Last chance saloon! Time is nearly up for your chance to get Bill to write a short dedication of up to 15 words if you order the limited edition hardback copy of 'When in Doubt, Roll!' by October 15, 2012. You can order through the shop right here at www.billbruford.com. We will email you for your dedication. Again, only a handful of these limited editions remain. The book is also available as a soft back edition. Best to all. Admin
'When in Doubt, Roll!' is now up at Foruli Classics, paperback at £14.99 ($25), and signed hardback in an edition of only 50 copies at £45 (approximately $65). Anybody who orders a hardback limited edition will receive an email asking if they would like an inscription of up to 15 words. Copies of the paperback will be shipped from 1st October 2012. Copies of the signed hardback will be shipped by 31st October 2012.
If anybody wishes to preview the inside of the book they can do so at Amazon UK
In North America it can be previewed at Amazon USA
When in Doubt, Roll! was first published in 1988. It has been out of print for several years and during that time has climbed to dizzying heights of value on the second hand market, currently selling for a couple of hundred dollars. Bill is regularly asked if a new affordable version will ever be published – and now it is to be! The book will be published by Foruli Classics. This is a sister imprint to Foruli, well-known to Bruford fans as the publisher of the lavish limited editions of Bill Bruford: The Autobiography. The new version of When in Doubt, Roll! has a brand new cover, designed by Andy Vella, and contains several photographs which have previously only ever been published in the limited edition autobiography. More details as we have them.
Bill will be speaking, reading, and autographing at a "meet the author" event on the occasion of the publication of the Japanese Edition of 'Bill Bruford: The Autobiography' in Tokyo, for three nights as follows:
Sept 29: open 17:00 start 17:30 venue “Lapin et Halot” Aoyama, Tokyo
Sept 30: open 11:00 start 11:30 venue “Lapin et Halot” Aoyama, Tokyo
Oct 1: open 18:00 start 18:30 venue “Yagi-ni Kiku?” Daikanyama, Tokyo
Company website: http://www.bigstream.co.jp/music/
Event blog: http://invs.exblog.jp/18297362/
Ticket reservations: firstname.lastname@example.org or tel 03 3728 5690
If there are any available, remaining tickets will be sold on the door at the time of the events.
The Japanese edition of 'Bill Bruford: The Autobiography' will be published September 30th by Strange Days Publications. Bill will be discussing the book and signing copies at a couple of special events in Tokyo over the weekend of September 29th /30th. More details to follow as soon as we have them. Admin
Parues au Royaume-Uni en 2009, suite à l’annonce de son retrait de la scène, les mémoires de Bill Bruford sont ici enfin traduites en français par Aymeric Leroy, un spécialiste des musiques progressives qui a écrit et traduit plusieurs ouvrages sur le même sujet aux éditions le Mot et le Reste. Cet article sera disponible le 14 juin 2012. Broché: 464 pages.Editeur : Le mot et le Reste.
We’re pleased to announce that the French Edition of Bill’s Autobiography is now published in France by Le mot and le Reste and available from Amazon.Fr from today June 14th 2012.
Just a quick reminder that we can only continue the 10%% off everything sale at our brand new shop for one more week till the end of May.
Three great reasons to visit:
Unavailable anywhere else: signed autographed drumsticks now in stock.
Unavailable anywhere else: brand new Earthworks T-Shirt now in stock.
Unavailable anywhere else: the warm fuzzy feeling you get when, by supporting the shop, you support this site and the musician’s work in general.
New items are being added all the time. See you soon!
Amy and her team in California gave Bill a new shop for his May 17th birthday! New wallpaper, fresh paint, new stock, items like the Earthworks T-shirt (pictured), autographed drumsticks, and dozens of goodies you can't get anywhere else. The perfect place for the older generation of Bruford maniacs to find something for the younger generation. But get your skates on for the 10%% reductions. Only available till end of May! And don't forget to write a review of anything you pick up, if the fancy takes you.
Bill was hugely grateful for the massive postbag of Birthday Greetings - so thanks to all!
After ten years of steady traffic, the shop was beginning to look a little long in the tooth, so we've broken out the paint pots and wallpaper, spared no expense, and done a fabulous sparkly make-over. With new items being added, the shop continues to go from strength to strength. Stay tuned - we'll advise as soon as the doors are open!
Bill will be joining others on May 22 for an Afternoon of Instrument and Audio Tech, looking at analogue synths, early electronics and electronic percussion and assessing the impact they made on the music. For full details check the attached poster, or visit Rough Draft Audio.
Bill cropped up on BBC4 TV last night on 'How the Brits Rocked America: Go West', a well balanced documentary on how Led Zeppelin spearheaded the British stadium rock assault on the States in the 70s. Lots of Cream, Led Zep, Purple, Sabbath, Tull, McCartney; some Yes, Crimson, and Floyd. Bill chips in his commentary on getting to the US, Birmingham Town Hall, PA systems, larks' tongues, and sundry other aspects. If you missed it and are in the UK, you can watch again here.
How the Brits Rocked America: Go West: Stairway to Heaven:
Drums as sculpture: with A.B.W.H. in 1989.
A new-ish mag from Australia called Digital Drummer looks at this drumming thing from the electronic perspective. Since Bill (and Dave Simmons) did a fair bit of the heavy lifting in the early days of the development of the instrument, he's got a fair bit to say on the subject in this excellent article. Available online.
Adam Budofsky at Modern Drummer magazine dropped us a note to say - if you missed it the first time around - here's his excellent piece on the Top 25 Double Drumming tracks of all time.
This article originally ran in the February 2007 issue of Modern Drummer magazine. For access to all of the great editorial from MD’s first twenty-six years of publication, check out their Digital Archive.
Bill starts the New Year with a bang, and three media appearances. He's currently featured in the current edition of the UK's Drummer Magazine alongside Josh Freese. You can also find him at Record Collector Magazine - the entire interview and some relatively unusual pics can be viewed online here. Finally, lookout for a promising new 3-part BBC TV series called 'How the Brits Rocked America: Go West'. Follow the link for details and times. Bill's evidently in the second episode, Friday February 3rd, assuming he hasn't hit the cutting room floor.
'Winner gets the bass drum'. Photo taken at Explorer's Percussion, Kansas City, MO., this autumn. After Bill's presentation, an unseenly fight broke out over who gets the nifty little Tama bass drum. It could only be settled one way. Left corner is Wes Faulconer, owner of Explorer's; right corner is Bill. Referee is not Santa Claus, but is Tama rep Tim Morris, who produced the drum.
Thanks to all for staying in touch, and come back and visit us in 2012. Happy New Year! Bill and Admin
Comment and reaction seem to have migrated to the ever popular Facebook. The poor old guestbook has been subjected to massive spam recently, so it's time for it to be put quietly to bed. Answers to outstanding questions can be found opposite in VIEWS. Admin
There will be a Silent Auction of a range of signed music memorabilia tonight at the MIA Music Awards gala dinner, with the proceeds going to the charity Music for All. Foruli Publications in conjunction with Bill have donated a full Special Edition Autobiography as part of the fund-raising for this worthwhile cause, for which Bill is also an ambassador. Other juicy items? Lots of signed gear by Steve Vai, Foo Fighters, Chilli Peppers etc. More here.
Shipping begins on or before November 21st for lucky customers who have already pre-ordered the mouth-wateringly beautiful Limited Edition Autobiography package (pictured above). Full details at Foruli, and just a reminder that it is available at a 10%% discount if ordered before November 21st 2011. Shipping is free.
At Cascio Interstate Music, New Berlin WI. Bill's on the hard right, half way up...
If you want to know what Bill's up to in his new career, here's an interesting description.
Why shop at the THE shop for the Bruford maniac?
The three best reasons:
1) Unavailable anywhere else: the Autographed Series of CDs, DVDs, and photos: (see above sample)
2) Unavailable anywhere else: T-shirts, merchandise,‘themed’ packets of three chosen by Bill, and special offers and discounts.
3) Unavailable anywhere else: the warm fuzzy feeling you get when, by supporting the shop, you support this site and the musician’s work in general.
New items are being added all the time. See you again soon!
The Bruford Shop
Following his trip to the US, Bill will be visiting several academic insitutions in Sweden in November. His talks are based loosely around the notion of 'The Creative Musician in a Commercial World'. Several of these are private events, but here are the details of the three open to the public:
Monday, Nov. 7, 18.00
Royal College of Music (Musikhögskolan), Malmö
Students & teachers at the College of Music: free
Members of Jazz i Malmö: free (membership cards can be bought for 100 SKr at the lecture; student memberships cost 20 SKr)
Tuesday, Nov 8, 13.15
Room 314, Josephson building
Department of Cultural Studies, division of musicology
Biskopsgatan 5, Lund
Open to the public - free entrance - but students have top priority
Wednesday, Nov. 9, 19.00
Campus Engelska Parken
Please note that Bill's appearance on Saturday October 22nd at Cascio Interstate Music, New Berlin, WI has been brought forward to 11.00 am. Doors open at 10.00.
Photo: Deirdre O'Callaghan
The Musicians Union in conjunction with Classic Rock magazine is offering the classic rock 'Maestro Award'. Bill is one of five musicians honoured to be nominated for the award, the others being Don Airey (kbds), Mike Rutherford (gtr), Phil Manzanera(gtr), and Steve Winwood (kbds). He could use your vote! The winner will receive their award at London's Roundhouse on 9 November 2011. You need to be a UK Musicians Union member to participate, and members should log on to www.themu.org for all details. Voting will close at midnight on Sunday, 2nd October 2011. Vote Bill!
There will be a launch party for the limited editions sets of Bill Bruford: The Autobiography, including the new album From Conception to Birth. The event will be at The Forge in London on 5th October 2011. You can register interest in free tickets and get more detail here.
With guitarist Allan Holdsworth c. 1991
Bill's occasional series of informal chats continues this October in the US, details below. Bring your most insoluble questions. There won't be any live playing, but wit and wisdom will abound, and books will be available for signing.
Mon. Oct. 17th---8:00PM Columbus Percussion, 5052 North High St, Columbus OH 43214. Call toll free in the US (800) 775-7372
Tue. Oct. 18th---7:00PM Sweetwater Music, 5501 U.S. Hwy 30 W, Fort Wayne IN 46818. Call toll free in the US (800) 222 4700
Wed. Oct. 19th---7:30PM Drum Center of Lexington, 132 Southland Dr, Lexington KY 40503. Call toll free in the US (800)341 DRUM
Thu. Oct. 20th---7:00PM Explorer’s Percussion, 8050 Wornall Road, Kansas City MO 64114. Call (816) 361-1195
Sat. Oct. 22nd---11.00AM Cascio Interstate Music, 13819 W. National Ave, New Berlin WI 53151. Call toll free in the US (800) 462-2263
Mon. Oct. 24th---6.30PM Daddy's Junky Music, 444 Providence Hwy, Dedham, MA 02026. Call (781) 329-9924
Foruli, the publisher of the limited edition book and record sets ‘Bill Bruford: The Autobiography,’ will be holding an exclusive invitation-only launch event in London in October. There will be a competition for places on the guest list. Further details will be divulged in due course, but in the meantime you can sign up to the mailing list.
Additional dates have been added to Bill's Fall US itinerary. He will be talking loosely about his career and bands, attitudes to music, and the perils of playing percussion in public. There will no hands-on drumming. Plenty of questions are welcomed, and books will be on hand for signing:
Monday October 17 Columbus Percussion, Columbus OH 8.00 pm
Tuesday October 18 Sweetwater Music, Ft Wayne IN 7.00 pm
Wednesday October 19 Drum Shop, Lexington KY 7.30 pm
Thursday October 20 Explorers Percussion, Kansas City MO
Saturday October 22 Cascio Drummerfest, New Berlin WI 2.45 pm
Any further dates will be posted here as soon as we have confirmation. Admin
The next two releases in the King Crimson 40th Anniversary Series are now available as pre-orders. Both Starless & Bible Black and Discipline have been mixed for 5.1 Surround Sound from the original studio masters by Steven Wilson and are fully approved by Robert Fripp. Discipline's title track is in an unusually exotic time-signature, and gave rise to Bruford's much-quoted description of King Crimson as being a band in which he could "play in 17/16 and still stay in decent hotels".
Please click on the links to read more about these exciting additions to the 40th Anniversary series, including all the extras.
These are pre-orders which will be released in October. Each pre-ordered disc will include a free sticker featuring full color artwork of the respective album cover.
Next time you want to make a point in 48 seconds, why not enlist the aid of the BBC's excellent graphics department? Bill did just that in this brief
BBC TV clip which succinctly covers his thoughts on being hit about the head with a phone directory.
Gwilym Simcock with Earthworks 2005: L-R Tim Garland, Laurie Cottle, Gwilym, Bill.
Ex-Earthworker Gwilym Simcock has been nominated for a prestigious Barclaycard Mercury Prize for his highly-regarded current album 'Good Days at Schloss Elmau'. Forging a career as both leader and soloist on the European concert hall circuit while playing with the creme-de-la-creme back home in the UK, Gwil goes from strength to strength. For those interested in early footage, his work with Earthworks on the track 'Youth' can be seen here. The video is taken from 'Earthworks Anthology Volume 1' and is available in both autographed and unautographed formats here.
Bill will be continuing his series of occasional talks in the USA in October. Confirmed are:
Monday October 17th: Columbus,OH
Tuesday October 18th: Ft. Wayne,IN
Saturday October 22nd: Milwaukee WI
Other dates will be posted here as soon as they are confirmed.
1971 UK concert poster.
Thanks to Phill Marder for sending in his Goldmine article on Yes' continuing absence from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His finding - that of approximately 260 inductees currently listed in the Rock Hall, only three are remotely connected to Progressive rock - is something of an eye-opener. Those three are Pink Floyd, Genesis and Traffic. That’s about one percent. Why no Yes? King Crimson? Let us know what you think.
Further information on the eagerly awaited Special Edition of Bill's Autobiography is now available over at Foruli.
Hard at work spilling the beans.
Bill was today interviewed for a 11-part TV series called Metal Evolution, to premiere on VH1 Classics in America this November. The shows explore all the roots of heavy music, from Howlin' Wolf and Chuck Berry to Wagner and Paganini right up to the hip-hop that influenced nu-metal. The episode that includes Bill will trace the roots of progressive rock and metal. As one of the architects of this genre, whose work is referenced by many of the other musicians interviewed, Bill is seen as key to the story. He was asked about the origins and legacy of Yes, his heavy innovations on King Crimson's Red, his musical influences and philosophies on creating progressive music, and the best local pub for a ploughman's lunch for the film crew.
Bill's talks last time went very well, and he is currently in early negotiation with Tama Drums to arrange more speaking dates in the U.S. mid-west this autumn. Confirmed details will be posted here as soon as they are available.
Just a reminder to let you know Bill will be discussing and taking questions on his Autobiography in London at Westminster Reference Library, 35 St. Martin's Street, London WC2H 7HP on Friday June 17th from 6.30-8.00 pm. Autographed copies of the book will be available. If you want to know what these good-humoured sessions are like, have a look at www.facebook.com/billbruford where several clips have been posted from a recent appearance at Borders.
Interest in the book continues unabated. There are some signed copies available over at Tama Drums' Official Store which might interest those on the US side of the pond who have yet to pick one up.
Finally, we've sort of nailed Bill down to a routine of answering questions next door in Views on a monthly basis - April questions will be answered in early May, for example.
There have been several requests for more signed copies of the autobiography to be made available. Once again the ever-helpful Tama Drums has stepped into the breach - Bill has signed and dated a small consignment which has shipped from the UK and is now available direct from the US Tama Store. Hurry on over while stocks last.
If you ever wanted to know anything about Paiste cymbals, let Ed Clift be your guide. In this very well shot and recorded full-length 'video for webcast', Ed - an excellent drummer - plays a variety of music to demonstrate the use of the dozens of different sounds and types of cymbals, gongs, crotales, cup chimes and heaven only knows what else. Go to Rog's Talkin Drumz, scroll down to "Episode #2: Ed Clift and Paiste Cymbals” – select HD, sit back, and listen with headphones, as AUDIO is the best part.
This is an early advisory to let you know Bill will be discussing and taking questions on his Autobiography at Westminster Reference Library, 35 St. Martin's Street, London WC2H 7HP on Friday June 17th from 6.30-8.00 pm. Autographed copies of the book will be available. If you want to know what these good-humoured sessions are like, have a look at www.facebook.com/billbruford where several clips have been posted from a recent appearance at Borders.
In 2009, Dave Brubeck’s musical masterpiece Time Out turned 50. Bill was asked to contribute his thoughts on the record - and specifically Joe's work on it - for a podcast on behalf of Legacy Recordings, along with additional musicians saxophonist David Sanborn and bassist Mike Richmond. Bill's comments may be of interest in the heightened awareness of Joe's contribution to drumming following his sad and recent death.
Joe Morello 1928-2011
We were saddened to hear of the recent death of the drum great Joe Morello. Bill often cites Joe as one of the three titans of drumming that got him interested in the first place - the other two being Max Roach and Art Blakey. If Morello's name is new to you, go and have a listen on Youtube. Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family of this great player.
On a happier note, the series of Q & As with Bill continues over on the official Tama Facebook. The most recent of these good-humoured weekly postings finds Bill discussing musical personalities, and what balance of personalities makes for a good band.
BTW Luiz Negrini has created a new multi-lingual drum website drum website from Brazil that needs your support. Pop on over, have a look around, and register if you like what you see.
Every Tuesday the wonderful Tama Drums is posting portions of a Q&A session with Bill over on their Facebook page, filmed on his recent book tour in the US. Things got underway on Tuesday February 22nd with a question about Bill’s creative process, and on March 1st he’s caught talking about what it was like working with Jon Anderson and Steve Howe of Yes. Today March 9th it’s about meat, potatoes, and hollandaise sauce…!
Following the success of the paperback version, Bill has today signed a deal with Foruli Publications for a special Limited Edition of his book Bill Bruford: The Autobiography. Foruli Limited Editions are designed as works of art for the connoisseur and collector. They are typically packaged along with any number of exciting and unusual artefacts and memorabilia from the artist's working life, and Bill's will be accompanied by a Limited Edition vinyl album, among other items. Publication is scheduled for Fall 2011. More detail as it becomes available.
It's been a pleasure, and was a lot of fun for Bill.
Book signing at Borders.
More pics to follow.
