Gavin Harrison (28 May 1963)
Over the course of a long career Harrison has won countless awards for his drumming, performed as featured artist on the David Lettermen show, played with groups and artists as wildly diverse as The Nolans, Iggy Pop, Level 42, Renaissance and Kevin Ayers. Though probably best known for his work in rock music through Porcupine Tree, King Crimson and The Pineapple Thief, Harrison is an avid jazz fan. His 2015 solo album Cheating The Polygraph featured Porcupine Tree covers in imaginative and expansive big band settings.
A prolific author of technical works on the art of drumming Harrison’s influence in King Crimson began long before he first joined the band. In the run-up to the Thrak sessions, Harrison had sent Bill Bruford a manuscript copy of his book Rhythmic Illusions to Real World for Bruford’s consideration. “Gavin at the time was a real specialist in drumming and had released a variety of drum books, manuals and pedagogical stuff that I found to be highly influential, about beat displacement and all sorts of metrical tricks of one sort or another,” recalled Bill. “Often Gavin’s theories depended on one rhythm being played and then another one played against it. So what more fun could you have with two drummers? To me, this came to fruition on Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream which has what I’m talking about in bucketloads, especially around the guitar solos where the thing goes completely berserk. It might sound like the drummers are playing anything they want for a minute but this is absolutely not the case. I could notate entirely for you those passages and Gavin probably has recognised them already as being highly informed by his work.”
In 2008 Fripp invited Harrison to join himself and Belew, Levin, and Mastelotto for a short US tour as a pre-cusor to King Crimson's 40th anniversary. Having seen Harrison at close quarters when the guitarist supported Porcupine Tree, Harrison’s main band at the time, Fripp had immediately recognised a master musician at work.
Harrison had very little knowledge of Crimson repertoire which turned out to be a good thing. Speaking in 2014 Harrison said, “I didn’t grow up as a teenager hearing these songs in the way that say Jakko or Bill or Pat did. I only ever had one KC record and that was Discipline on vinyl. I grew up in a different musical dimension. I wasn’t listening to rock or what is now termed progressive. I was aware of bands like Pink Floyd, Genesis and Yes but I wasn’t listening to them. I didn’t have any of their records. A lot of my friends that I was hanging out with around that time we weren’t listening to any of those kinds of groups. When I first got together with the band in 2008 Robert came to my house and gave me a list of the songs I want you to learn. I said ‘Robert, I’ve got to hold my hand up here and say I don’t know these songs and I haven’t got them,’ and he said ‘great - I see that as an advantage. I want you to come at the songs like they are brand new.’ So maybe it’s a good thing.”
After appearing on the Jakszyk, Fripp & Collins album, A Scarcity Of Miracles in 2011, Harrison was Fripp’s first call when putting together the 2014 lineup. He was asked by Fripp to reinvent the notion of drumming in a rock group. With Harrison acting as a convenor for the three-drummer frontline of Mastelotto, Rieflin, and himself, he set about writing arrangements and devising parts that would evolve over the duration of the band and accommodate Bill Rieflin’s move to keyboards and Jeremy Stacey’s arrival in the group. Although the 7-piece band famously eschewed featured soloists or front men, the one exception to this rule was Harrison who was asked by Fripp to provide a drum solo during 21st Century Schizoid Man.
Gavin Harrison with King Crimson
Live at the Orpheum (2015)
Live in Toronto (2016)
Radical Action to Unseat the Hold Of Monkey Mind (2016)
Live In Chicago (2017)
Live In Vienna (2018)
Meltdown; Live In Mexico City (2018)
Music Is Our Friend: Live in Washington and Albany (2021)