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Bill's PETE SINFIELD Interivew -- 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!

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Bill's PETE SINFIELD Interivew -- Conclusion

Postby LTinAspic on Sat Dec 26, 2009 7:39 pm

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all you Crimheads!

I have three major interviews to post today as my Christmas present to you: this, the sure-to-be-controversial conclusion of the interview I conducted with the fantastic Peter Sinfield and, next, a massive (and I do mean massive) two-part interview with John Wetton.


My interview with lyricist extraordinaire Pete Sinfield took place on August 29, 1993. I always enjoyed talking to Pete. He’s eloquent in his speech and vast in his knowledge of music – to mention history and current events. The man is fascinating. And one of the most creative lyricists around.

In this interview, Pete talks about the early days of King Crimson, what rehearsals were like, what each member of the band contributed, how he departed Crimso, and what he thought of the subsequent incarnations of Crimson.

NOTE: I picked up the last two exchanges from the previous interview to help give this installment context.

Enjoy!


[From Part One]

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.


[Begin Part Two, which starts after a flipped the cassette tape, so a bit of what came before was missed.]

PS: -- Miles Davis and stuff I’d heard. All those tinkling bells, and those things, which went along with the Mediterranean thing. And also a reaction against a little, which was, I find it very hard to play even now, it’s so peculiar and cold.

BM: Well it seems very dissonant and there’s very few melodies you can grab onto in that whole album.

PS: Yeah. This, I mean, this happens, you know. It’s what happens if you try to push toward the boundaries of popular music or art or whatever you want to call it, you’re bound to go through, explore different phases. If you’re a writer, a painter, whatever you are. Because Robert and I, most of the people were so shaken with the band through the years, one of the other things that’s happened, even long after I was there, people are happy to make a living, but they’re all people that had a sense of integrity toward music and wanted to push it and see what could be done with it, as well as make a living, of course. But you can’t do the first thing without having a pound in your pocket for a meal, as it were.

BM: What did your role as producer entail for those last three albums?

PS: It entailed direction, enthusiasm, sitting in the box, inventing new sounds with the engineers, trying to tie Robert’s little bits and pieces together into one whole sort of cogent being, as it were. Bringing out the best in Robert, and trying to, on occasion, make him less quirky, as the case may be.

BM: [laughs]

PS: Eno managed to do it by looping him, but I wasn’t, I didn’t think of that at the time.

BM: Yeah. [laughs]

PS: I wish I had. Bringing out, getting the lyrics, the interpretation of the lyrics as close as I had written, not how I’d written, but how I’d felt it when I wrote it. We always had very good engineers, so we didn’t have to worry too much about the sounds, but it was just a matter of saying, “What happens if we do this?” and “Can we do that?” and “Why don’t we try this?” We were always experimenting and pushing things. And I had these sort of synthesizers, these very early synths in those days, and trying to see how we could write songs that would make sense to use even some instruments to enhance as opposed to just putting it in because it was a funny noise, you know.

BM: [laughs]

PS: Lots of people were putting funny noises in, trying to make them be there for reasons. And I was sort of funny noise specialist, really.

BM: Well, when I talked to Bill Bruford, I got the impression that his recollection of his years with Crimson were awful. [laughs] I mean, he said it was a horrible experience, and he said the rehearsals were just awful, involved staring at your feet for long periods of time. And he didn’t like the touring, he didn’t get along with Robert. What is your impression of the rehearsals. Were they as god-awful as Bill Bruford remembers?

PS: No. They weren’t in those days. I could imagine that, and I spoke to John Wetton and various people who’ve been involved later down the line. They were very exciting for me. They were, because there was five very strong personalities. Although initially mine was sort of more veiled, but it became more and more part of the ensemble, I suppose. And the other thing is that Bill Bruford is Bill Bruford, and Mike Giles is Mike Giles. Mike Giles would find something witty or something odd to do, or he would contribute musically or in some ways, and at that point, Robert didn’t have as much control. I think it went through a stage right after that, you know, Robert’s band, if you like. It still has some spirit of King Crimson, but I really actually think actually only the first album.

BM: Yeah.

PS: I probably said before, is really King Crimson, and after that was sort of, Fripp Sinfield version and then etc., you know. But the spirit and the integrity and various things carries through. But I think Robert, being unshackled from my contributions and then having new people in, had the responsibility of having to sort of control it all himself. And therefore, made use of that, because Robert generally knows what he wants.

BM: [laughs] Yeah.

