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Bill's JOHN WETTON Interivew -- Part Two (Conclusion)

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 JOHN WETTON Interivew -- Part Two (Conclusion)

Postby LTinAspic on Sat Dec 26, 2009 8:54 pm

Merry Christmas!


Because this, my first interview with John Wetton [I had two of them], was such a long one, I broke it into two parts to post here. This is Part Two of two.

NOTE: This interview was conducted on May 28, 1993


BM: Are you going to say, that’s not Kalodner, is it?

JW: Yeah, absolutely.

BM: Really? Yep.

JW: I mean, he’s one of the few guys left whose only concern is music. I mean, he’s intent on selling record.

BM: Oh yeah.

JW: But his musical hat is still on very firmly. But that’s the reason I think Crimson would not survive today. I could be wrong. Crimson is the ultimately groovy band to have been in at the moment. If, particularly with like 17-year-old kids, for some reason. I think it’s wonderful. Led Zeppelin and King Crimson are very cool bands to have been in. Whether they would survive or not today, I don’t know. I mean, it’s a different thing being a cult that existed 20 years ago, and trying to commercially put a band on the map today. It would be difficult. I’m not saying it couldn’t happen, but I don’t think so.

BM: Have audiences changed?

JW: Yeah, totally. I think so. It used to be in the ‘70s, let’s go back to the ‘70s again for a second. Most of the audience was stoned.

BM: [laughs]

JW: Along with the band.

BM: [laughs]

JW: And nowadays, it’s a sea of BMWs outside a show. If you’re in the business of buying CDs, if you’re a CD buyer, and you’re in that 25- to 45-year-old age group, you’ve probably got a BMW in your drive. It’s a different thing now, a totally different thing. I don’t see anybody smoking dope at concerts, which I think probably is a very good thing. But in the ‘70s, it was de rigueur. Walk on stage at Amsterdam concert, about midnight, and you just got blasted on the fumes from the audience.

BM: [laughs]

JW: [laughs] That doesn’t happen nowadays. Well, maybe it does in Amsterdam, but it doesn’t happen here.

BM: Is this fairly lamentable? I mean, would you say the industry changing and the audience changing, is this for the worse? Is it going anywhere good? Or are you saying the good days are gone?

JW: No, I certainly don’t think it’s going anywhere good. Absolutely not.

BM: Yeah.

JW: No. It’s become the same as the movie industry, as far as I’m concerned. It’s all to do with sequels now. It’s the same as the movie industry. If you’ve got the musical equivalent of Lethal Weapon 3, you’re in business.

BM: [laughs]

JW: There’s no surprises on it, it’s just all the same as the previous thing that was a hit, then they can understand it.

BM: Def Leppard.

JW: Right.

BM: [laughs]

JW: Things like that.

BM: Yeah.

JW: Very successful. Michael Bolton. It’s more of the same. There’s no surprises there at all.

BM: Yep. I hate that.

JW: And there you have it, it’s a business of sequels. If it sounds like something that was a hit three years ago, then you’ve got a chance, but if it doesn’t, “What are we going to do with that?”

BM: [laughs]

JW: Which is lamentable.

BM: Oh yeah.

JW: But it also means that there’s very, precious little talent coming through.

BM: Oh yeah, yeah.

JW: Because a new band will get a deal for a single and no more. If that single doesn’t work, then they go and find another band, you know. It’s not a great situation to be in.

BM: What happens, then, to guys like you, or Bruford, especially. Bruford seems a little bitter about the music industry. So what happens then, to all these talented guys that were big in the ‘70s, and maybe in the ‘80s. Is it difficult for you to find record deals now?

JW: I looked for going on two years. And my record deal came about purely by chance. If I’d have walked into Virgin in London, I doubt very much if I’d have come out with a record deal. I happened to be staying at the house of a Virgin executive through a completely unrelated event that took place. And after a few days of being in this executive’s house, he asked me if I could play him some of the music that I was working on. I played it to him, and he went into the office the next day, and called me, and he said that, “I’d like you to come in, and I’ve got an idea for you.” And that was it. He said, “Would you like to make a record for us?” I said, “I’d love to, yeah.”

BM: That’s great.

JW: We started doing it two years ago. And I’ve been on it every since, you know, writing and finally getting in the studio.

BM: What does it sound like?