Anyone interested in getting into the meat and potatoes of how King Crimson's more recent music was constructed need only turn up at the Belew, Levin, and Mastelotto Band Camp in the beautiful Catskill Mountains in upstate New York this summer. Essential summer vacationing for the discerning Proglodyte. Full details of the course are at the website here.
If you're new round here and trying to find out who Bill is and what he's been doing for the last 40 years, you might want to try Mike Haid's '9 Reasons To Love...' article in the current (March) issue of Modern Drummer Magazine. Additionally, 'Classic Rock Presents Prog' this month takes a look at Porcupine Tree's Steve Wilson with particular reference to his sterling and ongoing work with Robert Fripp on the Crimson 5.1 Surround Sound releases. All interesting stuff.
As if there wasn’t enough going on in the US on Bill’s recent trip, he took time out to film a promo video for the book. Sales continue to go from strength to strength, fuelled by strongly favourable word of mouth (see guestbook). The vid is now up at YouTube, and viewable on the homepage of this site.
Bill is much commented on in March’s Modern Drummer magazine, under the banner ‘9 Reasons to Love…’ Don’t ask why March’s issue is available late January – it just is. Writer Mike Haid produces an accurate and glowing summary of Bill’s career, marred only by the astonishing claim that he was, in the 90s, ‘hell-bent on proving Brits could play jazz…’. I can hear distinguished British jazz musicians up and down the land wincing at that one. Unfamiliarity with the 70-year arc of British jazz from traditionalists Ken Colyer, Humphrey Lyttleton, and Chris Barber, through neo-boppers Tubby Hayes and Phil Seamen, renegades Mike Osborne, Dudu Pakwana and Louis Moholo, and international stars Johnny Dankworth and Cleo Laine might be acceptable. But bassist Dave Holland, guitarists John McLaughlin and Allan Holdsworth? Come on…! The British can play jazz alright, as can women and other white Europeans, Mike! Pick up the March issue for further details, but don’t tell Tim Garland or Gwilym Simcock, who might share a heart-attack.
For those who’ve waited a long time for the Yes Union CD / DVD package, good news at last. It can now be ordered direct from Voiceprint / Gonzo here.
Finally, for those lucky enough to be near the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Dean Street in London’s Soho, half of the last Earthworks will be on stage there tonight January 18th and tomorrow Wednesday January 19th. Saxophonist Tim Garland and bassist Laurie Cottle will be joined by guitarist Mike Outram and drummer James Madren for one of Tim’s blistering small group outings. Unmissable.
With Pianocircus. 'Skin and Wire' composer Riley on left.
Good news for UK fans of the Riley / Bruford /Pianocircus project 'Skin and Wire', released on Summerfold Records in 2009. Pianocircus will play several tracks from the CD - including 'Squiggle Zipper',and 'Ebb Cast' - and the world premiere of 'Double Trio' at London's Kings Place, 7.30pm on Monday 7th February. Each piece will be accompanied by a specially created visual component, the final piece using 6 live camera mixes to illustrate the interplay of 12 hands playing inside and outside the grand pianos on stage. Bill will not be performing, but will doubtless be in attendance with composer Colin Riley. Details here.
Just a thought, but while we're talking about books (see reference below to the astonishingly lavish 'Sticks 'n' Skins' coffee-table-photo-monster), you might like to check out a book that's causing something of a buzz in musicians' circles. 'Innerviews: Music Without Borders' from Anil Prasad (Abstract Logix Books) features 'extraordinary conversations with extraordinary musicians', it says here. The author presents some two dozen interviews with great and interesting players, including Bill, and several of the people Bill knows well and has also played with - Ralph Towner, Jon Anderson, David Torn. Lots of interesting stuff about the art and psychology of music-making, perfect for those dark and wintry northern-hemisphere nights.
Best wishes for a Happy and Prosperous 2011 to all our visitors here at billbruford.com! Your support and interest through 2010 has been much appreciated.
Further to the success of his recent Autobiography, Bill will continue to teach and lecture on some of the issues raised in it - and the musical life in general - through 2011. He will be much in evidence at
January 12: Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff
January 27: Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex.
Meanwhile, may we offer all visitors to the site the warmest of seasonal greetings and best wishes for a Happy New Year!
Recorded during his recent speaking tour of the USA, you can listen to Bill being interviewed on NPR here.
Bill has been meeting folks and talking about his career at a number of events over in the USA this last week. Those unable to get to any of Bill’s talks will be pleased to know he’s talking to Liane Hansen about his autobiography on National Public Radio in the USA, provisionally scheduled for their Weekend Edition which runs between 8.00 and 11.00 Sunday morning December 12th.
Interestingly, Bill made a virtual appearance of sorts at the recent Prog Exhibition in Rome last month. Terry Bissette contacted Bruford Towers to tell us that “the host did a great job of promoting the Italian language version of your book. She spoke at length about it, and put it up on the screen while the bands were changing over.”
Finally, here’s a picture of David Patterson. David, you’ll recall won our last BB competition. For his prize he revealed himself to be a man of impeccable taste by claiming the toe-tapper by the Earthworks Underground Orchestra.
Wednesday December 1st: 7.00 pm Guitar Center Manhattan, 25 W. 14th Street, Manhattan, NY 10011. Call 212-463-7500. First come first served.
Thursday December 2nd : 7.00 pm. Drummers Collective, 541 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10011. Call (212) 741-0091 X100 to reserve a ticket or show up on the day. email@example.com
Friday December 3rd: 3.00 pm. Miller Recital Hall,Manhattan School of Music, 601 West 122nd Street, NYC, NY (at Broadway and 122nd Street - main entrance on 122nd Street). Call (917) 493-4428. First come first served. www.msmnyc.edu
Monday December 6th: UArts, Philadelphia, PA. Private event – students only.
Tuesday December 7th: 7.00 pm. Drumshop, 878, S.Cooper St, Memphis, TN 38104. Call (901) 692 7911. Tickets available in store and online at http://www.memphisdrumshop.com/bruford
Wednesday December 8th: 7.00 pm. Borders Bookstore, 650 Mall Blvd., King of Prussia, PA 19406. Call 610.337.9009. Free public admission. http://www.borders.com/online/store/StoreDetailView_487
Bill will deliver a 90 minute audio-visual talk loosely entitled "The Creative Musician in a Commercial World", based around his recent autobiography.
The talk will draw on plenty of archive footage* from Bill’s 41-year career. Books will be available for purchase and signing on December 1st, 7th, and 8th. There will be no hands-on drumming.
* except Borders
Please note Bill's lecture at 3.00pm on December 3rd at the Manhattan School of Music has moved to a bigger room, the Miller Recital Hall, same address. 601 West 122nd Street, NYC, (at Broadway and 122nd Street - main entrance on 122nd Street). Call 917-493 4428.
Our thanks go to Claude Lamamy from France who sent in a link to this rendition of that well-known King Crimson tune, Waiting Man. Performed by the French ensemble Orkestra Percussion, it’s a great take on this iconic tune from Crimson’s Beat album.
If you like the cross-rhythms of that track then there’s a good chance you’re going to tap your toes to a project Bill was involved a couple of years after recording Waiting Man. Go Between by the New Percussion Group of Amsterdam was originally released in 1986 and features the kind of dazzling percussive interplay that excites fans of Bill’s drumming. Reissued by Summerfold in 2007, it was described by All About Jazz as “a remarkably compelling album that demonstrates just how musical an all-percussion album can be”. Writing about the title track, the review goes on to note: “It's a complex and episodic piece that shifts from a rhythm-heavy art rock intro to a gentler, minimalist-informed middle section, propelled forward with multiple repetitive patterns that gradually shift, Steve Reich-like, giving the piece an evocative sense of forward motion. Bolstered occasionally by Bruford's more powerful tom-toms and tympani, the two concepts come together as the tuned percussion builds into a harmonic foundation for Bruford's mathematically precise kit work, only to drop into quiet once again before the piece's conclusion—a polyrhythmic and contrapuntal tour-de-force from everyone involved.” Sequenza21 observed of this recording that “The precision of the recording is almost startling and the purity of sound borders on stark austerity. This is an excellent feature to the disc, as the technique and clarity of the performers are laid bare.”
You can get the album from Bill’s Store
A very different type of percussion team which Bill has been proud to be associated with is of course the World Drummers Ensemble. Originally released in 2006, Coat of Many Colors features Doudou N’Diaye Rose, Luis Conte and Chad Wackerman.
Of the album All About Jazz said “The mix perfectly mirrors the onstage image on the front cover—Wackerman on the left, followed by Rose, Conte and, finally, Bruford on the right—making it possible to not only absorb the music as a whole, but also resolve and hear what each individual is contributing to the blend. A little over a third of the CD is taken up by compositions by Rose, which range from primitive simplicity to complex interaction. But most strikingly, throughout all the music, rhythm and melody intersect effectively on instruments that many have come to think of in purely metric terms. The biggest surprises of A Coat of Many Colors are how eminently listenable it is and how captivating its diversity is from start to finish.” The Jazz Times noted that “Bruford pays tribute to a personal hero with his take on Max Roach’s “Self Portrait,” underscored by a percolating 6/8 groove.”
Go get it from the the BB store.
The newly reissued albums by BLUE - that’s Bruford Levin Upper Extremities - BLUE and it’s folllow-up, BLUE Nights, have picked up a rather nice review from The Bolton Times.
“This is the band formed in 1998 by drummer Bill Bruford (Yes, Genesis) and bassist Tony Levin.They had met up whilst in King Crimson and found they had a shared interest in jazz and when their schedules allowed, they came together and recruited guitarist David Torn and trumpeter Chris Botti. The eponymously-named debut album was in it’s own way, ground-breaking as no-one had tried to marry rock and jazz in this way before.
The album was released in 1999 and contained the excellent tracks ‘Cerulean Sea’ and ‘Thick With Thin Air’...This release will be welcomed by all fans of experimental music and especially the fans of the King Crimson offshoot bands as it has been unavailable for many years, and it’s about time it was reappraised. The musicianship is of the highest order, as this sort of music isn’t the easiest to play, but the four band-members pull it off.” You can read the whole review here.
Meanwhile, here’s Earthworks doing a rather stylish take on the BLUE track, Original Sin.
Bill has been talking about some of his earliest recordings. Commenting on the second album by Yes, Time And A Word, he says: “I remember discussions about strings being a 'must' because other bands - maybe Deep Purple or perhaps the Nice - had worked with Orchestras. In keeping with the general arms race feeling between the major British groups, we couldn't be seen to be falling behind. I believe the strings were tracked later, but the performances came as something of a disappointment to us. They seemed so far behind the beat, it made the spritely backing tracks seem, to this drummer's ears, like they were dragging a sack of coals up hill. And that was what it felt like for our one and only concert with orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall in London.”
You can read the whole piece here.
Elsewhere, Bill is one of the musicians featured in a new book of interviews by Anil Prasad. Based on his long-running website, Innerviews - Extraordinary conversations with Extraordinary musicians s, along with Bill, features some of the best known names in the worlds of jazz and rock and beyond. Further details of the book found here (for customers in the USA) and here (for those in Europe). Meanwhile, Anil’s interview dating from 1992 contains a great observation on the imbalances and pecking order within the music industry.
“I could throw a party in my house with a dozen of my most intimate musical acquaintances. I would divide the room into two halves. Six people on one side of the room would not be millionaires, they would be multi-millionaires who own large portions of real estate and so forth. The other half would be six so-called jazz players who have so little money they're practically begging on the street. It is unnecessary to have such a stupid financial division amongst these different types of music, but it is necessarily what will happen if accountants and stockholders run the recording industry.”
The full interview with Bill on the website is available here.
An evening appearance at the Guitar Center, Manhattan, NY has been added to the public dates on Bill's US trip in December.
December 1st: Guitar Centre, Manhattan, NY
December 2nd: Drummers Collective, NYC, NY
December 3rd: Manhattan School of Music: NYC, NY
December 7th: Drumshop, Memphis, TN
December 8th: Borders, King of Prussia, PA.
Bill will also be at UArts in Philadelphia on December 6th, but that is a private event for students only. Full details here on all of the above as soon as we have them.
Although it was only existence for a very short while, most listeners would agree that BLUE were something special. Bruford Levin Upper Extremities and its live album follow-up, BLUE Nights were first issued in 1998 and 2000 respectively but have been unavailable for some time. Although these reissues don’t contain any new or bonus material from the group it’s good to have music from this fine quartet out there again.
On their initial release, both albums were generally well received for their combination of edgy electronics, samples and loops (courtesy of wild-card guitarist David Torn) and the jazzy coolness of Chris Botti’s trumpet playing. Writing about Botti in his autobiography, Bill noted “It turned out that, in our embryonic trumpet star, we were fielding a secret weapon of considerable potency. Unfeasibly good-looking, and in possession of a beautiful warm round tone,Chris Botti modeled himself on Chet baker the much photographed cultural icon of the 50s West Coast school of cool jazz...Slowly patrolling the front stage area, and bathed in a hazy spotlight, he would equally slowly deliver the fewest, longest,slowest notes he could get away with...The trumpet’s bell-like purity of tone cut through the clouds of Torn’s stereo guitar loops, and with the ex-Crimson rhythm section on fine form smouldering beneath the proceedings we were a hard act to follow.”
At the Progarchives site responses to the album when it was first released were extremely positive. “Overall, this is definitely an excellent album that fans of King Crimson must buy” said one listener, whilst another highly excited punter deemed it to be “The greatest Crimson album without Robert Fripp!”
Over at Blogcritics, just one track, Cracking The Midnight Glass, from the debut album prompted an entire piece about the group wherein he concluded “it makes one wish Bruford and Levin had kept this King Crimson spinoff going a little bit longer.”
If you don’t have these albums, then we here at Bruford Towers urge you to add these albums to your collection. To find out more about Bruford Levin Upper Extremities click here and for more about BLUE Nights try here.
Summerfold Records, in conjunction with Tama Drums and Jawbone Press, is pleased to announce that Bill will be making four public appearances in the US soon:
December 2: Drummers Collective, NYC
December 3: Manhattan School of Music, NYC
December 7: Drumshop, Memphis, TN.
December 8: Borders Bookstore, King of Prussia, PA
These dates are as yet unconfirmed and may be subject to change. All detail and confirmations will be posted here as soon as we have them, so please stay tuned.
Bill will deliver a 90 minute audio-visual talk loosely entitled "The Creative Musician in a Commercial World", based around his recent book.
The talk will draw on plenty of archive footage* taken from Bruford's 41-year career with Yes, King Crimson, Genesis and Earthworks, and will be followed by book signings in Memphis TN and King of Prussia PA. There will be no hands-on drumming.
* except Borders
Bill has penned the introduction to a new book which takes a look at the progressive music scene: Mountains Come Out Of The Sky by Will Romano. Sporting a cover picture of Bill’s old bandmate, Rick Wakeman, the weighty tome is described as an illustrated guide to prog rock.
You can get an idea of just how illustrated it is by downloading a sample chapter about Genesis which includes some commentary from BB about his time behind the kit for the group. To grab the sample as a pdf click here. The book is currently only available in the USA from Backbeat Books and is available for pre-order on Amazon.
Elsewhere, Bill’s time with Anderson, Bruford Wakeman Howe can be revisited via a new DVD of the chaps in concert. Containing all sorts of Yes music goodies and beyond, it can be ordered here.
Meanwhile, there’s this splendid trailer to enjoy...
All About Jazz informs us that trumpeter Alex Sipiagin has a new solo album out Alex, if you didn’t know, was part of the incendiary brass section that produced so many thrills and spills during the Earthworks Underground Orchestra dates at New York’s Iridium Jazz Club back in December 2004. Here’s what John Kelman had to say about the album: “Bruford continues to reinforce a clear line from art rocker to authentic jazzer. But his recent work, specifically his collaborations with Garland, demonstrates an accelerated development. Complex yet accessible scores, broad textures, and unassailable grooves make Earthworks Underground Orchestra an album that deserves to gain Bruford and Garland a firmer foothold with North American jazz audiences.” You can read the whole review here and don’t forget, you can listen to a sample from the album.
Elsewhere in the blogosphere, the first album by Moraz-Bruford, Music For Piano and Drums is the subject of a personal reminiscence. In case you’re not familiar with the duo’s work (where have you been!!!), you can take a listen to a sample from the album.
Back in 1993 Bill gave a talk to the Percussive Arts Society where he talked about his career and offered a few tips on his approach to the good folks gathered in Columbus, Ohio. “In drumming we don’t really have a rhythm until you have an accent. Really, it’s the way you break up time that becomes the melody and the rhythm of the thing. So unaccented drumming is just a series of notes going past in a kind of meaningless and purposeless space.”
You can read the whole thing here.
Every now and then we get an email here at Bruford Towers from folks who’ve been taking various bits of the catalogue for a spin. Here’s one we received from Steve Katz from the band Abstract Animation, who was taken with the Summerfold and Winterfold samplers.
“As a veteran endorsed Drummer Percussionist (found-sound) Artist Improvisor playing Avante-Garde Fusion, I'm hard pressed to finding a favorite track within the Summerfold and Winterfold collections. It's like staring intently at a fresh baked chocolate fudge cake pondering over which slice is best! After seeing and speaking with Bill personally, I find the interview segments included here quite refreshing, and connect him and his fearless drumistic expression to me and my drumsonality in a special way. The FOLD set, a must have for all BB cake lovers!”
Congratulations go to David Patterson of Stamford, Connecticut. He was able to tell us that the momentous conflict which coincided with the start and finish of the recording of Earthworks’ third album, All Heaven Broke Loose, was the first Gulf War. Being a lucky winner David gets to pick a BB album of his choice and he shows he’s a man a some taste plumping as he does for the excellent Earthworks Underground Orchestra. This cracking toe-tapper on Summerfold was originally released in 2006 and features sax player Tim Garland.
All About Jazz said of the album “Culled from a stint at New York's Iridium jazz club, Earthworks Underground Orchestra began as a marriage of Garland's London-based nine-piece Dean Street Underground Orchestra and the Earthworks repertoire after Garland joined the group in 2003. For the December, 2004 Iridium date, Bruford and Garland recruited New York players like saxophonist Steve Wilson, trumpeter Alex Sipiagin and pianist Henry Hey. With Garland's not insignificant skills as an arranger, the material—a cross-section of Earthworks material old and new—is infused with new life and greater depth.” You can read all of John Kelman’s review of the album here .
Meanwhile, our thanks to a previous competition winner, Vince Egan, for sending in this snap.
Vince writes “please find attached a picture of myself with my new copy of "Feels Good to Me", previously only owned on vinyl, and a fine addition to my CD collection.” Stay tuned for another great BB competition.
