Interview: Bruce Soord
As much as it is a fairly melancholic record, the new one, it is not a dark record. I still look at my town, I still like the people in here and I still think there is a future but unfortunately it has changed, it is very different to when I was a young lad figuring out what the music business is all about.
A multi-instrumentalist, frontman for The Pineapple Thief and a mixing engineer, Bruce Soord released his second solo album named All This Will Be Yours on 25th October. This album delves into his emotional experiences of fathering his new-born and the changing environs of his hometown at Somerset.
Bidisha Kesh had an opportunity to talk to him and learn more about his new album and his other endeavours. Bruce candidly speaks about his equation with Katatonia and how the band The Pineapple Thief functions after Gavin Harisson joined the band. Speaking from the Soord Studio this is Bidisha’s interview with Bruce Soord.
E&D: So we know Bruce Soord as the founder and the frontman for The Pineapple Thief, which has been around for 20 years now. With The Pineapple Thief being quite a successful platform, where mostly you write the songs, why did you feel the need for the solo venture?
Bruce: For the large part of The Pineapple Thief (TPT) it was very much me, it was effectively a solo project. But I think the last four years since Gavin Harrison has joined the band TPT has become much more of a collaboration. I write now with Gavin and then the band gets involved. I’m quite happy now that TPT is going off in different directions than what I would have done. It’s actually now complete since everything is done in collaboration, so I thought it is time for me to lock myself in studio and just do the album. So literally nobody to talk to, no one to play the songs to, you don’t know if they’re good or not, you got your own judgement and so it’s a very very different process. The other thing of course was that Gavin was busy touring with King Crimson so I started writing new material and then Kscope said “Have you got a solo album?”. I said, “Why not let’s do one.”
E&D: Before your self-titled debut album in 2015 for this project you did Wisdom Of Crowds with Jonas Renske from Katatonia. Did that help you to gauge that your fans accept your music outside The Pineapple Thief tag and gave you an impetus to go all solo?
Bruce: It did in a way because I think when we did Wisdom Of Crowds, Katatonia was a big name, and that really helped Wisdom Of Crowds get a platform. I know how difficult it is for artists to go solo. Even Steven Wilson, when he went solo after Porcupine Tree, he went back not to the beginning, but he was going from playing to 4000 people to playing to 500 people, so he had to build himself back up from a lower base. It’s not okay because I am in TPT and thus everyone knows who Bruce Soord is, it’s certainly not. It is just the hardcore fan base that will come over and check out what I’m doing. I think the last 4 years that the band has got a lot bigger certainly helped my solo project, clearly TPT did that for me. That’s where the audience is and that doesn’t mean that my passion for the music is any different.
E&D: While writing music for The Pineapple Thief and the Bruce Soord project, do you face any sort of conflict during the writing process? Has it ever happened that you wrote a song with an intention to further it with TPT but later you wished you could have more control over the song if it was solely yours to handle?
Bruce: Yeah that’s true; I did a song which is on the Dissolution album called the ‘Threatening War’, which I actually wrote for my next solo album. But when I played it to these guys they thought this would sound good with TPT and then Gavin came in and completely rearranged it. It is very different from how it would have been if it would have been in my solo album. What we have done now with TPT is that when we’re writing now for the next album we’ve got a concept, a style and a theme in mind. For my solo album it is very introspective, I write for myself and my personal experiences.
E&D: How is your approach different while producing for the Bruce Soord project?
Bruce: The Bruce Soord project is where I have to write the songs all by myself. You have to have a lot of faith in believing that what you’re doing is actually good. When I started the album I thought naively that I could finish it within three or four weeks. I am lucky that I am a full time musician; my job is to go to the studio write a song. The entire process of working for three or four months on an album in the studio is quite tiring. It is very nerve-racking since I have no idea at the end of it whether it is good or not. What I do is I leave a copy of the album in my car with my wife to hear. She has a good ear and so when she likes it I know I have a good record. But with the TPT I would never finish a song. I would come up with an idea, a theme, the verse and the chorus, because I know that Gavin might take it in a different direction.
E&D: All This Will Be Yours, what does the album title mean to you?