JW: That was after 18 months of asking. I came out of one record company and they said, “Oh, we think you’ve got two hits there, and we’re passing.”

BM: Oh geeze! [laughs] They wanted more?

JW: Two out of two, you know. I played them two songs, and they said, “You’ve got two hits there. We’re passing.”

BM: Oh man.

JW: I said, “Could you give me a reason?” And they said, “We’ve decided we’ve signed enough retro acts this year, and we can’t sign another one.” And I looked at myself in the mirror, and all I saw was “retro.”

BM: [laughs] Funny, I don’t feel retro.

JW: And it wasn’t the music, because he loved that music. He was talking about the fact that I was from another era.

BM: That’s ridiculous.

JW: Yeah. But that’s what happened, I’m telling you. And that’s exactly what it was, yeah.

BM: Man.

JW: “You’ve got two hits, and we’re passing.” And I thought, “I never thought I’d hear an A&R man say that.” But there you are.

BM: Well, Ian’s finding it very difficult to get A&R people interested. Very, very difficult. I feel kind of sorry for the whole situation. I just, I wish there were more A&R people with guts and record labels out there that would want some so-called retro acts out there, because that’s where most of the talent, if not all the talent, is these days.

JW: In fairness to them, they usually have one or two on each label, of guys that have been through the mill.

BM: [laughs]

JW: And have done some great stuff in the past. But it usually, if they don’t get it right on the first time, [laughs] they go, you know. And obviously, there’s not enough record companies, because I mean, basically, there’s only six record companies left now.

BM: Yeah, Japan’s buying them all up and consolidating and everything. [laughs]

JW: Exactly.

BM: Yeah.

JW: They’re all multinational. There are six left. If you go to a record company, it will be part of one of those six. The same goes for a publishing company too. You’ll find that somewhere down the line, it’s owned by one of those BMG, Sony, or RCA, one of them.

BM: Oh yeah.

JW: Or have a big share in that company somewhere. So the odds aren’t in great favor of someone like me or Ian getting a deal. If each record company has two or three that they hang onto from the ‘70s, then that means there’s only going to be about 20.

BM: Well, one thing I’ve noticed, and Mick Box [Uriah Heep guitarist] told me too, is this: Back in the early ‘70s, record companies signed you on, it was more like a family. It was more like they kept you for four or five, six albums, and they grew with you.

JW: Oh yes.

BM: Nowadays, if you don’t hit it on the first one, they drop you and move on to somebody else.

JW: You don’t even get an album shot. You get a single, that’s it. But yeah, that’s absolutely true. In the ‘70s, it wasn’t that everyone was desperate to get a record deal, it seemed that you went to the company that was most suited to you. And therefore, you felt at home there.

BM: Yeah.

JW: Which happens to be the situation with me at the moment. I’m very, very fortunate in that. But Virgin is quite a small company, compared to some of the multinationals. Admittedly, it’s part of EMI, but it still has its own autonomy. And I know quite a lot of the people at that company. It feels to me more like it did in the ‘70s, you know.

BM: Oh, that’s great.

JW: Yeah. I mean, it was very much like that at Geffen too. Geffen was a small company within a big one, and I guess I’ve been lucky like that. But I know that it’s very disheartening to take tapes round to people who really aren’t interested. You see them tapping their feet out of time and drumming their fingers on the desk, they can’t wait to get you out of the office.

BM: [laughs]

JW: It’s very embarrassing.

BM: Yeah.

JW: They say, “Oh yeah, it’s great, but not really what we’re looking for.”

BM: That’s gotta be frustrating, because some of them, a lot of them, are coming up and they’re a lot younger, and don’t you feel like you’re looking at them thinking, “What do you know about music anyway?” [laughs]

JW: Oh yeah. Yeah, yeah. But they’ve got the finger on the button. [laughs]

BM: [laughs] Yeah.

JW: So that kind of puts the power more in their court.

BM: So after you left Crimson then, after it ceased to exist.

JW: I didn’t leave.

BM: Yeah. [laughs] After Robert caved it all in.

JW: Crimson ceased to exist.

BM: Yeah. Did you follow his career, and then, did you watch the new Crimson come up in the ‘80s?

JW: No, I didn’t.

BM: Really?

