative -- but I don't deny my background. I mean, I think Crimson was a good band, you know, and I didn't want it to break up. I thought it was an excellent group.
So I think it's dangerous to deny what you've done, in a way; and I stand by everything I've played so far. I'm not ashamed of anything -- apart from a couple of sessions.
Q: I heard you did some commercials or something -- it says on the back of your first album.
BB: Yes, I did some of that stuff.
Q: Why did Wakeman, Bruford and Wetton not happen? Was that because --
BB: Well, I'm glad it didn't -- for a number of reasons, actually. Oh, God! Where to start? Well, Wakeman is an extraordinary man, for a starter. I mean, he's a very immature man, a very confused guy. You know, he's a very gifted piano player. He had a very good technique, very good ability. A good touch on the piano. Lovely. Ever heard Morning Has Broken -- Cat Stevens?
Q: That's him?
BB: Yes. Do you know that tune?
BB: It's a lovely old hymn -- an English hymn, I think. Might even be an American. Morning Has Broken. It's a lovely tune, and that was Rick. And he's a very good piano player. But he's a muddled [or modeled] man, completely.
It was his vague suggestion that we should go and rehearse for a weekend -- which I agreed to, and tried some of my tunes out with John Wetton and Rick. The next thing we knew we were all in a group together, you know. Then he ran away and hid for about a week, while politicians thought about it. You know, could their star, the A & M Records star, be seen to hang out with Wetton and Bruford?
It was all very complicated. I sat in the back; and then I was told it wasn't happening. So I was very pleased. I mean, I was kind of sucked into that one.
Q: Were the record companies trying to make it another Emerson, Lake and Palmer type deal?
BB: That was what everybody was looking for, yes. Because, I mean, the theory has been that America needs a new ELP; or at least that's the way to wring some cash out of America. That was the split in U.K., too -- that half of U.K. decided that would be what America needed; and the other half of U.K., namely me and [Allan] Holdsworth thought that America needed Holdsworth. Which I still believe America needs Holdsworth, but unfortunately, I can't get him to believe that, either.
Q: Did you still think the music was good in U.K. when you left?
BB: Yes. I always leave before it gets stinking. Sure. I mean, I wouldn't play it if I didn't think it was good. Absolutely. But I could see in the future, there was going to be an impossible argument here -- because Eddie and John had done their market research, and they were sure that America needed an organ-style, Keith Emerson-style ELP. With me understudying Carl Palmer and all that. Which is absurd.
[Randy Roos enters]
BB: Randy, come on in, man. You want to talk into this magic box? Why don't you ask Randy something?
Q: First of all, what are some future plans for the Randy Roos Band?
Randy Roos: Oh!
BB: Now's your chance, Randy. The world is listening to you now.
RR: I have no idea!
Q: Record contract? Making records?
RR: Well, I'd like to do that. I'm leery of really trying to do anything on the road, you know, because I don't---
BB: Sensible man -- the road's very difficult.
Q: Because of public acceptance or cost?
BB: Cost, I would suggest.
RR: Yes -- and -- I don't know. I feel like the situation in the world -- the whole thing is getting kind of crazy. I have a feeling that for me to try to get my music out would take a tremendous effort, against tremendous resistance. You know, my own music is really not that commercial, and I don't really feel like making it that commercial.
BB: Maybe it's your responsibility as a musician to do that. That's your particular warfare. Maybe you have to undergo it. If you have a particular musical vision that you think is going to assist, you've got to get it out, surely. That's an argument, isn't it? No matter what.
RR: That's an argument, yes; but that's a choice that someone can make.
BB: You could make!
RR: Anyone in that position. It's not necessary to get your music out to a lot of people. I mean, if that's what you want to do, then you're absolutely right -- you have to find a way to do that.
BB: The alternative argument is that you play your music to those who are ready to hear it, and hope that they'll pass it on in what they do.
BB: Like there's this -- do you know Tony Oxley [?], the British percussion player? Well, he's a great percussion player -- kind of a laboratory guy that a few -- a handful -- of percussion players in England know. Now he's not going to go out and take on the world single-handed -- because he's going to lose.
BB: But he passes his message to me, and it filters through me a little bit down to the next cat, and filters it. You see, in a way, I think laboratory people -- very specialist musicians, who work in very small clubs and to their friends, almost just do that.
BB: There is a very strong undercurrent in London of advanced musicians like that, who aren't, as you say, going to go and take on the world -- because it's obviously insane. The world isn't ready for it at all. But they do influence other musicians. Lesser mortals like myself.
Q: Is that what Jamie Muir did for you?
