William Scott Bruford (born May 17, 1949 in Sevenoaks, Kent, England), better known as Bill Bruford, is an influential British drummer who is recognised for his forceful, highly precise, polyrhythmic style. He was the original drummer for Yes, and has been a prominent figure in the art rock movement since the early 1970s. He has been in many other bands and collaborated on numerous projects, most famously King Crimson and his own fusion band Bruford.
He began playing the drums when he was thirteen, and was influenced by jazz drumming, which would manifest itself on early Yes albums and would remain an influence on his style throughout his career. He had success in the early seventies during his time with Yes playing on their first two albums as well as the LPs, The Yes Album, Fragile, and Close to the Edge. He left Yes at the height of their success in 1972.
Bruford explained that he chose to play drums because he watched American jazz drummers of the 1960s on BBC TV on Saturday evenings. These programmes turned the head of the thirteen-year-old Bruford. He found all the instrumentalists to be fascinating and mysterious, but particularly the drummers. His sister then gave him his first pair of brushes as a present. He later took a few lessons - while still at school - from Lou Pocock of the Royal Philharmonic, but after that he picked up other techniques wherever he found them.
He said that he never acquired drum technique for the sake of acquiring it, but as a solution to a particular problem, and if he heard something that he couldn't do, he would learn how to do it. Bruford applied this way of learning to other instruments as well, although acknowledging that he has the 'classic amateur's technique'; meaning that he knows some very difficult bits and that he has some large gaping holes in his knowledge, but his amateurism can sometimes be helpful in forging a style, because he has to work around his weaknesses.
Most of the early members of Yes all lived in the same house. They were almost confined to the property, because at short notice they would be asked to play a concert somewhere, so leaving the house for a few hours was their only freedom from the confines of the band. Bruford likened it to the life of a fireman; when the bell rang they would slide down the greasy pole and go play a gig somewhere.
Although seemingly a close-knit band, there were other sides to Yes: Bruford remembers the whole era as being very argumentative, and hot blooded. There was a constant state of friction, and plenty of arguments between Bruford, Chris Squire, and Jon Anderson. This was explained as being because all three were from totally different social backgrounds. Bruford admitted that he found it hard to understand Anderson's northern English accent, and Anderson's penchant for speaking in strange sentences that nobody could understand, which later influenced Yes' lyrics.
The band members were no strangers to alcohol, but Bruford doesn't remember a lot of "sex, drugs and rock n' roll". The whole band used to drink a lot of alcohol, and they often visited a club in London called the Speakeasy that the band's manager, Roy Flynn, also managed. The Speakeasy stayed open until two or three in the morning, so Yes could play a gig in England within a hundred-and-fifty mile radius and still make it back to the Speakeasy at about two o'clock, where they drank "large amounts" of scotch and coke.
Bruford, by 1972, had felt that Yes had come as far as it could, or at least as far as he could contribute to it. He didn't want to spend what he felt was an inordinate amount of time in the studio debating chords and producing records that he felt would only be in the shadow of Close To The Edge. His main reason for leaving the band, however, was the fact that his rehearsals with bassist Chris Squire were always delayed. Waiting for Squire to turn up was the worst thing he had to endure. He once had a fist-fight with Squire after a concert, because they had violently disagreed about who had played badly. Bruford also had time-keeping problems with Chris Squire, and said that Squire is, "I'm sure, a wonderful guy. But in those days he was also very, very late." Squire was consistently late for all appointments, departures, arrivals, and sound checks. According to Bruford, it is the most grievous form of offense that one musician can visit upon another. He suggested that it's the last guy who enters the room is seen as the "biggest guy." Squire used to keep Yes waiting for everything, and Bruford suggests that they are quite possibly "still waiting for everything".
After Yes, Bruford "spent a lot of time waiting for the phone to ring, and wondering if it ever would" (Melody Maker) until he was asked to work with Gong and National Health. National Health's keyboardist was Dave Stewart who would later play on the Bruford albums.
Bruford later accepted an invitation from Robert Fripp to join King Crimson, which he had wanted to join for quite some time. 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".
He admits that his note-reading skills are slower than he would like: "I learned how to read the horizontal lines, but not the vertical notes." Despite this, he has successfully composed lots of (written) compositions over the years, albeit slowly.
Bruford was more interested in artistic pursuits, and the framework of King Crimson appealed to that sensibility in him. He cites the six months that the group contained avant-garde percussionist Jamie Muir as tremendously influential on him as a player, opening him up to "musical worlds I had only vaguely suspected existed". Violin, viola and keyboard player David Cross was selected to flesh out the sound of the new band. Rehearsals and touring began in late 1972, and Larks' Tongues in Aspic was released early the next year, and the group spent the remainder of 1973 touring Britain, Europe, and America. Fripp's guitar playing was loud and aggressive, and Bruford's propulsive drumming meshed with John Wetton's often powerful bass guitar.
