Robert Fripp

Robert Fripp's Diary

Saturday 06 April 2019

Hotel Acceptable, Southampton Row, London.


Rising c. 06.35. To an early breakfast and reflecting on How To See Fifty Years Of King Crimson? Joined by David Singleton for a DGM Breakfast Meeting. Today is our DGM Media Event, part of the celebrating Fifty Years Of King Crimson.

Stepping around the corner c. 10.10 to the nearby October Gallery to present an outline of my reflecting on How To See Fifty Years Of King Crimson? …

This has been a direct focus of my attention since Wednesday 20th. February of this year, beginning at the Restaurant Fabrice Leroy la Cigale in Menton

Onto the platform at 10.30 to c. fifty writers, many of whom have flown in from Italy, Spain, Germany and the US…

The presentation continued until c. 11.33. Legs were shaken, returning for Q. & A. with The Hat, our impartial friend, continuing with until c. 12.59…

David Singleton took the platform at c. 14.30, available for Q&A directed to King Crimson’s manager; followed by Toby Amies c. 16.40, presenting three clips from his documentary on KC, for which editing has recently begun: Cosmic FuKc – Pro Rock Pondscum Set To Bum You Out.

RF returned for The Hat and Q&A c. 17.30 – 19.31…

This felt to me more like a conversation with friends. The Remainers, as it were, were perhaps half of those from the morning. My assumption that those with a primarily professional interest in the day had got what they wanted / needed; and those continuing on had a deeper interest in KC and its music.

An experienced player often takes a chart (music score) onstage with them. If things don't go so well, they stick to the chart. If things take off, they abandon the chart and go with the flow. This is my chart from the morning…


Before The Beginning...
Outline Of The Day


RF Personal Aims

1. To present KC to innocent ears: those who have never seen KC in love performance. Escape Received Opinion and Shared Journalisms.

Three versions of Received Opinion:
a) English;
b) Northern climes: American & European;
c) Southern – Latin countries; including Mexico (nominally Northern).

2. To gratefully celebrate Fifty Years of KC. Despite have attempted to escape over a period of 45 years.

3. To discover what it is in KC that has touched people.

4. To have some fun.


The assumption of ignorance within a context of experience…

Please don’t assume that I know more than you do. It’s unlikely that I have forgotten any of my experience as a professional musician, although I no longer carry it as close to the surface as before.

My view is partial and subjective, with some impartial and objective glimpses. I can tell you how I feel about things, how I see things; but in terms of factual accounting and the detailed timeline, in 2003 I gave myself permission to let go of the larger and longer narrative of KC in 2003. This was at the beginning of a series of interviews in Japan, to present The Power To Believe to possible audiences. The record company’s young press woman informed me: I’ve been told you’re the Yoda of progressive rock.

You are better able to judge KC’s position in the world than me.

My assumption is, for some here, the interest is primarily professional. For others, perhaps you have been touched by the music. And some, perhaps have a deeper interest in how music enters our lives.

It was suggested to me by one respected journalist, before our getting-together here, that their magazine might be interested in Robert’s philosophy of music.
It’s true that our conception of the world (metaphysics); how we know what we know (epistemology); the degree to which we are who we are (ontology); and how we conduct ourselves (ethics); are pretty much a daily and ongoing part of my life; although I don’t express it in those terms. I doubt that’s going to interest many readers of any music magazine, however excellent.


I assume goodwill.

To enter a space, where considered judgement and the search for understanding are primary, is a rarity in the daily life of a travelling player. I hope to address whatever level of interest you bring.

That is, goodwill is a quality rarely available without cultivation and practice.

The principles of any practice are essentially the same, in whatever field of endeavor. I am usually better able to have a straightforward conversation with someone who has a personal practice. Those with an established practice tend to be more accepting of others; negatively expressed, are less likely to be judgmental, to seek seeming contradictions in word and behavior, to be unkind, to view themselves as more important than the nominal object of commentary (e.g. Sometimes music is too important to be left to musicians). Within a practice, subjective opinionation has less purchase upon us.


When people get together, something happens.
When people get together with goodwill, something remarkable may happen; and go better than we might anticipate, and deserve.

Each performance is unique.
Each performance is a multiplicity of performances.

The possible is possible.
The impossible is possible.

