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Bill's Pete Sinfield Interview -- FIRST of SEVERAL

This is where writer Bill Murphy posts his interviews with the Crims, and other prog luminaries. It's a book in serial form -- that you become part of!

Moderator: LTinAspic

Bill's Pete Sinfield Interview -- FIRST of SEVERAL

Postby LTinAspic on Thu Jan 01, 2009 7:38 am

Buckle up, boys and girls. The King Crimson ride is about to begin. Seriously, my interview with the great Pete Sinfield – easily one of my favorite lyricists of all time – was a doozy. Not only was he in fine form, eloquent and able to wax philosophic at the drop of a hat, but he was a veritable fount of information about, well, just about everything and everyone in the music industry.

This is one of many interviews I had with Pete Sinfield. This installment occurred on March 14 and 15, 1993. According to the tapes I have on my shelf, I spoke to Pete three to four more times in 1993 and 1994. Those installments are coming.

Enjoy!



PS: Hello?

BM: Hi, is this Mr. Sinfield?

PS: Hi.

BM: Hi, this is Bill Murphy calling from the States.

PS: Hi Bill Murphy.

BM: How you doin’?

PS: I’m all right. How are you?

BM: Good. Is this a bad time to talk, or should I call some other time?

PS: You just hang on a second, I’ll be right back with you.

BM: Alrighty.

PS: I’m going to turn something down in the kitchen.

BM: Ok.

PS: Yeah.

BM: Al right. Well, first of all, let me tell you Ian McDonald says hi.

PS: Ok, that’s nice.

BM: [laughs]

PS: I think I talked to him last year. Yeah, I did, last year.

BM: Yeah, I was just talking with him the other day and he wanted me to say hi for him.

PS: Ok.

BM: Yes indeed. Well, do you have a few minutes here? Would you like to spend a few minutes talking about what happened?

PS: I have a few minutes, but not a long time, because I’m actually expecting another call. I mean, I’ve got like five, but if you want to talk for longer than that, you’d do better calling back like, this time tomorrow, or something like that.

BM: Ok. That I could, yeah, that would be better probably.

PS: Yeah?

BM: Yeah.

PS: Because I’m expecting another call which is quite important, and it’s actually from a young lady, which is very important.

BM: [laughs]

PS: It’s just that I’m not sure if I’m going out, and well, I’m cooking is what I’m doing here, and I know she’s just going to call about this time.

BM: Ok. [laughs]

PS: And if you want to talk for like 20 minutes, half an hour or something, then it’s better we talk tomorrow at this time is good for me.

BM: Yeah.

PS: I’ll make a point of being here.

BM: That sounds good, then. I’ll give you a call tomorrow.

PS: Ok, man.

BM: Thank you much.

PS: Bye bye.

BM: Bye bye.

PS: Bye for now.

[And so we hung up and I called him back the next day.]


PS: Hello?

BM: Hi, Mr. Sinfield.

PS: Hello.

BM: This is Bill Murphy.

PS: Hi Bill Murphy. Let me just turn Randy Newman down a second.

BM: Ok.

PS: Right.

BM: All right. You’re listening to Randy Newman today, huh?

PS: It was a bright, sunny, sort of pleasant day today, and I went out and bought some books. And unfortunately next to the bookshop is a record store, and I thought, “What do I need?” And I remembered what it was.

BM: [laughs]

PS: Bought some Randy Newman.

BM: [laughs]

PS: So that’s what I went and did.

BM: [laughs]

PS: I also bought some interesting books, like Unorthodox Openings in Chess, because this friend of mine keeps beating me.

BM: [laughs]

PS: And things like that.

BM: Wow. Well, hey, I’ve heard that your solo album Still is gonna be released through Voiceprint. Is that true?

PS: Yes it is.

BM: Well, good.

PS: How do you hear these things?

BM: Uh, I’ve got connections, actually.

PS: You do?

BM: Yeah, Rob Ayling has called me before, and I know Stuart Nicholson of Galahad who’s got a deal with Rob Ayling and Voiceprint. And they’ve all been telling me what’s happening there.

PS: Ah. That’s the new thing, yes. It’s actually owned, of course, the masters are owned by the dreaded trio [ELP]. [laughs]

BM: [laughs]

PS: Who I have lunch with the manager of, who used to be my manager, Stewart Young, at a point in time, which was a little, slight conflict of interest there. But over lunch, he did tell me about some rolls he said he’d found that I didn’t know about, and yes, they had it with the tapes, and would I like to consider producing the next ELP album. I blinked several times, they nearly killed me last time I worked with them.

BM: [laughs] With the Love Beach [1978] project?

PS: It was before that, yes, well that was the end of it, when they were going to the studio separately as bands do when they get really stupid.

BM: [laughs]

PS: But oddly enough, Keith Emerson and I share a sort of local restaurant which is owned by a friend of mine, and we were talking about bits and pieces. And Stewart threw it out as this sort of left field sort of thing, but it’s not entirely mad if we could set a lot of ground rules, and the fact that Gregory [Lake] could be vetoed as it were, on occasion.

BM: [laughs]

PS: He can be a bit of a problem.

BM: [laughs]

PS: The other two are fine.

BM: [laughs]

PS: So I’m waiting to see. He hasn’t actually broken this idea to them, but they certainly need a producer of some sort.

BM: Yeah.

PS: And I know them. Oh, do I know them.

BM: [laughs] Well, what’d you think of their Black Moon [1992] album?

