Date: Fri, 4 Mar 94 13:01:36 GMT From: Toby Howard <toby at cs dot man dot ac dot uk> Subject: An open letter to Robert, and his response
Robert has sent some correspondence he's exchanged with a number of people, for inclusion in the newsletter. Here's an open letter to him published in "Input" magazine, followed by his response.
OPEN LETTER TO ROBERT FRIPP I've been a big fan of King Crimson for many, many years and like a lot of other people, the unpredictability of the music is why I enjoyed it. But now I hear you are reforming the band yet once again (goodl) and you ar using Adrian Belew and Tony Levin (bad!) in the "new" lineup. I'm sorry if I step on some toes here, but your collaborations with these guys have already been thoroughly exhausted LONG ago. I realize the 80s version of the band was exploring minimalism but that doesn't mean you need to get REDUNDANT. "Beat" and "Three Of A Perfect Pair" were contractual obligations and though they had their (few) moments, they just took the music from "Discipline" and beat it to death. So it baffles me why you would reform the group in this format. Also the new band is to include Trey Gunn who may be a nice guy but quite frankly has little to offer. I saw him play solo chapman stick and SURPRISE he played it EXACTLY like Tony Levin on "Discipline" (as do most Chapstick players) . And as a student of yours, he has shown himself to be a fine CLONE but free of any originality. And Jerry Marotta does not have a reputation as the most creative drummer in town, so I question your desire to work with him. I understand that you are putting the band together to make some quick cash to pay your bills but the reality is that lf you toured under the name "Kin Crimson" with a group of completely obscure musicians, you'd still draw a huge crowd especially since Crimson has had such a wide influence on so many different genres and music fans. So I do not comprehend why you are playing it VERY safe and going with the tried-and-true (albeit talented) Belew and Levin. Certainly there are plenty of musicians you can work with that would make for a more compelling lineup. From Fred Frith to Vinnie Coliatu (?) there are lots of creative musicians to choose from in both the rock and avantjazz worlds. Many current rock bands are trying to cover some of the ground you forged, such as The Jesus Lizard, Primus and so on. Surely you could ask around and try out some fresh blood, Or move back to New York City because there is a lot of amazingly inventive and skilled musicians in the Downtown scene who've arrived since you left. Plus with the conservativeness shown by your lineup choices, I'm afraid you won't tackle anything but that 80s sound you already produced. I'd like to see you subvert the very technical speed metal or industrial metal that arose after the last Crimson disbanded, Everything from goth music to house has learned a bit and could learn a lot more from Crimson. With some new blood, you could subvert hip-hop and techno structures, or the recent reemergence of funk and other very rhythmic musics, You could really kick the crap out of world beat, new age, grunge, or modern classical stuff. You could even get into the "unplugged" sweepstakes. But nooooooooooooo. You just want to rehash? Wake me up when YOU wake up. CX Brodeur 63 Pitt St #5f, NYC 10002 ***************************** Robert's response: January 22nd. 1994. Input, GFTPM, PO Box 1490, PORT CHESTER, NY 10573. Dear Input, In your January Input you include an open letter to myself from CX Brodeur of New York, which prompts comments general and specific. General Comments: 1. Thanks to CX for taking the time and having sufficient interest to comment on King Crimson. It's heartening to find passion for music. 2. I do not believe that CX is as stupid as he/she purports to be. 3. The aroma of cynicism wafting from the letter is excusable, understandable, but unacceptable. Public debate is currently appallingly naff and won't improve if we accept discussion at this level. Cynicism is too high a price to pay - it closes us to music - and, for a musician, cynicism is death. 4. I have sympathy and time for punters who get frequently stupped and hand over hard-earned money, often prised deceitfully from them (like with bad bootlegs). So, I respond to CX's letter seriously, but not respectfully. Specific Comments: 1. CX understands "that (RF) is putting the band together to make some quick cash to pay your bills but the reality is that if you toured with a group of completely obscure musicians you'd still draw a huge crowd". CX is misinformed. Although I have no objection to paying my bills King Crimson is not, and regrettably never has been, a way to make quick cash. i) The group shares the money. No one person in a group gets rich quickly this way, if at all. (This is how to tell whether a group is a group, or not: a real group shares the money). ii) Any new concern in whatever business takes several years to establish itself and setting-up costs are immense. The running costs of KC on the road I estimate at $70-l00,000 per week. This is for theatre-level concerts - a good standard basic but no frills. iii) If I did tour with a group of obscure musicians perhaps l could keep more money, but "RF + Obscurities" wouldn't be King Crimson and the tour would be dishonest. And no punter would be able to trust the name of King Crimson again. Quite apart from ethical considerations, I consider that bad business. Right now I hope Crimheads and general punters, with the possible exception of CX, could go to any King Crimson show and relying on getting Crimson and its best shot (although it might not be what was expected). I consider that good business, although I don't anticipate getting