PS: But it’s not always the best thing perhaps. And Bill still wasn’t strong enough to stand up and say, “No, I think we should do this.” And then play something that was really clever, that would have really impressed Robert, then he probably would get sort of cajoled into playing what Robert wanted him to play. I mean, nobody ever told Mike Giles what to play, ever.

BM: Really?

PS: Mike, no. You’d tell Mike, “How about this?” And he’d play something ten times better. But he always did that. We’d tell Greg what to play because his bass playing wasn’t as good. And Ian, you didn’t really tell with Ian either. Ian was Ian. I mean, he had this wonderful musical knowledge, wonderful harmonic knowledge. And also, Robert played what he wanted to play. But later on, I think the musicians were not quite as odd or they didn’t have the imagination. Or the ego, the power, the combination of those things that the original band had. I remember the original rehearsals being very exciting. There was all these sort of amplified and plugged in things. But it was all very exploratory and there was also a real freedom for everybody. They’d all been in dance bands or the army and done all these rather tedious things, but they had all this frustration in there to get out. And they’d all had a very, very good training, which meant it was all sort of brought to bear on that first album, then sort of lingered on. But I think, until Rob, until you got Robert together with people like Adrian Belew and Tony Levin, who he respects as equal musicians, maybe even better musicians, perhaps, you don’t again get that sort of freedom and wit.

BM: Yeah.

BM: You get power, you get a sort of savagery, and you get Robert’s sort of madnesses. And you get good players, but you don’t get the counteraction. Interaction, perhaps is the word.

BM: That’s an interesting way to sum up that ‘70s version of Crimson.

PS: Yeah.

BM: I mean, there’s an awful lot of power, but there’s not a whole lot of wit.

PS: Absolutely. I mean, after Jaime Muir left, I mean, he would send out the roadies for two sacks of leaves.

BM: [laughs]

PS: And there would be a quiet bit in the set, where he would empty these two sacks of leaves and proceed to rustle them, you know, in front of the mic.

BM: [laughs]

PS: And when he left, [laughs] there was nothing left, really. Terrible, terrible shame. [laughs]

BM: Yeah, I talked with Jaime about a month or two ago, and he’s a very interesting man.

PS: Yes, he is.

PS: I don’t know him well, Mike knows him very well.

BM: His contribution, I think to Larks’ Tongues, was phenomenal. And then he just up and left and went to his Buddhist monastery.

PS: Yeah.

BM: That’s an interesting point. You said that you were kind of searching, looking for things beyond the everyday realm back in the ‘60s. What prevented you from doing what Jaime did? Why didn’t you just pack it up and go somewhere and try to find that sort of otherworldliness or spiritual side of things?

PS: I knew, I was doing, when I was down in Sommerset, when I was writing [solo album] Still and I was a macrobiotic, sort of whole foody sort of person amongst a community of like-minded folk, who were very spiritual. Not hippie hippie, but very, very, very nice people. Very soft, and of course too soft in some ways.

BM: [laughs]

PS: But very pleasant people, very, very nice people.

BM: Yeah.

PS: Certainly what I needed after all the ferociousness of all the other things. So in a way I had it. Also, I met this Buddhist monk, and I was talking to him about it, saying, “I can’t keep doing this.” And he said, “No, you must keep doing it, because it’s what you do.” And made me feel as though I was feeling a bit sorry for myself, or that I had, my path was to sort of learn what I did, and do it as well as I could, and then be a channel for something or other, because that was more important than me going and sitting and eating brown rice behind a large stone wall, as it were.

BM: [laughs]

PS: [laughs] So I did. And he was an amazing man, and full of life and vigor, an old man, sort of arthritis and he just passed through and convinced me I should press on. Because that’s what I did. You could say that’s what I’m here for. It’s a moot point. So that’s why. In the meantime, I’ve attempted, I suppose in some ways, to do the things in parallel. Little tricky in the rock and roll business.

BM: Was it difficult, did you find it difficult to finally part company with the Crimson Fripp lineup there?

PS: Well, not really. Robert [laughs] rang me up on Christmas eve, and relations we getting a little strained between Robert and I, but I used to sort of run along with most of Robert’s things and sort of try and turn them a little here and turn them a little there, be diplomatic. And I sort of ran out of diplomacy a bit.

BM: [laughs]

PS: [laughs] He’d say, and I’d say, “No, I don’t want to do that.” Whereas before I’d have said, “Yeah, I suppose we could do that, Robert, and then we could perhaps…” You know, I would be much more diplomatic. And I stopped being diplomatic, which he noticed –

BM: [laughs]

PS: [laughs] – a bit. And he rang up and said, “Well the thing is, Peter, I really don’t think we’re getting on very well. And I’ve got another tour to do, and I don’t really see how you’re helping it very much. And I think one of us has got to go, and I don’t see any way I can leave, really. So you’ve got to be leaving.”

