Rising 06.40. Morning Sitting, reading, writing, reflecting, with musical accompaniment.
Current reflecting directed towards a better understanding of King Crimson: who, what, why and how it is; and KC’s functioning over five decades…
Down the garden…
And on the street: I Advanced Masked – Day Seventeen…
RF Press Conference with European Journalists
Sanctuary Board Room, Olympia, London
Wednesday 5th. February, 2003 @ 11.00
Q: Talking about the different bodies of King Crimson, how has it come that the four-piece band sounds even more dense than the six-piece band?
RF: There are less people playing the music.
Q: Can you explain that a little bit more?
RF: In terms of the Double Trio: the six people, the potential available to those six people, to any six people but particularly those six people, were enormous. Maybe, maybe, maybe we touched on one percent of what was possible, and I say that with reservation because I exaggerate. The possibilities available to what that band could actually do were enormous. Nevertheless they’re good people, and if there’s an awful lot going on, some of those players were inclined to stop, because there’s enough musical information already on-stage. I am one of those players, which is why you find me not doing a lot of guitar work in the Double Trio – there is enough going on. As a quartet, I am playing more because there’s more space available to me. That’s one example.
Q: You know you say that King Crimson always comes when the spirit comes back...
Q: ...and in different incarnations, so this latest one, what’s the origin and how did it come about?
RF: The logistics of working with a six-piece were overwhelming. Just too complex to put six busy people in the same room together. Then for one of them, Bill, his musical passion moved. Bill’s musical passion moved into acoustic jazz, essentially. So there was a bona-fide musical difference, that Bill’s musical home was no longer properly in King Crimson. Also at that point Tony Levin accepted a tour with Seal. So a call had to be made if King Crimson were going to move and actually do something. The call I made was the Double Duo.
It took us probably two years to find ourselves, and Trey and Pat recreated the Crimson rhythm section. They rebuilt the notions of the Crimson rhythm section in the opposite way to the Tony Levin/Bill Bruford rhythm section. With Tony and Bill, Tony held the foundation and Bill moved about on top of it. With us, Pat holds the foundation, and moves about on top of it to a degree. Trey also holds the foundation, but moves about on top of it as well. Essentially Pat is now the foundation in the band, whereas it used to be Tony.
Q: The Power To Believe has a strong oriental flavour, how did it come about?
RF: On a functional level, world music, if you want to put it like that, has been easily and simply available in the West since about 1976.
In 1969 there was this wonderful vitality in the centre of rock music, and with The Beatles there was very much a European flavour. Hendrix brought very much an American flavour. There was so much power in the heart of music at that time. It changed. It never moved into 1970, but that’s another story.
So if you have young English rock musicians playing music, what do they do? Well, The Stones looked to America. Led Zeppelin looked to America. For me it was a question of, if Hendrix had been playing The Rite of Spring or Bartók, or Bartók had been the guitarist, what might it have been? So, rather than being a very bad Chicago Blues player from Wimborne, Dorset, it was a question of what is the musical vocabulary which is part of my culture and background, that nevertheless has that spirit and energy which comes with American rock?
And Schizoid Man was the beginning approach to that, although it was obviously written by all of the band. Larks’ Tongues was another approach to that. Red was another approach to that and Level Five is another approach to that. So you have a vocabulary which would probably not have been adopted without some sense of the European tonal tradition, and may I say Bartók, which is a very different slant on things.
After 1976 there were other cultures easily, readily and simply available. Not just American blues or rock music, not just Scotty Moore sitting there with Elvis in a recording studio in Memphis - that I have driven by! I have driven by the original Sun Studio on the corner, and what a small little place it was. (Laughs). This pivotal place in my musical history... there it was on the corner! I was not nostalgic. May I say it was pretty dumpy, but it was interesting. But after 1976, here you have all the musics of other cultures available. So on a functional level, probably one assimilates them.
On another level, there is a particular world-view which goes with, for example, the Balinese gamalan. You couldn’t have a Balinese gamalan if you lived in – pick your Western culture. Well, now you do, because gamalan orchestras have moved and you find them in various cities in America. And African drumming on the beach of Venice, California. A good friend of mine goes along to do his African drumming on the beach in Venice, with surfing out there and African drumming over here. And the character who skateboards by – you would’ve seen him in films - the Hendrix-looking character on his skateboard.
So the musical vocabulary of world cultures is now widespread. And the thinking within them speaks to me as much as the vocabulary. Often the cultures, and the sense that informs the music, resonate with me to a greater degree than the specific musical forms. Like the guitarist, I’m interested in how they put on their guitar. What they play may be a different thing.
Q: Where does it take you to, that... isn’t expressed so well in The Power To Believe?
RF: Some musical structures can only be performed if you let go of how you think about yourself. You can create musical forms which have the functional effect of bringing people together. For example?
Q: Embracing other cultures...?
RF: Another way of asking this is ‘is Robert a Liberal?’ And yes, yes I guess I am. That doesn’t quite characterise my position, but am I open to other cultures? Yes, and respectful of them. Yes, while enjoying my own and recognising its own limitations.
It’s a very interesting time in the world now that so many cultures are available to each other. With gains and losses. It’s not a question of making a condensed soup of all of us and saying all our cultures are honoured in this soup. You have interesting questions about whether you attempt to resuscitate or resurrect small dialects and languages - languages are evaporating at a very rapid rate. If no-one speaks a particular language, are you concerned that the language is lost? So there are wider things involved. You also have questions of cultural imperialism - how dare that rock group take ideas from the Balinese gamalan, or North Korean music! The interlocking drums on Happy With What You Have To Be Happy With are very close to North Korean music. Do you know how I know that David?
