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Bill's Jamie Muir Interview -- Part Two

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Bill's Jamie Muir Interview -- Part Two

Postby LTinAspic on Sat Jan 21, 2006 9:22 pm

In this installment -- which is Part Two of three (or, possibly, four) -- Jamie spoke of the sound effects on <i>Larks' Tongues in Aspic</i>, the real reason why he left King Crimson (which differs from what was reported in the <i>Frame By Frame</i> box set), and his spiritual quest into the world of Buddhism. At times, I felt like Jamie was giving me a peek into his soul. I almost hated asking such personal questions, but the answers thrilled me.

The interview was conducted on July 17, 1993.

As always, please feel free to excerpt this interview any way you see fit. When you do, all I ask in return is this credit: <b>(c) 1993, 2006 Bill Murphy</b>.

Enjoy!


BM: You had been touring with King Crimson for a number of months before you went into the studio to record <i>Larks’ Tongues</i>. Did all of those songs that eventually ended up on that album come from improv and touring and building them up before you went into the studio?

JM: I think the touring, I think we made a decision, as I recall, that it was a good idea to make the record after the tour because the whole business of playing live does firm the thing up and make things much more logical. But all the stuff, as I recall, on the record were things that we played on set and on the tour. But they weren’t all things that came out of improvisations. Some one or two of the ballads, I think, were compositions of Robert's. The main sort of [pause] I don’t even remember what they were called...

BM: Oh, "Larks’ Tongues in Aspic Part One" and "Part Two."

JM: Right. That was a sort of riff, that sequence Robert had had previously. That chord sequence he’d had previously. But the way it developed and the way we cobbled it together and a few other bits that had come out of improvisation that had seemed to work that seemed to have some character to them.

BM: Was there anything you guys had been working on that never made it onto the album?

JM: Oh yeah. I think lots of stuff. Well, we started off rehearsing quite a bit. Then after that we went on tour. During that process of rehearsing there was quite a bit of stuff that never got on tour or on record or anything that Robert finally felt wasn’t really going anywhere interesting. In those rehearsals we were improvising most of it just to try and find some common ground.

BM: Was it pretty exciting at the time? Or was it boring? What were rehearsals like?

JM: Well, for me they were sort of like rehearsals are always like: Really quite hard work. But then I sort of expected that from rehearsals. I mean, rehearsals have never been sort of...fun --

BM: [laughs]

JM: -- they’ve always been hard work. I’ve found that, anyway. I mean, if you don’t work hard at it then nothing’s going to come out of it. So they were just rehearsals as usual.

BM: In "Larks’ Tongues in Aspic Part One," I remember John Wetton told me that there’s a spoken part or a mumbling part that’s actually you reading some kind of passage from a book about a condemned man or something like that. Do you remember that?

JM: Erm...

BM: Right at the break [about 12:26]. Wetton said it was you who found some kind of a book about a Scottish condemned man.

JM: I remember a part on the record that...what John Wetton’s saying there about me reading something. That rings a bell. But I’m not quite sure what it was. But I do remember there was a part on the record where Bill Bruford actually recorded something off the TV. It was some play on TV. It was an idea I had about sort of a part of life. Ambient sound. Like people talking or some situational background sound. I think that was one of those times when I had to persuade Robert that it would be a good idea. Bill was enthusiastic about it. So he went off and recorded this off the TV. It’s a faintly Scottish thing. I think it was something about somebody being hanged or something. That was definitely off the TV. Bill Bruford went and recorded that off his TV.

BM: Really. That’s interesting. So you’re not really reading a passage from a book? It’s actually from a --

JM: Well, erm. That, no. Yes. That was, I’m sure that was Bill Bruford off the TV. But that thing that John was saying about me reading something. I remember we tried that. And maybe we tried that. I remember something about that, vaguely. Maybe we tried doing that and then we decided that wasn't really so good. Or maybe there was somewhere else...I vaguely remember something about what John says there. But I’m pretty sure that part...it’s on the "Larks’ Tongues in Aspic Part Two" or something, isn’t it?