Framework Of The Day

RF 10.30 – 12.30 (NB actually 12.59).
David Singleton 14.30.
Toby Amies 16.30.
RF 17.30 – 1930.
Photo opportunities will be available.
The Hat.

Life is messy.

We conventionally assume that we know what we’re doing. Even where our acts are unintentional, we are held accountable for those acts, as if we knew what we were doing. But most of the action is just below the surface.

When we know what we’re doing, we really don’t know what we’re doing.

I follow my feet when they go walking, recognising that place when I arrive. I have, and have always had, a sense of trajectory in life; this, even when the course seemingly charted for me indicated another direction.

Four Qualities Of Ignorance…


Not knowing what we’re doing                        Knowing we don’t know what we’re doing

Plain Stupid

To move from Plain Stupid to Unknowingness, a form of Creative Ignorance, is a process. Most of our experiencing of this process is on the surface. The good news is that, born into human animals in this world, we are equipped with an inbuilt, or essential, knowing. This is probably where our point of orientation, or trajectory in life, resides.

The impact of external and personal circumstances on our lives can knock us off course, and sometimes this is irreparable. This is the bad news. But that is not the end of things.

The conditions that govern our lives, the externals factors that set our trajectory, are sometimes called fate. The specific, particular and individual piece of work that falls to us, is sometimes called destiny. It would seem that our fate is often at odds with our destiny; and that to achieve our destiny, the personal and unique journey through life, we have to overcome the conditions into which we are born, that limit and control us.

How to move from fate to our destiny? By establishing a personal discipline, or practice. Any discipline, any practice: the particular discipline and practice that resonates with us. It is probably true that the form of personal discipline that we’re looking for, is also looking for us.

One of the key principles in any practice is:

Turn a seeming disadvantage to your advantage;
the greater the seeming disadvantage, the greater the possible advantage.

This is where Hope lies. A practice provides a measure of personal independence and freedom within the inevitable constraints upon action within any society; and shapes the contours of our personal trajectory.

But life is messy.


A way of doing things
A body of music
A group of players
A society in microcosm
An action / manifestation in the world

A way of doing things

King Crimson as a quality: what is that way of doing things?

This way-of-doing-things will be reflected in all aspects of King Crimson…

i) the music;
ii) the players, and their coming together in various formations;
iii) how this is manifested as an action in the world;

a) in performance;
b) in business;

iv) KC as an ideal society in microcosm.
How to form a band? is one version of - how create an Ideal Society?

As an action in the world, King Crimson is a response to necessity.

What are recurrent characteristics of KC?

It regularly breaks up.

In any creative process, there are predictable occasions where the current goes off course; so these occasions can be anticipated. For KC to maintain an intentional trajectory in its creative process, there will necessarily be redirections.

With success, there is a tendency for the things that go off-course to go very off- course. With great success, the things that tend to go off-course, go very very off-course. In these cases, the re-directions will require a corresponding degree of energy and application.

Limiting factors that act as a kind of gravity to hold back the creative process:

audiences who know what they like (a prime characteristic of progressive fans is to object to any progress);
business persons who want guaranteed outcomes;
musicians who are happy at their standard, with what and who they are; and content to have a professional gig.

The outcome: to repeat. However, there will be a gradually winding-down as the originating spirit and energy dissipates.

In the creative life, comfort is death. When you know what you’re doing, you really don’t now what you’re doing. A key strategy is challenge: the Pointed Stick.

For the creative current of KC continues, the forms may change. The continuity may appear to be discontinuous. Simply put, KC breaks up regularly. Perhaps these are a series of inevitable accidents. Alternatively, we might attribute intentionality to this.

AB: When Robert wants to change the music, either the musicians change the music they’re playing or Robert changes the musicians (c. 2010).

Success: if a player is insufferable before a band is successful, then should that band become successful, the player tends to become more insufferable. If the band becomes very successful, the player tends to become even more very insufferable.

RF (2000): How may we judge "success"? A creative process provides no guarantees. If it does, the process is not creative. Any process will inevitably go off-course at certain points. Knowing this, we can prepare to correct and re-direct the process at those points. Not knowing this, the process will go wrong - this is guaranteed - and then we won't know what to do. Experience helps, but can take too long. Information helps, but devoid of experience is relatively useless. Information and experience are a strong combination, but without capacity and a commitment to the process, equally as useless and probably dangerous.

