Elephant Talk #219 (as text)
7 September 1995
Date: Fri, 8 Sep 95 14:53:07 BST
From: Toby Howard <toby at cs dot man dot ac dot uk>
Subject: Bill Bruford interview
Very special thanks to Mike Tiano (miketi at microsoft dot com) of the Yes on-line
newsletter 'Notes From The Edge' (nfte at sol dot cms dot uncwil dot edu) for kindly
allowing the following interview with Bill Bruford to be reprinted here in
ET. I would ask ET readers to read and respect the copyright statement
attached to the review.
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Conversation with Bill Bruford - Conducted August 7, 1995
The entire contents of this interview are (Copyright)
(c) 1995, Mike Tiano
PO Box 13
Issaquah, WA 98027-0013
for Notes From the Edge,
Jeff Hunnicutt and Mike Tiano, Editors
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
This interview is being posted exclusively to Notes From the Edge (Copyright),
THE Internet YES Source
If you see this interview or any portion appear anywhere else,
please let me know (miketi at microsoft dot com).
THIS INTERVIEW HAS NOT HIT THE PRINT MEDIUM.
PLEASE DON'T EXPOSE YOURSELF TO LITIGATION BY POSTING IT ELSEWHERE
(EITHER THROUGH ELECTRONIC OR PRINT MEANS). Thank you.
Special thanks to Bill for consenting to this interview. --MOT
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MOT: How did you become involved with this latest incarnation of King Crimson?
Originally I understand you were not part of the lineup.
BB: Well, I guess you're only part of the lineup when the lineup is announced.
All kinds of people are part of the lineup before the lineup is announced,
everybody from Father Christmas to Mike Giles. So I guess you're part of the
thing when the thing finally appears. That's part of the problem with this kind
of endless gossiping, is that people ask me questions about why I've joined or
left things that I've never joined or left, the reason being they're being
rather preemptive and presumptuous too, of course.
MOT: What you're saying is that when the news first came out--
BB: But there isn't any news that ever comes out, certainly that I regulate.
The trouble with this whole game is that since you guys preempt everything that
I have no chance of joining or leaving anything without you telling me what it
is that I've joined or left, do you see.
BB: To the musician this can become slightly irritating. One would prefer all
this energy was focused on listening to the music, perhaps. That would be more
fun in a way, if I could just make some music you guys could listen to that
would be great (laughs). That was the original contract, remember?
MOT: Yes. (laughs)
BB: So, that not withstanding, I became a member of King Crimson in February--
well I'm always a member of King Crimson, I never left King Crimson. As far as
I'm concerned the band had rather a long gap between 1984, when it finished in
Montreal at the end of a tour, to the next tour which started in 1994 in South
America. It had rather a long gap of about ten years. As far as I'm concerned
everything keeps going. I didn't know that I was sacked, I don't think I ever
was, so the band started again and I played the next gig. Anything else is the
private consideration of Adrian and Robert and myself, and Tony Levin. So I
consider myself a permanent member of King Crimson since 1972.
MOT: I think one reason this question came up at all is because originally in
the mainstream press a lineup was announced and you were not part of the
BB: Oh well, there you go. People change their mind I guess. Maybe they tried
playing without me.
MOT: At this point is there any type of long term commitment with the band, or
is it as long as the music's happening the band will continue?
BB: Well, a long term commitment....it's a pretty short record deal with
Virgin, I think, for an album, and then Virgin has options on its side. So on a
business level you can say it's a fairly short commitment, on a business level.
But the much more important level is the level of commitment between musicians
themselves, and as long as King Crimson is around it has my number one
commitment, always will have, always has had. Occasionally it stops for rather
long periods but I can't help that, that's stopped by the band's leader, Robert
Fripp. So these things come and go and my commitment to it is extremely strong.