BM: No, that was "Larks’ Tongues in Aspic Part One."

JM: Oh, was it Part One. Where the music’s going du-du...du-du.

BM: It builds up to a big climax and then stops and then there’s talking.

JM: And it says “Until you are dead” or something and then it stops?

BM: Hmmm.

JM: Yeah, I think that’s off the TV.

BM: Tell me about the sound effects, especially in the song "Easy Money": The sloshing wet mud sounds. I think you were hitting some kind of saw or something. The <i>toing, toing</i>. The high pitched laughing. The song ends with some kind of recorded laughter. Were you responsible for all the sound effects on the album? Or how did they come about?

JM: Erm, I was responsible for -- well, the laughing that was a laughing bag and it was Robert Fripp’s idea. It was one of these little, kind of, bags with a little thing inside you can buy, I think, from the back of a comic. That was Robert Fripp’s idea. I think most of the effects were probably my idea. That sound -- that sort of metallic <i>doing</i> sound -- that was a saw blade you put in front of your mouth and use your mouth as a sort of sound box. A bit like a Jew’s Harp. Same principle. And the mud was buckets of mud.

BM: Why that particular song? What significance did those sound effects have to the song "Easy Money"? Did they have a significance? Or were they there just for effect?

JM: Oh, God, I don’t know. Erm...[pause] I remember I slightly wanted to try and interpret the lyrics or, at least, at one point wanted to use some sounds that actually had something to do with the lyrics. That was partly what it was. There’s something in there about when somebody’s heart breaks and I couldn’t really come up with a good heartbreak sound [laughs] --

BM: [laughs]

JM: -- [laughs] I didn’t know what a breaking heart is supposed to sound like. So I think I just ended up crumpling a plastic egg box. It had absolutely nothing to do with a breaking heart. So I think I was trying throughout that to relate the sounds to the lyrics. I think I did it rather unsuccessfully that’s all. Sometimes it related a bit. But often as not, it really didn’t particularly.

BM: Well, it definitely sounds fun. That’s one of the albums that most reviewers say is one of the best from the ‘70s. It has a cohesiveness and a group identity sound that isn’t always found on other Crimson albums.

JM: Oh, that’s interesting.

BM : I enjoy it quite a bit.

JM: Erm -

BM: This is something that always seemed a little odd to me. On February 10, 1973, you played with Crimson for the last time. You reportedly dropped a gong on your foot and injured yourself and you couldn’t play the gig the next night. And you never came back to the band.

JM: Uhhh.

BM: You reportedly when to some kind of monastery in Scotland right after that.

JM: Yeah.

BM: What prompted that? Had you been thinking about doing that all along? Or was there something about injuring yourself that night that made you say, “Well, hey, I’ve gotta leave and go there or what?”

JM: Well, that business about dropping a gong...none of that was actually true. I just left the band.

BM: Really?

JM: Yes. No, I didn’t drop a gong on my foot or anything like that. I think I just left the band. I don’t quite remember the exact details of it. But I think I remember some story like that was put out. But it wasn’t true.

BM: Well, what happened then? Why did you leave that night?

JM: I got very interested in Buddhism. And I’d been sort of getting interested in it for a while, quite a while. And it wasn’t sort of an intellectual interest. It was actually. Erm...I don’t know how to really...[pause]...Over quite a period of time I found myself getting really erm...getting...erm. [quiet voice, to himself] I don’t know what to say, how to say...[louder] Some fairly unusual things happening and quite deep sort of experiences going on and slightly sort of...

BM: Some kind of either supernatural or at least spiritual type of things?

JM: A bit like that, yeah. Yes. It was a bit like that. It went on for quite a while. There was quite very deeply affecting things happening. Erm. Very deeply affecting. And very sort of extremely disorienting. Some quite odd things going on. But it was quite obviously beneficial and quite obviously good. And I just remember coming to a decision, really, at one point that I had to make a choice which way I was going to go. All of these whole sequence of things that had been going on they were so obviously beneficial and I knew that if I decided to sort of push them into a slot somewhere on the edge of things I would regret it probably for the rest of my life. I knew that it was the sort of thing that would never happen again. It was so obviously beneficial. So I just decided to put that right at the center of things. So I went along the next day to the management company in a state of real -- I didn’t really quite know what -- in a state of real disorientation.

