Bruford performing in 2008
|William Scott Bruford|
|Born||17 May 1949|
Sevenoaks, Kent, England
William Scott Bruford (born 17 May 1949) is an English retired drummer, percussionist, songwriter, producer, and record label owner who first gained prominence as the original drummer of the rock band Yes, from 1968 to 1972 and again from 1990 to 1992. After his departure from Yes, Bruford spent the rest of the 1970s playing in King Crimson, touring with Genesis and U.K., and eventually forming his own group, Bruford.
In the 1980s, Bruford returned to King Crimson for three years, collaborated with several artists including The Roches, Patrick Moraz, and David Torn, and formed his jazz band Earthworks in 1986. He then played in Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, which eventually led to his second stint in Yes. Bruford played in King Crimson for his third and final tenure between 1994 and 1997, after which he continued with Earthworks and further collaborations.
On 1 January 2009, Bruford retired from public performance, barring one private gig in 2011. He released his autobiography, and continues to speak and write about music. He operates his record labels, Summerfold and Winterfold Records. In 2016, after four-and-a-half years of study, Bruford earned a PhD in Music at the University of Surrey. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Yes in 2017.
Bruford was born on 17 May 1949 in Sevenoaks, Kent, the third child of Betty and John Bruford, a local veterinary surgeon. He has a brother, John, and a sister, Jane. He attended boarding school at Tonbridge School. Bruford decided to take up drumming at thirteen after watching American jazz drummers on the BBC2 jazz television series, Jazz 625, and practised the instrument in the attic of his house. He cites Max Roach, Joe Morello, Art Blakey, and Ginger Baker as his favourite and the most influential drummers as a youngster. Around this time, Bruford's sister bought him a pair of drum brushes as a birthday present, and Bruford would practise using them on album sleeves after he was told the sound resembled a snare drum while watching Jazz 625. Bruford recalled it as "a perfect education". Though he was given a single snare drum at first, Bruford gradually built a full drum kit. He later took a few lessons from Lou Pocock, a member of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
During his time at boarding school, Bruford befriended several fellow jazz fans, one of them a drummer who gave Bruford lessons in improvisation and a tutorial book by American jazz drummer Jim Chapin. They then performed as a four-piece named The Breed, a rhythm and blues and soul band that Bruford played with from 1966 to 1967 until he was unable to attend all their gigs, leaving the band to hire a second drummer. The Breed were formed by Stu Murray on guitar, Ray Bennett on bass, Mike Freeman on sax, Doug Kennard on guitar and vocals and Bill Bruford on drums. After he left boarding school, Bruford took a gap year before he intended to start an economics course at Leeds University in September 1968. He auditioned for a place in Savoy Brown on 16 January 1968 at a pub in Battersea. After he was unsuccessful in being able to join the band, Bruford "hung around until the end and told them they had the wrong guy ... I talked my way into it". His tenure lasted three gigs as he messed with the beat, and joined Paper Blitz Tissue, a psychedelic rock band, for a short time. Bruford then spotted an advertisement in a music shop from The Noise, who were looking for a drummer to play with them for a six-week residency at the Piper Club in Rome, Italy. He remembered the experience as "ghastly", felt his bandmates could not play properly, and had to hitchhike back to London with his kit. Ray Bennett the bass player with The Breed, would later play with Flash, a band formed by Peter Banks after he left Yes.
Following his return to London, the nineteen-year-old Bruford settled into a flat in north London and placed an advertisement for drum work in the Melody Maker. It was spotted by singer Jon Anderson of Mabel Greer's Toyshop, a London-based psychedelic rock band that also consisted of bassist Chris Squire and guitarist Clive Bayley, who sought a replacement for their departing drummer, Bob Hagger. The four first met on 7 June 1968; Anderson was so impressed with Bruford, he invited Bruford to play with the band that evening at the Rachel McMillan College in Deptford. Their entire set consisted of "In the Midnight Hour" by Wilson Pickett as it was the only song they all knew how to play through, but Bruford was impressed with the band's ability to sing in harmony. Following the gig, Bruford had several offers to join soul bands, one of which earned as much as £30 a week, but chose to form a new, full-time group with Anderson and Squire. The four entered rehearsals, which ended in Peter Banks replacing Bayley on guitar, and they changed their name to Yes with new recruit, keyboardist Tony Kaye.
