After so many years together, how do you and Robert Fripp still
achieve that incredible balance of progressive guitar wizardry that
King Crimson are so well known for?
Well with Robert and I we have, like you said, worked together now for
20 years, on and off, and I think even though we have separate
approaches to guitar, that we have alot of similarities as well. In
terms of things that we prefer, choices we would make, sounds we like,
styles that we play in—I mean we’re very different as guitarists
but at the same time there’s some real common things, some common
ground there. Alot of the time when we’re working out ideas, it’s
almost unspoken—or if you may make a reference, y’know where I’ll
use this sound or ‘Robert, you could do this here’, Robert will
say, ‘Adrian, you do your backwards thing here’, (laughter). So
when you work with someone in a partnership for that long, you know so
much about their tendencies and you can utilize them. I think you can
play on each other’s strengths that way. For example, I didn’t
realize it but I know how to play blues guitar, I just never play it
(laughter). It’s not a side of my playing that I put on record very
often. Well Robert realized that about me and prompted the band to do
the song "Prozak Blues", and prompted me to cut loose and
play some blues (laughter) even though I guess maybe my approach is
not a purist approach. And it’s those kind of things that happen
between he and I. I know for example, when I’m writing a song that
is a Crimson song I know the kinds of things I can expect to get from
Robert. It gives me a palette to work from. In terms of, I know that
right here he’s gonna put these beautiful clouds and over here he
can play a blazing solo. It gives you a framework to work in. I think
we have accomplished a pretty amazing partnership. It was unexpected
to me. It’s almost snuck up on me now after all this time that I
finally realized, hey, Robert and I together have created alot of
guitar things. I know other people appreciate them, I hear them
The first time I saw King Crimson play live was after Lizard came
out in November of ‘71. They were on tour at the Academy Of Music in
NYC second on a bill with Yes as the opening act and Procol Harum as
headliners. With all the current interest in all the King Crimson
reissues from 1969 and early ‘70s, do you have any recent
reflections of the first four Crimson albums?
Well I would say, and I’ve said this in other interviews—past The
Beatles, I would call the early King Crimson stuff as my main
influence. The Beatles were my biggest influence—they changed my
life—and then King Crimson came along a few years later with In
The Court Of The Crimson King and all the records that followed
that and really turned my head to the possibilities within the
structures of rock music—how you could play with virtuosity and play
with unusual techniques and unusual time signatures. In fact, how you
could make rock music have some of the tendencies of classical music.
And so, those albums that I had no part of in the ‘60s and into the
‘70s were very important records to me. And I like the band Yes too,
and Procol Harum too—in fact those are both great bands—but King
Crimson, to my mind was the best, most adventurous of all (during)
that era of music. It was special. There was something unbelievable
about it, even though at the time I was a struggling musician playing
gigs almost for free. It was a two year period where I was a drummer
in a Holiday Inn lounge band. That’s what I would do after I played
my gig—I would go back to my room, put on the headphones and listen
to King Crimson (laughter) and dream and think, ‘Oh, I wonder what
these guys are like!’ (laughter).
The King Crimson classic "Red" is a major highlight of the
recent live Crimson shows. Is there any interest from Robert Fripp in
regards to playing any other vintage Crimson music from the ‘70s? Is
there any chance to slip in a vintage jewel like "Moonchild"
Well, I think as the current line-up unfolds we’ll do that more and
more. I know Pat,
for example, is a huge fan of the old material. I
know that Trey didn’t know anything about the old material. So, I
think that we will get to that point within King Crimson where we can
look back on the history and tradition of the band a little more
open-minded. But right now it’s so important for us to establish who
we are that it seems like, there’s so much chatter already about the
past bands that you can just kinda leave that on the boil (laughter).