Perhaps the most concrete thing is booking agents, they're the people who have
to lead so far ahead and we're pretty much tight with booking concerts up to
the fall of 1996, that is doing the sheds in the summer in the states. I'm
pretty happy, what happens after 1996, if 1996 the whole thing falls down a
hole then that's not my problem, I'll be around next time it picks itself up.
MOT: In any event the current album and tour are marvelous--
MOT: --it's one of the best albums I've heard in a long time...it's great to
have King Crimson back performing the type of music that we fans love...
BB: Well I'm thrilled although I don't know what type of music it is that you
fans love, I have no idea. Because to me the relationship between THRAK and
CLOSE TO THE EDGE is absolutely, there is no connection whatsoever apart from
the fact that some of the musical instruments are used. So to me it's a mystery
what you guys like, but then that's not anything I've ever tried to figure out
so that's OK.
MOT: I guess to be specific the type of music King Crimson itself makes--not to
lump you all together, if you understand what I'm saying--
BB: No, I understand that, and I don't wish to be pedantic, but we in the band
would feel that we'd reinvented ourselves several times, that we would feel
there is no connection between 'Neil, Jack and Me' and 'Schizoid Man'. We'd
feel there's probably even less connection between 'Thrak' and 'Neil, Jack and
Me'. The only connection is that the same musicians are playing. But the music
is, we would feel, pretty different, and not in a style. The band seems to come
together to make some sort of a style or statement for a period of time,
certainly in the early 70s, and in the early 80s, and now in the early 90s. But
we feel those styles are quite different whereas it seems to me that you guys
tend to think they're all the same.
MOT: Within a specific genre, so to speak.
BB: I see, OK.
MOT: What we do like is the fact that whatever the forum is--ABWH, King
Crimson, whatever--what it comes down to is that the level of musicianship is
very high...the level of musicianship in your basic pop song doesn't really
depend on the individual personality of the musicians. In King Crimson your
personalities are part of the music.
BB: Yeah, that's a good way of putting it and we would try to think that is
true, and, yes, I like authorship. I like the feeling that I'm trying to do
something on the drums that's a little different from the next guy and you
might even recognize it. That would be nice, or at least you'd recognize the
style, or at least you'd recognize the ever changing styles.
MOT: Right, and that's not so much true with most popular music as you yourself
have pointed out on many occasions, the fact that bands are almost homogenous
BB: Indeed so, yeah.
MOT: They all kind of sound the same whereas back in the 70s for instance you
all had a different sound, you could recognize one band from another,
regardless of genre.
BB: Yes, there's something to be said for that, that's true.
MOT: If someone had played THRAK for me and didn't tell me it was King Crimson
I would have known instantly.
BB: Yeah, sure. I liked that record particularly for the fact that within about
eight bars it is definably King Crimson. Everybody's doing the bit that somehow
makes it sound like King Crimson: Adrian is wailing on a feedback, Robert is
yelping the top of the guitar neck, Tony's down bottom, and I'm spraying
machine gun fire all over everything. And I agree, that sounds to me to be
absolutely quintessential King Crimson, and I loved that too when I first heard
MOT: What's really nice about it is that the music is challenging and dense,
you can listen to it many, many times and get a lot out of it...
BB: Yeah, it's a slightly richer meal, a slightly deeper meal.
MOT: And King Crimson especially is very rich because of the improvisational
aspect of it. What you get on the CD isn't necessarily what you're going to get
on stage, and that attracts a lot of listeners.
BB: That's very true and I'm increasingly aware of this with Phish and Hootie
and the Blowfish, and that sort of cult style, bootlegging style, band, I'm
increasingly aware of this, and increasingly I like that. I like the idea--it's
an old jazz idea, for God's sake--that the performance in Cincinnati is not the
same as the performance in Cleveland, and that when you play for these guys
you're playing for them specially, in that particular town. I think this
enormous increase in legging, as they call it, is a frustration by the customer
who is perennially and all the time underestimated by record companies, and
it's just the customer saying give me something that's special for me.
