10.46 On his way home, David Singleton called in from the Music Room & ProjeKct Four. He had received a call from Bradley Britvic, Bartley Butsford, Butely Bridport & Belden Stratford, aka Billy the Trappist, acknowledging the next step in Crimson's tangled, intriguing, bewildering-but-ultimately-intelligible progression through time.
All the Crims have now reported in on my recent letter to them, so I am able to report to the Diary on Crim matters-arising. This is the bulk of my correspondence to the Crims, so these letters provide as good an insight to Courtly planning & discussion on my side as enthusiasts are likely to get.
As I read these letters, it it clear to me that Fripp is acting in the role of moderator / convenor. This is one of the functions of a "band leader" but does not define the nature or distinctive quality of "the bandleader". In a sextet, geometrically more complex than a quartet, probably one of the members has to play the role of convenor if anything at all is going to happen. I note that any of the other Crims might also have played this role, but none did. Until my responsibility to the King is released / discharged, then if no-one else is prepared to play the role, then...
Now, the letters.
February 24th. 1999.
The Crims of Terror, Beastliness & Wonderment.
Dear Tony, Bill, Adrian, Trey & Pat,
Included below is a copy of my present letter to Bill, and an earlier letter to him, which presents my current Crim thinking.
I take is as given, we are all well aware of the present impossibilities of Crimsonising in Double Trio format. Logistically, musically, personally, the variables are so great that nothing is happening. At this point, I feel I have to make the call.
The situation I see is this: Bill is a busy boy; Tony is about to tour with Seal, and Peter's next tour is in the offing. Pat, Trey and myself are savagely available to Crim's next step. Adrian is also committed, in tandem with his solo career. So, I see a four-piece King Crimson of Adrian, Robert, Pat & Trey which makes a serious commitment through the second half of this year and into 2000, to include a studio album and major touring to match.
This does not exclude either Tony, Bill, or both Tony & Bill, from the step after the next step. Or, the possibility that both could join the four piece for a Special Event Double Trio Week of some kind. In my view, this future is both sufficiently defined that it will happen, and open enough to allow other futures to develop.
I hope this meets with everyone's approval.
February 24th. 1999.
This follows on from our recent telephone conversation (Tuesday 2nd. February) in which I proposed to you:
1. King Crimson touring in the US this October (3 weeks plus up to one week rehearsals) and Japan in December (probably 3 weeks total). This would be based on core Crimson repertoire which continues to fire and ignite the players, plus "support" from one or two ProjeKcts with their new / upcoming music.
This addresses what is immediately possible for Crimson, which we could honourably undertake to meet in short order. Part of my enthusiasm for this comes from working with David Singleton on "Neon Heat Disease", Volume One of "Cirkus: The Young Persons Guide To King Crimson - Live" (1984-98). This is not a retrospective but an account of a live, burning outfit.
2. The release of a new King Crimson studio album around May - June 2000. This would be primarily recorded at Adrian's and primarily mixed & edited at DGM World Central. This would not necessarily be all formally "composed" or structured music.
3. Two major King Crimson tours for the year 2000, 5-6 weeks each including rehearsals, probably one in Europe and one in the US (Lollapalooza, Horde, etc.). You expressed a concern in respect of your domestic responsibilities and commitments (which every shares and has sympathy for). I understand from Richard Chadwick that you later expressed the sense that an album implies some committed touring with its release. You also expressed no interest in ProjeKct Zero.
Three days later you visited DGM while I was in London. David discussed the proposals with you, and this is the note for me from David awaiting my return:
"I have spoken with Bill with regard to King Crimson. His, perhaps legitimate, concern about this autumn is that he does not feel King Crimson should return to the same stamping grounds with the same core material. If there were two or three new songs added to this core material, as well as the work of the ProjeKcts, he feels this would be a musically more satisfyinhg event. Retreading and reworking old ground interests him far less. He points out that if an album is to be recorded in early 2000, then some new material would need to be generated this year.
This may present you with the interesting position that you can play the core repertoire without Bill, who is necessary to play much of it, or you can tour with Bill, but not play so much of the core repertoire.
He is keen to support Discipline and King Crimson, but does not find the current scenario very appealing.
I hope I have faithfully transmitted his concerns."
Now, the recent history of Crimson.