Bruford played on Yes's first five studio albums during his initial tenure: Yes (1969), Time and a Word (1970), The Yes Album (1971), Fragile (1971), and Close to the Edge (1972). His first attempt at composition was "Five Per Cent for Nothing", recorded for Fragile. His main interest was allowing the drums to "be heard" as Squire tuned his bass high, and so developed a style that involved unusual "beat placement" and time signatures. He developed his musical understanding during this time: "I learned how to read the horizontal lines, but not the vertical notes."
Bruford recalled Yes being hot blooded and argumentative, with personality conflicts being the eventual reason for his exit. These, for him, included problems in understanding other members' accents, differences in social backgrounds, and many other issues that set the band in a constant state of friction between Anderson, Squire, and himself.
In July 1972, after Close to the Edge had been recorded, Bruford quit to join King Crimson. Rehearsals began in September 1972, followed by an extensive UK tour. His instinct to remember complicated drum parts was shown when he learned how to play the long percussion and guitar part in the middle of "21st Century Schizoid Man", "by listening to it and just learning it." Bruford cites the six months that percussionist Jamie Muir was in the group as highly influential on him as a player. He is featured on Larks' Tongues in Aspic (1973), Starless and Bible Black (1974) and Red (1974) before Robert Fripp disbanded King Crimson in September 1974. He is featured on their live album, USA (1975).
After leaving King Crimson, Bruford felt his "sense of direction was rather stymied" and was unsure on his next step. In late 1974, he became a temporary member of the French-Anglo band Gong for a European tour after drummer Laurie Allan was busted for drugs at a border. Bruford then chose to wait for an appealing offer while earning money as a session musician. The sessions were few, however, and the ones that he was a part of he called "unmitigated disasters". In 1975, Bruford played drums on Fish Out of Water by Chris Squire,HQ by Roy Harper, and At the Sound of a Bell by Pavlov's Dog. He joined National Health for several live performances, but declined an offer to join full-time as there were already many writers in the group, and felt his contributions to the music, the majority of which was already written, would have caused problems.
By 1976, Bruford had rehearsed with Ray Gomez and Jeff Berlin in the US but plans to form a group failed, partly due to the members living far away from each other. He wished not to force a band together, so he decided to "watch, wait, observe and absorb". From March to July 1976, Bruford toured with Genesis as their live drummer on their 1976 tour of North America and Europe, supporting A Trick of the Tail. It was their first album and tour after original frontman Peter Gabriel had left, leaving drummer Phil Collins to sing lead vocals. Bruford had known Collins for several years and performed with Collins' side project Brand X, during which he suggested sitting in the drum seat while Collins sang on stage until they found a permanent replacement. Bruford's is included on the concert film recorded during the tour, Genesis: In Concert, and the live albums Seconds Out and Three Sides Live.
In 1977, Bruford formed his own band named Bruford. Members of the band were initially Dave Stewart (keyboards), Jeff Berlin (bass), Allan Holdsworth (guitar) and Bruford (drums). The first album Feels Good to Me (1978, recorded as a solo project) also had Annette Peacock on vocals, Kenny Wheeler on flugelhorn and John Goodsall on rhythm guitar. After recording Feels Good to Me, Bruford reunited with John Wetton and formed the progressive rock group U.K.. After their debut album U.K. (1978) and several tours, Holdsworth and Bruford left the group due to disagreements.
Bruford resumed activity in his own group to release One of a Kind (1979). Almost entirely instrumental, the album contains some spoken lines by Bruford during the introduction to "Fainting in Coils". Subsequent gigs spawned the live releases Rock Goes to College and The Bruford Tapes (1979). Their final album, Gradually Going Tornado (1980), features backing vocals from Canterbury scene stalwarts Barbara Gaskin and Amanda Parsons, as well as Georgina Born on cello. Unfinished songs for a projected fourth album were recorded in 1980, but remained unreleased until 2017.
