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:: ProjeKction - King Crimson NET :: • View topic - Bill's Next Pete Sinfield Interview, Part One of Two

Bill's Next Pete Sinfield Interview, Part One of Two

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 Next Pete Sinfield Interview, Part One of Two

Postby LTinAspic on Mon Jan 05, 2009 2:01 am

This interview with the remarkable lyricist Pete Sinfield took place on August 29, 1993, and is -- if I do say so myself -- quite nice. Pete was, as always, in fine form. I trust you’ll find this interview to be, as Commander Data would say, intriguing.

This is Part One of two.


BM: So it’s looking good, looking very good. I’m just cleaning out some more boxes, in fact.

PS: That’s one of those horrible things, moving.

BM: Yep. It definitely is.

PS: I’ve done it lots of times. Fortunately, where I’ve been around now, I haven’t moved for five years.

BM: [laughs]

PS: So I’ve got a feeling, I can see all these CDs and books, they’re sort of growing into the room, you know.

BM: [laughs]

PS: It’s getting a little squashed in my little haven here.

BM: Alright.

PS: I have your fax here. It says you have a copy of [Eno/Sinfield] In a Land of Clear Colours [1979]. That was clever of you.

BM: [laughs] That’s an interesting CD, let me tell you. I didn’t know you had done anything like that.

PS: It was a very odd thing. I did it ages back. It was actually, it was a book, limited edition, which Bob Sheckley had written the story for. And some friends of mine had an art gallery, and they put it all together. And Eno had been staying in my house at the time. And then I did eventually pry, pry some music out of him.

BM: [laughs]

PS: On the front, and then we, I don’t think it’s actually noticeable, but we turned it around in the middle, and did it back to front, because he didn’t give us very much. But I put it out again, [laughs] it was a pirate version of this thing came out later.

BM: Really?

PS: About two or three years later, in Belgium, I think, and so I noticed the cover, which sort of said, “Brian Eno!”

BM: [laughs]

PS: And Peter Sinfield and Robert Sheckley in tiny little letters.

BM: [laughs]

PS: And I thought, “Well, that’s nice.” And I laughed. Because, really it’s a bit misleading to say the least. There’s really only about two minutes of wah wahs on it.

BM: Yep, yep, I noticed that.

PS: Yes, you noticed that, right.

BM: [laughs]

PS: And apparently, have you spoke to Rob Ayling?

BM: Yeah, I talked to him a couple days ago. He said Eno—

PS: He knows the story.

BM: Eno doesn’t like this thing out, huh?

PS: Uh, no. Well, it’s sort of my fault. I was a bit naughty, really. Due to various things, and I was sort of pissed off, I’ve never spoken to him again since. I wasn’t quite sure why, and I sort of jokingly hinted that he might have been naughty with my old lady at the time.

BM: [laughs]

PS: [laughs] Which, and I’ve talked to his wife, which is his manager, and by the time I got to him, we got a rather [laughs] rather heavy letter back.

BM: Oh wow.

PS: How dare you, and allege this, and put out this thing without asking, and so and so on stuff. He sort of lacks a sense of humor, I’m afraid.

BM: [laughs]

PS: And they were threatening to injunct it, so some copies of it have escaped, of which you obviously have one. So that’s certainly a collector’s item, that one, because we could either press on, because I was naughty, and I didn’t ask his permission, but I frankly, you know I was just being naughty, really.

BM: [laughs]

PS: Devious, I’m afraid, there’s no defense. I should have asked, as artists do. If someone did it to me, I’d be absolutely upset, if it was someone like him and it was, you know, whatever. I mean, it all got a bit entangled with sort of one thing and another, and letters have gone backwards and forwards, and the latest one is saying, Rob wrote a very polite, somewhat facetious letter, saying, to underline facetious, saying “You need to destroy the copies. Blah blah blah.” And I sent a letter back saying, “What do you mean by destroy? I mean, really.”

BM: [laughs]

PS: So I was very tempted to sort of get one and smash it to pieces and sort of throw some dead roses on it and drip some ketchup on it, and put it in a bag and send it off to him.

BM: [laughs]

PS: [laughs] I’m not sure if that’s getting beyond, getting upset, they’re sort of witty now, you know what I mean. But the correspondence is vaguely amusing between the Eno camp and myself. But they’re sort of CCing to BPI and lawyers and people now.

BM: So actually, this will be pulled off the market, or has been?

PS: Yes it will, yeah.

BM: Really?

PS: I thought they might change their mind and say, “Let’s let bygones be bygones. And yes, you were a bit silly and you should have asked, but you can put it out anyway.” But they were very pompous and very pretentious and saying in fact Brian likes to control his work and won’t let anything out, you know, that he considers to be inferior. Which I found amusing because he hasn’t noticed I just turned his piece of music and ran it back to front halfway through.

BM: [laughs]

PS: And I, that sort of thing tends to annoy me a bit. Especially coming from him, of all people. The man renowned for his sort of oddness and theory exercising ideas.

