In yet another RUSHONROCK exclusive, editor Simon Rushworth talked that band, Bruce’s Big Blues Band and the other band – featuring Living Colour’s Vernon Reid.
And if you haven’t been lucky enough to catch Bruce in action this time around it’s not too late: he plays Salisbury tonight before shows in Birmingham, Holmfirth and Newcastle on Saturday.
rushonrock: Tell us about your current band and how it came together?
Jack Bruce: Three years ago I was asked to play a gig at Ronnie Scott’s. I got on so well with the house band that night that we kind of adopted each other and the idea of playing regularly together grew from there. We’ve been doing quite a bit since then and been touring all of last year. Of course they’re mostly a lot younger than me but when you’ve been around as long as I have that tends to be the case! Nobody’s as old as me – even the hills aren’t as old as me. But age isn’t an issue for me or them.
rushonrock: And you’re still doing all of the singing?
JB: Yes, I’m the singer. I really enjoy it and much more than I ever did before. I just really, really like that side of the music. But I’m playing a lot more piano in the band and given the choice of singing or playing the piano I’d probably do the latter! I just enjoy it all. The whole vibe of live music is what I live for.
rushonrock: Do younger generations truly appreciate the history and the power of the blues?
JB: Certainly the guys in my band do! The drummer Frankie Tontoh has played in a very famous African band and the keyboard player Paddy Milner is very knowledgeable about the blues. Tony Remy’s one of the greatest guitarists in Britain right now and he’s steeped in the blues. They all know my music but they know all music. Everybody brings a bit of everything to the Big Blues Band.
rushonrock: Do you feel blessed to have had the career you’ve had or are there any regrets?
JB: I’m the luckiest guy in the world because I’ve had such a long career. Unbelievably its still going now! I’ve just done a thing in Cuba with Phil Manzanera and now I’m into my latest UK headline tour. I’m doing some more dates with Spectrum Road, doing a load of festivals, playing in Brazil and Latin America and I’m even going to Australia next year. I’ve always just gone my own way and it seems to have worked.
rushonrock: Spectrum Road sees you hook up with Living Colour’s Vernon Reid – how did you get to know him?
JB: Vernon was introduced to me by an A&R guy called Mike Caplan. This was during the late 80s and Vernon played on one of the tracks I was doing at the time. I just loved his playing and ever since then we’ve played together whenever there’s been an opportunity. I always make an effort to go and see Living Colour whenever they’re in London and we just get on so well musically.
rushonrock: How proud are you of the Cream legacy?
JB: I don’t know about proud but I realise the value of the band. Even now people still like the music we made. And I cannot distance myself from it, nor would I want to. I’m Jack Bruce of Cream just like Paul McCartney is Paul McCartney of The Beatles. I’m not ashamed of what I did with that band. Put it this way: we wrote some nifty little pop songs. That’s music that I wrote for Cream but people would be quite disappointed if I didn’t dip into it from time to time.
rushonrock: What would you say to a kid today who was wondering whether to pick up a bass guitar?
JB: In the past bass guitarists tended to be guitarists who weren’t very good. But more and more bass guitarists have chosen to specialise over the years. I started off playing the double bass and the cello so it was a little different for me. But for kids starting off now there are a lot of very good role models out there making the instrument cool. I’d say stick with the bass guitar because it really is a fantastic instrument to play.
rushonrock: Do you never feel overshadowed as a bass player?
JB: The opposite is true. Being the bass player gives you a huge amount of control over the music your band is playing and part of your job is to make sure that the other guys in the band sound good! It might not be as flashy as the lead guitar but, believe me, you can make some beautiful music. And I’ve not done too badly down the years!