In a way, it’s a little distracting because you want people to like
what you’re doing now, you don’t want to really have to concern
yourself so much with something that happened 30 years ago, or 25 or
20 or whatever. But I have an appreciation of the music and the people
that played the music so I guess I have a different viewpoint on it. I’ve
met alot of those guys. And Michael Giles was my favorite drummer
ever. I thought his drumming on The Court Of The Crimson King, and
In The Wake Of Poseidon—fabulous drumming, y’know
unbelievable. I’ve met him. People like that and Ian MacDonald, Pete
Sinfield—who was certainly a masterful lyricist. But still, this is
now, so we have a new band that we want to shine.
About the current King Crimson band, I think the recent triple Heavy
Construction CD is amazing. The Heavy Construction versions
of "Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part IV" and "Coda: I
Have A Dream" are more effective than even the studio versions
from The Construction Of Light.
Well you know that generally happens with King Crimson. For some
reason, we can’t really harness the band’s live energy and
electricity on record. We’ve not been able to ever do that. So the
record versions are just that—they are a record of the way we play
the song at that time. What generally happens though is we go out and
play for a while on a tour and different songs will heat up a
different way. The band simply is a live band. You need to see the
band to really appreciate it fully, although I like the records
enormously. I’m a record lover. I don’t like live concerts as much
as I do records, but I have to say in the case of King Crimson—well
you gotta see it live.
Another highlight from Heavy Construction, "I Have A
Dream-Coda" was another harrowing song. It must have been painful
to sing some of those words.
Well, you know I’m really a history buff. In fact, I’m a member of
the History Book Club, the History Online Newsletter, etcetera. I read
alot about history and I really enjoy especially modern history. And I
have a huge collection of books. When you go back and look at what’s
happened though in the 20th Century, what really sticks out are the
bad things. It’s unfortunate, but we did have two world wars and
Vietnam and lots of other bad things. So to encapsulate it in a
visual, lyrical way, that’s what I found I was faced with—was that
no one really visualizes the curing of polio, but they can visualize
the bombs raining down on Vietnam. Because you’ve seen it on TV, you’ve
seen it in film and so on. So, yeah, the bad thing about writing
"I Have A Dream" is simply that that was what I eventually
surmised—was that when you do look back and history looks back at
the 20th Century that is what they will see.
And also from Heavy Construction, the King Crimson cover of
Bowie’s "Heroes" is great too. How does that song relate
to King Crimson.
Well I think it relates to King Crimson in the sense that both Robert
and I are Bowie compatriots. Robert played on the original (1977)
version. The very next year—and this is a strange moment for me—because
before I met Frank Zappa and became internationally known, I was
driving in my car and I was listening to "Heroes" being
played on the record and knowing of course that Robert Fripp, my
personal hero from King Crimson, was playing guitar on it. Two years
later, I was playing with David Bowie on stage—playing that very
song. So, both Robert and I have an interesting relationship—I was
with David Bowie the night that I met Robert Fripp. We were all at The
Bottom Line in New York City watching the Steve Wright concert and
when the lights came up David Bowie noticed that Robert was at the
next table so I went over and introduced myself and that’s how my
friendship and lifetime relationship with Robert began. So there’s
alot of this cross-wiring that involves David Bowie and it just seemed
natural. We wanted to do a cover song, y’know we wanted Crimson to
do a cover song! Y’know, why not? (laughter) So what better song
than something from David since he’s a peer.
What kind of influence did Bowie have on your songwriting and singing?
think he’s influenced every singer there’s ever been since him,
honestly. David has exercised more influence over singers than people
give him credit for, because I heard it throughout the ‘70s, in the
‘80s, the ‘90s that people sing like him. I don’t know what
effect he had on me as a singer except that I think he’s a great
singer and I always liked his chameleon quality of being able to
change the style of his vocalizations and I think I do that sometimes.
I like to sing in different voices, in different styles and take on
different characters. And maybe some of that comes from David I think.