BB: Yes, he influenced me a lot, sure. Jamie Muir was a very strong man. Amazing. I think he's a monk now. A genuine Tibetan lama. He shaved his head, changed his name. Saffron robes. Off to Scotland, where they had a camp. And now he's in Tibet, I think. He still gets royalty checks from King Crimson. [Laughter] Yes.
RR: What did he play?
BB: He was a percussion player. He was a trombone player to start with, but his lungs were poor, so he turned to percussion. But very descriptive percussion, should I say -- which ranged from hurling metal chains across the stage at sheets of metal to the most extraordinary kind of snare drum chops you ever heard. Which was great! He was an amazing guy.
There are some Europeans like that. Han Bennink. Very good Europeans.
RR: That guy Morris Pert [of Brand X]. I liked a lot of the stuff he did with the percussion. There was something really interesting about it.
BB: Yes, he's much in demand for percussion work in studios and films.
RR: Is he really?
BB: Yes. He's a good reader. There's only a handful of them in England. He can read his nuts off.
Q: May I interject for a second? Have you two played before Tuesday night at any time?
BB: No, I only met Randy on Monday.
Q: Do you think the two of you are going to get together in the future --
BB: I hope so.
Q: -- and improvise?
BB: Well, if I come to Boston again. Yes. If Randy will have me -- this dreadful pop drummer [laughs] that got landed in their midst. I really feel a bit embarrassed about this, you know, just Randy and Mick particularly. But they've been very outward- going about it, and friendly, I think.
RR: What we were talking about this afternoon is true, though.
BB: It's good to have another influence come in once in awhile --
RR: It is, because --
BB: -- and say -- Hey, I don't know what's going on here, but I'll try anyway.
RR: See, we were talking about how playing this kind of thing is, in some people's minds, a very set, definite kind of idea.
RR: In other words, for a drummer, he has his things that he does, and a schooled jazz drummer does certain things, and he does them very well and very precisely, very perfectly. And what happens is, as Bill put it, the music becomes very one- dimensional that way. It sits at a certain point, which is excellent, you know; but it doesn't move into different places, and what we've found the whole time that we've been playing is that the music goes over here --
RR: -- and it goes up here, it does all this crazy stuff, which --
BB: It puts a tension in it. It can put a tension in it which can be very creative. It can also go wrong. But at least something will happen of a sort. That was the theory of one of the King Crimsons in a way -- that if you put five odd characters in a room with a tape machine and lock the door -- they're obviously going to break up in a month's time, but something's going to happen. It's going to be extraordinary, whatever happens.
Q: Is that what Larks' Tongues in Aspic was?
BB: Yes, kind of. Definitely. You know, that was hell, really, to make -- because nobody could decide what on earth kind of music we were supposed to be playing anyway. You know. So you just hoped for the best.
RR: That was at a time when you could do that.
RR: I don't think you can do that now.
BB: Well, there was a name, King Crimson, which funded it, more or less.
RR: But people would still sit down and listen.
BB: They would; that's true. And the tunes got played on American radio.
BB: The Tibetan monk, the pop drummer, the R & B bass player, the manic Fripp on guitar -- and still American radio would take it! But that was six, eight years ago.
Q: Crimson comes up. Not that often, but it does. On college stations you find it.
BB: But it's a cult group. It could form tomorrow and it would make a great American tour.
BB: If it reformed tomorrow, you know, everybody would go crazy! It would pull great crowds.
Q: I'd be there.
BB: It would be exciting. But it wouldn't.
Q: Back to one thing. When you said that Jobson and Wetton were looking at the demographics and did their research, were they more into making money than playing music?
BB: It's very hard to separate this money and music business. It really is very hard to separate it. Because money is a by-product of public acclaim, if you like. Public acclaim is kind of a by-product of people liking you. And your music seeming to serve some function. So from that point of view, if the system then spits out dollar bills at you, you connect it in some way. Do you see what I mean?
BB: So it's not entirely a bad thing. It rather depends on you as a person and what you are doing to make that public acclaim. If you can hold your head up high and it's the best you can do, great! All the records I've been on that were successful -- the two or three that I've been on that were successful -- nobody ever thought about money. We just got up and did what we were going to do. And, damn me the system, it all happened! It wasn't contrived in any way at all.
So I'm always very leery and wary about people who say -- Well, look. The people need this, folks. And -- The people need that. Let's design this musical entertainment or that musical entertainment in order that the system will then spit out some dollar bills for us.
That never works, in my opinion. I've never seen that work at all.
Q: [To RR] You seem to agree, by not wanting to take your music out further, because you want to keep it jazz and what you like, rather than sacrificing your morals for popular acclaim?