JW: In the, at that time, I mean, I was aware that it was happening. But I was in a different place. I’d, I mean, I was virtually living over here most of the time anyway. I had contact, because some of our road crew was still very much in contact with the Crimson people, you know. The guy that worked for me during the ‘80s, a guy called Tex, who was in the Crimson road crew when I was in it, he also was with UK when I was in it. He kind of went from band to band with me. When he wasn’t working with me, he was working with Crimson or with one of the other Crimson type-bands, Genesis or some other. I don’t, that’s being rude to call them a Crimson-type band, but they were of that type.

BM: [laughs] Yeah.

JW: He had kept me in touch with a lot of the stuff that was going on. But I didn’t have contact with Robert for a couple of years then. The next time I saw him I think was about ’85, ’86 at a mutual erstwhile manager’s party.

BM: [laughs]

JW: So I hadn’t seen Robert since about ’79, probably, through to about ’84. I’d lost contact completely there. I mean, the whole Asia period was frantic, you know, with that kind of success comes unbelievable pressure, and you’re not allowed to settle for 10 minutes, you know. And there was complete turmoil within the band. I left, I rejoined, you know, it was complete panic.

BM: It was a fun gig, though, right? I mean, Steve Howe says the Asia thing was a lot of fun. I mean, he enjoyed it. He says that now, anyway. [laughs]

JW: Yeah. Yes, it was a lot of fun. It was a lot of heartache too.

BM: Yeah?

JW: It was an awful lot of heartache. It was the very top and the very bottom of exhilaration and depression.

BM: [laughs]

JW: There was hardly any in between at all. It was all opposite ends of the spectrum, it was never ever in the middle. It never coasted along. It was, you know, the graph was going from top to bottom all the time.

BM: [laughs]

JW: It was not the happiest period of my life. It was something that was great. When it happened like it did, you know, on the first album, it was great, because it was everything I’ve always wanted to do. At last, sort of going, “There you go. Thank you very much.” And wrap that up.

BM: [laughs]

JW: And that went forever, being the Billboard, you know, bestselling albums of that year.

BM: Yeah.

JW: That’ll be there forever. And so I was really pleased to have done that, for once, you know. Just get that out of the way, and then back to business. And unfortunately, getting back to business wasn’t as easy as I had thought it would be, because regardless of however the band changed because of the stellar rise to fame, everything around the band had changed so dramatically. Everyone was after more, faster, bigger, better.

BM: Yeah.

JW: And we were saying, “Hey, hang on a minute. We’re just a bunch of guys who play songs, that’s all. We’re not anything more than that.” And yet, it was kind of, suddenly, a huge corporation was waiting on our record, so they could fill their coffers. And in a given year, a record company, huge record company, which they all are now, will plan on its year having these milestones of revenue, you know, which will come from a big act putting a record out.

BM: Well, that’s a bit of pressure on musicians then, isn’t it?

JW: Phhhh.

BM: [laughs]

JW: Gosh, yeah.

BM: Yeah.

JW: I mean, it’s all out of proportion, because it’s not the second coming of the Christ, it’s only a CD.

BM: [laughs]

JW: That’s all. It’s not penicillin, it’s just a CD. You know?

BM: [laughs]

JW: But it gets blown up by the wrong proportion. And when it only goes double platinum, it’s a big disappointment.

BM: Yep. [laughs]

JW: It’s a huge disappointment to some people. And so, someone’s head has to roll, and mine was the one that rolled. I got, fully got the blame for the album not being as commercial as the first one was. Even though, in some countries, it sold double what the first one sold. Just in America, it didn’t quite, I mean it didn’t, I don’t know what they wanted, really. But I got the blame for it, anyway. I was ejected from the band for a couple of months. Actually, looking back on it, and if one can possibly say I should or I shouldn’t, I don’t like using those words because they’re not great words to use, but I probably shouldn’t have rejoined that band at that time.

BM: Really?

JW: I probably should, I use the word “should” in inverted commas, I should have probably gone and done the record I’m making today, then. Because going back was probably the worst thing I could have done. But for me it was like someone had taken my baby away.

BM: Yeah.

JW: And I wanted it back. I wanted it back with a vengeance, you know. So anyway, that’s what happened, and that’s really the first part of the ‘80s for me, up until ’85, ’87, you know, Asia was my day-to-day business.

BM: And then—

JW: By around ’86, I could start to do other things, which was jolly good fun. I did an album with Phenomena, you know that group, you know that album, that produced a Japanese band?