In terms of songwriting, well I worked with him and we wrote some
songs together. I’ve always thought his songs were really on the
edge—his best songs, his best writings I think are on the edge of
pop. They’re where pop music goes a little outside for a while but
still is singable and memorable and that’s kind of, from my taste,
that’s what I like, that’s the kind of pop music that appeals to
me the most and always has been. With The Beatles—it was all those
sort of 1966 and ‘67 era where they started to experiment and do
things—those were the songs that I liked. "Strawberry
Fields", "I Am The Walrus"—all that stuff. Alot of
the McCartney and Harrison stuff too, I should say. ‘Cause it’s
Do you have a favorite Bowie period or album?
like the kind of "Ashes To Ashes" period and I also really
liked—as an album, as a whole album—I like "Heroes" alot.
There are many of them. I think there are so many great songs.
Obviously when I toured with David in 1990 we did a couple of hours
worth (laughter). David’s a favorite of mine too. I get a call from
him once every 11 years. It’s been about 10 years now. So I expect
sooner or later...(laughter) I’ll get to talk to him again.
It would be great for Bowie and King Crimson to do something one day.
Yeah, I had mentioned that on the last record—but in fact the
politics of it would be too much to take on—but in fact I wanted
David to sing "I Have A Dream", that particular song. David
has a very melodramatic kind of way of singing I thought he would have
really brought that song to another place. And maybe in the future, it’s
something we can do. It’s often though whenever you try to get a
superstar—and let’s face it, he’s a superstar—to be on your
record, the politics are more than you can handle (laughter). But I
think, certainly the door is open that sometime in the future we’ll
work again I hope, because there’s always something there to do with
Bowie recently put out a reissue compilation of his late ‘70s
instrumental material from Heroes and Low. What better
band to record that style of music again than with King Crimson?
Oh yeah, I know. To me there are so many things that King Crimson has
untapped. King Crimson should be doing film scores and so many other
things and it’s all available for the future so the real main thing
is—Robert has said many times—is just for the band not to stop, as
it always has in the past. That’s the main mistake it’s ever made.
And so, kind of the current thinking is, let’s just take our time
and just continue on. Do what we want to do and don’t try to do it
all and don’t get ourselves to the point where we get exhausted by
it. It’s the same thinking that’s underneath my work with The
Bears right now. I think The Bears and King Crimson both have a life
that’s there to be had as long as we don’t wear it out (laughter).
RS: I interviewed
Mike Pinder, the founder of The Moody Blues a couple years back and he
told me The Beatles opened up doors for musicians to walk through and
experience a variety of different musical styles. Is it possible to
give a short, but heartfelt answer on how George Harrison and The
Beatles influenced your music?
Certainly George Harrison and The Beatles—all of them as players and
guitarists—affected me so greatly. I’d always put George in my
list of top 5 influences, guitar wise, along with Jimi Hendrix and
Jeff Beck and Les Paul and people like that. Because, I think George
Harrison was just such a great pop guitarist. I mean he did the same
on guitar as McCartney does on melody. I call it signature guitar
playing where in between the vocalizing there’s another hook. It’s
a signature and it’s George Harrison’s guitar. Naturally it
started out in a different way. I loved his early stuff and then he
moved into his slide stuff. But I have to mention the other thing that
I think is so special about George Harrison is the Indian music. If it
weren’t for George Harrison’s work in Indian music, I don’t
think any of us would be that aware of it and it still stands as kind
of the only pop Indian music that’s ever been made by a Western
band. Some of my favorite stuff—"The Inner Light", the
flip side of "Lady Madonna"—I just love that song. In
fact, with the early Bears material we were heavily influenced with
that. We tried to slip some sort of Eastern tonalities into what we
were doing. If you hear something like "Man Behind The
Curtain" or "Raining", you’ll see that it really is
an attempt at combining the pop sensibilities of The Beatles and the
Indian part of The Beatles—the George Harrison part. Speaking just
about The Beatles in general though, they meant everything to me—I
can’t overstate it because they changed my life. They made me say to
myself, ‘Oh, that’s what I want to do. I want to be a recording
artist.’ By listening so fervently and studying their records I
think I learned all the basics that I didn’t get anywhere else—how
to produce and how to record and how to write songs, how to harmonize
and how to orchestrate and a million other things. And it’s been
such a great experience. I mean, in a way, I also laugh about this,
‘cause I say to some people y’know really, The Beatles ruined it
for the rest of us (laughter) because after them it’s kind of hard
to come up with anything, but like you say, they opened alot of doors
and then they moved right on. They were the greatest.
