ED: How's it been so far?
BRUCE: If there's a single word that would describe this tour so far I'd say 'fun'. It's been really good fun. We started in Milan and met up with Sun Domingo, who we'd never seen before. So the first thing is that you've got to spend two weeks on a tour bus with a bunch of guys you've never met before. Luckily they're the nicest blokes you'd want to share a tour bus with. We have such good fun with them and we support each other all the time. You hear stories about stuff on busses, so that was the biggest relief. And then there's the gigs and the fans that have been coming up, and also the amount of people that are coming to the gigs who are clearly just checking the band out. Especially in Germany. It's the first time that we really played Germany, apart from a couple of festivals. A lot of people had heard of The Pineapple Thief but had never really checked them out. And you could tell because we were selling a lot of our catalogue at the merch stand. Holland still seems to be the best audience for us though.
ED: There's two gigs in Holland, Zoetermeer and Uden. But you've also played a festival in Breda a few weeks ago.
BRUCE: That was good fun. It was good because you can tell with The Pineapple Thief that we are labelled as a progressive rock act. But it's always been 'well, are they really progressive?'. I mean, we're not progressive like traditional modern progressive acts. I think we're in the same sort of bracket as Oceansize or Pure Reason Revolution. There's no real label for it. So we normally play the progressive festivals like e.g. Loreley, but that [Breda Barst - ed.] was a pop festival. We were playing after Dog Eat Dog, an American band. It was like a sort of Rage Against The Machine rap band, brilliant fun and they kept the crowd really going for it. And then of course we go on afterwards doing our sort of slightly melancholic, serious sort of rock/prog rock. But luckily the crowd really liked it.
ED: I can imagine that the new material would match up pretty well in a line-up with bands like that.
BRUCE: Yeah. And we still did some old stuff like Part Zero acoustic and got everyone clapping along. It's a completely different mindset standing on a stage in front of a couple of thousands of people. You just got to treat is so differently. You gotta be as big as you possibly can, like doing all the 'come on!' and such. Which is not particularly natural to me. I much more prefer to be in a smaller place where you can feel the crowd.
ED: So, how did you end up on that festival? Was it through the Mezz connection?
BRUCE: I don't know actually. Mezz was such a good gig for us when we did that 18 months ago. I wonder if that helped. But I think Rob, our manager, managed to get that slot. I know that Anathema had played it previously and some other acts in the same sort of vein. I think what they wanted to do is have all different genres. So we've got our manager to thank that one for.
ED: Looking at the last couple of albums, especially the last two, there's been a shift from the more melancholic music to a more heavy and riff-based style. Is there a specific reason or influence that caused that change?
BRUCE: I think that the main reason the music got harder was that when we took it on the road it was so much more enjoyable to play the harder stuff. I think that was the sole reason. When I went to write Tightly Unwound, but especially Someone Here Is Missing, I was thinking 50% about the studio and 50% about how it was going to be when I'd look at the setlist thinking the next song is gonna rock, I want to really go for it. But you still need to have the light and shade. It's not like we're going to turn into a full-on riff-rock heavy band. There's always gonna be half the melancholy in there. I can't imagine not doing the melancholy.
ED: So how do think the sound will evolve to the next album?
BRUCE: I'm thinking about that now. When I get back from this tour I'm going to go hibernate in the studio and write the next album. I'm wondering how it's gonna evolve and I really don't know. I'm just gonna write whatever comes into my head. Whatever style. I never think 'right I gotta go in and write a heavy one'. I suppose with Someone Here Is Missing I did think I knew the total sound I wanted to get was a tighter, heavier album. But for the next one I'm just gonna do whatever influences me at the time.
ED: So, what is the other music that you listen to a lot?
BRUCE: Well, all kinds of stuff. I still go back and listen to the old 70s prog rock bands. I still listen to a lot of Pink Floyd, Yes, Zeppelin and Beatles. You know, I still think that Abbey Road is one of the best prog rock albums ever. Side B is just brilliant. And then I listen to the sort of modern progressive acts that I find interesting; the ones that are attempting to bring it into the 21st century. Obviously Porcupine Tree have crossed over into the mainstream by fusing modern influences with Steven Wilson's progressive influences. But then there are bands like Oceansize and Pure Reason Revolution. It's just interesting to hear what they're trying to do with the progressive influences they've got. Those are the kinds of modern prog bands that I listen to. And then there's your standard stuff, all into the dance acts like your Pendulums and Prodigy. I still listen to that and pick up influences. And even some really mainstream rock bands like Biffy Clyro. Bands that you can still listen to and think 'there's some real good idea there that I can bring into the more progressive leaning'.