BM: No.

JW: Did lots of things that I couldn’t do when I was still with Asia, you know. And then we did another couple of tours as Asia, and that pretty much takes us up to the present moment, because as soon as, two years ago we toured South America with Asia, and I was standing on stage in Rio de Janeiro, and looking at the audience and thinking, “Well, I think I’m going to be saying goodbye for a while.”

BM: Really?

JW: Yeah. Things hadn’t grown at all, you know? We were still playing the same songs and I mean, it was a matter of playing the parts of the world that hadn’t heard it the first time round, you know, so that people would still get excited about it. Personally, I wasn’t getting excited.

BM: [laughs] You were just kind of rehashing it.

JW: Yeah.

BM: Yeah.

JW: Just playing the notes for the sake of it, you know. And there was nothing genuinely exciting about it, really. We’d done a gig in the previous year, in ’90, in Moscow, which we recorded, and it’s on a live album.

BM: Yeah.

JW: And that was about the last time that it had any real excitement for me. After that, we did another tour of Germany, which was quite pleasant, although we started touring South America in ’91. Really, the soul had gone out of it for me. As I say, I remember that moment very clearly, standing on stage in Rio looking out at these sort of very earnest faces, and thinking, “I really don’t know why you’re into this, because I’m not.”

BM: [laughs]

JW: I flew straight back from Rio to LA, and went into Jordan Harris’ office at Virgin and said, “Ok, you got it. Let’s start.” [laughs]

BM: Yep. [laughs]

JW: And that was it, up until present day. And I said, you know, I’ve got about a month to go on this one, and then it’s finished. In fact, all I’ve got to do is sing it, that’s it.

BM: Oh, that’s excellent. That something definitely I look forward to.

JW: Great songs on it. Some great songs.

BM: What kind of music is it comparable to? Does it have any similarities to anything you’ve done before?

JW: Well, yes it does, because it’s the same voice and the same person.

BM: [laughs] Yep.

JW: So it’ll, you’ll see elements of Crimson, you’ll see elements of UK and you’ll see elements of Asia in there, because it’s got the same voice, and the same, well, bit of the writing. So it’s got like my form of quirk in there.

BM: [laughs] Yep.

JW: And it’s got some of the nice vocal harmonies that we had in Asia. But the main thing is that it’s, for my money, it’s got very good songs on it. Robert’s playing on it.

BM: Is he really?

JW: He plays on two songs. Yeah.

BM: Well, of all the bands you’ve been in, then, is it possible to say then, you like Crimson the best, or is it, was Crimson even dwarfed by the massive success of Asia in your opinion.

JW: No, I can only say that at the time, that is in 1973, ’74, at that time Crimson was the best band that I’d been in. In 1982, Asia was the best band to be in at that time. I mean, if Crimson had carried on, I’d still have been in King Crimson in 1982 instead of being in Asia. But it didn’t, so it’s hard to say. You know, we’re very lucky or fortunate or blessed, whichever you’d like to say, that there’s still a lot of music that I’ve been involved with that I can still listen to today. And think that, “Yeah, ok, that was good. I enjoyed that.”

BM: How about Uriah Heep? Does that fall into that category?

JW: You know, Uriah Heep was some of the nicest guys you could possibly wish to meet, and one of them came from Bournemouth. [laughs]

BM: [laughs]

JW: It all stems from Bournemouth. [laughs]

BM: Yep. [laughs]

JW: The whole damn thing, the whole reason I’m speaking to you now is because I come from Bournemouth.

BM: [laughs]

JW: To me, there was very little difference between playing in Roxy Music and playing in Uriah Heep. It was a gig. Until I could get something more substantial off the ground, I had to do these gigs. Other people do it and nobody bats an eyelid. But for some reason, when I did it, people sort of screamed, “Sellout, sellout.” You know.

BM: [laughs]

JW: In fact, it was just playing a different branch of rock and roll with another guy from Bournemouth.

BM: Yeah.