MOT: That brings to mind one topic I've discussed at length with Steve Howe,
and that is the fact that in other genres of music like jazz and classical, as
musicians get older they get more seasoned, more revered, whereas in rock and
roll it's the opposite, the older you get the less consequential you are, so to
BB: Yes, that's true.
MOT: How do you feel about that?
BB: Well I don't mind at all because I only feel I only have one foot in rock
and roll, and then only three toes. I'm in a way more interested in the drum
fraternity, perhaps, than the rock industry, and the drum fraternity is very
Catholic and deals with percussion players all over the United States and all
over the world, and a frame drum player will talk to a classical symphony
player who'll talk to a specialist on the snare drum, who'll talk to a military
drummer, who'll talk to a rock guy, who'll talk to a jazz guy, all at the same
dinner table with none of these problems at all. And in fact I think I'm more
interested in that open-mindedness than in the small mindedness of record
company life. In that respect the percussive community does have tribal elders.
In fact, the older you get the more you do become revered, and its greatest
citizens now--Art Blake, who just died, and Max Roach who's very much with us,
and who came to the King Crimson concert in New York I might say.
MOT: Did he enjoy the show?
BB: He enjoyed it very much, and wrote me a personal letter thanking me. These
are indeed tribal elders, so it's only in the overheated and narcissistic world
of popular hits that anybody's concerned about this, and I assure you I'm far
too long in the tooth to be remotely interested in the idea of popular fame or
success in that teenybop way.
MOT: Certainly your style is unique in that you're not afraid to take chances
and throw things in. Has that ever thrown some musicians you've played with in
the past, the fact that they want to hear the beat but you may hit the snare
just ahead of the beat?
BB: I think other musicians I've played with could probably have had an easier
life...yes, that's right, I'm sure at times there'd be a positive line of
musicians from Chris Squire through to Robert Fripp, all of them you could line
up and would give you chapter and verse on the times they'd been irritated by
Bill Bruford. On the other hand a little irritation and a little stirring can
sometimes produce the best out of people, and unless you want your drummer to
be a carpet that gets walked all over and is unrelentingly predictable--in
which case you won't have much of a band--then I think occasionally you're
going to have to listen to the drummer and hear what he has to say.
MOT: Isn't it also a matter of hearing your own individual meter, not depending
on the drummer to tell you that you're on the beat?
BB: Well I thought we'd got past that idea, you know, that we had to have the
drummer laying down the backbeat. Certainly in King Crimson I think there are
other people who have a much more rigid continuum than the drummer does and
often my job is to comment on that, and to come and go and cause mayhem
generally, and slope the beat another way, or offer it in another way, or show
how it can be put against another beat for tension and release as purpose for
all those things. So, yeah, the traditional function of the drummer I think was
never my strong point, I'm not that interested in the traditional function of
MOT: Basically you're very creative at what you do--
BB: Well, I try, Mike, I try.
MOT: (Laughs)--you succeed, you succeed! And it's that creativity that we all
respond to. I remember there were points at the [King Crimson] show in Seattle
where you'd throw in these things and I'd think, that's what I live for from
Bill Bruford, and I was in heaven, and it was just wonderful.
BB: (Laughs) Great, great.
MOT: You've played with a second drummer or percussionist in the past; you did
so with King Crimson, with Genesis, and of course the Yes UNION tour with Alan
[White]. How do you and Pat [Mastelotto] divide percussion duties?
