William Scott Bruford (born May 17, 1949 in Sevenoaks, Kent, England), better known as Bill Bruford, is an influential British drummer who is recognized for his forceful, highly precise, polyrhythmic style. He was the original drummer for the highly successful progressive rock group, Yes, and has been a prominent figure in the art rock movement since the early 1970s. He has been in many other bands and collaborated on numerous projects, most famously King Crimson and his own fusion band, Bruford.
He began playing the drums when he was thirteen, and was influenced by jazz drumming, which would manifest itself on early Yes albums and would remain an influence on his style throughout his career. He had success in the early seventies during his time with Yes playing on their first two albums as well as the LPs, The Yes Album, Fragile, and Close to The Edge. He left Yes at the height of their success. By 1972, Bruford felt that Yes had come as far as it could, or at least as far as he could contribute to it. He didn't want to spend what he felt was an inordinate amount of time in the studio debating chords and producing records that he felt would only be in the shadow of Close to The Edge.
Bruford explained that he chose to play drums because he watched American jazz drummers of the 1960s on BBC TV on Saturday evenings. These programs turned the head of the thirteen-year-old Bruford. He found all the instrumentalists to be fascinating and mysterious, but particularly the drummers. His sister then gave him his first pair of brushes as a present. He later took a few lessons from Lou Pocock of the Royal Philharmonic, but after that he picked up other techniques wherever he found them.
He said that he never acquired drum technique for the sake of acquiring it, but as a solution to a particular problem, and if he heard something that he couldn't do, he would learn how to do it. Bruford applied this way of learning to other instruments as well, although acknowledging that he has the 'classic amateur's technique'; meaning that he knows some very difficult bits and that he has some large gaping holes in his knowledge, but his amateurism can sometimes be helpful in forging a style, because he has to work around his weaknesses.
After Yes, Bruford spent a lot of time waiting for the phone to ring, and wondering if it ever would, until he was asked to work with Gong, and National Health with Dave Stewart who played keyboards, and would later play on Bruford's solo albums.
Bruford later accepted an invitation from Robert Fripp to join King Crimson, which he had wanted to join for quite some time. His instinct to remember complicated drum parts was shown when he learned how to play the long percussion and guitar part in the middle of "21st Century Schizoid Man", "by listening to it and just learning it".
Bruford was more interested in artistic pursuits, and the framework of King Crimson appealed to that sensibility in him. He cites the six months that the group contained avant-garde percussionist Jamie Muir as tremendously influential on him as a player, opening him up to "musical worlds I had only vaguely suspected existed". Violin, viola and keyboard player David Cross was selected to flesh out the sound of the new band. Rehearsals and touring began in late 1972, and Larks' Tongues in Aspic was released early the next year, and the group spent the remainder of 1973 touring Britain, Europe, and America. Fripp's guitar playing was loud and aggressive, and Bruford's propulsive drumming meshed with John Wetton's often powerful bass guitar.
Three other albums were released with this lineup, Starless and Bible Black, Red and live album USA, which many consider as King Crimson's most formative and experimental period. After the release of Red, Robert Fripp decided that King Crimson was disbanding, leaving Bruford out of work, so he stepped in as drummer for progressive rock group Genesis while they were on tour.
Bruford also spent a year touring with Genesis in 1976, recordings from which appeared on the Genesis live album, Seconds Out.
He joined the band because Phil Collins and Bruford were working together on a collabrative album as a soundtrack for an animated film called Peter and the Wolf with future Brand X members along with Brian Eno, Manfred Mann, as well as Ten Years After guitarist Alvin Lee. Later, he was playing percussion to Collins' drum set with Brand X, doing a few English dates in that format. Collins explained the problem created by Gabriel leaving Genesis: since after having auditioned lots of singers Phil Collins stepped up to the position of lead singer for Genesis, leaving them without a drummer during live shows. Bruford suggested drumming behind Collins singing until they found a permanent live drummer.
Bill Bruford led his own band in the late 1970s, called simply Bruford. Members of the band were initially Dave Stewart (keyboards), Jeff Berlin (bass), Allan Holdsworth (guitar) and Bruford (drums).
The first album also had Annette Peacock on vocals, and Kenny Wheeler on flugelhorn. The second album, One of a Kind, was mostly instrumental, and on the live album, The Bruford Tapes (a live show originally broadcast for radio station WLIR) and associated tour, the guitarist John Clark replaced Holdsworth.
Following his first solo album, he was involved in a reunion with King Crimson bassist and vocalist John Wetton in the progressive rock group UK. During his time in the band, from 1977 to 1978, the band released its eponymous debut album and conducted a small tour of the United States and Canada, after which he left the band to record two more solo albums as Bruford.
Bruford was part of a newly formed King Crimson again in 1981 with a different lineup, consisting of Bruford, Robert Fripp on guitar, Tony Levin on bass and Chapman Stick, and Adrian Belew on guitars and vocals. He recorded Discipline, Beat, and Three of a Perfect Pair with them, moving to a kit of both acoustic and electronic drums and using his renowned polyrhythmic style, before they disbanded again in 1984.
King Crimson re-emerged once more in 1994 as a six-piece band, consisting of its 1980s lineup along with Trey Gunn on Warr guitar and Pat Mastelotto sharing the drumming duties with Bruford. This so-called “double trio” configuration recorded one full-length album, 1995's THRAK, as well as experimenting with the ProjeKcts, before Levin and Bruford left the band. Bruford's reasons for abandoning the double trio were a result of his frustration with rehearsals.
Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe (sometimes referred to by the acronym ABWH) was a permutation of the progressive rock band Yes. The group consisted of vocalist Jon Anderson, drummer Bill Bruford, keyboardist Rick Wakeman, and guitarist Steve Howe, with Tony Levin providing the bass duties since Yes bassist Chris Squire was involved with the real Yes. These Yes alumni had played together on the most popular recordings by Yes in the early 1970s. Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe recorded one self-titled studio album in 1989. A live recording from their subsequent concert tour was released in 1993.
Bruford would rejoin Yes briefly in 1991 and 1992 for the Union album and tour, so titled because it brought together ABWH and the members of Yes prior to the union as an eight-member band.
Bruford and Steve Howe would later undertake a recording project together in 1992/1993 to have an orchestra reinterpret some of Yes' most memorable works, but this would prove to be the very last of his involvement with Yes. The Symphonic Music of Yes was released on RCA records in 1993.
Earthworks was formed in 1986 and featured Django Bates on keyboards and Iain Ballamy on sax.
Bruford is perhaps most famous for having revolutionized drumming through the use of Simmons electronic drums and his melodic drumming, though in recent years he has returned to using a primarily acoustic drum set. While Bruford has creative freedom with Earthworks, he continues to collaborate with many musicians, including one-time Yes keyboardist Patrick Moraz (with whom he recorded two albums in the 1980s) and bassist Tony Levin. Earthworks has been his primary focus in recent years, particularly after his departure from the latest incarnation of King Crimson (which ended the band's 'double trio' experiment).
"I have this image that I might be a 'rock guy on vacation'. That idea is anathema to me — and I've cured it by making eight albums with Earthworks."
He described Earthworks as "seeing music as a social encounter, where you look another guy in the eyes across the room, say 'one-two-three-four' and the music begins. That's where my pleasure lies, for sure."