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Adrian Belew: Power Trios and Crimson Heads

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AAJ: Okay, how did you get from Bowie then to the Talking Heads? Was that through Eno?



AB: No, that was through playing at Madison Square Garden with David. The Talking Heads were in the front row. They saw me, and they liked what I did. Their next tour was for a record called Fear of Music (Sire, 1979). They were touring around the Midwest. I came to three of their shows. On the third show, I played with them. They said, "Would you come up and play with us on, 'Psycho Killer?,'" which was the encore. And that was it after that.



The next time I saw them, I was playing my own show in New York City with my own band, a showcase, trying to get a record deal. When I finished the show, there was David Byrne, Jerry Harrison and Brian Eno again. They took me over into a stairwell, and they said they were making a record and asked if I could stay around and record on it. I said, "I don't know. Let me ask these other people I'm in town playing with if they would mind staying in New York an extra day. I guess they probably won't." So I did Remain In Light the next day.



AAJ: You did that all in one day?



AB: All in one day.



AAJ: Did you play on every track on the record?



AB: Most every track, yeah. I was fast. And I had lots of ideas. And it's always been that way for me. If someone plays a new piece of music for me, if it's Trent Reznor or it's David Byrne, I will say, "Wow, there's five different things I can offer here on this track. Here, I could do this, or I could this, and this, and this, and this." Basically, people have gotten to the point where when I play on someone's record they want me to do my own thing.



AAJ: To do what you do.



AB: Yeah, that's what they're asking. I'm not one of these studio players that show up and you hand me a chart and say, "Here's the chords. Here's what I want you to play. I want you to sound like this guy."



Adrian Belew / Talking HeadsAAJ: When the Talking Heads played you the Remain in Light material before you played on it, did it strike you right away? When I listen to them now, It almost sounds like Remain in Light, [King Crimson's] Discipline (DGM Live, 1980), [Belew's] Lone Rhino (Island, 1982) and [Tom Tom Club's] Tom Tom Club (Sire, 1981) were recorded at the same time by the same band.



AB: Well, it was a small community of the same thought. I would include Brian Eno, Talking Heads, David Bowie, maybe Peter Gabriel in that line of thinking, and certainly Robert Fripp, and myself. You have common factors that go through all those things. Brian Eno producing and me playing on a record, Robert playing on a record, then Tony Levin plays with Peter Gabriel—it all sort of connects the dots really quickly. I think it was a time when there was a real interest in African rhythms and certain other parts of music that all of us took to heart and said, "Okay, what can we do with this stuff?"



AAJ: When you first joined King Crimson, well it wasn't even called King Crimson. It was called Discipline. Was that because Robert wanted to separate himself—it was pretty much a left turn from the mellotron driven, hard, progressive rock of the '70s—since the sound of the new group was more groove-oriented?



AB: Oh, it was a totally different brand of music. I think that's why Robert was hesitant to call it King Crimson. At some point, about six weeks into the writing and rehearsing of the music, he said, "No matter what we call it, it has the spirit of and the integrity of King Crimson." Tony Levin and I almost shouted, "Let's call it King Crimson!"



AAJ: You were also on the live double album that has recently been reissued The Name of This Band is Talking Heads (Sire, 1982).



AB: Right. I've never actually heard that.



AAJ: Ha. Well, you should just hear yourself; lots of great Remain In Light material on there, must have been from that tour, on disc two. And on the first disc are tunes from the previous tours before you joined. It was interesting to hear their music progress.



AB: Yeah, well they took a big leap from album to album. They progressed really well. I followed their progression from album to album. Then, I really loved Fear of Music, which was the last album before I joined them. Then, Remain in Light seemed like a real departure. All of sudden, Remain in Light (Sire, 1980) came out of nowhere. I thought up to that point they sounded like a four-piece rock band, they kept their arrangements to that. They didn't have a lot of other parts, all the way up to Fear of Music, it was that way. Then with Remain in Light, all of a sudden they burst out with all kinds of backup harmonies, and extra rhythms and other players. It just took another turn there. It was difficult to do that music live. Because they hadn't planned on that, I think. They hadn't really thought out, "Well, how are we going to play this stuff live?"


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