If you'd like to win an Earthworks album of your choice then all you need to do is to answer this question:
Which momentous conflict coincided with the start and finish of the recording of Earthworks’ third album, All Heaven Broke Loose?
If you’re not sure what that might be, then simply take a look at Bill’s timeline or the audio samples on the website for a clue (well, the answer actually).
Once you’ve done that simply pop the answer and the Earthworks album you’d like to win, along with your postal address in an email marked EARTHWORKS to firstname.lastname@example.org. The winner will be announced on Thursday 2nd September.
When reading through Bill Bruford’s autobiography it’s entirely natural to reach across to your album collection and slip on the platter under discussion in any given chapter.
One blogger who was prompted to do this was Sal Nunziato . Although he was prompted to listen to lots of Bill-related albums, his blog entry focussed on the very first Yes album where Bill is credited with drums and vibes.
Here’s what one reviewer, Lloyd Grossman - now better known for his range of cooking sauces and TV punditry - had to say about the album back in Fusion magazine back in 1969.
MAYBE HIDDEN away in the offices of Atlantic Records right now is an evil genius publicity man who is trying to devise a monstrous hype campaign that will make being a Yes fan the paragon of hip fashionability.
I hope not. Too many groups on the scene already will be hurt in the long run by the blind adoration they now receive from thousands of fans who have been goaded on by the 'cool' that is appreciated only because it is fashion able will stagnate and fall by the wayside as soon as the fashion changes, while a band that is appreciated for its abilities and criticized for its shortcomings will continue to grow and develop.
Yes consists of John Anderson (lead singer), Chris Squire (bass, vocals), Peter Banks (guitar, vocals), Tony Kaye (organ, piano), and Bill Bruford (drums, vibes). They are all fine musicians, particularly Banks, a very tasteful and jazzy guitarist. The vocals are superb — lucid, well structured, and harmonic. An almost unique phenomenon at a time when perfunctory shouts and tuneless mumbling easily pass for vocals. The total band sound is very clean and unified and remains incredibly tight even through some rather complex arrangements.
With the exception of two tracks, all of the selections are original. 'Beyond and Before' is a very powerful opening track with a very well developed vocal and some fine imagery in the lyrics. There is a nice arrangement of McGuinn and Crosby's 'I See You' with especially good guitar by Peter Banks. The album's other non-original track is The Beatles’ 'Every Little Thing' which has a cataclysmic introduction that progresses into an arrangement that I feel is even better than the original. 'Yesterday and Today' and 'Sweetness' are both fairly simple and very well done love songs which though very emotional are never maudlin or trite in their sentimentality. My own favorite is 'Looking Around' a very high voltage song with incredible vocal-instrumental cohesion and a superb performance by all involved especially singer John Anderson.
The production by Paul Clay and Yes is excellent (proper mix and tonality) and the album design by Crosby-Fletcher-Forbes is particularly good. Very helpfully, a sheet with all the lyrics is included. Yes is a consistently good album, emotionally intense, yet always tasteful: imaginatively conceived and excellently performed. Do I like it? YES.
Thank you, Mr.Grossman!
So the question is: when you read Bill’s autobiography which recording did it make you want to explore the most? Responses to the guestbook please!
Bill’s autobiography is available now as an eBook. You can download the book onto your kindle or other eBook reader of your choice, or indeed your PC by visiting his eBook page at Waterstones.
Meanwhile you old fuddy-duddys who like the feel of a book between your fingertips can grab an old-school copy via the link on the site index page.
Congratulations go to Vincent Egan who along with many others entered last weeks BB competition. You’ll recall we asked you to tell us how many public performances Bill played between December 1976 and April 1978? Vincent Egan had a rummage in the timeline and, well, let Vincent tell you in his own words. “ Astonishingly, Bill Bruford performed just two gigs. I was surprised!” Having had his name picked out of the fedora of fate, Vincent of Leicestershire, went on to say “I claim my Bruford CD - "Feels Good to me", please.” Happy to oblige, Vincent. A copy of Bill’s first solo album will be winging its way to you this week.
Meanwhile, here’s a reprint of an article written by Phil Sutcliffe around the release of Feels Good To Me that appeared in Sounds back in February, 1978.
"I feel sometimes as though they're about to stick my head on a spike and display it outside the Tower Of London for people to hurl rotten fruit at."
The speaker? Bill Bruford. They? "Punks. The Press. I can sense a yawn from half of London maybe." Bruford has just released a 'solo' album of fast and complex rock in a phase of the Moon when fast is ideologically okay but complex is not. A simple twist of fate.
Behind the words he is laughing, no trace of the bitterness which would result from insecurity in face of the time and tide because his self-confidence is as buoyant as a helium balloon. "It will be the first time I've been slagged and it will be very good for me," he says.
Bill talks like he drums, verbal/rhythmic bullets in 17/19. He is articulate, bordering on posh of accent, a whirlpool of energy who takes a swirling magnetic grip on everyone in his ambit. A dynamo. A very nice man with the light of kindness in his eyes.
We are standing in the outer office of a recording studio where we are to perform an interview for international radio consumption. A welter of people, a bedlam of phones. I don't even know where it is. My train was an hour and a half late in from Newcastle and since then it's been taxi dashes around the West End to snatch a listen to the album and still make the appointment. Bill is looking boyish yet worried, asking his PR from EG Management to get hold of some company boss to check on one of the hundreds of difficulties involved in getting your very own LP out on the streets.
I tell him I liked it which is fortunately true. "Well like I told Polydor it's pure pop music for now people", he says.
We are ushered downstairs into a tiny studio with enormous mikes and the silent calm of a padded cell. With relief we turn our attention to music. Now normally my old-fashioned soul doesn't hold with these fanzine-style straight transcriptions from tape. It doesn't seem like hard enough work to be good. But Bruford really demands to be an exception. I rate him rock's guvnor drummer. It could also be that he'd win a Best Interviewee (International Section) poll.
"The most famous thing I ever did before was leave Yes. Now you know why I did it."
What did it feel like going solo at last?
"It's an extraordinary feeling of power. I'm a power maniac! No. It's to do with not having to share decisions in the recording studio. I would have made a great executive."
I can understand the appeal of the singleness of purpose when you're solo...
(As if he was sucking an ice lolly in a drought): "It's lovely, yeah."
...but l can also see the value of being able to call on the combined talents of a lot of able musicians in a democratic process.
"That's the optimum. Most bands will reach that peak for possibly only six months and then go past it. In a sense it's a cowardly thing to go solo. Well, it's courageous in that you get the insults and flack if it's no good but at the same time you don't have to work at the laborious process of making sure that everyone is at their optimum all the time – at which point the sum of the parts is greater than the whole which is a great democratic group. I think Yes had that at the time I left, Close To The Edge.
"I left them when they were turning into a financial success. It was a great surprise to everyone because it's not supposed to be on for drummers to leave successful bands."
You feel drummers are stick-in-the-muds?
"Yes, fairly conservative, unadventurous types. That's why I wanted to be involved in the hectic music King Crimson was creating at that time.
"I was a reasonably well-trained drummer and it's very easy to get into an eyes-down position with the drumkit where all you want to do is get a faster and faster press-roll. It's quite interesting for the first few years of your existence but after a while you have to figure out what you want to do with your pressed roll.
"That's where Jamie Muir in Crimson influenced me. He was a sort of Brian Eno of the drumkit. He made me feel very pedantic and mechanical. Because of him I began to express myself. He liberated me."
Do you regret all the time you spent on technique?
"Not at all, it does have a place but it's a thing you must acquire and forget about. It allows the emotions to operate.
(His own album is most closely related to his brief period in '76 with National Health. He borrowed Dave Stewart as composer's mate and keyboards player for the sessions.)
"The ideas came from me and were, well, improved by him. He came over to my place, I played him what I'd written and said 'Well, what do you think?' fully expecting him to run screaming from my garage – which is where I rehearse.
"But he was pleasantly taken I think, reasonably surprised perhaps that a drummer even bothers to think about tunes. I mean there's this idea that a drummer doesn't even hear what the front line is doing. I'd like to scotch that rumour because I've been listening for a lot of years to what happens up there and the drumming is the least interesting part to me.
It sounds as though you're talking yourself out of a job.
"I don't look down on drumming but there's no point in going round with this big sign round your neck saying 'I'm a drummer, isn't that great'. We're all musicians. I like to be able to discuss harmony with the harmony players, melody with the melody players, and lyrics with the guy who's going to sing the song."
There is a track on the album without drums isn't there?
"'Springtime In Siberia'. It's a duet for Kenny Wheeler's flugelhorn and Dave on piano. It doesn't need drums, simple as that. And playing tuned percussion on the album is my way of saying 'Look, I wrote these tunes and I'm prepared to stand by them.'
"Though I have to admit I did that after all the others had finished in the studio in case they were horrified. Vibes have a very 50s image but you can actually use them in a very violent fashion. I turned the motors off and used very hard mallets so it was a matter of striking tuned steel bars. It's heavy metal man! No doubt at all."
Do you have any fear of being labelled avant garde or jazz-rock?
"I'll have to risk that. My own humble market research is as follows: if I like it, it's the best I can do. If nobody else likes it that's unfortunate but I refuse to believe that everyone out there is permanently addicted to three chords in E major for the rest of their lives. They're not all musical babies."
You come across as a none-stop hard worker. Is that just an illusion?
"Well I keep records of this kind of thing, I'm very statistically-minded. You'll be pleased to know that last year I worked five days a week just like anybody else. I see a musician very much as a functional guy, your friendly neighbourhood rock star who'll make you feel good. Call on me for a tune. I'm at (maybe I shouldn't put his address in but he gave it).
"I'm not fanatical. I am very aware of wasting time though and that there's always another tune to be made. I feel I've started something in myself which could disappear at any time. Drying up, the thought that I might never have another musical idea, terrifies me.
"Well, the album is very much the start of my musical career. Though I always feel that. I always see any gig as my first – and my last."
You can keep it that fresh after ten years?
"It's amazing. Just setting up a drumkit is a turn-on. I'm sorry to sound corny and romantic about it but musical instruments are fascinating. They look at me and say 'Go on then, you're so smart, do something with me.' They defy you with passivity. I love instruments and hate them at the same time: all instruments."
You have had co-writer credits before but this is the first time your lyrics have been recorded. How did the words flow?
"I did my best. There are two of mine and one of Annette Peacock's. She is skilled with lyrics and I'm not, though I think I did muscle through with reasonable panache. They were very important to me and incredibly difficult. I've had a book of snazzy lyrics on the go for two or three years but I'll never use most of them."
AT THIS point the interview peters out as Bruford for once gets vague when I ask about his tour plans. Confidential etc. Of course a little while later all was revealed: he is to go on the road in the near future with Allan Holdsworth (who played guitar on Feels Good To Me), John Wetton (who was his bass partner in Crimson) and Eddie Jobson (unconnected except as a fellow EG person).
We depart from our cool haven to the smoke, stale coffee and stale people in the foyer. Bill gets on his helter-skelter again. The cab ordered to take them back to see the man at EG hasn't arrived so we sprint through back streets sidestepping the Friday rush-hour homeward commuters. I lose track of Bill and Jane, EG lady, as we reach a tube station I didn't recognise.
I walk straining on tiptoe behind a very slow old lady and then see them waiting in the distance. We shake hands goodbye and they head for Kensington and I try to find out where I am in relation to King's Cross.
There’s an opportunity to win yourself a copy of any one of the three studio Bruford albums. All you have to do is answer a simple question, wait for a few days, and before you can say Robert is your father’s brother the album of your choice could be yours!
How many public performances did Bill play between December 1976 and April 1978? Now if that number isn’t ingrained in your jazz-rock filled head then by way of a teeny clue, you could dig around Bill’s brand new website for the answer. Possibly the best place to look for such vital information might be Bill’s timeline - but don’t tell anyone I told you. Having retrieved the number in question, please send your answer to email@example.com
Please mark your emails BRUFORD (otherwise you'll end up in the spam bin of doom). Don’t forget to include a postal address and the name of the Bruford group studio album you’d like as your prize. We’ll announce the winner on the 8th August.
Elsewhere, Bill’s recent talk at the 606 Club in London was reviewed in Jazzwise magazine.
"Bruford held court for nearly an hour in conversation with Garland, with the audience hanging on his every word. For those who had already read his excellent autobiography, there was little fresh ground covered, but it was still a worthy listen from a man who’s been there, done it many times over and doesn’t particularly want to do it again, thank you. The list of topics ranged from the nostalgia of Bruford’s tenure in progressive rock to more serious discussion about the differences between rock and jazz in terms of product/process – an area in which, understandably, Bruford’s opinion is highly sought."
The evening featured the music of Bill’s ex-Earthworks colleague, Tim Garland. You can read the whole review here
Chris was a great player that I saw regularly at Ronnie's in London. Constantly working because he provided just what the doctor ordered for the many people he played with at the club, he was a serious talent. I'm so shocked to hear this sad news, and my condolences to his wife and family will join those of many others to whom he gave great pleasure in his short life. With great sadness. Bill Bruford
This is just to let you know that the re-issue of the Bruford and the Beat DVD is now available at our online store.
The material was filmed in New York City and New Haven, Connecticut, USA in February and March 1982. As with so many things to do with Bruford, he was amongst the first to offer material to the then fledgling genre of drum instructional videos. 'Bruford and the Beat' features solos, interviews, demonstrations and rare performance footage of Bill with King Crimson, with guest appearances by Robert Fripp and Steve Howe. Both entertaining and educational, this visually rich programme will appeal to anyone interested in music, especially those who have followed the various twists and turns through Bill's lengthy career.
Thanks to all and sundry, especially the Festival Organisers, club owner Steve Rubie, and saxophonista and interviewer Tim Garland, for a great evening last night. An on-stage discussion of issues raised in Bill's recent book was followed by a boiling set from Tim's Lighthouse group, featuring Asaf Sirkis (drums), Pat Bettison (bass) and the hottest guitarist in town, Mike Outram. Catch any of these people, in any combination, anywhere.
Many thanks to the folks at Kitcatt Nohr Alexander Shaw, one of London's leading Advertising Agencies, for their time and generosity in helping us in the refurbishment of this site. Bill was invited to the Agency to speak to staffers and interested by-standers on musicians' survival techniques, and how to duck, weave, and bluff your way through a lengthy career, and the 'quid pro quo' was this, the coolest of cool new sites. We couldn't be more grateful. Thanks, Lazar!
Having just been in the US and then Sweden, and addressing plenty of young musicians in both, thoughts cannot help but turn to the relative merits of life in each for the young musician, were I again to be one.
In the vast US, all remains commercial. The imperative to produce an immediate return on each dollar spent continues to be the main driver for club-owner or promoter, who, panicked and nervous, thus provide for the audience what the audience had yesterday. My old friends and co-workers in King Crimson, and it’s various off-shoots in Stick Men, Adrian Belew’s several trios, and Trey Gunn and Pat Mastelotto’s groups, must play over-familiar repertoire in US clubs, but slide off to avail themselves of more socialist Northern Europe’s generous art funding if they wish to produce arguably more innovative fare with Amsterdam’s Metropole Orchestra, Sweden’s I.B.Expo, or at Norway’s Punkt festival with Jan Bang and Erik Honore.
Meanwhile in smaller European countries, the musicians seem to grow daily in confidence, and their work in imagination. Dan Berglund’s Tonbruket, Nik Bartsch’s Ronin, Barcelona’s Ojos de Brujo and the growing cluster of progressive instrumental musicians no longer look longingly to the west and hunger for an American tour as we did forty years ago. The jazz v. rock issue has been by-passed. Who’s allowed to play what is irrelevant. A new cross-genre progressivism is in the air.
This new progressivism has little to to do with the progressive rock that I grew up with, except in the key motivation - the hunger, the thirst - to find something vaguely different. Attention to timbre and sonic detail (Tonbruket), the sparseness and minimalist funk of Nik Bartsch’s Ronin, the red-blooded rhythmic drive of heavily amplified flamenco guitars over rhythm who’s antecedents are closer to Mumbai than Chicago (Ojos de Brujo) have origins in a local or regional sub-soil. They also may have a sprinkling of state funding to allow the music time to grow and develop strong roots, so to that extent the playing field is not level and the odds are stacked in favour of the European and against his North American colleagues. Society gets the music it pays for.
Would I rather struggle in Europe with Tonbrucket, Ronin, or Ojos than tread water in the US with the ‘heritage acts’ of my youth? No question. For now, Europe has it.
Thanks for all the warm notes and emails from The US and Sweden – too numerous to mention all – but it’s been a good autumn and you people made it so.
Jeremy Finkelstein Date: 30.11.2011 …just finished the autobiography and decided to check out the website. What else to say...I guess...Thanks for the music!
Pleasure’s all mine, Jeremy.
Paul: Date: 29.11.2011 Just noticed that you'd already answered a similar question about Earthworks' live gigs. I'm still curious about any additional studio stuff that might be floating around, though!
Paul, unlike King Crimson and DGM who appear to have a policy to make just about everything recorded available in the public domain, I have no such desire to do the same with Earthworks and any material I may control. It has something to do with allowing the artist to bin the off-cuts, to acknowledge that to get where you’re going there may be several - many - fruitless detours, and that it is the artist’s prerogative to so designate them. Much of early Earthworks’ live recordings were horrendously mis-balanced mostly because of the hybrid semi-acoustic semi-electronic percussion array that confused the heck out of most people, including me. Trust me, you don’t want or need to hear that. Crap is crap.
Jeff A. Morris Date: 21.11.2011 says… “thanks for stopping in Kansas City, MO. Glad to meet somebody who I modeled my thoughts & playing after. …What do you do when you want to create or play something different but your brain is stuck?”
Jeff, try re-arranging the instruments in your kit. Or try swapping the hands around, so if you are normally RH lead, play LH lead for a while. Play the part assigned to the BD with your LH, the snare with your RH, and feet in unison…
Cameron Devlin Date: 19.11.2011 thinks… “that Jazz FM interview is horrific. At least nice to see that it's reverted to its original name - it was "Smooth FM" for far too long”…
Yes, I agree, sorry about that Cameron! I couldn’t believe he was asking me such rubbish! I disagree about the name, though. There is so little of anything that I can recognise as jazz on there, I think ‘Smooth FM’ is appropriate. The station is all but unlistenable.
