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Interview with Malcolm Bruce – The Music of Cream

Malcolm Bruce, the son of Cream singer and bassist, Jack Bruce, is a composer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and engineer. Malcolm grew up in the thick of rock royalty and, via the Guildhall School of Music, began performing professionally at 16 years of age. He has shared studios and appeared on recordings with Little Richard, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Dr John and Joe Bonamassa, and recorded and performed with his father in the UK, US and Europe. Following their successful inaugural tour across Australia and New Zealand in 2017, the pedigree of hallowed ‘60s trio Cream—Ginger Baker’s son Kofi Baker, Jack Bruce’s son Malcolm Bruce and Eric Clapton’s nephew Will Johns—have come together for the first time in the UK to pay homage to the band’s extraordinary legacy with The Music Of Cream – 50th Anniversary World Tour. The four-date UK tour which starts at the Glasgow O2 Academy on Friday 23rd November, celebrates 50 years since the original line-up’s farewell UK concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London on November 26, 1968.

I caught up with Malcolm to find out more about what we can expect from the UK tour of The Music of Cream, his latest projects and memories of his father.

Hi Malcolm thanks for speaking to me today, how is 2018 going for you so far?

It’s going very well thanks, doing lots writing at the moment at home, so yes I’m being a very studios artiste at the moment. I’m writing songs for my next solo album and I’ve also started work on an opera; a contemporary classical. I’ve never written an opera before so it’s a huge undertaking but it’s going well and I’m very excited about it.

How did the idea for this tour come about and how long did it take to bring it to life?

Well I’ve known Kofi and Will for a long time. I’ve been in bands with Kofi on and off over the years since I was in my late teens, but at the end of 2016 a promoter in New Zealand came forward and suggested we did a tour in Australia and New Zealand so we did that last June- ‘Music of Cream’ which went very well. Susbsequent to that we got some agents and various people in different territories and we are building it up. The idea is to do this and take it round the world for a couple of years as a nice tribute to our heritage.

How does it feel getting to play the same songs on stage that your Dad and Cream used to play?

It’s amazing music to play because of the opportunity to improvise and to stretch out the material, its great and a real honour to be able to do it. I think that we do a pretty good job because we’re not a tribute band in a sense that we play every note that they played, we are just taking the spirit of their music which was improvising really, and they never did it the same twice so we’re not doing it the same twice either.

Is there anything different the UK fans can expect when you play here later this year compared to when you toured the show in Australia and New Zealand?

The set is constantly evolving and we are experimenting with different songs and different things. When we did it last year we had Glen Hughes and Robin Ford as special guests, and that was wonderful because they are both so amazing, but I think what we learnt from the process is that it doesn’t really work having more than three guys on the stage- because the music really is built for that trio format and the magic of that. It also gives the ability to have space in the music and for each instrument to really sing out and be an equal part. So I think it’ll be different as we are just stripping it back to the three of us. We will still have the occasional special guest get up and do a song, but I think that’s what we learnt from the tour last year that no matter how wonderful- I mean Glenn is amazing and Robin is amazing too – but for us it just didnt really gel, because suddenly you’ve got more than that magic number three on stage.

What is your favourite Cream song to perform and is this different to your favourite cream song?

Wow! I don’t know actually, I love ‘We’re Going Wrong,’ I mean thats a really special song for me, I think it’s quite magical. But no, I like all of their songs. I wouldn’t say I have a favourite, they all have quite a diverse feel. I also like the classics- ‘I Feel Free’ and ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ etc, but ‘We’re Going Wrong’ is the special one for me to perform.

You also released an album of your own music last year ‘Salvation’ which you toured here in the UK last year. What were your goals going into producing that album; are you pleased with how it came out?

Well that was quite a long process. I tracked the basic record in Nashville about two years ago and then it took me a little while to finish it; just because I was doing other projects.and various different things happened. It went through a huge evolution- I went through a breakup with this girl and that kind of rewrote a fair bit of it. I think I learnt a lot through the process, I’m not sure I really achieved what I set out to do, but you know maybe you never do with these things, but yeah I like some of it, I think some of its alright (laughter).  I think now for me to make the next album is the important thing because then there’s a progression of thought, so I’ll be getting out on the road with my own band early next year hopefully with a new album.