RF: I read it on an internet news group that discusses King Crimson music. I was myself utterly unaware of those North Korean origins, other than it’s reportedly very close.
Do you know the work of Peter Brook, the English director living in Paris?
Q: Peter Gabriel also?
RF: Peter Brook. He worked with the English former, now deceased, poet laureate Ted Hughes. Ted Hughes was working with Peter Brook to develop a poetic language called Orghast, and one of Ted Hughes’ invented words was shopatiketpahohopatitse. I’ll say that again: shopatiketpahohopatitse.
And Hughes discovered that it was a Swahili dialect for ‘set your feet dancing’. So what I’m suggesting is that there may be a common musical language, I suppose the terminology would be “of the collective unconscious”. In other words, each part of us is capable of accessing any part of anyone else at a certain level. The fundamental ideas, I suppose genes or memes would be current terminology, in potential it’s all there, available.
In actuality, different parts of the common musical language tend to be discovered and developed in particular cultures. It then influences the cultures and is redirected and reshaped in turn. So you have musical work which is entirely in place in North Korea, suddenly pops up on a King Crimson record in another part of the world. Without any, as we would normally say, intentionality being involved.
Q: It’s just that I was thinking of the event that you call in this present situation, and at the same time the despair that comes and the urgencies that come through the record, so that to bring about these sounds like Arabic and Indian sounds too, whether there was something else that you wanted to express there?
RF: The difficulty with knowing what you do, is that you do what you know. And that’s not interesting. So, within certain structures which are given and certain parameters which are defined, you then proceed hoping you are able to play what you don’t know, or do what you don’t know - trusting the process. If you ask me to rationally address the irrational elements of making the album, I’m not able properly to do it. I can give you my best guess.
On a functional level, world music vocabularies are widely available. But that still doesn’t answer really why you might use them.
RF: Yes. So I would say, I trust that the action in the moment is to be followed. And then if it doesn’t work you drop it, but that’s what part of the creative process is. You don’t go in there to pin it down. You go in there to assume innocence within the context of experience. The difference between play, spontaneous play, and the creative activity of, shall we say, the mature artist has to do with responsibility and accountability. If a child plays they are being creative, but they are not held to account for the repercussions from their play. If, however, the creative artist undertakes a piece of work they are expected, asked, to be creative. Which means to act spontaneously. But at the same time they are held accountable for the repercussions of their creative behaviour.
Q: With retrospect you can go, even if you are creating in the moment, you are not rationally... later on you can go back and think about it...?
RF: But the creative event has occurred. And if it’s in a live performance and people’s lives have been affected in any particular way, you can’t then go back and say well, I’m not responsible for the effects of what I did. So the difference is, any action by the creative artist – they’re held accountable and responsible. For the play of the child, or may I say even play of adults, if it’s play, defined play, one is not held accountable and responsible for the repercussions from that spontaneous activity. With a professional musician, for example, you are held responsible - your album sucks or that video sucks.
Q: But then I don’t understand this reluctance to try to, well I know you’ve been trying to explain, but particular things in the music. I understand that in the moment you create you don’t think about that, but then...
RF: Well you might be thinking about it. But if you do, best that you have creative thinking models in mind. The mind holds the form. It doesn’t make decisions for you. If it does, then the music sucks big time. But the mind holds form. It holds the pattern.
Q: With all these different musics that are now widely available to us, would you say that this is a good time for music that we live in?
RF: For music, yes. For the music industry, no.
Q: What do you mean exactly by that?
RF: The music industry has nothing to do with music. The question was music. It’s a wonderful, wonderful time for music. Yes.
Q: On the one hand there is this enormous amount of music. On the other hand there is an increasing streamlining of what is easily available.
RF: It’s fairly recent historically that anyone, certainly in Western culture, anyone other than very rich people are able to listen to music at home. The whole change was generated by the Napoleonic Wars and the decline of patronage that followed. After then, the only ways to be a really successful musician – there were two routes, if you had burning ambition. One was to write opera, and the other was to be a virtuoso. So you had the virtuosi appearing in post-Napoleonic Europe. But it was still quite a while before you could actually get music in the home. Probably the development of upright pianos that swept Victorian England (in the later part of the 19th. century).
In terms of music being easily available, I’m grateful. I have a wonderful music library on my computer. My little Japanese active speakers that I plug in the back of my Mac G4 Powerbook have transformed my miserable, wretched life on the road. Because now I go into this vacuum-with-a-bed-in-it (otherwise called a hotel room) and I set up my computer. My active speakers – oh! those wonderfully flat little Japanese speakers, just on the market in Tokyo last October when David and I were there - hah! and there it is. I have Bartók, Beethoven, Brahms, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert String Quartets, complete and total in my computer. And that is only partially what I have. Charlie Parker with Strings, ah! Bliss. And much, much more.
So the question is: making this music easily available, does it do me any favours?
And I have to say I’m not sure. I think maybe, maybe, if I had to make an effort to listen to music, I might appreciate it much, much more. If I went to a concert, knowing that unless I listened I would never hear this performance again, the performance would be transformed. The mass-bootlegging of concerts, photography at concerts, and now mobile `phones held up in front of my speakers, has undermined performance to a dangerous degree. It’s crippled live performance.
Live performance, within my relatively short performing lifetime, has been undermined and the value of it severely compromised. And that pisses me off. Because I don’t do it to earn a living.
15.18 An excellent lunch, including Green Squerd, and down the garden to water.
To the Cellar for practicing. Nominally, I am a guitarist.