JW: And they’re extremely good guys, Uriah Heep, extremely good guys. Have some of the greatest fun I’ve ever had on the road with those fellows. The music was metal, yeah, ok. And it was something that, after two records and two tours, that I decided I didn’t want to do anymore. But I had to do that in order to, in order that UK would happen, I had to do that. I had to play in Roxy Music and Uriah Heep before enough people had said to me, “Wow, I really wish you’d do something like Crimson again.” And that was what spurred me on. I remember calling, no actually I wrote to Bill Bruford from Australia, and I said, “I’ve just been ‘round the world twice, and every question is the same from every journalist that I speak to. “Why did Crimson pack up? We all thought it was wonderful. And why aren’t you and Bill Bruford playing together?” And that was all I got for about three years after Crimson packed up. I was doing multiple tours at that time. And so I wrote to Bill from Australia. I said, “Maybe we should seriously consider putting something together. Speak to you when I get back.” I called, he was on tour with Genesis at that time. And we got together and went out for dinner, and I said, “Yeah, I really, seriously want to do this. I think that Eddie Jobson would be a good guy to have in the band.” He’s a tremendous player. I got on with him very well in the Roxy days. When you’re on tour, you end up gravitating towards one or two guys, and Eddie was very much one that we could talk about music for hours, you know, hours and hours and hours. Classical music, jazz, anything you wanted to talk about. We had a very strong rapport. And Bill said, “Well, there’s this guy called Allan Holdsworth who I’ve played with.”

BM: Oh yeah.

JW: “Check it out, he’s really good. Why don’t we try him out?” Bill and I went and we did all the spadework. We went and courted Eddie Jobson at a Frank Zappa gig.

BM: [laughs]

JW: We got a rehearsal together. And then he brought Allan Holdsworth down to rehearsal. And when he started playing, I mean, it blew my head off. I just couldn’t believe this guy wasn’t as popular as John McLauglin.

BM: Oh yeah.

JW: He’s just an amazingly talented man. And the rehearsals were tremendous, tremendous. And it was very, very difficult to capture that on record. Very difficult. It ended up being a collection of songs that Allan Holdsworth played on, and that some of the best moments were live, you know?

BM: Oh yeah.

JW: As opposed to being, some of the other bands, the best moments are by far on record, and they never manage to create that live. But in some of the bands I’ve been in, it’s been the reverse, where the band has been excellent live, and then it’s just been an impossible task to recreate the magic of the live performance on record.

BM: What was Bruford like to work with aside from or apart from the Crimson setting? Was he any more relaxed and happy?

JW: In UK?

BM: Yeah. Or was he--

JW: No. [laughs]

BM: [laughs] Really?

JW: He was never the same after that.

BM: [laughs] He seemed, when I was talking to him, he didn’t seem to have a whole lot of appreciation for Robert, I guess. He seemed to, in fact he said, “I don’t know what Robert’s been trying to negate in me all these years, but I think he’s succeeded, and I hope he’s happy.” You know, so I got the impression that he’s been clashing a lot with Robert. I just wondered if he was a different guy outside of the Crimson setting. You know, if he was more relaxed.

JW: What year was this one, that he said that to you?

BM: Just last November.

JW: So he was bitter?

BM: I don’t know him personally. So I don’t know if he always sounds like that. But, to me, he sounded bitter. I started off asking him, “Well how come you’re not in the new Crimson lineup.” And he says, “Well, I wasn’t asked. You know, I still consider myself to be a member of Crimson, but Robert hasn’t asked me.” Then he kept going on about the music industry and he got more bitter as it went on. And he said, “Well, I don’t know what Robert has been trying to negate in me all these years, but I think he’s succeeded, and I hope he’s happy about it.” So I don’t know where he was coming from with any of that.

JW: He sounds very bitter. I feel quite concerned about him.

BM: Well, he’s very, he sounded a lot like you and I when we’re talking right now. He’s saying the industry doesn’t want him or need him. You know, he said there’s no place for a Bill Bruford. And I said, “Well, what do you mean? You’re a world-class drummer, you’re very good.” And he said, “Don’t you understand?” No, he said, “You don’t understand?” I said, “Yeah, I understand what you’re saying, but there’s gotta be someplace for somebody with your talent.” And he said, “Well, there isn’t.” It’s just, he feels like there’s nobody who’s paying attention to his jazz-rock things right now, and he’s kind of squeezed out.

JW: Has he been asked to join this current—

BM: No, he wasn’t.

JW: Who’s the drummer, then?

BM: I think it’s a guy named Jerry Marotta.

JW: Oh, Jerry Marotta, yeah, that would figure. So it’s three Americans and one Brit.

