News Gabriel Bruce: ‘My Voice Wasn’t A Choice, I Wanted To Sing Like Bowie’

DIY talks to the bourbon-voiced singer about how he feels like “an unconvincing drag queen, covered in glitter.”

The problem of the internet is that everything we do, everything we say, every site our eyes glance over is stored and archived, to be found and remembered forever. It is a dangerous place when you think about it. It’s an insane thought but true that you could probably lose a job, house, wife, kids - and maybe even an eye - merely through your use of Twitter alone.

Moreover, it is quite difficult for musicians to forge a career when modern technology surrounding them every step of the way. Sure, it’s easier than ever for an artist to record an album at home, but with this ease there’s a lot of pitfalls waiting along the way. Gone is the chance for artistic or musical re-spawning, for we’re now too overly aware of projects that musicians have been engaged in before. Just a sheer Googling of a band member’s name may bring up Youtube videos of a Nickelback cover the guitarist recorded back in 2004. What a scary thought indeed.

London singer Gabriel Bruce could so easily fall victim to this. Formerly of the theatrical, art-rocky outfit Loverman, Bruce has now transformed himself into a bourbon-voiced Cohen-esque wordsmith. You would be wise to bet on more than some negative reactions from the London crowd regarding the authenticity of this move, but on the basis of the few tracks premiered online over the past couple of months, we’re throwing caution to the critical wind and enjoying the songs for what they are.

DIY spoke to Gabriel Bruce about puberty, love and the present state of music.

An obvious comparison vocally would be Leonard Cohen, but who would you yourself say are your biggest influences?
Since puberty, a horrible visceral period of my life, I’ve been stuck with the voice I have today. It was not a choice I made nor is it something I am particularly happy with. I wanted to sing like Bowie, Scott Walker, William Bell or Otis Redding; I wanted my voice to soar effortlessly in to the celestial heights reached by Marvin Gaye. But no, along with my testicles, my voice dropped and during this period I turned to the likes of Waits, Cash, Cohen and Cave for solace.

Akin to Tom Waits or Nick Cave, it seems like you enjoying playing and distorting your voice. Would you agree with this?
Each of these men have such individual voices within the same range but the nuances seem to be missed by most. I find it hard not to distort my voice, I guess I’m ashamed of it, it’s a bit of an unconvincing drag queen, big and ugly but covered in glitter.

A key go-to question when it comes to internet-propelled singer-songwriters is “do you play all of the instruments yourself?” So, do you?
‘Play’ is a generous word, it implies a degree of proficiency. I do as much as my ability allows, and until making my album recently recorded all instruments myself. Most of what’s on the record is me, then a few friends filling in the gaps. I sang in choirs as a boy.

Can you tell us a bit about the ‘50-page Dada-influenced illustrated book’ that comes with your debut 7-inch?
The book started as my own personally exploration of the subject, and then grew into something I thought could stand on it’s own as a text. I’d originally only wanted to release the writing, but then will from off modern persuaded me to release music as well.

Are you interested in working on these sorts of things again in the future?
The written word is the most important thing in this world, I will continue to write and I hope I will have the opportunity to be published again.

Do you think it’s important to present your music as a whole artistic product rather than just some MP3s?
In a time where people consume music with an absurd, insane gluttony - sampling music like a child left overnight in a sweet shop, taking a lick of this and a bite of that then leaving the rest scattered in their wake, never to be fully appreciated. There’s a chance that the profound emotional relationship that can be built with a song or an artist will never get the opportunity to grow. This is true, I think, especially when the object itself is missing, the attachment people feel for something they possess is much stronger when it exists in a physical form, when it can be touched and smelt. This was always my experience, to purchase a CD and sit on the bus home reading and re-reading the liner notes and lyrics, to stare awe struck at the picture of whichever beautiful and strange person had made the music, this connection was made before I’d even put the CD on my stereo.

You’ve only a handful of tracks out under your given name so far, could you tell us a bit about the background to ‘Sleep Paralysis’, a clear standout track of yours?
I wrote the song a year ago, or more now, when was living in a small room with two others. It was actually the second song I wrote on my Farfisa.

And why the decision to record a Valentine’s song? How did you spend the actual day?
St. Valentines is a strange day. One year, not long ago, I took a girl to dinner, bought her a long stemmed rose and she told me we must never see each other again. This was particularly cruel as the dinner and the rose were expensive and I’d borrowed the money to purchase them from my boss. Maybe it was because she was a spy, or a hired killer and was putting me at risk by even agreeing to meet with me, maybe it was an affectionate act? Either way I had to work weekends to pay back the debt and interest. Relationships between two people who are or believe they are in love are fragile, it’s funny how we find ways of adding pressure unnecessarily.
But sorry, I digress. I recorded the song just the day before, after listening to Sam Cooke and remembering how good the song was.

You used to be in the band Loverman, what made you decide to strip everything back and go it alone?
The decision wasn’t made by me so much as it was made by the rest of the band. I will accept the blame though, I’m a terrible person to spend any significant length time with.

Have you been working on an EP or album?
I have just recorded my debut album with Craig Silvey at the Garden Studio. It’s groovy as fuck.

Tags: Neu

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