A. The Double Trio met for a week's full rehearsals in Nashville (November 17th. 1997). I came with a large amount of written material for presentation, the outcome of a lot of preparatory writing. After a week's full rehearsals, nothing of mine was close to being finalised. Nor was any other piece submitted by anyone else (and there wasn't a lot of that) close to being finalised either. This week cost us $30,000 from the Pension Fund.
My conclusion from this is simple: formal writing rehearsals along this model, for this band, is a waste of money and (mostly) a waste of time. Certainly, I have no intention of spending a large part of my creative time preparing for another week like this.
B. Accepting that the current band was not overly excited about any of the formal written material I'd submitted, my next suggestion was to base the upcoming generation of Crim repertoire on electronic drumming. We have a demon double / triple drum configuration, with promising results from our work so far; all of which I have loved and encouraged. (For all the work done in Nashville by the two main drummers, regrettably no drum pieces were presented).
On the foundation of a seething, surging mass of percussion electronica, I conceived the front line moving forward in response. Essentially, this was a club-orientated electronica Crim.
You weren't interested in this idea. Your current thinking, and present musical heart, is in acoustic drums. I have no complaint with this: passion and enthusiasm can't be invented or falsified. And I accept, without implying any criticism, that you are not in this musical space which I envisaged for Crim.
C. ProjeKct Zero: this would be a full configuration of the Double Trio but open to wherever it might move, whatever it might decide to play - repertoire, improvised, newly written.
This wasn't of interest to you.
D. The most recent suggestion, that we base the next live Crimson on existing repertoire which stirs the passions (and I have heard the stunning "Neurotica" from Mexico City), with new developments driven by the ProjeKcts, doesn't interest you without new material. My perspective on new material:
i) New written repertoire is unrealistic (read: the experience of Nashville).
ii) The percussion electronica idea for generating new Crim music doesn't interest you.
If I take David's comments as roughly indicative of your feelings:
1. "King Crimson should not return to the same stamping grounds with the same core material".
I agree to a degree. But new written material involves rehearsals and, I think convincingly, we've shown that this doesn't work.
2. "If there were two or three new songs aded to this core material, as well as the work of the ProjeKcts, (Bill) feels this would be a musically more satisfying event".
I agree. But:
a) I presented enough material for two or three new pieces in Nashville and nothing happened. Spending another $30,000 on the off-chance something might be different next time is not an option I support.
b) The onus of this falls, substantially, on Adrian and myself to deliver new written material. I feel it is unfair to place the responsibility for the next live work taking place on Adrian and myself.
c) To undertake an October tour, on this basis, implies that I have to guarantee that you, and the other members of Crimson, accept / like the pieces which Adrian & I present; and that Adrian & I like and accept the parts which you and the other guys present in response. And if I don't feel the material is being played convincingly, how can I accept it merely because it's new?
d) The argument, that to have a new album means "some new material would need to be generated this year", is superficially convincing. But:
i) I proposed a studio album, not an album of performance based material.
ii) To have new written material ready for October places a heavy & disproportionate responsibility on Adrian and myself, which is unreasonable & unacceptable.
So, my (subjective) feeling is this: I have made three (four including ProjeKct Zero) propositions / presentations regarding the future of the King Crimson Double Trio. The first presentation was not rejected, simply not acted upon. The next two / three presentations (electronica, ProjeKct Zero, core repertoire) is not "very appealing" to you. Currently, I've abandoned new writing, the conceptual notion on electronica, hopes for ProjeKct Zero, and my excitement for playing core repertoire.
It's difficult to know where I can go from here to interest you in Crimson's musical future. My sense is that your musical heart, and commitments in time, are presently with Earthworks rather than King Crimson. This is not a problem for me in any way. I support you and Earthworks both personally, musically, and as DGM's CEO. I encourage you to take it as far as you can without reservation, compromise or distraction. You are the perfect Discipline artist. But for me & my responsibility to the King, it's time to move on.
I include my letter to the full team and, as an appendix, my letter to you from last September.
Sunday 13th. September, 1998.
Our recent discussion of the next step for Crim continues to reverberate, oscillate and generate my thinking process. This letter is addressed to you directly, because we have an ongoing conversation on this, but I'll copy it to the other members of the Team as Talking & Discussion Points.
I keep running into the problem of how to include acoustic drumming into my (electronic) picture of the next step. Part of this is musical, and part of this is practical.