BM: Yeah, it was Trey Gunn and Tony Levin and Adrian Belew and Jerry Marotta.

JW: So there’s four.

BM: Yeah. I don’t know what Trey Gunn’s going to do, they’ve already got Tony Levin to do the stick, and they’ve got Belew and Fripp to do guitars. I don’t know what he’s going to be doing. But apparently that’s the line up, a five-member crew there.

JW: Well, I shall be interested to see that. But yeah.

BM: You might want to call Bill up and see if he’s still a happy guy, or he’s happy now, anyway.

JW: Yeah, I will actually. I will call him. But I didn’t realize that he was feeling so grounded by it. But I will call him. You know, when I’m in England, when, before this last two years, we would go out for dinner at least twice a year in Guildford, which is our nearest local town. I live in Surrey, he lives in Surrey, but we live at opposite ends of Surrey. We would meet in Gilford for dinner, and usually have a pretty good time. I’m sorry to hear he’s out of sorts. But he’s a pretty resilient character.

BM: Yeah.

JW: He bounces back. I suppose that whole thing with Yes must have ground him down a bit.

BM: Yeah, that’s kind of what he went on and on about too. He just did the latest Yes tour for the money so he could fund his jazz, buy electronic drum equipment and fund his jazz Earthworks thing. And he just said well, you know, he did the tour, and he didn’t really talk to anybody, just did his thing, played and got off and got off the stage and went by himself, and just did it for the cash, is what he told me.

JW: Sounds pretty gloomy, doesn’t it?

BM: Well yeah, I think it was just the industry things. He’s probably been butting heads with the EG people or the industry in general, and he’s, the kind of music he likes to play doesn’t seem to be something that’s snatched up these days.

JW: Yeah.

BM: So, but I don’t know, he seemed like a very nice guy.

JW: Oh, he’s lovely, yeah.

BM: Yeah.

JW: Very sweet guy. Very intelligent, very sensitive man, yeah. Wow. That’s kind of not easy to fix there. But yeah, you were asking me what it was like to be with him outside of Crimson. It was great.

BM: Yeah.

JW: He was, when there was decided, I mean, [laughs] every group I’m in starts out as like a five-piece, becomes a four-piece, and then inevitably becomes a three-piece. I think it always ends up that way because three is the ideal number to deal with. At four, you can always have a deadlock. Three you can never have a deadlock. One faction has to win in a three-person group.

BM: [laughs] Yeah.

JW: Two, you can always have two against two, which is a terrible place to be.

BM: Yep.

JW: Because you never get any decisions made. And in UK, it was Bill and Allan vs., usually, Eddie and myself.

BM: [laughs]

JW: And Allan didn’t fare too well on the road. He’s a great player, but I think, you know, he decided that he wasn’t going to play the same thing two nights running.

BM: Ah.

JW: And in that kind of rock set, it doesn’t work. You know, I feel very much for his integrity and sensitivity, but sometimes that has to be done, you know, you have to play the same set twice, hit the same notes sometimes, and that can be very boring to a guy like Allan. And so, he wasn’t going to last in UK. And really, once Allan had gone, Bill’s heart wasn’t in it. Whatever. But we got in Terry Bozzio and it still only lasted for another year.

BM: Interesting music, though.

JW: Yeah. And if you get something that intense, you know, inevitably it will burn out very quickly. So I guess with Crimson and with UK, and probably with Asia, they were very intense bands, and they lasted a very short time. But what they did in that short time was quite memorable. What exploded.

BM: Oh yeah. Well, do you share Robert’s view of Crimson, this iconic thing? I mean, I mentioned that I think in one of my letters.

JW: Your letter, yeah. Well, if it does exist, it slipped by me.

BM: [laughs]

JW: [laughs] I, you know, I was only in one Crimson, really, but having observed all the others, I don’t think there’s any guy with a trident and a tail in there pulling any strings.

BM: [laughs]

JW: I really don’t. I think there are forces of good and evil, and you can tap into any one you want. If you want to tap into the force of good, you can. And I don’t think that playing a tritone immediately connects you with any kind of underworld, you know.

