Chatting to Malcolm Bruce about The Music of Cream and how rock music can start a revolution
- Published on Thursday, 03 October 2019 13:38
- Last Updated on 04 October 2019
- Monica Costa
- 0 Comments
It doesn’t happen every day to have a wonderful conversation with a person you deeply connect with at so many levels, let alone when that person is Malcolm Bruce, the son of Jack Bruce, one of the most iconic rock musicians the world has ever seen. Jack Bruce along with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker were Cream, a band with a chemical explosion like no other, the blueprint for every supergroup to follow and the heavy blues precursor to Hendrix, Zeppelin and so much more. Fifty years since their earth-shaking debut album, the bloodlines of that hallowed trilogy come together to pay tribute to Cream’s legendary four-album reign over the psychedelic frontier of the late 1960s. Kofi Baker (son of Ginger) and Malcolm Bruce unite with Will Johns (Eric’s nephew by marriage and son of Zeppelin/ Stones/ Hendrix engineer Andy) to unleash the sound that roused a generation: songs like “Spoonful”, “Strange Brew”, “Sunshine of Your Love”, “White Room”, “Crossroads” and “Badge” are performed by the next generation of Cream, master musicians in their own right whose lives have been steeped in the Cream spirit and legacy.
The Music of Cream is a Once-In-a-lifetime concert salute to the most innovative and explosive supergroup of all time, in the hands of those that knew them best. In a new multimedia experience, watch with awe as Kofi and Malcolm interplay live with their fathers on the big screen; as classic moments in rock history with Clapton are brought back to life by his nephew Will Johns. The band will share personal insights and stories, complete with rare, unseen family footage and photographs. This is a truly immersive experience for Cream lovers. Intimate & unique performed by close family members of the original band, who are born and bred into skilled musicianship.
I hope you’ll enjoy my chat to Malcolm as much as I did.
Monica Costa (Monica): I’m really excited about the Music of Cream. To tell you a little secret, I love rock music and I am the lead singer in a (non-professional) rock band. We play just for fun and for charity. It was one of my top 10 things to do before I die.
Malcolm Bruce (Malcolm): You won’t be dying tomorrow (giggle).
Monica: Hopefully not, because I want to keep singing in the band. Cream and Eric Clapton’s songs, all this music has always been in my DNA.
Malcolm: You are Italian from your accent. My father owned a small house in a little village near Ventimiglia. I used to go there a lot. It’s beautiful. About 10 years ago in Rome, I was playing in the support band for Joe Satriani. We did a tour and we played all the way through Italy and everyone was crazy about Joe. Fans were turning up with all their guitars, getting him to sign them and I just loved that.
Monica: You brought back the music of Cream, to pay homage to your dad’s music legacy. It’s almost 50 years today to the day when Cream had their epic concert.
Malcolm: Yeah, they formed in 1966 so we’re actually beyond 50 years now. But yes, just right around this time, it was around 50 years ago. My mum is still around, she lives close to me down in North London. And she wrote two songs for Cream. She wrote the very first song that they ever wrote, which is called Sleepy time time. She wrote the words and my dad wrote the music and then she wrote another song called Sweet wine with Ginger Baker. So my mum’s like the fourth member of Cream. It’s a family thing, really. They were all very successful, but they were all in bands together before that band came together.
Monica: I understand that your Music of Cream tour will bring back the iconic music of your parents. What will the immersive multi-media experience show look like?
Malcolm: Well, yeah, to some degree. We don’t have holograms or anything like that. We’ve got some screens where we’re showing video and photographs and tell a few stories in between songs about growing up with our dads and our uncle and a few things about the music. And as we continue, we’ll probably get more into that next year. This project won’t go on forever, but over the next couple of years we’ll take it around the world. Next year we’re going to focus more on the, the album Disraeli Gears, Cream’s second studio album, and talk about how the album was made and the stories around that when they went to New York to record. It’s exciting. We connected with Tony Palmer who filmed the Farewell Concert, the live recording of the band’s final concert at the Royal Albert Hall on 26 November 1968.