PS: I think it’s horrible. There’s a couple of bits of it I like, a couple of mainly Keith’s meanderings. I think the songs are, they are songs which they don’t know how to write.

BM: I really like Greg’s ballads, I thought they were great. But, yeah, Carl’s drums.

PS: They’re close, man, but I don’t think they’re quite, because I could be biased here, of course, I don’t think they’re quite as good as things on the Black Album [Works Volume 1, 1977].

BM: No, no.

PS: But then, I could be biased. No, that’s the thing, there’s a little lack of subtlety and depth in there. I mean, I actually saw him when he’d just been writing some of those things, and he said, “What I’m trying to do is write like you would have written it.” Which is very flattering, of course.

BM: [laughs]

PS: And he got sort of close in places, and way, way, because I moved from there, from then. I mean, that’s now and then was then, but he’s still stuck there a little bit perhaps.

BM: Yeah.

PS: As many people are.

BM: Yep. I thought Carl’s drums sounded like trash cans on that album. It didn’t have—

PS: Yes.

BM: I don’t know where they went.

PS: And out of time.

BM: [laughs]

PS: I’m sorry, because I’ve just had a good lunch and I’m actually sipping on a vodka here.

BM: [laughs]

PS: I don’t care, actually.

BM: [laughs]

PS: But they’re in time, because with modern technology, you can keep them in time.

BM: [laughs]

PS: I actually saw them live, went to see them at Albert Hall, and thought I was going to be sort of vaguely, I don’t know, embarrassed or whatever. I took some friends, a friend of mine, a guy I’m writing a movie with, a sort of movie thing we’re working on, who is a huge ELP fan, and he just loved them. And then he met them afterwards and everything. And I was, I thought they were sweet. I mean, Keith had mellowed and Carl was amusing, and Gregory stood there in his black belted jeans and was serious and did his thing.

BM: [laughs]

PS: But they were, they’ve mellowed out a bit, which they certainly needed to do, you know.

BM: Yeah.

PS: And I just think they, if we can find a direction, and interesting direction and things for them, who knows, you know. It’s certainly worth looking at. It’s a challenge. [laughs]

BM: They just played in town, here, about three weeks ago, and I had some front-row seats.

PS: Uh-huh, see them?

BM: Yeah, I was close, and for, I’ll tell you what, Keith is in great shape, jumping up on the keyboards, for his age, you know.

PS: Absolutely. And he smiles, and he’s more human. He doesn’t look quite as quick as it all used to be. And there’s more humor, and I thought Carl’s drum solo was funny, he doesn’t take it quite so seriously, big starry thing now. He does a few little things on the cymbals which I thought were really rather pleasant to listen to the music.

BM: [laughs] Well tell me, what I’d really like to know is, you know, a lot of things really, but the difference in songwriting between the Crimson and ELP years and now, why are there so few lyricists out there that write like you used to? Why isn’t that kind of music being made today? What’s the difference?

PS: I don’t think I write actually very much differently now than I did then. If you listen to “Heart of Stone” [Cher, 1989], I could hear Greg singing “Heart of Stone.” It’s a little more mainstream. And because these days the sort of people I work with like Albert Hammond and Andy Hill, we don’t write songs, as such, we try and write hit songs. But we, on the other hand, we’re writing to an American AOL market, I think you call it, for want of anything better. Within the constraints of that, one still tries to have a shout and a poke and undermine what you can, and point out things to people. And I think lyricists are a little less naïve, but there’s still some naïveté there, otherwise one wouldn’t do it at all.

BM: Yeah.

PS: Why there are less people, god knows. I mean, there are still people writing wonderful lyrics, I mean the last Joni Mitchell album was wonderful. I think it’s just, it’s a swing of the pendulum. I think it’s coming back round again. It’s very hard to sort of say exactly. I mean, a lot of bands, you know, Floyd and people like that came out of colleges and had artistic pretensions to say the least.

BM: [laughs]

PS: Which became a very unfashionable thing to have, so you ended up with [Peter] Gabriel. Gabriel still writes sort of interesting things. But sometimes you wish he wasn’t quite so worldy.

BM: Yeah, yeah.

PS: And earthy, and sometimes he misses a little bit of that Phil Collinsy thing, but then Phil Collins is there, you know, writing songs about homeless people. I mean, it’s—

BM: [laughs]

PS: It’s very difficult.

BM: Yeah.

PS: We’re living in a changing, you know, really the end of an era sort of time. It seems like every year’s the end of an era. But, you know.

BM: [laughs] Right.

PS: You can quote me on that. That’s quite good.

BM: [laughs] What do you suppose it was about the late ‘60s and early ‘70s that produced the Crimsons and ELPs and Yeses and Genesis and all that stuff?

PS: Apart from the drugs, you mean?

BM: [laughs]

PS: Only joking, only joking.

BM: [laughs]

PS: I think it was a reaction against the sort of happy happy pop songs that had just preceded it and we had been flooded by very good American songs, which are also, many timeless. But about American culture. And we discovered that there were sort of players here, and we got away with, now a lot of the good players here become jazzers. But then, they actually became rock musicians, which may have something to do with it. And it was led by the Beatles and various influences and underground magazines and things at the time. And there was a feeling of sort of revolution and freedom in the air, and an exploration, and bringing in all sort of different influences into the music. And there was the intellect, sort of intellect, to go sort of look at these things, some of which we did well, and some of which we did atrociously. But I think it was just a moment in time, and we were allowed, it was the end of an era, it was sort of part of an era where we didn’t have to make singles, to sell records, we could just make records. We could make 10 minute suites and all manner of stuff. And there were people that had been playing in jazz bands and funny groups had been studying for years and never have an outlet. And suddenly, well, mainly breaking out was the Island label in England. Jethro Tull and all those sort of people, that we were given the opportunity to do what we wanted, which was, well, in some ways good and in some ways was a little dangerous, of course.