Jason Rubin Date: 13.11.2011 …was wondering about your renditions of Max Roach's "The Drum Also Waltzes" and Joe Morello's "Some Other Time." Did you transcribe them yourself, or learn them by ear? Also, how did you adapt their works to your own distinctive style?
Jason – neither are note-perfect renditions, but they are in the spirit of the originals. Inevitably I applied my style - not something I necessarily wanted to avoid applying – subconsciously - without conscious thought. Morello had a more rudimental style and a flow that joins one phrase to the next with fewer pauses than Max, who had lots of space.
“My first solo piece was called ‘Drum Conversation’, and people would ask me, ‘Where are the chords? Where's the melody?' And I would say, ‘It's about design. It isn't about melody and harmony. It's about periods and question marks. Think of it as constructing a building with sound. It's architecture”.
(Roach cited in Mattingly 2007)
Jerry: Date: 06.11.2011: Bill, during the ABWH tour, the band performed an encore of Sweet Dreams in a "Calypso" or "Caribbean" style. You had some sort of percussive thing between your legs. What was that instrument and how did that arrangement come about? thanks. (It was fascinating that Madison Square Garden fell to silence during that song.)
Jerry, that would have been the same log drum that I’ve used a lot – too much! – on the Sheltering Sky and Discipline with KC and other tracks. Not sure we were trying for a calypso – just something with a different feel. Sounds like the audience hated it…!
Michael O'Connor Date: 03.11.2011 … was reading a blip on some of the song titles and where they originated. Didn't see an explanation for one of my favorite songs "Forever Until Sunday". Is there any story for where this song got its name? It is a really beautiful song.
Thanks, Michael. It was a painfully long time (forever) until Sunday, the end of the tour, when in my case I was meeting my lady again, but it’s about yearning to be with the one you love. Time stands still, or goes slower, when you’re waiting like that.
Shir Deutch Date: 02.11.2011 ….would love to hear my thoughts and impression, if I ‘get the time’ to listen to his band Solstice Coil.
Shir, I appreciate your request, but I don’t do that any more I’m afraid. I’m sure your band is terrific, and I wish you all the best in the world for its greatest possible success, and it’s not that I’m not interested, it’s just that I do other things now. For many years I passed my worthless opinion dutifully on the musically hopeless, the musically more hopeful, and the musically exciting in equal measure. To listen to the music a few times, consider it, and type a thoughtful response of anything more than mere platitudes is a minimum four (unpaid) hours round-trip. I don’t ‘get’ time, but I could ‘make’ time… This I did without a word of complaint for years. I don’t anymore!
Good luck to all, Bill.
Photo shows the outer slip-box of the new Foruli Limited Edition autobiography with unique section of well-gigged Bruford Paiste cymbal embedded in the spine!
I’m just back from the USA after a short but useful 10-day trip. I only do short these days. Flying doesn’t get any better. I continue to be astonished by the huge interest in all things drums and drumming, and grateful for the continuing interest in my modest contribution in that area. Thanks to hundreds who turned up -it was great to meet as many of you as possible, and thanks also for the kind commentary on Facebook and the Guestbook on this site. I’ve signed my last book for a bit!
The trip ended with my speaking to some business people up in Portland, Maine. These folk were under the impression that we musicians are in possession of some special knowledge when it comes to creativity, innovation, and vision, and that I could introduce some of it to them.
I was a bit sceptical, but evidently large sections of US business is risk averse, tied in by outmoded patterns, mis-manages its creative people, misses opportunites and regularly fails to act. And it’s losing confidence daily. We’ve done plenty of all that of course in all the bands I’ve been in, but somehow we did manage to lurch forward and still put bread on the table. I suppose the story of my / our careers was digging for the best way to get at music, to get it to happen. Key to that was to avoid getting trapped in patterns. If you lay a pattern on a pattern, due you get a third pattern? Thanks to Frank Laurino of Backbeat Creative Strategy and partner John Rogers of Vtec Education Center, jazz afficionados both, for spotting the connection between small (jazz) group dynamics and possible models for business. There was genuine illumination on all sides.
Next stop Sweden.
Lovers of progressive rock might like to take George Myers’ recommendation: Date: 04.10.2011 “Spread the news around..."HANDS","ALL THE IN CHINA","FISSION TRIP","ELEMENTS" These are some fantastic "progressive rock bands" for anyone out there that has an interest in great original sounds...”
Alan : Date: 08.10.2011 Hello Bill, you are my only musical hero and I believe I have seen you with every group you have ever played with in the states including an obscure one with Jeff Berlin at Michaels Pub. A quick question, Men and Angels is one of my favorite BB tunes. Have you ever played it live?
Alan, thanks so much for your support – that’s an incredible attendance record! Top of the class! No, never played it live, and I wish I had. It cropped up on a Kazumi Watanabe album as I recall.
Michael Date: 12.10.2011: My Father casually mentioned that he had several "Dragon Toms" in his kit in the early '80s. I have spent several hours trying to figure out what these things are. Thus far, I have found very little information. My Father had three of these things in total. One was fitted with a tube, which produced a "booong" sound. The other two had no shell at all, they produced a "back-back-back" sound. Mr. Bruford is the only person I have read about that used anything called "Dragon Toms."
Michael, as I recall, Dragon Drums were clear acrylic drums made by a small company out of Denver CO, now out of business. I don’t remember how I came across them, but there were usually several manufacturers of unlikely looking instruments backstage at Crimson gigs, trying to interest relevant band members. I liked their boobams – derived from the ancient oriental instrument of bamboo cut to varying lengths, but with uniform diameter. The varying lengths give the pitch variability. I used them for years with KC in the 80s. Tama then went on to market it’s own version, called Octobans.
Jonathan Date: 13.10.201 wants to know “…how you first came to wear the Boston Bruins logo on your shirt(s), aside from the obvious appropriateness. Are you an NHL fan, as well?”
Jonathan, when I first came to the US as a kid and saw the Bruins logo in a store, I just thought it was a neat lettering to adopt, and I had no idea it was connected to a team. I’d never heard of the Bruins. Regret I am completely ignorant in all matters of US sport, NHL included! We’ve just issued a retro- B- T-shirt of the last Bruford tour of the US with that band in 1980, at the shop, which might amuse you.
Max Roach and Art Blakey.
Hi Everyone – today it’s just answers to last month’s questions.
Fabian Broicher Date: 24.09.2011. I've read somewhere, Bill, I just can't remember where, that you once wrote "Moon" on one and "Go Home" on the other shoe. Probably in some Yes-related article. Is that a true story? Ever since I read that, I am doing it too, though I'm always getting weird questions regarding why I don't like the moon as such and/or the night.
Fabian. It’s true! We were all kids once. When I was about 15 I was a jazz snob. The ‘moon’ refers to Keith Moon of the Who, whose drumming I didn’t like. I’ve since revised my opinion in this area, as in many other areas!
Tony Foley Date: 21.09.2011 …I checked out this article in The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2011/aug/04/musicians-worst-gigs?INTCMP=SRCH and just wondered (aside from the MSG electro drum failure debacle) whether you had any more rock star/pedestal knocking incidents you could add.
Tony, you mean other than illness (Earthworks in Pontevedra passing the fire-bucket around on stage; Tony Levin with hepatitis in Texas with ABWH, Jon Anderson cancelling PALA Eur in Rome after 15 minutes); accident (Tony Kaye with his leg in plaster); equipment malfunction (the MSG Simmons drum failure, Adrian Belew being horribly out of tune on British TV Old Grey Whistle Test and you can’t stop and tune up); and dodging the mentally unstable (Earthworks Underground Orchestra at the Iridium)? No, I think that’s it!
Michael O'Connor Date: 20.09.2011 Having listened to the many different groups/musicians you have worked with I have always wondered was there any one particular musician that you really wished you had had the opportunity of playing with or writing with but were never able to?
Michael:I’m asked this a lot – it’s a good question - but I have no simple answer. Just because I love a particular musician (say the late Joe Zawinul) – or his band (Weather Report ) - it doesn’t mean that I would be a good partner for him or that a partner is needed. He always used sensational drummers (a band is only as good as its drummer, or, put another way, if you want a good band you first need a great drummer) and I never felt I had anything particular that I could offer. If I ever felt I had something I could offer my colleagues, I certainly wasn’t shy in coming forward and saying so! (c.f. Robert Fripp…). I was very fortunate to be able to do my thing with a steady flow of people who could accommodate my (ever-changing) thing.
Bradley Baker Date: 16.09.2011 was "wondering if Bill was going to sell more of his drum sticks through his online store. They are my new favourites!"
The signed and used version are the ones you probably mean, Bradley. They are the most popular, but of course I don’t generate used sticks much anymore! So the store won’t be able to sell those I’m afraid. The basic Bruford stick is available of course from ProMark through any good drum store.
Laurie Small Date: 16.09.2011 You have a picture of Gong in the snow in Norway on your site. The unnamed person was Venux, the bands sound engineer. I might have been the driver but at least I was the drum tech …
Laurie, I didn’t immediately recognise your name (it was about 35 years ago!) but of course…Thanks for the identification of Venux, and for doing the drums!
Andrew Ashwin Date: 16.09.2011 Any plans to release live material taken from Earthworks last few years (one of the last one’s at Ronnie Scotts prior to the retirement anouncement would be a great album…)
Andrew, sorry to disappoint but Ronnie’s wasn’t recorded. Unlike the folks over at DGM who appear to have a recording of every gig (and rehearsal) of King Crimson since about 1980, I deliberately didn’t want to record all of Earthworks. The live stuff available I think covers everything of any interest – especially the two live DVD Anthologies.
Billy Mathews Date: 13.09.2011 wants to know: “If you hadn't retired do you think you would've been the drummer in the new Levin Torn White cd (given your past associations w/ the the 1st two)?
Who knows, Billy, who knows? I like to think Torn would have given me a call. The first of two albums we did together – Cloud About Mercury – was very popular and sold well, and is one of my favourite albums to listen to. Love that album. I’ve insisted that it be available from the shop at this site, and it will be very soon, so strongly recommend you check back and pick up a copy if you don’t know it!
Robbie Wise Date: 03.09.2011 has a “ muscle degenerating problem and holding a fork is a problem but the memories of you playing and my fellow muscians know you will always be an inspiration and enjoy retirement. The greatest drummer that ever lived went out in style. I thank you for putting up this site and I hope your health is perfect like your timing.”
Robbie, Thanks for the kind comments on the site and I’m very sorry to hear of your misfortune. I’m in absurdly good health, and count my blessings every day.
Kazumi Watanabe Group poster: see Adam Garrie's question below.
Hi Everyone –
If you haven’t seen Gavin Harrison on a recent Letterman, check it out on youtube. His playing is sublime – and in a high pressure situation, too. It’s rare to have that much drum talent paraded in front of the mass US viewing public – well done Gavin, and D. Letterman.
Plenty going on this Fall. I’ll be in the US mid-west and Boston from October 16th to 26th talking at various retail stores supported by Tama Drums - full details opposite on the News page. A trip to Swedish Universities is confirmed for November 6-11th, but these are academic institutions and I don’t believe the talks are open to the public. There will be a book launch for the special limited-edition Foruli Edition of the book in London on October 5th. I understand there will be a competition at Foruli for some guest list places. As ever, all details on the news page of this site as soon as they are confirmed.
I continue to be in modest demand as a talking-head commentator for TV documentaries and films about the music of the seventies, now increasingly seen as ‘authentic’ i.e. it wasn’t cut and pasted from a computer. Usually metal passes me by, so I’m slightly surprised to be included in the Banger Films epic coming up on VH-1 on 11.11.11, hereby designated by some VH-1 EVP (executive vice president? How many EVPs does it take to change a light bulb? What’s the President of VH1 like? The mind boggles…) as National Metal Day. I’ll just take cover. But for you guys who like to hold your fingers in that weird way, heaven awaits.
The last North American tour of the One of a Kind/Hell’s Bells Bruford band in 1980 has become something of a legend. We went flat out for two months in a van up to 400 miles a day in that summer’s unbelievable heatwave playing some 43 gigs in 38 cities in two months. In all possible ways, we were on fire. A lot of folk were there and remember those shows. Good news – the shop has just added a retro T-shirt celebrating the tour, with all dates listed. Very cool.
The King Crimson Surround Sound releases of Starless and Bible Black & Discipline are upon us. I prefer Discipline myself, but these versions of both albums have been written about very eloquently by Sid Smith over at DGM Live which has all the details.
A couple of questions answered:
Lazaro Vergara Date: 18.08.2011 wants to know if I played with Emerson Lake and Palmer in the mid-80’s? Lazaro – no, I didn’t! They already had a Palmer!
Adam Garrie Date: 09.08.2011 says: “I've just discovered some clips on youtube of a trio performance you did with Jeff Berlin and Kazumi Watanabe. Judging from your electronic drums it was probably sometime in the mid 1980s. Are there any plans for an official release of the performance? I found it terribly good and a good chance to see your electronic style in a context quite different from the first Earthworks”.
Adam: Yes, I enjoyed that band. We did two albums for Polydor Japan –The Spice of Life, and The Spice of Life, Too in 1987 and 1988 respectively – and toured extensively in Japan. Kazumi was and remains a huge guitar star in Japan. Their Eric Clapton. Can play any style at all. The scene there was very buoyant from the early eighties to the early nineties, when the bottom fell out of the economy. The project was very Japanese based and made little impact here in the west. I don’t have the rights to the music, so I don’t have the authority to re-release, but I note the CDs are still available at amazon.com along with a live performance laser-disc, probably the origin of the youtube clips. My favourite track is ‘Andre’from the second CD – the Simmons SDX was delivered to the studio around then and that was my first track with it. Wicked tom sound, and the right hand plays a (sampled) bicycle bell. Perfect for the oriental/Hong Kong vibe of the track!
Matt : Date: 02.08.2011 says "With your CD reissue of 'Music For Piano and Drums' a few years back, I was finally able to put my turntable out to pasture...But with the impending vinyl release of "From Conception to Birth," it would seem I'll have to bring the needled behemoth out of retirement! No doubt it will be worth it. Thanks, as always, for all the music and inspiration".
Sorry, Matt! Just to fill others in on what you’re talking about – there is shortly to be a high-end very limited special edition of my book published by Foruli. As part of the package, there will be a double 10” vinyl album of demos and masters called ‘From Conception to Birth’ Foruli have confirmed a book launch at the Forge in Camden, London, on October 5th, at which I shall be doing my thing for the assembled glitterati. There will be a competition at Foruli for some guest list places as mentioned above. All details on the news page of this site shortly.
No, it's not me when I was younger. It's an unidentified dance-band drummer at Mark Foy's Empress Ballroom, Sydney, Australia. Date unknown.
Nature abhors a vacuum. Build roads, attract more cars. Empty cupboard space. Can’t stand it, let’s find some things to put in there. There’s space for just a few more things on that empty shelf. Let’s fill it up! Nature abhors a vacuum, as do we consumers. If not the whole function of the artist, it may be his pleasure to reassert some control over all this spatial profligacy. An artist may control space. The space between the notes, the aural environment - or acoustic space - in which his music is heard, the negative space from which his sculpture draws its meaning, the impossible space of an Eischer staircase. Space temporal, space physical, space environmental, space aural, how we insert ourselves into these spaces and how we use this space, is the business of the artist.
It’s certainly the business of the drummer. The space between the notes – the space between the bar lines. If it is your predeliction, or enjoyment, to wait until the last possible moment before you play the next note, you will surely sound different from the guy who thinks it’s fun to play the next note at the earliest possible moment. I come across younger players who could benefit from considering these things. When you sit down to practise today, set the metronome slow, at about 60 bpm, and try to play accurate quarter notes, or a simple rock rhythm in quarter notes. Then simple phrases with a few notes as possible, and wait till the last possible moment before you play the next note.
In other words, try to play as slowly as possible while staying in time, and give all your attention not to the notes you’re playing, but to the vast chasm of space in between each one. That’s where the music lies. If you get it right slowly first, the faster tempos will look after themselves. If you don’t get it right slowly first, it ain’t ever going to work out. The three key qualities needed to begin life on any musical instrument are patience, patience, and patience. If the successful career is built on a 90/10 split between perspiration and inspiration - or stamina and luck - then the successful building of technique is 90 percent patience and 10 percent determination.
C from G Date: 19.07.2011: Dear Bill, speaking of the “Roundabout Ludwig snare”: Do you still have this drum? If you do, but feel like decluttering the homestead - I’d volunteer to give it a new home...
Yes, I do still have the drum, but I think I’ll hold onto it for a while yet! I’m not much of a collector or drum-enthusiast, and much of the kit I used was either handed back to endorsing manufacturers as they gave me the knew shinier one, or left or lost in storage wharehouses on one continent or another. A lot of the Simmons kit went back to Simmons as the instruments got better, and I understand there is a brisk ebay trade in older electronic drums and equipment. I’ve been a bit sloppy about this in the past, so I think I’ll hang on to the Roundabout snare for the time being!
Eric Stoutenburgh Date: 24.07.2011 is ‘a longtime fan (who) just wanted to say your angular style and polyrythmic prowess inspired me to keep playing bass guitar even when times where tough. Thanks a billion.
Thank you, Eric for the kind comment. There are some thoughts on some of the interesting bass players I’ve had the good fortune to work with in the Interviews on this site, if it interests you.
Michel Date: 28.07.2011 wants to know did I play on Yes' demo "We can fly from here" in 1980?
No. I was Crimsoning.
Pictured: the limited edition artwork.
As you may have gathered, Foruli Limited Editions Books are publishing a special edition of my autobiography this Fall. Among several other interesting features of this, there is a two-disc vinyl album called ‘From Conception to Birth’. This comprises eight songs that I wrote, each accompanied by its demo. [A seventeenth unreleased track - ‘Banyan’ - is also included]. As there seems to be growing interest in this, I’ve taken the liberty of writing some explanatory notes about the project, below.
'From Conception to Birth'.
It’s surprisingly uncommon practice, but I thought it might be interesting to offer some sketches of how several of my tunes began life. These audio demonstrations - or ‘demos’ for short - are extremely rough because they were only intended for the ears of the musicians whose job it would be to bring them to life. Had they been required for a record company executive’s decision for investment - the more usual purpose of demos - more care and attention would have been lavished. Musicians will tend to see the general thrust of the music more quickly than business people, and are happy enough with the rougher stone.