RR: Yes. There's another thing for me, though. See, I'm very involved with studying the Bible now.
[Song playing in the bar is Travels With Myself, near the end.]
BB: Can I interrupt for a second?
BB: A brief listen to Allan [Holdsworth] on this.
RR: Why did you fade this out?
BB: I know. It was just going! No more space on the LP.
RR: Really? I love this whole thing. Yes, that's nice.
RR: This lick coming up here....
BB: [Laughs] That one's a killer! [To interviewers] Sorry.
RR: That's too bad. What happened next? You always wonder. You must have had about ten minutes more, right?
BB: Yeah, it went on for awhile, yes.
Q: I was wondering if there were any sort of deals going down with the credit for why Forever Until Sunday is introduced on a [U.K.] bootleg I have, as -- Here's Eddie. Is that your tune?
BB: Here's Eddie?
Q: Yes. That's the way John introduces it. He says -- This is a tune called Forever Until Sunday. Here's Eddie. And then it showed up on your album.
BB: Forever Until Sunday we used to play with U.K.
Q: Right. The tape has you on it.
BB: That's right -- but we didn't record it with U.K. So when I left, I took the tune with me -- because they didn't want to record that one.
Q: I see.
BB: So I recorded it myself.
Q: I thought perhaps you had some sort of writing credit on some of the other stuff, like Carrying the Cross -- so that it wouldn't show up on an album that you weren't on.
BB: No, no; it's not as complicated as that. No. As the group was deciding to split in direction, part of the divorce proceedings was that I took with me some tunes they weren't that keen to record: Sahara of Snow and Forever Until Sunday -- and something else, I think; I can't remember -- which we were doing at the time in U.K., but they thought that was, you know, the wrong thing.
Q: Do you object to bootlegs?
BB: Yes, if it's a very poor quality one. Or bad playing on it. Because I think musicians are allowed at least the right to say -- Well, you know, that's a good representative sampling of what I can do -- and then put out a record. If it's great playing, I don't mind it at all. If, on the other hand, it's poor playing, and somebody goes in -- it's well packaged -- and says -- Hey! Here's the next Bruford album. Wow, this sounds terrible!
Q: How about if it's just average -- just an average run-of-the mill Bruford night?
BB: I object in principle, actually, anyway. I think musicians don't get paid very much anyway, and they could at least get what they deserve. You know.
Q: Do you ever consider the possibility that the people who are buying bootlegs, for the most part anyway, have already got most or all of the albums.
BB: Yes, that's probably true. For the most part they're just for freaks anyway.
Q: Yes. If anything, it just furthers a sort of cultism.
BB: Yes, it does. But in principle, musicians should get paid for it, I think.
Q: Yes, that's true. Is that why you put out the album The Bruford Tapes -- to help cut down on bootlegs?
BB: No, not really. Just because it was the most economical move I ever did. I mean, the LP didn't cost anything. Two thousand bucks or something. Or a thousand bucks.
RR: This album?
RR: Which album?
BB: For an LP called The Bruford Tapes, which was just recorded at a club.
Q: Yes. There was a broadcast, too.
BB: It was broadcast. It was a good sampling of what we could do that night at a club, so I said -- Make a record out of that. It sold well, too. Canadians loved it, particularly.
Q: Do you still go back and listen to some of the stuff you've played on? Just for entertainment, things like, say, Fragile?
BB: Once in awhile, yes. Quite nice things I quite like. Not very much of it -- about five minutes an LP. Most of it's unlistenable.
BB: Yes. Dreadful, most of it. I don't particularly like my own playing on the drums very much; but sometimes it works out great. A handful of things.
Q: How about your playing on Squire's solo album?
BB: Lucky 7's quite nice.
BB: But I don't know. No, it doesn't mean a lot to me. It's just things that are gone and done. Not terribly good. I was lucky to do them, you know, I was the cat who was doing them. I was the guy who was actually doing it, and that counts for a lot. But that doesn't mean that you can listen to it three years later. Twenty minutes later, even, half the time.
Q: Well, thank you very much.
RR: [While listening to Fainting in Coils from the bar] I love this line here. It's all that diminished stuff that he does.
BB: This is Allan's tune. That's a terrible join, that. Terrible join.
RR: No, it was good.
BB: A terrible piece of arranging, I think.
RR: Oh, I see, yes. Well.
BB: From that electric into this acoustic.
RR: It's a little bit abrupt, but I love the [sings] da, da, da, da, DA.
BB: Allan builds nicely on this. It's a very masculine voice here -- [sings along with guitar in deep voice].
RR: It's a pretty melody, right here. I like this next note, where he goes a little bit flat. [Laughter]
BB: Right, right, yeah! We wondered about that one, when it came out. What do you think, Allan. Yaah!
