INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Trouser Press FEBRUARY/MARCH 1975 - by Ihor Slabicky
ROBERT FRIPP GETS OUT OF HAND
Robert Fripp: How did you hear that Peter Giles was working as a computer programmer?
Ihor Slabicky: I think I called someone here, maybe Simon Puxley or someone.
RF: Puxley. Peter is now a solicitor's clerk working for a lady called Mrs. Toswell. This is my latest information, which is six months old.
IS: Was he working as a computer programmer then?
RF: Yes, he was.
• • •
RF: There was another track we recorded. As Giles, Giles & Fripp, there were three sides for Decca I was telling you about, three titles which weren't released. One was Under The Sky, which was nice. The other one was by Pete Giles. What you need is the tape of the television show we did, the Giles brothers, Ian McDonald and myself for Color Me Pop, a twenty-five minute television show in England. We recorded the music at home ourselves because it was better doing it that way. And there's some good music there, let me tell you. It was a series, and we were one of the groups. After we completed the show, I think, I told Peter that I didn't want to work with him anymore. But the music is of interest. It aslo has one track called Drop In, which was the thirds one we recorded for Decca that wasn't released. It was meaty rock'n'roll, with me writing the lyrics. The lyrics were dreadful.
IS: Really? You haven't written any other lyrics...
RF: Apart from the Giles, Giles & Fripp album and that, no. Other than the punchline in The Great Deceiver: "Cigarettes... Chocolate cigarettes, figurines of the Virgin Mary," which was mine.
IS: There's a line which I heard you do live once, "Camel, hair, Brylcream... some stores full of antiquary." What is that line?
RF: That sounds something from The Great Deceiver.
RF: Maybe this was in the early days of the song and John was just trying a few lyrics to see which felt best.
IS: Do you mean that he would actually improvise on stage?
RF: No, but he might have...
IS: ...or he had an idea of what he would do.
RF: Yes, yes. Your words are never complete till you've sung them. Peter, in the studio, would ferociously rewriting until the last minute. Court Of The Crimson King, for example, went through many, many different versions. I happen to like some of the earlier ones. The finished one's also superb.
IS: That was put out here as a single.
RF: Got to Number 98.
IS: Excuse me?
RF: It got to Number 98, as a single. But it's just an abbreviated version of the album track.
IS: Also, Schizoid Man appears on...
RF: Nice Enough To Eat. (Island IWPS 6)
IS: Right. I guess that was abbreviated too, because it doesn't have the introduction.
RF: I don't think they've got the wind on it. Has it got the wind on it?
IS: No, it just starts off with music. Is that supposed to be the wind or factory noises?
RF: The wind at the beginning. We had this pedal organ, which shows up at the end of Crimson King, and I said to Mike, why not just get the wind noises out by pressing the keys but not pushing far enough to get a note, so you just got the wind.
• • •
IS: What's gonna happen now? King Crimson is finished and you say you're going to be...
RF: You haven't even asked me why it's finished.
IS: Well, is it finished?
RF: Why didn't you ask me?
IS: I'm asking you now.
RF: No, I'd be interested to ask...
RF: ...to wonder why it didn't occur to you. I want to know if that was the first question.
IS: I don't know. King Crimson breaking up, it occurs every couple of years.
RF: You didn't think this was the final one?
IS: Not really.
RF: I see.
IS: When David Cross left, I heard you were going to tour as a trio, and I figured that would be exciting because I've seen you perform as a trio on stage. At one show, towards the ending of Schizoid Man, David Cross actually walked off the stage and he wasn't missed. The sound was sufficient, so I thought that should be interesting, playing those two albums as a trio. Then I heard that you had broken up, and it was sort of expected.
RF: Alright, let me put the history, King Crimson and all thee changes of the past six years into perspective. I've been experimenting with different ways of living and doing things, and I'm continuing to do so. King Crimson ceased to exist for three reasons. The first is that it represents a change in the world. Second, because the energies involved the lifestyle and the music are no longer appropriate to my life as I live it. And thirdly, because the education that was King Crimson, and the finest liberal education I could receive at the time, is no longer the best liberal education that I could receive. First reason: it represents a change between the old world and the new. The old world is characterized by the units of organization which has a very large body and a very small brain, is unwieldy and incapable of adaptation, and for the conditions relevant to modern living, is wholly inappropriate. Examples of this unit are huge corporations, and the obvious example in the music business are groups which carry lots and lots of roadies and lots and lots of equipment. Unbalanced.
IS : Or a super-group that isn't accessible?
RF : When you get into accessibility, that's not really the point.
IS: Can I give you an example? At the last Bowie concert in New York, I think there was only one photographer for the whole show and he was hired by MainMan.
RF: Well , I must say how reasonable and civilized that is, having spent most of my professional life in America having to fight off the irritations, the insensitivities of photographers who wore quite happy to click away throughout the most delicate and difficult moments without any regard at all for the people on the stage. May I therefore laud what Bowie did. 8ut I say that the organization which was surrounding David when I saw them in England was very large and unwieldy. The characteristic organization of the new world is small, independent, mobile and intelligent. By intelligence, I mean as a measure of adaptability to circumstances. You have a period of stress and tension when the transit ion between the old world and the new becomes most marked. For example, Atlantic (Records) here is a perfect example of the old way of doing things. No one knows what's going on. Really breaking apart at tho seams, don't you think? Lots of people, lots of rooms, no one knows what's really going on. Lots of graft, you know, going out and having drinks on the firm, wasting time, wasting money, which should presumably be the artists'. All this kind of nonsense can't make it.