BM: Yeah.

PS: Theory, of course, most of which, because I did about four years before him. But I’m trying to think, this is my ego talking here. I’m just jealous of all the money he’s made out of U2.

BM: [laughs]

PS: Not really. Anyway, so that was that. So I’m glad you got a copy.

BM: Yeah.

PS: I’ll send you a copy of the correspondence, if you want it.

BM: Oh, that would be great to take a look at.

PS: Yeah.

BM: Yeah, yes indeed.

PS: And what else. I have new pickies here. I have old pickies and new pickies. I have a CD of the cut of Still, which I wanted to change the order on.

BM: Ah, it’s actually—

PS: New tracks.

BM: Ok.

PS: Well, two old new tracks, which is a little strange, I haven’t heard for 20 years.

BM: So that’s due out shortly, right?

PS: Fairly, yeah. I’ve got it a task appearing in Q magazine. Do you know Q magazine?

BM: Oh yes.

PS: Yeah. I think in the October edition, which means it’ll be out, well, maybe mid September, I suppose. Normally they bring them out before the month, don’t they. Quite a lengthy thing. The guy sat here for three hours. [laughs] I must have talked about something.

BM: [laughs]

PS: I don’t think he asked more than about five questions, I kind of rambled. I said, “Am I rambling too much here?”

BM: [laughs]

PS: Very nice guy. Can you get it over there, Q?

BM: I believe I’ve seen it on the stands, yeah, at least back in Grand Rapids. Hopefully it’s around here.

PS: Right. Well perhaps you can order it from a specialist.

BM: Yeah.

PS: News agency or something. Which contains information which would probably be of use to you.

BM: Oh good.

PS: Stuff about my mother, and weird stuff.

BM: [laughs] Yeah.

PS: And all that. Now I’ve not spoken to either Keith or Greg, re: your other thing on there.

BM: Yeah.

PS: The album, per se, is been put on hold, and what they’re doing, just what the world needs, is a box set.

BM: Oh, are they really?

PS: Yes, they are, with a studio version of “Pictures at an Exhibition.” Because it was only ever recorded live, of course. With some added bits, and Keith and I talked about it some length, and I was trying to get him to put a bit of sort of Thelonias Monk and sort of bits of jazz in there. [laughs]

BM: [laughs]

PS: We had a drunken evening, Keith and I, a great evening.

BM: [laughs]

PS: And I gave him these ideas for moving toward doing another piece of music and production, which was being talked about by myself and him. And Neil Young. I’m not sure if Greg was aware of this, of these conversations yet. He is now. Anyway, the box set also has on it various of their works, but also, they’ve recut, they’ve recut our Christmas song, “I Believe in Father Christmas.” Which proudly is very good. You know, I’ve heard from sources, cynical, bitter, mean sources who have said it’s real pretty.

BM: [laughs]

PS: They’ve done “Schizoid Man,” I’m looking forward to hearing that.

BM: Oh yeah.

PS: They’ve done “Fire,” because Carl was in [The Crazy World of] Arthur Brown.

BM: Arthur Brown, yeah.

PS: Yep. I’m not quite sure what else, they’ve done “Rondo” as well. And they’ve done a side of oldies, and then recut “Pictures” and then, I guess you know, bits and pieces of the other stuff.

BM: Will this be a box set that looks like a Frame by Frame, that size, or will it be smaller?

PS: No, actually they’ve made it one of those.

BM: Yeah, really?

PS: ELP’s [laughs] not exactly famous for putting out small packages, you know.

BM: [laughs] Extravagant, yeah.

PS: I think it might be twice the size of Frame by Frame.

BM: [laughs]

PS: I think, I’m not sure how many CDs it is. I guess it’s probably four, but really, I’m guessing here. But that’s nearly finished. They’ve been in LA doing that.

BM: That’s great.

PS: Yes, well, it’s interesting. And next year, I think, if they’re still together, of course.

BM: [laughs]

PS: Moot point with them, then we’ll [laughs] do an album, which I will be surprised if I don’t have some involvement if it comes about.

BM: Well, I hope so.

PS: Yeah.

BM: I mentioned before, they had a strange sound on this latest one.

PS: Yeah, I’m not very keen on it at all. When I saw them playing at Albert Hall, and I thought the worst part of it was the Black Moon and all that nonsense. I mean, it’s not what they do, you know?

BM: Yeah.

PS: When a band’s playing some rock and roll, you don’t need to deal with that, really. Which I’ve mentioned to Mr. Emerson. Now, I don’t have a number for them, but I need to speak to Stewart [Young] at some point.

BM: Yeah, if you get a chance—

PS: So I will once again request with you that at least Keith should talk to you. So I did mention it to him, as I told you.

BM: Good. Good deal. I appreciate that.

PS: Now then, what else. You have some queries you want to ask me? Want to fetch pieces of paper, want to do anything?

BM: Definitely, yes. Let me throw a few questions your way. Start, first of all, with [In the Court of the Crimson King cover artist] Barry Godber.