BB: I don't want to get into long complicated percussion stuff but that's very
easy. Drumming in most cultures is done by more than one person. It is a shame
that in the loneliness of the Western idea of music we usually have only one
drummer in the band. I think that's a shame, I think drumming is much more fun
when there's several drummers and it becomes a social and cooperative endeavor
at that point. So having another drummer is by no means strange, it just means
you're going to have to cooperate and think what you're playing, and it's
really very easy. Generally speaking Pat and I have quite different styles and
Pat, if you like, is a much more traditional rock drummer, when he plays you
know you're listening to a rock group. If I play on my own you might be
listening to a jazz group for ten measures then a symphony group for ten
measures and a rock group for ten measures, you don't know, and I don't know
either. So in a way I think my function is to offset and skitter around Pat,
and find things to do that go against him, pull against him, play with him
sometimes. And of course you can assign functions via the timbres, drummers
have high and low metals, they have high and low woods, they have high and low
membranes. These drums can be assigned, often if he's on the metals then I'll
be on the woods, or if he's on the drums I'll be on the metals, or whatever. So
you can assign parts by sound, you can assign parts by meter, you can assign
parts by tempo, you can assign parts by percussioned drum kit or drum kits
percussion, there's lots of different ways.
MOT: The song itself dictates a lot of this as well.
BB: Absolutely. The song is the thing that comes first. I would make both Pat
and myself subservient to that, it has to work. The difficulty is when you
don't know what the song is because the song's being created and they're about
to turn the red light on in five minutes. The trouble is that it tends to move
extremely fast so that something like 'Sex Eat Sleep Drink Dream' is really
only run down in a rehearsal room a couple of times before it was recorded and
you therefore have to make some decisions very, very quickly and that partly is
the skill of the drummer, the skill in knowing what sound will go where, what
space needs to be left open, what space needs to be left filled, that is where
you call on your experience. That is why good drummers get paid well, because
they're counting on their experience to come up with the right answer fast. It
has nothing whatsoever to do with how fast you play of course.
MOT: Just making the right decision at the right time.
BB: Correct, coming up with an imaginative part that will do two things: make
all the other musicians want to play and make them sound good when they do
MOT: Is there anything in the pipeline for King Crimson beyond the tour?
BB: I'm not sure what the tour is. We seem to be working four months a year.
The next thing we do is go to Japan and go around the states, then we appear to
be working in February 1996 somewhere, probably Europe, and then it would seem
that we're working for three months in the summer of 1996. So those are the
current plans. Have you heard there's a live bootleg CD out called B'BOOM?
There seems to be a record currently out recorded live in Argentina, a [double]
CD, mastered by Robert, called B'BOOM...so that's around and in the ether
MOT: That was from the first gigs in Argentina
BB: Yeah, really, seven or eight gigs into our career, that's right, recorded
MOT: Have you done any recording on this past leg of the tour?
BB: Yes, we've recorded all the time much too much. Personally I'm not a fan of
recording everything but everything, I assure you, is recorded, from the minute
I come downstairs to breakfast to the minute I go upstairs again at bedtime.
MOT: One reader asks if Robert Fripp is as demanding as he was in the 80s or
has he loosened up a bit.
BB: Oh...Robert's changed a lot. He's lost a manager, he's gained a wife, both
which are two extremely good moves....he's intelligent as ever, full of
interesting things to do in rock groups and an admirable person to be working
with and for.
MOT: I don't know if you've had any real problems with him in the past, but do
you find he's mellowed with these changes?
BB: Well I'm not sure Robert figures quite so much as my general problems with
music anyway. I mean, at times one is working well with music and you can see
the plan, you can see what you're about and you're very focused, and other
times being what's loosely called an artist the sailing is not so good and it's
all questionable and it's all doubtful. Music making for me in general is
easier not, irrespective of Robert. The older I get the more I realize I know
almost nothing about it whatsoever and that makes it a lot easier to play. So
Robert is but one of a number of musicians who come in and out of my horizon
and he's as interesting as Django Bates but no more so, or any of the other
wonderful guys I've had the privilege of playing with.
MOT: I noticed at the shows he's totally in the dark. Does he just not like the
light in his eyes?