Who has been your favourite musician to jam with over the years?

Wow that’s a difficult one, well when I was growing up I used to do that with my Father a lot just at home. From an early age we would just mess around and we even made a record together when I was 13-14, just on a 4-track. I did a lot of improvising with my dad over the years, so he was a huge influence in that sense, his openness as a musician and his willingness to explore had a big influence on me for sure.

Following on from that, how old were you when you decided that getting in to the music industry was what you wanted to do?

I knew I wanted to be a musician by 9-10 years old. I liked cricket, rugby and football at the same time, but music definitely took precedence very early on that’s for sure.

Have you got a favourite memory of being out on the road with your Dad?

Ooh I dont know..so many; I saw him once when I was about 8 or 9 and he played at the Rainbow in London with John Mclaughlin. That was a pretty memorable gig-  then funnily enough I met Gary Husband, the drummer, subsequent to that and he whipped out this cassette tape and said ‘I was at that gig and I recorded it from the audience’. I was with my dad at the time and we all got to listen to that show again from a cassette.

Is there a venue you’d love to play that you haven’t played yet?

There are quite a few, I mean I’ve played a lot of venues all over the world now. But I havent played Shea Stadium or the Albert Hall, I’d love to play the Albert Hall at some point, Madison Square Garden would be nice too, there are tonnes you know.

What’s the best way you’ve found to pass time whilst on the road between shows?

My experience with being on the road that it is kind of tiring, so getting enough rest and eating is important. I’m quite heavily in to yoga and meditation and stuff like that, so I try and carve out some time each day to take care of myself in that way. You can certainly be very rock and roll about it on the road but I don’t think that works these days, because you know; its a real job and you have to keep stuff together, so yes lots of reading, sleeping, eating and standing on my head!

Is there anyone who you have yet to collaborate with that you would like to?

Yes Igor Stravinsky and Prince, so that’s not going to happen is it! But you know I’m very into what I want to do in terms of developing as a writer and as a performer, so I just take everything as it comes. If there is an opportunity to work with someone and that’s always a good experience… we did a session with Joe Bonamassa recently at Abbey Road Studios with Ginger Baker on drums which was quite amazing, so you know once in a while opportunities like that come along and it’s a great experience.

You are able to play a wide variety of instruments. Is there any particular one that is special or a favourite of yours?

No I think it depends on what I’m doing. The piano is definitely at the heart of what I do; just because of what it is, what it symbolises and what you can do with it. With the piano you essentialy have everything in terms of range and the ability to create texture and all of those kind of things. But then I play a lot of guitar; and bass with the Cream material and bass is a very natural thing for me to do.

What advice, from your experience, would you give to a young musician who wants to make a career in the music industry?

I mean it’s complicated these days because of the nature of the business, so my advice would be, know that this is what you have to do, this is what you are compelled to do, it’s a force of nature that’s expressing itself through you and you know if its something you really have to do then it sort of justifies doing it. It’s not always going to be an easy road financially; it’s not an easy road even if you’re successful- its still frought with problems. There are elements of being in the music industry that are more stable than others. If you want to be a gigging musician, know that you are going to have to adopt a certain type of lifestyle and that, if it works out that you can be really successful, but if doesn’t work out on that level; you are still happy to do it because it’s what you enjoy doing.

Before we wrap things up is there anything you would like to promote or say?

Just look out for me with my new album next year and please come along and support the Music of Cream. It’s going to be very exciting getting out on the road and doing it.

“The Music Of Cream – 50th Anniversary Tour” with Malcolm Bruce (bass, vocals), Kofi Baker (drums) and Will Johns (guitar, vocals) includes Glasgow O2 Academy (Nov 23), Leamington Spa Assembly (Nov 24), London O2 Forum Kentish Town (Nov 25) and Manchester O2 Ritz (Nov 26). 

Tickets are available from www.musicofcream.com

About Kevin Dibben

I am a huge music fan, with my favourite genres being Rock, Metal and Blues. After always being a keen photographer, it didnt take long before I got involved in gig photography and more recently interviewing bands and artists which is always interesting and great fun!

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