BM: Yeah. [laughs]

JW: I really don’t. That’s a lot of superstition from when churches were first built and organs started rattling their foundations. There was often a feeling on stage, particularly, that the band was more than the sum of its parts. It was particularly on a good night, and on a great night, there was a feeling that one was not playing or singing, someone else was doing it through you. But that’s a feeling that I’ve heard many, many people describe. I’ve heard conductors of orchestras describe their job that way on occasion. I’ve heard guitar players, I’ve heard writers writing novels say that at a certain point, something takes over and they’re not writing it anymore. Someone else is writing, something else is writing it through you. Now, I don’t know whether that’s a state of consciousness one gets into. I don’t think there was anyone else manipulating you at that time. I do believe that you can tap into a consciousness that’s not there, that is not there during your everyday life. That when you’re playing music, you are somehow tapping into a consciousness that other times you are not. Or you become more receptive in that mental state when you’re playing very, very fluidly, you become more receptive to something otherworldly, if you like. Something that we don’t know about. Many musicians that I’ve spoken to have experienced the same thing.

BM: Yeah.

JW: Of ESP, you know, that kind of, “Oh my god, what is this? I don’t know what it is, but I’m going along with it. It’s wonderful.” And it doesn’t last for very long, but my god, it’s intense. And it leaves you with that wonderful euphoric feeling.

BM: So what is it he’s trying to say, then?

JW: Oh, I don’t know, because it will be a different experience for him. Though there are particular combinations of musicians whose common consciousness has some kind of special aura to it. And maybe Robert was lucky to be in two or three of those.

BM: Yeah.

JW: At a trot. It doesn’t happen that often. But I’d say if you get three or four like-minded people, you’ve got a better chance of it happening than people from totally different locations and different upbringings. And if you all understand each other, and if you all like each other, dare I say love each other, then you’ve got a better chance of it happening. But as far as a being, some big guy, I’m not sure.

BM: [laughs]

JW: I’m not sure.

BM: I can’t quite figure out. [Robert] sent me many faxes to that effect, where Crimson is some iconic being that he sensed or felt or saw or knew the presence of that sort of plays through the musicians. And the people I’ve been asking – I asked Giles and Ian and Dik Fraser even, I talked to him about it – and they don’t seem to share that view. I’m just wondering where it came from in his life, and why he has it. Anyway, I’ll track it down at some point, I guess.

JW: Bill, all I can say is for me, that everything I just said in the last five minutes is my version of it. I don’t, if there is, you know, an otherworldly being, I don’t know about it.

BM: [laughs]

JW: But I certainly felt the magic.

BM: Oh yeah.

JW: I certainly felt the magic. But as I said, that can be down to different factors. That could be just a consciousness that we plug into. And you know, as I’ve explained there are other people of other professions that have the same experience, usually to do with something like music, something involving music or dance, something like that. I don’t know too many panel beaters that have experienced it.

BM: [laughs]

JW: But that’s not to say that they wouldn’t. That’s quite possible. But it’s usually been something like painting or writing or playing music or dancing. There is a trance-like state one can get into, and it’s great. You know, it’s like lifting your consciousness.

BM: Wow.

JW: It’s like meditation. It’s where you want to get to, bliss. Bliss is the word. Bliss. Bliss is not necessarily happiness. The two can be connected, but not necessarily. Bliss is the state of being happy with yourself. Like you can be happy with yourself at a funeral. You don’t have to be leaping around laughing. You can be just comfortable within your own skin. That is complete bliss. That’s something we don’t experience too often.

BM: Wow. Let me ask you a couple things, and I’ll let you get back to life there, and get on with going to the show tonight.

JW: Yeah.

BM: What did you think of the lyrics, Richard Palmer-James’ lyrics during the Crimson you were in?

JW: Although some of them, we collaborated.

BM: Oh, did you really?

JW: Yeah. Not on a lot. But on Starless and on Red we collaborated. In fact, “Starless and Bible Black,” the lyric is about 50/50 myself and he. Richard has been staying here for the last two weeks. He went back Wednesday, here in Germany.

BM: Really?

JW: Yeah. And it started off, we just sent him the tunes, with me la la-ing the vocal line, and he’d send back the lyrics. That’s what happened on Larks’ Tongues. And then on the subsequent two albums, I started getting more and more involved. I would go to Germany, spend a few days with him going through them, or I’d have very positive ideas of what the title should be or what the first verse should be, and I’d send over that, and then he would send it back amended, and it would ping-pong back between the two of us.