PS: Barry Godber.

BM: Yep, he was a friend of yours, right?

PS: He was. He was an artist and a sort of mad person about town. Sort of beatnicky mad, wild person. And then, strange thing, I envied Barry and all his friends their freedom, and I worked on computers at the time. And they were rushing around being trendy painters and things. And it was a strange irony that Barry did that picture just about the same time as the last picture he ever did, and it’s actually his face in the mirror.

BM: Is it really?

PS: Yeah. And about the same time, because I’d left computers about a year before that. About that time, Barry had given up being a wild man about town, and got into a sort of computer course. And then, I guess it was not more than six months after he’d done that album cover, I can’t remember exactly, he died. He was only 26 and he died of a heart attack. And he was one of the world’s really sweet people.

BM: I was gonna say—

PS: So that cover lives on, in a way, as a memory of him. I would rather didn’t, didn’t live on as a memory of him, but that’s actually what happened. You don’t expect your friends at 26 to drop down dead of a heart attack, but it seems occasionally, a very small percentage do.

BM: And that was all natural causes?

PS: Well, I mean, one day he was fine, we went home, he wasn’t feeling well, he was in bed, his mother took him a cup of tea, and when she went up there in the morning, he was dead. So, it was a tragedy, is what it was, actually.

BM: So was this, is this album cover, was this painting done especially for the album, or was it chosen—

PS: Yeah it was.

BM: Was it really?

PS: It was done especially for the album. He didn’t really hear very much of the music. He might have been down for a couple of rehearsals. It’s all a bit vague in my brain now. He certainly knew the sort of band we were, and he knew that I didn’t want the name of the band on the front, I didn’t want the album title on the front, because we were being sort of arrogant.

BM: [laughs]

PS: As we were in those days, you know. Double covers, the luxury of having double covers. Wow. And he must have heard some of the music, and he’d certainly seen bits and pieces, I must have talked to him at length. I wanted, I said I wanted it to be the sort of thing to just browsing through a rack, you’ve got to stop and find out what it is. Which is more or less what he did, actually. It was wonderful. And then we had the, it’s actually shrunk down inside, if you saw what I mean, the actual picture’s about twice that size, maybe bigger, let me look at my hands here, yeah, bigger. We thought it was better to shrink it down to get the detail in sharper. And then, Fripp has them on his wall, down in Dorset. He’s stolen them away, and he took them from the EG offices, since we don’t know why they should have them.

BM: [laughs]

PS: We had to pay for them. We don’t see why they should have anything, frankly. As you well know, perhaps. And at some point, I should like to auction them for charity or something, because I don’t really see why Robert should simply have them on his wall.

BM: [laughs]

PS: Because I remember when we got the pictures, and they, somebody, must have been me, I said, I took them out to Wessex studios where we were recording, and I put them down, and there was a sort of silence from the band. And well, I liked them, and I think Ian McDonald liked them. But it was definitely split between, there were two camps on them, just like there were two camps on the name. But it was the sort of band that would never agree about anything.

BM: [laughs] Yeah.

PS: But he had, of course, so little time left, they sort of had to accept it. Then it became quite a famous cover.

BM: Well, yeah. It’s definitely one of the more famous covers of all time. Yeah. But the original, Fripp’s got the original --

PS: Yeah, he does.

BM: -- painting in his house?

PS: Yes. Which is fine, I’m glad it’s in sort of safe hands.

BM: [laughs] Yeah.

PS: I think at some point in time, but then, I was talking to Robert about it, and we [laughs] disagreed about which charity that should get the money. I wanted it to go to Amnesty International, and he was more in favor of giving it to someone else. As usual, Robert and I have disagreed. [laughs]

BM: [laughs]

PS: But Robert sent me a book the other day, in the Post, so sweet, just out of the blue. His favorite book called, hold on, I’ll get it, I’ll tell you. [pause] I think it’s what you call a slim volume. And I thought, “What’s this?” And it’s by somebody called James G. Hepburn. It’s called “The Author’s Empty Purse, and the Rise of the Literary Agent.”

BM: [laughs]

PS: It’s from Robert, and there’s a little note inside it, hold on, let me get my glasses here, I can hardly see without them. “Dear Pete, I bought this several years ago for a modest one pound.”

BM: [laughs]

PS: That’s Robert exactly, isn’t it. “And I have just rediscovered it after emptying cases looking for documents. Guess for what?” Oh, obviously, old agreements. “It’s a lovely book. I’d like to keep it, but would you be kind enough to accept it?”

BM: [laughs]

PS: That’s so Frippish, the line saying, “I’d like to keep it, would you be kind enough to accept it?” I must write back saying, “Thank you very much, Robert.”

BM: [laughs]

PS: Funny chap.

BM: [laughs] Yeah. I’ve noticed that.

PS: But that sort of covers Barry. And the picture.

BM: That’s interesting. Tell me, take me on a track by track of that first album. What do those tracks mean? Where did they come from? Why did you write them? Start with “[21st Century] Schizoid [Man].”

