A sunny day along the valley…
Nicky Book-keeper, Mr. Stormy, Hugh the Fierce and David are all in. A busy DGM HQ in our crumbling facility.
… and data whirring.
12.41 Kitchen meeting with David over cake and chocolates, and up to the DGM Art Department to improve the quality of Hugh’s day I…
Forward-movement with The DGM Illustrated Companion To King Crimson 1969-84.
A call from the Minx at home, who is off to the Piddle for further organizing and clearing of Barbara’s cottage.
12.43 Newsed by the Sidney…
Robert Fripp: An Appreciation
By Ron Kozar
The photo at the top of the article was taken at the World Financial Center performances of 3-4th. December 2010. As the WFC is a public space, permission for photography is taken as a given, regardless of the expressed wishes of the performer. So, for anyone who wanted a picture of the guitarist, this was their chance. It was seized. For me, part of the price to be paid for the opportunity to play in that remarkable space, now a site of pilgrimage.
Moving along… it seems a little churlish, even bad form, to quibble over small comments in such an overwhelmingly positive review as Mr. Kozar’s. But accuracy is a worthy aspiration, even where it threatens to undermine a good-story unfolding, and where small comments may have larger consequences.
RK: Crimson’s latest release, A Scarcity of Miracles…
RF: Scarcity is not a Crimson release: it is a ProjeKct release; probably 50-60% of what I would consider a King Crimson release and 100% of a Jakszyk, Fripp & Collins with Tony Levin and Gavin Harrison album.
RK: Fripp himself produced the album…
RF: Produced by Jakko Jakszyk & RF.
RK: Nothing else in Fripp’s oeuvre sounds quite like what he gives us in Scarcity…
RF: … better expressed: … sounds quite like what Jakko, Mel, Tony, Gavin and Robert give us in Scarcity. How did four of the members/players get airbrushed out of this?
I am very grateful to Mr. Kozar for his appreciation, but King Crimson is much, much more than the English guitarist. Fripp does have a particular contribution to make, but the nature of that is mostly overlooked and yet to be accurately described. Over to Vic Garbarini for that.
Mr. Kozar continues, and quotes Billy B from his autobiography…
Interviews given by Fripp suggest a taciturn personality, but not a belligerent or intimidating one. Bill Bruford, the drummer from two of Crimson’s later incarnations, portrays Fripp using passive-aggressive methods to maintain his grip:
“Two or three guys would noodle on something, individuals contributed a passage here, a song there, a refrain here, but nothing worked. Our Fearless Leader, guitar in hand, stared at his favored spot on the floor, slightly to his right and a few feet in front of him, for minutes on end. The Active Ones—myself, Belew, Levin, Trey Gunn—ran up ideas, toyed with this, rejected that. The stare didn’t waver.
Eventually, exasperation got the better of me, and I heard myself voice my unsolicited opinion on the proceedings with a clarity that surprised me. This provoked reaction. The stare wavered; its owner put down his instrument and wordlessly left the room. The following day he could be persuaded to return only with profuse apologies…. ”
The story conflates two separate incidents which Bill presents as one, both part of the Crimson writing-rehearsal week in Nashville, May 1997. From the first draft of Sidney Smith’s Toxic Tome
The musical development of a band is always a delicate matter and the combination of personalities, motivations, costs and competing careers made King Crimson even more fraught than might otherwise be expected. When the Double Trio met again in May 1997, it was to begin the process of threading together the various ideas and sketches which people had been working on. The bulk of the material came from Fripp but largely failed to ignite much in the way of passion from any members of the band. As the edited version of the sessions reveal (released as KCCC 13) much of what would be covered in the ProjeKcts and the ConstruKction Of Light album was already in evidence albeit in a crude form.
Despite some intriguing explorations such as the pensive "Sad Woman Jam", "Tony's Jam" and the ebullient scuffle of "Big Funk", as the week progressed there was little in the way of agreement about what worth pursuing. "The prime writer presents a piece and has the other guys trash it, without sympathy, respect or consideration, perhaps even play a detailed piece of writing for a week without settling anywhere near a basic part. This is an acute form of suffering for the initiator," Fripp candidly says of the process of presenting material.
These sessions and with them, the Double Trio came to an abrupt end, however.
Fripp recalls: "Adrian had invited all the band to his house, en route to dinner together at nearby Loco Lupe's Mexican restaurant. That is, this was a social event for everyone to see Adrian's new home and studio. We went downstairs into the studio and Adrian played a tape of a Crimson demo: this was an Adrian song that he wanted to use on a solo compilation album.
