bassist/singer/songwriter Jack Bruce reunited with Eric
Clapton on the recently released album "Shadows In The Air"
(Sanctuary), Bruce's first studio recording since 1995's
"Monkjack." The two played on Afro-Caribbean and
African-tinged versions of the Cream classics "Sunshine of
Your Love" and "White Room."
Although best known for his central role in the legendary
power trio, Bruce never rested on those laurels, as he has
also become known (very justly) for his explorations in
different musical directions. Among his notable post-Cream
collaborators are Lou Reed on his 1973 album "Berlin," Frank
Zappa on 1974's "Apostrophe," jazz guitarist Larry Coryell,
Mountain guitarist Leslie West, funk keyboardist Bernie
Worrell, Jimi Hendrix Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell,
Mahavishnu Orchestra drummer Billy Cobham and drumming legend
Tony Williams. He's also been a part of several tours with
Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band.
His collaborators on "Shadows" are equally impressive.
Besides Clapton, Gary Moore and Living Colour's Vernon Reid
also lend guitar, and Dr. John lays down swampy organ on "This
Anger's a Liar."
The Glasgow-born bassist spoke with Don Zulaica about the
album, recording with Aretha Franklin, and sexy instruments.
LiveDaily: Prior to the new album, when was the last
time you played with Eric Clapton?
Jack Bruce: The last time we actually played together was
The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame induction in '93 or '94. I
actually remember playing a game of football without any
goalposts with Eddie Van Halen. [laughs] I think he had
emptied my minibar--I think it was two minibars--of
mine.[laughs.] Well, that was a long time ago. We've all
changed since then.
What did Eric think of the new versions of "Sunshine of
Your Love" and "White Room?"
He loved the version of "Sunshine." It's a very similar
feel to the original, really. He had more problems with "White
Room," in feeling it, because there's no backbeat. I
deliberately wanted to make it a very different feel--it's
more African. To put a backbeat on there would have been the
easy way out. I think originally he said, "Oh, I don't know if
I can feel this." I said, "Yes you can. Come on." And he did.
I think he plays great on those tracks.
How many instruments do you play?
I'm obviously most proficient on the bass. But I play all
the piano on the album, with the exception of the tracks I
allowed Dr. John [laughing] to play, and acoustic guitar. I
was originally going to ask him to sing on the record, but
then I thought there was one constant to all 15 tracks, and
that's my voice and the two drummers. So rather than taking
away from that focus, it would have been great to have had Dr.
John sing, but I wanted to do it myself just to maintain that
"This Anger's A Liar" is certainly appropriate for Dr.
John, very New Orleans. Lyrically what were you and
[co-producer] Kip Hanrahan going for?
It's to do with what's happening to me, what has been
happening to me and to many guys who aren't kids anymore. It's
a feeling of helplessness, really, in the face of modern life.
It's kind of about the working man who hasn't got work, you
know, "these fists deceive me, they feel like they can hold
things, they really don't hold anything at all." They idea is
that this is an engineer or somebody who is sitting and
drinking a Bud, probably, because he's been made redundant.
I think it's true of what has been made of the people who
come from my background. I come from a very heavy industry
town, Glasgow. My father worked in factories there, and it was
always expected by him that I would follow in his footsteps.
Because he thought that was security, he thought that if you
had your papers, if you served an apprenticeship, you had a
job until retirement. And that very much is not the case, as
we know these days.
So I would say that song is a combination of that feeling
and the helplessness that guys have with women. [laughs] It
sort of equates the worker and the lover, really.
How did you go about recording all of the musicians
during the session?
As far as constructing the tracks, I just wanted to record
in the tried and tested way that I learned in the '60s, which
is to play live and then overdub anything you may need. I have
a theory that the reason why the music from particularly the
'60s is still alive is because it basically was recorded live.
We all went in and had the same process, which was to go in
and play a backing track, usually just bass, drums and guitar.
With Cream, we would just go lay down a basic track--remember
it was only 8-tracks--and then we'd have the opportunity to
overdub maybe one or two guitars, and vocals. And that was how
it was done. I think the reason why a lot of those songs are
still sort-of alive is because we recorded in a live manner.
The reason why I tried to do it that way was, I was very
influenced by watching Aretha Franklin record in Atlantic
Studios in New York back in the '60s. I can't remember the
name of the record now, but it was about '67, I guess. The way
that she recorded was simply to go out and sing a vocal, play
the piano, and have a bass player and a drummer play live.
Then they overdubbed the horn parts. This seems like a very
natural way to do it.
I've recorded in situations where I've laid down a drum
part and overdubbed the bass, so on and so forth. Which is
very possible to do, but I do think you lose something, you
know. You lose that intangible quality, the notes that happen
in the air, but you're not playing. This is some of the magic
of making music, because things happen because of the
overtones, and because of various factors in the recording
studio. And also in live performance, where you sometimes hear
these incredible notes that nobody is actually playing. Things
like that, you don't get, especially if you're using digital
instruments--which are really like photographs of sound. If
you're playing a piano chord, you have all of the harmonic
series happening, you know. A synthesizer, no matter how
accurate, is still only a photograph of a sound because it
doesn't have the resonance which causes the overtones which
vibrate in humans' bodies. That's what turns us on. That's why
people like the bass, because it's a very sexy instrument--it
gets you right in the midriff.