If we look at an unfolding process in time (history, in other words) we'll find "success" with failures and "failure" with successes. Succession, or Time’s Arrow: the kind of time associated with doing things, with one thing following another and leading to the next.

Creative Time moves from intention and decision. Here, the future reaches back to pull us forwards.

Time's Arrow is irreversible: only in retrospect does the outcome appear to have been inevitable. Nothing in Crimson's tortured history has been inevitable, other than the chaotic manner in which it moves forward. Which is, at least, predictable. Where King Crimson is now, is not the only place Crimson might have arrived. From this point of view, Crimson history is one of decision and choice. Earlier members who might wish to recreate and develop an earlier approach (or "way of doing things") have a legitimate interest in doing so. If they do, I'll be somewhere in the front rows cheering them on. But it won't be King Crimson.

The procession of events is undeniable, and King Crimson is where it is today because it got there. Crim grew up and left home, and isn't going back; whether any of us would like it to, or not.

RF to Steven Wilson (19march2019): Nothing in King Crimson repeats exactly: it only seems to. This is a key principle of KC.


a) The way-of-doing-things.

RF (Thursday 13th. January, 2000; edited Tuesday 22nd. May, 2012): King Crimson is not only the music. King Crimson is something apart from us all. Former members legitimately ask for recognition and acknowledgement of their work and contributions, and I welcome their commentaries and input. But the personal histories of all of us in Crimson is not the history of King Crimson. All the individual histories, given goodwill, are equally true; but they are not the truth.

The spirit of Crimson is elusive, impossible to pin down, and recognizable. It cannot be claimed by any of us as our own. Did all of us create King Crimson? In one sense, yes. But it may be more correct to say that King Crimson brought us all together, and succeeded despite our efforts rather than because of them. When I listen to classic Crim, it continues to take my breath away. I hear no individuals: I hear King Crimson.

b) The music: energy, intensity, eclecticism.

c) How can you tell when a group is a group? It shares the money. This honours a key principle of ethical action: equity. Equity = fairness and distributive justice, one of the Four Pillars of the Ethical Business: honesty, responsibility, equity and goodwill.

d) Robert.


Three approaches…

Systematic Progression Of Categories

Music   Musician
Audience            Industry
Performance                         Place In The World

Consider time, place, person and circumstance.

Narrative History

What has been done?
When was that done?
Where was that done?
Who did that?
How has that been done?
Why has that been done?

What is different about this KC?

1. The first KC that has embraced the repertoire as one, whole body of work.

1. There are a lot more of them.
2. More English than American.
3. An exceptional array of musicality and experience.
4. The group serves the music. The shadow form of this principle: the music exists to serve the personal interests of a particular player, whether personally, professionally or musically.

Alternatively expressed: there are no prima donnas in this band.

Three characteristics of a well-rounded player are: To take the initiative, support the initiatives of others, and Do Nothing; e.g. to solo, accompany, and be tacit. Not all of the former members of KC have been able to discharge these three functions and, more importantly, weren’t interested in doing so.

5. They share the money. This is not first time, but this time no-one believes they should get more than the others.

6. Robert’s Role: the first incarnation where Robert’s role is accepted.

1. Innocent ears: audients who have not seen this KC perform live, perhaps have never seen KC live.
Current Aim: to present King Crimson to innocent ears; and experienced ears that can assume innocence.

1. Independent within the overall action of DGM.
2. Management: David Singleton, my business partner within DGM. The first manager wholly devoted to the overall best interests of their artist. David didn’t want the job, but saw this as necessary. David also serves the music.
3. Record distribution: Declan Colgan’s Panegyric. An independent firm, also committed to ethical practice and serving the music.
4. The musicians’ well-being is primary: travelling, accommodations and working conditions,.

1. KC has always been primarily a hot date. This now fits with the times. Live performance is now accepted as primary for the professional.
2. Performance Practice: use of mobile phones, cameras and recorders now widely accepted as undermining the performance.

Place In The World:
1. Increasingly being seen as it is, rather through a veil of Received Opinion and Shared Journalisms.

The Re-formation of KC in 2014.