Bill became very negative and critical. Even, rather nasty. This surprised Adrian, at least. Bill then went on to criticise, negate and undermine the whole concept that underlay DGM and Crimson's business structure in the post-EG world. Bill completely blasted six years of my work setting up a new structure for Crimson as if it was all a worthless, ill-conceived approach.
The comments appeared to come from nowhere. I don't know what triggered Bill's outburst, and I doubt that Bill was aware of their effect on me. A leitmotif of Bill's life in Crimson is that he often appeared to be unaware of the effect of his actions.
We went to the restaurant afterwards although, for me, something had been spoiled. This had been a very different level of critical negativity than might normally arise in band discussions, even band disagreements. Bill had missed the point of the band's business plan and structure, to a destructive degree, and had gone on to undermine the raison d'Ítre of the group. Clearly, this view is subjective.
The next day I woke up and developed a migraine, seeing no way forward. Adrian went into rehearsals without me. Bill called to apologise. What he said to me was: You shouldn't take any notice of what someone says after they've had a beer. What Bill failed to mention was that his destructive comments were made prior to the beer, not during or after."
Characteristically robustly, Bruford responds: "Clearly Robert's view is subjective. The words over and reaction come to mind, but then perhaps he needed a pretext. I was aware of my injudicious comments, but unaware that my fulsome apology the next day had not been accepted in good grace.
I was also unaware that I had apparently managed to undermine the whole concept that underlay DGM and Crimson's business structure in the post-EG world. This was a surprising achievement, especially in the light of my many public statements of affinity for Robert and his work vis-a-vis DGM's business structure, both before and after this event, and which I take this opportunity to re-state; and my continuing, happy and fruitful use of this structure for my own musical endeavours."
Bruford gives his personal summary of that period. "Exasperation was thick in the air in those Nashville rehearsals, and Robert will understand he was not alone in feeling it. For me, the futile sterility of that period allowed me to sever the lifeline that tethered me to the Good Ship Crimson, and allow the old thing to recede slowly and elegantly into the 20th Century mist, as I sought more productive pastures for the new millennium.
It remains my oft-stated case that, despite the odd abrasion, I found my time with the band musically and intellectually stimulating; I remain grateful for its existence, and full of admiration for its leader, as its leader well knows. I, of all the group's members, was not the enemy, but I did have the thickest skin they, well used to receiving the sharpest barbs. King Crimson was for 25 years my spiritual home with a bed of nails. Time, now, to move on."
Bill is a wonderful, honest, decent man, one I would invite into my home to have tea; and no greater compliment am I able to pay anyone. Bill typifies the qualities associated with The English Gentleman, not merely those qualities pretended to by one aspiring to climb the British social ladder and aiming to be honoured for such. Honest, straightforward, never intentionally unkind: Bill’s is a thorough-going decency.
Bill's background and education taught him that God created the universe to serve the interests of the English middle-class. In a lesser man, this would have given rise to arrogance. In a person of Bill’s quality, it provided a confidence with which to engage the world.
In an earlier generation, Bill would have presided over a vast region of the British Empire, administering justice and fairness, taking the gospel of a God who spoke English to the heathen and lower orders. In a generation or so after that, Captain Bruford would have led his men over the top at Verdun and (had he survived) the Somme; Major Bruford would have seen action at Passchendaele, been mentioned in despatches, and returned home as Colonel Bruford from Cambrai or the Marne.
In this generation, Bill strode through the world of rock music, hitting things loudly and frequently, knowing that God had also provided rock music as a platform for young Englishmen to take a contemporary gospel to the heathen and lower orders.
Confidence is a great thing.
The value and power of Bill’s contribution to King Crimson, his primary contribution IMO, was the enthusiasm, energy and power that Bill brought to bear; even where a person of greater discrimination might have feared to go. A flying brick wall, as was said in 1973-74 Crim. But then, the British Empire was not founded on deep reflection and consideration for the effects of its action on others; and since God was English, everything the Empire did was for the best in all possible worlds.
Bill's world in King Crimson was a simpler world than mine.
My skin was thinner than Bill’s, an insufficient armour to ward off the contradictions, conceits, incompatibilities, irrationality, dishonesty and sheer unkindness that has characterized much of my professional life.
Bill had three personal characteristics that were hard for me. Only the third was problematic: Bill didn't know the first two. Bill's entertaining and informative autobiography accurately conveys the man: funny, intelligent, an ideal person to invite home for tea and enjoyable conversation. Were the autobiography to address in detail the subtleties of the musical life, the complexities of personal interaction, the mechanics of acquiring a personal discipline, the nature of the music industry and how it constrains our personal aspirations, the book would not be as much fun to read as it is.