BM: [laughs]

PS: I’ll ramble on here as long as you like, because there’s no specific answer to these things.

BM: Yeah.

PS: It’s a moment in time. And the odd thing is I don’t think we appreciated how privileged we were to sort of explore and do all those things perhaps, in that moment in time. You look back at it now and you think, “God, that was fun.” I mean, it was easy and you did it, and now, wow, now it’s hard. You know, now it’s very difficult to still try and say something and be part of something which isn’t entirely mainstream and yet, I don’t know, earn a pound or two. Strange business.

BM: That’s what I’m finding out talking to a lot of people, that worked back then, is nowadays they say the record companies have no patience for bands. It’s like, you gotta make the first album you do with them a smash hit or they drop you and move on to somebody else.

PS: Yeah.

BM: There’s no room for exploration.

PS: Sure. And they don’t have the skills. There was a whole pool of musicians back then that really were very good players. All the guys in Yes and Crimson and ELP and Tull and all those sort of bands. Even, and Zeppelin, and Jimmy Page was a session man before for like five or six years before he was, you know, made a record with Zeppelin. I mean, then the frustration, and the, that had built up to that point was extraordinary. And I think there isn’t that, there isn’t the skills and the apprenticeship being done now.

BM: Yeah. That’s it, yeah.

PS: And the ones that do have come out of jazz things, and they go off to Berkley or they go someplace else, and your Jason Robellos and your Wynton Marsalises and people who might have become rock musicians, go straight into playing jazz and being free there, because you know, your popular music has constraints and brackets around it everywhere.

BM: What do you suppose it was, this is another, maybe an impossible-to-answer question, you hinted at it a little earlier, but why did all this stuff seem to start in England? What was it about the English culture, or the attitudes there, or what was going on that sprouted up all these—

PS: It was revenge, really.

BM: [laughs]

PS: [laughs] It was revenge, it was envy and revenge against Chuck Berry and Little Richard.

BM: [laughs] And Elvis, yeah.

PS: And Hewie Lewis, and all those people we loved so much, and all those things. And then we had our sort of pale English imitations. We won’t mention Cliff Richards at the moment, because he’s about to make me quite a lot of money. But—

BM: [laughs]

PS: We had all these people with funny names like Billy Fury and people like that. And there was a whole bunch of people that just, you know, you get this sort of consciousness that sort of grows at one point in time amongst a whole bunch of people in a city or an area. And I think it’s hard to know where it started, maybe with “Whiter Shade of Pale” [Procol Harem, 1967] and a couple of things like that. There was a recognition that we could, why can’t we play European music? Why should we keep trying to play black funky music that’s been thrown at us that we don’t do as well, why can’t we at least try and use those influences, and then use the stuff that we’ve grown up with, most of which we hated of course, because in school, we hated classical music.

BM: [laughs] Yeah.

PS: It was sort of traditional. I think it was something like that, you know. And there was some very brave record people out there who let us get away with it, I suppose, or encouraged it. And there was a freedom, I mean it was just a particular time, you know, after the ‘50s and rationing and a whole bunch of stuff, and if you’ve grown up through that period, and come out the other end, I know bands like Traffic and, there was an extraordinary feeling in London. I mean, they talk about a swinging. Swing is such a terrible word.

BM: [laughs]

PS: It’s more like the exploratory ‘60s, it was never the swinging ‘60s, as I recall. But there was a feeling of looking for strange stuff and seeing what it did, you know. As a reaction of the constraints of the years. And we were the first generation that was sort of allowed to do that. Before there was all those old crooners and copies of American stuff, and something just built up to the point where there was enough people that were all doing the same sort of thing, which gave it a power. It’s very hard to pin it down.

BM: Yeah, well that’s, I enjoy how you’re trying, because that makes a lot of sense, yeah.

PS: Well it is an interesting question.

BM: [laughs]

PS: I’ve thought about it, but you know, it’s one of those sort of things.

BM: Well, tell me about your lyrics, back then especially, you seemed to. Why did you enjoy being with that, those kind of bands? Did you have a freedom with your lyrics? I guess what I’m asking is, did your lyrics, were they written specifically for that kind of music, or did you just write lyrics and that kind of music kind of grew up around them, or how did that come about?

PS: It was a bit of both.

BM: Really.

PS: It was a sort of, because the sort of things you’d read about in various underground magazines, things like [poet Arthur] Rimbaud and [poet Paul] Verlaine, and sort of strange poets. And there were beat influences, you know, coming through. And because, I mean, you’re talking about right back at the beginning. I mean, I wrote the lyric for “In the Court of the Crimson King” before, I wrote it for a band [laughs] a band I started, and unpretentious as ever, called Creation.

BM: [laughs]

PS: [laughs] Which was the lousy band, which Ian McDonald probably told you about. He came along and I thought, “Christ, I’ve finally found, I’ve found Mozart here. This is a band that can play everything.” And he said, “I think someone ought to tell you that,” it was me and the drummer, he said, “Really, you’re not very good, but you write interesting words. Do you want to write some songs?” And I went, “Yes.”