He’s given us permission to use the footage and also he sent us some never-seen-before footage. Out-takes and various things like that. And we’ve got the support from the people that were originally involved, which is really wonderful. We’re not copying them. We’re not dressing up like them and all of that. The weird outfits, no! I don’t have any purple suede flares with psychedelic stuff. Well, although maybe I’ll do that.
Monica: Mod fashion is back in trend now. It’s all coming back now because of Mad Men.
Malcolm: I like it. The one thing about Cream that’s so special is that we’re able to improvise and create music on the spot. So music is always recreating itself. All good music has that element. We need it in our world in which everything is so corporate and manufactured. That has an effect on people’s minds, when you don’t have that kind of sense of freedom within things. We feel we have a responsibility here. We would never try to pretend that we’re better than the original band but we grew up around them. So we inherited their passion and skills.
Monica: It’s in your DNA! My vocal coach told me that, playing and singing in a rock band has the same neurological effect of meditation. I mean, sod meditation, who is good at that? I’m certainly not good at that but I am ok as a rock chick.
Malcolm: Well, I’ve been doing transcendental meditation for 28 years.
Monica: Wow, you’re good then.
Malcolm: Oh yeah. With that particular technique, when it’s done correctly, it’s very effortless. You don’t have to be good at it. It’s not true. It’s just really just accessing a deep part of yourself. Music has the power to do that too. It makes time stand still. And I think that’s when you know that the magic is happening. When you lose sense of real time and you find yourself just in a sense of presence, divine presence, I guess you could call it. So, you know music does have the power to do that. Some people go swimming or do slightly naughty things actually to get you in the same place too. (giggles)
Monica: Rock and roll is pretty good to me. It takes my mind off things, music in general.
Now a question you’ve probably been asked many times. What’s been for you personally growing up with such a music legend. I mean, you clearly have inherited his passion and talent for music.
Malcolm: Firstly, I really appreciate you saying that about my dad because the interesting thing about history is that it’s written by the winners and rewritten and people can be written out of history. And, my dad is, in my opinion, one of the greatest artists but it’s not just because he’s my dad, but, in terms of the industry and the media, he’s sideline, people don’t really talk about him. They don’t really know about him in the same way that they should. I grew up around understanding that he was just my dad as well, but he was somebody that really was living and breathing music in a way that nobody else does except Charles Mingus or Stravinsky or the great artists of our time. My dad had, in his own way, the touch of that greatness. I hope that, in my own way, I’ve got that too. Playing Cream is not the only thing that I’m doing. I’m doing all my own music and lyrics, but it’s a great vehicle for three of us in the van to get exposure in your business and to play incredible music. To just have that opportunity to go out live and not have to play, uh, sorry George Michael… Don’t get me wrong, but what I mean is I want to play music that is like a spiritual experience. Music has the power to change people completely. It can open people up to completely new ways of seeing the world and themselves. We’ll do that for people. And I think Cream can do that. There’s a collective experience with us on stage and the people in the audience and we just all get into it. If we do our job then we’ve all changed by the end of that show. With these moments that make you transcended the normal nitty-gritty of life. People won’t think ‘have I got enough money to see my kids tomorrow? Oh, let’s forget about that tonight.’ The music industry now is about money and a false sense of fame and image. I love all those things too. Don’t get me wrong, but The Music of Cream is a way to just get rid of all of that for a little period of time and get into the music and just have that wonderful time and experience.
Monica: It’s more like the purity, the purity of rock music, really.
Malcolm: It’s really good you say that because I think that’s what we need to find. That’s what I’m searching for when I write my own music. Growing up around my dad and working with him a lot and playing music at home, he wouldn’t never sit down and teach me how to think, but we just worked together and played together. And I think I learned so much from only the way he did things. It was just very simple. And the great music is simple whether it’s classical or jazz or whatever. I play and study technically all the time every day and I played three or four instruments, so I’m always studying. I understand about technical proficiency and speed and agility and all of those things. And at the moment, sometimes we hear music that’s just so incredibly complicated.
