By Sune Schack.
Welcome back… thanks, man! Here we go… He-he..!
Yeah! Welcome back to Scandinavia! You’re home now! Going to Sweden too, right? And you’ve brought this new band… Swedish guys…
I didn’t see you yesterday in Vejle, but I heard you were great… Did you have a nice time?
Yeah! That was our first show, but it was really fun!
They’re young, aren’t they? Pretty young musicians, right?
He-he… Well, I don’t know how young they are… They’re a lot younger than me… which is not hard… That’s for sure… He-he!
And you’re around 40 right?
I’m 43.. right! Yeah! They play together as a band, and we’ve played before in Örebro. We did one show. A couple of years ago…
I’m pretty curious…regarding Aske (Aske Jacoby), the good old Aske… How does he fit in?
He-he…! We played together last year. With…. hmm, who else was in that band…ah, I think last year was Joey Heredia, Lars Danielsson and Aske… We had so much fun! So actually I didn’t realize that there was another guitar player in this band. I thought it was just gonna be the bass player and the drummer. But they brought everybody… so… we’ve got extra keyboards and guitar… and Aske! He-he…
Do you like that? With two keyboards?
Yeah! It’s fun! Why not…
Actually, what I’d really like to talk about is… you know, during the time we’ve got here. I’m not the usual ‘reporter interviewer’… I’m more like an old time fan… A keyboard player too… I’d like to ask you…being both a singer and a keyboard player: playing and singing at you’re doin’ great… Isn’t that sometimes hard? Can you keep focus always?
Well, no… not always… he-he! You know a lot of songwriters, they play and write songs on the piano… or whatever you write on; guitar/bass. You write a song, and sing it at the same time, I guess. It’s the same for me, you know… I just happen to do both things…
The reason why I’m asking is, of course, because we’re all a bit jealous… He-he…. You actually do both things brilliantly… and simultaneously! That’s amazing somehow… Many years of practice, right?
No!…Oh, no…unfortunately, man… I never practice… he-he..
Yeah! hmmm… I should, I know… he-he! I just play… I should practice… Wish I had, when I was young… ;o)
Let me ask you… A lot of fans are probably still into ‘the old Michael Ruff era’, if you know what I’m saying… Of course, we’re also looking forward to hearing the ‘new one’ again tonight… but you know…
He-he…Yeah! Who’s the ‘old one’?
I would say… Michael Ruff Band, the ‘Made in Denmark’ CD… That’s for me the old Michael Ruff.
Yeah! I know.
Yeah! Lars Danielsson, Per Lindvall and you… three kings, right?!
Yeah! They’re great… Great stuff.
If we could focus on the keyboard parts of the record… also the singing, of course. But the keys in the first place… On the tune ‘Once in a lifetime’. Your solo on that recording. A masterpiece, in my opinion…! Is the whole arrangement of that tune really 100 % improvised?
Yeah, man… Everything is… is it the one with the acoustic piano? D minor?
Jep… Think so! D minor is great… Everybody loves to play/improvise in D minor, right? He-he. 100% improvisation…? get out, really?… Hmm… annoying… he-he…!
He-he… thanks a lot! Yeah! Great feeling on that one… You know, when you play a solo in a song, a lot of times you might have favorite places to go, right? Or places to start… Stuff that works! However, I’m sure that I repeat myself a lot of times…
The chords and the solo on ‘Tribute to you’…amazing feeling and ‘connected ensemble’ on this piece… very tuneful and harmonic/dynamic solo piece…
Yeah! That’s one of my favorites too! Usually, we never agree on anything in the studio… Just plug and play… Maybe some licks are the same, but the rest is pure improvisation…
So, nothing agreed… No formula whatsoever?
Well, I have a strange way of doing it…I have the song and the chords… The chorus here, the verse there, maybe the solo section… But the endings, the intro, actually the entire way of building the song is free. Well, yeah, it’s good, cause it’s “fresh” every time. You’re never playing the same licks… That’s great. Quite boring for musicians to do that…
The energy and the ‘connected’ funky stuff attitude just come to you and the band while playing?
Oh, yeah! That’s the great thing about that particular band… especially Lindvall. We never ‘talk’ about anything… We just play. As if we were thinking with the same brain…! That’s amazing! It’s just kind of automatic…
Yeah! He’s a genius… The Scandinavian ‘Porcaro’ in my opinion…!
Yeah! He’s extremely gifted. God has given him an incredible gift… He’s amazing. Just like Lars Danielsson.