BM: Yeah. [laughs]

PS: Absolutely straight away. And he’d been in the army for years, playing in a band. You know, he’d played clarinet and sax and guitar and all these things, but he’d been in the army, so he had all this frustration. But I’d actually written, I mean Crimson King I’d sort of written, it wasn’t exactly, it was like a Dylan-esque type of thing, and then the guy, Ian took it really, and made it into what it is, what it is, what it’s ever been ever since.

BM: [laughs]

PS: Which was wonderful. And “Epitaph” I wrote before the music. But we were involved in a sort of grandiose feeling of doing big stuff. It can be called pretentious, or you can call it sort of Elgaresque [Sir Edward William Elgar, 1857-1934], you know.

BM: Yeah.

PS: There was a feeling that we had room to be symphonic and I don’t know, just stretch out.

BM: Yeah.

PS: And then, like I said before, there was a certain standard of education amongst a bunch of musicians at that point in the time, that allowed for this. But some of the things, I mean the lyrics to “Schizoid Man” obviously I wrote after I’d heard the music being written. And I went off and sort of, I thought, I mean the music was so aggressive and violent, like sort of jazz punk, of course, you couldn’t say that now, because punk didn’t exist. But you look back at it now, that’s what it looks like to me.

BM: Yeah.

PS: I don’t know how, it doesn’t quite fit into a hole, but something like that. And so, I tried to write things that would work within the context of, you know, that would have something to say. This was when the Vietnam War was kind of winding down, sideways, wherever it went.

BM: [laughs]

PS: And it was very fashionable to shout at stuff in that sort of way, you know, so one did. And just in case you’re interested, how we got the vocal sound was I overloaded Greg’s mic input, so it was distorted so much. And that’s how it sounds like it is. Little trick, but—

BM: Ian actually said, he said that song was recorded on one take, just straight through. Is that?

PS: That’s actually true. It was. That actual take that’s on the album was one take. We actually started recording it with Tony Clarke, the Moody Blues producer before, and what we had was a sort of Moody Blues version.

BM: [laughs]

PS: [sings melody] You know what I mean?

BM: [laughs] Yeah.

PS: Which we didn’t like very much, because they had a Mellotron, and we had one, and that’s why we sort of worked with him. And then we said, “No, this isn’t really what we want to sound like.” And if you’ve spoken to, and you know Fripp, you’ve spoken to him and you’ve spoken to me, you know we have sort of, I don’t know, sort of edgy things we like to get out, and Tony Clarke was not it, so we did it ourselves.

BM: [laughs]

PS: And it was, it’d been very well rehearsed, and it had been played on the road. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard a later version of any of the live versions, but it played even quicker, even more aggressively, which is interesting. But it was at a point in time, it was let’s go for it, and we did do another take, but that was the one.

BM: Wow. Yeah, interesting thing that I didn’t know, really, when I was talking to Ian. I just assumed, I think a lot of people do, that King Crimson, that Fripp came up with the name King Crimson, that it was sort of his band, he was running the show. But I was talking to Ian and I got the impression that you and Ian brought--

PS: It was my name.

BM: Yeah. I mean, that’s where it came from. But nowhere have I ever read that you know, Fripp didn’t orchestrate the whole thing and run it himself from the beginning.

PS: Well it has to be said, Robert, dear soul, he kept it going, you know. Although, I could make out an argument that only really ever the first album was really King Crimson. Even the lineup for the two, three, four, two or three that Robert and I did afterward, that was sort of Fripp/Sinfield and after that was The Robert Fripp Band. But what Robert kept going was a sort of a spirit of integrity and excellence and exploration, if you like. Which would make it appear, I suppose that, and which was very important to the first band, but and Robert was certainly extraordinarily important to the first band, but as was everybody in their way. It was amazing it even stayed together for the year to make that album. The egos and the sort of inflations that went down.

BM: [laughs] Yeah.

PS: Which you may have heard about, were extraordinary. But the story with the name is, I, we had to have a name, and I just switched around Crimson King to King Crimson, just because I wanted it to sound sort of powerful and sort of devilish and sort of strong, and red, and aggressive. And sort of a couple of them were in favor and a couple weren’t, and then there was sort of no choice because somebody wanted to sort of do an article, and it just stuck.

BM: [laughs]

PS: And of course, it’s called Crimso, it sounds like a washing powder, doesn’t it?

BM: Crimso, yeah. [laughs]

PS: In a way.

BM: Well, on that first album, In the Court of the Crimson King, what is your particular favorite track? Do you have anything that you just think of today and think, “Yeah, that’s the one?”

PS: It’s, I mean, I couldn’t, after we made it, I couldn’t play it for a long time. And then you go back, and then you meet generations of people who have taken various things and listened to it and you find it extraordinary. I think “Epitaph” probably is my favorite thing because I find that the lyric still works now. So that’s from a personal point of view. I love the whole album, I love the whole sort of, the silly bits and the games we played. I think it’s an extraordinary album. We never got, well, we never got quite the same thing. We went in interesting directions and did things, but I would say “Epitaph” was, it’s still, the only line I don’t like is, “I guess the confusion will be my epitaph,” but the actual song I like.

BM: Yeah.

PS: It’s still relevant, and it has a little bit of timelessness to it, which in rock and roll music, is quite hard to find. There’s only about five or, I don’t know, 10 percent of rock and roll has any timeless quality to it.

BM: Oh yeah.

PS: You know, I mean there’s an awful lot of it that comes out, and not much of it gets remembered. And yeah, I prefer that to “Crimson King” or “Schizoid” or “Moonchild” I guess.