RR: I like that! I like that a lot! Sometimes it's funny about recordings, you know.
RR: When you do one, you listen to it, and you think -- I don't know if I like that. Then about six months later, that's your favorite part of the record.
BB: Yes, right.
RR: And you're so glad you kept it.
Q: Are you going back --
BB: This is a guitar choir, in a way. Every note's recorded separately here.
RR: What's the story?
RR: Jeff said it wasn't. He said he did it all --
BB: No! No, no, no. Jeff is wrong. He has every note recorded separately here.
Q: What's the point?
BB: Well, you get a very rich guitar sound that way -- and double tracked.
RR: It's a beautiful thing, yes.
BB: Time, you see -- money. Time and money. Every note is recorded separately and double tracked. It's actually not very loud. It should be louder, I think.
RR: It sits in the rhythm section very nicely.
BB: [Sings along with a main theme] Bum, ba-da-dum. Buh-buh-bah --
RR: Really nice flow to this. I think that section you mentioned wears well. You listen to it, at first you're kind of shocked -- Well, what's that?
RR: And then you listen to it -- after about the tenth time, you hear it, you're anticipating it.
RR: I think that's kind of a funny thing -- because I find myself sometimes writing for the moment, you know; like writing so that someone hearing it the first time is not going to be jarred by it. But then I realize that maybe it's better to think about how is it going to sound after the tenth or twentieth time of hearing it, and that you can tolerate much more abrupt kinds of changes that way.
BB: Yes, I guess you're right. I hadn't thought of it in those terms. All I know is that every time I'm recording something, I'm less and less sure of what it is that I like. Now I'm ready to go with anything, almost.
RR: Yes, you just lose perspective.
BB: After awhile, yes. It's funny, that. Do you know the U.K. album? [Holdsworth] plays some great acoustic.
RR: Just a bit.
BB: There's a little bit of acoustic on the front of a tune called Nevermore, which is really dynamite.
RR: I have the album.
BB: Nevermore is his tune.
RR: I just haven't listened to it much. There's one thing that Jobson does -- an unaccompanied, just layers-of-synthesizer stuff. It's phenomenal.
BB: Synthesizer stuff, yes. Alaska! CS-80 [synthesizer].
Q: Why weren't you playing any of Allan's tunes on the road?
BB: With U.K.?
BB: They didn't like them. But I mean, he's very fragmented with his things anyway. I mean, he has bits of tunes that lurk for years. Then you just about say, well Allan, well we've got it now. Don't move it. Keep your arrangement as it is.
He'll say -- [Imitates] Aw, no. I'd like just to take this section out. He won't settle on anything, you know. So the whole band goes, oh for chrissake. [Laughs] Anything that Allan did for U.K. I squeezed out of him, you know. I twisted his arm, pushed him the group, squeezed out of him any melodies he could come out with -- then sold those melodies to the rest of the group and said -- Shut up and play it.
I mean, I was the diplomat, you know, and sort of butcher! I wouldn't do it again, because it reduced Allan to tears on several occasions. It's not a pleasant thing to do. But I firmly believed that, really wanted Allan to get across to America. He seldom did.
RR: [Listening to Forever Until Sunday] I love this lick coming up.
BB: Yes, right. Two, four. Two, four.
RR: Rock 'n' roll.
RR: He should have done his [imitates thumbnail scraping on wound string] [Laughs]
BB: Yes, right! That's dynamite, isn't it? Allan takes a solo now. [BB sings along to guitar]
RR: Nice bass playing.
BB: Yeah. Jeff's not bad. The other thing Allan's good at is if you give him a good, long legato melody, like the one he is about to play, he plays around it nicely.
RR: It sounds like he's played this melody a lot -- before you recorded it.
BB: Yes, he had played it quite a lot. That worked well that time -- because usually you record first and tour later, which is a drag. But on these several tunes he toured it a lot.
RR: Lovely. Very vocal kind of thing.
BB: Isn't it! He gives it the stuka handle a lot, too.
Q: Never heard it called that.
RR: He does great things with that thing. He plays some kind of a Fender guitar, right?
BB: I think so.
RR: It's all rebuilt.
BB: Oh, yes! He's always got his head in amplifiers. He tends to put about three amplifiers in series, you know, sort of wire them all together and things. The backs are always off them, and they always go wrong. But when they're right, he's got a good sound. He's playing very loud. This is recorded extremely loud.
RR: Is it really?
BB: Clear the studio; set up the amps; and put a microphone about twenty feet away. And duck.
RR: He overdubbed a lot of this, right?