Fundamentally, there is no point in you playing electronic drums because you think you should, Robert wants you to, or that's the only way to play if you want to be in Crim. The worthwhile reasons are:
1. You feel passionate about electronic drums;
2. That's the instrument for making the music you hear.
In my planning for the Crim future what I've been doing, following on our conversations, has been to compromise my sense of the next step; this, in order to include you and acoustic drums. Practically, acoustic traps means it's back to perspex sheets, large rooms for rehearsal and recording, and earplugs: in other words, ways of keeping out the sound of Crim playing. ProjeKct One just about worked, with occasional winces in the high end; but for Crimson I continue to have major doubts.
So, since I keep hitting a conceptual brick wall and unable to move the process forward, what I've decided to do is this: go ahead with what I hear / see / have in mind for a five-piece "ProjeKCt".
This seems positive on all counts: you're not excluded, but something else is going on. Meanwhile, you're following your own passion: "Earthworks II" and acoustic drums. My hunch is that, right now, this is probably more musically important to you than reinventing King Crimson. Currently, the important musical challenge for me is to reinvent Crimson.
ProjeKCt has the advantage of travelling with less history, less expectations. When PROJEkcT has created a new repertoire, who knows what might follow from that? We are improvising with our futures. And, we have enough time during the next period to be able to make choices. You are NOT being excluded from the future! In a year's time, things will be clearer to all of us.
As a Crim guitarist, I encourage you to compose pieces for the three Crimson drummers; as part of a record company, I encourage you to continue with Earthworks II and record all your shows!
Now, a sideways step which may appear contradictory, and perhaps confusing: I think we have three different and bona fide King Crimsons:
1. The Billy, Bob, Ade & Tony 1981-84 configuration;
2. The Double Trio 1994-? configuration;
3. The ProjeKCt 1999 Tony, Pat, Ade, Bob & Trey configuration.
Whether or not ProjeKCt convinces me / us as an authentic Crim has yet to be seen, and heard. But the implication of the above is, regardless of however the suggested electronic approach to Crimsonising develops, I view the 1981-84 configuration as a legitimate touring / performing / recording King Crimson undertaking, whether you are on an acoustic kit or not. That Crim has a core repertoire which is classic, continues to be worth playing and, in my view, has yet to be superceded; material from the Double Trio repertoire; and current / future writing ideas.
So, although I seem immediately to be moving in one direction without you (and I hope with your blessing), I'm also considering another approach, which is probably of greater interest to you. If this seems contradictory, fine. This is King Crimson.
Meanwhile, a summary of my thinking:
1. My main concern is to un-fix Crim, and expectations of Crim - who it is, what it is and how it works. For example, I have no present interest in playing theatres, or within the concert tradition. I have no interest in conventional touring, which is an exercise in brute survival rather than musicianship. My interest is in event based performance, of relatively short duration. Three weeks, to include rehearsals, would seem to be the upper limit - unless we are offered something extraordinary.
2. The six-piece Crimson is too unwieldy for writing rehearsals and for much live work (logistically, personally, financially). But the six members remain central to my thinking.
3. The fractalising enables music to be generated which would not happen in full format. There are various combinations of trios, quartets and quintets, all of which have their own contribution to make. Some of them are aspects of the larger Crim and speak on its behalf; some of them play music which belongs to the parts and not the whole; and (possibly) there are three distinct personnel formations which are legitimate King Crimsons.
If there are several King Crimsons, this gives me no problems: I've been in more than that already!
4. Any particular configuration of King Crimson which doesn't include all six members, for whatever reason - other commitments, lack of interest in a specific music of that period, sabbatical, time with family - does NOT exclude anyone from future involvement and reconnection.
5. Historically, all the Crims begin with a very characteristic, idiosyncratic, recognisable music and identity. This lasts for about one year until one or more of the musicians would really like to be doing something else, which is often what they've done before. The group's sharp focus diffuses and it breaks up sooner, later. Several years afterwards, the musicians agree that what they did in that one awkward year was really, after all, very good, and shall we do it again?
If we recognise this recurrent pattern, it implies that should one character choose to skip over a particular musical stage, the musical stage isn't likely to last very long anyway.
14.38 In today's post: the newly published "Sherborne - An Account in Transformation" by Allen Roth (Bennett Books, Santa Fe). Allen attended the first year's course. He married Betty from the fifth year, which was the course I attended.
Search Robert Fripp's diary archive.