IS: I think I've been in t hat kind of situation. I worked for IBM, which is a world-wide corporation.
RF: That's exactly it .
IS: I didn't feel very lost in it because where I worked there was a department and there were about a dozen or twenty people, everyone pretty much knew each other and it was sort of one group.
RF: And how many other groups are there?
RF: And how many...
IS: Our number was 42A and there was obviously a 42B and an 89J and all the other numbers in there...
RF: What I suggest to you, essentially, is that that is really an unwieldy organization and it can't adapt at all.
IS: That's true.
RF: This system is breaking down, I mean you couldn't disagree with that, you only have to go out in the streets of New York to realize that this city, a large, unwieldy unit of organization, with no brain in command, is just not going to make it .
IS: What will happen?
RF: There will be a period of breakdown which will be most marked in the year 1990 and be most critical in the decade from 1990 to 1999. Sixteen years away. In an extreme situation. you could get the complete breakdown of social, political, and economic order, which you're going to get anyway, but it may not be final, if you like. Once again, in an extreme situation, you could have a nuclear war. By the year 1985, you're going to have serious privation in every sector. By the year 1990, you won't have private automobiles and you'll have a very, very difficult situation which will make the Depression of the '30s look as if a really great time was had by all.
In America, it's most marked, and this relates to your values which are, I think, certainly the most inappropriate and mistaken values anyone could hold. The American idea that the only thing in life to live for is a 'fast buck,' that the only thing to work for is to not work at all, is nonsense, complete nonsense. Because of this attitude (which has sadly affected many other countries in the world as well) your country is going to disintegrate. You have at the same time a very strong development in terms of spiritual communities and a large number of people in terms, in numerical terms, compared to England for example, that are working on making the transition between the old and the new. But America is going to collapse completely, because it is so large and so unwieldy, that the only things that are going to get through are small, independent, intelligent, mobile groups, units.
In the '80s, it will be, I think, a continuation of the drive towards spiritualization, but in a real sense. Getting out of your brain and saying "yeah man that's really groovy" doesn't really take you very far, but what it does do is create a situation where a population is sympathetic towards those who are working in a certain area. For example, the majority of conservative Americans would not let certain things take place. Liberal manoeuvres could not take place with the consent of much of American popular opinion. However, in ten years time, the heads of the '60s will be in their forties and will be forming the backbone of America. If they are open to and sympathetic to people that have a more real interest in changing America, then you will have a situation which, although it may not help actively, is nevertheless passively open to it.
IS: Liberal things won't happen because America is mostly conservative nov. The people who were radical in the '60s will have become moderately radical or liberal in twenty years.
RF: What I'm suggesting is that they will be aware that there is more involved in living than satisfying purely immediate needs and desires and gratifications.
• • •
RF: If you knew that tomorrow you were going to be dead, wouldn't you do something today?
IS: I don't know what I'd do today.
RF: I suggest, whatever you did do, you lived to the full. If you were going to have a hamburger and you thought 'Christ, this is my last last hamburger', you'd cherish every bite.
RF: The majority of the people are not going to make it through.
IS: But you can't live as if you're expecting to die.
RF: Have you read Don Juan?
IS: I have.
RF: Death lives on the shoulder. This is what I'm talking about. Have you read the New Testament?
IS: Not really.
RF: Where Paul talks about dying daily. Exactly the same idea.
IS: Dying daily could be going to sleep.
RF: Dying daily has to do with breaking out of sleep. It's an assertion that man lives his life in a condition of sleep and dying daily is where man actually wakes up. One can only live fully if one knows that tomorrow one will be dead. Puts things in a completely different perspective.
IS: But we have to make believe that we are going to live.
RF: That's nonsense. We don't have to make believe at all because it's not necessarily true. In fact, for a lot of people, it isn't. This is a vital point. Because when you do live with that realization that tomorrow you will be dead, your life takes on a totally different character. You see, nothing is guaranteed.
• • •
RF: Where do your parents come from?
IS: From the Ukraine.
IS: Do you know where that is?
RF: Well, out there.
• • •
IS: The last gig that you did in New York, did you know that that was going to be the last one?
RF: Well I knew it would be the last one for David, but at that point I had considered touring with the band. We considered experimenting with a number of different forms, as a trio and as a quartet with Ian McDonald. But on one Thursday, four weeks ago yesterday (that makes it 9/19), I decided that was it. And I had no real regrets because the decision was a right one.
Although we didn't realize it at time, this interview is immense. Even with mammoth editing, this second installment doesn't cover every interesting point. Therefore, in Trouser Press 8, there will be more rambling with Ihor and Fripp. By way of preview, some of the names that crop up are Eno, Townshend, Greg Lake and Pierre Boulez. Stay tuned.