PS: I’ll have a sip of my beer here.

BM: [laughs] That sounds good. I should have grabbed one myself.

PS: You want to go get one?

BM: Sure, if you don’t mind.

PS: No, go on.

[I do.]

BM: [pause] Ah, very good. Thank you.

PS: Good idea, isn’t it?

BM: Yes. [laughs]

PS: We’re having sort of a holiday weekend here, it’s all these bank holidays, a great carnival, all those sort of things going on.

BM: Really?

PS: I had a week of fun, just sort of by accident.

BM: [laughs]

PS: That’s one of the reasons I wasn’t getting back to you.

BM: Just having too much fun. [laughs]

PS: Well, yeah, I haven’t been away on holiday or really done very much. And my friend, Jerry Guyver, came back from France, having sat around there doing nothing for six weeks, and wanted to go out and play. Jerry wanted to go out and play, and then everybody, I mean, people rang up I hadn’t seen, and everyone wanted to play. And it was just a lot of very nice people and I’m a little weary now.

BM: [laughs]

PS: But it was nice getting that way. Right. Track by track.

BM: Try “Schizoid.”

PS: Yeah, “Schizoid Man.” Well, that, the lyrics were written after the music, after most of the music. Certainly, the lyrics had been written when most of the music was written. And it was written sort of in and out of rehearsals, really by the band jointly. I don’t think Greg wrote very much of it. Of course, he had a problem playing it. I remember we nearly sacked him at one point because he couldn’t practice hard enough. [laughs]

BM: [laughs]

PS: We were very stern.

BM: [laughs]

PS: I remember writing the lyrics. It was a looking at the news, angry song. Nothing changes very much, does it?

BM: Nope.

PS: Sadly. It was sort of really for Vietnam, I suppose, more than anything else at that time. But god, you could have written it now really, couldn’t you?

BM: Oh yes.

PS: The mess that the world’s in. I think it always has been.

BM: So it’s basically the excess of humanity.

PS: Yeah, absolutely. Man’s cruelty to man. And the music expresses that, and the violence and aggression of it, but also the slickness with which, even in those days, it was presented to you. The sort of disinformation of it, which of course, they brought to a fine art during the gulf war, and they’re still doing. But that was even way back in those days, sort of, what actually got back to you what not quite actually what was happening most of the time. If you meet a couple of Vietnam veterans or people, you find out what really went on. It’s really scary stuff. So, that was that one. I wish there was something else I could tell you about it, really.

BM: No.

PS: I don’t think it stands up as an extraordinary piece of music. I’ve never heard anything quite like it before or since.

BM: You know what I thought was interesting, is listening to Greg Lake and Gary Moore’s version of “Schizoid Man” and “In the Court of the Crimson King.” Back when Greg Lake had his solo career in the early ‘80s, he actually had a live album with Gary Moore playing the guitar parts.

PS: You’re kidding me. Did he?

BM: Oh, it was incredible.

PS: I’ve never heard it.

BM: Yeah. It’s, I think, there’s two albums on them. His first solo album.

PS: Right.

BM: With Gary Moore on it, and then there’s a live, it might even be a bootleg, I just picked it up about a month ago. He’s actually playing two Crimson songs on it, I think it’s “Schizoid Man” and “Crimson King.”

PS: Well I’ll be.

BM: Sounds incredible.

PS: Well, perhaps you’d be kind enough at some point to make a tape of it.

BM: Sure. I definitely will. Let me make a note of that now.

PS: I’ve never even seen or even heard of it.

BM: Yeah.

PS: That would be interesting. So—

BM: Ok, next song.

PS: “Wind.”

BM: Yeah, that’s one [“I Talk to the Wind”] you and Ian came up with.

PS: Yeah, very much so. It’s a guitar song. Ian was sitting around, he and I shared a flat together at that time. And he was singing a melody, and we were very much sort of, [laughs] well, you’ve seen the pictures of sort of velvet trousers, and sort of plaid ‘70s people. And what else can I tell you about it, really?

BM: What prompted the lyrics? “Said the straight man to the late man, where’ve you been.”

PS: Another lyric, I’ll tell you straight, you see, I have a lot of little prodigies running around the place, you know, would-be songwriters and girls and boys. Kids, people I love who are sort of 21, 22, and they hear it, and I’m so happy to hear it as well, it amazes me that lyrics are still so, they’ve come full circle, in a way. Somehow the lyrics at that point in time were sort of valued because it’s the thirst of searching for freedom

BM: Yeah.

PS: That was sort of in the very late ‘60s. It was that sort of time. And now, all the kids now are looking for an alternative, I’m not quite sure what it is, to the nine till five, and the grind, as it were. And it’s just about beginnings of my understanding of some spirituality, something else apart from just doing the job, you know. The search for—

BM: Well, something more of substance beyond the everyday, yeah.