You wrote the liner notes for the book The Black Market Beatles. How
did you get involved with that book?
Belmo is the man who has a newsletter about all the bootleg Beatle
industry and there’s a huge amount of it.
Did you hear the bootleg documenting the creation of "Strawberry
I have that one too. And that is one that I would point to as being my
favorite because it just gives you such an insight as to the creative
way that everything happened and as I mentioned earlier that is one of
my favorite Beatle periods. I have a collection that I guess Belmo
gave me in fact—it was a box set from Italy, really nicely done. And
in fact, it had four CDs inside, and they were all chronological and
it just covered just about everything. It’s a huge collection and
the last CD was called Inner Revolution (laughter) and that
always made me laugh a little bit. But generally speaking, I’m not a
bootleg collector. I just happen to know Belmo and my interest is such
in anything that’s touching The Beatles that I would listen to just
about anything they did. So he knew that and he asked me would I like
to say something about it. And if I remember my liner notes, they’re
mostly to do with the excitement of what happened in that period when
The Beatles came out—how that was for anyone who didn’t get to
experience it. It was truly a definitive point in history.
George was on the cover for the issue of the January 20th Century
Guitar and I have a section on all the great George bootleg stuff like
George’s own version of "It Don’t Come Easy", the
12" version of "Handle With Care" and the out of print
stuff he and Jeff Lynne did with Duane Eddy. By the way, did you hear
the track George did with The Remo Four from the new Wonderwall DVD
No, I don’t think so. Wonderwall is really a cool record
Speaking of rare Beatles songs, I really enjoyed the "Free As A
Bird" cover on the Vroom Vroom as it was done during King
Crimson’s 1995 On Broadway shows in NYC. Would Crimson ever
consider doing a more symphonic studio version of "Free As A
Well, I don’t think so because the reason we did that song at that
point because the bootlegs we just mentioned, the Italian ones, had
that on it. John’s personal demo version of it. And so I knew that
song long before it ever came out and I’d learned it and everything.
When it came close to the time to be unveiled on ABC (TV) (on the Anthology
show), and there was such a big hoopla about how no one in
the world knew the song, we thought it would be kind of naughty to
play it beforehand (laughter). So I came out, I think it was the first
night we played it, was the night before it was aired on ABC, it was
in New Haven Connecticut, I remember that. We played it three or four
other times after that, but the effect kind of was lost after the
record came out. But still, I thought it was a great song. I love the
version that The Beatles did of it too.
You also recorded "Blackbird" for the Beatles guitar tribute
Come Together, which was released on Mike Maneri’s NYC
Records label back in the ‘90s.
Yeah that’s exactly right, Mike did.
Terje Rypdal is on there also. I remember it was a cool little CD.
It was. I like that CD. It was a great idea. I mean I could probably
cover—there are so many Beatles songs I’d like to cover but that’s
a whole other thing. It’s a whole other career. (laughter)
On another Beatles-related connection is that in 1996 you recorded the
Paul McCartney song "Come And Get It" for the Copper Records
Badfinger tribute CD. Any reflections on that song?
(I heard that Paul) just kind of went into the studio and did that in
an afternoon. And I thought, well that’s the way I’m gonna do it
then. I’d like to try that, too (laughter). Just go in and do it in
an afternoon. And that’s the way we did it. It was alot of fun, I
few years ago you and Peter Frampton did a remake of the instrumental
classic "The Frightened City" for the Hank Marvin and The
Shadows Twang! tribute CD. It’s amazing how many ‘60s
rockers were influenced by Hank’s guitar work. I first heard The
Shadows in 1981. When I went to live in Sweden, several musicians
there turned me onto their sound. And also Mike Oldfield recorded
their huge hit "Wonderful Land" on his 1981 album QE2.