ED: I've heard that there's been quite a few people that have said they don't like the new direction.
BRUCE: Well, it's really strange. I know from DPRP one of the reviews was like 'I don't like it'. There was a pretty damning review on DPRP. But it's so weird because ... You might see it tonight when we play the new stuff. There's one particular track that's really split the fans. You have a look on the forum and a few of them go 'I really bloody hate Show A Little Love'. And then when we play it live it gets the biggest cheers. I remember that when we played in Italy I made a bit of a joke by saying 'this one's a bit controversial'. And they said 'it's your best one!'. Then the flip side of that is you've got people saying they hate it. I'd be lying if I said it doesn't get to me when fans say 'I like Variations, 10 Stories and Tightly Unwound but I hate the new one, I hope you play more of the older stuff'. Because for me, I don't understand why everyone isn't coming with me. But that's because everyone is different, aren't they? Personally I still think 'why don't you like the new one, it's brilliant, it's my favourite album'. So it is a bit depressive, but you gotta ...
ED: Well, Show A Little Love is my favourite on the album. I play bass along with it all the time at home.
BRUCE: Really?! See, that's what keeps me going. The second half of the set is predominantly from Someone Here Is Missing. So far that's the bit that's gone down the best. I think I've blogged recently and said that one day I might sell one album, to myself. I feel so sorry for myself ... And then I got loads of e-mails saying 'I only got into you when you released the new album, and I bought Little Man and I was disappointed, and I mean that as a compliment, I like the new direction'. It's really hard because you're getting all these people going 'I want this, I want that'. And you just gotta completely shut it out.
ED: I did think it was rather short. Although I do think that the unhealthy tendency of many bands to fill the CD to the rim ...
BRUCE: I used to do that ...
ED: If you take somebody's average attention span, that's far too long. But I think somewhere around the 50-60 minute range makes for a good album.
BRUCE: I think Tightly Unwound was 55 minutes. I think the next album will be longer again.
ED: So how come than that the album ended up being relatively short but there's like 16 minutes of new music on an EP that came straight after it?
BRUCE: Well, I wrote the new music for the EP after Someone Here Is Missing came out. I still had a bit of a creative urge. I was still in the Someone Here Is Missing mindset before I finished that off. But I remember I had enough material for the album to make it up to 55 minutes. The main A&R guy at KScope listened to it, helped with the running order and he changed it a bit. He said 'I think it works if you take these ones out'. I was saying it was quite short and Rob, our manager, was saying it's a good length. I mean, the last Riverside album was even shorter. It got to the point that if we'd put other tracks in it didn't make it better. It just made the whole album flow from beginning to end, without outstaying as well.
ED: There's probably a balance between playing time and number of tracks. Most of these tracks are relatively short compared to your other work. Putting in more and more short tracks would also be quite a challenge on someone's attention span.
BRUCE: I must confess that what I usually do is end an album with a song at least 10 minutes long. I didn't do that this time. With Tightly Unwound we obviously had Too Much To Lose, going into 14 minutes. We end the set with that and it works, it never feels too long. I think with the next album, I'm not going to consciously go and say 'right, I'm going to write a 15 minute song', but what I intend to do is try to think of a journey I want. Am I going to start of really hitting you, or am I going to start of melancholic, and then I'll hit you? I remember I used to do a lot of work with a producer in England. He used my studio for stuff and he used to draw a little curve throughout the album that would be like the mood. He would know what he wanted to have. Like 'let's give 'em the boost here, and there's a mid-section here that's a bit spacey, and then we can crank it up to some kind of finale and maybe at the end have ...'. And then you look at that and think 'right, now I'm going to start writing, today I feel inspired'. I wouldn't do that in the exact order, but maybe I'd have a bad argument with the wife and I'm so angry that I pick up my guitar and go 'wrooaagh!!!!'. And then I'd say 'well, that's going there'. And then I'd think 'what shall I right before that?'. I've always got the whole album in my mind. Talking about it is actually making me quite look forward to going back to write it!
