Adrian Belew: Power Trios and Crimson Heads

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One thing I learned from working with Frank Zappa is motif. Frank told me that is the way you tie your whole body of work together - by having some kind of motif.
Adrian BelewSince 1977, Adrian Belew has been a guitar and songwriting innovator in the cutting edge rock field. Spending time in bands with Frank Zappa, David Bowie and Talking Heads, he's also clocked serious studio time with other artists including Paul Simon, Nine Inch Nails, Tom Tom Club, Tori Amos and Herbie Hancock. He's fronted the various incarnations of perennial art rockers King Crimson since 1981, as well as putting together several of his own solo projects.

Belew has continued his prolific output since 2005 by releasing four solo records just months apart titled Side One (2005) through Side Three (2006), all on the Sanctuary label, and Side Four (Independent, 2007). He has appeared on Nine Inch Nails' Ghosts Part I-IV (Null, 2008), and has been touring extensively with his new power trio featuring the young wunderkind brother and sister rhythm section of drummer Eric and bassist Julie Slick.



Belew has also just completed an August, 2008 mini-tour with a reformed King Crimson. At the two opening performances at the Belcourt Theater in Nashville, Belew appeared very much the leader, guiding the band through its labyrinthine arrangements with a sure hand and performing with the same confidence he has shown with Crimson for 27 years.

Chapter Index

  1. The Power Trio
  2. Guitar Talk
  3. The State of the Music Industry
  4. Side Four and The Bears
  5. King Crimson
  6. History
  7. Frank Zappa
  8. David Bowie
  9. Talking Heads
  10. Joining King Crimson
  11. Back to Bowie
  12. Back to Crimson
  13. Painting and Improvisation


The Power Trio



AAJ: The 2008 Power Trio did a west coast run earlier this year and a few east coast shows, and now you're starting another tour here in Nashville. Will there be some new songs performed on this tour?



AB: Yes, in fact Eric and Julie, the brother and sister team I have in the trio, are coming here from Philadelphia on Saturday, and we have three days of rehearsal planned to incorporate some new material. A few things that are from my catalogue, a couple of songs I'd really like to try some stuff with, and then one brand new piece of music that's pretty epic, that I'm sure we'll be working on for all three days. Mainly for this whole year I'm dedicating myself to the power trio touring, and a little bit to King Crimson touring too, this summer. Most of August will be dedicated to King Crimson time. At the same time, I'm trying to develop new material for the power trio; I'd like to make a brand new record, half of which would be the power trio and half of which would be new solo pieces that I'll do by myself.



AAJ: Actually, that was going to be my next question: is there a future studio album with the power trio?



AB: Yeah; [for] the next record I'd like to have maybe five major pieces on it that are for the power trio. I've already got three that I'm writing. We're already doing one of them live, it's called "E," and the new one is called "Planet E," and those are both instrumentals, but I have a few songs that I'm working on too, with them, and it's turning out really powerfully and really well. I wanted to get them into the live show before we actually brought them into the studio, but you know we've only done one record together, which was all live. And I'm really anxious to see what we all can do in the studio.



AAJ: The first time I saw you with Eric and Julie was right here in Nashville last year, and I couldn't believe that two players so young could take the Bruford and Levin parts on some of the King Crimson material and more or less reinvent them.



AB: They're very special people and players; they amaze me all the time. They've got to be the best young players in the States right now, in my opinion. I just don't know where you could get a better bassist-drummer duo, and both separately, they're just amazing individuals, really gifted people. You know, everybody refers to them as, "the kids,' but when you're with them all the time, as I am, you see that they're really not kids at all, they're very smart, adult human beings, who have absorbed so much music, more than a lot of grown, mature musicians that I know.



Eric and Julie know all The Beatles' catalogue—everything that preceded that even—and all the Zappa and Bowie catalogues. Their wealth of information came from their father—he had a collection of records and a collection of bass guitars in his living room, and he had their bass and their drums set up there and he just showed them, "Here, try this, learn this, learn that," you know, with thousands of records worth of stuff since they were little kids. So it's their musical background and depth that really amazes me, and I'm really curious to see now what happens when we invent something totally new. Not taking Tony Levin's and Bill Bruford's parts and redoing them.



 

Adrian Belew / Power Trio

Power Trio l:r: Julie Slick, Adrian Belew, Eric Slick

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