Were The Shadows and Hank Marvin big influences?
didn’t get to hear The Shadows. I knew about The Shadows from all
the things that British musicians I read about had said about them.
Alot of the British guitar players from the early ‘60s were heavily
influenced by The Shadows, including The Beatles of course, and Robert
Fripp. When I’d talk to Robert Fripp he would mention their music
and I didn’t really get to know their work until Peter Frampton
asked me to do that and then I investigated it a little bit and I
could see. It’s interesting when you see something from that
perspective then I could see how their influence was. Because then I
could see their influence on other musics and it was nice to see that.
Peter’s a friend of mine and and at the time he lived in Nashville—he
since moved—but it was a nice day spent in the studio with Peter
doing that. I loved his guitar sound that he had on that.
Even though it’s been over 43 years since the first Shadows records,
it’s still amazing to find out how influential they were.
All the British guys will tell you that, that I talked to. People like
Peter Frampton. They were very important. Over here we had, kind of
The Ventures. I don’t know that they exercised the same thing over
musicians, but I did like The Ventures. I was a little young for The
Ventures—they weren’t my thing but at least their playing was
interesting. They got alot of cool sounds. The drumming was upbeat. I’m
not saying they were the same as The Shadows, but it’s kind of the
British and American versions of instrumental music.
The Shadows were very European whereas The Ventures were very American
West Coast sounding.
Exactly. That’s really a little bit why I couldn’t really relate
to The Ventures thing—because it was so West Coast and it was all
tied in a little bit to the surf music and all that. For a guy who
grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio surf music didn’t have a whole
know what you mean.
didn’t have a surfboard or an ocean...(laughter) or a car!
It’s funny in a way, the first thing I ever heard from The Shadows was
way back in 1981 with Mike Oldfield’s cover of their big Jerry Lordan composed hit
"Wonderful Land". Interestingly, a few year later you worked
with Mike Oldfield on his Earth Moving album. What was it like
working with Mike?
Well the first thing about it that was interesting was he called me as
a vocalist and I came over. He has a studio in his house—a beautiful
studio and a beautiful home—in England. But it wasn’t, ‘hey
Adrian come and put some wild guitar on the album’, like it always
is (laughter). So, it was fun though. I’d loved Michael’s work for
a long time and he’s just amazing. But the one thing he really can’t
do very well is sing. He can play and arrange and do so much great
stuff but he’s not much of a singer so he needs to import singers. I
did the song called "Holy"—which was not the song they
brought me over to do—they brought me over to do a different song, I
think it was "Earth Moving", maybe, I can’t remember the
other song. And I did that song. Then they said, ‘just by chance,
you probably can’t do this but we’ve got this other song called
"Holy", it’s not in your style, but let’s see.’ And
that turned out to be a number one record in Germany and I got a gold
record for that as the vocalist. So I didn’t really lock horns with
Mike on a musical basis as much as kind of being a singer for him
What was it like recording the Zoolook album with Jean-Michel
Oh sure, I remember that. That was done in New York. Mainly through my
contacts with Laurie Anderson. I think Laurie is on the record too. So
she got me involved with that. That was another record that just had
so much great music and great things going on. Reminds me a little of
Ryuchi Sakamoto. Same kind of thing. Just a great kind of Euro sound.
And I’ve been fortunate to be able to squeeze what I do into some of
those different formats like that, but it’s all music. It doesn’t
matter if you’re in Tokyo or you’re in Sweden. I’ve recorded in
Sweden by the way (laughter) at ABBA’s studio. It’s all to do with
music itself being it’s own language and it’s own set of emotional
values. I find that when I get with people after the ice has broken
for a moment then boom, you have some very similar things and the
world of music gets smaller and smaller as I plow through it
You also recorded Harry Nilsson’s "Me And My Arrow" from
the Everybody Sings Nilsson tribute CD on Musicmasters.
