March 22, 2019 Interview – Malcolm Bruce Talks The Music of Cream
Arguably one of the most important bands in Rock-n-Roll history, Cream’s story dates back 50 years. A pioneering Blues Rock trio, made up of Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Jack Bruce, they were known for their superb musicianship, creating a sound that paved the way for heavier Rock bands of the future.
In fact, Cream’s music is so significant, many fans, young and elder, yearn to hear it performed live all these years later. Unfortunately with the passing of Jack Bruce in 2014, a potential reunion is not in the cards, but wouldn’t it be cool if the flesh and blood of Cream took the heritage of the music into their own hands? Well, that is exactly what is happening with Jack’s son Malcolm, Ginger’s son Kofi, and Eric’s nephew Will Johns uniting together to celebrate the music of Cream on tour.
Currently out on a US spring tour, Malcolm Bruce took the time to chat about joining up with the family of Cream, what it is like for them to perform together, plus more.
Cryptic Rock – Surrounded by music your entire life, you would go on to study it and pursue a professional career. First, briefly tell us, how would you describe your journey in music to this point?
Malcolm Bruce – It’s continual, every day is a new day and I learn something new. It’s a source of inspiration and great joy for me.
Cryptic Rock – And it has led you to great things. As mentioned, you grew up around music with your dad being Jack Bruce from the legendary Rock band Cream. Was your dad supportive of your musical interests, and what did he teach you to prepare you for a career in music?
Malcolm Bruce – Yes, he was very encouraging, but he didn’t necessarily sit down and teach me things, although, that did happen occasionally when I was a kid. It was more an environment of encouragement, creativity, and the freedom to express yourself within that creativity. As I got older, I actually started working with my dad recording in the studio. We did it at home, but also I started playing professionally on his records when I was a teenager onward. It was a great opportunity to once and a while to work with my dad and do various different things. I think I learned a lot from that.
Cryptic Rock – That is very cool and special you were able to share that with your dad. You have done a lot of cool things musically through the years, including collaborating with others such as Bill Ward of Black Sabbath. What do you take away from the experiences you have had working with other musicians?
Malcolm Bruce – I’m always learning from everybody I’ve ever come into contact with. Having the opportunity early on to work with someone like Bill Ward was just amazing; he is a great guy and obviously a legend. You just learn no matter what you do in life, right? You come across people, you get the opportunity to do things, and you just grow through the experience. I feel very grateful for formative experiences.
Cryptic Rock – That’s great to hear. Back in 2017, you joined forces with Ginger Baker’s son, Kofi, and Eric Clapton’s nephew, Will Johns, to form the touring band The Music of Cream. With the music in your blood, what brought this project together?
Malcolm Bruce – I’ve known both Kofi and Will for quite a long time. I’ve done various different projects with both of them. It was just an opportunity that arose through Kofi and his management about the idea of going to Australia and New Zealand to do The Music of Cream, which we did; we went down there and did a short 7 day tour in all the major cities, which was also really great because I had never been there before. One of the promoters who put that tour together suggested we keep it going and he take over the helm as project management and booking. We look at it after that, and thought, this would be a great opportunity to pay respect to our parents, play this amazing music, and continue to build our careers.
For me, and I think for all of us, it is not the final thing we want to do in our lives. That said, we are in this sort of unique position of what we grew up around with our parents. In a lot of ways, it’s very natural for us to take it out around the world and celebrate the music, so that’s what we’re doing.
Cryptic Rock – It is exciting for fans as well. In honor of Cream’s 50th anniversary, you are back out on tour, set to visit the USA this spring. How excited are you for this tour and what can fans coming out expect?
Malcolm Bruce – We did quite a long first run in the USA in 2018, so this is actually the second leg of the tour. I’m super excited to be coming over again, I love touring in The States. People seem to love it and they really seem to love the music, which is great!