BM: That must have hit them all pretty hard. Did they expect it? Did Robert expect it?

JM: Oh, no. Not at all. They didn’t expect it. I didn’t expect it myself. [laughs]

BM: [laughs]

JM: David Enthoven was in the office and I think somebody else was there, I can’t really remember who. He was there. I don’t really remember much about -- oh, it was Mark somebody -- I remember David Enthoven was very cool and I liked him and respected him quite a bit. He was cool and very sensible in the way he dealt with it. He was obviously surprised.

BM: That’s interesting about the gong on the foot, then. It never really happened. Even in the <i>Frame By Frame</i> box set under the February 17th, 1973, entry Fripp wrote, “At the first, Jamie having injured himself unaccountably the night before dropped out and we played together as a quartet for the first time. Jamie never played with us again.” So even he’s saying --

JM: No, that’s not true. And I went along and told him that I was going to leave the band.

BM: Looking back on your decision, do you have any regrets about leaving the band? Do you still think that was the thing to do? Do you have any regrets about it?

JM: From the perspective now?

BM: Yeah.

JM: Oh, no. I mean, I had to do it. It was absolutely the right thing to do. The night before I decided to go I had a bit of a sleepless night about it. And I felt that it was all right to do because it wasn’t as if I was leaving to go join another band or leaving to anything l like that. I mean, it was something that I had felt that anybody could recognize was a worthwhile reason. I didn’t feel that anybody could justifiably resent my leaving to go and study Buddhism.

BM: Why did you choose that particular spiritual endeavor? Why Buddhism and not Hinduism or Christianity or Catholicism?

JM: It also started when I read a book called <i>Autobiography of a Yogi</i>.

BM: Oh, yeah. Paramahansa.

JM: Yogananda. That’s right. That in a way sort of started the whole thing off because it had quite an effect on me, that book. That had a very strong effect on me. And I started meditating then. And that’s when things started changing a lot. But a friend of mine who also read this book investigated that whole line a bit and he said that he visited some office some place which was supposed to be the London representative of Paramahansa Yogananda or something and he said it was just some fat old woman sitting behind a desk with a bag over in the corner --

BM: [laugh]

JM: [laughs] -- who shoved a couple of printed sheets across the thing and asked for 15 quid. So he said that’s finished, that whole thing. And I sort of read lots of other things and had a look around at Gnosticism and other Hindu things and Chinese and all around the place. And then I think with Buddhism I read I think it was <i>The Life of Milarepa</i>, which was I think Garma C.C. Chang translating. Which was a very impressive book. And that’s what made be interested in Buddhism. I mean, I had also read Zen and I read quite a bit of things and I would have gone to any Buddhist place. It’s just that at that particular time...[searching for words]...You read that book, did you -- The <i>Autobiography of a Yogi</i>?

BM: Yeah. Yeah. I’m pretty familiar with it.

JM: Because what I remember from the first page, I think almost the most interesting thing about it was that he had a dream, something like he had a dream, and on the basis of that dream he just went off and traveled as a kid a few hundred miles up in the foothills of the Himalayas and started wandering around sort of because the dream said he was going to meet somebody. One of the things that was the most impressive about that book was that on the basis of what we would think was irrational, people were prepared to actually allow what we would think was irrational to be a very significant part of their lives. And they were prepared to actually do things and respond to things even though they didn't have the slightest idea what the outcome was going to be. That aspect of things, really, is what I thought was extraordinary.

BM: A bit like improv on stage, then, isn’t it?

JM: Yes. Yeah. That’s right. That’s right. But erm...[pause] I’ve sort of forgotten what the question was, what you asked.

BM:: Why Buddhism.

