Interview with David Cross in Entertainment Today
Date Submitted: 9-Jun-1998
Submitted By: Edward Batt (edbatt at 1stnetusa dot com)
David Cross interview in the 4/24/98 edition of Entertainment Today
Out of Exile
Former King Crimson violinist David Cross
resurfaces with a new album
by Edward Batt
David Cross may not be a household name to fans of rock music in general, yet to legions of progressive rock enthusiasts, and especially to fans of King Crimson, one of the finest and most innovative rock ensembles in the history of rock music, Cross is a well-known figure.
Although Robert Fripp's guitar, Bill Bruford's drumming and John Wetton's bass playing and singing got the lions' share of attention during the 1972-74 edition of King Crimson, there's no denying David Cross' important role in shaping the sound of this legendary British band during that era. Not only did Cross contribute "delicacy and wood" as Fripp writes in the liner notes for The Nightwatch, a recently released double CD of the 1973 Amsterdam concert, but when the situation called for it, the violinist just as easily held his own ground against the much vaunted Bruford-Wetton rhythm section. If you're in doubt, check out Cross' soloing on the live "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, (Part II)," his part in the live rendition of the "21st Century Schizoid Man," or the numerous improvisations on the Great Deceiver '73-'74 box set.
After collaborating on various projects in the wake of Fripp's dissolution of Crimson in late '74, and after releasing a few obscure solo albums which have been available only as imports, Cross "resurfaced" recently with his latest studio CD Exiles, perhaps his best solo effort to date, and available domestically on Purple Pyramid/Outer Music label.
While most of today's "prog-rock" groups have a knack for making their music sound instantly dated and regressive, David Cross has managed to put together an attractive collection of tracks on Exiles, demonstrating not only his impressive violin technique, but diverse compositional skills as well. The wide-ranging album offers everything from atmospheric soundscapes to rip-roaring rock 'n' roll instrumentals, as well as songs on which guests John Wetton and Peter Hammill contribute superb vocals. And having Robert Fripp also contribute his famous talents on guitar doesn't hurt either. Excited about his new project, Cross talked recently by phone with Entertainment Today about Exiles, his days with Crimson, and plans for the future.
Entertainment Today: First off all, I want to congratulate you on Exiles, a very fine album in my opinion.
David Cross: Thank you very much.
ET: What kind of feedback have you been getting so far in America?
DC: Very, very positive feedback from people who have listened to it. People seem to enjoy it very much, seem to kind of locate it, locate me in relation to King Crimson, and seem to enjoy the performance of my band, Fripp, Wetton and Pete Hammill. So yes, a very positive response.
ET: Unfortunately, the commercial rock radio here has not been playing this record very much, in fact not much at all.
DC: And why is that?
ET: Because of the business, I'm afraid. Unfortunately, these are not the right times for this type of music. Although, I think the way you've scrambled the eggs, as they say, this record has a lot of crossover appeal, would you agree?
DC: Oh I would hope so, yes, I mean, that's what it's intended to do. And I hope there's something there for quite a wide range of people. But I've always believed that with everything I've ever done - and I've always been proved [right] - that I seem to be creating music for a minority audience. But it's not my intention. Ever.
ET: How did this project originate, and why "Exiles?" I mean, it's a wonderful tune, but Crimson had a lot of wonderful tunes. Any particular reason you picked this one?
DC: Yes, I think there is. It's the fourth album I've done . When I put a band together about ten years ago, it was also about the time that Robert Fripp got back in touch with me in connection with releasing the material on the Great Deceiver, and it was kind of reopening of a contact which hadn't been there for a long time - twenty years - and in my head what was happening was the idea of an unfinished business. It was the provisional title of this album for quite a while.
So I felt that for me it was time to address, I suppose, the relationship with Fripp and with the other members of Crimson, which had been kind of unresolved really for the last twenty years. And I felt that this was a chance to look at my feelings and deal with that. So it kind of put me in a retrospective, or "forwardspective" mood, if you can understand. I was looking back in order to move forward, in psychoanalytical [terms] - unfinished business.
ET: And what was it like to work with Fripp and Wetton again?
DC: Oh, fabulous! It was really good. I mean, the title transmuted from Unfinished Business into Exiles in a fairly natural way because the business was in fact largely worked out as I met up again with Fripp and worked with him and with Wetton, and it started to become easy, and the relationships were in fact still very, very secure, very musical. Exiles, I suppose, as a concept in my head, has to do with a kind of separateness. Separateness of all the members of King Crimson who were there and then split and went their separate ways, me disappearing from the music scene all together to a large extent... The tune itself was one that I had contributed to writing with Fripp, so in that way it was a logical choice as well. And I wanted to try by taking something from that time and transplanting it to now. I thought it would give me a chance to kind of relocate myself in the here and now, at the same time acknowledging part of where I've come from.
ET: Because if its limited release and virtually no airplay, this album has been sort of dedicated to the progressive rock crowd. Does it bother you as a musician that you are forever condemned to hang around with the same group of people all the time?
DC: Well, it's better to have some people who are interested in listening to you then nobody. [laughs]. I mean, that's about the only choice I have for the moment... Increasingly, my perception of the value of music has changed. I actually value pop music in its broader sense much more then I ever used to. I believe there's great value in the pop music phenomenon. I think the Spice Girls are wonderful, despite the fact that their music is simple, but it works. I admire what they do, I admire anybody who can manipulate three chords, or one chord and five notes, and make something out of it that people enjoy.
ET: I agree. There's nothing wrong with simplicity, as long as you create something of lasting value, like the Police for example.
DC: I think that's an ideal. I mean, that's what I would aspire to and I've never been able to do it, but would love to be able to produce stuff that is popular and has originality and quality as well. I don't like having a restricted audience. I do the best I can, I've tried all kinds of different things, and my music is designed to give people pleasure in some way.
ET: You've come a long way on this record. I think it's got a little something for everybody.
DC: Yeah, I think for me it has to have heart to it. It's got to have feeling and emotion, as well as ideas and whatever else you put into it. And if it hasn't got that then it's not worth anything, and if it has that, then you can do anything with it. If something does have feeling, you can experiment in anyway you like. That's what I would like to do.
ET: Are we going to see you here in Los Angeles anytime soon with your band?
DC: Oh, I don't know. I don't have a band together at the moment. If somebody is willing to pay for a band to come over and play, I'd love to come and play in Los Angeles. That hasn't happened anytime in the last 10 years. Maybe this record, maybe with your help, it might become a reality. I think what I will do is put together a solo performance of some kind, which will probably be with backing tapes, but it's not going to be this kind of material, obviously. I'm not going to pretend there is a band when there isn't, but I will work with audio tapes. I'll probably do this as my next project, so I can at least travel. Obviously, I'd like to have a band, but the economics of it are impossible at the moment.
ET: I hope we'll get to see you here in any way, shape or form. I think it would be fabulous.
DC: Thank you [laughs]. You're very kind.