BM: Were you surprised when Ian departed suddenly like that? Did it take you by surprise, or did you see it coming?

PS: No, I didn’t actually see it entirely coming. But then, I didn’t see anything coming in those days.

BM: [laughs]

PS: I didn’t, because really, I knew nothing.

BM: Really?

PS: I mean, I started off as the roadie that did the lights and the sound and wrote the words, and it was complete dream time for me. And I didn’t see the conspiracies, I didn’t see the sort of anger that Mike [Giles] and Ian [McDonald] had against Fripp, and I really didn’t see it. So it was quite a surprise to me, and when they just announced, I think we were in, we were in LA, as I recall, and I think we were in the Sunset Marquee. And they just announced, and I remember them running round the balcony with sort of, with joy.

BM: [laughs]

PS: And sort of managed to say, “We’re leaving, we’re leaving.” And I couldn’t believe it.

BM: [laughs]

PS: I didn’t know what to do. I was sort of naively astounded, actually. And then, you know, I’d seen Greg talking to Keith [Emerson], because we did a gig with The Nice, and then when we tried to work with Greg and Robert and I gave him a bit of a hard time, and then so he didn’t spend much, didn’t waste much time in going off with Keith, which was what it was, it was Robert and I, I suppose. But yeah, I was surprised. I was just continually amazed and astounded by every gig and every moment of that period of time, really.

BM: I’ve heard so many stories about Fripp’s temperament. Do you find him a difficult person, or did you find him a difficult person to work with?

PS: [laughs] Then, oddly enough in the beginning, no. And then I worked with him and then still no.

BM: [laughs]

PS: He did used to complain about my driving. And then increasingly yes, because he was going in one direction, which was more and more edgy, avant-garde, violent, discordant, and I thought we’d had enough of that and I wanted to go floating off into something a little more pastoral. Which you can see the sort of two things happening on the fourth album, on Islands [1971].

BM: Yeah.

PS: And then eventually, the expression “falling out over musical differences,” in our case really was true. He wanted to go one way, and I wanted to be sort of watercolors, and he wanted to keep sort of hurling splashes of red oil paint all over things.

BM: [laughs]

PS: And I didn’t. And later on, we didn’t sort of see each other much, but Robert and I have been seeing each other a bit recently, because we have this battle against our former—

BM: Yeah, the E.G. battle, eh?

PS: -- Former robbers.

BM: [laughs]

PS: Yeah. And I find him very pleasant to be with now. But then, he did spend 70 years studying and teaching and finding and learning and being tolerant of various things. And I find him much easier to sort of understand. I don’t think he knew quite what, I don’t think anyone really did then, I mean, we felt certain things, you know. Now perhaps we understand them a little bit better. I do remember a time we were on tour with, was it Bozzy [Boz Burrell] and [Ian] Wallace and Phil Collins, who were more rock and rolly, bluesy, jazzy than Robert ever was, and he got very upset and didn’t speak to everybody for a week. We’d sort of say, “Which room are you in, Robert?” And he’d hold up his hotel key.

BM: [laughs]

PS: Like, “37, ok, Robert’s in 37.”

BM: [laughs]

PS: It was a little trying at that point.

BM: [laughs]

PS: I remember the drummer bursting into tears. I mean, but it was, it all came out in the music, and that was interesting.

BM: [laughs] It’s funny.

PS: [laughs] Actually, I don’t know if it was interesting or not, but it was an event, you know, of some sort.

BM: [laughs] Yeah. It’s funny to hear, to compare your stories to say, Tony Arnold’s or Ian’s. You know, it makes, [laughs] there really are a lot of funny things about Fripp. And it’s great, you know? [laughs]

PS: He’s a character.

BM: [laughs]

PS: My theory about Fripp is, Fripp isn’t an artist, Fripp is a scientist.

BM: [laughs] Yeah.

PS: And therefore, I mean, I shared a room with him initially, but when someone has spent six hours sitting in front with the television off, I mean the sound off, picture on.

BM: [laughs]

PS: [sings] Can drive, I mean, this man is driven. This man is obsessed, you know.

BM: [laughs]

PS: And he is.

BM: Yeah.

PS: But I’m not sure he ever, then he didn’t know quite what, or why or how to harness it. I think later, with Tony Levin and Adrian Belew, maybe he found out how to harness it and what he really was good at and what he wasn’t good at, and could understand what he was doing. I think he was just driven by thing, that you’d have to ask him. I don’t know.

BM: [laughs]

PS: I have suspicions, though. I wouldn’t even dare voice them.

BM: Well, let me ask you something.

PS: But he’s a very happy many now. He’s very happy with his missus, with Toyah [Wilcox].

BM: Yeah, yeah.

PS: And he’s actually a delight to talk to now.

BM: He’s got quite a wit, I’ll tell you that.

PS: Yeah.

BM: Ian said something that I’d like to ask you about. I asked Ian what he’d been doing after he left Crimson, and until Foreigner, and he said, “I was just kind of wandering around.” And I said, “Well, you did a guest spot on Red. Didn’t you play some sax?” And he said, “Yeah, well Fripp had asked me to join the band again, and then he broke up the band just to teach me a lesson, just to get back at me for leaving.” Does that sound like something Fripp would have—

PS: Mmm, sounds like paranoia to me.