In the visual arts it’s quite common to see preparatory studies alongside the finished work. Indeed, some prefer the incomplete sketch, holding out as it does an open-ended promise of how things might be or might have been. Audio demos or original sketches of the finished musical item have been increasingly possible with the advent of simple home-recording devices, and it was a visit to the Van Gogh Museum to see the artist’s ‘Potato Eaters’and attendant sketches that provided the gestation for ‘From Conception to Birth’.
The vinyl album ‘From Conception to Birth’ has 17 tracks. 8 demos precede the relevant sections of their 8 released masters, allowing direct comparison, and there is one additional demo that never made it to master stage. The demos reflect my chequered history in the realm of home recording. Given my efforts with electronic percussion - or perhaps because of them - it may surprise some to learn I’m something of a technophobe, and nothing of a recording engineer.
Early demos were more or less straight into what we used to call a ghetto-blaster. That was followed briefly by Teac Portastudio 4-track cassette recordings, which rapidly morphed into my favourit axe, the Roland MC500. I played in the midi data from my Yamaha keyboard, and outputted to sounds from my Korg O1/W orchestra-in-a-box. Everything on sides 2, 3, and 4 was recorded that way. Low tech it certainly was, but I was pleased with my Holdsworth ‘soundalike’ guitar playing on ‘Lingo’, my cheesy 12-string guitar that I had the nerve to play Ralph Towner before the sessions for ‘If Summer Had Its Ghosts’, and the drumming on the unreleased ‘Banyan’.
There is an honourable – if fatal – tradition among musicians of ‘falling in love with the demo’. In this, the composer has played his weedy version to himself so many times that he comes to hear its manifest flaws as attributes. He becomes deaf to the beauties of the new version being produced on the session, and wastes many hours trying to recreate the unrecreatable original. Not me. I was relieved and grateful, but not surprised, when this material sprang instantly to life in rehearsal rooms under the hands of the skilled musicians with whom I was lucky to play it. The way my amateurish sketches began to breathe and flex and break free from the stone-lined, midi-data encasements in which they were conceived was a constant reminder of the value of all-at-once human playing and the value of musical relationships of the flesh-and-blood rather than the automated kind.
I never quite made it to the laptop and software world of composition that seems made for more agile brains than mine. I had written the tunes on this album and many like them because my various bands needed something to play. When I retreated from organising groups, that need evaporated, and I ended up mostly as an improvising musician. Arnold Schoenberg allegedly offered the notion that all composition is just very slow improvisation, and I accept the corollary to be true, that improvisation is extremely fast composition. Things sound best to me when the composed sounds improvised and the improvised sounds composed. I was always most comfortable in the cracks between the two.
One of my two elderly Simmons SDXs goes off to a new home. See question below.
Fourth of July holiday weekend, so everyone in the US will be snoozing - or, over here, catching up on Wimbledon.
By the way, for our Italian friends and Bruford watchers, Luigi Viva has sent this review of the Italian edition of my book, for which many thanks. My publisher is hoping to arrange a visit to Italy later in the year – November is suggested. We’re also working on trips to the US and Sweden around the same time. As always nothing is confirmed until it is confirmed on this site, and you’ll hear about it here first.
Campbell Laird Date: 25.06.2011 has found a curious Yes improv. “Any clues to what it is?” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eexMUM3RRHM&feature=related
Campbell – this is weird! I have very little recollection of this, but as someone commented, it’s an improv at the beginning of someone’s solo, or of a whole tune. Sounds like an intro to Every little Thing to me. I’d forgotten this, so it’s a treat to hear.
Joseph Jones Date: 19.06.2011 wants to know: “what's this about mr simmons and mr bruford looking for a tech to fix a sdx? great tool for composition those devices”.
Joseph; a gentleman in North Carolina USA has just become the proud owner of a Bruford SDX as used with KC and ABWH. The machine is elderly and in need of maintenance. It had been sitting in storage on the shelves at Tama’s warehouse in Bensalem PA for about thirteen years we reckon. Assuming you’re knowledgeable in this area, please write to the guestbook again with an email that can be passed to the purchaser and he can contact you direct if he wants or it's necessary. Turns out there is quite a club of Simmons equipment aficionados who hunt down bits of kit from the 80s with the same vigour as those who pursue antique cars or vintage wines. The SDX was the flagship Simmons unit, a thing of great size, complexity and imagination. It was the basis of my kit for about 7 years – from Kazumi Watanabe’s ‘Spice of Life 2’ in 1988 through Yes / ABWH and on up to Thrack and subsequent tours with King Crimson in 1995-6.
Dave Dreyfus Date: 07.06.2011 asks: “Are there points in every tour where the best performances just arrive or do these magical performances happen because the sound checks are inspired, dinners arrive on time and the musicians are extra excited to be playing in that particular city, at that particular Theater or Club?”
Dave; see book! This isn’t a cheap commercial plug, but I go into this sort of thing in some depth there. But it’s a good question. I think the best gigs are ‘point of discovery’ i.e. the gigs where you figure out how to do it. That may be personal to you on your instrument, or when two in a rhythm section, for example, find the best groove, or best of all, when all these things occur more or less simultaneously and the band is suffused with rightness and becomes unstoppable. If you’ve timed it about right, that’d be about quarter of the way in to the tour. The process of discovery is intoxicating. If the players are intoxicated (in the best way!), chances are they will transmit that to an audience.
Then again, who’s defining ‘best performances?’ The musicians couldn’t agree on what day of the week it was, let alone agree on a ‘best performance’. Best for whom – musician or listener? See? This stuff gets pretty murky very quickly!
There’s such a thing as being over-rehearsed, too. With Genesis in 1976 we’d booked a long hot ten days in Dallas to rehearse, and it felt like a lifetime. Seems like a very short time by today’s standards, but after about a week I felt I knew everything about the music that I was ever going to learn. At ten days I just wanted to go home, and we hadn’t even started the tour yet!
Dinner arriving on time usually helps!
With Tim Garland. Pic: David Sokol
If you'd like to know a bit more about ex-Earthworks saxophonist/multi instrumentalist Tim Garland, you could do no better than catch the recent UK national BBC Radio 3 profile on him, available to listen again here for another few days. Tim's take on our time together in Earthworks - and Earthworks Underground Orchestra - is heard at about 30'15".
With great drummer Adam Nussbaum last night at ‘the Pizza’…
Conventional wisdom has it that, like the Queen of England, working performers have no right of reply. Anyone posing as a ‘critic’ may villify you in print or online to their heart’s content; any reply from the artist merely validates said ‘critic’, who dines out on the reflected glory, (to mix a couple of metaphors). There is the memorable case of a particularly thin-skinned star I once worked with who took a dislike to a review he found in his cuttings service from, I think, the lowly Kent Messenger newspaper, an inky local rag with a readership of about ten. The celebrity sent a strongly-worded note to the Editor of the Messenger, who, thrilled with all the attention, promoted the hack to ‘entertainments editor’ and ran the story on the front page, instantly doubling the readership and exposure of the offending article. It only ever gets worse.
On the London jazz scene, Jack Masserik of the London Evening Standard has some influence. If you have a run of dates at Ronnie Scott’s or the Pizza Express Jazz Club, an opening-night stinker from Jack can play havoc with ticket receipts for the following nights. Just like that guy Frank Someone who can close shows on Broadway, only smaller. Jack has always detested me and my stuff. Not the least of the several benefits that come with being retired is that now I don’t have to care. At the back of the Pizza last night he tapped me on the arm and ushered me out of the way – I was blocking the little light there was from his scribblings. Happily he enjoyed the group we’d both come to hear – Impossible Gentlemen - featuring ex-Earthworker Gwilym Simcock.
I met drummer Adam Nussbaum for the first time. We drummers feel we know each other because we know each other’s music so well, we know each other’s style and touch on the instrument. Even though we’ve never met, it feels as though we are old friends, because in a way, we are. Adam tells me 75%% of his work is in Europe now, and that the US scene is ‘flat’. I note that Impossible Gentlemen are brought to us in part by funding from the UK Lottery and the Arts Council of England, so that will have something to do with it. Thank heavens impoverished old Europe still manages to find a few Euros to throw at the jazz musician, right of reply or not!
This picture at Duke University, Raleigh, N.C. in late 1971 shows Bill sound-checking his complete two-floor tom Hayman kit. Note the Hayman snare has been demoted to spare in favour of his ‘Roundabout’ Ludwig snare. Pic courtesy of Michael DeAngury.
Questions from Mike Yocum, Robert Howie and others, answered below, make me think it might be a good idea to point you to the interviews and articles pages on this site. I go into many of the more frequently asked questions in some depth, and the stats indicate it’s a relatively lightly used resource.
Mike Yocum Date: 06.05.2011 asks if I would ‘comment on some of the great bass players you've worked with over the years, e.g., what you liked about them, songs that stand out to you, etc.? You always come up with such a great complimentary drum part with the bassist that you're playing with that not only serves the music, but becomes a great stand alone part of it’.
Mike, I can refer you to an article on this very site all about bass players and my tin-pot thoughts about working with bassists. Go here and scroll down to ‘2003 bass players’. Aside from that, I always liked the bass line from Discipline which I think I wrote, Jeff Berlin first played, and ended up with Tony Levin on Stick. Earthworks’ Mark Hodgson had unbelievable strength on upright, but not such a pretty sound as Eddie Gomez. Jeff Berlin’s solo on Palewell Park from ‘Gradually Going Tornado’ was a world-beater for form and melody. Too many, too many nice bass parts… Chris Squire’s ‘Lucky Seven’ from his first (only?) solo album ‘Fish Out of Water’ was always very popular. Tony Levin’s great part in the dreamy road-trippy mescalin-induced haze of the middle section of Neurotica (from King Crimson’s ‘Beat’ ) always sent shivers down my spine. I could go on all day. The problem with lists, of course, is all the people you leave out.
Dan Summers Date: 14.05.2011 asks if I’d ever ‘considered doing a piano/drums project with Dave Brubeck? You could have called it Double Brew (or Double Bru, if you like)’.
What a wit! My records were always racked after Brubeck’s in the store, in the old days, when they had record stores. He always had dozens to my one or two if I was lucky.
Robert W. Howie Date: 14.05.2011 ‘Some of the stuff you do, I just can't get, like the off time stuff. Is there any professional advise or tips you could give me, or is there some good training material that won’t break the bank that would help me out - i.e. odd time sigs, compound time sigs. And I would also like to ask if you would share with me your favorite pieces of music that you have done over your career’.
Robert, there is so much stuff on the net to help out. I’m a bit out of the loop on current fashionable books on odd-time signatures, but none of it will break the bank. If you like the drummer, see if he has a book out. Just type ‘odd time signatures’ into your browser and you’ll find a ton of information. Without knowing your current ability it’s hard to make a recommendation, but I hear Ralph Humphrey’s book ‘Even In the Odds’ is very good.
Take a look at FAQ 10 about some of my favourite albums, and there will be lots of material on this in some of the articles on this site listed under ‘Interviews’. Funnily enough I quite like some of my work on the ‘Sound of Surprise’ by Earthworks. I say funnily, because it wasn’t a big seller and is underrated I think. Unlike most of my stuff, which has been somewhat overrated!
Armin Date: 17.05.2011 asks ‘are there still things in your recording-library that are destined to be put on CD or DVD? Moreover, any plans to promote/read your book for people outside UK (which means evt germany, BeNeLux or so...)?’
Armin: As you may know I’m doing a high-end limited bespoke edition version of the book with all sorts of bells and whistles attached, with Foruli Publications. As part of the package, there will be a vinyl album called ‘From Conception to Birth’, which offers the ‘sketch’ or ‘demo’ of the master first, each demo followed immediately by its master. This invites comparison of first thought with final production. Sometimes the difference is marginal, sometimes substantial, but always intriguing, I hope. Visit Foruli for updates.
I regret I have no plans to be reading in Germany or Benelux. Irrelevant to you, I know, but I shall be doing more in the US this Fall.
Bill Donnelly Date: 17.05.2011 Have you listened to any new and exciting music you think some of us might be interested in knowing about?
Bill, I’m way behind with my listening. Having collected much too much music over the last 40 years, I’m enjoying kicking back and listening to some of it. A classic symptom of advancing senility is that I increasingly find the music of my youth not only stands up well to newer material but appears to have as much or more fire, invention and passion in the grooves.
Mark EpperlyDate: 17.05.2011 Hi Everyone. Does anyone know what model remote Hi Hat that Bill is using (either currently or very recently). Any info would be appreciated. Thanks, fans!
Mark, back in the 80s I used to use a new, now discontinued and not very good, Tama remote cable hat. I suggested some improvements to Tama and they made me an excellent custom two-legged Iron Cobra version. My understanding was that Tama didn't put that on the market because a) lack of demand and b) possible copyright and patent issues with DW. Evidently DW also have a good remote cable hat. I haven't tried it - part of the difficulty of being an endorsing artist is that you spend very little time trying out the instruments of other manufacturers.
I never found the hat particularly sluggish, but since it was a central component of my symmetrical kit and as such had to be carried around the world to gigs, it had those logistical problems. Here's a brief clip of me playing it.
All best till next time. Bill
L-R: Hagger, Banks, Anderson, Squire.
Here's a slice of history. Mabel Greer's Toyshop was the short-lived late 1960's British band best known for having three future Yes members (Jon Anderson, Peter Banks, and Chris Squire) in its ranks.
Squire, then a member of The Syn, created Mabel Greer's Toyshop in late 1967, along with singer/guitarist Clive Bailey and drummer Bob Hagger. Chris's Syn bandmate Peter Banks soon joined the band, remaining for a short period of time. Jon Anderson joined the band shortly after Banks' departure, which was also shortly before the band itself broke up.
An attempt by Anderson and Squire to reform the band led to the return of Banks, the addition of keyboard player Tony Kaye, and myself on drums to replace Bob Hagger. Somewhere around here the new band discarded the Mabel Greer's Toyshop name and settled on the new name of Yes. This song, Beyond and Before, is the only one from MGT that made it, not only into Yes, but as the lead track on Yes' first album.
Earthworks, Saarbrucken, Germany, 2004. L-R Gwilym Simcock, Tim Garland, Mark Hodgson, Bill
Prompted by the front cover photo of the book, which shows a scarily youthful Bruford in action, plenty of people have asked 'when did I play Camco drums?'. The distinctive round lug boxes have caused some confusion between that company and the British outfit Hayman Drums, whose instruments I did play in the early 70s. Hayman is less well known than Camco in the USA, and I came across this helpful history which might clear things up. Take a look.
Joseph Jones Date: 26.04.2011 asks: “Is there something you are not telling us?"
Ah, the conspiracy theorist! But I think what James went on to produce was a ‘backhanded compliment from the antipodes’, but I couldn’t be entirely sure.
Brooks Rogers Date: 24.04.2011 asks: “If you could peer or listen in to a parallel universe where you stayed in a band longer or a certain line-up had lasted, what would you like to hear/experience just out of curiosity? Yeah, I'm sure you have no or few regrets in your career (as you should!) but just play a little game of "what if?". What different outcome would you be curious to see?”
Brooks, you’re mulling over the Yes or Crimson albums we might have made had I stayed on. Pretty grumpy ones, I should imagine! You give me too much credit for altering the course of things. Had I been less curious I would have stayed with Yes. Had I been better trained musically and technologically, I’d be composing for larger ensembles by now. Had I hired and assistant 10 years ago, I’d probably still be in the business. If I had a pair of wings, I could fly… Neither Yes nor Crimson, while having considerable attributes of their own, were ever going to be the free-wheeling, loose jazz-ish groups that I wanted to be in but didn’t really know I wanted to be in. Took me a while to get there.
Peter James Jon Fonte Date: 24.04.2011 says: “Let us hear from you sometimes, would you?"
Here I am, Pete. If you mean hear from me musically, I fear that continues to be unlikely.
Oluwaseun Adebanwo Date: 18.04.2011 has been “having difficulties with my pedaling with my rt leg kicks,what do i have to do,to conquer that?”
Oluwaseun, I think you mean, generally, that you’re struggling with the bass drum. Strongly recommend you go as simply and as slowly as possible, and be patient. Turn on a drum box or click track of some sort, or even your favourite music track, and try to play the BD steadily and smoothly, 4 beats to the bar, at the same dynamic level. Only when you feel comfortable going all the way through a tune for 3 or 4 minutes like that should you try and go a bit faster. Just 4 beats to the bar. Then try varying the dynamic – going from quiet to loud to quiet again. 20 minutes a day of that for a few weeks will improve your bass drum control beyond recognition. And your confidence too!
Marlon Cherry Date: 14.04.2011 has “been listening to Evelyn Glennie's work a lot lately and I find that there's something about her sense of texture that reminds me of your work. Have you ever had the experience of working with her on any level? I think that the 2 of you would make an amazing duet record due to your similarities and your differences as well”.
Marlon, I’ve known Evelyn a bit, and her work well, for many years. Fantastic player, and to be applauded for breaking down all sorts of walls and prejudices about what a ‘classical’ soloist should or should not be playing. She has done a huge amount to legitimise and popularise percussion in the UK and globally, especially among females. The two of us did discuss a project - around the time of ABWH, probably 1990. We got as far as her record company boardroom, and a meeting with a suspiciously enthusiastic record exec, but nothing came of it. Can’t quite remember why.
Bob C Date: 08.04.2011 would argue that “the role that you have played in terms of contribution to drumming has been seriously overlooked” and feels that “your decision to retire from public performance is denying generations of an alternative and relevant approach to percussion”.
Bob, I disagree. As a semi-permanent fixture in most drum and music magazines for 40 years, I’ve been very well acknowledged, over-praised, and probably too well-paid! As for the last bit about denying somebody something, I’m just letting someone else have a turn. Trust me, there are plenty of hip young guys out there. You’re in safe hands!
Music for the 1997 Summerfold album 'If Summer Had Its Ghosts'.
The following fairly complicated question came in, and I thought it might be good to try to air an answer in public. It’s a bit long, so I split the answer in two parts. This is the second - the first was posted here in VIEWS on 19.03.2011.
Would you mind addressing how you compose a drum part for a song and let us know if you plan everything including fills, breaks and specific patterns that repeat consistently on purpose and become the final part? What is your method and is it the same way you approach composing a song? I saw you rehearsing your composition with the Buddy Rich orchestra and it was brilliant. I guess the bottom line is when you listen to the drum parts in "One more red nightmare", were those breaks improvised over different takes and you decided that you liked the one that we hear and you re-learned it as the final part or was it totally planned from preproduction of different ideas?