PS: Yeah. And I look at it now, and I listen to it now, and it really does well. I think it stands up, the lyric. If you’re of that, an artistic nature, sort of trapped in a situation where, when I was in computers I remember my, you know, they were telling me to get my hair cut, and I had to wear a suit, because I was actually in charge of two computers, so I had quite a senior position. And I was always ducking and diving around. And that’s why I sort of made artsy friends, as much as I could, as a young guy. So that was about that, really. And then the end of it is an instrumental dalliance. All of that was played live, so that’s why it’s so prettily played. There was a classic edit on it.

BM: Yeah.

PS: But they also, because they were played live before they were recorded, they were changed as a result of being played live. Improved, one hopes.

BM: There’s a couple, let me ask you something I forgot about asking you. Why the subtitles to the titles of the songs? Like “21st Century Schizoid Man: Including Mirrors” or “Epitaph: Including March for No Reason, Tomorrow and Tomorrow.”

PS: Yes. One, because there are two reasons for that. It’s because somebody told me, I was led to believe that you got paid per title on an album.

BM: [laughs]

PS: [laughs] Therefore, since we were only going to have five titles, I thought [laughs] we’d better invent some more.

BM: [laughs]

PS: So I subdivided them, which then became a lot of fun, trying to get names of the various parts of the tunes. And we did it on there. I think we also did it on [In the Wake of] Poseidon as I remember. When I didn’t have to do it, I realized we actually did get paid for the whole album. But somebody told me, maybe they were kidding, because I was such a naïve soul in those days, that you’ll only going to get paid for five tracks. [laughs]

BM: [laughs]

PS: You haven’t even got a whole album there, so we split them up.

BM: [laughs]

PS: That was the reason.

BM: Well, tell me about “Epitaph.” When I talked to you last, you said Epitaph is still just as fresh today and it could still be your song, except for one line. You said you don’t like, “Confusion will be my epitaph.”

PS: That’s true. I don’t have the same feeling of not understanding why people are the way they are. I have a much wider historical perspective. I’ve studied and read millions and millions of words since then, and watched hundreds of documentaries and studied man’s nature unto man and my own sort of road. And I really don’t feel confused. Confusion wouldn’t be my epitaph now. I feel almost quite reversed. I have an extraordinary clarity. I mean, either I’m mad, or the rest of the world is, in a way.

BM: [laughs]

PS: [laughs] There’s always that danger with it. And I see and understand things extraordinarily clearly, and I can predict events, it’s almost a shamanistic ability. Not that well, but you know. But I have an ability, I’ve noticed people coming, stopping back in London, people coming to my flat here, and sort of, they come here because it’s calm, and they get an ear that listens and an understanding. And people get spellbound here, a little bit. But that’s the only word I can come up with, they come round here and get sort of spellbound. Which is a bit of a responsibility for me, because I’m, it’s only me, you know.

BM: [laughs]

PS: [laughs] It’s only me, as it were.

BM: [laughs]

PS: So, and the rest, but I could see all this stuff going around and on and happening. And I obviously had some of the Celtic in me, the Irish that comes out or something, some sort of perception or second sight. And things and understanding of things, matters, I sort of seem to be more developed than most people’s perhaps. But at the time, although perhaps they were innately there or inherently in my genetic makeup, boy this is sounding pompous, isn’t it?

BM: [laughs]

PS: I didn’t really know, I just sort of had a feeling for words and vibrations and colors and stuff. But now I’ve studied and studied and studied and looked and looked and looked, and I know a little bit more. So I don’t really feel that confused. I feel just sad about many things.

BM: Yeah.

PS: But I feel more able to help people by not being confused, by being more direct and positive and channeling energy yet. And the problem with that sort of stuff is you channel it all out, you don’t get so much back.

BM: [laughs]

PS: That’s the price you pay.

BM: [laughs] That’s true. So that’s—

PS: That’s the reason why, for that really. Because that song was written as sort of a poem first. And I just wrote it with two verses, and then I think I wrote the chorus after they’d started the music. Actually, I think Ian started the music, and perhaps the others finished it off. Could be that Greg wrote the tune on that.

BM: Yeah, I remember, I was gonna ask you, I remember reading somewhere where Greg said that melody was his, and used it actually in ELP later on, in one of his songs.

PS: Yeah. It’s very typical Gregish melody, so it’s quite possible that the melody was his. But I think the big piece of it was probably Ian’s, and then the counterpoints and the wonderful drumming, obviously attributed to Mike and Robert. But that was a very unusual thing for me, because it was one of the rare songs in my career, I don’t know how many songs I’ve written, 300 or something, but of those, I don’t suppose more than 20 or 25 started out as nearly complete lyrics before the music was written.

BM: And this was one of the ones that did.

PS: And that was one of the ones that did, yeah. There was actually five songs on Gary Booker’s first solo album that were lyrics before, one of them Bernie does for Elton John.

BM: Yeah.

PS: Those were lyrics before the music was written.

BM: Tell me about “Moonchild” now, and what’s the subtitle, including “The Dream and the Illusion?”