What can people expect? They can expect all the well-known songs of the Cream catalog. So, if you are a Cream fan, and even if you are not a Cream fan, you will know know some of these songs. (Laughs) Songs like “Sunshine of Your Love,” “White Room,” “Crossroads,” and even some of the more obscure ones.
We’ve been playing a 3 hour set, we might shorten that a little bit. I like playing 3 hours, but some people think that’s a bit too long. There will be lots of jamming and improvisation with a great live show. We’re excited!
Cryptic Rock – It sounds like it will be fun. The length of the set does not matter necessarily if the band is into it. If you are into the music, time does not matter.
Being that everyone involved with The Music of Cream grew up around it, what’s the chemistry between you on stage? You obviously put your own spin on the music, it is not just covering the songs, you put your own feelings into the performance.
Malcolm Bruce – Yes, and the chemistry is great. It’s quite heavy, and in the same way the original 3 members had different personalities, which I think in may ways displayed itself on stage.
There’s a fieriness to the music, and in large part, that comes with the original member’s personalities. I think in a lot of ways we mirror that, being the sons of Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, and nephew of Eric Clapton. I think that comes across on stage.
It’s incredible because the music can just go off in certain directions and you don’t know where it’s going to go. You have to just go along with it with your intuition and react to what happens in the moment to find that balance. I think we do and have a lot of fun on stage for sure.
Cryptic Rock – Having a good time is very important, otherwise what is the point? Seeing your dad was a very important part of Cream, at what age did you get into the music of Cream?
Malcolm Bruce – I have vague memories of being a very young child and hearing some of the Cream music played in our house. I think some of my earliest memories would be hearing vinyl played in the house and I am hearing it echo in the distance. (Laughs)
As I grew up, around 7-9 years old, I became more aware of that music, the music of Jimi Hendrix, and all different kinds of things. As I progressed I naturally fell into wanting to be a musician. It’s very natural for me to be a musician and I am learning all the time. Every day I am learning and working, it’s a craft.
Cryptic Rock – We learn something new everyday, like you said. Beyond The Music of Cream tour, you have many other projects as well. You actually released an album in 2017 entitled Salvation. That in mind, what is coming up next for you?
Malcolm Bruce – I’m actually in the middle of a period of writing. I’m working on my next solo album that will hopefully be released later this year or the beginning of next. I will be getting out on the road with my own band to promote that and I’m really excited about that.
I’m also writing my first classical opera. That’s going to be in the works for the next 2 years and that will be premiered in London. I have a lot going on.
Cryptic Rock – Wow, so what type of challenges do you face working in Opera opposed to a Rock format?
Malcolm Bruce – In some ways it’s different, but in other ways it’s just the same process of writing music – whether it’s a microscopic version of something or whether it’s a much more expanded sound world. I think the challenge of writing an Opera is creating in a much larger form. A song tends to be, although it doesn’t have to be, more or less, a verse, chorus, bridge, etc. People are used a song in a particular form, and even though it deviates from that with a larger form like an Opera, you do have areas that are a traditional song format. It’s just so wide open though and you can do anything. That’s the challenge, going from the point of being able to do anything, to honing in and creating something that is cohesive, has meaning, development, but is also natural; you don’t want it to be pretension. It’s definitely a challenge.
Cryptic Rock – Very interesting and that will be compelling to hear what you come up with. Last question. Beyond music, we also cover movies, particularly in the Horror and Sci-Fi genres. If you are a fan of these genres, do you have any favorites?
Malcolm Bruce – I will go through phases of Science Fiction. In terms of books, I love Phillip K. Dick, Kurt Vonnegut, etc. I like all the kind of mainstream stuff, I wouldn’t say I’m an expert on the more obscure things.
I love good Sci-Fi movies such as Blade Runner (1982). I saw Blade Runner 2049 (2017) and I loved it. I thought it was dangerous to attempt to do what they did because Blade Runner is such a classic which came from a book; although a lot of things in the book didn’t seem to make it into the film. Then, to do a sequel like that, I thought was risky, but they pulled it off. I think it was intriguing and kept my attention throughout the movie.