ED: When you mentioned that you might be inspired to write something more aggressive when you had an argument with your wife ... Listening to the last two albums, there seems to be a lyrical theme about problems in relationships?
BRUCE: Yes, it's almost like all of my songs are love songs really. There's a couple that are about friendships, loss and things like that. But generally most of it is about love, but usually in quite a dark way. So, for instance Show A Little Love is just about my inability to have shown enough love. Not only to my wife, but to my family, to my friends. You know, I look back on my life and think 'I really didn't do enough'. And I think that's why the cover works so well, because it's all constant reminders of all these things you didn't do in your life. Which is pretty depressing but at the same time it makes you think 'right, I've still got time, I can still make up at least in part for what wasn't good enough'. If there was a common theme, then I think that would be it.
ED: So, that's also the whole idea behind the Post-Its? Being covered in things that you wanted to do but never did along the way?
BRUCE: Yeah, Post-Its saying 'I should have shown a little love' ... And in Barely Breathing it's 'I never said enough, I never gave enough to make it up to you'. Like, no matter how much I give you, it's never going to make up for all of those years I wasn't good enough. Which is actually pretty depressing. (laughs)
ED: How does the other visual concept that wasn't used for the cover, the one with the big hole, tie in with that theme?
BRUCE: Well, the way that Storm Thorgerson works, he got me up to his studio and he interrogated me about the lyrics and what they meant. They went away and him and his team sketched out six ideas for what they could photograph. I think on the actual disc is a picture of a guy that digs a big hole. And that's just the sketch. I think the idea with the hole was about the futility of it all, it's all in the past, no matter what you've done you can't change it. Like digging this big hole and standing there like 'look at me, look at what I've just done', while ultimately it's pointless and meaningless. I know that KScope really liked that idea because it was classic Storm Thorgerson, like Pink Floyd covers; grand scale. You imagine a day like this with blue skies and a field with a massive hole, a huge mount and someone standing there with a spade going 'look what I did'. But the trouble is, because it was in January it was pissing down with rain. Storm's apparently got a series of farmers that let him use their land, like on the Division Bell cover. That's just some farmer saying 'yeah Storm, you can come and put your, I don't know, 10.000 ton structure on my field and photograph it'. But no one would let him dig up their land because it was the wrong time of year. So, we had to go for Plan B, which is the Post-It Man.
ED: Well, it works very well.
BRUCE: Yeah, I think considering the budget, which obviously isn't the same kind of budget as Muse or Floyd, I was pleased. And also, I got to be the Post-It Man! I think speaking to Dan, the guy who did the photography, he said it's very rare that Storm actually allows anyone from the band to be in the artwork itself.
ED: The only one I can imagine, is UmmaGumma. I don't know if he did that one ...
BRUCE: Yeah, he did, cause that was Hipgnosis, wasn't it? I know he did all the Floyd's covers, cause he went to the same college as everyone from Pink Floyd. I think he was a good friend of Syd Barrett, so it started from day one with Pink Floyd. He's quite a character, Storm. He doesn't take any shit, that's for sure. It's like 'I'm the designer, I've been doing this since 1967 or whatever, so I don't want to hear any of your ideas, I'm the man, this is it!'
ED: I know people like that! I'm in Marketing myself, so I worked with a few advertising agencies. And whenever you try to touch their ideas ...
BRUCE: Yeah, 'no, no, you don't know what you're doing, just leave it to me'. Which suited me. Because one thing that I've learned is that I concentrate on the music and let the professionals do their thing. Obviously I'm not going to let them say 'Here Bruce, here's the idea' when it's not going to actually mean anything to me. But that's the beauty of him because he comes with six or seven ideas. You know that one of them is going to be just right.
ED: Coming back to fan criticism, I read somewhere that around the time of Little Man it got so bad that you actually considered calling it quits?