would say that Harry—along with The Beatles and Roy Orbison and a
few other choice singers—he was my favorite singer of that era. ‘Cause
he could just do so much with his voice. And I loved all the little
orchestrations he did in his songs, the little back up things and all
the doo-wops and things he did. And in fact, when I did "Me And
My Arrow"—what I did at the end of it, if I recall, is I let
the whole song transform itself into vocals only, so the vocalist took
on the role of the drummer and the piano and everything else that was
in the song by the time you get to the end of the song. Which is the
same thing I could envision Harry doing. And I met Harry a couple of
times. Unfortunately, it was at the time in his life when he had lost
his voice and he was no longer making records. We sang together—we
had a little harmony fest there for a minute, but his voice was gone.
That’s a real shame. I just thought he was such a great singer.
Your production and playing on the recent Kevin Max album Stereotype
Be is great. And his songs are amazing. I just reviewed the CD in
20th Century Guitar. How did you become involved with Kevin’s album?
Well Kevin lives in Nashville where I live and what happened is he
came to one of the warm-up shows that King Crimson did. And my wife
Martha met him. And it turned out he was fan of King Crimson and knew
my work and we got on. We’ve become really close friends and great
buddies and I love Kevin alot. He’s an amazing guy. Very much in the
Bowie way (laughter). At first I didn’t know what I thought of K-Max’s
voice and then I learned to love it. He does alot of really cool
things with his voice. His songwriting is in that same edgy, pop area.
He’s in, of course, the band dc Talk, which is like the biggest band
in Christian music. So his records appeal to that market—but I
think, for Christian music, he’s certainly on the outer edges of it
(laughter). And it was great fun doing that record ‘cause first of
all, we had a nice budget—we could put real strings on it and
orchestrate it with horns and everything. We had Tony Levin and Matt
Chamberlain and myself as the basic band along with Eric Cole, whose
K-Max’s partner and guitarist. All of it...it was just kind of
magical, the making of that record was for me. Everyday was just alot
of fun and it was great to work with Matt and Tony and Eric, y’know
and K-Max singing. Everything just went so beautifully day after day.
I’d like to be able to make records like that all the time.
How do you like living and recording in Nashville?
like it alot. It took me a couple of years to get accustomed to being
there and learn the city and learn the things in it. It’s growing.
It’s one of those cities—it’s on the move up. It’s getting
more and more cosmopolitan and yet I’m able to live in an area that
I really love that’s got alot of forest and trees. We have a stream
in our backyard and so on... So it’s private and not exactly rural
but it’s not overdeveloped yet so that’s nice. Nashville itself is
a great city I think. I’ve met a lot of sweet people there. There’s
350 recording studios there so, as a music center goes—anything you
need, it’s there. I mean Nashville is, musically speaking,
technology wise, on the cutting edge of everything. They have some of
the greatest studios there. I’ve made alot of good friends there so
far. And I’m happy. I think I’m staying there (laughter). I love
our house and I love the studio that we have in it so I feel like I’ve
finally put down roots and I don’t expect that I’ll move.
Like the Lovin’ Spoonful song "Nashville Cats" says—I
guess Nashville is a great musical town.
It is. I mean naturally alot of it is geared towards Country Music. It
seems that everybody that’s ever come to my house is in the music
business. If a plumber comes out to work on your pipes, he just
happens to have played with so and so and he’s a songwriter.
still like the old country music legends like Hank Williams.
Oh yeah, I love the old stuff. But you know the players that they have
now and everything...there’s just some amazing players there. It’s
not the music I listen to for recreation—I listen to classical music
in fact—but boy they sure know how to make records and they sure
know how to play and there’s alot of great people there. It’s nice
to live in a place where most of the income is generated around music.
But it’s nice to live in a music city.
Thanks Adrian. Can’t wait to see you and The Bears play at The
Mercury Lounge at the end of February.
Yeah, that should be hot. I can’t wait. I think that’s gonna be
great. Well thanks alot. It’s been great talking to you. Obviously,
you’re very knowledgeable about everything I’ve been involved
with. I appreciate that.