BB: I don't know, you'd have to ask him about that, I find that a bit strange
too, but heck, but if the members of King Crimson want to stand on their heads
I'll play with them as well. I find that a bit strange. I personally want to
come to Seattle and be seen. I think the physical side and visual side of
watching a musician at work plays a large part in the enjoyment and the
transmission of his musical thoughts and message if he has one. Therefore I
personally wouldn't want to come and sit in the dark, but what can I tell you.
I have no idea why musicians do half the things they do so I have no idea why
Robert sits in the dark.
MOT: Taper sections are becoming more common for rock and roll bands; Robert
Plant and Jimmy Page had one, and of course Grateful Dead are legendary for
doing that. How would you feel about King Crimson's performances being taped
openly by fans for non-profit use?
BB: I don't know...funny enough I have no firm opinion on this. My interest is
so much in the production of music that the consumption of music I don't think
I've give more than five minutes thought to in most of my life.
MOT: For some musicians it's a kind of a thorn in their side.
BB: Yes, I think Robert can read you volumes about bootlegging, and he no doubt
has all kinds of very strong ideas about it, which I'm not really familiar
with, although I can divine from the fact that we've just released an official
bootleg that Robert becomes extremely irritated with bootlegs, that are put
back on the market for a huge amount of money, of very poor quality. For
example there is on sale in England evidently an Italian bootleg costing a huge
sum of money which is virtually unlistenable. That does the band no good and
simply lines the Italian gentleman's pocket. However, bootlegging for swapping
and exchange use only, and collector's items, I think is rather charming. I
think the idea that kids should swap different nights and have versions of
different tunes and try to collect something special I think is rather
charming, I don't have any trouble with that at all. But I must confess I'm no
expert on the subject. If it's just stealing from me I get a bit pissed off
with it. In general my thrust is so much to do with the production of music
that what happens to it after my cymbals stop ringing I really don't know.
MOT: From what I understand you mentioned in an interview just after King
Crimson reformed that while playing with them you feel yourself always moving
forward while with Yes it was like going back in time. Did you feel the same
way with Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, as opposed to Yes?
BB: There was a brief window, I think, in the music and there was a brief
opportunity for that band to have flourished. I thought there were moments in
the music, somewhere along the middle of 'Birthright', when kind of the spirit
of Algarth took over and there was a huge climax in the middle of 'Birthright'
which was spine-chillingly exciting to play...there were moments of 'Brother
of Mine' and some of the other songs that I thought showed intelligence and
genuine scope, and a genuine future for the participants. Something about Steve
Howe's beautiful acoustic guitar playing on the top of the sheer weight of some
of that stuff, in 'Birthright' for example, that I thought was very strong. And
now I'm speaking as a critic and as an outsider, and I thought that if the
participants had managed to close their ears to of all the nonsense being
spoken in their ears, of course by Brian Lane and record companies, then they
had a chance at a future. However, I think that window closed pretty much as
quickly as it opened, I'm not sure everybody else noticed it. And anyway, any
possible flowering was immediately stamped out by the idea the band could tour
no more and it surely had to metamorphose into an eight piece version of Yes
with all participating and surviving members because that is surely, so the
argument went, the only way the customer would come to the stadium. That is to
me of course completely fallacious thinking but the power of it is so
overwhelming in the commercial industry that you might as well save your
breath, trying to argue against it. I of course was a lone voice saying that I
thought that was a pretty stinking idea. And had ABWH lowered its sights, gone
into theatres and being courageous and grabbed the music by the neck and gone
forward then there was a chance, but I don't think they had the courage to do
MOT: The tour itself didn't do badly, did it?
BB: The tour itself did extremely well. The album sold extremely well. Why
'Brother of Mine' wasn't a hit I've no idea at all, the only possible
explanation I have is that it was edited by Clive Davis, who has the kiss of
death when editing singles.
MOT: The three minute version was atrocious.
BB: Absolutely terrible.
MOT: There was a six minute version that was OK, but [the three minute version
went through the changes] so fast it didn't make any sense at all. It was
BB: Yes, very silly. So ABWH needed all the help it could get at that point, it
was a very fragile turning point. And I think there was a chance to grab
something there but I think the chance was missed. And I don't think those
participants, namely ABWH, in that configuration will ever have such a chance
again, that's my feeling.