Yes! We’re lucky to have Lars Danielsson, aren’t we..! A fierce bass player…
Definitely! He’s amazing too. Won’t find any better… He-he… The Michael Ruff Band CD… Yeah! Haven’t heard it for years, though… Must check it again…
Come on…! Are you kidding me? When you go home, listen to it again! We’d like more of that, please! That’s the real spirit… Yeah! You know for the real West Coast fans… A must have! Hard to find that record, actually… Not that many anymore. And the sound recording is amazing… Great sound! The symbiosis between Danielsson’s bass, Lindvall’s legendary drums and the piano… That’s subtle beyond imagination…! Lindvall definitely is the master. And Lars too!
Yeah! Definitely! Lindvall is the true master, and Lars is amazing….You’re right!
Your jazzy approach… the funky, Latin & salsa feel… The ‘huge’ altered chords/harmonies… big, floating layers… always done that?
He-he… Yeah! You’ve got 10 fingers, right…You’re a keyboard player yourself. You know how it is. You’re supposed to use them all… I like great harmonies. Big chords… Fifths, blue notes and syncopation!
So, what about your own inspiration? – When I listen to ‘Morning sun’, especially the intro, and quite a lot of places in your other tunes – maybe your entire way of playing/building chords, the intonation and the special ‘touch’ – I hear quite a lot the same style and feeling as Bruce Hornsby… Are you inspired by him? Do you like him?
Oh, yeah! He’s great. I love his playing! He’s a great piano player. He really knows how to leave a lot of space in the music! He uses a lot of fifths, which is great! Open chords… Yeah, we have a similar feeling, definitely…!
Quite similar, I’d say… especially the way you guys use the damper!
Yeah! That’s right. He’s a nice player… He’s not a primary influence though, cause I meet him a lot later in life, but you know… Oscar Peterson is probably the main!
You know, the very first one who inspires me, I guess was Vince Geraldi from “The Peanuts”, you know? the cartoons… I was a kid, and really loved the way he played piano… So I would copy it. Play the same.
You´ve got success both as a singer and a keyboard player… Earlier you´ve also done quite good as musical director for a lot of great names…
Do you prefer to do your own stuff?
Oh, yeah! That’s my life… It’s kind of difficult now that I have a family… A lot of traveling on tour as a musical director… Maybe for a very short time; with the right person, I don’t know… I prefer to stay home. Have a life. You really don’t have a life when you’re traveling on the road with all these other artists…
How’s the musical life in Hawaii where you live now?
Hmmm… preeeeeeettttyy quiet, I’d say!
And still you don’t practice? I can’t believe it…! He-he! What do you do? Volleyball and surfing?
Yeahh, man. That’s great. Driving our children around to their activities… A lot of things. You know…. I’m not practicing in that way, but I use every chance I get to play… Just played at the hotel before coming here. You know. Just sitting, playing. As long as I’m playing, I have some chops and I can try out new things… When I’m playing, then I’m loose…
So when do you write new songs? Sitting playing the piano as therapy… Always writing new songs?
Yeah… kind of… not always… they come when they come… depends… Whenever I sit down and play, I usually just play the blues! He-he….Or just play through some jazz changes…I’m practicing some Latin things….Learning some of the chords and rhythms…You know, trying to get into the rhythm. The rhythm of the Latin players, the Cuban/salsa players.
Everybody that knows Michael Ruff would say that you’ve got quite a lot of different styles going on… The jazzy, funky, Latin/salsa feel. The blues section! But also the ballads, the love songs…
You know, there’s a word for all my different styles: schizophrenia! He-he… ;o) Musically confused!… You know… music is just music… You could take one song and play it in a Latin way, as a blues… or….whatever…. you know!
“Max” who’s sitting behind us now… (Maxayn is her real name). I heard her singing during the sound check… She’s amazing! She’s very funky… Are you gonna be funky tonight too?
Yeah! I hope so!
You played a very nice version of ‘Leave the light on’ during the sound check…Mikael Dahlen, the drummer, he was using a funny box (acoustic wooden box), the rhythm thing… It sounded great… Do you know what it’s called?
Yeahhhh! What’s it called…. hmmmm… ‘Udooooh’ something, I guess. He-he…! He really likes to play it. Sounds great!
Are you gonna use it later tonight?
Maybe… we’ll see… He uses it on another song too, it’s great!
When did you write the tune ‘Leave the light on’? That’s a great piece!…
I wrote it with a Swedish guy, writer and producer, Martin Terefe. We wrote that in London ’96 or ’97, I guess… Yeah! Thanks. I like it a lot, too. Great song…
When you wrote the tune ‘Cry on my shoulder’, was it especially meant for Bonnie Raitt’s multi-platinum ‘Nick of time’ album?