My two prime aims for the re-formation of KC in 2014 were Redemption and Completion. This stems from a dis-satisfaction with the Noughties Crims. A revised KC in 2004, with T Lev replacing Trey Gunn, was halted by the death of our then-manager in his early forties. The return of double-drumming with Gavin in 2007 and T Lev on bass promised something, but didn’t seem to engage Adrian. So my overall sense of both KC 1999-2003 and 2007-2008 was of dis-satisfaction. Something was not quite realised. This was not how I wished to let go of Crimson.

On the evening of July 22nd. 2013, with Toyah visiting friends at St. Stephen’s Terrace, London, and asking myself the question - if King Crimson were performing tomorrow, what would it be? - in a flash, a picture of the Seven Headed Beast and its onstage configuration presented itself. Crimson acts-of-redeeming took place during 2014, 2015 and 2016, with a sense of completion. Completion is a new beginning, and the 2017 eight-piece a new beginning in King Crimson’s long process. This beginning-again KC can be seen as Formation 8.3. But, for me, the beginning-again-again KC is properly Formation Nine, appearing at the Teatro Metropolitan, Mexico City on the evening of Friday, 14th. July 2017. The wonderful audience made the transition possible. In a sense, this audience was the midwife to Formation Nine.

And on we go, KC now an ongoing venture.

Can music change the world?

Were I to be asked the question, on this morning, my answer/s would be…

1. That the question is asked, suggests to me that the world has already been changed by music.
2. Yes, but music doesn’t act like a lobotomy. There are subtleties involved.
3. Music speaks directly to us, acts directly on us, if we are available. So let’s not concern ourselves with subtlety! Jump in with open ears, open eyes, open heart.
4. Explaining how and why this is, and might be, can get complicated. The good news is, being touched by Music is simple. It is experiential.
5. The act of music is the Music.

RF (on Facebook July 13th. 2017): People travel long distances, buy expensive tickets, and get stuck with bad sonics. Acoustics are only one of the dangers and hazards of contemporary live rock performance. Like drunks, conversationalists, photographers, recordists, theatre persons privileging their own interests over players and audients. And the players themselves have invested a great deal in getting to the stage. So, an ongoing concern until a new breed of humanity appears, where conscience is active, courtesy in effect, and good manners an external indication of such?

A different approach is where I am, here and now. Perhaps even at a KC performance: simply by listening with intention. I tell myself, listen, putting aside all other concerns. And the world has changed. There is a second approach: to intentionally refrain from an act that I know to be wrong, mistaken or non-consensual. Like, putting away my cell-phone. And the world has changed! by one audient accepting their responsibility within the act of music. The act of music is the Music.

KC & Its Audience

KC moved to another level in Mexico City (July 2017), likely reasons including…

1. the nature of the Mexican audience, with feelings engaged/expressed to a greater extent than further North.
2. the audiences heard/saw the band from outside the prism of Prog Rock. To be free of that categorisation is a joy.

Hopefully, this KC will increasingly be heard and seen for what it is. And it is remarkable. The best band I’ve been in, musically, personally, professionally.

The Seven Principles Of King Crimson

1. May King Crimson bring joy to us all. Including me.
2. If you don’t want to play a part, that’s fine!
Give it to someone else - there’s enough of us.
3. All the music is new, whenever it was written.
4. If you don’t know your note, hit C#.
5. If you don’t the time, play in 5. Or 7.
6. If you don’t know what to play, get more gear.
7. If you still don’t know what to play, play nothing.

The Seven Principles (Distilled)

1. Joy.
2. Acceptance / Generosity.
3. Creativity.
4. Commitment.
5. Decision.
6. Ingenuity.
7. Presence.


A primary aim for the King Crimson Celebration Tour of 2019, celebrating fifty years of KC in the world, is to find innocent ears: ears that have never heard KC music; and ears-of-experience able to enter the musical moment as if for the first time.

It is of greater interest to me that King Crimson is heard and seen, as it is and for what it is, free from the weight of Received Opinion and the baggage of expectation, than that KC is actually liked.

So, part of our approach for 2019 is to perform in spaces and events that we often decline, such as large open air festivals and venues.

What happens after 2019 is currently undecided.

What happens after 2019 is currently undecided. “Currently undecided" covers the spectrum of possibilities and is to be viewed positively: wonderful things can happen! but we don't yet know how wonderful.

What is Robert’s role in KC?

Audience              Industry

1. Intention: the raison d’etre. Robert takes the decision.

2. A sense is of KC as an individuality, with a life of its own, apart from the members of the band; e.g. driving to Ewhurst in 1981, becoming aware of KC sitting in the passenger seat, available to enter the formation of Billy, Bobby, Tony and Belew.