Bruce: The album title All This Will Be Yours was based around the birth of my daughter. My fourth child was born last October just on finishing TPT tour and when I was writing the solo album I had my daughter in my studio on a chair. She was around four months old and I’d be looking at her sleeping. I was bound to get influenced seeing her when writing some of the songs. It is not only about my child it is also about everything around me looking at my child and what her future is. The town I live in and the things going on in this country has been pretty dark and generally I am very worried about the future of my daughter. That was what really inspired a lot of the songs.
E&D: The first single from your album you released was ‘The Solitary Path of a Convicted Man’. What was the theme of this song?
Bruce: The single that I released ‘The solitary path of a convicted man’ is about someone who dedicates himself to a passion and unfortunately in the pursuit of it he has to sacrifice his friendship and ties with his family. It is a semi-biographical track about all the people that I have lost because music has been so important.
E&D: Your new album is punctuated with samples of sirens, of children recorded in your neighbourhood and there is also the use of electronic elements. How did this new idea come about?
Bruce: I didn’t really give it a lot of thought but there is one thing about my studio that there are always sirens. When I got here to my studio trying to write lyrics I heard these distant sirens going on and on. That was when I had the idea that I should use these since there is a sort of eerie atmosphere when you listen to them. I had this little field recorder and I would take it out with me. I used the siren sample in the song ‘All This Will Be Yours’ and it is just perfect. Also there is this sound of a guy who was walking past my window singing and I put that in the middle of the song ‘Our Gravest Threat Apart’. I wanted to give that sense of being where I am now. In terms of the electronic influences as it was a solo record I just thought anything goes, I was really not thinking about taking it on the stage. In my younger days in the late 90s, I was into electronic. We would go to Bristol which is on the road for me where the trip hop scene was born. I thought of bringing it back and I enjoyed it.
E&D: The album artwork is quite pop art-ish. What was the idea behind choosing this artwork?
Bruce: When I had a conversation with the photographer we discussed the concept. Well I wouldn’t normally have a picture of me on the front cover but the guys at Kscope were keen on having my face on the front cover since it was my solo album and I liked the idea of having these different blurred images of myself. As much as I am singing about very specific things the lyrics are still quite universal. I’d like to think that people can translate what I’m singing to their own lives and I think that’s why I liked the fact that the images were quite abstract on the front.
E&D: The Pineapple Thief is also releasing an album Hold Our Fire in November, which is basically a live recording from your recent European Tour. You have also taken up mixing duties for this. With both the release dates being so close, how did you manage your time and attention to each project individually?
Bruce: It is difficult to manage with a solo album. However while I mix everything that TPT does, ever since Gavin has come on board he mixes the drums which is very handy because mixing drums is the hardest part of mixing a song. When Gavin left for a really long King Crimson tour I had these three or four months period when I thought of putting my head into doing my solo album. That’s what I did, and then when Gavin came back we mixed the live record. So now, I’m literally in my studio in the middle of some ideas for TPT to work on. Like I said earlier, I am really lucky to be able to do this full time. I have only been full time for five years. Before that I used to cycle to work into an office everyday and tried to fit the music in around that so I do understand how challenging it can be for most people.
E&D: You are also known as a mixing engineer. By now you have mixed records for various bands across the globe. Is there any particular band you enjoyed mixing for? Did you ever draw influence from any of these bands?
Bruce: You are bound to get influenced. One of the bands I got really friendly with and have done a lot of work with is Katatonia. I have done 5.1 surround sound mix for their album Night is a new day. When you are mixing you get so immersed into the songs and you hear every part – the bass, the drums, etc. But specifically I find Jonas’s vocal is quite unique and I’m quite inspired by his sense of phrasing. Stylistically what Jonas does definitely influences me.
E&D: What about the future of the Wisdom Of Crowds?
Bruce: I hope so, with every year there is someone who asks when is the next Wisdom Of Crowds album and every time I talk to Jonas we both talk about doing it. All it needs is Jonas to get on a plane and come to my studio for a couple of weeks and I’m sure we will get enough of material to do an album. However he has been busy now that Katatonia is in the middle of recording and writing their next album. Never say never. We are definitely talking about collaborating again and I know that Kscope is eager to get another Wisdom Of Crowds so it will happen one day.
