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Interviews

Adrian Belew: Power Trios and Crimson Heads

By Published: November 10, 2008
AAJ: How does King Crimson come up with the set lists you play on the various tours?



AB: I make the set lists, actually. It's down to me. It's one of the things that Robert doesn't really care about doing, and he'd rather say, "Tell what you'd like to play tonight, Ade," and I think up something. I shuffle it around. I've got my own way of designing it to have a certain kind of contour. One night we'll play "One Time" and the next night we will play "Walking On Air," you see what I mean? You substitute one thing for another, but you want to be building a dynamic kind of flow to it. Basically, I like the idea that Robert has mentioned before. You offer a piece of candy to the audience, and when they start to take it, you punch them in the face.



AAJ: Yes, "assaulting culture," he called it. So you start with a heavy instrumental or a rocking vocal piece like "Prozac Blues," then a longer stretchy instrumental like "ConstruKction of Light," then a softer number like "One Time."



AB: Yeah, it's a contour if you look at it. You know when you've reached a peak and you settle back, give the audience a bit of air here. And then you build it back up, and obviously you want to build it to the end to a certain point you'd never reach otherwise.



AAJ: Have you never had the desire to go back and perform some of the John Wetton vocal pieces from the 1970s like "Easy Money" or "One More Red Nightmare"?



AB: Actually, "Easy Money" is a piece that has been mentioned many times. I don't know why we've never done it. I mean, it's come up. For many years, everyone was on our tails to do "21st Century Schizoid Man." We finally did that, and it was good to get that monkey off our back. [Laughs]. I don't know, I kind of feel like it's not really what the band was about. It's about pursuing new things, not redoing old things. I mean, I'm with you, though. I love all those old records. They were very important in my growth process as a young musician. Then again, so were The Beatles, and I don't want to play Beatle music.



AAJ: On the 2000 tour, King Crimson started playing David Bowie's "Heroes." How did that come about?



AB: That was Robert's idea. It was because he felt like between the two of us, we had a history with that song. Robert played on the original thing, and I played on tour with Bowie several times. We just thought that shows a bit of the undercurrent of things that Crimson touches that aren't King Crimson.



AAJ: In a recent interview elsewhere, you stated that there were no plans for King Crimson in 2009. Is that still the case?



AB: I think in 2009, there are no concrete plans. I've heard nothing as in we going to this date or something like that. Other than in my dinner conversations with Robert, where he says "We'll do some of these things next year like we are doing this year." Basically, we feel we are now at a point where we don't want to do very much touring. Just enough to where we will be out there playing, and we want to do more of what we call "hub touring," where you stay in one place—the audience comes to you. So we're playing three nights at Park West in Chicago rather than say Chicago one night, Cleveland one night, Cincinnati another night. We figure the true fans will come to Chicago on one of those three nights.



Adrian BelewAAJ: Well, you've sold out the Belcourt Theater here in Nashville for two nights.



AB: Yeah, I think we'll do well in the three places we've chosen—Chicago, Philadelphia and New York. What I wonder, is where else can you do that? You can't do that everywhere. Where do you do that on the West Coast? Where do you that in the South? Where do you do that in Canada? I know also that Robert has said definitively that has does not want to work outside of the United States.



AAJ: Was the 2003 tour so bad that he swore he would never tour Europe again? What happened there?



AB: I don't know what happened. Nothing happened as far as I am concerned. I thought it was a great tour. But, it definitely turned Robert off to ever touring in Europe again. I'm touring Europe in the fall with the power trio, actually.



AAJ: Was it the customs hassles or something like that?



AB: No, it was nothing like that. No, nothing to do with that. He didn't feel that the music was being served properly in the venues. I don't know. You're asking me, and I don't know Robert's mind.



AAJ: In 2009, will we see more power trio live dates as well?



AB: Yeah, my focus really is on the power trio now, as much as I can do that makes sense financially and otherwise. We have this next leg in touring that takes in Florida and the Carolinas. Then in June we go up and do some festivals in Canada. Should be really nice. Also since we're up there, we're be going to Burlington, Vermont and Troy, NewYork—some East coast things.



Then August is all King Crimson. Just in the fact that includes rehearsals, then playing shows. Following that, on the heels of that really, I am looking at the trio going to Russia. This will be the end of August.



Then in October, we do our real Fall tour of Europe which takes in a lot of places. Everything from Budapest to Amsterdam. It will be great for the trio to get all that experience under its belt before we even do our next record. By the time we do our next record, we will have played several weeks in Japan, in South America, in all of Europe, festivals, clubs, concerts, theaters, as openers, big stages with other headliners. We will be opening for Primus and for Zappa Plays Zappa at festival dates in Canada. So I am really excited to see where this is all leading. I know something is going to come of this, and it's going to be wonderful. If King Crimson wants to go a little deeper, that's fine but I don't think we're going to do a whole lot more than what is already planned.



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