BM: [laughs]

PS: And this was on Christmas Eve. And I said, “Alright, Robert.” And said, “Happy Christmas,” really.

BM: [laughs]

PS: Left it like that. And I was very tired. I was really, really tired. Worn out.

BM: So really, you’d almost seen it coming, in a sense. It just was a matter—

PS: Yes, I had. Because I’m the sort of person who doesn’t get undiplomatic in a situation that I’m enjoying, until I know one, that I’ve got perhaps something else to do, or I’ve got enough confidence in my work that I’m doing for the future after that, that I can do something with it. So I did sort of, it wasn’t a great surprise to me, really. And knowing Robert, I had known him quite well over the last three years, as it were, three or four years. I knew that Robert doesn’t like people sort of, or didn’t at the time, standing up and saying, “No.”

BM: [laughs]

PS: [laughs] That kind of thing. So it didn’t come as a great surprise. He did have another tour to do, and I was quite happy not to go on it, but I was happy they should go out and do it, and off they went.

BM: That was the last tour, the Islands lineup, wasn’t it?

PS: Yeah.

BM: I spoke with Ian Wallace about that, and he said something pretty funny about it. He said somehow they were not getting along with Robert on the last couple of shows they had to do.

PS: I think I know what happened.

BM: So what they did to get back at him, was they just came out and they played like blues, you know, 12-bar blues, just to piss him off. You know.

PS: They did all manner of stuff like that.

BM: [laughs] Yep. They knew he did not like traditional-type things, so they did that on purpose.

PS: Yeah, they did.

BM: [laughs]

PS: Because they’d all done that, they could do it very well, and they did do that.

BM: [laughs]

PS: And Robert didn’t like it at all.

BM: [laughs]

PS: And he’d go, “RAR RAR RAR RAR” on the guitar.

BM: [laughs]

PS: And it very, I remember one member almost broke into tears one night, Mel breaking microphones. God, it was, but they also used to bring it out musically. So instead of just sort of shouting each other off in a band meeting, they would do things like [laughs] they’d be in the middle of, I don’t know, something, and they’d break into a 12-bar.

BM: [laughs]

PS: And Robert would look over. And they’d sort of grin at him and carry on. [laughs]

BM: [laughs]

PS: He could either join in or walk off, which as a dramatic moment, is theatre. It’s a bit odd, but it is theatre, you know. The band was always theatrical, as well as being musical.

BM: Yeah.

PS: [laughs] It was also, we were never quite sure what was going to happen next.

BM: [laughs]

PS: Anyway.

BM: That was one thing, believe it or not, that even though Bill Bruford said he really hated the tours, he didn’t get along with Fripp, he did say he did that kind of gig because he could play the music he wanted to play.

PS: Yeah.

BM: That was the only band he could think of where you could go out and play just the weirdest stuff of the coolest stuff or loudest stuff, anything you wanted to play, you could play within King Crimson.

PS: That’s true. If you did it with integrity and for a reason, and the others picked up on in, and they would join in, or they would shout at you, but they would shout at you musically.

BM: Yeah.

PS: That was really one of the joys of it. Sometimes, of course, it was an absolute mess, but often, it was an absolute delight. It really led into some wonderful jams, the real jams, the sort of interesting jams. Yeah, that’s true.

BM: Well, looks like I’ve come to the conclusion of this battery of questions.

PS: Ok.

BM: You, I enjoy speaking with you. You have a robust view of life.

PS: [laughs] I have, haven’t I?

BM: [laughs]

PS: Matter of fact, if you’re still here after 25 years of this business, [laughs] you must have some sort of resilience going for you.

BM: [laughs]

PS: Yes. And I care about it, and I don’t care about it, if you know what I mean. It’s fun seeing these things come out, and I’ve got a song with Bette Midler’s next album.

BM: Really?

PS: Which should be good. And a song with Celine Dion, which is going to be boring, I think.

BM: Really?

PS: The money’s useful.

BM: [laughs]

PS: And sooner or later, I’ll do other dreams and schemes and some other things I want to write, screenplays and poems.

BM: Are you looking forward to Still coming out on CD? Is it going to be a big thrill for you to see it out finally again after all these years?

PS: [laughs]

BM: [laughs] Or is it going to be, “Oh geeze.”

PS: Well.

