Bruce Soord must be one of the busiest men in the business right now. Off the back of a successful album and tour with his ‘main’ band The Pineapple Thief he has launched straight in to his next project, teaming up with Jonas Renske of Katatonia to create Wisdom of Crowds. We got John Sturm to find out more.
(((o))): The most recent Pineapple Thief album was very well received & must have kept you pretty busy, why did you choose now to embark on another project?
Bruce: Actually the project has been bubbling away in my studio for 4 years, so 'now' is a lose term in this context. When Jonas came on board, the music was finished.
(((o))): Who was the driver behind the collaboration & how long did it take to put it together?
Bruce: What is not too well known about this project is that JW from Kscope actually got the project started. He came up with the original ideas and a few lyrical themes. I remember it was just after I joined Kscope he asked me if I was interested in doing ‘some music’. He sent me some ideas, I took them apart and sent him back 'pleasure' a week later. Gradually the project grew from there. It was great fun to do and also nice to have an initial seedling to feed and water.
(((o))): What qualities did Jonas’ voice have that made you feel he would be the perfect fir for you music?
Bruce: I've always been a fan of Jonas and Katatonia. To be honest, we didn't know if it was going to happen because he is so busy but I'm glad we found a window. There is no way the record would have been completed had Jonas not come on board. His voice is so delicate and distinctive, yet it has a huge amount of power. It really shouldn’t work in Katatonia but it does. Within 2 seconds of hearing Jonas, you know it's him. That is a rare and valuable quality.
(((o))): Lyrically, there seems to be a theme of regret throughout the album which seems to work well with the musical arrangements. How much collaboration did you have with Jonas on this aspect?
Bruce: Lyrically, JW would throw me some ideas. For instance, 'Frozen North', I just had the title and a few phrases from the chorus. The rest I had to create. But I found it really easy for me to take an idea and run with it. It was so different to working with TPT, where I would spend a lot of time formulating the ideas from a bunch of atoms. So when Jonas arrived, the lyrics and music were done. But that's not to understate the impact Jonas had. He added so much to the record. As soon as Johnny heard my rough mixes with Jonas he called me on the phone to rave about it, he was so excited. The record was transformed.
(((o))): Are there any plans to tour this record?
Bruce: Yes! Hopefully this December as long as the sales go ok. So far the reception to the record has been really positive, which is nice to see.
(((o))): Over the past few years there seems to have been a resurgence in the popularity of “progressive” music. Do you think that this shows that listeners want something more challenging, something other than the 3 minute radio-rock tune?
Bruce: I hope so. And it's something I am witnessing at our live shows, with younger audiences latching on to the 'progressive' world. Don't get me wrong, I'm not being ageist here, honestly! But the young generation really drives the future of music. Having said that, there is work to do. To many in the industry, 'progressive' = 'prog' = 'capes'. TPT suffer from that association. Of course, when promoters see us play, it's a different story but people are still put off by the image of 70s excess and cheese. Luckily there are loads of modern progressive acts out there slowly changing that perception.
(((o))): You’ve been making music since the late-90s, how has the changes in the music industry (buying music online via iTunes etc, illegal filesharing etc) effected your outlook on the whole write/record/release process?
Bruce: Illegal file sharing has been around since I started, it just got a bit easier and quicker to do over the years! In general, it hasn't changed my approach too much. The biggest single thing is that track 1 is now all important. Before digital, people would compile an album, a journey, with maybe the instant killer hit at track 7. Now, with the likes of Spotify, you have 30 seconds to turn inquisitive listeners onto you. So it's all about track 1. The other thing I will say is that people are buying a lot of digital music, not illegally downloading it. When I was a kid, sharing copie cassettes and CDs was the norm. Now for 7 quid you can have an album on your phone or iPod in an instant, so people just buy it. They can’t be arsed to do it illegally! And sales of vinyl are actually going up, so there is still a demand for physical product. Which is why Kscope focus so much on great packaging, both for CD and vinyl. But sadly there will always be illegal downloading of music. I’ve already noticed WoC is all over the web.
(((o))): What impact do you think the internet/social media has had on the music buying public?
Bruce: It is huge. Facebook is so important (although I am not a fan). Not only is it a great way to get info to fans and potential fans, but it's also where people go to gauge how popular you are. There is a 'likes' war now, no different to the days when Myspace was king. Only 5000 likes? I'm not booking you then…
(((o))): What bands/artists are you currently listening to?
Bruce: After having Jonas over for a week in my studio, I'm listening to a lot of extreme metal from the late 90s again. I forgot how good bands like Celtic Frost and Death were! Recently I've been checking out John Grant's new album, Pale Green Ghosts. I saw him play in Dublin recently and it's one of the best gigs I have ever seen.
(((o))): What was the album/song that first got you into music?
Bruce: Tales of Mystery and Imagination by The Alan Parsons Project. I was about 12 years old I think. Before that, I was a massive Madonna fan. Yes, it was a close call.
(((o))): Do you find the creative process easy? Is it a struggle to create?
Bruce: Yes and no. It's easy if you learn not to force it. Wait for the inspiration to hit and make sure you bottle it! The nightmare scenario for all song writers is when those moments disappear. Luckily mine are still coming along at regular intervals…
(((o))): What’s your favourite song from the album and why?
Bruce: Centre of Gravity. Not sure why, but I love the dynamics. Also, I'm a big mellotron fan and the chorus mellotron is the best I've done, even if I do say so myself!
(((o))): I know this one’s only just finished but are there any plans for a follow up?
Bruce: Never say never. Jonas and I have spoken about working together again, but collaborating properly. When that will happen is anyone's guess!
(((o))): You’ve recently finished a tour of the UK (with The Pineapple Thief), what’s next for you?
Bruce: Some festival shows with TPT. WoC are playing the Kscope 5th anniversary show at the Garage in April. Then it's down to recording TPT10 for release next Spring followed by a tour. In fact, I've been talking to my string arranger today about booking in the string section. All good fun!