BM: [laughs]

PS: I mean, Ian, who I love dearly as well, is a somewhat paranoid person. And you know, you could quote me on that. He is, he came from a background and he has an ego that drives him in a certain direction. But he has a tendency toward perfection, and thinks that everyone is trying to stop him getting there. But it’s his own perfection, you know. It seems very unlikely that Robert would do anything that silly, break up the band just to teach Ian a lesson.

BM: [laughs]

PS: That may have been part of it. But I haven’t heard this before, this is quite good.

BM: Yeah.

PS: It seems unlikely.

BM: Well, that’s what I thought. That’s rather a major thing to do.

PS: Who was playing drums at that point? Bruford?

BM: Yeah, Bill Bruford.

PS: Yeah, it could have been that Ian made some remarks about Bruford’s drumming, because Ian will make remarks about things.

BM: Yeah. [laughs]

PS: I mean, Ian is very sort of sweet and sort of light hearted, but he gets very, very stubborn.

BM: Really? Ian and I have talked quite a lot lately, a few hours here and there. He’s become a pretty good friend. But he seems really afraid of, like, the Atco Records label, because of Atlantic and the Mick Jones [Foreigner] thing. And he’s really afraid of his music being taken over by Mick Jones somehow.

PS: Or anybody.

BM: Yeah. Or anybody. [laughs]

PS: Which is a shame, because Ian is not a leader of a band. Ian is a wonderful sort of harmonizer, an orchestrater. He has a lovely ear for melody and a sad flute notes and a sad sax thing, I mean, absolutely wonderful. But as, I mean, I heard his stuff that he was working on a couple of years ago, and it, it needed some earth and some fire in it, you know. And somewhere, he had to find someone that he could work with that would provide that. Only my opinion. Because Ian is sort of blue and watery and starry and midnight.

BM: [laughs] Yeah.

PS: And stuff like that. And he needs to balance it out.

BM: Yeah.

PS: He probably, he would probably disagree, I’m sure.

BM: [laughs]

PS: But you know, it’s what I think, having heard his stuff. He needs something else. I think he’s just, I mean, I know Mick Jones quite well, and Mick just couldn’t stand, you know, another 35 takes of anything, basically.

BM: [laughs]

PS: Is what it was. It would never be right, it would never be right, there’s always a better one, there’s always a better one. Which I understand, you know, but there comes a point where this will actually be, you’ve probably got the best one 30 takes before.

BM: [laughs]

PS: And who knows why people pass over them and go on and on, you know.

BM: [laughs] Well, that’s interesting. That’s a different angle on that situation. I didn’t quite hear that side of things. I just heard Ian’s.

PS: Not that you would.

BM: [laughs] Yeah. Ian said that Mick wanted full control of Foreigner and just booted him out and took over.

PS: Yeah. He’s got a bit of an ego. But he’s not stupid, either.

BM: [laughs] Yeah.

PS: I think he used Ian as, well, used is a bit of a loaded word, I mean, I think it worked well in the beginning. But then I think Ian can just go on, he can be a bit of an old woman. He can go on and on and on and on, and I think Mick was being pushed into more commercial areas, perhaps that Ian didn’t really want to follow.

BM: Yeah.

PS: And therefore, then it’s a dispute about who goes where, you know, and who leads it where. And I think Mick had the backing of the record company, most likely, and of course, with that, really, you’ve got everything, haven’t you.

BM: Yeah. [laughs] Well, how did you go from Crimson to ELP, especially if you found, say, Greg difficult to work with, why did you end up in the ELP camp after Crimso?

PS: Because I was in the middle of work, I was sort of making this solo album. I produced Roxy [Music], and really, this is another facetious remark, but I thought, “Christ, if these guys can do a solo, you know, if they can do it, I could have a bash too.”

BM: [laughs]

PS: I was, I wanted to try and prove a point about this sort of more water-colored music, perhaps, which was called wishy-washy in certain reviews.

BM: [laughs]

PS: It’s a matter of opinion. And I was having problems already, really, with E.G. at that point. They’re very patronizing people. And Greg and Stewart came along and said, “Hey the album’s gonna be great. We’ll finish it off for you, just come and work with us. You can write our lyrics, and you’re gonna make a fortune.” And so I went, you know.

BM: Yeah.

PS: Didn’t make the fortune.

BM: [laughs]

PS: Had an amusing time.

BM: Yeah.

PS: One way or another. It just seemed, they just seemed to be more alert, more alive than E.G., who were already getting very business oriented, and twitchy, and not much fun, really.

BM: The Brain Salad album [1973]—

PS: Sorry?

BM: The Brain Salad Surgery album is arguably their best.

PS: Yeah.

BM: I mean, where did all that lyric come from? Where did you find the inspiration for that?

PS: Eek. You may well ask.

BM: [laughs]

PS: Smoke the grass and all that. No, here behind the glass and all that.

BM: Yep.

PS: Talk about early ecological, eh?

BM: Yeah.

PS: I think, over several bottles of red wine, most of it.

BM: [laughs]

PS: Just being, because I’ve always read too much. I devour books and stories and newspapers and try and see where it’s all moving. And try and reflect that in the lyrics, even now, even though they are more popular in the songs that I write now, perhaps. And Gregory, being Gregory, likes the things that, I don’t know, they sort of stand up, really bold statements, you know. Sort of mills and, I don’t know, it’s hard to say. I think a lot of it came out of a decadence that we were going through.

BM: Yeah.

PS: They thought they were the biggest thing in the world. They enticed me to think I was the hottest lyric writer.

