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King Crimson at Theatre St-Denis

John Kelman By

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While much of the material has required drum arrangements created from scratch, some were expansions of those Harrison created for the brief 2008 tour. "Some of the material, like 'ConstruKction of Light' and 'Level Five' I'd already worked out for two drummers when they were being played in 2008, so we played them pretty much as we did then, with Bill adding some more color."

One of the bigger revelations of the recently issued THRAK box was that a book written by Harrison at the time, Rhythmic Illusions (Alfred, 1996), was actually key to how Bill Bruford looked at the double trio of the time, and used it to help determine a methodology for working with a second drummer, the recently recruited Pat Mastelotto. "I don't think it was common knowledge that so much of that book was actually being used," Harrison explained. "I actually asked Bill Bruford, through a common friend, Dave Stewart [ex-Bruford, Hatfield & the North, Egg, National Health] to write an introduction for the book. I'd been writing a column for a few years for Drum Magazine, and wanted to put it all together.

"It's about manipulating the perception of a downbeat and the perception of tempo, either by displacing where you think the downbeat is, or by making the listener feel there's a different 'one'; or by using metric modulation to make it feel like you're playing faster or slower even though it's really just superimposed—it is an illusion," Harrison continued. "I went to Bill's house and I showed him the material and he was happy to write a forward and asked, 'Can you send me the final manuscript?'

"So, I sent it to Real World Studios, where they were just starting to work on THRAK," Harrison concluded. "And it just kind of landed in the right time in the right place for Bill, because he was trying to get ideas together to play with two drummers. The actual book is nothing about playing with two drummers, but you can use material in that way: one guy playing straight, the other guy playing displaced or modulated, and it sounds like two different guys are playing two different rhythms but somehow they're magically interwoven by the subdivisions. It just became part of their sound. But I didn't know Robert Fripp and I don't think he knew who I was. Then, in 2006, Robert did about fifty shows opening for Porcupine Tree, and so we got to know him and he got to hear our sound a lot, so he asked me to join Crimson in 2008, when there was a big gap in the Porcupine Tree schedule; he wasn't stealing me from Porcupine Tree; it was just 'I know you're not working between here and there, so do you fancy coming with us?'"

It was actually not just the beginning of Harrison's relationship with Fripp; it was also the cementing of the guitarist's relationship with Porcupine Tree guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Steven Wilson—after appearing on 1994's Flowermouth, from Wilson's duo project with Tim Bowness, No-Man; and having his soundscape work sampled on another of Wilson's alter-egos, the electronic-centric Bass Communion. Wilson had, by this time, been remixing his own music for surround sound and approached Fripp with the idea of doing the same for Crimson. The result was the 40th Anniversary Series that started with new 5.1 surround and stereo mixes of In the Court of the Crimson King, Red (new surround mix only) and Lizard (DGM Live/Panegyric)—the album that Wilson described, in a 2012 interview for All About Jazz , as "the album that stereo could not contain," and the first album that Wilson remixed because, when asked why by Fripp (who has traditionally not been fond of the record...until Wilson's work), answered: "I'm gonna change peoples' minds about it"; a belief that ultimately, as Wilson continued, was "one of the things that I'm most proud of [because] that I think we did it. For years, people dismissed Lizard as Crimson's 'problem child.' Robert was one of the people who also dismissed it."

Despite Fripp's revaluation and ultimately greater fondness for Lizard, it does beg the question: why is there nothing from that album being performed live by King Crimson > 2014? After all, while the Lizard band—in addition to Fripp and Collins, also including bassist/vocalist Gordon Haskell and drummer Andy McCulloch—didn't last long enough to tour, the Islands band, where Fripp and Collins were joined by drummer Ian Wallace and bassist/vocalist Boz Burrell, did regularly perform the album's nightmare-inducing opener, "Cirkus" and, on rare occasion, the more pastoral "Lady of the Dancing Water."

"We were actually going to take that band [the Lizard band] on the road," explained Collins. "We'd rehearsed with Andy and Gordon—we actually had one day's rehearsal and then Gordon said he couldn't do it anymore, and that was it."


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