[Slowhand] Jack Bruce and his daughter Natascha
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Sun Oct 19 05:37:10 EDT 2008
Relative Values: Jack Bruce and his daughter Natascha
October 19, 2008
Jack Bruce is regarded as one of the world's greatest bass players. Along
with Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton, Bruce was a founder member of the 1960s
supergroup Cream. He has just released a six-CD retrospective boxed set, Can
You Follow? He lives in Suffolk with his wife, Margrit, with whom he has two
daughters, Natascha, 26, and Kyla, 23, and a son, Corin, 15. He also has a
son, Malcolm, 38, from his first marriage. Natascha's band, Aruba Red, has
just released its eponymous debut album. Natascha lives in north London
Jack and Natascha Bruce
JACK: I'd already been through marriage and had two kids by the time I met
Natascha's mum, Margrit. We met in '79 and suddenly I had this whole new
life. I moved to Margrit's house in Germany, we got married and Natascha
came along 13 days after the wedding. We just got down the aisle in time.
Because I'd already been a dad and my boys were quite grown-up, I foolishly
thought that I knew all there was to know about being a parent. Well, I didn
't. No parent does. You make all the same mistakes. And you make some new
mistakes, too. But, let's be honest here, I've never claimed to be a "great"
parent. I think I'm an okay parent, but I'd put myself in the category of a
musician-who-happened-to-become-a-father. I'm definitely not a
When we had Natascha, I was quite relieved because for a while I'd been
worried that I wouldn't be able to have any more kids. I'd abused my body so
badly during the 1970s. God knows what had happened to my sperm count! Being
blessed with Natascha really felt like I was being given a second chance,
and I took fatherhood very seriously.
That's not easy when you're a junkie. If there is such a thing as an
addictive gene, then I had it. I had been getting through vast quantities of
heroin for several years. Not sniffing, snorting or smoking it - I was
mainlining. When the doctors saw me, they said I was one of the worst cases
they'd ever seen. Obviously I tried to get off the stuff - I'd done
acupuncture, cold turkey, rehab, sleep therapy, you name it - but heroin
gets you like that. It steals your soul and takes its place. And let me tell
you, it's not a particularly good substitute.
I'm clean now, thank God, and it was Margrit who helped me get my soul back.
She gave me an ultimatum: her or the heroin. I'm not saying I immediately
became Mr No Drugs, but I think I at least began to grasp the gravity of the
situation. I tried very hard when Natascha and Kyla were little and we all
became very close. We had a cottage in the west of Scotland and every May
and September we'd spend a few weeks up there. Hiking, playing games and
just messing around. Being a family.
Unfortunately, I also had to spend long periods away from home. Because of
some problems I'd had with managers and record contracts, touring was the
only way I could make any money, so I was always on the road. My first
family suffered even more from this, because of the madness that surrounded
Cream and the aftermath of Cream, but I was doing my best - with Margrit's
constant vigilance and assistance - to have a proper relationship with my
There are some of my peers - and I'm not going to name names - who have been
awful fathers. You could argue that it's the nature of the business, but I
wouldn't agree with that. Some musicians I know are incredible fathers. Like
Keith Richards. A fantastic dad. You wouldn't think it, but, if times were
tough, you could be sure Keith would be there. If you needed somebody to do
the school run, Keith was your man.
Looking at how my kids have turned out, I suppose I've not done too bad. I
sadly lost one of my sons from my first marriage a few years ago. I've never
really spoken about this and don't really want to say too much, but Jonas
had an asthma attack and died at 28. Any parent who's been in that situation
will tell you that nothing comes close to losing a child.
All my kids got on so well. They are all great people. Kind and gentle and
wise and all that kind of stuff. All the stuff I don't do very well. I'm not
looking for sympathy here. It's not, "Oh, woe is me." If you knew me, you'd
realise that I am a bit screwed up, a bit of a mental case. But, luckily, my
kids seem to have learnt from my mistakes.
I never got high in front of Natascha.
I never had needles lying around or anything like that. Obviously she does
know what I got up to. It's all been in the papers. That's probably why she
doesn't do any of that stuff. Doesn't smoke, doesn't even drink. She hasn't
touched a beer since her 21st birthday. She's definitely got her head
screwed on the right way, and I guess that she must get that from her mum.
Margrit's the brainy one.
Natascha hasn't got into music because of the wild parties and the rock'n'
roll lifestyle. For her, it's all about "the music". About making something
very pure and very real. I know that because I saw her discovering music.