MOT: Yes, Steve said one of the biggest regrets of the UNION tour was losing
ABWH. I love that album and would have forsaken a UNION to keep ABWH together.
BB: Yes, I would have done too, probably, but it was evidently not to be. You'd
have to consult Anderson, probably, for that.
MOT: I assume that because the ABWH album didn't meet record company
expectations it was kind of like, let's do something else with it.
BB: Something like that, yeah.
MOT: Is that pretty accurate?
BB: I'd say that's accurate, but if you're going to consume that amount of
money then you deserve all the trouble, you're asking for trouble. See, the
problem with bands like Yes all the time has been overconsumption of resources,
greed on the one hand and indolence on the other, particularly indolence, huge
sums of money consumes for no reason whatsoever, completely thoughtlessly. Now
this is of course where King Crimson is entirely different. King Crimson is on
the whole an abstemious organization; not in the sense that you have to cycle
your own bicycle to the concert, but money is consumed for the creation of
music and music only, it's not consumed for any other reason. It's not consumed
for vanity. It's not consumed to keep other people in business, or supply
drugs, or anything else. It's consumed as much as is necessary to make the
record and generally speaking with good musicians. You're looking to make the
record fairly cheaply so there is a healthy profit. Why do you want a profit?
You want a profit so you can stay independent and that you don't have to have
Clive Davis edit your single, or even tell you what the single is, or do
anything. So King Crimson is as free as the wind and Yes looks like a songbird
trapped in a cage.
MOT: Were you pretty happy with the songs on the ABWH album itself?
BB: Sure, I'm pretty happy, I mean they're essentially Jon's songs. I had very
little to do with them. I thought that Jon was on strong form for that album,
yes, I thought he was on strong form.
MOT: What was it like going back to revisit all that old Yes material? Did you
have fun with it, especially 'Close to the Edge', which you never performed?
BB: Yes, I did, I did have some fun with it, yeah. It was not entirely
disagreeable and OK for a summer and then a summer in 1991 with Yes. But more
than that I don't think I want to go on and on and on trying to keep people
happy in the audience who want the older music, I like to try to be in a
slightly more forward looking organization which is clearly, and I've been
saying this ever since 1972, is why I'm in King Crimson, because things are
done differently. It is a common and thoughtless piece of journalism in general
that lumps Genesis, Yes, and King Crimson all in the same thing. I can assure
you, I can't think of three more different organizations than the three and I
have firsthand knowledge of all three. They are completely different.
Everything about King Crimson is different from Yes.
MOT: It's generally known that the other ABWH members hated UNION. What are
your feelings on the released product itself?
BB: It's pretty unfortunate. It's a testament to what happens when the so-
called music industry becomes headless and takes over control of your project.
There was really no one in control, just an accountant somewhere. And if there
ever had been any life in the music, and that was questionable, what life there
was was instantly computed out of the thing. The music sounds completely muted,
like a cat that's been spayed. Extraordinary sound. Really extraordinary. It
sounds like you're playing in a mortuary with no human beings on board the
MOT: The songs definitely sound like they were chopped and the life taken out
BB: Yes, you know that feeling when you have a little too much vinaigrette on
your side salad? The thing was drowned in salt and pepper. And music doesn't
have to be that way, you see. It becomes self justifying because there are so
many technocrats in line to consume some of your huge million dollar budget
that they all need a job and a function and a reason for existence. So all
these people will edit you, and salt and pepper you, and reorganize the lyrics,
and rearrange the tune, and generally kick the living daylights out of the
thing that the poor tune, if it had any music in it in the first place, will
certainly have none after that process is finished. It was really an eye-opener
to be on that record because I'd read that these things happened, and I've
never been involved in such a thing, and I assure you they do happen, and they
usually happen when there's too much money around.