BM: [laughs]

PS: And it was a privilege to write with them, and I tried to live up to that sort of reputation, and we could be bold and brave and sort of sexually explicit and stuff, and yet, hoo, it’s hard to say, man.

BM: [laughs]

PS: I mean, but I think it came out of, decadence is the word, actually.

BM: Yeah.

PS: There was a lot of decadence. There was a lot of wood paneling around the rooms and many bottles of claret drunk.

BM: [laughs]

PS: And “Where’s my limo?” going on at the time. And yet, still trying to make sort of artistic statements. Which is always an interesting position to find yourself in, you know, because you get accused of being hypocritical and all manner of stuff.

BM: Well, your lyrics are very good. I’ve found that most of the music I listen to most often, and enjoy the most, you’ve written the lyrics for or directed in some way. You write timeless things.

PS: [laughs]

BM: Are you having just as much fun writing things today, say, for Cher or others, as you did back then?

PS: Uh, it’s odd, because then it didn’t seem very much like work. It just seemed like exciting and a thing to do. Now it feels like work.

BM: [laughs]

PS: It does feel like work, I mean, the lyric for “Heart of Stone” took, I don’t know, two and a half, three weeks. And, but it’s a masochistic pleasure, and at the end of it, you go, “Well, I can’t think of much else to change, and it seems to fit, and it goes with the music.” And then you hear it, and it’s an absolute joy, you know, it’s a privileged position to be in.

BM: Yeah.

PS: But, it is very, very hard work now, to try and get some force and power and statements into things, within the context and for the sort of people that one hopes are going to be able to sing the songs, you know.

BM: Well, I’ve gotta admit, people like Peter Cetera or Diana Ross aren’t really known for making bold statements.

PS: No.

BM: [laughs]

PS: But they, see, yeah, but they all like to be a little leftish, or Clintonish.

BM: Yeah.

PS: They all like to have some social awareness. And then I, but I have to fall back on quite a lot of irony, which of course, us English people have been doing for a long time. [laughs]

BM: [laughs]

PS: Perhaps not quite so much in America as we do here. And so therefore, I like to have things with sort of two or three levels of meaning if I can. And I must admit, there are things which go past, which amuse me, which I think no one’s ever going to see. But that’s fine. As long as they sound good and they work. It’s very important the sounds of the words.

BM: Oh yeah.

PS: And the actual tension and the release of tension just in the sounds of the consonants and the vowels are very important. More important somehow, I’ve realized in the end, than the meaning. Then if you get the meaning on top of it, and get someone with a line here and a line there, this is good stuff, you know.

BM: Well—

PS: But it certainly doesn’t get any easier.

BM: Well, there aren’t really many lyricists out there that stand up. I mean, that write memorable lyrics.

PS: Right. Bernie [Taupin] does a few nice things.

BM: Yeah. Oh yeah.

PS: I mean, there are people that, there are singer songwriters that write good things. Oddly enough, [laughs] I’ve got Randy Newman on at the moment.

BM: [laughs]

PS: For instance, there are people, you know. And there have been rock and roll bands like Little Feet and people that have got it somewhat balanced, the write amount of lyric and the band, it’s a good thing. I mean, it’s difficult, you know. It’s—

BM: I guess what I’m saying--

PS: If it were easy, anyone could do it.

BM: Well, yeah. But there are very few poet/lyricists out there --

PS: Yeah.

BM: -- people who really seem to take pride and joy in their work and their words and get them just the right way, with lots of meanings. That I don’t find too much of in lyricists today.

PS: No. I’ve always been sort of a crusading, I think it’s sort of a masochistic streak in my character that makes me work a bit harder at it.

BM: [laughs]

PS: Along with a sort of crusading spirit of trying to, because you hear so much shit, you know.

BM: Oh definitely, yeah.

PS: And occasionally, actually, getting past the rhythm and the sort of nonsense you hear, the occasional good rap lyric here and there.

BM: [laughs]

PS: On the occasion. But that’s the same with rock music and any music. You will only hear the occasional, you know, really relevant lyric that you think could last a little bit longer. I’ll tell you what I thought was nice, the new Gerry Rafferty album [probably On a Wing and a Prayer, 1992]. I don’t know if you’ve heard that?

BM: Oh yeah, yeah.

PS: Very smooth, but it’s got some things I thought that work quite well, some statements and it’s not all sort of lovey-dovey, it’s got a little bitterness and reality in it I thought. Personal opinion.

BM: Well, looks like I’ve taken up quite a bit of your time today, and I do appreciate that.

PS: Pleasure, Bill.

BM: I should probably let you get back to things. I’m trying to get a hold of, Keith Emerson and Greg Lake, I’m trying to get interviews with those guys, and I’m finding their American management team very difficult to work with. They’re just unbelievable stonewallers. Anyway.

PS: That’s a shame.

BM: I’ll track them down, hopefully.

PS: Yeah, I mean, if you, I mean, if you can get near to them, just, I mean, get a hold of me and I’ll ring Keith and say, “Hey listen, you should talk to this guy, you know.”

BM: Yeah, it’s too bad. I tried to get, they were right here in town, you know, five minutes away from here, and their management team in California, the publicist wouldn’t pick up their feet and actually get it moving. They just let it lay there. I felt pretty bad about that.

PS: Yeah. This is part of what I think, I don’t know what they consider to be their mystique, I don’t know what it is. They think they calculate everything, and of course, you never calculate hardly anything, really. I mean, everything you think you’ve calculated goes out the window. What does John Lennon say, “History is what happens when you’re doing something else.”

