Adrian Belew CNN Interview
Date: Fri, 16 Jun 1995 22:13:49 -0400
From: ScottTV66 at aol dot com
Subject: Adrian Belew CNN Interview
I received a lot of E-Mail concerning my interview with Adrian on CNN. A
small part ran on CNN's SHOWBIZ TODAY on Wed June 7.
Since there was a lot of interest..I am transcribing the interview here for
whoever cares. Please excuse any ignorance on my part since..after reading
many of the postings in "Elephant TalK'..it's evident that there are many
more Crimson-ites much more well versed in the groups rich history than I
The interview took place at 3pm eastern Monday June 5th,1995 at CNN's New
York bureau:The interview informally started with me asking about the
origins of "Thela Hun Ginjeet":
Belew: It's actualy an anogram of the original title I had "Heat in the
Jungle".robert suggested, "well I don't like that title,Ade..can you find
something?"..so I took these Scrabble tiles and I made some anagrams and
made it "Thela Hun Ginjeet"...which means nothing but it sounds good to
sing.(laughs)...We play about the best,I think, of the 80's material from
that band..things like "Frame by Frame". and "Elephant Talk"..and "Matte
Kudasai"..they've become kind of minor Crimson classics...we seem to play a
lot of stuff from the "Discipline" album..the first album..the "honeymoon"
album..and everybody likes that..everybody liked that record the most.
SL:It was a groundbreaking album.
SL: let's start with how King Crimson..after all these years..ended up
getting back together?
AB: The short story is that there was so many rumours circulating that there
was going to be a new King Crimson ..a few summers ago while I was in
Europe..I decided to pop in and see Robert at his house in England and ask
him "Is there going to be a new King Crimson and..if so..I want to be a
part of it." And I think that started the wheels turning with Robert and
myself.Once he had a commitment from me then I think he felt "OK,we can go
ahead with this." It's taken quite a few years to put the sub-structure
together..to get the band all in one place..it's a band from two continents
now...and it's been worth the wait.
SL: Not to mention that your solo career was making incredible
strides..you've put out some pretty good music over the past few years..
AB: Well.it still is..I feel great about my solo career andfrankly we will
now divide our time between King Crimson and making solo albums.For
instance..now we have this tour that's been May and June..and at the end we
have 3 months off.I'll go home and my summer vacation will be making a new
solo album (laughs).
SL: The new album "Thrak"...you put out an earlier album entitled "Vroom"
before this which was basicaly the rehersals for this album?
AB: I think of "Vroom" as kind of a documentation of the beginnings of the
band. We were in a recording studio rehearsing and writing all the new
material and we recorded it as we went and we decided,"Well some of this is
really worth putting out." So we put out a half an hour CD that was
supposed to be released..really..only in Asia..and I think there are
imports coming into America now..it's an interesting side of the band
starting up. What the "Thrak" album is,though,is a much more
refined..almost a year later..version of the band after we'd written more
material..played in front of an audience. .and recorded properly in a
studio...Peter Gabriel's studio.
SL: How would you compare "Thrak" to "Disciplie", "Three of a Different
Pair" and your other 80's work?
AB: Some of this album harkens back to the earlier King Crimson ..the 70's
version..band..I wasn't a part of...because it has such a heavy ..you
know..almost heavy metalish quality sometimes.Some of the
songwriting,though,which is one of my primary roles, I think is still
similar to the band in the 80's.You get these..I like to try and write
classicaly well written songs and then let the band contribute and do them
their own unique way...so you get songs like "Dinosaur" or "One Time"
..those are really good strong songs that King Crimson can only do. those
songs..no one else could do those songs (laughs) the way this band does.
SL: That;s interesting because you take a song like "People" ..which is a
lot like the stuff you were doing in the 80's..but then you have a song
like "Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream" ..and that's a song that sounds similar to
the King Crimson of the late 60's.
AB: "Sex Sleep Eat Dring Dream" is an example of the band kind of coming up
with something..improvising it..and then I take over as the songwriter and
make some chord changes and write a melody and write the lyrics for it. So
it's more of a band..a combination of the whole band..that's probably why
it sounds more like the band than say my music or Robert Fripp's music.
SL: Does the music evolve in the jamming process or is it written out..?
