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Bill's Bill Bruford Interview Part Two - Final

This is where writer Bill Murphy posts his interviews with the Crims, and other prog luminaries. It's a book in serial form -- that you become part of!

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Bill's Bill Bruford Interview Part Two - Final

Postby LTinAspic on Sat Dec 24, 2005 4:13 pm

Greetings,

This is the second half of my first interview with the incredible Bill Bruford. It was conducted on November 14, 1992.

Please keep in mind the historical setting for this interview. The Crim of the '80s was gone. The Crim of the '90s not yet born. So, as rumors of band members swirled throughout the music world -- and Bill Bruford's name not among them -- I can easily see how Bill would feel left out, even angry. Especially since he told me twice that he's "loyal" to King Crimson and still considers himself a member of the band.

In this installment (the second and last of my first interview with Mr. B.), I asked about his work on the two incarnations of Crim he'd been part of, his working relationship with Robert Fripp, and the future of Earthworks.

Feel free to circulate this interview as you see fit. All I ask is that when you do, you include this credit: <b>(c) 1992, 2005 Bill Murphy (http://www.purplecrayondirect.com)</b>.

Enjoy!




BM: According to the liner notes in the King Crimson box [<i>Frame By Frame</i>], for your interview with <i>Modern Drummer</i>, you cited Jon Anderson as being a rather musical guy in spite of his lack of any musical ability.

BB: Well, I mean, I’d have to qualify that somewhat. It doesn’t sound like me to say that at all. But if you say I said it, then I presumably did.

BM: [laughs]

BB: But Jon has his way. You know. He usually gets his way. He’s very pedantic, you know. He, like a lot of sharp people with very minimal technical ability, slams his fist on the table very hard.

BM: Kind of Napoleonic?

BB: Yeah, very Napoleonic.

BM: [laughs]

BB: At times that can be good. I think his best times, really, have been when his stuff has been tempered by other musicians, you know, rather than on his own. I think his best stuff has been with Yes.

BM: I guess, yeah. If you look at his solo albums, especially, they sound a little busy. I mean, there’s a lot going on in there and, you know, I think he needed to be reigned in a bit on some of them.

BB: Well, that’s his chosen style, though.

BM: Yeah.

BB: He wants to be busy.

BM: [laughs] Let’s talk about your work with Crimson. Let’s talk about <i>Larks’ Tongues, Starless</i> and <i>Red</i>. What, when you look back on those, do you remember as being your favorite? Do you like any of those three albums better than others?

BB: Uh, no. No, I don’t think so. I mean, they just were. You know, again, I don’t sit around saying, “Is this better than that?” Somehow, it’s a daily job, you know. You do it and you worry about it or you forget about it if you can.

BM: Really?

BB: But, at times I do look back and say, “How did I do that? Or “Why did I do that?” Or “God, that sounds weird” or “Where did that come from.”

BM: Really?

BB: Yeah, and I do that now about my own band that I ran in 1980 and I was listening to some of that music the other day thinking, “This is great. This is attractive stuff.” Somehow it seems like a photograph of me ten years ago, which is how it was, you know -- a little younger, a little more enthusiastic, maybe. Not, I mean, a little more enthusiastic. I mean a little more careless, which is probably good. Sometimes I look back like you do through an old photo album and you say, “God, didn’t I look weird there” You know, in flared trousers.

BM: [laughs]

BB: Or, “Why did people have wide ties?”

BM: [laughs]

BB: You know, and that’s how you look at your own musical behavior in the past. Just so long as you don’t look back and at the same damn thing.

BM: Yeah. You don’t want to be get stuck doing the same thing for two or three decades.

BB: Well, no. Because I’d rather be a gardener.

BM: [laughs] You mentioned Robert Fripp being a little difficult to work with. I’ve read that in many places myself. Yet, you were one of the few people able to still be with him through a couple of incarnations of Crimso. How were you able to do that?

BB: By developing an extremely thick skin.

BM: [laughs]

BB: You know, I’m a very resilient person. I don’t really care how many times I’m knocked over I’ll probably get back up again and keep right on doing whatever it was that I was doing. I was also able to change a lot, you know, and a lot of the things that Robert said made a tremendous amount of sense to me. Still do. In many ways my relationship with him gave me a lot of musical strength. Ultimately, he was more, well, keener, I think, on defeating me than encouraging me. And I think he can probably consider that he won. Whatever it was he was trying to stop or negate in me I’m sure he’s managed to do it. I’m sure, and I hope he feels proud about that. However, I was a very loyal, and still am, a very loyal member of King Crimson. And would have done pretty much anything to realize Robert’s musical ideas, which I thought were very strong.

BM: Yeah.