MOT: Does the prospect of having to much money detract from the fact that
you're there to make the best music you can?
BB: Money will corrupt the process, certainly. It depends on how grown up your
participants are, of course. But in general the quality of the music's going to
have nothing whatsoever to do with the amount of money around, or not around.
However if there is too much you can rest assured that there will be corporate
input and the next thing you know you'll have some stock market analyst mixing
the album for you and then you're in deep trouble because clearly the idea of
music has vanished long since. So UNION was really a shattering album for that
reason, I've never been on such a thing and we all live and learn but I
wouldn't care to go through that process again.
MOT: Can we set the record straight on this UK thing for once and for all? Is
there a UK reunion in the works?
BB: I think Eddie Jobson and John Wetton are doing one. So far my involvement
or lack of it is completely undetermined.
MOT: Somebody reported you sent some polyrhythms to them for them to use.
BB: See, here we're all getting completely overexcited again. No, I didn't send
any polyrhythms. Why don't we just drop this subject? When you get a UK album
let's see who's on it. That's probably much more exciting, rather than trying
to figure out whether I'd sent John Wetton some socks or not, you know.
MOT: OK. My only concern is to set the record straight...
BB: Don't even try. Don't try setting any record straight, there is no straight
record. This is an ongoing flux of gossip which is much more fun than having
any straight record...this is fun, this is what cyberspace is invented for,
people with not enough work to do, inventing locations, various positions to be
in, why should I spoil anybody's fun? I personally am not involved, it's not my
interest, but I'm happy to chat to you for a bit about it but it's not my
interest as you can probably tell.
MOT: Prior to FEELS GOOD TO ME there doesn't seem to be much recorded evidence
of you playing the vibes. When did you find time to develop this seemingly
overnight talent, and why have you not played them since?
BB: (Laughs) Actually I don't think that's strictly true, I think if I recall I
brought a vibraphone into the early Yes recording sessions, and I believe I
played it on 'Sweetness' which is a ghastly little saccharine track, probably
on the back of the very first single or record we ever made, and I think it's
in there somewhere. Long after that I did study mallets quite hard for two or
three years and really worked at it but decided that keyboard percussion was
just too much to do. There's only so many hours in the day and if you're not
careful you spread yourself too thin on too many instruments. But around the
time of FEELS GOOD TO ME I did feel that I had some marimba and mallet stuff
that I wanted to do and I played 'Sample and Hold' and 'One of a Kind, Part 2'
and all that stuff. And I thoroughly enjoyed that, I thought it was good fun,
but I really don't have the chops for it. However it does indicate, I think, a
general side of my playing which is that I'm always very interested in melody,
that, yes, nominally I play the drum kit but I've always been interested in the
up and down of pitch as well, be that through a marimba, or now electronic
marimba, or electronic drums, or triggering chords from pads, or any of that
stuff, or writing songs. So I feel that drummers have to do a little bit more
than just concern themselves with rhythm, you know.
MOT: I guess the song itself would dictate it; if Robert came up with a song
where you instantly heard a great vibe part for you may want to go for it.
BB: Vibes would be unlikely but pitched percussion of some sort or other, yes,
is encouraged, and indeed I've been using mallets recently in THRAK.
MOT: Where have you picked up your influences in complex polyrhythms, for
example the ones you use on THRAK? How much of it is based on mathematical
analysis or pure intuition?
BB: They're only complex if you live in the western world and you listen to
MTV, then I guess they're complex. The average Romanian, or Central European,
or Indian, or African is going to have no trouble with that stuff at all. And
where I picked it up is a bit like saying to a piano player, 'Where did you
pick up a C minor scale?' Well it's part of what I do and I'm a drummer. I have
nothing special whatsoever, it's just that with respect the amount of rhythmic
interest that is generally around the American culture is so small that people
fall over backwards if you play something outside of 4/4 and four beats to 120,
people fall over backwards and think you come from Mars or that you've studied
something really strange, it's not true at all, I've just arranged a series of
accents that are slightly different than Michael Jackson. So I have no big
thing at all but of course I listen to rhythmic culture from around the world,
and yes I can count and some people have notes of 17 and 16, and sometimes
people have 5, and it's really not a big thing if you have your ears outside of
rock music which is of course very narrow. Rhythmically it's painfully narrow.