In 1981, Bruford returned to King Crimson in a new formation with Fripp, Tony Levin, and Adrian Belew. The four recorded Discipline (1981), Beat (1982), and Three of a Perfect Pair (1984), all featuring Bruford on acoustic and electronic drums, allowing him to play programmed tuned pitches and sound effects which expanded his capabilities as a result. In 1984, Fripp disbanded the group.
In 1983, Bruford formed a duo with Swiss keyboardist and former Yes member Patrick Moraz after he learned that Moraz was living close to him in Surrey. The project had Bruford develop a "real taste for improvising". Under the name Moraz/Bruford, the two released Music for Piano and Drums (1983) and Flags (1985), two albums recorded on acoustic instruments. The albums were supported with several live shows, including a tour of Japan.
In 1986, Bruford formed his jazz group Earthworks with Django Bates, Iain Ballamy and Mick Hutton (later replaced by Tim Harries), with initial assistance from Dave Stewart. By then, drum technology had improved to Bruford's satisfaction and he resumed using the instrument, specifically the Simmons electronic drum kit. The band toured the US club circuit through 1987.
Bruford temporarily put Earthworks on hold in 1988 after Jon Anderson invited him to form Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe with other former Yes members Rick Wakeman and Steve Howe (although he'd initially been under the impression that he'd be playing on an Anderson solo album). Bruford was attracted to the idea of recording on Montserrat (as well as the opportunity to better finance Earthworks via the larger fees he'd command as an in-demand rock musician), and convinced Anderson to hire Tony Levin on bass for the project. Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe was released in 1989 and the group toured the album worldwide. In 1990, ABWH and Yes merged to become an eight-member formation of Yes which saw the release of Union (1991), mixing tracks by Yes and those that ABWH had recorded for a proposed second album. Most of the band were openly critical of the album; Bruford said: "The worst record I've ever been on". He took part in the subsequent Union Tour, and though he enjoyed the enthusiastic audiences in large venues and performing with former band mates, he found the experience "pretty horrible".
In 1990, Bruford was inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame. He left Yes in the same year, although he and Steve Howe would later undertake a recording project together in 1992/1993 to have an orchestra reinterpret some of Yes' works. The resulting album, titled Symphonic Music of Yes, was released on RCA records in 1993.
In January 1991, Bruford reconvened Earthworks: the group would continue in its current form until 1993, recording one further studio album and a live album before the departure of Django Bates and the subsequent fissioning of the whole band.
King Crimson re-emerged once more in 1994 as a six-piece band, consisting of its 1980s line-up along with Trey Gunn on Warr Guitars and Pat Mastelotto sharing the drumming duties with Bruford. Dubbed the "double trio" configuration, between 1994 and 1996 they released the EP Vrooom (1994), the full-length studio album Thrak (1995), and two live albums, B'Boom: Live in Argentina (1995) and Thrakattak (1996).
Rehearsals to create new King Crimson material followed, as well as a week of performance with the sub-group ProjeKcts One in 1997, after which Bruford left the band and its iterations for good. His reason for abandoning King Crimson was his frustration with rehearsals, which he felt weren't going anywhere.
In 1997, Bruford moved focus from rock to acoustic jazz, partly due to the fact that he could go no further with electronic drums. In 1997 he put together an entirely new line-up of Earthworks, this time with pianist Steve Hamilton, saxophonist Patrick Clahar, and double bass player Geoff Gascoyne (the latter soon replaced by Mark Hodgson). Although Earthworks would undergo further lineup changes (with Tim Garland replacing Clahar as saxophonist in 2001, Gwilym Simcock replacing Hamilton as pianist in 2004, and Laurence Cottle replacing Hodgson on bass circa 2005), the revived band would maintain a consistent, predominantly acoustic post-bop approach focussing on Bruford's compositions. During 2005, Earthworks would temporarily combine with Garland's Underground Orchestra project to form the Earthworks Underground Orchestra. Earthworks finally disbanded in 2008.