rich, slowly or quickly. iv) My musical choices are made for musical reasons. Music appears in the world despite the music industry, not because of it. The life of the professional musician is pretty wretched and the only payment musicians ultimately receive is the privilege of music occasionally leaning over and taking them into its confidence. For that privilege we pay a very high price. The challenge for any artist, probably the supreme challenge, is to work in the market place while not being governed by the rules of the market place. I don't myself play music for money, but I take money for the music I play. Given the choice between a piece of work which pays and a piece of work which doesn't, I generally do both. v) The only time I made a lot of money from KC was for 2-3 years after the group "ceased to exist" in 1974: the bills stopped and the records continued to sell, but breaking up does seem a rather radical strategy to make money from a group! I invested that money buying time during which I tried to figure out how a professional musician might work in an industry dominated so completely by business, the frailties of musicians and the demands (not always courteously expressed) of the public. My work since, both in and out of the public arena, has been based upon the research work done in that period. As a point of interest, the KC musicians received no wages for live work between 1969-74: the management view was that the musicians got paid from record and publishing royalties. vi) The current members of King Crimson are planning to support themselves for the first year by work outside KC, and this is not the first time. I can earn more from one week of solo concerts in Argentina than one month on the road with Crimson, and sessions for Adrian and Tony earn them far more than Crimson wages. In this outfit, the musicians pay for their opportunity to play! 2. CX writes: "With the conservativeness shown by (RF's) lineup choices..." and "You just want to rehash?". These are two impressively dopey comments. i) When have my line-up choices been conservative? Crimson personnel must be the most radically varied and discontinuous of any rock group which claims continuity of identity. The suggestion has even been made that KC has no continued identity (although I would disagree). And that's just Crimson. ii) When was the last time I "rehashed"? Here is a brief overview of 1969-94: Crimson to Crimson to Eno to Crimson to Retreat-from-the-music-business to NYC - Gabriel - Bowie - Blondie - Hall - Roches - Frippertronics to League of Gentlemen to Crimson to Guitar Craft/League of Crafty Guitarists to Sunday All Over The World to Orb to Sylvian/Fripp to Crimson (with each of the Crimsons different)? Have I missed something in here (and I've left a lot out) where I was repeating myself more than in any one year? 3. "Beat and Three of a Perfect Pair ... took the music from Discipline and beat it to death". Actually, and as a point of musical fact, that's incorrect - although I wish it were true. At the end of 1981 and the Discipline touring I felt KC had found a vocabulary and approach worth developing and taking a lot further, but the other guys felt differently. So, effectively, we abandoned the 1981 approach without, in my view, replacing it with another coherent aural vision. So, at the end of the period of professional and personal commitment, we disbanded in 1984. I don't tell the other guys what to play, although I usually have my own sense of which direction I believe KC should take, and make musical suggestions. Historically, other Crims seem to go along with my suggestions for about a year and then we disband under the pressure of disagreement. Nearly everyone who has ever been in Crimson (and I am in regular contact with nearly all of them) really enjoyed being in the band - several years after they left. It seems to take time for the Crim-penny to drop. CX realises "the 80s version of the band was exploring minimalism"... This is a simplistic, facile judgement which might have come from an English music comic. It misses the point where the real action was happening. 5. "Certainly there are plenty of musicians you can work with"... ... and perhaps some of them would like to work with me! CX makes good comments and suggestions on how CX might choose the current Crimson personnel. And it's a good shot. But there is a simple and basic difference between CX and myself: CX's view of how Crimson might be and my own. And I would rather follow my own sense and picture of Crimson. This is how it happened: i) Around 1987 music began to appear under my fingers which only Crimson could play. When music appears which only Crimson can play, then it's time to begin thinking about putting Crimson together again. ii) One afternoon about 18 months ago, driving past the village church one afternoon, a picture of how Crimson should be in its present incarnation flew by. In Guitar Craft this is called "a Point of Seeing" - direct, immediate, irrational. And this Crim was not what I was planning nor intending. For the past 18 months I've been trying to fit together the music and the picture of the personnel, and two weeks ago they came together. It may well be the craziest Crimson yet. CX closes the letter: "Wake me when you wake up". This is both rude and intentionally insulting. After 36 years and 1 month of playing guitar, 32 years and 6 months of climbing into the back, front and both sides of vans setting off for gigs, and producing, interviewing, recording and playing on four continents over a period of 26 years, I don't feel the need to alert any ill-mannered commentator on my life and work to where the action is, however enthusiastic they may be for Crimson past or future. Robert Fripp.