No Anarchy In UK (Sounds 1978)
No Anarchy In The U.K.
By Hugh Fielder
SOUNDS May 13, 1978
"WE'RE NOT SHORT of ideas. But it's the handling of them that makes the difference between a good group and a bad group. Obviously, we want to be a good group.”
Sound, practical sentiments from Bill Bruford who is of course a sound, practical drummer and not short of a few ideas either.
The group that he wants to be good is UK. It's a meeting of four highly developed British musical minds – with a suitably haughty title that reminds you of the audacity of Cream when they started. With Bill are Eddie Jobson on keyboards and keyboards and keyboards and keyboards and violin, Allan Holdsworth on guitar and John Wetton on bass and vocals.
Before we go any further I have to point out to you that this is not Bill Bruford's band. It's just the band that he's in. The reason he gets more quotes than anyone else below is that he was the first person to come up to me and ask what the hell I was doing lounging around the back of the studio lot at Shepperton watching them rehearse, so I cornered him for an interview while the others deliberated the finer points of a new song called intriguingly 'Tune One' and tried to agree a common approach. So if you lads would like to let go of my arm now, I'll explain a little more about the band.
It wouldn't be difficult to fill the rest of this page telling you about the careers to date of UK's four equal members. But we're not here to dwell on the past so, briefly, Wetton's from Uriah Heep, Jobson's come from Frank - Zappa's band and Allan Holdsworth was with Jean-Luc Ponty..
Before that there are numerous connections like the Crimson Connection or the Roxy Connection that have united two or more members of UK in the past (although it's worth noting that Allan Holdsworth has followed a separate path from the rest until now). But you can check all that out for yourself if you're keen, or if you're keen but lazy just ask their publicist (Tony Brainsby, 105 Winchester Street, London SW1) for the same informative biography he sent me.
William Bruford was last seen in public playing the case sideman with Genesis although he did undertake a slightly less dramatic and less-publicised tour with National Health shortly afterwards. Since then and that's getting on for two years ago - he's maintained a low profile. There were rumours of a band with Wetton and Rick Wakeman which he had to scotch publicly. After that, nothing, until he released his own solo album, 'Feel's Good To Me, and almost immediately announced the formation of UK.
"I suppose it seems like a long empty period for me but that solo album took a lot of hard graft on my part. I was nine months just writing the music. It was a deliberate effort on my part to try and make it as a musician - us drummers always have this inferiority complex.”
"The business with Rick Wakeman was just a complete joke. I just went down and ligged with him for a couple of days. The next thing I knew we were in a band together, according to the Melody Maker."
Bill's sentences are punctuated by occasional bursts of keyboard or guitar as Jobson and Holdsworth hot up their musical discussion outside. Bill is also keeping half an ear on the progress outside but then that's the sort of band UK are. Everybody wants to be involved at every stage of the group's development.
This feeling of corporate identify obviously runs deep. "Oh yes, We're a democratic institution,” agrees Bill, “Everybody has to feel that there is at least a majority verdict. So each of us has to be at least 80 per cent convinced with what we're playing. You can afford to compromise on about 15 per cent of what we play and maybe there's about 5 per cent that you really hate but the others all love."
And as John Wetton says: "I'd rather watch four guys working their asses of than six guys floating in and out of the music."
“We all appreciate each other's skill and we're working towards getting a unique sound, confirms Bill. "We've got one or two tricks up our sleeve that I reckon are pretty much us combinations of sounds and things like that. But it will probably take us two or three albums to get there."
He certainly doesn't see the band fitting into the ‘jazz-rock'syndrome. “It's a terrible phrase, 'jazz-rock'. How about ‘rock-jazz'? No, that's no good... What we're doing is too tight for ‘jazz-rock”.”
But surely ‘jazz-rock' has been getting a lot tighter lately? “Yes, but it's also been getting more boring. A lot of the leaders in that style have been producing records that I don't think are up to scratch. I think we can produce records that are more colourful and tightly arranged than those people tend to do. They tend to repeat the formula too often. You need fresh blood every now and again.”
The only diverging interests that I can spot are between Holdsworth's desire for occasional space in which to build a flowing guitar solo and Jobson's perchant for more formal and tight arrangements.
Bill's aware of that too: "Allan is very much a free-range flight man on guitar and if you want Allan in your band then you have to team him up with worthwhile musical arrangements for him to free-flight in, as it were. Allan might feel that some of the compositions are a bit too tight for him and he'll be looking to open them out a bit. But maybe for Eddie they're not tight enough yet."
Neither is he under any illusions as to what he'll find when the group start their British tour (which they did last week). They'll be playing an hour and a half's worth of new and unfamiliar material which is unlikely to have their audiences headbanging or idiot dancing in the aisles.
“I'm really not that worried,” says Bill. "I'm getting quite internalised in my old age. I know what I've found that there's something good happening here - and if we hit the road there are a few teething problems and maybe the punters don't go crazy because they don't know the music then I'm not bothered by that. Punters traditionally only go crazy when they know the music and as our music isn't known yet we can expect a fairly insipid clap at the end of each number. But that's OK as long as I think the music's up to scratch."