No. It’s my own song. Actually, it was on a cassette… that I sent her – on the B- side of this cassette. There were other songs on it, but she really liked this one, so…
Will we get more chances to see you here in Scandinavia soon?
Yeah! We’re gonna come back in maybe March and April 2002. We’re gonna try to play a reunion with Lindvall, Lars Danielsson, maybe Aske. Or maybe Henrik Janson if we can get him…
Yeah! Definitely in Copenhagen. We might also record. Do some recording here. That should be great.
Will these future recordings be released pretty soon after?
And tonight’s show…what are we gonna hear?
Tonight, we’re gonna play all the new stuff from the new album ‘Show the world’. Maybe also a lot of the old songs… We’ll see.
Everything’s improvised as usual, right? No set list?
He-he… No set list, that’s right!
So whenever a fan yells something, later tonight, maybe you’ll play it?
He-he… Yeah! If we know it…? And if we feel like playing it.
During the concert yesterday in Vejle, some fans wanted a particular song, right? The Swedish guys didn’t know it, but you played it anyway…? That’s pretty cool. Did it go all right?
Yeah! It came out just fine. They’ve been playing together on all the songs for this tour… So when I came yesterday, we haven’t rehearsed as a band yet. But they’re great…
Yeah! This is my first time with your Swedish band. I look forward to hearing them play… However, looking even more forward to the future reunion: Lindvall, Danielsson, Janson and you.
Yeah! Me too!
Lars Danielsson, the uncrowned bass king, in my opinion, is playing with a guy called Erann. I think they played yesterday! Do you know him?
Yeah! I went there and saw them. They were great! Really great… Lars, the king, yeah! That’s right…!
So, were does this interview go? On a website or something?
Yeah! We’re gonna put it on a huge west coast site called bluedesert.dk You know these guys already, right? Henrik Bohm and Kenneth Bremer…, the hardest working west coast business men in show business…!
Yeah! For many years… many heritages… Great!
You’re playing Yamaha keys, right? Are you sponsored by Yamaha? I saw the P200 Motherkey on stage… Do you get your grand pianos for free?
Yeah! Mostly, Yamaha gives me one when I come over here…
You’ve been playing Yamaha for as long I remember! Ever since I was in high school, that’s approx. 13 years ago… I saw you at ‘Rock concert, Charlottenlund Fort’ with Lindvall, Danielsson & co. You played the KX 88 MIDI keys… still remember the concert as if it were yesterday… ‘Come together’ live… around 13 years ago. He-he! A true fan, watching the mentor…!
Yeah! Thanks, man…Great…! Good memories! I remember that. Yeah, that was a great time…Many years ago, you’re right.
And all the new Yamaha stuff… Do you get it for free?
Heck no! Unfortunately! Wish I did… Really! Yeah! I should, you’re right. Call them up for me, ok? In Danish! Will you?
OK, I will. Promise. I’m gonna call them up one of these days! He-he… Hmm, yeah. Ruff the long-time super Yahama user… You should get more stuff from them… I fix!
So, this was actually an interview very much in your own ‘impro’ style. Nothing much prepared, you know?…
That’s great. That was great! It works, see?! Really. Thanks a lot, man.
Thanks! You too! I wish you luck tonight. Have a great time with the band, we’ll be listening…
Thanks a lot, my friend. What’s your own favorite song?
‘Once in a lifetime’ and the ‘old Ruff version’ of ‘Come together’…
All right…! Great! Don’t know if the guys know ‘Once in a lifetime’. We’ll see.
Definitely we’re gonna play ‘Come together’…
Maybe they do know ‘Once in a lifetime’? I don’t know? You know, there was a mistake on that record in that tune. There was a break, with a bar of 5, right? And it’s like, we were just goofing around… I think I messed up there? Per, of course, he comes in right where he’s supposed to… as always. You know, as long as you end and come in at the same, it feels like you’re supposed to do it that way… There are no wrong notes in music, just the ones you choose to make!
Well, thanks a lot, Michael, for taking your time with this interview.
You’re on stage in approx. 10 min., you know?
Oh, we are? Really? Thanks. Yeah! Very nice to meet you too. Nice interview!
Would you put a link in it to the Michael Ruff website? You can buy all my albums there…
See you next time! Thanks, my friend…Very nice meeting you!
Yeah! You too. Take care. Thanks a lot! Nice meeting a real fan and a keyboardplayer!