Bill looked upon himself as an Ideas Person. Bill sometimes told us that he saw his role as providing 100 ideas, and didn't mind if we threw out 99 of them. My own sense of an Ideas Person is someone who contributes ten ideas, nine of which work. Someone who presents 99 dud ideas wastes a great deal of time, attention and energy. Good, then, to develop discrimination; and Bill presented some stunning ideas (eg the slow-building riff coming out of the song-section of Starless). Bill’s high-energy brought his enthusiasm to bear upon whatever subject attracted his attention; regardless of whether the subject was the one being currently addressed, or otherwise.
The aim of the King Crimson Nashville rehearsals in May 1997 was to generate new material for the Double Trio, which had come to a stage in its process where, without redirection and re-commitment, it was due to go off-course. During the week’s rehearsals, the form of the day divided mainly into two two-hour periods. In one of them, I presented material in process of composition. In the other, there was extemporization and jamming, often with Bill taking charge.
Bill was not primarily a writer during our time together, but writing/composition seemed to be his developing-interest at the rehearsals. Sometimes Bill played a full drum part, from which he extrapolated rhythm-parts to give to other players. On none of the material I presented did Bill find parts for himself to play; noting that having a part doesn’t mean we have to play it: a map of the terrain doesn’t determine how we move across the landscape, but indicates to others on the same journey that we are all moving towards an agreed destination. Clearly, nothing I presented rang Bill’s bell. I’m not sure that the musical sterility of the rehearsals caused Bill to sever the lifeline to Crimson. I think, more likely, his musical journey was already underway, and elsewhere from KC.
My own primary concerns were the “quality control” that is King Crimson; with an overall performance-set and the pieces within it, inside a tour of repertoire from a new album; a supportive business structure of appropriate management, an agency for live work, record and publishing companies; self-funding (“The Pension Fund”) that was necessary for independence; and playing guitar at a standard that reflected the aspirations of the band.
In May 1997 the out-of-court settlement with EG, Virgin Records and BMG Publishing had been agreed, but was not finally exchanged until September 1997. Visitors to the DGM Diary may by now have some sense of the impact of Endless Grief upon my life as a whole, and therefore the difficulties surrounding the re-presenting of King Crimson to the world in 1994 – The Double Trio - and onwards. To finance the initial rehearsals, beginning in April 1994, I arranged a Japanese record contract, the advance from which (VROOOM) provided initial funding. This deal was independent of Virgin Records, licensee in Europe and the United States; this in itself only one small part of the overall business picture constructed in the wake of the EG collapse, therefore the collapse of my own and Crimson’s business arrangements.
If the aim of the Nashville rehearsal period was to generate new material for the Double Trio, this was an outcome that became less likely by the day. The two situations I found myself confronting were these:
1. A writing period with no hope of achieving any writing.
2. A business framework put together in exceptionally difficult times, at great personal cost for an equal share of the income, that had been disparaged and dismissed out of hand by a Senior Member of the band in an irrational and arbitrary outburst, which was then just as abruptly forgotten. How to rationally explain an irrational moment? An apology may be honestly accepted; but where damage has been done there remain wounds to heal and, when healed, scars that itch in cold weather.
The new generation of material from King Crimson was not; and a business structure to support taking it out into the world, dissed. Anyone who feels disappointment that the Double Trio realised only a small part of its potential may to some degree have experienced what I was experiencing towards the end of the week's rehearsals. A musical future for the Double Trio evaporated, and the business plan that made its existence possible dismissed in a peremptory fashion.
Conventionally, writing rehearsals are the period when any band breaks up. All the contradictions, disagreements and dissensions come to the surface. It is easier, less controversial, for a band to play material it already knows; so the next step in keeping a band together is to go back on the road. The practicalities of six busy Crims, with varying career-demands and personal interests, agreeing a tour of perhaps five-to-eight weeks over the Summer, was not easy. For the period I was looking at, right in the middle was the Bruford family holiday. But if not that family, then another. This was the end of the Double Trio. How to move forward from there? That was the ProjeKcts.
None of the above affects Bill’s invitation to visit for tea and tasty cakes, simply examples of how we managed to irritate the shit out of each other over 25 years. While we had work to do, this was only a difficulty. When our time had run its course, it was a problem.
Everyone likes Bill, and I am one of them. Not many people like Fripp, and I’m not sure it matters.
17.30 An important e-mail has flown away in respect of the non-industrial dispute and dissension currently underway.
To close down the desk.
20.15 A visit to Mr. Romain at Romain’s Emporium Where Ageing Is A Virtue I…
Mr. Romain always manages to find a new delight, or two. Leaving Wilton, across Salisbury to Bredonborough.
21.12 A MinxWalk around the town…
… and to gentle.
Search Robert Fripp's diary archive.