MOT: And it's not something that's contrived, you don't say to yourself, 'I'm
going to come in on a different beat here', it depends on what's happening in
the music with the other musicians at the time.
BB: Yes, it depends on how the composition is coming together, but it may well
be that the rhythmic structure that I've offered has become the basis of the
composition. It may be that I have ideas sitting around. I have rhythmic lines,
motifs, that just need the breath of life put into them, or the breath of
harmony put into them, often that's the case. Yes, I like to be able to come
with a variety of ideas which will turn into 'B'BOOM' for you, or 'B'BISH',
which is another tune you don't know, or will turn into 'Larks Tongues in
Aspic' or something. I like to feel that I come with ideas, it's part of what I
come with, what I bring to the party.
MOT: What would you say is the strangest [recording] session you've ever done?
Is there one that stands out?
BB: Strange...well...[long pause, thinking]...oh, Mike, I mean obviously you're
unfamiliar with the recording process, which is ludicrous from the word go, and
full of craziness depending on where you are and what you're dealing with. I
mean, Robert Fripp during the making of RED, as I recall, decided to suspend
the passage of opinion on the music. Was it good or bad? He didn't care, he
didn't know and didn't want to be asked. That was pretty strange. I can't
remember the strange sessions, the whole of life is strange to me, so next
MOT: How did you become involved on the BURNING FOR BUDDY session?
BB: Cathy Rich, Buddy's daughter rang up and asked me, and said that she had a
stream of drummers all doing a couple of Buddy's compositions, and I said that
sounds fine, I'd like to participate but how about if we do one of my
compositions, which she accepted, and I did her a demo and she accepted that,
and I had the band play one of my tunes which was really what I got out of the
project, it was a thrill to hear something of mine played by such great
musicians. It was a great project, very scary to do because the standard of
musicianship was so high and it was an A-list of drummers, you know.
MOT: Didn't Neal Peart of Rush organize the Buddy Rich thing?
BB: He did, along with Cathy. Peart was the producer, a very first-rate
MOT: Were you familiar with his work in Rush?
BB: No, I don't know Rush at all.
MOT: Getting proper intonation out of a hand drum is a whole different funky
game. Do you ever play or consider playing African percussion, and the like?
BB: No I have too much respect for all that. I don't know anything at all about
how to get the sound out of a drum with my hand. Rather than be an amateur on
yet another instrument I think maybe I'll stick with the sticks.
MOT: This is a question about life philosophy. Having been in both Yes and
King Crimson for extended periods of time, have you been influenced in a
positive way by the religious tendencies of either Jon Anderson or Robert
BB: Religious tendencies? No, none whatsoever. I would describe both as
phenomenally anti-religious. It depends on which religion we're talking about,
I suppose Anderson has tried most of the religions on offer at Safeway's.
Robert Fripp I would think is probably disinterested in that, though in a
higher sense Robert is very astute on philosophical matters.
MOT: So what's up for you personally? Are you doing anything of note that you
want people to know about?
BB: The next thing I'm doing of note is going to Japan with King Crimson and
I'm thrilled to do that and meanwhile I work and rest here at home and think of
interesting things we hope to bring you next time I'm in Seattle, or in your
town, which is pretty much what I think you pay me for.
MOT: Bill, you may be a dinosaur in some people's eyes but I just want to say
that we dig your bones!
BB: Great! Well, that's very kind. Let's hope I've answered some questions and
everybody can go on chattering up there on cyberspace, happily away.
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