BM: That’s interesting.

JW: I thought they were great. At that time, they were perfect for my voice. They were abstract enough for the group without being sort of pompous or particularly end-of-the-world type.

BM: [laughs]

JW: I liked them. I thought they were very singable words. Very intelligent, you know.

BM: Oh yeah.

JW: I liked them very much.

BM: How would you say they compared to the Sinfield lyrics? I mean, which one do you prefer?

JW: Pete is also a friend of mine. I respect his integrity enormously, and I think that his contribution was up there with Robert’s and Ian’s.

BM: Yeah.

JW: On the first Crimson album. You couldn’t have had that album without Pete’s lyrics.

BM: Yeah, definitely.

JW: That album would not have happened without Peter’s lyrics. It would not have happened without Ian McDonald, either.

BM: Oh yeah.

JW: So I mean, what I guess what I’m saying is, and I would say this if Robert were here, and I would say it with him tonight, is that Crimson has never been a one-horse race. It’s always been a team of people that have made it. And Pete’s contribution is as valid as anyone else’s contribution.

[NOTE: At this point, the tape ran out and I turned it over. So some of what happened at this point was lost.]

BM: Well, how did people get the impression then, it’s the Bob Fripp Band, if—

JW: Well, because he’s the only link, I think.

BM: Yeah, yeah.

JW: The common denominator. And I think Robert made it his business to make Crimson his band. Whether or not he would say that, I don’t know, I can’t speak for him. But I think he would just become more and more frustrated by anyone that was in it.

BM: [laughs]

JW: Because he didn’t have control of it.

BM: Yeah.

JW: So, that’s what happened.

BM: You kept a journal yourself during—

JW: Yes, I did. Actually, in my house in Farnham, I can’t get my hands on it ‘till I get back in September. I kept a journal from 1973 all the way through ‘till today.

BM: Wow.

JW: Everything goes in it. [laughs] And I just wish that we could have dug that out for The Great Deceiver. But there will be another time in the future. There will be another time.

BM: Well I would hope so. That’s the kind of stuff that—

JW: It would have been great to sit down with Robert and do a day-by-day comparison on it, compare notes, and find out was it a good gig, you know. [laughs]

BM: [laughs] You guys have never really done that, you’ve never kind of compared notes?

JW: No, we’ve never sat down, I mean, it would be great to do it 20 years later and just go through day by day. Because I write down pretty much the same thing, you know, it’s got appointments in it, where you’ve got to be at what time, but it’s also got dreams, and it’s also got opinions on everything, record company people, managers, the other guys in the band. Yeah, one day we’ll do that, and I’m sure it’s going to be great fun.

BM: Well would you, if the opportunity arose, and Jaime got together, and David Cross, and the whole group from that band, would you do it again today?

JW: Yeah.

BM: Would you really?

JW: Sure, yeah.

BM: Well, that’s a simple enough [laughs] response to that.

JW: Does that answer your question?

BM: [laughs] Yep.

JW: I don’t know in what form we’d do it, but I’d certainly give it a shot, yeah.

BM: What’d you think of that 80s Crimson? Did you like that version of things, the sound of things?

JW: It’s very interesting, but not really my cup of tea. Not really my cup of tea, no. Not enough to hang my hat on.

BM: No. That’s a good way to put it, yeah. Well, I definitely appreciate your time.

JW: Yeah.

BM: And say hi to Robert for me.

JW: I will indeed, yeah. Thanks very much, Bill.

BM: Oh, thanks a lot for your time. And I can’t wait to hear your album. I’m glad you’re getting it done, and congratulations with that.

JW: Thanks, Bill.

BM: Alright, take care.

JW: Ok yeah. Bye bye.

BM: Bye bye.


This concludes my first interview with John Wetton. I interviewed him again a couple of months later. My wife is working on the transcription for that one and we should have it posted within a week.
--
"You make my life and times
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And I have to choose..."
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LTinAspic
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Re: Bill's JOHN WETTON Interivew -- Part Two (Conclusion)

Postby Glenn Seitz on Mon Dec 28, 2009 7:51 pm

These Wetton interviews were very interesting to read. He has a unique view of the industry as a whole and the various bands he was a part of. I enjoyed this very much. Thank you so much for posting them here. I am also excited about your upcoming post of your second interview with him.
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