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Adrian Belew: Power Trios and Crimson Heads

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AAJ: I was really disappointed that he never put out an official live album or DVD from that tour. I've seen some bootlegs from that tour thanks to YouTube and such, and it was really monstrous.



AB: It was very good. I loved that tour. I had a great time, and I got to know David really well. It was first class all the way. It's the kind of thing you dream of doing once in your life. It was a very special time.



AAJ: You met Paul McCartney on that tour.



AB: I met Paul McCartney. I met my wife! We met after a show in Orlando in the lobby of the Peabody hotel. So that was, for me, a life changing tour. It changed everything. I'm with you though, I'd like to have a record of that.

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Back to Crimson



AAJ: The, '90s King Crimson, how did that come together? After Robert ending the band 10 years previous in Musician magazine?



AB: Well, I kept hearing rumors that King Crimson was starting again. I had not had a call, and I thought, "Well that's interesting. Is it going to be a totally new lineup?" I thought about a little bit, and I thought, "I've invested a lot of time and energy into King Crimson. I really feel that I am a part of it. And, if there is a new King Crimson, I don't want to be standing on the sidelines watching the parade go by. I want to be in the parade." [Laughs]



So it just so happened that I was going to Europe to do some dates. I had enough time to stop in and visit Robert in England. Ostensibly, I was just there to see him as a friend and say "Hi." While I was there, we did a new version of, "Cadence and Cascade." He asked me, "Would you be able to sing this, since you're here?" And "Of course, I'll sing it, I know the song very well." And I did that, then I got around to the subject of King Crimson. I said, "Well if there is a new King Crimson, I want you to know that I'd like to be a part of it. And, if that's not in your plan, that's fine, but wanted you to know that I am agreeable to that." And after that, Robert said that got his wheels in motion, and he really got serious about it. I don't know, he had new material, he had new energy for it.



The next that happened, he came to my house in the United States, and we began writing new material again. Like nothing had changed. I mean after he left he had about 30 seconds of chords changes for what would eventually become "One Time." And we had already started working on other pieces like "VROOOM" and things like that. I had a very clear idea for what he was shooting for musically speaking. It was, in some ways, akin to an advanced Beatles. That was a little bit of what I was hearing. I wanted to hear something like "I Am The Walrus" which turned into a song like "Dinosaur." That's the King Crimson version of that type of music.



AAJ: Was that song lyrically about impressions in the press that King Crimson was one of these old progressive bands going back on tour—the band as dinosaur?



Adrian Belew / King CrimsonAB: No, it wasn't really at all. Actually, it was more of a personal statement. I was tired of people always digging into my life and trying to find out things, you know. I don't know what it was about. Maybe I felt at that point that I was a dinosaur. The music industry was moving so fast and past me, and I knew that I wasn't going to create hit records, and I wasn't going to be on the radio, so I had to change the focus of my career around at that time.



AAJ: So it was sort of a comment on where you were at, at that time.



AB: Yeah, and I never really considered the idea that King Crimson was called a dinosaur by a critic or anything like that. Never even occurred to me. I was also in a big dinosaur phase. I read volumes of books about all the new dinosaur theories. If you remember, that was around the time just before Jurassic Park (1993) came out. I was already studying all the new theories that they had. Especially the one that really struck me was the one that said dinosaur were early versions of birds. And I'm a bird watcher. So for me, that was incredible. It got me going. I started reading everything I could about what was going on there. For a long time, dinosaurs were just these big plodding things, no one knew anything about them or where they came from. All of a sudden, there was this explosion of information.



AAJ: Yeah, I could definitely hear that Beatles influence on THRAK (DGM Live, 1995) and VROOOM (DGM Live, 1994). Especially on the outro of "People." I thought at the time, "Wow, this sounds like something straight off of Abbey Road (Apple, 1969)."



AB: You know, for me, I always thought that King Crimson had that. Even from the very first record [In The Court of the Crimson King (DGM Live, 1969)]. If you listen there is an interesting combination going on that I've always felt was essential to the band. You had the radical instrumental music, dressed as songs, or not, such as, "21st Century Schizoid Man," followed by a very well-written song—the classical, classic rock song, "I Talk To The Wind." Could it have been a Lennon/McCartney tune? Of course. So, they always have that equation. I always felt that was important to King Crimson. Over the years, I've heard people say, "Well, wouldn't it be nice if King Crimson just improvised? Or if they just played the individual pieces of music?" You know what? It wouldn't. You wouldn't have that balance. Without those elements, you would be missing something.

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Painting and Improvisation



AAJ: Before we end here, I wanted to cover two more topics—your paintings and your views on improvisation.



AB: Well, before you leave, I will have to show you some of my paintings. [Points back at his basement studio] This is also my personal art gallery down here, in the living quarters part of the studio. I always thought I would try my hand at painting. I don't know why. I've always noodled around and scribbled and drawn things all my life. But I had no training, I had no reason to believe that I could ever paint. I figured, "Well, when I am 75, I will take up painting." [Laughs] By then, I will be too old to do anything else. It just happened prematurely. You know, there is an event that occurred that caused me to want to paint. That's my first painting right behind you.



AAJ: The first one. Wasn't that one of your album covers?



AB: Yes it is, yeah. In the back of my mind, I was thinking, "Well, if I can paint something that I like well enough, maybe I can use it as an album cover." I really didn't know that I could paint. I went down to an art store. I got a few canvases; I did a lot of questioning. I found about acrylics and all the mediums you can mix in it to make it different textures and liquidities, glossies, watercolor-like. I loved all that alchemy that you could do, so I chose acrylics.



I chose a canvas size, 30x40, that you could reduce down and be a nice artwork for CDs. I had that in the back of the mind. I thought I'd just try this, and maybe I'll accidentally find something that's cool looking. And I got so immersed in it, I did 60 paintings in about a year. I would just paint forever, all day and all night. I just couldn't stop myself. And every painting I made was entirely different. It was strange. I had no idea what I was doing. Just like teaching myself to play music. So I just figured it out. I just combined this thing and that. Now I'm going use a paint brush, now a knife, now spray paint, and I just kept trying these things.



My excursions were always based on abstract painting, so I never know thought, "Okay, I'm trying to make it look like something." I'm not going to do a portrait of someone or a landscape or a basket of fruit, I'm just trying to do something interesting with colors and shapes and geometrics and dimensions. If you really think about it, that's exactly what you do with music. It relates so well. In music, you're creating dimensional things, you're making depth, you're changing colors like you change sounds. You're using harmonies and contrasts. You're using all the same techniques that I was using with sound, I was now using with paints and a canvas. It really was an explosion of fun for me.



Adrian Belew And I'm still loving it. I still don't know what I'm doing. I still don't know how I do what I do or how to repeat it so that's why mostly all of my paintings are one of a kind.

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