BM: [laughs] Well, ELP’s tour, I’ve never seen anything so highly merchandised in my life.

PS: You’re right.

BM: I don’t believe that I see like a phone number where you can call them, and they’re selling everything under the sun, and it’s quite a marketing venture this time through, isn’t it?

PS: ELP have always had a confusion about putting their, putting money before the art.

BM: [laughs]

PS: Always. They’ve always had that, and I don’t suppose they’ll lose that. I had a campaign to try and get that changed a bit when I worked with them, and didn’t succeed terribly well. It’s, it’ll be one of the stumbling blocks if I get to produce the next album, that will be one of the stumbling blocks of it.

BM: I’m actually surprised—

PS: I’ve always figured if you do something well—

BM: Yeah.

PS: To the best of your ability, and bring out something that’s really honest and truthful and real, then you’ve got a shot that people are gonna want to hear it.

BM: Yeah, yeah. And I’m surprised actually, that ELP are thinking about doing another album. I think a lot of speculation is this is kind of a one-off deal, make a big buck, bunch of money and retire or something. But that’s good to hear.

PS: I think it’d be awfully nice, and you would be thinking about doing the next album too. [laughs]

BM: [laughs]

PS: Although, I’d be very tempted, if I could produce it for half the money they’ve been offered, they’d be very happy because they’d have some spending money.

BM: [laughs]

PS: Yeah, those offers will really surprise you.

BM: Wow. Well, it’s really a pleasure to speak with you today.

PS: But if you, I mean, I don’t know when they finish their tour, is it April?

BM: Yeah, I think so.

PS: I mean, I’ll get, if you haven’t got through to Keith by then, I’ll get him to call you.

BM: Yeah, I’d appreciate that.

PS: I see him quite a lot. But having talked to you myself, I think Keith’ll probably have an amusing time talking with you.

BM: Yeah, I’d love to talk to Keith. That’d be great. Well yeah, like I said, it’s really a pleasure to speak with you, I really like the work you do, and I’d really like to see you hook up with ELP again, see if you can turn them around from Black Moon there. [laughs]

PS: We can but try. [laughs] We can but try.

BM: Alrighty. Well, take care, Sir.

PS: And you, Bill.

BM: Cheers, bye bye.

PS: Bye.

Additional interviews with Pete Sinfield and myself are in the can and waiting to be released on the world. The next one will be posted within the next few days.
--
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And I have to choose..."
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Re: Bill's Pete Sinfield Interview -- FIRST of SEVERAL

Postby MarkSullivan on Thu Jan 01, 2009 7:59 pm

Well, that was a pleasant surprise. I was expecting more crankiness and bitterness! Thanks for posting it, Bill.
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Re: Bill's Pete Sinfield Interview -- FIRST of SEVERAL

Postby vrooom on Fri Jan 02, 2009 12:11 am

Damn, and I was expecting an expose on the lyrics of Bucks Fizz's "Land of Make Believe" being a diatribe against the Thatcherite government of the time. Oh well a missed opportunity! :D



Seriously though, interesting stuff. You keep us hanging on like the drooling dogs that we are! ;-)
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Re: Bill's Pete Sinfield Interview -- FIRST of SEVERAL

Postby LTinAspic on Fri Jan 02, 2009 1:11 am

vrooom wrote:
Seriously though, interesting stuff. You keep us hanging on like the drooling dogs that we are! ;-)



Sorry about that, Boss. We're on track to submit one interview per week from now on until they're all gone -- possibly by this time next year.

Another Sinfield coming up ASAP. And then John Wetton. And Ian. And a really, really good Tony Arnold. His Fripp anecdotes will totally crack you up.

I should have two more interviews posted by Monday.

Happy New Year!

Bill
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And I have to choose..."
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Re: Bill's Pete Sinfield Interview -- FIRST of SEVERAL

Postby Owen on Fri Jan 02, 2009 3:10 pm

[quote="LTinAspic"] I should have two more interviews posted by Monday. [/quote]

Here comes the flood!

Me likey.

Thanks for posting all these.
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Re: Bill's Pete Sinfield Interview -- FIRST of SEVERAL

Postby Dog_none on Sat Jan 03, 2009 1:12 am

Bill, this is all amazing stuff. My favorite so far (not having read this one yet) has been Mike Giles, but these guys all seem to be very insightful. I'm still amazed (and deeply ingratiated) that you're sharing this stuff with us. All I can say is THANK YOU!!
I was just now thinking about the Jaws Of Life
how they chew you up and spit you right
back into the frying pan
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Re: Bill's Pete Sinfield Interview -- FIRST of SEVERAL

Postby LTinAspic on Mon Jan 05, 2009 2:11 am

Dog_none wrote:Bill, this is all amazing stuff. My favorite so far (not having read this one yet) has been Mike Giles, but these guys all seem to be very insightful. I'm still amazed (and deeply ingratiated) that you're sharing this stuff with us. All I can say is THANK YOU!!


My pleasure. I have a lot of great stuff left, which I will happily share with everyone on the ProjeKction board.

Speaking of which, it must be a slow time around here. Fewer views and comments than usual. I imagine it'll pick up after the holidays are a dim and distant memory and people's live are back to normal.

More Sinfield to come. Possibly more Giles. Lots and lots of Ian. Dik Fraser. Richard Vickers. John Wetton. Keith Tippett. Ian Wallace. Adrian Belew. The whole gang.

Cheers,

Bill
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A book of bluesy Saturdays
And I have to choose..."
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