If there are featured drums, such as One More Red Nightmare from K.C’s Red, or Indiscipline (from Discipline: King Crimson) or Earthworks ‘Revel Without a Pause’ (Earthworks: Sound of Surprise) it’s one or two passes and hope for the best. In my day there was almost never the time, money or patience to keep a room full of musicians waiting while you overdubbed or edited or manipulated your ‘best’ lick into the proceedings.
If you were lucky you got a few goes at it; a little concentration and fast thinking could give you an acceptable result – defined as something you could live with. My generation did it jazz-style, all in the room at once. The one-take solo on Revel Without a Pause (Sound of Surprise: Earthworks) worked for me, and that’s about as good as I got at ‘live’ drum-action. The drum breaks in One More Red Nightmare (Red: King Crimson) were improvised, and would have been different on other takes. The take that was kept happened to contain those breaks.
Sometimes there are just ballads with discreet gentle rhythmic movement, but a lot of focus on the melody and harmony. (Come To Dust from Earthworks’ Sound of Surprise; Sarah’s Still Life from Earthworks’ A Part and Yet Apart; Palewell Park and Forever Until Sunday by Bruford). On these the melody is paramount, and I’d spend a lot of time at the piano trying to get it just right.
With much of early Earthworks, my electronic kit could produce a colourful confection of pitches, chords, sqeaks and yelps that implied melody and harmony, and I could go to the others in the band and say "I’m playing this - play what you want on top" (Bridge of Inhibition – Earthworks).
In King Crimson, the blueprint for the type of building was usually defined by Robert Fripp, and the musicians generated their own appropriate parts as the building was going up. Everybody was self-contained. It was unlikely I’d suggest something for Tony Levin to play – he’d have plenty of ideas of his own. And vice-versa.
We seldom played anyone’s wholly-written tunes because it wasn’t that kind of band. Idiosyncratic and highly personalized input was required. That could be a slow method, and could cause problems. I might offer a possible foundation (or floor-plan) which produced a second and third floor designed by others. Having seen round those two excellent new floors, though, I might want to change the foundation, which might cause the whole thing to wobble for a bit. I was routinely informed it was ‘irritating’ working with me! Probably true, but in my defense I was only trying to go that one step further.
The process in the older rock groups has been likened to four architects designing the same building, or four novelists trying to collaborate on one book. There was inevitably a lot of horse-trading – “I’ve got this great chorus and riff, but you hate my riff. I could live with your words which I don’t care for if you could think again about my riff”. Try doing that with four creatively muscular people in one room, and life can get tough.
Later in jazz, the musicians could sight read. That changes the music immediately because more complicated harmonic structures can be assimilated quicker off the paper. Jazz tunes are generally written by the one composer. You all play his tune and take a vote on whether you want to do it. If not, fine, we’ll play some one else’s or a standard, and play the first tune next week. A looser and quicker style of operation altogether.
The loosest of all is instant composition without rehearsal, sometimes known as improvisation. Over time I abandoned preparation of ideas altogether, preferring to hear whatever it was that my inner-man might produce in the moment. (The Art of Converstion, The 16 Kingdoms of the 5 Barbarians, both by Borstlap-Bruford).
I began to write music because Yes’ Jon Anderson was always encouraging, if a bit forceful. He maintained there were two kinds of musician; the kind that originate the composition and play it, and those who are just functionaries following orders and playing what they’re told to play, or what the composition requires they play. I simplify, but you get the drift. So I started by banging out bass riffs on my piano, which would eventually find there way into And You and I or Heart of the Sunrise, (Yes). Being always keen on unusual time-signatures, I suspect I had something to do with the odd-metered motif at the beginning of Siberian Khatru (Yes: Close to the Edge). I provided the slow sinewy odd-metered bass line that worked well in Starless (King Crimson: Red).
Encouraged, I got bolder, but it wasn’t until after many hours with piano harmony and the appearance of my own band Bruford that I started to use whole instrumental compositions of mine, such as Either End of August (Bruford: Feels Good to Me), or Fainting in Coils (Bruford: One of a Kind). On three or four occasions I even went all the way to the stars and tackled all music and lyrics (Seems Like a Lifetime Ago: Bruford, Feels Good To Me; The Sliding Floor, or Plans for J.D.: Bruford: Gradually Going Tornado).
So there we are. Above are some of the very personal ways I’ve gone about creating music, but there are many others. I’m a strong believer in the drummer writing all or part of the music, if only because it’s great to hear your musical ideas brought to life. I encourage all younger musicians to get as deeply involved in all aspects of the music - rhythm, harmony, melody, timbre, arrangement – as possible. Too often the younger drummer has little or no idea where he is in the harmonic framework of the music. That’s deplorable, and there’s no excuse for that. Piano or keyboard is a great second instrument for drummers. Courage, mes braves! Get to it!
With Adrian Belew, King Crimson guitarist and singer, c1984
Fernando Hurtado Date: 28.02.2011: What do you think the drummer of the future will be? There are great drummers that are doing some great stuff like Gavin Harrison, but I want to know your opinion about the future of the drummer as an artist, composer and instrumentalist.
Great question, Fernando. If I knew the answer, I’d be a rich man indeed! We’d have to start by defining ‘drummer’. I suspect you mean the drumset artist appearing over the last 100 years or so, with a one-man collection of percussion instruments assembled around him on which he performs live. Sometimes that performance was recorded. That was the basic blueprint, but we know now that in the more interesting areas of modern popular music technology has loosened the old industrial demarcation lines. Bass, drums, rhythm guitar are a bit out-moded, and ‘behind the scenes, people tend to write, create, noodle with multiple technologies on multiple instruments, some more rhythmically orientated than others.
There are many different directions developing, and pioneers are sprouting up everywhere, only to be replaced by tomorrow’s even braver pioneer. I may not know all the names, but my experience of humanity so far tells me this is inevitable. So Pete Lockett is developing Indian rhythms for the drumset alongside others who are applying rhytms of other cultures to what is essentially a western instrument. Others are blurring the distinction in live performance between electronics and acoustics, and devising hybrid kits that are half automated, half blood spitting; half man, half beast!
Having done wonderful things in your own bedroom with your own kit however, you have then to devise a meaningful musical context to play it in, and then – if you’re not wiped by this point – bring that music to market! No wonder everyone just wants to play in a simple old blues group! From the snare drum specialist with a symphony orchestra to the computer-based producer dreaming up impossible thing for the drums to do and then playing it backwards, there are as many possible futures for drummers as there are drummers with imagination. Like everyone else, drummers used to live in a comparatively certain world, now they live in an uncertain world. That often makes for good (or better) music. I wish I had a better answer – I’ll work on one.
Jeremy Richardson Date: 08.03.2011 I think I have to challenge your view about computer composition. Some of us are not superb instrumentalists but are very good at hearing and envisioning the music in our heads. Soemtimes unbearably so. Sibelius has liberated me over the last 9 years to take the basic notational understanding I had from obligatory piano lessons and translate this noise in my head into something useful. On a few occasions I have then been fortunate enough to take this into the studio and hire proper practitioners to make it come to life. As you have pointed out - studio expense has prevented me from really 'banding it out' and allowing these musicians a chance to explore possibilites beyond what I've written (largely). I'm not sure what I am - a composer, songwriter or what? I just think that there is a band of musicians in my head (which sometimes includes you) and I imagine how they would best voice my work as I write. In another world, if I was a better musician, things would be different. In the meantime I have Sibelius - as vital to me as sign language to a mute.
Jeremy – I think we have a misunderstanding. Your impassioned and elegant plea for Sibelius falls on receptive ears; I’m totally with you. Sibelius is one of many wonderful tools, which, like Pro-Tools, may be put to more or less creative use. In the ProTools world I don’t think just making your music more ‘perfect’ qualifies as creative use. In other words the first, best and only tool you really need is imagination. Everything else is just there to help you transmute that imagination into musical form. I don’t care how the composition is realised. It’s just – is it any good?
Tom Shriver Date: 09.03.2011: Could you please restore the page listing Earthworks' past performances? I saw Earthworks in 2003 in Tokyo, but I can't recall the name of the venue. Thanks!
Request acknowledged, Tom. My records don’t show Earthworks in Tokyo in 2003. I can offer you April 24th or 25th 2002 at Sweet Basil 139, or in 2004 we played a club called Eggman in Shibuya on April 23rd and Astro Hall April 24 or 25th, also in Shibuya, Tokyo. Any good?!
Richard Reina Date: 14.03.2011 … I woke this morning to the terribly sad news that we've lost Joe Morello. You and I spoke about Joe when we met at the Borders store in December 2010. I had informed you that your written tribute to him had been forwarded to him. You have spoken so eloquently and fondly of Mr. Morello as an influential drummer to you. I've had the pleasure of chatting with him several times through the years. Sorry to be sharing such sad news. He will be missed, and may he rest in peace.
Richard, it was a sad day indeed, and something of the end of an era for me personally. You may have found the
podcast I did for Sony Legacy when Time Out turned 50. Great, great drummer.
All sympathies go to Sakura Date: 16.03.2011 and his countrymen. We were again reminded of the devastation caused by the earthquake, tsunami, and radiation problems in Japan.
Robert Vetter Date: 28.03.2011: … A few days ago I watched the Live in Japan DVD from the Three of the Perfect Pair Tour in 1984. I specially like the performance of "Industry" - one of my favorite pieces by King Crimson. I was wondering how did you perform it live - I mean the ostinato figure you play on the snare together with the bass. After a while the osinato figure becomes a loop and you play over it. How did you manage to record this loop with Tony in live situation and in sync with him? How did you realize it from technical point of view?
Robert, I’ve just watched it again, and I’m ashamed to say I haven’t a clue! Some sort of early looping device that T.L. is driving, I suspect? The figure is played in real time to start with, then I think it’s captured and looped through to the end, while as you say, I play over the top. I didn’t have the machinery – I think it was Tony. It was 1984 –some 27 years ago! – so it wouldn’t have been very sophisticated. Sorry I can’t detail this any better for you.
The following fairly complicated question came in, and I thought it might be good to try to air an answer in public. It’s a bit long, so I’ll split the answer in two, with Part 2 to come next time:
Would you mind addressing how you compose a drum part for a song and let us know if you plan everything including fills, breaks and specific patterns that repeat consistently on purpose and become the final part? What is your method and is it the same way you approach composing a song? I saw you rehearsing your composition with the Buddy Rich orchestra and it was brilliant. I guess the bottom line is when you listen to the drum parts in "One more red nightmare" , were those breaks improvised over different takes and you decided that you liked the one that we hear and you re-learned it as the final part or was it totally planned from preproduction of different ideas?
I’ve always seen the percussion or drum part for the song as being a stand alone little work of art that, should all the other instruments be silenced and the percussion soloed alone, would still sound unique and interesting. Currently most drummers on pop or rock records do mostly the same thing, based around four beats in a bar, typically with a back-beat, and within an increasingly narrow tempo range. What differences there are, are largely timbral or cosmetic. But strip away the ear-candy, and what you’re hearing is roughly as described above.
I have no set method of finding these parts, but here are several options. The part might arise from practising the instrument. As you’re playing it, a bass part that would work well with bass drum comes to mind. A rhythmic platform is growing. Assign any pitches to the bass, and there will be harmonic implications. If there is a harmonic skeleton forming, it might suggest a melodic movement. If you can’t think of anything, just use the top note of the chords for now. This is effectively building from the ground up. Singer-songwriters tend to write the other way – lyric or melody down.
Let’s assume you’re building a four storey building. We need a foundation and three floors. Let’s say the foundation is the rhythm, the first floor is the bass, the second the harmony, and the top floor is the melody.
Sometimes I’ve gone all the way to the top floor by myself (much of Bruford, much of Earthworks, some Bruford-Levin, most of If Summer Had Its Ghosts). That’s before I got a little smarter, and began to see that I was a) overwriting, and thus b) probably excluding input from others that might be very helpful. Frequently – usually – the instrumentalist you’re working with will have a better idea about what he wants to play on this budding composition than you do.
There may be politics in this, too. It may be important for extra-musical reasons to have your colleagues ‘invest’ themselves into the music by providing parts they want to play and to which they are committed. Assuming it’s your own group, it’s always possible to insist people play things you wrote for them , but seldom wise.
Sometimes an idea for the third and fourth floors of the structure are brought to me (Robert Fripp–Discipline) and I’m able to provide the rhythmic foundation and bass motif to suit. Sometimes the musical ideas are taken from an improvisation, formalised and tweaked, and perhaps extended. (The Sheltering Sky from Discipline: King Crimson). Often I’m working with a good singer like Adrian Belew, and the percussion movement can be entirely dictated by the scansion of the (sometimes sung, sometimes spoken) text. (Dig from Three of a Perfect Pair: King Crimson). Usually the things that come together quickly are the most effective. If it’s like pulling teeth, it probably is pulling teeth.
(To be continued...)
With Genesis c.1976: L-R front: Rutherford, Collins, Hackett. L-R rear: Banks, Bruford.
Continuing thanks to all for kind comments about my literary efforts. The book continues to sell steadily on a growing word of mouth to which you all - I’m happy to say- contribute!
George H. Myers: Date 08.02.2011 is ‘looking for a "new or used in "Great Condition" TAMA STARCLASSIC MAPLE... MADE IN JAPAN. I am not sure if I can find a new Tama kit made in Japan? Please let me know A.S.A.P’
Can anyone help George? I’m afraid we don’t trade or deal in drums here George. I have two very nice Bubinga Starclassic kits, one with bigger rock-size drums tuned for rock, and a smaller sized kit tuned more for jazz, and I’m holding on to both of those. Suggest you find your nearest Tama dealer from the Tama website and start by asking him.
Gimber: Date 22.02.2011 would like to know what makes that "TIC" sound on the "Discipline" album. It sound like an electronic thing. Is highly listenable on "The sheltering sky" alongside the slit drum, on "Discipline" and on the "Frame by Frame intro". I think is doing the role of the hi-hat. Can you tell me what's that?
Gimber, that’s the electronic hi-hat that came along with the early version of the innovative Simmons electronic drums SDS5 kit, around 1980. It was an open-and-shut foot pedal triggering an analogue module that produced various white-noise or metallic sounds. I was looking to play less on conventional cymbals and hi-hat, so didn’t even carry a hi-hat on the road for a few years. Much of the ride cymbal work ended up on 6 or 8 Tama Octobans.
Adam Renz: Date 24.02.2011 specialises in Real Ale pilgrimages to the UK from NY, and congratulations, Russell, on completing your 10th. You’ll know more about the UK than I do, quite probably!
Russell Scarborough: Date 25.02.2011 wants to ‘purchase lead sheets to Beelzebub & other tunes, so i can coerce others to perform them’.
Doesn’t sound like it’s going to be much fun Russell! BTW, it’s always helpful if you could look at this site’s very comprehensive FAQ section if you’re looking for answers. FAQ 17 points you to several of my tunes currently available at www.sheetmusicdirect.com. Might be worth checking to see if what you want is there. I also found an excellent transcription of Hell’s Bells by Lucas Pickford on the web the other day. Could start with that!
Tony Foley: Date 26.02.2011 asks: “You probably read about the recent death of Anglo-American jazz composer/pianist George Shearing. Considering his classical background and the development of his signature double melody block chord (which certainly made his form of bebop accessible to me), just wondered if you had any thoughts on his influence/legacy?”
Despite the British connection, Tony, I regret Shearing’s music remained only in the deep background for me, albeit as an instantly recognisable sound. That alone is such a hard thing to do in music – to corner and then inhabit your own small area such that anything you apply your technique to instantly becomes ‘yours’. I respect anyone who can do that. On a slightly broader note, musicians tend to spend so much time working on their own skills that they devote much less time to the absorption of other people’s work than is commonly imagined. Shearing is but one of probably many players who’s work I regret I missed.
Congratulations to Russell Whitworth, who discovered the (accidental) deliberate error in the recent list of '10 Albums that Changed My Life'. In number 7 - Miles' Bitches Brew - the Ornette Coleman album is in fact called 'The Shape of Jazz to Come', not 'The Shape of Things to Come'. Bit like calling something '20th Century Schizoid Man'. Doesn't really work! If there had been a competition, your new CD would be on its way, Russell. But there wasn't so it isn't. Many thanks for alerting us.
10 Albums that changed my life.
Goldmine Magazine has had a few people offering ‘10 Albums that Changed My Life’ recently. Sounds a bit portentous, but it’s true - some of them really did change lives - but it’s a slightly slippery idea. The music I heard as a teenager literally changed my life because it caused me to become a musician, so any list tends to be weighted in the early years. After that my life changed very little; I was fully engaged in being a musician. But there were then many albums that precipitated upheavals in direction, and caused major rethinking in the way I might go about doing things. I think that’s probably what the magazine was after. I thought I’d have a go at it.
1): Various Riverside label Artists: Riverside Giants of Jazz
Probably my first mass introduction to recorded jazz. Essentially a double album sampler of all the goodies on the Riverside label from New York, it gave me my first introduction to the sounds of Bill Evans, Cannonball Adderley, Thelonius Monk, Johnny Griffin, Wes Montgomery and many others. Among other treasures was a local British jazz combo, the Don Rendell Quintet, which contributed an explosive rendition of ‘Manumission’with Phil Kinorra on drums. I signed up right there and then. It was a violent jolt to the system, and got me learning jazz drumset.
2) Graham Bond: The Sound of ’65.
I’d seen this band at a local gig as a highly impressionable teenager, and it was the band that put me in music. Peter Baker on drums (later to find fame as Ginger Baker) seemed frightening and on the edge - the edge of the beat, his stool, the drums, and probably life itself. Immediately that was where I wanted to live. Just thinking about the sound of the Hammond organ driven through two Lesley cabinets makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
3) Dave Brubeck Quartet: Time Out.
Drummer Joe Morello means odd meters and a frighteningly high standard of chops. This album was the first to bring the playfulness of odd meters to my youthful attention, and I sank my teeth into them like a starving man. Here was something I could bring to rock. The turkish 9/8 of Blue Rondo a la Turk is still one of the hippest rhythms I know.
4) Ray Charles: Genius + Soul = Jazz.
So this is why Graham Bond sounded kind of like he did. This was a staple on the British jazz and rhythm and blues scene in the mid-60s, as we tried to figure out who the ‘ice man’ was and what a ‘mint julep’ might have been or done. The sound of a jazz-big band recorded live in a big room, with Quincy Jones arrangements, was bound to be a thriller. Which way to America?
5) Igor stravinsky: The Firebird / Petruschka / Rite of Spring.