JM: Oh right. Why Buddhism. That’s right. So by the time I’d got on and finished reading that, and had gone through about six, nine months later, it was, I mean, if somebody had come along and just happened in conversation and told me that they knew of a very good Zen Buddhist place I would have gone there. It was just that a friend knew of Samye Ling [Kagyu Samye Ling Buddhist Monastery and Tibetan Centre] and told me a bit about it. So I just went there. It was sort of like that in a way.

BM: How long were you at the Buddhist monastery? And did you find that your searching and your questions were answered there?

JM: I think I was there a year and a half. And erm...[searching for the right words]...I did a lot of meditating there and got very deeply involved in it and what happened, I supposed, in brief there is that I got a great deal more deeply buried into something. I got very deeply drawn into Tibetan Buddhism. And so the business of answering questions and looking for answers to questions at that time was not quite, it wasn’t that kind of situation. It’s sort of like, certainly in Tibetan Buddhism, it’s sort of like, “Well, before we answer the questions first of all you must explore this, this and this.” So you get completely lost in whole worlds of experience and things you really didn’t know about before.

BM: Is it still something you pursue and believe in today?

JM: Well, erm. [pause] I don’t sort of do things like go to a Buddhist temple and go and visit gurus and things like that. But I think everybody’s life, in whatever way they define it, everybody is sort of, I mean, you can’t be on a path or not on a path. The minute you’re born you’re on a path, and everybody is. You may give it a different name at different times. You may be much more intensely conscious and active in the way you deal with it. But while you’re being intense and active it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re actually moving along any faster.


And there you have it: One of my favorite exchanges with a former Crim.

Part Three coming soon, perhaps next weekend.

Cheers,

Bill
Last edited by LTinAspic on Sun Jan 22, 2006 2:54 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Postby vrooom on Sat Jan 21, 2006 10:17 pm

Loving your work, Bill. Loving your work... ;-)


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Postby LTinAspic on Sun Jan 22, 2006 12:54 am

vrooom wrote:Loving your work, Bill. Loving your work... ;-)


Darren


Thanks Darren!

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Postby LTinAspic on Sun Jan 22, 2006 12:55 am

danny5 wrote:wow, very interesting.
i wonder why robert said (& printed) he had injured himself when he hadn't...
hmm.

thanks again for a great read!
cheers Bill!

/d



I appreciate the comments and the compliments, Danny.

And I think your question is a good one. I have no idea what the answer is.

Cheers,

Bill
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Postby Hans on Sun Jan 22, 2006 1:27 am

Great stuff. Thank you.

No wonder Robert Fripp didn't want to be interviewedn by you. He might had spilled the beans. :lol:.
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Postby LTinAspic on Sun Jan 22, 2006 1:29 am

Hans wrote:Great stuff. Thank you.

No wonder Robert Fripp didn't want to be interviewedn by you. He might had spilled the beans. :lol:.


LOL! :)

Could be, Hans. Could be.

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Postby Owen on Sun Jan 22, 2006 1:43 am

danny5 wrote:wow, very interesting.
i wonder why robert said (& printed) he had injured himself when he hadn't...
hmm.


I thought that piece of misinformation came from, and was invented by, EG management with Fripp only acting as the messenger?

Oh yeah, and a great read again there Bill. Keep em coming!

Cheers,
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Postby Indyrod on Sun Jan 22, 2006 3:15 am

Really great interview Bill, I'm really enjoying this one, and all the rest of course. But I have a special interest in Jamie, the most mysterious Crim IMO. Interesting to see how the truth gets twisted around after somebody leaves. I'm really looking forward to a David Cross interview, to get his perspective on things. I always thought he got screwed, and with all that talent. He's one of my favorite Crims along with Jamie, always has been.
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Postby laurent m on Sun Jan 22, 2006 10:29 am

Owen wrote:
danny5 wrote:wow, very interesting.
i wonder why robert said (& printed) he had injured himself when he hadn't...
hmm.


I thought that piece of misinformation came from, and was invented by, EG management with Fripp only acting as the messenger


Jamie was instructed at the time by EG not to tell anybody in the group. And EG made up the injury story and never told the truth to the other members. So Robert only found out when Sid was writing his book. You can check footnote 3 p. 172 in Sid's book.
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