BRUCE: Yeah, that was pretty much the low point I think. I think up until Little Man - and 12 Stories was pretty low as well ... The way the band started, it was just me in the studio on my own. I didn't have any expectations. And when Variations on a Dream came out it all of a sudden broke through in a very minor way, going from selling 800 or 900 copies in over a year to 3000 or 4000. And all of a sudden I had some fans and expectations. And then we had some calls to play live, so I had to get the band together. I spent a long time recording 12 Stories Down and when it came out it wasn't right and the fan reaction was really quite hostile. Eventually it sorted out with 10 Stories. And then I went and spent an awful lot of time on Little Man, and also personally it was a difficult album to write. So when you read some people saying 'oh no, this is no good' it did make me think 'why am I doing this?'. Because when you're an artist and you go on forums and people are going 'oh I can't wait to get the new album, is it out, has anyone heard it?' and then the next day you read 'oh, I've played it and I'm disappointed, I don't like it' ... It's like a knife going through your heart - even though you don't know these people - it's the worst feeling. And afterwards I was so down and dejected, I was just thinking 'shall I bother writing any more?'. I'll just play the guitar and sing and write songs at home, something like that. I'm glad I did come out of it. John, our bass player, who's also my best mate, kind of gave me a slap around the face and said 'come on Bruce, don't be stupid. It doesn't matter if some people don't like it, loads of people liked it.' But yeah, it was difficult ...
ED: I can imagine, especially with the whole personal story behind it. What actually did happen to your son Felix?
BRUCE: He was born prematurely at 24 weeks, which is really borderline viable. And in a way in retrospect I wish they hadn't bothered to try to keep him alive, because at best he would have had a major disability. But he lived for 5 days and then died. But that happened in the middle of writing. So a lot of Little Man is about my expectations of becoming a father. I'm trying to remember ... And then when that happened, the rest of the songs were just ... And the other thing is I didn't know what to do with myself. You can't just sit there and do nothing. So I still went into the studio and wrote. And I remember writing Snowdrops and Dead in the Water, which are pretty dark. They go to pretty dark places. So that's why personally it's such a meaningful album.
ED: You're re-releasing the back catalogue, but it seems to take an awful lot of time ...
BRUCE: I know. I know. A lot of fans are getting pretty annoyed about it. It's down to KScope and their scheduling. 10 Stories is supposed to be coming out in November, but that's when we'll be coming back from the tour and I haven't prepared it yet. I'm going to speak to KScope and ask them if we can at least make them available. They don't have to be globally released, but at least so that you can get them on KScope's online shop, Burning Shed, and on our web site. Just to stop people from having to go on eBay. I think it was 10 Stories or 12 Stories, not a particular collectable, which went for over a hundred Euro! Itīs nuts because one, someone is paying far too much money for a CD and two, none of the money gets back to the band. Itīs gotta stop, so I think Iīm gonna speak to KScope when I get back and say īlook, we need to just speed this whole thing upī. Cause thereīs only one available now, which is Little Man.
ED: There's also been talk of having Little Man released with an additional disc with acoustic tunes, but that didn't happen.
BRUCE: No, I just didn't have time to do it. And I've always wanted to do something like 50 minutes of acoustic, maybe just loosely based on songs. Just picking ideas from old songs. And I also fancy the idea of just recording something myself, with a much more different angle to Pineapple Thief. Because I really like where Pineapple Thief is going, but I also miss doing the soft, long, sort of lush orchestration. So I think I might record an album over the next year, in between when I'm writing, that's something a bit different. Whether that will be released or not I don't know. Just to fulfil my desire to do something a bit different.
ED: But even a full album of acoustic versions ... I mean, I really love the acoustic versions of heavier stuff like Tightly Wound and Shoot First. They work so splendidly in acoustic form as well.
BRUCE: I think it was KScope that said 'Bruce, do an acoustic version of this'. And I can't just pick it up and just ... I think someone said on the forum about the new EP 'It would have been so easy for Bruce to get the mix up and kill everything else and just push the acoustic guitar up or play acoustic over the old vocal or something'. But I think you can't do that. So it was quite interesting, especially when I was doing things like Waking Up The Dead. Which is a really basic song that doesn't do a lot. It's very much just a drone. And I thought 'how the hell am I going to do that on acoustic guitar'. And then I thought okay, let's really change it about. When you hear it you'll realise it's Waking Up The Dead but it's not. It's hard work to sit there for ages and think 'let's put the old song out of my head and then start again'. It's like you writing the song again, but with a completely different angle to it. So yes, it would be good fun to do that as an album.