3. RF holds the global view of KC – the music, musicians and industry. The other players, historically, have mostly held varying views of the local.

A general who plans the campaign, digs the trench and climbs in, ducking bullets alongside the troops.

RF (GUITAR WORLD January 1992 to Alan Paul):
The group is an entity apart from the individuals, and capturing that essence
has always been my primary concern. I focus first and foremost on the music being played, and the relationship between the members of the group. My guitar playing comes after that - which is why my best guitar playing is on other people's records. They tell me what they want and I come in and do it, without being concerned about whether the drummer likes my playing or the producer is going to bury me in the mix.

Bill Rieflin: Robert is the conscience of King Crimson.
David Singleton: Robert holds the music.
Billy B (2009): The glue that holds KC together.
David Cross (1992): (RF) was an idealist who believed in the power of music. He also was effective in the real world although he tended to shy away from it. It was as though someone had once been very cruel to him, he carried his pain with him.

RF (1997): King Crimson is not the Robert Fripp Band, this a wearisome subject in dozens of interviews over two and a half decades. If in doubt, ask the other members.

Nor is King Crimson simply the sum of its members. There has always been something other, completely outside the operations of the musicians, the business, the paraphanalia of rockdom, the records, the performances, and everything which gives rise to the tangible entity of the group/s, King Crimson.

My experience of Crimson is probably very different to the other players, and not necessarily any more true. Different opinions, based on different experiences, are not necessarily wrong, or right, merely different. My own experience of the Individuality which informs the musicians incorporating any particular King Crimson makes me feel a particular responsibility to the project. Honouring that responsibility has been educational, stressful, joyful, painful, illuminating and not something I would do to earn a living (EG made more money from KC than any of its musicians). Neither does it make me a "bandleader".

Although King Crimson is not the Robert Fripp Band I have to accept that KC doesn’t come into the world without Robert: e.g. The 21st. Century Schizoid Band, Crimson DNA, The Crimson ProjeKct.

The Crimson ProjeKct – Shepherd’s Bush empire in 2013 - made me angry. Two great trios. The Stick Men were great, the Adrian Belew Power Trio were great, but the KC material had only the notes: KC was not in the room.

4. Puts the band together.

The confluence and blending of individual players’ professional, musical and personal aims; the degree to which these support the performance and, by extension, the whole life of the band.

Not the band leader, in any conventional sense of telling the men what to play and paying them a wage; i.e. closer to manager. Although this came perilously close in 2002-03. In KC 1969, RF was one of the band. At the break-up of KC1969, Robert’s position changed.

5. Presents a musical blueprint, with examples; conventionally referred to as composition. This also changed after 1969, when the primary songwriter was Ian MacDonald. In all subsequent incarnations, RF was the primary writer.

NB Not all the music was the right music for the band playing it. Conversely: the musicians playing the music weren’t always right for the music they were playing.
eg 1971-1972; 1999-2003.

6. Interfaces the band and the industry.
Ken Berry (1992): Robert is a safe pair of hands.

7. Extending KC to the audients.

i) Via the media: lots of interviews; and since 1997 the DGM Diary. Not so much the Front Man, as with Adrian Belew, more the Back Man.

ii) By emphasizing the role of live performance.

8. Most of my attention has been directed towards:

i) handling individual players;
ii) dealing with business / the industry;
iii) interviewing and presenting KC to the world through the media. Until 2003 I spent more time talking about the music than playing it.
iv) composing / co-creating the music.

Music can take better care of itself than the members of a band, and the band’s relationship with the music industry. In generating music for the band/s to play, I trust that when the music is being played, in the hands of good musicians, it comes to life.

9. A recurrent motif is the personal unpleasantness of RF.

kw19193 An insanely gifted, over the moon brill musician/composer with, like many geniuses, a flawed personality (16march2019).

There are occasions when I have been unpleasant. Where possible, I have apologised. But I note: we become liked, even popular, primarily where:

i) We give people what they want.
ii) We confirm people in their beliefs.

There is a folder in my documents named Kicking The Wasps’ Nest. This details many exchanges over the years with various “fan” postings in public. More recently, there are comments posted several decades after a tragic encounter with That Awful Man.