Interviewed by Mark Dean (Journalist/Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine
Jack Bruce, the composer, the singer, the multi-instrumentalist, the Legend. Hailed as one of the most powerful vocalists and greatest bassists of his time, his improvisational skill and utterly unique, free-spirited approach to composition and performance would forever change electric music. His pioneering, full-toned, free-wheeling playing on the electric bass revolutionized the way the instrument is used and influenced the playing of countless bassists to today, including Sting and Jaco Pastorius. His work with bands such as Cream and the Tony Williams Lifetime, as well as his solo material, unlocked the doors to the pent-up energy of a new approach to the art of sound, breaking the barriers of tradition and creating a kind of music that had never been heard.
To promote his first solo album release in 10+years I was given the opportunity to have a chat with the man himself.
Jack”Is that Mark?”
It is indeed, how are you? you’ve been expecting my call then? Occasionally I would ring people and due to a problem somewhere they don’t know exactly who I am.
Jack”I’m good, yes I have been up all night expecting you. I have been very nervous” (laughing)
You and me both Jack. Your new album “Silver Rails”will be out soon, your first release in over ten years. If you could outline for me the idea behind the album and how it all came together.
Jack”All right, the head of the record company Esoteric is a guy called Mark Powell and over the years he has released a lot of my back catalogue stuff. He is very good and he came up with the idea. He said”do you fancy doing a studio album”?I thought “yeah, that sounds good”I just decided to do that and I started writing just about over a year ago now. My kid who is at uni but he is also a drummer he played me a couple of the tracks(just by chance really)of a band that he was listening to. A band called Ohm(featuring Chris Poland ex Megadeth) and another band called Earth. Have you heard of those guys?
I have heard of Earth definitely
Jack”They had a big influence on me and I thought”Ahh that’s interesting”. So the first song that I wrote was “Drone”which was the kind of music and the genre that they play really. I just called it”Drone”Out of that song all the other songs kind of came,if you know what I mean?
Is there a link/theme or concept between the songs on the album?
Jack”Yes there is musical links, and also some lyrical links. Definitely musical because”Drone” is very related to “Hidden Cities”one of the other songs musically. All the songs just came to follow each other as I was writing them. I thought that in this point of my life that it would be quite hard to come up with interesting songs-or songs even. It actually wasn’t hard at all, they seemed to be wanted to be written -those songs.
The album also includes a revisiting of two older songs of yours.?
Jack”Yes I did, I often, I always do that really when I do albums. If there is things that I want to redo I don’t hesitate to do that.”Keep it down”I think is a song that didn’t really get the attention that it might have and that it should have got. I think that it is an important song, it’s an anti-heroin song. I just wanted to make it simple, it got a bit complicated on the original. The same in “No Surrender”which I know is a bit of a funny title. It is also like a statement. Yes I wanted to revisit them and see what I could come up with. I was very fortunate to have Bernie Marsden who happened to be at Abbey Road.”
Yes I am very familiar with Bernie’s music primarily with Whitesnake in their early life.
Jack”Yeah I worked with Bernie in the seventies. I was guested on a solo album that he did. He happened to be at Abbey Road doing another solo album I think. I just saw him and said turn round and come in here”You are hired, and cant go home yet”I think that he did some lovely playing-as did all the guitar players I think. I have got all those different great guitar players from Phil Manzanera on the first track”Candlelight”. That was because a couple of years ago Phil and myself went to Cuba to play with some Cuban musicians. We got quite friendly and we are really good friends now. I thought as that has kind of a Caribbean , calypso …I don’t know what you would call it, its got that sort of feeling to it I thought it would be right up his street.”
I’m now going to ask you a couple of career-retrospective questions. Can you identify a particular high point of your career? Or anything in particular that personally stands out?
Jack”I think that you have got to say “Cream”When I first had the big success with Cream, it was a big slog and certainly didn’t happen overnight. When the songs that I wrote with Pete Brown were suddenly big hit songs -the singles. I would have to say that was the highest. When you are sitting in New York in a taxi driving around and its playing its just a great feeling.”
I note that you are very active on social media with Facebook etc.
Jack”I like to try and keep up with all that because these days its ridiculously hard to make a record. You have got to try and sell it. I just try to do what I can. Its also like with the album, it’s come out on vinyl, it’s come out with the “making of “DVD and the straight ahead CD. You have got to do all you can. You cant just bung out a record and reap the benefits. It doesn’t work that way any more.”
You have also been a participant in the rock and roll camps for many years. Is that fan interaction and connection something that you have always strive to preserve?
Jack”Well definitely, it’s more like… Its not fans so much in that I like to encourage younger musicians if they are starting out. The fantasy camp thing, they are more like fans those guys. They have good fun, and its a good thing to do.”
You have had major health crises over the years,just wondered how you were physically these days.?In that you are still out on the road and playing gigs regularly still.
Jack”As well as can be expected,I am still here. I am just very grateful every day to be alive,but I think we all should be like that. You just never know what may happen. I have just recently lost a very young good friend of mine in his twenties. Those things just happen. “
Have things like that and your more personal several near death experience made you develop a sense of spirituality?
Jack”I don’t know if that is the right word. I think philosophical is a better description of me. I am very interested in philosophy, people like Spinoza and Nietzsche. That’s were I get my inspiration from rather than a straight ahead religion or anything like that. I love Nietzsche’s idea of whatever it is you’ve got to love it. Whatever happens to you, if you get really ill you have got to love the disease sort of thing. Its not easy to do but its worth a bash.”