BB: He did overdub -- too much of it.
RR: It doesn't sound it. I love this sound right here. [Last chord of Forever Until Sunday]
BB: Big scope sound [?] now. [Laughs] Yes, unfortunately too much of it was, there were a lot of arguments about how much should be done immediately and how much should be done --
RR: A step at a time.
BB: Yes, right. And the immediate method is better. No doubt about it.
Q: About John Clarke. There have been a lot of stories on how you found him for the Bruford band. I was just curious.
BB: And what stories have you heard? How exciting!
Q: You found him in a bar.
BB: In a bar, no.
Q: Either playing or drinking a beer -- I'm not sure.
BB: No, he'd been conversing with Allan Holdsworth and playing with him for a bit and swapping tapes. Allan said he was leaving, so I said -- Half a second. We've got a tour coming up, you know. He was going to play with us -- Well, try this character John. He's pretty good.
And he's all right, John. But he's not got nearly the sound of Allan.
Q: He sort of duplicates the tone of the guitar.
BB: Yeah, not quite so good, I think. In my opinion. But he's more of an all-rounder, John. He did a lot of things that Allan can't or won't do. Allan's quite limited, in a way. I mean, he's a good legato-melody player, a great soloist.
No rhythm. He'll never play rhythm for you, for example. And rhythm at a time is -- sometimes I really like rhythm guitar -- I mean, it sounds a corny phrase, but -- I mean, even Mick tonight was playing great rhythm.
BB: And you played good rhythm, too. Good comping. But now Allan doesn't comp, for some reason. I don't know why. He's just got a blank on comping. He doesn't see it as part of the guitar's function or something. I don't know. So you miss that kind of thing. I can get more of that from John, but Allan is a specialist, God bless him. He's a good one.
Q: Would you think of picking up somebody like Randy or Mick for the band?
BB: Well, I shouldn't think Randy or Mick want to [laughs] do that. Well, they're more than amply qualified, obviously. This guy's great.
RR: [Listening to Sahara of Snow] It's one of the easiest sevens.
RR: It seems like riding a horse with an extra leg or something. [Laughs]
BB: Right! It's nice when it comes out of this one, too.
RR: Did you do the marimba thing?
RR: The marimba's a really beautiful sound in that.
BB: Yes, I wish that --
RR: There's a mood that --
BB: Yes. [Listening to melody] Double diminished. Half-step, whole step.
[BB sings and whistles along]
BB: Upper minor third.
RR: Great snare sound. Who wrote this?
RR: You wrote this.
Q: Just out of curiosity, where did you develop that very definite 'bop?' Not many other drummers have that.
BB: I don't know -- insecurity, really. It's just wanting to be heard, making a firm note. I'm not sure I like it very much now. I'd rather it was more subtle. It's rather definite. It tends to hit you in the face, and that's it, and then it's gone. You either like it or you just duck. You know.
Yes, I did. As a young drummer, I did it, and I've still got it with me. Although I'll lose it yet. I'll lose it most in this setting here, the jazz setting.
Q: Yes, I noticed that. A couple of times on Tuesday I heard it --
BB: Yes, probably when I get carried away.
Q: -- and tonight it didn't seem to be there. Are you going back to England tonight?
BB: No, I'm going to do a lecture at Berklee tomorrow.
Q: Oh. What time?
B: One o'clock.
RR: You're at least going to stay until Monday and hear The Fringe, right? [Laughs]
BB: Quite probably. [still listening to Sahara of Snow] This is nice. Moment of silence! [pause in the music] This is a rip-off from a Dollar Brand LP.
RR: You're kidding!
BB: Not quite. But in intention it is. Do you know Dollar Brand?
JB: He changed his name, do you know that?
BB: Yes, right.
JB: I don't know what his new name -- Abdullah Manunzo
BB: There's a tune on an Elvin Jones album called Tintayana. On an Elvin Jones album with Dollar Brand. The intro to it is a multi-rhythmic piano piece. It's very polyrhythmic. He's really good with the left moving at one extraordinary tempo and the other -- I want to try to get it to boil!
RR: Just all that action underneath.
BB: I wanted to get -- I didn't do enough of that, actually. The guitarists have to get this kind of thing to boil; and in fact, I just ended up doing a multi-percussion track. I love that -- when you've got feeling -- you know, when Miles has about ten musicians on stage, and there were a couple of kit drummers and a couple of hand drummers, and it was all very --
RR: Like Live at Fillmore is it called?
RR: That's some of my favorite music. Some people hate it!
[host in bar cuts off Sahara of Snow at end of Part I.]
BB: What did he turn it off for?! Now you don't know the rest of the story.