The band seems to have undergone a gradual disbanding over the next year. Two albums were released with the four member lineup (Fripp, Wetton, Bruford, Cross), Starless and Bible Black, and live album USA. Finally, as a 3-piece (Fripp, Wetton, Bruford) King Crimson released Red. Many consider this King Crimson's most formative and experimental period. After the release of Red, Fripp decided to disband King Crimson.
Bruford also spent a year touring with Genesis in 1976, recordings from which appeared on the Genesis live album Seconds Out.
The job of percussionist in Genesis was offered to Queen's Roger Taylor, who turned it down, so Bruford, who was working together with Collins on a collaborative album as a soundtrack for an animated film called Peter and the Wolf, suggested drumming while Collins sang until they found a permanent live drummer.
Although a friend and colleague of Collins', it was said that Bruford "behaved badly, sniped critically and impotently from the side lines", whilst working with Genesis, for which he subsequently apologised.
Bruford said that Phil Collins struck him as a good drummer and singer, and that he was driven in the sense that he wanted Genesis to be a success. He doesn't recall how successful they were at the time of A Trick of the Tail or if they got into the charts. He said that he can't remember, because it wasn't really his concern. He was just concerned with doing a good job on drums as a kind of 'hired gun'. He also said that Collins is overly sensitive to criticism, and that Collins seems to be overly concerned about what the 'Gardening Correspondent' on the 'New Jersey Gazette' thinks
Bill Bruford led his own band in the late 1970s, called simply "Bruford". Members of the band were initially Dave Stewart (keyboards), Jeff Berlin (bass), Allan Holdsworth (guitar) and Bruford (drums).
The first album also had Annette Peacock on vocals, and Kenny Wheeler on flugelhorn. The second album, One of a Kind, was mostly instrumental. There were two live albums from this period. Bruford - Rock Goes To College was a DVD release from the eponymous BBC television series and The Bruford Tapes, a live show originally broadcast for radio station WLIR, where guitarist John Clark replaced Holdsworth.
Bass-player Berlin sang the vocals on Gradually Going Tornado.
Following his first solo album, he was involved in a reunion with King Crimson bassist and vocalist John Wetton in the progressive rock group UK. During his time in the band, from 1977 to 1978, the band released its eponymous debut album and conducted a small tour of the United States and Canada, after which he left the band to record two more solo albums as 'Bruford'.
Bruford was part of a newly formed King Crimson again in 1981 with a different lineup, consisting of Bruford, Robert Fripp on guitar, Tony Levin on bass and Chapman Stick, and Adrian Belew on guitars and vocals. He recorded Discipline, Beat, and Three of a Perfect Pair with them, moving to a kit of both acoustic and electronic drums and using his renowned polyrhythmic style, before they disbanded again in 1984.
King Crimson re-emerged once more in 1994 as a six-piece band, consisting of its 1980s lineup along with Trey Gunn on Warr guitar and Pat Mastelotto sharing the drumming duties with Bruford. This so-called 'double trio' configuration recorded one full-length album, 1995's THRAK, as well as experimenting with the ProjeKcts, before Levin and Bruford left the band. Bruford's reasons for abandoning the double trio were a result of his frustration with rehearsals:
“ Well, I think the King Crimson double-trio project sank fabulously without a trace. There were just a few bubbles left on the surface, and the Almighty swallowed it up. It was difficult period certainly for both me and Robert [Fripp]. ”
Bruford couldn’t see the purpose in further rehearsals, which were getting very expensive. He felt that the band didn’t seem to be going anywhere with them. He wanted to move forward, and couldn’t understand why they were not going forward. Robert Fripp, obviously, wasn’t happy with the music either. They had ten days of rehearsals, and Bruford said that he had had enough, and that he couldn't contribute anything at all. The music was going nowhere, he had nothing to say about it, and nothing to contribute, so it was best that he then proceeded with a full-time jazz career.
Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe (sometimes referred to by the acronym ABWH) was a permutation of the progressive rock band Yes. The group consisted of vocalist Jon Anderson, drummer Bill Bruford, keyboardist Rick Wakeman, and guitarist Steve Howe, with Tony Levin providing the bass duties since Yes bassist Chris Squire was involved with the real Yes. These Yes alumni had played together on the most popular recordings by Yes in the early 1970s. Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe recorded one self-titled studio album in 1989. A live recording from their subsequent concert tour was released in 1993.