While Earthworks remained Bruford's primary focus, he also sought other collaborations in the final twelve years of his career. These included a collaboration with Americans Eddie Gomez and Ralph Towner in 1997, the jazz-rock band Bruford Levin Upper Extremities (1998), a duo with Dutch pianist Michiel Borstlap (2002-2007), the contemporary composer Colin Riley with the Piano Circus collective (2009), and in presenting drum clinics.
In 2003, Bruford established two record labels. Winterfold Records covers his earlier releases including his guitar and rock-oriented music. The other, Summerfold Records, focuses on his jazz output, mostly from post-1987.
Bruford retired from public performance on 1 January 2009 (except for one low-key performance with Ann Bailey's Soul House in 2011). He retired from studio recording at the same time, although his final studio work, Skin & Wire, was not released until later that year. His autobiography was released in early 2009. In 2016, after four years of study, Bruford earned a PhD in Music at the University of Surrey.
Many artists have cited Bruford as an influence, including Danny Carey,Mike Portnoy,Matt Cameron,Brann Dailor,Tim "Herb" Alexander,Gene Hoglan,Aaron Harris,Chad Cromwell,Ben Koller,Chris Pennie,Steve Arrington,Mac McNeilly,Eric Kretz, and Martin Dosh. In addition, other artists have been quoted expressing admiration for his work including Neil Murray,Jimmy Keegan, and Adrian Younge.
The character "Bruford" from the popular manga/anime series JoJo's Bizarre Adventure was a direct homage to Bill as series creator Hirohiko Araki is a huge fan of his work in Yes. Araki even used Yes's "Roundabout" as the series end credit's theme.
Bruford has been involved in a number of abortive projects, including a trio with Rick Wakeman and John Wetton which made the headlines of Melody Maker in October 1976; Bruford has also told of "an abortive and late rehearsal/audition with bass player Jack Bruce out at his mansion in Essex, once, but nothing came of that." He was also approached in 1985 by ex-Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page to be the drummer for his new band with Paul Rodgers, The Firm, along with bass player Pino Palladino. "We rehearsed briefly, but I think decided we were mutually unsuited..!"
In 2017, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Yes.
Q: Which drummers have been an inspiration to you?
Danny Carey: In the prog world, Bill Bruford (King Crimson, Yes, Bruford). He was always really free thinking about electronic drums and things like that and I always appreciated that a lot, especially at one point when all of a sudden it became so uncool to use electronic drums, but I just thought, 'Ah, man, everyone should do what pleases themselves'. So yes, he was a big influence in that way. [...]
An interesting aspect of Cameron is that his drumming is deeply influenced by the fusion drummers of the seventies, especially Bill Bruford. Many Cameron fans may not be aware of these influences. However, Cameron's command of groove and space demonstrates these roots. As Cameron says, "Listening to a lot of Bruford prepared me supremely to play in Soundgarden." Cameron emphasized that (Bruford's) placement of fives and sevens as critical to writing the drum parts for the new record.
Q: You must have a big list of drummer influences.
Brann Dailor: [...] for prog, definitely Phil Collins and Bill Bruford. [...]
Q: Who are some of your biggest influences?
Gene Hoglan: [...] Bill Bruford was a big 'un, with the 80's version of King Crimson [...]
[...] The self-taught Harris has always taken a minimalist approach to the more complex odd-meter material-until now. "Danny Carey turned me onto the drumming of Bill Bruford," explains Harris. "Once I started checking out what Bruford was doing, and how he was constantly creating new musical ideas on the drums and exploring unique drumset configurations, it inspired me to open up my playing and explore different drumming concepts for our new music."
Q: Which players have most influenced that aspect of your style, especially with respect to the polyrhythms?
Chris Pennie: [...] I would have to say Bill Bruford from King Crimson and Yes [...]
Bill is a great drummer and probably a very intelligent guy. He wrote a fantastic book where he's saying many intelligent things about the music business and other musicians.
Q: You also have quite the admiration for Bill Bruford...
Adrian Younge: Oh yeah, dude he is just amazing. King Crimson and anything else he was a part of was quality work. His work on the drums was so sick dude. I love his approach because he doesn't do too much, but the little things that he does are very syncopated and interesting. That dude just creates unique compositional soundscapes.