BM: [laughs]

PS: I’ve got to speak to Robert about this, but what I wanna do, I wanna change the order, because it’s made, it’s in the running order of the album. It was done with sort of sound effects and both beginnings of album sides. There are three or four things that I really, really hate. I quite like the tune we’ve added, there’s a little tune, but I quite like the little tunes I’ve played them to. So what I think I’m gonna do is I’m gonna put the six tracks I like first, and I’m gonna have a gap, and I’m gonna, I think I might give a short lecture. [laughs]

BM: [laughs]

PS: About, “Ok, so these are the tracks I like, I mean, I don’t know if they’re flawless, but I actually quite enjoy these songs.” I might give a little lecture. Not a very long one, couple of minutes, saying, “Now, what is left on here is like, artists can or cannot leave their mistakes or their trials or their experiments in the public domain, but they generally do, or it generally happens to them when they’re dead, and people then compare with this. And people say, ‘Oh, he wrote some real shit, this guy.’”

BM: [laughs]

PS: [laughs] But I want to sort of protect myself by saying, “But the next stuff is coming on, I am actually not very proud of, but you must understand, it was experimental, and it led to whatever else it led to. And listen to it at your own risk, as it were.”

BM: [laughs] That would be great.

PS: I think that’s something that might be quite fun to do.

BM: That sounds like a Sinfield thing to do. It really does.

PS: [laughs]

BM: It does. [laughs] That would be great.

PS: Just sort of in keeping, isn’t it.

BM: [laughs]

PS: Oh well, I can only be me, you know.

BM: [laughs] I’ll do my best. I’ll get a tape made, in fact, make it this afternoon, of that--

PS: That’d be great. I’d love to hear that.

BM: Yeah. The Greg Lake thing. Give me your address again, just to make sure I’ve got it.

[Pete gave me his address.]

PS: Now, I’ve got a bunch of stuff here from my first wife, in the archives. And a bunch of pictures taken around ’69 and ’72-3. And some pictures I had taken recently, three or four months ago. You want me to send you a bunch of them?

BM: Yeah. That would be great. I’d have them, I’ll have them turned into halftone pictures here, and then I’ll send them back to you.

PS: No, well, you can keep them. I have to take them from the negatives and have them—

BM: Get copies made of them?

PS: I actually have to have copies made of the negs, but I might have a couple run off, because my friends see them, and go, “Wow, you have doubles, can I have one?” And I’m running out of bloody pictures here, you know?

BM: [laughs]

PS: And I had sort of six of each done.

BM: Yeah.

PS: It’s very nice that they should run them, but I look at myself and go, “Wow, you look pretty cute there, man.”

BM: [laughs]

PS: Then you look in the mirror and go, “Not so cute now.”

BM: [laughs]

PS: And I do.

BM: Yeah, definitely. Send whatever you’d like me to have, and I’ll make sure I get it in the book.

PS: Ok.

BM: I appreciate it.

PS: How’s the book going?

BM: Good. I’ve completed interviewing most of the people that were in the pre ’80 Crimson bands.

PS: Right.

BM: There’s still a couple, like Peter Womsley, a couple of, even the guy, the equipment by Vic and Dik, I’ve talked to Dik, I’ve got Vic’s number. I’ll talk to him. There’s a lot of people, I’m getting all the sound men, the tour guys, the whole works.

PS: Ok.

BM: So it’s, slowly but surely, I’m getting everybody. And then I’ll just put it all together. It’s looking good. It’s a lot of fun. I’m getting a lot of perspectives. The perspective that seems to be the most acerbic is Bill Bruford’s. The most robust and witty is of course, yours.

PS: [laughs]

BM: The most melancholy is Ian.

PS: Yeah.

BM: So I’m getting the good cross-section.

PS: Ian’s a miserable son of a bitch, isn’t he. [laughs]

BM: [laughs]

PS: He is. No, I’ve produced the vocals, I think it was for UK. And John was having a problem, they had no engineer, and it was the band producing themselves, and everyone was going off to the pub. And vocalists really need someone in the studio to say, “I’m sure you can twist that word, or you can do this” you know. I had written the lyrics, I think. And he called me up, and I went down there for two or three days and helped him with the vocals, and said, “John, I think you could do a slightly better one, or maybe that note, you could bend at the end.” You produce, you know. For a slight fee.

BM: [laughs]

PS: And then when the album came out, Bill Bruford refused to give me a credit on it, not even a thank you. He wouldn’t let me have anything on it.

BM: You’re kidding.

PS: No, it’s true.

BM: I like [the band] UK, too. That’s one of my—

PS: Yeah, and they could have said, “Vocals produced by” but he didn’t say that. Or a “Thank you to” you know, in the thank yous, you know, “Thank you to Pete Sinfield for his help.” Not a word. He wouldn’t let my name appear on the record. Now, that is a bit odd, I think.