AB: Sometimes it evolves that way.I'd say there's a portion of the music
that comes from our just playing together and improvising...taping
everything..listening and saying "well that idea there has some
merit". Most of the material,however,comes from either the pen of Robert
Fripp or myself.Robert generaly writes all the instrumental songs on this
album..you have something called "Vroom" ..you have "Thrak".."Vroom
Vroom"..those are his pieces..and anything that has a melody and
words..it's up to me to write..I'm the singer and so it's my requirement to
come up with what I want to sing...and so it's kind of a two headed
monster..you know you have the band either being lead by Robert or somewhat
directed by me.
SL: That's another interesting thing about this band in that in some ways
it's 2 trios... two drummers..two stick players..such a difficult
instrument..and now you have two of the greatest in the world..all playing
in the same band.How does that work when it comes to figuring out parts and
the overall sound?
AB: It really has been fascinating to watch these guys do this.I think
they've all done amazing stuff together.They kind of wood-shedded.You have
Bill Bruford and Pat Mastelotto..our 2 drummers ..sitting down and working
out some very elaborate thinking on all the different possibilities for 2
drummers working together and they've really done amazing things.The same
with Tony Levin and Trey Gunn.They both play stick ..which is an unusual
instrument to begin with..it's part bass and part guitar..but Tony Levin is
well known for all of the other bass things..he plays an upright bass with
a bow..he plays electric bass..so you have all these different combinations
in the bass department as well and they've done amazing things.And then you
have Robert Fripp and myself sharing the role as guitarist and both of us
are notable for all the different sounds textures and approaches we can
have..so it's a bit like a rock orchestra or something...you have an
amazing sound possibilies..and I'm right there in the middle on the
stage..some nights the sound is just overwhelming..it's great.
SL: Sitting in the audience Saturday....at some points it was
incredible..the emotional impact of the sound on the audience.
AB: We have great audiences everywhere we go they've all been waiting ten
or eleven years now to see this band and so they're all keyed up and I
think the show is fairly intense..you know..it's a musical experience
..it's not just a bunch of songs strung together..there's some
improvisation..there's some very heavy instrumetal moments..and you have a
band that's very confidant and experienced..it would be fascinating to see
how many records we've all made.I know I've made 50..I know Bill Bruford
has made 60..Tony Levin has probably made 150. so there you go.
SL: The bands status has mainatained all these years..there's a tremendous
desire on the part of your audience to hear you play..why is that?
AB: I think it has something to do with the musical integrity of the
band.It's not a band that does things in a normal fashion.There's definetly
a sound to King Crimson and an attitude that you bring to the music.We dont
do the normal things you might do for someone else.It's band that's all
about coming up with something new,adventurous..it always has been.and I
think our audiences know that and have come to expect that and so it's a
special thing for them
SL: That's surely why because there aren't a lot of bands willing to take
risks..and you as a musician..you've always been a risk-taker..the people
you've played with..Zappa,Laurie Anderson.all people who take risks in
their music..is that something you've always been drawn to?
AB: Yeah, I think I like the innovators in music and I've been very
fortunate that I've been able to lock horns with some of the best...David
Bowie,Frank Zappa,Laurie Anderson,Paul Simon.. amazing musicians..and we
always en up being great friends,too. so it goes deeper than that. I have a
flexibility in my own musicality ..it's instintual. SO I can walk into
someone else's music ..it can be 9 Inch Nails and I can play something they
really like...or it can be Paul Simon..very different approach..and yet
he'll like what I play.
SL: I talked to Paul Simon about you a long time ago..
AB: I was on "Graceland"..the very first album that someone actualy sent me
a Gold Album. Thank you,Paul! (laughs) I've been on many of them..he was
the first person to give me one!
SL: I have a recent album..a Beatles compilation..in which you played
"Blackbird". how did that come about?
AB: It's a record that has interpretations of Beatles songs by different
guitarists..I was approached by the producer of the record who knew that I
was a big Beatles fan and "Blackbird" I chose because I thought I could do
an interesting rendition of it.it's very similar to the original song and
yet more fully orchestrated because the original song just had guitar and
Paul McCartney's voice.
