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Interviews

Adrian Belew: Power Trios and Crimson Heads

By Published: November 10, 2008
AAJ: Wow, what a shame people as talented as Rob Fetters and the other Bears would have to work a day job. They should be out playing music all the time.



AB: Yeah, Bob Nyswonger is an incredible bassist who is a real estate agent. He's a world class bassist, and he can play with anybody. And yet, he's not able to make enough money at it. It's sad.



AAJ: The man's bass tone is just huge.



AB: He's a fabulous player. They all three are. They are all great writers. That was the whole idea behind The Bears. Let's get four great songwriters to sit around and focus on writing on certain kinds of songs. Now I will say this: I've lost my interest in writing three minute pop songs. It may come back. But currently, I'm not interested anymore. I feel there's no real place for it in the world. It's already been done. I don't want to do it as I'm a little too old for that now. I don't want to write songs about romance, etc. I want to continue down the vein that I have with King Crimson and the Power Trio, which is exploding music, powerful music. Taking it out there. Making it as unique and powerful as you can. And it doesn't always result in a three or four minute kind of song. These days I'm more excited about what you can do outside of that format.

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King Crimson



AAJ: Let's discuss the Discipline Global Mobile record label. There have been some excellent releases from them lately. There has been Collector's Club Volume 37 (DGM Live, 2008), which is a show from The Pier in New York City in 1982, The Collectable King Crimson Volumes Two (DGM Live, 2007) and Three (DGM Live, 2008), which focus on the 1982 and 1996 lineups, and a smashing 2003 show from Japan recently made available for download. (Two more shows from the August, 1995 tour of Texas have been made available for download along with 2 shows in Atlanta from 1995, plus a show from this year's run in Chicago.) What do you think about hearing performances 20 years later—how do you feel about that?



Adrian Belew / King CrimsonAB: I have mixed feelings about it. I would never criticize it because I know it is the backbone of what Robert Fripp feels he has to do to survive in the music business. He is taking care of the legacy of King Crimson. He takes it out of the hands of the bootleggers. He has broadened the spectrum of what is out there and is available to the fans.



But, being one of the player for 27 years, sometimes I'm embarrassed by them. The recordings are not always as precise and beautiful as I would like them to be. And as you mentioned, I didn't know for example that we were going to use the rehearsals from Woodstock in 1994 as a recording. If I would have known that, I would have been playing on a different level. I was trying to work out things. I don't always like people hearing what I play when I'm not sure of myself.



AAJ: It was a work in progress.



AB: Yeah, that's how I am about my releases. I wait until they are perfected. King Crimson doesn't do that now. We release just about anything. [Laughs] But as I said, I don't want to criticize it. It's not my record label. I have nothing to do with it. Every now and then, I might receive a little money from it. Probably not much. [laughs] But it's Robert Fripp's thing. I don't' want to criticize his thing. I'm glad there is somebody out there watching out for King Crimson's legacy because it's a big part of what I've done with my life. But I mostly watch out for my own private performances.



AAJ: But some of those performances...



AB: King Crimson can have some amazing evenings and some incredibly bad train wrecks too.



AAJ: Well, I don't think he has released very many train wrecks to my ears. I've been listening to some of the releases from the catalog—for example, some shows from 1996, which included six-piece performances of tunes like "Waiting Man" and "Discipline." I know this lineup didn't perform these songs very often, and I found these particular performances very moving and escaping their bounds.



AB: I think it's wonderful, that aspect of it. That the listener can get a bigger dose of what we did than just what was done in the studio. And King Crimson has always considered itself more a live vehicle than a studio vehicle. So on any given night... you never know what could happen.



AAJ: While we are on King Crimson, in 2003, after the departure of bass and stick player Trey Gunn, did you have fears that the band might never play again?



AB: I always consider that it might be the last time. About two years ago, around 2006, Robert Fripp had his engineer, John Sinks, come and get all his stuff out of my studio here in Nashville. He usually keeps a lot of his stuff here. I figured, "Well that's it. Robert's moved all his stuff out of my house so he must be done with me." [laughs] In fact, he told me recently that he thought at that point, that was it, he was done with King Crimson, maybe forever. But he doesn't come right out with it. He never tells you. So you have to kind of guess for yourself. It really kind of left me high and dry. I had planned on a whole year's worth of work. And suddenly, whew, I realized there was no King Crimson.



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