PS: It was sort of an allusion, not allusion, illusion. One, it was a bit of my Sonny Donovan influence, and that Celtic thing, and that faerie, spelt f-a-e-r-i-e.

BM: Oh yeah. The old Tolkien type.

PS: Absolutely.

BM: Yeah.

PS: And I probably read Lord of the Rings round about that time, and also read The Faerie Queen by Spencer and everything.

BM: Oh yeah.

PS: And I’ve always been interested in that sort of English mystical stuff, which gets overlooked a lot. Druids and woods and standing stones, and things like that. And also, both Ian and I, our ladies at that time were both very sort of faerie, maideny type girls. They were, my late wife, Stephanie, she used to have Victorian night dresses, you know, white things, and of course we were taking a bit of acid in those days, therefore everything got very pretty.

BM: [laughs]

PS: All these Celtic things and so it was about a dream sort of faerie lover, really. I think we found, we both though, Ian and I at one point, we’d found perhaps. Because Ian’s appears on his album cover with Mike.

BM: Yeah, I, yeah.

PS: It was about that, really.

BM: It’s interesting that the, how much influence would you say such books as Lord of the Rings or The Faerie Queen, or those types of literature—

PS: Goths and gothic things.

BM: Yeah.

PS: I’d say they were influential. I mean, it’s hard to say how much. Also, Kahlil Gibran. The simplicity of Kahlil Gibran’s stuff, he was sort of the first of those sort of people I ever discovered. Who wrote beautiful, spiritual things in such a simple way, that it sort of made sense to me. Yes, influences, they would be definitely influences. And what else, I can’t think what else. And poetry by people like [Algernon Charles] Swinburne and all those, oh what’s his name, my brain’s going.

BM: [laughs]

PS: Another English poet of the ilk, around about those sort of post-impressionist people. [Dante Gabriel] Rossetti, Rossetti. Him. That sort of poetry I liked very much at that time.

BM: How about the title track, with all its subtitles, “Return of the Fire Witch and the Dance of the Puppets.” That’s another Ian song, with you.

PS: Yes. I actually wrote that. I actually wrote that initially when Ian came along to the favorite audition I was having for my own band at the time. And I actually had that song sort of fairly written. Sort of Dylanesque, Donovan song, it was. Sort of just strummed and played on the guitar, and sung in my sort of Dylanesqy sort of way, perhaps, at that time. And Ian took it and just made it what it is, away from its sort of simply, folky roots into a much more epic, epic work. But it started off as really a sort of a country folk song, really, which I wouldn’t have done any music to, but the music wasn’t really consequential, or of any note.

BM: It sounds like it turned out quite a bit more ominous than the country folk song.

PS: Yeah.

BM: Yeah. [laughs]

PS: I mean, it was in the tradition of Masters of War and Blowing in the Wind and things like that, where I initially did it. And it became more powerful and evil. Because it was once again a reflection of the evil in the world, I s’pose.

BM: So what is, where did you get the idea, the Court of the Crimson King? What is that? Who is that?

PS: That’s the devil.

BM: Yeah, that’s what I was gonna say. [laughs]

PS: Yeah.

BM: Why—

PS: It’s very simple.

BM: Yeah.

PS: It’s just the power of evil, really, in the world. Powers of darkness, powers of negativity, powers of old men not wanting things to change, stuff like that.

BM: Wow.

PS: Wars based on people’s fear and insecurity, stuff like that, you know. [laughs] Usual stuff.

BM: [laughs] Stuff. Well, what do you say to the critic, then? I’ve seen, yeah, a lot of it’s quoted in the Frame by Frame box where the critics would look at your lyrics and say, “Way too obscure, way too lofty.” What do you--

PS: Yeah, pretentious was the word often used.

BM: [laughs] Pretentious, yeah. Perhaps that. Did you intentionally try to write this way, or was this just your natural personality coming through?

PS: It is. [laughs] It is my natural personality.

BM: [laughs]

PS: See, I mean, I was much younger then. The sort of stuff, I mean, I find “Heart of Stone,” for instance, to be in essence almost the same as “In the Court of the Crimson King” really.

BM: Really? Yeah.

PS: And that’s 20 years on. And I can see the similarities in style and the way I like playing with characters and then dressing them up into, like you would for a ballet or you would for a masked ball or you would for, make them more theatrical than they are, trying to make them larger than life so that, rather like sort of Ken Russell does in his movies.

BM: [laughs] Oh yeah.

PS: Sometime well, sometimes some of them too large, perhaps.

BM: [laughs]

PS: It’s a sort of game to try and get people involved in it, and yet keep some mystery there, because it is a mysterious, dark movement. You can’t exactly pin it down exactly to one person or collections of people. You can see evil moments in time and you can see, people who appear to be evil, you’re never quite sure what result they’re actually going to be in the long terms. Sometimes they can work out for the betterment of humanity. It’s hard to say. But it is, it’s a thing, I’ve loved doing it. I’ve been writing some new songs with Neil Hammond for his first solo album, eventually, perhaps one day if he every finishes producing Julio.

