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Interviews

Adrian Belew: Power Trios and Crimson Heads

By Published: November 10, 2008
AAJ: When you were cutting tracks on the Ghosts I-IV record most recently, did Trent tell you, "Hey I'm gonna let some of these tracks go for free," did you guys have a discussion of that?



AB: Actually, what I discussed was Trent was very brief, because he said to me, "This is a secret. I don't know what I'm actually going to do here, and I don't know what I'm going to do with the music, maybe it'll be a soundtrack, maybe it'll be a record, maybe I'll use it as downloads, but at any rate I wanna keep it secret, so I don't wanna say much about it, and I don't want you to say anything to anyone about it,, "cause I want it to come out as a surprise." So, I didn't ask any more questions. The nice thing that transpired was that he said, "You know, I feel like you're helping me write some of this." So I had some writer's credit on some of the music and that's usually not the way it works. If I go and I play a lot of wild stuff on Trent Reznor's album, I don't necessarily expect that that makes me a writer. Most of the time you're paid and that's it, but in this case he said no, I'd like you to be more involved, stay here for a longer time and try to write some of it with me.



I really appreciated that, it was the most generous aspect of the offer and for me personally, working with Trent is always eye-opening, I love the way he makes records. His production is phenomenal, and where else do you get to play what I play on his records?



AAJ: Yeah, no doubt. I noticed he did something that I haven't seen anybody do—he had more and more deluxe versions of the record including one on Blu-Ray, you know, that's post SACD and DVD audio, that's as high resolution as it gets.



Adrian BelewAB: It is, and he sent me the box set, which I think sells for three or four hundred dollars, it's just incredible, you know, a lot of artwork, a lot of special things and I think that's the way you should approach it because I look at myself and, on a lesser scale than Trent Reznor, I'm an artist that has a small appeal, you know, small people, but it's a very high-scale thing, so...



AAJ: Niche?



AB: I guess that's the word, yeah. Where you really should offer a lot of versions of what you do, and you should offer it in different scales, you know you should have a three hundred dollar box set or you know a ten dollar giveaway, you know, or a free download, or something. Boutique! That's the word I was thinking of, I'm a boutique artist, as a boutique artist, you're on a different level, you're not out there trying to sell a hundred thousand records anymore, you're trying to do the most high quality presentation of your music that you can. I'm very careful with that. I don't just put out everything that I do and I don't put out anything unless I've done the artwork perfectly and I'm totally happy with the package. I never want to be in a position when I look back and say, oh we kind of slacked on that one, it wasn't as good, you know.

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Side Four and The Bears



AAJ: On the Side Four record, for example, was that recorded in one night or was that picked from multiple shows?



AB: That was all one show. On a very cold, snowy, two foot snow night in Dayton, Ohio in February.



AAJ: Did you plan to record multiple shows?



AB: I planned to record three shows, and we did, we recorded three shows in a row. I actually thought the next night—which was in Cincinnati, where I grew up—I thought that would be the show. But by the time we got to Cincinnati there was a blizzard, so the audience wasn't really there, the show didn't sound as good. The Dayton, Ohio, show, however, had a really nice energy about it, and it was also in a room that just really sounded nice-a nice warm wooden room where you could hear everything, you could hear the excitement of the audience and feel it. The performance was surprising because we didn't know we were being recorded that night. Our engineer John was just trying it out that night.



AAJ: Well he definitely got good sounds. I guess you lucked out.



AB: Well, you see he was getting ready for the next night, which we thought we were going to be recording.



AAJ: So this was more like a dress rehearsal.



AB: Yeah, and he said, "Well, I just turned the tape on just to make sure, to get the levels and see how it was," and that's the nice thing about the trio, it in a way mixes itself onstage because everyone's very aware. You have to be very careful, because you're playing sometimes to loops that I make right then and there, so you have to be very careful, and you can't just play louder than ever one night . . .



AAJ: And you can't change tempo . . .



AB: No, you can't change tempos and things, and you have to really be precise.



AAJ: I heard a rumor that the last Bears tour was going to be the final Bears tour. Is that true? It was so short.



AB: Well you know, what we did with The Bears is we went and we looked at the markets and we went after all the offers and we realized well, to make a whole tour out of it, it would only makes sense to do the Midwest really, these dates here make sense, and we'll come and have some money in our pockets and we won't have killed ourselves. The other guys in The Bears work regular jobs, and they can't just take off a month and go touring around, they can say, "Well, we can do it for two weeks and get a two week absence from our jobs."



Adrian Belew So that's why we hand selected the best dates available in a geographic area. We could have maybe done the same on the east coast, probably not on the west coast, but in the Midwest it seemed the strongest, so we went there. As far as it being the last tour, I would never say that. My relationship with The Bears is: every few years something happens, every three to five years everybody says, "I've got some songs, you got some songs?" "Yeah, I got some." So I never really say, "That's it," there's no reason to.



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