ED: So what's the rest of the Show a Little Love EP like?
BRUCE: Let's see. There's the single edit of Show A Little Love, which is just a couple of bars chopped, just to make it shorter for radio. Then I just sat down and wrote about 16 minutes of new music, just in order. We play one of them tonight, Counting the Cost, and the guys also really want to do the second track, which turned out really well actually. And then there's two acoustic versions. An acoustic Waking Up The Dead, which is just piano, guitar and vocals. And then there's Someone Here Is Missing, which is just me and guitar, which I've never done before. And then the last track ... there's a guy in Brazil who's been in contact with me for years through e-mail. He did a remix with some friends of his of Dead in the Water and completely blew it out of the water. Basically completely changed it, turned it into a big anthem. It sounds really good and when he sent it to me he just said 'Bruce we did a remix, what do you think?'. And I listened to it, when I was just compiling the EP. I said 'bloody hell this is so good, I wanna put it on the EP!'
ED: I was wondering about 3000 Days, does that refer to the history of the band? Because it became the title of the compilation album ...
BRUCE: Yes, I remember I wrote the track 3000 Days for Someone Here Is Missing before I compiled the compilation. And the song 3000 Days was basically an apology to my wife saying 'for 3000 days, ever since we started The Pineapple Thief, you had to put up with me suffering, getting depressed and angry, sitting in my studio all night when I should have been downstairs watching a film or something like that'. So it was almost like 3000 days remind me of running around in circles for all that time. And then when they wanted to make the compilation it just had to be 3000 Days, because it was exactly the same thing. Because look, this compilation covers 3000 days. That's why the track and the collection are called that.
ED: Anything else you want to share with us?
BRUCE: No, just thanks to DPRP really, because ever since day one you've been supporting us. You know, when I read the round table review I wasn't annoyed, I was thinking 'fair enough, you like what you like'. I really shouldn't say this, but you know ... I often find the really hard cutting reviews that say 'this bit works, but I really don't like that bit' the more interesting to read. I mean, not so depressing. I mean, it's great to read a review and they didn't get it, but you realise why they didn't get it ... that's quite interesting.
ED: Like I said, I really like the album - I rated it with an 8.5 - but besides the length, which we discussed, the other thing is that the chords are a bit repetitive. That's all fine, but after about 11 song you think it wouldn't be bad to have one of those melancholic acoustic bits in here or something ...
BRUCE: Yeah, I can understand that. And listening back you've got tracks like Waking Up The Dead which is effectively one drone all the way through and there's two more chords for a chorus and back to the drone. And then you've got tracks like So We Row, which has the same thing all the way through, besides the middle section. It works, but I can see that when you've got too much of that ... yeah. I need to think about that for the next one. I think when you hear the EP it doesn't do that at all. The new 16 minute piece, especially the second track is very different, although the fourth track is a little repetitive. I think the influence of the repetitiveness always came from when I went to see Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians. It's very minimalist all the way through and they gradually bring in other instruments over the 30 minutes. So it's the same riff all the way through that gradually evolves, so that was always the influence for that kind of technique where you come with an idea and bring things up and take things away. But I can understand that you'd wanna hear a progression or a change.
ED: Just one more thing ... Are you going to do The Snail Song as an opener or encore tonight? ;-)
BRUCE: (Laughs) I'll never forget, 'cause I found out it was you afterwards when we were at the Mezz and you shouted out 'The Snail Song!'. Do you know what? I haven't listened to that or heard that song in years. I can't even remember what the chords are. But yeah, it's a nice song that. I think it was 8 Days Later and some kids were walking outside the window and you could hear them go 'oh man, I just trod on a snail, ewwww !'. The idea is about this poor little snail, trying to crawl over a pavement ... again it's futile, what's the point because it's only going to come to a road and where is it gonna go? Cross the road and probably get run over? It's just, again, about the futility of what we're doing. But when you call it The Snail Song it's just not quite so dark.
ED: Thanks for your time Bruce !
Interview & Soundcheck Photos for DPRP by
© 1995 - 2017 : Dutch Progressive Rock Page