Tony Levin doesn’t like to feel like he’s speaking on behalf of Robert Fripp, the driving force behind King Crimson.
When asked if anything in particular inspired them to focus more on live play since Fripp released another incarnation of King Crimson in 2014, two years after he said he had retired, the bassist replied, “Good question. I don’t think I know the answer.”
That’s right, he says, many questions one might ask about King Crimson.
“I’m the bassist,” he says. “I’m leaving. We’re going to shoot ?! Fantastic! We’re not going to shoot? OK. I’ll find other things to do.”
King Crimson’s current tour arrives in town at 6 p.m. on Saturday, August 7, at the Talking Stick Resort.
Who plays here:These concerts arrive in the Phoenix subway in August
A more viable way of working
If Levine were to try to guess, however, why the only year they haven’t toured since 2014 is the year they were pushed out of the way by a global pandemic, is because they got there in a way. ” very pleasant “to turn, recording shows for a possible outing.
“We just found out that it was a more viable way of working than the traditional ‘quote, no’ plan, that is, you spend a year making an album and then you promote it, ”he says.
“And then, after a few years of touring, you take another year off to write and record the next one.”
By focusing on touring, they were able to unbox more old classic tracks, approaching them as if those songs had just been written.
Levin says they’ve mastered maybe 40, 50 pieces from the Crimson Catalog.
“We have them all, hopefully, at our fingertips,” he says.
“And then on the morning of the concert Robert decides what the setlist will be. It could be anything. So we found it to be a practical and really practical way to do what we love to do, which is- ie play the music. “
The key to reinventing old material is knowing enough about the original recordings to understand what makes them special without just copying what’s on the disc.
“It’s an interesting challenge to consider what’s iconic and awesome about these bass parts,” Levin said.
“But I don’t want to play that role the way it is. I don’t want to get the sound of that bass player either. I want to have my current sound and play it like a musician will. We’re not a cover band. “
How Levin came to join King Crimson
There was a time when Fripp refused to play these songs.
It was 1981 and the iconoclastic guitar virtuoso had formed a group called Discipline with Adrian Belew on vocals and guitar, Levin on bass, and King Crimson’s Bill Bruford on drums.
By the time they released their first album together, Fripp had decided to call the band King Crimson and name the album “Discipline”.
“We stubbornly refused to play anything from the King Crimson catalog,” Levin recalls.
“We only played new music. And after a tour or two, we added a track, maybe two, but very little. That’s how Robert wanted to introduce the band and it was good. In a way, the tours have taken us to where we play a vast repertoire of older material. “
The only member of the current lineup involved in King Crimson’s iconic debut, 1969’s “In the Court of the Crimson King” is Fripp, although Mel Collins joined him on saxophone in 1970, appearing on a handful of recordings. before leaving and finally joining in 2013.
Levin met Fripp on a recording date when Peter Gabriel enlisted the two musicians to make his solo debut.
“I think about it often, that one day in July 1976 I met Peter Gabriel and Robert Fripp, and to this day I’m still involved in music and have a great relationship with both”, Levin said. “It was a hell of a lucky day for me.”
Shortly after cutting this Gabriel record, Fripp invited Levin to appear on his first solo album, “Exposure,” which the bassist now considers his first exposure to the music of King Crimson.
“I don’t think I know anything about the King Crimson story”
You might think that being a musician Levin would at least have known King Crimson, but he swears he didn’t.
“I don’t think at the time that I knew anything about the history of King Crimson or that I had particularly heard their music,” he laughs.
“I certainly didn’t come knowing ‘Red’ or ‘Larks’ Tongues’ or anything like that. It was later when I was already in the band and we changed the name from Discipline to King Crimson. , which I started by listening to these songs. “
He’s been in almost every version of King Crimson since his arrival, although when Fripp decided on short notice that the time had come to reunite again in the early 2000s, Levin had other commitments.
“So I was kind of a member of the band that wasn’t involved in these albums and these tours,” he says.
“I felt funny about it. But the fan in me was excited about how they would be without me, with Trey Gunn on bass. And I’m still a fan of the music they made over the three years. The following years. It’s one of my favorite music King Crimson made. “
“We like challenges in our field”
Levin jumped at the chance to join the 40th anniversary tour in 2008 and again in 2013, despite Fripp’s concept of using three drummers being a bit intimidating.
“I took a minute to put my thoughts together before responding to the email,” says Levin.
At first he thought to himself, “My God, there is going to be a lot of clicking and rumbling and bashing, which will leave me less room.”
This thought was quickly followed by “OK, I’ll do it”.
And it went really well, with the drummers having managed to come up with what Levin says are “wonderful” and “fascinating” strategies.
“It was a radical idea,” says Levin. “And Robert picked the right musicians to implement it. I think his instructions were just ‘Reinvent rock drums’.”
It’s a hell of a challenge for the bassist but he likes it.
“We like challenges in our field,” says Levin. “Feeling like you’re growing as a player, not just coming back and doing the same thing over and over, year after year.”
King Crimson remains the most musically difficult project he has ever done.
“Often not in an easy way, not in a fun way,” he says.
“But it’s very rewarding. And when I meet my expectations for myself and progress as a bass player, even in modest or subtle ways, it improves my music experience.”
The true meaning of progressive rock
That’s the essence of progressive rock, he says, drawing an emphatic line between that term and progressive rock.
“For me, progressive rock has involved progressive rock bands for a long time – the 60s and 70s – playing the same kind of music,” he says.
“In King Crimson, we’re trying to progress beyond that. We’re not trying to be dinosaurs. In that sense, I think we’re progressive and true to the original ethos of what these wonderful players were trying to make it in the late 60s in England. “
In addition to getting creative with older material, the current lineup has added new songs to the repertoire – which doesn’t mean they’re necessarily any closer to releasing their first album since 2003.
Not that Levin excludes him.
Predicting the future of King Crimson
“I know better than to predict the future of King Crimson,” he said.
“In a way, I’m tempted to say that we’ll never do an album again because that way we will be make one. I will be wrong and I will be happy. But let me be more specific and less facetious and say that there are no plans. “
It’s entirely possible, he said, that Fripp could email him before the end of the day to say, “I have a good idea. When the tour ends, let’s do a new studio album. “
Levin, however, is comfortable predicting that this US tour could be the last.
“There are no plans for a tour next year,” says Levin.
“We were not told that we habit tour next year, but I think it’s entirely possible. I keep telling my friends who want to see the band, ‘You don’t want to miss this tour because this might be the last time we travel through the United States.’
As to why he thinks that, he said, “Normally at this point we would be asked to put aside June through August or something like that. And we haven’t been.”
So, does it make him sad to think that this could be it?
“I haven’t really thought about how I feel,” he says.
“I don’t know. When I get this news I’ll see. I’m definitely not going to jump up and down like, ‘Wow, we did our last tour! That’s awesome!’ It won’t be like that for sure. But how sad or how much I will miss it? I really don’t know. “
No matter where Crimson goes from here, Levin has no interest in retiring.
“I have no doubt that I will continue to make music or try to make music until they remove the bass from my stiff fingers and put me aside,” he says.
“Music is what I love to do and what I have done all my life. I have no plans to stop.”
When: 6 p.m. Saturday August 7.
Or: Talking Stick Resort, Loop 101 and Pima Road, Salt River Reserve.
Admission: $ 35 and more.
Details: 480-850-7734, talkstickresort.com.
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