BB: Stronger than my own. It may be now that my own ideas are strong, too.

BM: They are. Your stuff is good. It has a great overall consistency. Fripp, from what I understand, is either loved or hated. People think he’s either a genius or a madman.

BB: Often geniuses are madmen.

BM: Well, what is your assessment of his strengths and weaknesses?

BB: Oh, that’s a complicated question.

BM: [laughs]

BB: Hmm, I don’t know. I think like a lot of people [that] he’s part mad and part genius. They say a genius is only a madman who managed to hit the nail on the head once - in the right place. And the difference between being locked up in a psychiatric ward and being given a platinum record is that you just happen to get it right, you were the right guy in the right place. You guessed right.

BM: Yeah.

BB: And, for awhile, people have a great deal of potency, you know. And for a number of years I think Robert was very strong. I think it may be that he’s now finally in irrelevance, which is the ultimate sin of any artist, really.

BM: Irrelevant? In the eyes of the record industry? Or the public?

BB: Never mind the record industry. The public.

BM: Really?

BB: Yeah, I think so. I think, finally, he doesn’t speak to or for anybody that matters.

BM: And yet he continues to release major box sets of Crimson stuff.

BB: [sharply] What has that got to do with anything? We’re talking about the past there. Major box sets are everything to do with the past.

BM: Well, he’s not necessarily irrelevant if he’s able to sell those major box sets, you know, there must be -

BB: No, on the contrary, that confirms precisely the idea that what is being bought is the past.

BM: Really? Well, I can see that. But -

BB: Of course. That’s what a box set is. It is a retrospective. What is being bought again is the year 1972, the year 1979, the year 1983. That’s what what’s being bought. Not the year 1992 [when this interview occurred], or what the musician is planning to produce in 1994.

BM: Well, okay. I guess I can see that. One more thing from that King Crimson box set...

BB: Just give me an idea. My voice is beginning to go, here. Are we good for about another five or 10 minutes, here? I really can’t delve too long into this. Are you beginning to get roughly what you need? I know this could go on all night, but -

BM: Well, I’m thinking probably about another 10 or 15 minutes, but if you want to wrap this up sooner than that --

BB: If we can make it about 10 I’ll be with you.

BM: Okay. Let’s see. Okay, the King Crimson of the 1980s. You’re back for that incarnation. What was the difference between the one in the 70s and the one in the 80s?

BB: Much better in the 80s, I think.

BM: Really?

BB: Well, we had two Americans in it. It made a big difference. The Americans, on the whole, are entirely uninterested in this kind of intellectual talk.

BM: [laughs]

BB: And they just wanted to play and then go to bed, you know. So when me and Robert would start with this talk on the whole, the Americans would just go to the bar and wait till we’d grown out of it, you know. They don’t talk about anything.

BM: Yeah?

BB: Which is why both Robert and I really liked having Americans in the band. It’s a big cultural shock. Plus, they groove like crazy so that made us groovier. We provided the head and they provided the hips.

BM: After Crimson disbanded again after <i>Three of a Perfect Pair</i> you did some work with some jazz artists and eventually you found yourself back with the Anderson Bruford Wake Howe and then the Yes <i>Union</i> thing. Did you do those because you really wanted to explore more musical territory? or was this more to make money from the past (like you said earlier) to afford the future?

BB: Well, it changed. On the whole, a lot of it was false pretenses. When I first went to Montserrat to record with Jon Anderson...when I was first solicited to do that I thought we were doing a Jon Anderson solo record.

BM: Really?

BB: Then it pretty much transpired. The next thing that’s going on is that Rick Wakeman’s there and the next guy’s Steve Howe and then, of course, by the time you’ve got all those people everyone’s saying, “Well, why don’t we make a tour of this” and all the rest of it. And the Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe project was financed entirely by Jon Anderson as a solo record, I thought. But then, inevitably, one thing leads to the next and you’re made an offer and you might as well go with the flow. And there were, indeed, times somewhere on the Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe tour where I thought that we had a living organism there, that there was really life in it and that, for a minute, the music did sound quite good. And I thought, “There’s a possibility here of something I could get my teeth into.” But that was sold down the river when the whole thing, of course, at the end of that tour had to be bigger and better for the next tour. Therefore, we had to have the whole of Yes join the thing, you know.

BM: [laughs]

BB: And the next album turned into a kind of mishmash of Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe in one corner and Yes in the other, and was sold entirely untruthfully by the record company as being a cooperative effort. Which, of course, it wasn’t. One band’s record was then turned into another band’s record.

BM: So you were displeased with the final outcome of that, then?

BB: I? With Yes?

BM: Yeah.

