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Interviews

Adrian Belew: Power Trios and Crimson Heads

By Published: November 10, 2008
AAJ: I understand you were connected with Eric and Julie Slick through Paul Green's School of Rock?



AB: That's how I met them. Originally, I went up to Philadelphia, the original School of Rock, where the founder, Paul Green, invited me for a seminar with his current students. This was two years ago and, while I was there, he said, "I want you to hear my best graduates, I have these two graduates, Eric and Julie Slick, they were in the all-star band for several years, and they're just the best players that I know of."



So he brought them in and we played together a little bit and that's how it happened. It just so happened that I had really been planning and looking for a long time for a trio. I had tried one or two trios, combinations that didn't work for me, and I had just about given up on that idea, even though I had made all this interesting material for it. I spent a lot of time developing the idea of looping guitars so you have kind of a fourth player and putting that into a trio format, and just about the time I thought, "Well, this is really not going to be a trio, I'm not going to get that to happen." I found them, and it was unbelievable, turned around just on a dime.



AAJ: In 2006, I caught some of your live trio performances with Mike Gallaher and Mike Hodges. How does this compare?



AB: Well, there are two differences with Eric and Julie, beyond anything else I've done. One is the energy they bring. I think that's the main difference that makes the material seem so fresh and new, it's because there's this dynamic energy coming off the stage from them. And, of course, it prompts me to join in, and I feel younger than ever when I play with them. And then the other thing is just their own inventiveness and uniqueness. People just can't believe it when they hear Julie Slick play bass guitar, she's a little girl who plays in her bare feet, and when you hear what she's doing it's so powerful and so correct.



AAJ: She seems, when I watch her play, so serene—almost disconnected from this sound that's so enormous.



AB: Yeah, I know, but lately she's changed that a little bit. I mean Eric is a phenomenal drummer, he's always been demonstrative. You watch him because he's doing all kinds of amazing things. But Julie used to stand there, kind of "the queen of cool," but since she got her new bass, a Lakeland bass that she's always wanted, it really has changed her. I've noticed it on the last tour that we did. She started moving around on stage and she's a lot more animated. I kind of like both versions of Julie.



AAJ: I definitely look forward to this show you've got coming up at Mercy Lounge [in Nashville].



AB: But this is going to be interesting because I rehearse three days with the trio, the next day King Crimson arrives. We rehearse for a whole week here in Nashville in a larger rehearsal place, and then the day that that ends, the next day, we play the Mercy Lounge, so on the 27th [July, 2008] I'll be practicing with King Crimson and on the 28th I'll be playing with the trio.



AAJ: You're going to have to revert your arrangements!



AB: So that's true, they are a little bit different because King Crimson is playing some of the same material that the trio plays, but we play it a little differently, so I'm going to really have my thinking cap on the first couple of nights.

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Guitar Talk



AAJ: So, will we ever see the Fender Stratocaster again, or is it Parker Fly guitars from now on?



AB: I love Strats. I think they're fabulous guitars, I always thought their balance and their playability was just, almost perfect, and then I got to the Parker Fly, and it is perfect. So, I don't know, it's always possible to break out the Strats again. I love Strats and I could see myself playing any number of guitars.



If you run in the next room, you'd see that I've got a lot of different varieties of guitars hanging up on the wall. When I play them—little by little, one at a time—I'll pull out the Gretsch, and I'll pull out the Rickenbacher and stuff, but no matter what I do, I am totally married to the Parker Fly. It makes me play better. That's the best comment I can make. Not only is the design phenomenal, it stays perfectly in tune, absolutely no dead notes, the neck is just incredible, the tremolo arm is fascinating, you could do anything. But, it just makes me play better.



I think it's the smoothness of the neck, see, because what they've done with the Parker Fly that's so unique is that they've cut away everything that's not needed on the guitar which cuts the piece of wood down to four pounds. That's why it's called a Fly. Normally, a neck that thin would just break right in half as soon as you put the pressure of the strings on it. What they've done, though, on the back of the guitar, before they paint it and everything, they bake on a very thin carbon poly-compound that makes the strength of the wood ten thousand times stronger, so you could actually stand on top of that guitar neck, I've been told (I'm not gonna try it) and nothing would happen. So, it's because of that it stays perfectly in pitch, it never varies, it's so thin and beautiful to play. It'd be hard for me to get away from the Parker Flys now. I think I've finally found my muse.



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