You have touched on a particular high point, and I suppose your health would have then been the lowest points?
Jack”In a way, but everything is a learning experience. Every human goes through life, it doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor or whatever things happen to everybody. In families or on your own whatever and you cant run away from that. It’s not even in a career sense, we all have to live and things happen. Career-wise? I think that I have been extremely lucky, I have not really had an extremely low point. I have always been able to make a living, be a bit creative and do what I want to do. I am not complaining about that at all.(laughs) “
A few years ago you did the Cream reunion shows. Does it annoy you that fans will always want to talk about that small period of your varied and extensive career?
Jack”They loved that band, and it makes you realize that they love that. The feeling of love when we went on the Albert hall stage the first night was almost overwhelming. You cant really argue with that. All of us had the same feeling, I think it was great to do that-definitely. I am not as well-known as Eric so I am still called “the bass player from Cream”.
Best piece of advice ever given?
Jack”I cant say that I remember being given any advice. There was one when I was first starting out really as a young singer which is how I really started. There was a great teacher I had in Glasgow and he said that “just remember that when you write music its not your music. It belongs to the world.”I have always taken that to heart. You don’t own music, you have got to make a living if you are a professional musician/composer or whatever. But you don’t own it and it belongs to everybody. That was a good bit of advice”
What in your life are you most proud of?
Jack”My children I think, they are great people and I am very proud. They have brought me up very well”
Jack” I don’t have any regrets. I think that you cant have any regrets. If you do have them then you will be a bit bitter and twisted. I have made a lot of mistakes, but who hasn’t? You try and learn from them and if you don’t learn from them that’s bad you know.”
Are you still motivated, driven and passionate about your music and what you create?
Jack”Oh very much so, I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t. That would be silly, I just love playing. Two years ago I had toured all over the world with my Big Blues band .We went to South America, we played Japan, I mean we went everywhere. That was fantastic and a bit exhausting. It was definitely great to have done that you know. I think that I am a very lucky guy-well I know that I am.”
Would you still have any unfulfilled ambitions? Or have you achieved everything that you first set out to.
Jack”What I would love to do, would be to do another album. I have started writing the songs for the next one. That is my big ambition, to go in at a similar time around November/December. Just go into Abbey Road and just do the next one.”
I have read several times that Cream are often linked to the birth of”heavy metal”as a musical genre? How do you feel about that, and does that description rest comfortably with you?
Jack”You know I like a certain amount of metal, I wouldn’t take the blame for it though(laughs) I would pass that on to Led Zeppelin really if I had to. Seriously our band did have a big influence on a lot of the younger guys coming along. I remember meeting Lemmy and people like that and them telling me that. I am very proud of that really. I think that there is some really great music that came out of it. Obviously there are some eighties stuff that….There is always a bit of iffy music around isn’t there?
Yes always. What would you say have been the best and worst changes in the music industry since you first started as a young musician?
Jack”Well obviously now its really hard to make records, actual albums really. It’s all downloads and that’s a shame. I deliberately made this on vinyl because I love the format of an album. To me it is the great thing, and yes I guess that I am struggling to bring that back. It is very, very difficult nowadays to do that. That is a big change in the business. Years ago you would do gigs to sell your album and now it is the other way round. I just love the album-and it is lovely to be able to do it. I have never made music for the money anyway(fortunately these days). I just love the form of the album and as long as I am allowed to do it then I will.”
Many bands are now releasing new music on that format, and vinyl sales are on the increase again.
Jack”I know that many of my friends are either getting their old record players out or even buying them in some cases. They have kept hold of their albums but have often packed away their record players. I think that is great.”
Living in the internet age nothing is private anymore. What would you say is the biggest misconception about Jack Bruce?
Jack”Probably that I never really got enough credit for Cream. A lot of people think that Eric was the lead singer and he wrote the songs and all that stuff (laughing)but it was me. That can be a bit annoying sometimes. That’s the way that it goes. Somebody gets the credits…”
A couple of questions to finish on. What would you say is the best feeling in the world?
Jack”The best feeling in the world, is playing in a great band to an audience. Definitely. There is nothing like it. It is like you go into another universe, and it takes years off you.”
Just one final question then. I am sure that you have done many many interviews over the years. If you could interview someone, who would it be and what would you ask them?
Jack”That’s a good question. I think that it would have to be Bob Dylan. I remember some of his mad interviews in the early days. He would just do jokey ones and I think that you could get a good rapport going with him, you know.”
Is he someone that you have met over the years?
Jack”Yeah, I know him quite well. I know he is a bit of a fan.”
To return to the new album in conclusion.What are your touring plans following its release?
Jack”I was going to be doing some gigs in Britain, but I have had to put them back as I got a really bad flu. That is something that I am very prone to, and it can be quite serious in my case. I have had to postpone those dates.I am definitely going to be doing them later on in the year. If people can go on Facebook or on the website they will find out about that. I am not the kind of guy that likes to let people down. I would like to turn up for the gig if I can. You have been very active in this albums release so it obviously would be favorable to have the chance to play the new songs in a live setting.
Jack”Yes especially with my band, which is an eight piece band. All of the horns the drummer and the guitar player Tony Remy played on a lot of the album. It would be a good sound”
Jack Bruce its been a pleasure, good luck with your health,the album and the tour. Thanks
Jack”Its a pleasure Mark, thanks very much. Bye”