I watched her when she first heard the Beatles. I never said: "Right, today,
we're going to learn about the Beatles and the Stones." She got it on her
own. I certainly never sat her down and said: "Let's listen to some of Daddy
's music." That would be terribly arrogant of me. She knows she can come and
see me play live any time she wants to, but I'd never force her. She did
come to the Cream shows and I think she enjoyed that. Would I do another
reunion? Sure, I'd be there like a shot. Ah, but. you know how these things
Maybe there's a musical gene as well as an addictive gene. Luckily Natascha
got the musical one. In fact, all my kids seem to have got it. Both sons
from my first marriage were very musical - Jonas was one of the guys that
started Afro-Celt Sound System; Natascha's sister, Kyla, is a fantastic
singer, and their brother, Corin, is a brilliant drummer. He had his first
drum lesson from Ringo Starr and fell in love with
the drums from that day.
For a while, Margrit and I thought: "Wouldn't it be great if one of them
wanted to be a vet?" That would sound very impressive. "Here's our daughter
the vet." Instead, they all seem to be heading for the arts, and Natascha's
just released her own album. Am I complaining? God, no! I'm the proudest dad
in the world.
NATASCHA: Obviously, Dad's music has always been a part of our lives -
seeing him on TV or in the papers. But I don't think I really understood how
important his music has been until Cream got back together for the Royal
Albert Hall shows in 2005. The scale and size of the reaction was just
amazing. It was all over the news; people I hadn't seen for years were
suddenly ringing up and saying:
"Hi, Natascha. Any chance of a ticket?"
I'd seen him play live loads of times before, but watching him on stage that
night was very weird. I couldn't believe the power that the songs still had.
The way they were touching the audience. At times I'd just burst into tears
because I was so happy. You've got to remember it had only been a few months
since he'd properly recovered from a liver transplant. It was touch and go
for while. One time the doctors told us that he might only have 24 hours to
live. To see him up on that stage felt like a miracle.
Dad hasn't really talked much about the illness, just the same as he hasn't
really talked about all the drug problems he had in the past. I knew they
were there, but he did his best to protect me, my sister and brother. I don'
t like to bring it up with him, because it feels like I'm having a go. I don
't want to make him feel guilty. He's had a hell of a lot of problems - and
I'm not just talking about drugs here. He lost a son, too. I could see Dad
was in pain, but he dealt with his pain and his problems in his own way, and
it has never ever stopped him being an amazing, wonderful father.
Dad has definitely had an effect on my attitude to drugs. I remember when I
was about 15, I was smoking quite a bit of weed and he sat down with me one
day and explained what drugs had done to some of the people he knew. He told
me stories about friends of his who'd taken LSD once and that was it, their
mind was out there somewhere and it never came back. It scared the hell out
of me. If there's one job that Dad is very qualified to do, it's talking
about the perils of addiction!
Children of addicts can go two ways - it can make or break you. You become
an addict yourself or you become completely paranoid and never touch
anything. I totally went down that second path. It was almost as if Dad had
made all my mistakes for me, so I didn't have to make them. I haven't
touched a beer for years. I never got into ecstasy or anything like that.
Reality is scary enough. Why would you want to change reality? Why would you
want to alter that perception? It's like letting someone into your head to
poke around in there. That really scares me. I like to be in control.
I like to know what I'm doing.
I'm not having a go at people who want to take drugs - that's up to them -
but I have had a full-on experience of what drugs can do to you and I don't
want to go there. I've got friends who are taking pills every weekend and
you can already see what it's doing to them. They're only my age, but it's
affecting the way they speak and the way they act. They're overdoing it.
Maybe the reason I've listened to Dad - why the whole family listens to what
he has to say - is because he never preaches to you. All he's ever done is
offer information. People probably look at the music Dad's made and think
that he's not really a political thinker, but if you sit down and talk to
him, you'll see what he's really like. I suppose he's what you'd call an
old-fashioned socialist. He would tell us about what was happening in South
Africa during the days of apartheid, and which foods it was okay to buy.
Thatcher was always the evil monster. He helped me make my own placard to
carry on a Gulf war march. And we'd always sit in front of the TV to watch
things like the Berlin wall coming down or Nelson Mandela walking free.
As a child, he made me aware of things that no other kid at my school was
aware of. I'm really grateful for that. He taught me how to look beyond your
own life - to look at what's out there. To be open. To try and understand
other people's problems. To see that the world is a huge, amazing place. I'
ve tried to put that in my songs. They're all quite political. I actually
find it hard to write about love. It doesn't feel right. When Dad first
heard the album, I was worried because I wanted him to like it. I think he
does. I can usually tell when he doesn't like something. He's a really bad
Even though I'm doing music, I've never compared myself to my Dad.
I couldn't! What he did with his music is way beyond anything I could ever
achieve. But that's another one of those things he finds it difficult to
talk about - just how good he is. He's so down on himself. He hates
compliments. He'll always turn them around so they're not about him. It's
almost as if he can't deal with the emotion of it all. I wish he would feel
happier about stuff like that. C'mon, Dad, isn't it about time that you
accepted you're a genius?
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