Bruford would rejoin Yes briefly in 1991 and 1992 for the Union album and tour, so titled because it brought together ABWH and the members of Yes prior to the union as an eight-member band. His comments about the album and tour:
“ Well, the more money you pay for a record, the more money you interfere with it – and this was a big budget record. So, they eventually decided that the guys in France (Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe) needed the assistance of all the other Yes guys in California (Chris Squire, Tony Kaye, Trevor Rabin and Alan White). So, our work was duly e-mailed, I guess, to them. They were then put on and found lacking. Then, also put on was a cast of a thousand studio musicians. So, the whole thing turned into the most God awful, auto-corrected mess you could possibly imagine! The worst record I’ve ever been on. ”
About the tour:
“ Well, the Union tour was pretty horrible, really. I mean it was just a sort of a summer vacation. It was um... fun to do in the sense there were some 'old pals' and it was possible to do because we didn't have to give rise to any new music. So in as much as the band was just playing repertoire material, there was kind of a 'ticket buy' in the idea of all those, you know, the entire cast of Dallas on stage at once, kind of thing. And there was some kind of attraction to that. But that was really all it was, I think. And I think I was probably an unnecessary spare part. So I didn't enjoy it terribly. But those gigs can be quite fun as performing in huge stadiums can be quite fun on a kind of purely visceral level. Just kind of being there and enjoying it. I don't venture, however, you'd want to give up your day job to do it. ”
Bruford and Steve Howe would later undertake a recording project together in 1992/1993 to have an orchestra reinterpret some of Yes' most memorable works, but this would prove to be the very last of his involvement with Yes. "The Symphonic Music of Yes" was released on RCA records in 1993.
Judging by his erratic recording career, one is led to think that Bruford himself is erratic, but this is not the case. Bruford, again: "It may be that you get paid very well, which is great, because then you can use the money to do more creative things."
Earthworks was formed in 1986 and featured Django Bates on keyboards and Iain Ballamy on saxes.
Bruford is perhaps most famous for having revolutionized drumming through the use of Simmons electronic drums and his melodic drumming, though in recent years he has returned to using a primarily acoustic drum set. While Bruford has creative freedom with Earthworks, he continues to collaborate with many musicians, including one-time Yes keyboardist Patrick Moraz (with whom he recorded two albums in the 1980s) and bassist Tony Levin. Earthworks has been his primary focus in recent years, particularly after his departure from the latest incarnation of King Crimson (which ended the band's 'double trio' experiment).
In an interview for The San Diego Union-Tribune (15 May 2003) he said, "I have this image that I might be a 'rock guy on vacation'. That idea is anathema to me — and I've cured it by making eight albums with Earthworks."
He described Earthworks as "seeing music as a social encounter, where you look another guy in the eyes across the room, say 'one-two-three-four' and the music begins. That's where my pleasure lies, for sure" (Los Angeles Times, 16 May 2003).
Bruford, noting the alliterative qualities of both names, would sometimes wear a Boston Bruins tank top that had a large letter "B" on the front.
Often wore yellow clothing during the 80's King Crimson era.
Bruford has been involved in a number of abortive projects, including with Keith Emerson and Greg Lake (of ELP), with Rick Wakeman and John Wetton (to have been called British Bulldog and dating from shortly before UK), with Jimmy Page and with Jack Bruce.
Bruford was born the day before fellow Yes (band) band member Rick Wakeman.
He met his wife, Carolyn, when they were 15; marrying at 24. They have three children, Alex (born 1977, also a drummer and in the band The Infadels), Holly (born 1979) and Jack (born 1986)
Solo Discography Edit
- Master Strokes: 1978-1985 - 1986
- If Summer Had Its Ghosts - 1997
- An Introduction To Bill Bruford's Winterfold - 2005
- The Winterfold Collection 1978-1986 - 2008
- The Summerfold Collection 1987-2008 - 2009
Bruford Discography Edit
- Feels Good To Me - 1978
- One Of A Kind - 1979
- The Bruford Tapes - 1979
- Gradually Going Tornado - 1980
- UK - 1978
- Danger Money - 1979
- Night After Night - 1979 (Live)
- Concert Classics, Vol. 4 - 1999
- UK Collection - 2003
- Live In Boston - 2007
Bruford-Moraz Discography Edit
Bruford Levin Upper Extremities Discography Edit
Bruford/Borstlap Discography Edit
Absolute Elsewhere Discography Edit
- In Search Of Ancient Gods - 1976