BM: That is strange.

PS: He has a small mind, Mr. Bruford.

BM: [laughs] I don’t know about that. But it seemed he’s very, very set in his ways. He’s got his opinions and he likes to voice them.

PS: Yeah. Well, he’s entitled to them.

BM: [laughs] Yeah.

PS: To be sure. [laughs] And people can judge his options against everyone else’s.

BM: Yep.

PS: Perhaps he’ll get a little revelation when he reads them. [laughs] It’ll be interesting.

BM: [laughs] Yeah.

PS: Ok, Bill.

BM: Thank you for your time today.

PS: It’s a pleasure, man. Anytime, I’m sorry you didn’t catch me, but I’m around.

BM: Alright, thanks much. Watch for the tape. It should be there within about 10 days, I guess. Give me your opinion of it, because it was amazing for me to hear Gary Moore playing a Crimson song.

PS: Absolutely.

BM: I really appreciate your time today. Have a good evening.

PS: Thank you.

BM: Thank you. Bye bye.

PS: Bye.


This concludes my interview with Pete Sinfield. Let the comments begin! :D
--
"You make my life and times
A book of bluesy Saturdays
And I have to choose..."
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Re: Bill's PETE SINFIELD Interivew -- Conclusion

Postby jtmack on Sat Dec 26, 2009 8:47 pm

"Pete: He has a small mind, Mr. Bruford. "
Had no idea there was animosity between those two. Of course how would I know I refuse to buy or read Sid the lackey's book. Hey Bill you should interview the Sid next if you haven't already!

"Pete: How’s the book going?"
Would love to read how you'd put it together, So how is it the book going?
Thank you and I hope you publish that book someday!
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Re: Bill's PETE SINFIELD Interivew -- Conclusion

Postby LTinAspic on Sat Dec 26, 2009 9:02 pm

jtmack wrote:"Pete: He has a small mind, Mr. Bruford. "
Had no idea there was animosity between those two. Of course how would I know I refuse to buy or read Sid the lackey's book. Hey Bill you should interview the Sid next if you haven't already!

"Pete: How’s the book going?"
Would love to read how you'd put it together, So how is it the book going?
Thank you and I hope you publish that book someday!



Hi J.T.,

I'm not sure I'd classify it as "animosity" per se. I think, as with any people who have worked closely with each other, they know each other's hot buttons, strengths, weaknesses. I don't recall hearing any venom or cynicism in Pete's voice.

As far as Sid goes, I corresponded with him a couple of times a few years ago. But nothing since. I'm not sure I'd know what to ask him. Nor am I sure he'd want to be interviewed.

For the record, I own Sid's book. I think he did a fine job with it. It wasn't what I would have written. But it remains the first and only book on King Crimson in print. So I'm grateful to Sid for the time he put into it.

Bill
--
"You make my life and times
A book of bluesy Saturdays
And I have to choose..."
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Re: Bill's PETE SINFIELD Interivew -- Conclusion

Postby vrooom on Sat Dec 26, 2009 9:05 pm

Well having just read Bruford's book, I can wholly say that he hasn't got a small mind, quite the opposite. Probably just a culture clash, you know.
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Re: Bill's PETE SINFIELD Interivew -- Conclusion

Postby MarkSullivan on Sat Jan 02, 2010 5:55 am

[quote="vrooom"]Well having just read Bruford's book, I can wholly say that he hasn't got a small mind, quite the opposite. Probably just a culture clash, you know.[/quote]

I haven't read the book (although there have been quite a few excerpts online). But I think Bruford and Sinfield both have healthy egos, and strong opinions, so I can see how they could have clashed. And maybe not really understood each other very well. One thing that still isn't clear to me, even after reading Sid's book. Lots of folks credit Sinfield with more than just the (now pretty dated) lyrics. I know he did lights as well, but I can't see those in the music. And he is a musician, but clearly not nearly in the class of anyone who has ever played in King Crimson. So what did he contribute, exactly?
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Re: Bill's PETE SINFIELD Interivew -- Conclusion

Postby Geno on Sat Jan 02, 2010 8:49 pm

He contributed the name King Crimson, at the very least...
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Re: Bill's PETE SINFIELD Interivew -- Conclusion

Postby vrooom on Sat Jan 02, 2010 9:55 pm

Sinfield also took charge of the look of the group. So he took the uncool guys from the pictures of Giles > Giles > Fripp and turned them into hip cats. He also wrote the press releases and lugged equipment too. Sinfield also came to me in a dream the other night and I didn't care very much for it.
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