We used to go on stage to Stravinsky’s music every night when I was in Yes. Its scope, size and power always seemed so much more than our tiny quintet had to offer. It gave me my first powerful glimpse into a big-scale classical music world outside the narrow confines and demand of rock.
6) King Crimson: In the Court of the Crimson King.
After hearing this, I just wanted to be in the group. I knew intuitively that I needed to be in such a band in order to stretch my musical legs and grow. Stretch them and grow I did.
7) Miles Davis: Bitches Brew
Like all the exciting stuff - Ornette Coleman’s ‘The Shape of Things to Come’, Igor Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’, John Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme’ - I didn’t get it at first. The musical vocabulary was too new. In the absence of the usual chord changes and melodies in Bitches Brew, I didn’t know what to listen to, or for. It was all about the texture, stupid.
8) Keith Jarrett: My Song.
One of my favourite albums of all time – one that I’d take to a desert island. In many ways it is simple but profound music, and a perfect vehicle for Jarrett’s beautiful flights of fancy.
9) Joshua Redman: Freedom in the Groove.
Joshua is, of course, the late tenor-player Dewey Redman’s son, as in the Earthworks song ‘Dewey-Eyed, then Dancing’ .These things are often - always - a matter of timing. The right music presents itself and alters your direction. Kicking around after an outing with Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, and Howe in the early 90s, I was in a dilemma. I wanted Earthworks back badly, but couldn’t see in what skin, or in what form, to resurrect it. The electronic drums around which the first Earthworks had been formed were no longer a viable proposition at club-level. I came across this at a party when Judy Burn played it for me. Redman’s music had exactly what I was looking for - a robust, muscular, visceral, skilful all-acoustic fusion. Earthworks Mark 2 had a direction-changing blueprint by the end of the evening.
10) Zawinul Syndicate: World Tour.
I picked this from Joe’s later career not because it’s a better album than the more famous ‘Heavy Weather’ – it isn’t – but because Zawinul was one of the first jazz musicians to see that the way out of the ‘complexity’ trap was to use the colours and sounds of many nations and continents – world music – to fuel his jazz. He made jazz fun again, particularly if Paco Sery was on drums, and altered Earthworks direction; again.
Aymeric Leroy from France has written in to help with the unidentified people in the Gong picture below. He says:
"the first person on the left seems to be Francis Linon (aka Venux de Luxe), Gong's live sound engineer at the time - and these days (for over 30 years now), with Magma. The other guy would seem to be Tim Blake (keyboards), but his face is partially hidden". Many thanks, Aymeric!
Gong taking a rest-stop, Norway December 1974: L-R unidentified, unidentified, Carolyn Bruford, Mike Howlett (bass), Didier Malherbe (saxophone).
Thanks for the questions and comments to the guest book – keep them coming!
Michael DeAngury from Charlotte, North Carolina 17.01.2011 has a great set of photos from a Yes gig in Durham, North Carolina at Duke University's Indoor Stadium on November 20th 1971. If you’d like to see pictures of the young Yes on tour around then go to his facebook page, Michael DeAngury, and click on his photos. You will see a photo album there titled "Ten Years After and Yes (The Fragile Tour) November 20 1971". Thanks for sending that through, Michael.
Jay Kuhn: Date 22.01.2011 , studying Charlie Parker's 'Ornithology', “was fingering the first part of the melody in the first measure and it occurred to me I have heard this somewhere else....A few days later I was driving and it popped into my head. The same melody is in the first measure of Long Distance Runaround. Do you know if the line was lifted from Ornithology?”
The notes are not quite the same Jay, but close! To my certain knowledge the Parker tune was never mentioned in rehearsal, and I doubt Rick Wakeman would have known it, but Steve Howe might have ingested it though his blood stream. Clothing suggestions appreciated!
Michael O'Connor Date: 24.01.2011 noticed there was “nothing about ProjeKct 1 in the book. The shows that were done sounded great. What happened with that? I like the vintage photos you have posted. I was curious if you had any of Gong when you were in the group. Always seemed like a strange fit to me...”
Michael: I just listened to Pojeckt 1 for the first time in a while. Not being able to remember anything about it puts me in the same space as a first time listener, and I was able to enjoy it on that level. Not too shabby at all. What happened with it is that as far as I could understand it these KC Fractals were only to be put together for short blasts, and never designed to last. We wanted to be able to play without the weight of expectation of the Crimson legacy and repertoire, with no worries about ‘where this might be going’. A pity with the book was that I couldn’t cover everything. The only picture that I have of my brief sojourn with Gong is above. I’m the photographer. Best I can do!
Jean Janecki Date: 28.01.2011 is wondering if there are any plans for translating my autobiography into Spanish at any time soon. Jean, there has been interest from both Spanish and French publishers, but no publication dates agreed yet.
Todd Thompson Date: 30.01.2011 wants to know always if the various metals that you I used with King Crimson were "store-bought" instruments or things that I found that sounded good... Todd, definitely not store bought. There are many more items available today that do weird and wonderful things that you can buy from drum stores, but in my day it was what you found lying around. Bits of brass,‘gun-metal’. and steel were cut into different size rectangular plates for various pitches, mostly random, nothing very scientific. But used in a flurry or shower of notes they could be effective, most notably as the drama builds in the guitar solo on Starless from K.C.’s Red.
Tina Thompson Date: 02.02.2011 says she has “enjoyed all your incarnations from prog rock to jazz. Thank you for making my life a lot more wonderful. And yes, you do have female fans...” Wonderful! Thanks for the support Tina, and glad to hear also that you enjoyed the book.
Roy Harper's 'Trigger', 1975.
It was weird being on tour in the US recently, this time without a drum kit. In my playing days, we used to fly vast quantities of drums and specialist percussion around to what promoters were pleased to call primary, secondary, and tertiary markets. In Louisiana for example, the primary was New Orleans, the secondary Baton Rouge, and the tertiary some god-forsaken cattle shed outside Pineville. Then, as the market contracted, it was just primary and secondary markets, then just primary. By then we’d stopped shipping specialist kit around because of costs and were making do with simpler gear provided by rental or endorsing companies. Tours were restricted to East coast and West coast - anywhere else was too expensive to reach, especially if you wanted to play that weird kind of music. Earthworks last cross-national tour was in 2001; by the late 2000s Earthworks was appearing only in NYC. Then it was just Tim Garland and me flying in to NYC from the UK. Now I appear solo, and without any drums at all. That must say something about something!
I had a great US trip. Thanks to everybody who attended, organised, bought books, and came to lectures. To all the guys from Paiste, Tama, Modern Drummer magazine, Guitar Centre, Drummers Collective, Memphis Drum Shop and a dozen others – many thanks for putting up with me. Ast least the backstage rider wasn’t too complex! Scroll down on this Views page for plenty of photographic evidence that I eat too much and talk more.
About the message from Dave Cochran: Date: 05.01.2011 – Dave, from Nashville TN, was part of Roy Harper’s ‘Trigger’ band that we both played in in 1975. Pictured above. He played bass, and I remember our time together with great affection. All best to you too, Dave.
From Michael Pizarro Date: 03.01.2011
Bill, you talk a lot about jazz and the art of improvisation in your book. I was and still am a big fan of the Allman brothers. I think In Memory of Elizabeth Reed live at the Filmore is one of the greatest jazz/rock/improv songs ever. Any Thoughts on this genre of music, now called "jam or jam bands"?
Well, Michael, I’ll be honest here, the Allman’s aren’t my thing. There are different levels of improvisation, and their improvs stay rooted to the blues pentatonic scale, one or two chords and a reliable backbeat, without much interaction from the other players. It’s the conversational interaction that I’m listening for, and that intrigues me - a sense of the music being open and that it could go anywhere. I say this; you say that. I say this because you said that. The conversation ebbs and flows like the wind or the ocean. This requires the very high level of musicianship and listening skills usually associated with skilled jazz players. Some say the apex of this kind of ‘listening’ music was the Miles Davis small groups of the early to mid 60s. Try anything from his albums ‘Seven Steps to Heaven’, ‘E.S.P.’, or ‘Miles Smiles’. The jam scene operates on a different level to that, but for the inquisitive listener can often provide an entry to it. These are matters of personal taste however, and I’ll add my usual disclaimer that I defend anybody’s right to like any music they can like, and for whatever reason.
Best wishes for a happy and prosperous 2011 to all. Bill
With many others I’m saddened to hear of the recent death of Mick Karn, who recently at age 52 lost his struggle with cancer. Master of the fretless snakebass, I played with him and guitarist David Torn on a few tours in the mid-80s when we were out promoting David’s ‘Cloud About Mercury’ album. We then did some tracks on Torn’s follow-up album ‘Door X’, one of which was a decent take on the Hendrix classic ‘Voodoo Chile’. He had just the right indeterminate thing for David’s indeterminate music, but he had of course been a star with the group Japan long before Torn and I got to know him. Our thoughts are with his wife Kyoko and their young son Metis.
L-R: Mark Guiliana, Billy Ward, Michael Parillo (Associate Editor, Modern Drummer magazine), Bruford, Adam Budofsky (Editorial Director, Modern Drummer).
More food. On tour you've got to keep body and soul together, after all. In Memphis TN, these guys are the guys you want to thank for all their help with equipment over the years.
R-L: Ed O'Donnell (Tama Sales Manager), Bill Reim (President, Tama USA), Terry Bissette (Tama Artist Relations), Ed Clift (Paiste cymbals); obscured - Patrick Mulcahy (bass) and Jonathan Schang (drums) of the sensational new progressive group District 97 out of Chicago, IL. Bruford holds their CD. Pic by Jim Pettit, owner, Memphis Drum Shop
Memphis Drum Shop, December 7, 2010. Back in the spotlight again...
I’m gearing up for the United States and practicing the one joke I’ve got for any citizens of that fair country who might be willing to attend one of my six talks on the ‘Perils and Pitfalls of Playing Percussion in Public'. (FYI the dates and details are in the News section of this site). It’ll be weird turning up without a drumkit, but I’m very much looking forward to the trip. The book is continuing to sell like hotcakes and now Foruli Books have turned up and they want to do a limited Edition, with all sorts of bolt-ons, additional extras etc. These things are works of art. Have a look at their website www.foruli.co.uk to see what I’m talking about. I’ll keep you up to speed with developments on that. Great people – ‘Foruli’ is Latin for bookcase, apparently.
There’s been a lot of great music based around the London Jazz Festival recently some of which I’ve got to, and some of which I’ve missed, usually because it clashed with something else. ‘Rudder’ from NYC is a cracking quartet with the fabulous Keith Carlock on drums and Tim Lefebvre on bass, whom I last heard standing in the same place on the same stage a few weeks ago with Mark Guiliana’s Big Beat. It also featured pal Henry Hey, the pianist on Earthworks Underground Orchestra, in this wildly different context. Then on to John Scofield at the Queen Elizabeth Hall with the ever-sensational Bill Stewart on drums. He was the first person I bumped in to in the lobby as I entered the building. I sadly missed Iain Ballamy’s arrangements for Billy Jenkins, and I also had to miss the excellent Laurie Cottle – last bass-player left standing in Earthworks – who runs the best 17-piece big band in town (no question) with Ian Thomas on drums. So, caught some, and missed some, but this was a rich feast. Jazz ain’t dead in London, I tell you.
BTW,Guestbook questions will be answered occasionally in the Guestbook, logically enough. Hope to see some of you soon.
The personalized CD and DVD offer is now closed. Your requests are winging their way across the pond to Bill in the UK, and we'll turn this around for you just as fast as possible. Admin
Today - November 8th - is the last day of the personalized CD and DVD offer. Bill is personalising any Summerfold and Winterfold CD or DVD, as well as his autobiography, over at the shop, last chance today. Simply click on the item(s) of choice, choose the personalised option and write a maximum ten word message in the notes field of the order. Bill will address the CD or DVD to the person you name, as well as include your unique message.
See further info in the VIEWS posting of 19.10 2010 below.
Following the success of the fun and popular personalised book offer last year, and for a limited time only, Bill is personalising any Summerfold and Winterfold CD or DVD, as well as his autobiography. Simply click on the item(s) of choice, choose the personalised option and write a maximum ten word message in the notes field of the order. Bill will address the CD or DVD to the person you name, as well as include your unique message.
But he can’t do this forever, so get your skates on. Offer expires NOVEMBER 8TH. We will do our best to expedite the process in the hope of getting these to all who have ordered by Christmas. However, given that orders are processed and sent from LA, and Bill resides in England, not to mention allowance for possibly erupting volcanoes, we cannot guarantee that all orders will arrive by the 25th of December.
Have fun. Admin
The Breed c.1967 - L-R Stu Murray (gtr), Bill (drms and vibes), Mike Freeman (sax), Ray Bennett (bs), Doug Kennard (gtr,vcls).
See guestbook posting from Admin on 21.09.2010 for explanation.
Another happy day on the road. L-R Wetton, Cross, Bruford, and Fripp wait for transport in the lobby of a hotel somewhere in Europe, 1974.
Frequent enforced hiatuses became part of the working practice of King Crimson. Here's a little of what Bill had to say about his early working relationship with guitarist Robert Fripp in an excerpt from 'Bill Bruford-The Autobiography':
'Almost immediately, Robert Fripp and I took up positions that we seemed to defend for most of our working relationship. I was the ingénue, the man with too many ideas, too much enthusiasm, and a genuinely thick skin. It required several rounds from an elephant gun to get me down, and even then I was only winded. Perhaps Robert was unused to having such artistic resilience in the band.
He was the superior intellect with a silver tongue, in possession of some arcane or possibly occult knowledge to which the rest of us weren’t privileged. The Man With A Plan – but since he wasn’t exactly letting on what the plan might be, a certain amount of inspired guesswork was called for. I might have known it was going to be an interesting ride when the first of the two gifts he gave me in some 35 years was a book entitled Initiation Into Hermetics. I wasn’t given a set-list when I joined the band, more a reading list. Ouspensky, J.G. Bennett, Gurdjieff, and Castaneda were all hot. Wicca, personality changes, low-magic techniques, pyromancy – all this from the magus in the court of the Crimson King. This was going to be more than three chords and a pint of Guinness.
I agree with Robert’s analysis that I wasn’t ready when I joined the band, but after a year with the older and wiser percussionist Jamie Muir, I became ready. Had I not joined, I would have been less likely to develop any potential that subsequently surfaced, and for this I have King Crimson to thank. Robert always insisted the band was “a way of doing things” and that he was no more than “the glue that held it together” – certainly nothing as coarse as the bandleader. But as the only remaining original member, and the only man without whom the group could not exist, he was the de facto leader. He decided when the group stopped and when it started again. It was his blueprint that was adopted for each successive edition of the group. It was he who decided to bin an entire repertoire of well-known and loved material in favour of a complete stylistic makeover in 1980'.
Rummaging through his early Yes posters for an upcoming book project, Bill came across this fine example of the sort of intricate poster art that was much used on the European scene in the 60s and 70s. Before local rock radio and TV carried paid announcements for upcoming gigs, most of the local concert promotion was by heavy use of posters, which could be quite elaborate.
Interesting to note the highest ticket price for this 1971 gig of 75p was about $1.15, and the lowest - 40p - about 62 cents! This poster and another from the Bruford archive will be in the ‘Art of British Rock’ by Mike Evans, published later this month by the Elephant Book Company. More details as they become available.
The music for the CD If Summer Had Its Ghosts.
Several people have written recently asking about Bill's material in sheet music form. Just a reminder that 44 instrumental parts to some 15 Bruford compositions are available for download from Sheet Music Direct.com. Costs incurred in transcription and preparing the material for upload are high, so we don't anticipate any further uploads for a while unless demand goes off the scale.
On stage May 1969: L-R Banks, Bruford, Anderson, Squire
Sal suggests that very little has been said about Yes’ first album, so I thought I’d try to be helpful.
Of course we Yesmen were new to each other, and from wildly different musical, social, and geographical backgrounds. In a country where regional accents can vary within 60 miles, and somebody who lives 250 miles north of London (Jon Anderson, Accrington) can be virtually unintelligible to a southerner, it may come as a surprise to North American Yes-watchers that early Yessers had practically nothing in common. Jon was all Sibelius, Beach Boys and vocal harmony, as was Chris. I was a jazzer who wanted to be Max Roach who knew little about rock or vocal-orientated music. (Harold Land was a hard-bop tenor saxophone player, dead now, but quite why we named a song after him I can’t remember.) Pete was big into being Pete Townsend but knew Wes Montgomery’s octave-sound. And I don’t think anyone asked Tony Kaye what he liked.
From this unlikely smorgasboard we had to fashion something. Perhaps more than contemporay bands, we were a ‘covers’ band. We played music from the Fifth Dimension, the Beatles, David Crosby, and Leonard Bernstein, inserted vast amounts of ripped off digestible classical music and TV themes, and made the whole lot sound like a cross between Vanilla Fudge and the Beach Boys. My kind of band!
I suspect I thought we were great – in the manner of most 18-year olds. Atlantic gave us a four-page recording contract, and off to the studio we went. Probably Advision, then in Bond Street, London. It was my first time recording, and I had to learn fast. I remember it only dawned on me at the end that you could alter the mix you got in the headphones. I hung on through grim death through the album with a deafening Peter Banks in one ear and precious little of anything in the other – quite a feat when you remember much of ‘I See You’ is a guitar and drums duet.
I detect vibes on Yesterday and Today. Jon was entirely encouraging to all comers on all instruments, irrespective of ability, in an early presage of his love of an orchestrally-wide tonal pallette. Tony Kaye stuck religiously to his Hammond organ, and the minute we found a Rick Wakeman who was able to deliver a much broader range of sound colours, Tony’s days were numbered. My mallet playing got as far as Fracture with Robert Fripp and King Crimson, and my own first albums with Bruford, but then I let it drift, with too much else to do.
We didn’t know any producers - other than George Martin, who was probably busy - and didn’t know anything about production. Accordingly we were assigned someone called Paul Clay who ensured that the stuff got safely to tape, with some sort of stereo image and not too much distortion. That was about the extent of that. I don’t remember attending any mixing sessions.
A possible moral of the story for young bands starting out is that I’m a keen believer in starting with covers, but then ‘re-imagining’ them when you are beginning to find your stylistic feet. If you already know the Star-Spangled (Mangled?) Banner, it’s a lot easier to detect the bit about it that is specifically Hendrix when he plays it. If you know Bernstein’s ‘America’, you can more easily hear Keith Emerson’s Hammond organ spitting fire all over it. Covers are a good place to start, you don’t have to write your own stuff until you are more confident.