BM: [laughs]

PS: And he’d say, “No, I want you to write like you used to write, with all these pictures and—

BM: Images, yeah.

PS: And images, and sort of more organic stuff. There’s much more of it on my solo album was a lot of it as well. I don’t find them very obscure after 20 years of people being arty and obscure, and you know, sort of modern ballet, modern pictures.

BM: Yeah.

PS: They seem much less obscure to me now. [laughs] There are very few lines that I didn’t know what I was actually saying. There are scattered amongst the songs and through the songs the occasional line that just sort of came bubbling up from the sort of stew of the subculture.

BM: [laughs]

PS: So I wasn’t absolutely sure what it meant. But its sound, see, that’s the thing I realized. I sort of knew about it at the time, but I realized it much clearer now, that the actual sounds of words, in a sort of, in chants and sort of mystical things, people sitting around fires and chanting, the actual sounds are as important as the actual words themselves. And—

BM: Yeah, that’s actually one of the things that people have said about Jon Anderson’s lyrics, they’re mostly for their sound rather than for their actual content of substantive.

PS: The trick is to try and do both, of course.

BM: Yeah.

PS: I learnt an awful lot about that from a book. I think it was Edith Sitwell. It was called The Poet’s Notebook or The Poet’s Diary [it was The Poet’s Notebook], where she takes apart lots of poems and interesting pieces of writing and demonstrates how the buildup of the syllables and the consonants and the vowels gives this atmosphere, this mist, if you like, this cloud of tension and stuff, which makes it, it’s like putting a varnish on a painting or frame. It makes them bigger and, and what else? It’s ephemeral, really. It takes away the everyday use, as well. I mean, if you, depending on how you line them up, you know. If you put things in strange situations.

BM: I was talking with [former Uriah Heep keyboardist/songwriter] Ken Hensley recently, and I asked him what he thought of King Crimson and all that kind of stuff. And he said, well he liked it because it was both eccentric and extravagant.

PS: [laughs]

BM: He said he got the eccentric from Fripp and the extravagant from Greg.

PS: Yes.

BM: Would you characterize it as such? Those two people are eccentric and extravagant?

PS: That’s a, that’s very good.

BM: [laughs]

PS: It is. It was eccentric. It was particularly European, and almost particularly English in some of its ways. It wasn’t sort of like, I don’t know, 19th century French music, it’s got an English sort of [Edward] Elgar quality to it. Dylanesque quality to it, if you want to be really sort of pretentious about it. And the extravagance, it was because of Greg’s voice, it’s that big choir-boy voice, gives it that depth, I suppose.

BM: [laughs]

PS: Some of which we lost, but then, it was always quirky and even when we had people like [bassist/vocalist] Gordon Haskell singing or all different people, it was always that mixture of English and—see it’s very extravagant, but also we, I think in some places we got very minimalist.

BM: Oh yeah.

PS: Just a guitar or just a flute or just a ting ting ta ting. Actually, it’s trying to do a big, I don’t know, it’s a mirror of what’s going on outside, which is done in large brush strokes and in small brush stroke, isn’t it?

BM: Well, let me ask you about that first tour of the States in ’69. When I was over at Ian’s place in New York, he has this picture of five of you guys, and you’ve all got the same kind of grim look on your face.

PS: [laughs]

BM: [laughs] You know?

PS: Yeah, I bet.

BM: And he says, “That picture best captures how we all felt before we got on the plane to go to the US.” What was that like to you? I mean, what, was it all a grim experience? Were you just determined to--

PS: I thought it was absolutely wonderful.

BM: Really? [laughs]

PS: I think Ian’s speaking a lot for himself. We were all a bit tired, we’d worked very hard through that year. We’d been playing, we made the album, we were playing, we’d done the Stones thing, and then we find ourselves in America. It was all very quick when it started to happen. And so we were quite exhausted. And we’d got the music up to, I don’t think we could play much more aggressively and faster and more skillfully. I was looking forward to it immensely and had a wonderful time. I wasn’t as aware, of course, I was having such a fine time, that I wasn’t aware, as aware as I should have been of perhaps the sort of, of Ian’s and Mike’s unhappiness with Robert, who was in those days particularly difficult. He’s a much nicer person [laughs], well, he’s the same person, but he’s changed a lot in 20 years too. I guess we all learned something.

BM: [laughs] Yeah.

PS: And Ian didn’t want to leave his girlfriend. Little things like that probably influenced him, I would think.

BM: Yeah.

PS: I had a wild time. I had a heck of a time.

BM: That would be—

PS: I think Greg was out exploring, and I was listening to all the other bands. It was an amazing import of stuff, it was absolute magic.

BM: Yeah.

PS: And with the bands we supported, because I listened to a lot of that music, but I’d never seen the band live, and I thought, “I’m but a fly,” and at Janis Joplin and all these things. I was wide-eyed with wonder with the whole thing.