SL: When you play with other musicians do you find that not only do you
bring something to their music bu you get something that influences your
AB: I think I have learned a lot about recording from all those
experiences..The recording studio is my favorite domain..I'd rather make a
record than anything. And in fact I;ve just installed a beautiful studio in
my homeso that's what I like most.It's the creative process..the problem
solving..trying to get your ideas into something called a CD..correctly,the
way you originaly heard them.So yes..you learn things from all these people
and I'd liek to think I bring things to their records too.
SL: You still live in the MidWest?
AB: A year ago I moved to the Nashville area..I have a beautiful home there
with woods and a little creek and lots of birds and things ..a very nice
area for me to be in especialy during creative times.
SL: I remember when you were on the "Night Music" program and you played
with Elliot Sharpe,Pop Staples,Nona Hendryx and that great Sanborn
band..that must have been something..
AB: That show was noted for bringing together lots of different styles of
music in one show..and then what they would do at the end is..they'd get
you all lined up and have you play something together that you'd never
played ..it was amazing (**Note: the song was "Take me to the River") I
remember standing standing next to the saxaphone player Ivan Popovich
..from..I believe a Czecheslovakian wedding band (*note: Bulgarian) they
played very odd time signatures and played very unusual music and there I
was playing with the saxophonist.
AB: Clarinet,that's right..
SL: I have a tape of it (laughing)
AB: You do? He know's everything about me! I'm impressed! (laughs)
SL: Are there any plans for Crimson to put a live album out after the tour
AB: I think so..I think we'll probably try and do that.there are a lot of
bootlegs of the band and we'd like to do something more official.The
performances have been excellent and we record some of them...so maybe
we'll cull that into a live album.We're already talking..Robert and
I..about some of the ideas we have for the next record..and I'm sure he'll
be at my studio in Nashville as soon as he can be there.The way the music
generally begins is with Robert and I sitting casually like you and I are
doing now with guitars..not even plugged in..and we'll try this..and this
will sound a little like this..you know..start doing some outlines
and..sort of a blueprint..and they evolve from there.
SL: His solo spot (in the concert) was just amazing..I can't even describe
to people what he was playing ..
AB: It is unbelievable..it's different from night to night.I can't explain
it either.Robert Fripp has a masterful approach ..he can do things with
guitar that no one else can do..and I'm a big fan.
SL: Then again..so can you.
AB: It's a mutual thing..we're kind of cheerign each other on from the
sidelines.Even in the recording sessions.I remember when we did "Dinosaur"
and I had reserved a section in the middle in which I wanted Robert to play
one of his great soaring solos and I stood there with him and said " That was
great..now..if we can just get a better ending here.." and he kind of needs
that and I do too..you need a partner in those things sometimes.
SL: How did "Waiting Man" start?
AB: "Waiting Man" started with Tony.,from a line on the stick. and then I
introduced chord changes and added melody and lyrics later.
SL: One of the great things about Crimson is how the middle parts often
take off in totally different directions from the original concepts..how do
they come about?
AB: It would depend on the song."Dinosaur" has a copletely irrelevant
middle section..it goes completely to another sound and turns from being a
six piece band into a trio with me playing sort of an oboe thing and Tony
bowing the bass..that whole section I specificaly wrote to take the song in
a different direction.We had songs on the record that were starting to be
monumental in their scope..big,seven minute instrumental pieces but all of
the songs with vocals were still 3 or 4 minute pop songs so I thought lets
try to apply this monumental epic song approach to a song with words and
that was one way of doing it.
SL: Then you take the middle of "People" which is a great solo..even though
its a short piece of the song..but I was looking forward to hearing that
live because I wasnt sure who was playing that solo..and now I know you all
were. AB (laughs) That one was something the band came up with .I
presented that song in a very simple form.then the band said "Lets do more
with it" and put the middle section in and 'Lets do a long involved ending"
and so forth.
SL: I think it's one of the most succesful pieces on the album. AB Really?
That's great.The nice thing about King Crimson's music is that includes so
many different areas.I find people who like this..dont care as much for
that..you really have choices with this band..it's definetly not a one
trick pony (*Note: did he know of Levin's acting career?Hmm) You have lots
of differnt styles and tastes there and it's a pretty full pallette.
At this point the official interview ended..but:
SL: What made you decide to move to Nashville?
AB: My wife,Martha..She was born and raised about an hour and a half south
A very nice man who made it easy for me.