Regrets? I’ve Had a Few #1: Bill Bruford


SKF NOTE: I never met Bill Bruford in person. Our 1983 Modern Drummer interview was by phone. It was one of my rare MD interviews for which I wish I had been better prepared. Not that I was careless in setting out to interview Mr. Bruford. Once he and I were into the interview, I realized I was ill-prepared in a couple of areas. Most of all, I was woefully ignorant about Simmons drums.

I was aware of electronic drums. The first drummer to use electronic drums that I know of was Michael Shrieve. Maybe Syndrums? When I interviewed Bruford, I started out thinking of electronic drums as producing that early Star Wars laser gun effect – and nothing more. According to Wikepedia, Simmons introduced sound sampling in 1983.

I didn’t understand, really, sound sampling or the variety of sounds available with the latest Simmons drums. Bruford was, at the time, a member of King Crimson. The band’s latest albums were Discipline and Beat – which I studied prior to the interview. I confessed to Bruford in that MD interview, “Having no earlier audio reference, when I listened to Discipline and Beat, I didn’t hear anything that jumped out as sounding like the Simmons kit.”

In other words, I didn’t know how Simmons drums should sound.

Missing from the printed version of our interview is the silence following my confession. It lasted about five seconds, but felt as if it lasted five hours. Bill was very gracious in his response, and throughout the interview. But it was clear to us both: he was an electronic drum pioneer, and I was… woefully ignorant!

Rather than freaking out, I knew my Simmons ignorance put me with the majority of drummers. Why not use it as an opportunity? Which I did. For part of the Bruford interview I tailored my questions as a student speaking to a teacher. That gave me – and everyone else reading the interview – the pleasure of receiving Bill Bruford’s introductory to Simmons drums.


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