BM: It’s all quite heady, though, wasn’t it? I mean, it was all kind of an experience.

PS: It was heady, but see, I’m perhaps a slightly freer spirit than the rest of them, because I had this very bohemian upbringing. And so it was much, I don’t know. It seemed at times they were sort of, they were doing it and they all wanted to be back in England. Well, not all of them, but there was I think, Mike didn’t like traveling, he doesn’t like airplanes, so he was unhappy with it. And he was very upset with Robert for various reasons.

BM: [laughs]

PS: Greg, I think Greg was fairly, I seem to remember Greg was fairly starry and enjoying it. And Robert, it was always a bit hard to tell with Robert, really. [laughs]

BM: [laughs] Really.

PS: But I don’t think that’s quite true. I mean, I might be looking grim at the picture, I’m not sure how honest a picture that is.

BM: [laughs] I was talking with—

PS: Then they did split. And they were so happy, when they announced, I think it was in San Francisco they announced it.

BM: Yeah. Yeah.

PS: That they were leaving the band. And I was flabbergasted, really. And then I came to terms with it, and then we were back here, and there was Greg and I and Robert. And then Greg had been talking to Emerson anyway. That left Robert and I, which in some ways, from being the man who sort of wrote the lyrics and did the lights and the sound, to suddenly owning half a band in the space of sort of 18 months was an extraordinary experience.

BM: I was going to ask you about that. Albums subsequent to Crimson King here, they’re all quite different, and they seem to get, like by Islands, they were very orchestral and quite a bit different. They weren’t rock and roll sounding anymore kind of.

PS: No. We were never really rock and roll.

BM: Yeah.

PS: Per se, I mean, there was always diverse elements and the rhythms were taken from all over the world, and a lot of jazz influences. Robert and I, we just, well, when we made the second album, we wrote it a bit quickly, and it was done a bit too quickly, and we, there’s some accusation we sort of repeated the first one. And it’s a little bit valid. We didn’t think we were at the time, of course. But I look at it now, it looks, it really does look a bit like a pale imitation of the first one. But “A Picture of a City” and things I think are still valid. They don’t quite, it’s not “Schizoid Man,” you know, it is what it is.

BM: Yeah.

PS: And then, I got second album-itis. I think most bands do. You’re successful with, our formula was to be as weird as we could be, or different on each track, or startling, or sort of trick people into turning up the volume of their stereos and then blasting them.

BM: [laughs]

PS: [laughs] With bass or something. We enjoyed doing that. Especially Robert and I. We had mischievous senses of humor, both of us.

BM: [laughs]

PS: [laughs] We do agree, and that, as I think, continues over the next albums. And then, after Lizard, it was so difficult, it took us so long, we were so finicky, that is a strange record.

BM: It is. It’s very hard to get into.

PS: It’s sort of cold and it’s very intellectual, and it’s about as obscure, lyrically, as I’ve ever got, I think, on there.

BM: Well, where did those lyrics come from? Why did you write?

PS: A lot of them came out of Roget’s Thesaurus, I think.

BM: [laughs] Really?

PS: No, but they came from odd places. Because I’m always reading things, taking a phrase, stealing a phrase from here and a thing from there or something. You know, I’m, I’ve just been reading [American author] Tom Robbins, Skinny Legs and All [1990], somebody just gave me. I love Tom Robbins, absolutely wonderful writer. And he’s got this thing in there about riding the dolphin, which is the nicest way I’ve thought of anyone putting sexual context in a book, [laughs] for a few years.

BM: [laughs]

PS: I’m walking around telling everybody about riding the dolphin, and all these sea phrases in throes of passion, which actually I’ve picked it up from Tom Robbins, you know.

BM: Really. [laughs]

PS: And yes, we would try to be cleverer and cleverer there, Robert would do that sort of feeble thing he does with the oboe, and that sort of classical bits doesn’t work, and we were trying too hard then. And we didn’t have enough people around us to inspire us. We were getting, I think it’s actually the most intellectually cold album. And then we put together those other guys for the fourth one, I can only talk about the ones I was involved with, to do Islands. And I’d been down to Spain, which I love very much since I have been, since I found the love of my life there. And I was much influenced by the Mediterranean water and sunshine and the color of the earth and the twisted olive trees. And the guys we had then were more straightforward. [Ian] Wallace is a great drummer, but he’s not as quirky as Giles.

BM: [laughs] That’s true.

PS: Boz [Burrell] had to be taught to play bass. True story, he played it sort of parrot fashion. Now of course, he’s a jazz arranger, from having sort of really learnt the instrument. And Mel [Collins] was sort of, could play anything you wanted him to, but didn’t have the sort of lonesome, melancholy, inherent thing that Ian [McDonald] has, which is very much a part of Ian’s character.

BM: Oh yeah.

This ends the first part of my interview with Pete Sinfield. Part two will be uploaded in just a few days -- well, as soon as my fleet-fingered wife can provide it. She's a trooper.
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