E&D: You are due to play your first solo headline show in Netherlands next January and then again the Prognosis festival in March, 2020 with other great acts like Katatonia, Anathema and Focus. Instrumentally how are you planning to organise your shows and what can we expect as an audience?
Bruce: I am bringing Jon Skyes with me. He has been the TPT bass player and my friend for 25 years now. He’s going to be playing bass, keyboards and doing the backing vocals. The thing about my solo work is that quite often I will do double tracked octave vocals. There is someone who will be doing a falsetto or a low voice and Jon does that with me in TPT. We’ll also have the laptop and my looper pedals. It is very easy when you just have a backing track and then it just turns into a karaoke, we don’t want to do that. It’s going to be electronic beats when we can do it, but other times it is going to be making up beats using the looper pedals. So it’s going to be more than just me with the acoustic guitar.
E&D: Your debut self-titled album was about growing up in your home town and this album is more of an observational record as you said of your hometown again. Is there something about the changes of your surroundings that alarm you and that you wish to emote through your music?
Bruce: The first solo album was more of a romantic vision of my town. It was a beautiful town; I had a great childhood here. There was a thriving music scene and venues everywhere. The town was vibrant and there were loads of artistic stuff going on and now that’s all gone. There are no venues to play, there used to be a lot of pubs and bars where people would do music and meet up and talk about music and art. It’s very sad, I recently talked to some college students and I felt that the passion seems to have evaporated and I’m hoping that’s going to change. In fact, there are some people here who are definitely trying to bring that back and there’s a music store chain called HMV that went into liquidation, but they’ve had a revival and now they’re putting on live shows in town. When I went down last week there were hundreds of people and I’m quite excited about that. As much as it is a fairly melancholic record, the new one, it is not a dark record. I still look at my town, I still like the people in here and I still think there is a future but unfortunately it has changed, it is very different to when I was a young lad figuring out what the music business is all about.
E&D: Out of the two albums which album did you enjoy working for the most?
Bruce: I have really fond memories of the first album because it was the first time I had done something like that and I think an easy answer would be to say that it is impossible to compare. However I think this one was a darker experience for me and emotionally it was a harder one. The first album was a more romantic image of my life and my history with my town, it was a slightly brighter record. So I think in terms of song writing and the overall quality of the recording and the whole album I think the new album is where my heart is.
E&D: Who are Bruce Soord’s influences?
Bruce: When I was a kid I was heavily into 70s prog rock. It was almost like it was counter culture to get into 70s prog rock because at that time everyone was into 80s and early 90s pop. I was into bands like Yes, Camel, Supertramp and Pink Floyd. That was what basically defined me, and my formative years as a guitarist was based around that kind of music. But when I was at college the trip hop scene was very big. I was in a band with some friends, it was all breakbeat, samplers and big beat stuff. All that influenced me as I was growing up. I guess one of the best album that I ever heard was an album called Sea Change by Beck. That was when my love for the acoustic guitar began. And I think if you can pick up an acoustic guitar, sing a song and captivate people then you know you’ve got a song.
E&D: Which is your favourite The Pineapple Thief album?
Bruce: My favourite album is Your Wilderness only because it’s got three of my favourite TPT songs. It was a very surprising time because we didn’t have a drummer and we thought it would be our last record. Then when Gavin came on he didn’t just drum, he also really got artistically involved with Your Wilderness. It then turned into this album that I had no idea existed and that’s why I have got fond memories of that. I don’t think we would be here today if we hadn’t done that record. That was a real make or break moment for us only in hindsight I think so.
E&D: You have a North America tour coming up with The Pineapple Thief. What can the audience expect?
Bruce: Our shows are generally energetic and we engage in a lot of fun with our audience. Recently Gavin went through all the albums of TPT and discussed about some of the songs where he thought of doing some nice drumming. He has picked four songs that we actually re-recorded. They might be released at some point and we are going to throw those in the tour. I have heard a lot about the North American crowd and the Mexican crowd so I am really looking forward to playing there.