Eric (Clapton) is an amazing artist but he’s kind of a blues-based artist in that sense. The harmonic structures are very simple. And it’s all about the touch and the feel of how he approaches things. And that’s wonderful. It’s always something to arrive at that sense of absolute simplicity and directness and then people respond to it, because it’s something that’s tangible, and they can feel it. Everything in our current world is like denatured. From additives in the food to shallow television shows and fashion that promotes clothes made with synthetic materials.
Monica: Simplicity all across the borders is what’s missing in this society. And it would be great to go back to basics like in the Sixties and Seventies. I’ve grown up in the ‘70s and ‘80s and everything seemed to be so much easier. And you know, there are shows like Stranger Things based on ‘80s storylines that appeal to teenagers. Back then we did not have smartphones, we just talked face to face. We didn’t call to say, ‘Oh, I’m coming to collect you’. We just knocked at the door. ‘come, come downstairs?’ You just needed to have a watch and then turn up at the appointment. Everything was so much simpler.
Malcolm: Yeah, yeah, you’re right. But it’s like with all of this stuff I’m not sure where it’s all heading. It’s not the technology itself that is wrong but the way we use it and it’s the mental attitudes. We are living in a time when what has become normal is actually a mental health problem. People have neuroses and issues that have become the norm. So when somebody is actually emancipated, spiritually aware, functioning in a higher cognitive physiological function, people go, wow, that person’s so special. But actually, they’re just being a normal human being. And everybody else is just completely dysfunctional.
Monica: Is it just all of us growing up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, I’m just wondering, who have no mental health issues….
Malcolm: There’s so much pressure to conform now. Everybody’s trying to do the same thing rather than just to have an original idea. Nobody can have one anymore. I’m not just generalising, but we do need to reflect as a society on just the simplicity of life. My experience in Italy is that it’s still a lot more family-oriented, people community-oriented, which is really nice and children are very much part of that fabric. And here it just feels a bit different than America. Governments and corporations and profits … it’s all just way out of control and it’s having an effect on consciousness and having effects on how we live our lives in the art we create and the thinking that we think I think you’re right, we need to go back to life in the 60s. There was a little bit of a revolution that happened for a moment. And I think we need another one of those now.
Monica: That’s right. I agree. An artistic revolution or spiritual.
Malcolm: Creative, artistic, spiritual.
Monica: Let’s make it happen. Let’s do it.
Malcolm: We can contribute to that just by communicating and staying true to ourselves and simple and spreading peace and love and creativity rather than violence and hatred and negativity.
Monica: Maybe if you can give me an exclusive personal anecdote from growing up with your dad, that would be great.
Malcolm: We spent lots of time in his front room. He would sit at the piano, the Hammond organ. I’d sit at the piano or get a guitar or whatever and we would just improvise. A lot of our relationship is sort of based on that, on the love of just making music and listening to music. We listened to all kinds of music from classical music to jazz to people like Nostra, Apache, Ali Khan, that Pakistani quietly musician, my dad had a real interest in the creative arts swipe across the board. He’s best known as a rock musician, but he absolutely adored all kinds of music and explored it and made all kinds of different things. If I look back on his career, I think, wow, what an incredible achievement throughout his life, what he achieved. But I know that he only scratched the surface of his real capabilities. So hopefully he’ll come back, reincarnated a few more times and, create some more stuff. But in the meantime, I will, I’ll make some stuff as well along the way. But, but yes, that’s all I can say, really. You know, I miss him every day.
It’s a challenging relationship because you have to step out and be your own person, but you’re also influenced by them. And so you’re finding, there can be periods of time where you’re trying to distance yourself and find yourself and then get closer again. We did have a challenging relationship but overall we loved each other and, we shared that passion for music. I always had the good opportunity to work with him on his records, go into the recording studio and did a little bit of touring with them.
Now I’m just finishing up a new EP, which I’m really excited about.
Monica: Thank you. This was really special for me.
Malcolm: You should come to a show or just stay in touch if you’re, and let me know about your band.