BB: The final outcome of the record. The record is pretty horrendous, I think. I mean, I’m usually not the one to pass comment on this because, you know, Yes music I was not in control of at all. That was all to do with Jon and this producer called...hmm, his name I forget. Anyway, we had a big producer on the <i>Union</i> album. And they wrote the music and I was just, you know, a hired session drummer. It’s not my place to say whether it’s good, bad, or indifferent. It just was. You know, so it’s entirely unlike Yes. It was not a record I cared about or a record I cared for. So, by that point, because I’d lost touch with the whole idea of being able to cooperate creatively with Jon Anderson in some way as I had thought possible for 10 minutes during the ABWH thing. I lost sight of it completely and at that point, yes, I’m there simply for cash, yeah. For a weekly salary which is extremely good.

BM: Well, you’ve worked with an awful lot of musicians over the years. Are there any left that you haven’t worked with that you’d like to?

BB: There’s always some guy on the street corner, yeah.

BM: [laughs] You’ll work with anybody as long as you’re getting into it?

BB: Well, not anybody. I try to work with people who are better musicians than me and who know more about it than I do and can give me as much as I’m going to give them. I would include Iain Ballamy and Django Bates and Tim Harries as being three of those people, for a start.

BM: Well, the four of you definitely sound good on Earthworks.

BB: Well, that’s very kind.

BM: Okay, I guess that’s about it. Do you see yourself in 10 years still doing the Earthworks thing? Or do you think it will expand into something you don’t even know about right now?

BB: Oh, inevitably something you don’t know about. But I have spent six years establishing the name Earthworks, which I would like to mobilize always as something that, you know, I can feature my drumming in. So, yeah, I’m not as cavalier as I once was about just throwing names away, you know. So Earthworks is something I’ve put a lot of effort into and will certainly keep in one form or another. But, yes, of course I would like to adopt the jazz musician’s standard posture of playing with everybody and learning a lot. I mean, generally pushing the roll -- as we say -- pushing the envelope in that God-awful phrase.

BM: [laughs] I definitely appreciate your time tonight. I enjoy your drumming and I look forward to your next album releases.

BB: I’m very glad. And thanks for showing interest in it. It’s always a pleasure to talk to somebody who’s as knowledgeable as you are about all this stuff. You probably know more about it than I do, of course.

BM: [laughs] Well, I seriously doubt that since you’ve been there for all these things, you know.

BB: Yeah, but I was there with other things on my mind, like what to do with the high hat -- you know, that stuff could mean that sometimes I’m not interested in the kind of political stuff you’re talking about and what it all -- quote, unquote -- “means.”

BM: Yeah.

BB: Which is very much your department.

BM: Okay. I hope you have a good evening. And thanks again for your time.

BB: All right. Nice to talk.

BM: Cheers.

BB: Bye.


And that was the end of my first interview with Bill Bruford. I remember at the time being somewhat taken aback by his candor and sharply confrontational style. He wasn't afraid to speak his mind, in other words.

I enjoyed talking to him because what he told me became questions I posed to other Crims over the years.

And that, my friends, led to all sorts of fascinating conversations.

Cheers,

Bill
Last edited by LTinAspic on Tue Dec 27, 2005 8:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby LTinAspic on Sat Dec 24, 2005 5:10 pm

danny5 wrote:a great read.

thanks so much bill!

cheers,!


You're welcome, Danny.

Cheers,

Bill
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And I have to choose..."
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Re: Bill's Bill Bruford Interview - Final (Merry Christmas!)

Postby The Crimson Avenger on Sat Dec 24, 2005 11:08 pm

LTinAspic wrote:
BM: Okay. Let’s see. Okay, the King Crimson of the 1980s. You’re back for that incarnation. What was the difference between the one in the 70s and the one in the 80s?

BB: Much better in the 80s, I think.


ah HAH!!!!!!!
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Postby Gilesfan on Sat Dec 24, 2005 11:15 pm

Another awesome interview. Thanks Bill and Bill! :D
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Postby Whiskey Vengeance on Sun Dec 25, 2005 6:49 am

Thanks, Bill! What else do we have lined up?
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Postby The Crimson Fox on Sun Dec 25, 2005 6:29 pm

Absolutely Spiffing Old Boy...

Hats Off to Billy
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Postby evktalo on Wed Dec 28, 2005 11:59 pm

Wonderfull.
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Postby Riverman on Thu Dec 29, 2005 1:16 am

Hear hear! Superb, my dear fellow.
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Postby LTinAspic on Thu Dec 29, 2005 2:28 am

Riverman wrote:Hear hear! Superb, my dear fellow.


Many thanks one and all. I'm glad you like the interviews.

I appreciate your comments!

Cheers,

Bill
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And I have to choose..."
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