-- Career: Bands --

Issues Index


This page archives comments by Bruce Cockburn on his different bands used during his career.

  • Fall/Autumn 1985 - On the reason for the transition from acoustic to electric, and the progression towards adding other musicians

    JV: Many people I've spoken to that are familiar with your earlier acoustic work wonder why you have been producing more electric material?

    BC: Well most of the reason is that I got tired of doing what I was doing. When I first started playing music in public, I was playing mostly in bands. I spent three or four years playing in rock bands before I went solo. I got quite frustrated with the band scene and rock & roll in general. The things I was interested in slaying at the time, during the late 60's, early 70's, were of a more spiritual nature than a lot of what I'm addressing now. The medium of rock music didn't lend itself to that kind of lyrical content for me. Plus the fact that the bands weren't very good and the money was never there. It became a constant struggle to survive and get along with one another. So everything was easier if I went out and did it myself and sounded better as well.

    But after a few years of that I got bored with my own company and started adding people to the shows. At first it was pretty acoustic and a little jazzy with a percussion player, then came the drummer and once you had drums the acoustic guitar could never be quite loud enough to be audible. So that, coupled with the whole New Wave phenomenon which revitalized rock for me as way of saying things, brought about the move to the electric guitar. Also having said much about the workings of the spirit and the internal aspects of that, I became interested in exploring more of what that meant In an outward direction--what you do about that in the world. So everything came together to work better using more rhythm. I've become very enamored of rhythm at this point. It's fun to have the body going as well as the mind and the heart.
    -- from "Interview: Bruce Cockburn" by John Vernile. Written by Mary Anne Devine. From the WUSB 90.1 FM Program Guide, Fall 1985.

  • Circa 1986 - Commenting on his first use of "expert" players

    "The rediscovery of jazz at the time of the "Joy" album went on here. First time I had the nerve to involve musicians who were conspiciously superior to myself as players. Started thinking in terms of group performance in this period, too. "Circles" is a record of the first Bruce Cockburn band."
    -- from World Of Wonders Tour Program, circa 1986. Submitted by Rob Caldwell.

  • 3 April 1992 - Commenting on the different musicians he has worked with

    (referring to Nothing But A Burning Light)

    I've tended to work with one group of people for a while and then turn that over and make a different group," Cockburn noted. "First of all, I've been off the road for two years now, so the people I was playing with had to find other things to do for a living. But it was time for a change anyway. I'd been working with those guys for five years and, I won't say we had done everything we could possibly do, but we'd done a lot of things, and it was time for a change.

    "And part of that change for me, the more important part than who I was working with, was getting out of Toronto. After 20 years of recording in that city, I wanted to record somewhere else, and it wouldn't have mattered where it was except that with T Bone as producer, he wanted to work in L.A. He had a certain group of people in mind for the album, and it was a good choice of people as far as I was concerned, and it ended up being that." The studio group included Larry Klein, Booker T. Jones, Sam Phillips, Michael Been, Jim Keltner, Jackson Browne and Mark O'Connor.
    -- from "Bruce Cockburn-A Burning Light and All the Rest" by William Ruhlmann, Goldmine, April 3, 1992, 1992 Krause Publications.

  • Spring 1993 -

    James Jensen: At that point [referring to the first few albums] were you touring as a solo or with a band?

    BC: I was hardly touring at all. I played in bands for the second half of the sixties but by the end of the sixties I was doing mostly solo work and the touring those days was pretty limited for me, I had like four or five places I could go. When the first album got out and things gradually built up I began traveling alot. I lived the first half of the seventies out of a camper truck and went back and forth across Canada, I didn't play outside Canada really. Little by little I built up an audience, but it wasn't until the album "In the Falling Dark" came out that I had got sufficiently fed up with my own company and thought I better start adding people to the stage show. That folkie / jazzy group is the one on "Circles in the Stream" the live album from 1977, that was the first band I had.

    JJ: At the time of "In The Falling Dark" you started touring with a band, was that due to your popularity or did you want to create the other parts in your shows?

    BC: It was literally because I was tired of playing solo. The particular form the band took was due in part because of the content of that album so it's acoustic bass and hand percussion and mostly acoustic guitar with a pickup that you hear more later in the show as the strings die.

    JJ: In the 80's with "Humans" you really seemed to be hungry for a change of sound.

    BC: I had been listening to Reggae and Punk music and I'd started to travel outside North America in the later 70's and that effected the content of the lyrics and a lot of other stuff that was happening in my life effected that as well. Like I said before the music in my songs is in support of the lyrics so the nature of the lyrics has alot to do with what the music ends up sounding like. Some kinds of thoughts don't suit the acoustic style that I'd been using and I wanted to learn to play electric guitar. I wanted to have bands that sort of kicked-ass a little more than I had been doing and it's an inevitable escalation once you have a band because you want drums and once you have drums you want electric bass and once you've got that going you better be playing electric guitar or you won't hear anything that your doing. We've licked that problem a lot in the last few years but in the late 70's and early 80's there were no guitar pickups that were any good for acoustic guitar, at least none that sounded anything like an acoustic guitar, so that was part of it too. I really wanted to play Reggae music and Rock 'n Roll and I wanted to make people get up and dance.
    -- from an Interview by James Jensen at Sunset Sound, Los Angeles, circa Spring/1993.

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    Issues Index

    This page is part of The Cockburn Project, a unique website that exists to document the work of Canadian singer-songwriter and musician Bruce Cockburn. The Project archives self-commentary by Cockburn on his songs and music, and supplements this core part of the website with news, tour dates, and other current information.