I’ve been listening to KC in Arlington, Texas, 1973 after writing up the show notes and asked Bill Bruford about his use of a drum machine on the improvisation from that gig - think Tight Scrummy (from TGD box set) only this one is positively smoking.
Though the drum machine provides something of a rhythmic straitjacket the joy is found in hearing the band wriggle free from its constraints.
Possibly twitching at the memory of it all, Bill replied “Bloody hell--the drum machine. It never had a name--other than the drumbox--and no identifiable manufacturer. Of UK origin certainly, but I probably picked it up at a car boot sale. It would play you "waltz", "swing", "quickstep", and "latin" , all of which were awful. But if you jammed certain of these buttons down at the same time, you could get an approximation of something useable. Which is what I did. Whatever the technology did, it was never enough, and the musician always began to explore the things it didn’t do. Much more interesting. That applied to mellotrons, guitar synths, and spectacularly Simmons electronic drums, which were never designed to sound like Waiting Man. And which is why I got through drum-techs at the rate of about one a week.”
Bill last used the same machine with ProjeKct One - a brief sample of which can be heard here.
Getting a bit more up to date, Bill’s website now has a forum where all admirers of the heat-seaking snare can chat, cogitate, cat-call and clamour on all things Bruford - possibly even drum machines!
Bill’s recently released Earthworks Underground Orchestra album is dynamite listening. I’d asked him about a couple of the players on that release who’d particularly caught my attention, trumpet player Alex Sipiagin and baritone saxist, Chris Karlick. "Alex Sipiagin was trained in the Russian military in the 70s, the baritone player Chris Karlik in the American military at the same time. In other times they could have been shooting at each other--only in NYC do they sit shoulder to shoulder on stage in front of me playing that shared musical language. Fabulous." You can, and indeed should, buy it here.