Further information on THE MUSIC OF CREAM & The band members here: https://www.musicofcream.com
Tour Dates 2019
5 OCT EDINBURGH ASSEMBLY ROOMS
6 OCT GLASGOW ORAN MOR
8 OCT MILTON KEYNES STABLES
9 OCT NORWICH EPIC STUDIOS
10 OCT BRIGHTON HAUNT
11 OCT LONDON CADOGAN HALL
12 OCT SOUTHAMPTON CENTRAL HALL
13 OCT BATH KOMEDIA
15 OCT EXETER PHOENIX
16 OCT SHRESBURY SEVERN
17 OCT BIRMINGHAM THE MILL
18 OCT MANCHESTER RNCM
19 OCT LIVERPOOL ARTS CLUB
21 OCT LEEDS BRUDENELL
22 OCT CARDIFF THE GLOBE
23 OCT SOUTHEND CHINNERYS
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
Kofi Baker (Drums)
As the son of the legendary Ginger Baker, Kofi has a name synonymous with drumming excellence. He first performed live with Ginger on the iconic BBC TV show, ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’, proving at 6 years of age that he had inherited his father’s talents.
He has played drums behind Jack Bruce, John Lennon and Steve Marriott, and as half of a polyrhythmic powerhouse with his father across Europe and the US over the years. More recently Kofi played and toured with Uli Jon Roth (Scorpions), Vinny Appice (DIO, Black Sabbath), Vinnie Moore (UFO), Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple, Black Country Communion) Rick Derringer, Corky Laing and Robben Ford.
He joined Malcolm Bruce and Will Johns for the inaugural Music of Cream 50th Anniversary Tour in Australia and New Zealand in 2017, playing to almost 8000 people over 7 nights, with special guests, Glenn Hughes and Robben Ford.
His own albums include Lost City and Abstract Logic, with Jonas Hellborg and Shawn Lane. More info at www.kofibaker.com
Kofi is passionate about maintaining a fit physique, he works out for 1 hour a day, every day, mostly weight training. He takes his own portable kitchen on the road to ensure he can steam broccoli after every show, often with some eggs and chicken breast. He has a very strict diet for breakfast lunch and dinner.
Malcolm Bruce (Bass & Vocals)
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.
He joined Kofi Baker and Will Johns for the inaugural Music of Cream 50th Anniversary Tour in Australia and New Zealand in 2017, playing to almost 8000 people over 7 nights, with special guests Glemn Hughes and Robben Ford.
Malcolm launched his debut solo album Salvation in 2017 and toured the UK and US. He is currently working on his next album due for release in 2018. Work is also underway on his first opera, King You’s Folly. More info at www.malcolmbrucemusic.com
Malcolm is a vegan and practices Transcendental Meditation and yoga. When not on stage he can typically be found in a solitary space seated in Lotus position.
Will Johns (Guitar & Vocals)
Encouragement at an early age from his then Uncle, Eric Clapton, was an auspicious start for teenage singer and guitarist, Will Johns. Being the son of legendary recording engineer and producer Andy Johns (The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix), and nephew of fellow legendary producer Glyn Johns, (The Who, Eric Clapton, The Eagles), has also had a huge impact on Will’s career, as did having the late George Harrison as an uncle when he married Will’s Aunty Pattie. Mick Fleetwood counts as yet another famous uncle.
Will has performed with Joe Strummer, Ronnie Wood, Jack Bruce, Dennis Chambers, Mick Taylor and Bill Wyman. He joined Malcolm Bruce and Kofi Baker for the inaugural Music of Cream 50thAnniversary Tour in Australia and New Zealand in 2017, playing to almost 8000 people over 7 nights, with special guests, Glenn Hughes and Robben Ford.
Will has released three solo albums: Count on Me, Hooks & Lines and most recently Something Old, Something New which gained multiple awards and nominations in The British Blues Awards. More info at www.willjohns.com Will also loves fishing!
The artwork for the posters was produced by original Cream artist Bob Masse. Tony Palmer & Bob Whitaker have given permission for use of their original film and photography respectively. Including Cream’s Farewell Concert at Royal Albert Hall in 1968.
Monica Costa founded London Mums in September 2006 after her son Diego’s birth together with a group of mothers who felt the need of meeting up regularly to share the challenges and joys of motherhood in metropolitan and multicultural London. London Mums is the FREE and independent peer support group for mums and mumpreneurs based in London https://londonmumsmagazine.com and you can connect on Twitter @londonmums