So, all in all, Yes’ first was a simple, naïve affair. A beginners’ album which got us some headway, and most importantly gave the budding Anderson-Squire writing partnership its first recorded results. It sold poorly after great reviews.
After at least a decade of frantic music-business-related computerising, it may be helpful to try to stand back and attempt to assess the net effect of the arrival of the machine into our musicianly lives. I’m 61. That’s important because it places one immediately into a context – I was about 50 when the computer came crashing into my analogue world. I and people my age had to learn from the ground up, probably starting with learning how to type. The digital native / digital immigrant distinction is useful. Broadly anyone under thirty-ish has grown up with the computer and may be called a digital native. Anyone who had to learn about it in maturity is a digital immigrant. We immigrants may learn the language more or less efficiently, but we don’t speak it like the natives.
The personal net effect of all this, viewed in the round, is that the years of computing have driven me away from music-making, rather than towards it. Perhaps the web has made it simultaneously harder for those of us who were already musicians to continue being musicians, and easier for those of us who weren’t musicians to become one. Those of us who had a slice of the pie (the pie being audience attention) have been forced to hand over some pie to the beginners. My problem is that the so-called democratisation of music-making has produced such an unholy racket that I can no longer conceive of contributing to the din, let alone trying to persuade anyone to listen to my particular din, let even more alone asking them to pay for my new din. Like a bloke with too much food on his plate, all I can feel is queasy.
The web too often introduces a false sense of intimacy. You feel you know me, and I feel I know you. After all, we’re just the other side of this bit of glass, right? We blog, we’re pals. Well, not really. The relationships I now trust are those with friends family and people standing in the same room as me. They’re identifiable and authentic. Same with my music-making – identifiable, authentic, and in the same room at the same time, please. Hence my move towards jazz, which most definitely fits that description. Everything else is just jigging about in cyber-space.
So, for me, the net effect of a decade of jigging about at the keyboard has had the unintended consequence of heightening my belief in - and desire for - the real, tangible, immediate, and authentic. I thirst for almost anything the computer cannot provide, and funnily enough that's quite a bit. Now that the glitzy gloss of sampling, fakery, pro-tooling and anyone-can-do-it wizardry has begun to tarnish, I’m sort of left where I started, only more so. How do you feel?
With Nick Meier, guitarist, modelling the Sum/Win T-shirt at my place.
It seems to me that after an exit from the upper reaches of almost any profession, the retiree has only a short window of currency, (if that’s possible). By that I mean any doctor, lawyer, musician or anthropologist has the essential knowledge in his head, at his fingertips, and on immediate call, for perhaps just a couple of years after he leaves his particular discipline. Such is the speed of development in any area of curiosity, any stockpile of knowledge or skill-set will start to look crusty alarmingly quickly. When you’re no longer in the game, you lose it fast. The black book of contacts seems redundant, and suddenly you don’t recognise the name of anyone on the cover of the drum magazine. And you’ve never even heard of the famous band they’re in.
I’ve been gone a year and a half, and already it shows. Who’s who?! What, if anything, does my experience of the analogue, for-money world I inhabited have to offer the brave new citizens of the digital, for-free music world we now have? At my various lectures and talks to students, the big questions are ‘What will the business look like tomorrow’, and ‘Can I earn a living on a drumkit?’ ‘Your guess is as good as mine’, and ‘with difficulty’, are I suppose the honest if uninspiring answers.
BTW, anybody interested in the online marketing of music - as most of us are, I suspect – could do no worse than check out the thoughts of Andrew Dubber http://www.andrewdubber.com/about/ . His free e-book ‘The 20 Things You Must Know About Music Online‘ is required reading for musicians and independent music businesses. http://www.newmusicstrategies.com/ebook . Best analysis of the pickle we find ourselves in that I’ve yet come across.
The new site is up and running. Hope you enjoy it! Lift the bonnet, kick the tyres, poke the interior and generally have a good rummage around. Let the Guestbook know of anything that doesn’t work, broken links, and things that stink. I’ve personally added a fair few links, snippets, CD and DVD descriptions, details, and hitherto little known gubbings, and done a lot of what the wonderful Declan Colgan over at Panegyric Recordings (who distribute King Crimson’s physical product) is pleased to call ‘curating’. I’d never thought of that term connected to anything other than the visual arts, but Crimson, Panegyric, and, to a lesser extent, Summerfold and Winterfold catalogues are all blossoming at some speed, and the audio or aural arts require curating every bit as much as the visual.
As I will be withdrawing from questions and answers when the new site is established, this will be my last crop carried over from the Forum on the old site:
Thanks to all for May 17th birthday greetings, and to Andy McDuffie - 5/18/2010 2:29:15 AM for his suggestion that I become a talking-head, a sort of ‘post-percussive Palin’. I’ll let you know…!
Michael Bettine - 5/18/2010 6:30:47 AM - good to hear from you Michael – missed the deep irony of "Phew - I should write a book about this stuff” which comment ended my last blog. I have in fact written a book, Michael, exactly on this stuff. Have a look at the home page of my site.
Pleased to hear Crimson is playing in Matt - 5/21/2010 5:52:33 AM ‘s supermarket. Now that’s odd! Thanks to Kevin Morrissey - 5/24/2010 11:22:47 PM for his Ian Anderson lyric, and comment about the Age of Information on ‘Gradually Going Tornado’. I did indeed write the song’s lyrics, and the lyrics to The Sliding Floor and Plans for J.D. I think Dave and I knocked out the words to Gothic 17 together. Broadly though, I reckon singers do better – somehow sound more convincing - singing their own words rather than somebody else’s.
Roger Norway - 5/27/2010 1:07:40 AM says ‘ Guess you still are in possession of a drum kit / home studio? Do you use it at all these days? If you should stumble across some great music while playing around, what would you do with it? Yes, Roger, I have drums set-up and enjoy playing. It’s great for the mind. An hour a day keeps the doctor away. The last part of you question is, I regret, now unlikely!
Dan Page - 6/3/2010 5:30:53 PM questions the whole basis of tribute bands. Me too, Dan – it completely beats me. But more than the musicians who are just fulfilling a demand, isn’t it weird that one of the biggest and most profitable part of the live scene is tribute bands? Why does the customer seem so happy to shell out a fortune for a tame re-tread of something he had 30 years ago? Not even the thing he had 30 years ago, but a facsimile? Now I know I’m losing it.
Mitch - 6/7/2010 7:01:12 AM was wondering “how Crim was received in the UK versus USA or all of ‘prog rock’ for that matter. What do you think of the style and direction of Carla Bley?” Mitch – I assume (maybe wrongly) you are in the USA? – whatever you do in the UK, sooner or later you’re going to have to do it overseas. The place is so small and the opinion-makers so over-heated that you can be built up and shot down in a week. The US moves much slower in it’s critical judgments. So for a while we were very well loved in the UK, but having established international success, the traditional way here is to be trashed, especially if that international success has been hard-won in the US. The critical vitriol poured on Crimson was sufficiently heavy in the UK to ensure that we hardly ever played here, and then Robert wasn’t keen. To my shame, I don’t know Carla’s work.
Do go back to the Forum and read Dane Terry - 6/8/2010 11:35:05 AM. Thanks for the interesting post, Dane, which compares treatment of drummers in the West to the esteem in which they are held in Bali (and also in much of African, Indian, Asian and Oriental culture!) No, not yet been to Bali, but it would be great. Maybe now there’s time.
Gerald Murphy - 17/06/2010 08:33:05 is on the re-union thing, and asking would I do an 80’s KC? Not if I can help it! It’s precisely because I loved the 80s band so much that I would be highly unlikely to try to recreate the same thing, a mission I fear destined to failure. My experience of reunions, has, on the whole, been underwhelming.
Roger Norway - 18/06/2010 02:26:44 asks “don't you feel that the whole (prog) era has been deleted from the history of rock?… I love 70s prog and think the best of it is in no way inferior to jazz or classical or any other art form…. As a drummer, who are your favorites among the many talented prog rock drummers, and is there any other musical moments in 70s prog rock, except from the ones you contributed to, that really meant something to you?
If you were to convince a music lover that progressive rock really had it's moments, what would you recommend?”
Roger, I’m perhaps not quite the fan of progressive rock that you are. In the UK it now has a couple of dedicated national magazines which cater for this very unfashionable music, a bit like heavy metal. It’s studied at University on courses based on several academic analyses, so I don’t think it’s been forgotten. In fact I’m writing the Foreword to Will Romano’s new book on this very subject as we speak, due out in the Fall.
The ‘unfashionable’ prog and metal continue to be quietly big sellers, unlikely the ‘fashionable’ new bands which have generally some way to go before they out-sell a modest King Crimson album from the days when people paid for the music. If you’re going to be progressive about something, there will be striking successes and abject failures. The rock industry could afford a progressive movement when there was money around. In return for its ‘investment’, it got blindingly good records like ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’ ,Soft Machine’s first, or Art Bears ‘Hopes and Fears’, and the huge amounts of dross that inevitably followed. I can’t separate drummers from the music they are generating and the genre they are working in, no matter how talented thay might be. So in the sense that I’m cool about prog, I’m pretty cool about prog drummers. I hope I don’t have to apologise when I say I just always preferred jazz. Perhaps that’s what I brought to prog.
Over at the new Guestbook Don Smith - 6/20/2010 in a generous effort to fill my summer, recommends ‘making a drumming documentary film yourself (never mind all the funding, writing and production headaches)? If your autobiography is any indication, the odds are better than fair that it would be informative and entertaining’ with a spin-off scholarly book on the evolution of drumset playing. Thanks, Don, for keeping me busy! Any drum-crazy TV producers out there with a hefty budget?
Rich - 10/07/2010 – I’m afraid the offer to do signed copies of the book expired some time ago.
Finally, Stephen V. 10.07.2010 has questions about a C2C hike I did recently:
How long did it take? Leisurely pace – about 16 days for 200 miles.
How did your body (and feet) hold up? –No problem, but you have to look out for blisters.
What sorts of insights did you realize? After walking that far, you have this insane idea that you could and should walk everywhere. It doesn’t last long.
What was your favorite area? The Swaledale valley. Something like the Garden of Eden, I imagine.
How was the food? Repetitive English pub food. Bulky.
Did you use maps only or use a GPS? No GPS, but on a couple of scary occasions I appended myself to a group of walkers who had one, and latched on to them.
And, did anyone recognize the retired drummer? If so, did you "fess up" or play coy? Naturally walkers are going to discuss their occupations. Yes, mine caused bit of a stir, in a gentle, British kind of way. They’ve read about ‘rock stars’.
Maybe it would be appropriate to close this blog with a mantra that has certainly been central to my limited thinking for as long as I can remember. ‘It doesn’t matter where you take it from, it’s where you take it to that counts’. Write that on your snare head, or stick a post-it on your computer with it on, and don’t you forget it.
Been nice chatting with you, and enjoy the new site.
With a lean and hungry Yes, 1969: L-R Anderson, Bruford, Banks, Squire, Kaye.
I was again reminded of the generally low esteem in which the drummer is held by that description of a drumming colleague, so described because he also writes and arranges music and leads bands. You’re unlikely to hear ‘much more than a guitar player’ or ‘much more than a pianist’. Much more than a saxophonist? Isn’t one instrument sufficient? Percussion and its practitioners are still low down the food chain, despite an increasing awareness and popularity.
A couple of truisms. First, a group is only as good as its drummer. And second, if you have a rock drummer in your group, it will ipso facto be a rock group, irrespective of instrumentation or musical style. Conversely if you have a jazz drummer in your group, it’s a jazz group, like it or not. So we accept that if your ensemble has one, the drummer is kind of important.
With this in mind, I’ve been mulling over what was so spectacularly irritating about the recent drummers episode of the currently-running BBC2 TV Show “I’m in a Rock and Roll Band!” I had the misfortune to be associated with this as a marginal contributor. When the producer called, he described it as a great opportunity to ‘forensically disect’ what it is that makes drummers tick. Unhappily, he managed no such thing. He produced the tabloid cliches so beloved of the army of rock wish-I-had-beens that now, in middle-age, commission and produce TV and radio show about their heroes. These shows dwell at length on the older drummers of whom they have pre-existing ‘wild-antics’ footage - Moon, Baker and Bonham - and let’s them recreate the driving-the-limo-into-the-swimming-pool story. What fun lads. And for pity’s sake, if I see that stock aerial shot of the three Emerson, Lake and Palmer trucks with the names of the boys painted on their roofs one more time, I think I’ll scream.
But then maybe that’s right, I’ve had this wrong all along. Maybe throwing TVs out of bedrooms is all there is to it. I didn’t take myself too seriously, I just took myself seriously, an unforgiveable sin in rock. And how narrow is rock drumming as defined by the BBC! The choice of drummers you can vote for in this hopelessly one-sided ‘interactive’ little programme are overwhelmingly white, British, male, decrepit or dead – Baker, Moon, Bonham, Palmer, Collins, Starr etc – all worthies to be sure – and all wholly reflective of the producers taste, but come on! Is that all there is to rock drumming? No wonder it’s fossilised! It’s so arthritic it can barely turn over in it’s revolving drum chair during its own solo! It’s so devoid of imagination that it looks back to the days when Stewart Copeland used a little white reggae as golden! Copeland may well have been the last imaginative guy left on planet rock drum before they turned out the lights. This efforts of this decrepit list, worthy in and of their own time, are what are fed to the army of young wannabe rock drummers going through schools and colleges as we speak.
I’ll put it simply. Everything of interest in rock drumming came from, and comes from, somewhere else. In the early days, military rudiments, New Orleans jug bands, a touch of vaudeville, swing, church, and rhythm and blues, made a heady stew. In my day the picture broadened and changed, with odd-meters from Turkey, electronics from Dave Simmons, and early brushes with gamelan, minimalism, Latino and African music. Now, drummers as a wider brotherhood are looking forward to playing Indian rhythms on the drumset, getting to grips with metric modulation, absorbing dozens of sub-genres of metal, rap, and hip-hop, and learning to improvise with timbre - the texture of sound – as their control over the vast colour-palettes of hybrid electo-acoustic kits improves alarmingly.
All this will eventually find it’s way into rock, and hence the mass market, but only if we smoothe the path, and encourage it to do so. The more we prattle on about rock drumming ‘being’ Moon and Bonham - even if half a century ago it was – the greater the disservice we do to rock drumming, and the legions of smart young guys out there who have something to contribute. Talk about a golden opportunity lost. So much for ‘forensic analysis of what makes drummers tick’. Drummers’ esteem, already low, will be pushed through the floorboards if BBC2 TV is allowed to go on mis-representing drumming with such enthusiasm.
Give me the budget next time and I’ll show people what drummers do. Phew - I should write a book about this stuff.
I’ve been slovenly in reply – sorry it’s taken so long. It can’t be my birthday, again! Thanks as always for your warm notes on that subject. Apart from birthdays, the other main game in town has been rumours.
Jon Godfrey - 12/03/2010 16:10:02 kicked off with rumours of a Savoy Brown re-union, and then we moved rapidly on to a lot of people talking about Yes, which you may all know that I am not re-joining and have received no such invitation from anyone connected with the band. And also, even, King Crimson, which was new to me. Can’t we just let rumours be rumours? It just clogs up the place.
The answer to Roger Norway - 3/16/2010 12:02:37 PM is therefore – I have no interest. These rumour things often get started by a ‘slow news’ day over at the magazines and blogs.
mikepaschall - 3/16/2010 11:35:23 AM wants to know my favourite Bill Stewart recording. ‘Snide Remark’s – his first solo album, is a killer.
Peter Squire - 4/12/2010 11:32:34 AM writes :’I only recently heard what I assume was your first recorded output on Spotify, i.e. the first Yes album. I was struck at how assured your debut was, and wondered were you nervous in the studio? Did you get a sense of 'Oh gawd, I'm never going to be able to get through a take with out a big mistake' or were you fairly confident of being able to handle it? It's not as if they are simple three-chord four-minute songs either! I recall my only visit to a studio with my band about 25 years ago and as we only could afford one day I was worried as the drummer I would foul it up for everyone!’
I was a complete novice and had only been in the studio a couple of times before the debut Yes album sessions. I wasn’t aware, for example, that I could ask for the headphone balance to be changed vis-à-vis the other musicians, so I spent the whole album with a roaring Peter Banks out of one speaker and precious little of anything else. Not great. We just played exactly what we had rehearsed and played nightly. It was some way off before we decided that making records and playing live may be two separate things that require different approaches! I was never nervous on stage or studio when I was younger – but became increasingly and debilitatingly so in both areas over my last decade.
alan bartlett - 4/19/2010 2:18:21 PM asks ‘On the An Introduction to Winterfold cd, you mention that there was some material put down for a possible cd release to follow the gradually going tornado album, is there any chance that this will see the light of day?’
Slim chance, Alan. These are rehearsal-room sketches and roughs of ideas that were recorded into my boom box but actually sound nice and compressed and gritty. The ideas – very Dave Stewart - were never used. Someone else should make an album out of them. It would be nice to offer them for download some time, but be patient on that.
Richard Deem - 4/23/2010 3:19:19 AM wants to know if I’ve had second thoughts about retirement. No!
Nick O'Connell - 5/11/2010 5:26:43 AM says ‘Thanks for all the great music over the years. Loved the book. Any thoughts on double bass drums?’ Well, Nick, other than they’re not for me, not a lot. I can just about understand two BD pedals on one drum, but not two drums. It’s a question of space in the music. If you want to whip up ‘excitement’ I guess two BDs are good, but personally I find my excitement in the beautiful combinations of hi-hat (the highest sounding bit of your kit) and BD (the lowest), sometimes in unison, ever-changing. Controlling them is, I think, the full and proper job your feet should be doing.
JimFiore - 16/05/2010 15:47:54 asks my advice about building sound-proof drum practice rooms. I’ve done this three times, with and without professional advice. A couple of things. You need a box within a box. Google sound isolation booths and you’ll see the sort of generic boxes available – I expect you’re just trying to do something similar that precisely fits the existing room that you have in mind. Secondly, you can waste a lot of money really fast by being ineffective. Sound is like water, it will escape through the weakest point. You can have a great plastic bag containing your water, but if there is the tiniest pin-prick, you’ll lose water fast. So don’t put a keyhole in a heavy sound proof door! On balance I think it’s worth paying for professional advice, even if you then construct it yourself. It’s much more complex than putting stuff on walls and floors.
Thanks to everyone for continuing nice comments about the book, and see you next time.