Interview with Peter Sinfield in Modern Dance
Date Submitted: 21-Apr-2002
Submitted By: Peter Sinfield (songsoup42 at yahoo dot com)
Modern Dance: Your name first appeared on In The Court Of The Crimson King, were you writing lyrics before then?
Peter Sinfield: I was, I did. In fact e.g. ITCOTCK was a tune all written by me for my band 'Creation'. Thankfuly Ian came along with the famous remark.." Peter I have to tell you that your band is hopeless; but you write some great words would you like to get together on a couple of songs...?" We did and he rewrote the tune for ITCOTCK. The rest is er, as some would say, history.
MD: Under The Sky is a track that seems to have had a lot of exposure. It was on your solo album, it's on the Giles Giles And Fripp as well as the Brondesbury Tapes - why do you think that song's so popular?
Peter: Its a very pretty relaxed tune with the sort of 'ancient' naive John Clarish words that appeal to fans of Donovan and Nick Drake?
MD: In the days of Crimson, your lyrical prowess was astounding, how did the process begin. Were you given the music, or did the band write around your lyrics?
Peter: Was? Hrrmmmph! The process began with a magic English teacher when I was at prep school. (See school reports in gallery of http://www.songsouponsea.com/ which reveal my lack of prowess at ball control and also that my hand writing was, (continues to be unless I try very hard) appalling . . . like to think this due to 'grass hopper' brain. The following lines, among thousand others, were a great influence - "The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold and his cohorts were gleaming in silver and gold. . .Etc." Later I recall my friend Peter Fearnside and I during 'geography' at Ranelagh grammar school rewriting the words to current hit songs. So for instance... Del Shannon's "Poetry In Motion" became "Hargreave's Bunion Lotion". That is where it began>>> fast fwd to 1967. Most of Epitaph was written before the music and then choruses added to bridge emerging music. Words to 21stCSM written after music. I Talk to the Wind was written to and fro with Ian in the classic way with me leaning casually on a non existent piano. . . It's a guitar song!
MD: How much were you involved with Giles Giles And Fripp?
Peter: Ian was involved. I was his mate who occasionally sat in the corner smiling in amazement determined to. . . I became the roadie also.
MD: I guess it changes every week, but which song/s of Crimson is your favourite?
Peter: Hah. Assuming I listen to any of my work any week which I don't. However when pissed enough to overlook the flaws, when pressured by friends, I have been known to play; Cat Food, I Talk To The Wind, Cadence and Cascade and or Islands.
MD: Have you read any of Sid Smith's book on Crimson? Quite an insight to the internal, er, squabblings.
Peter: Read it and even signed a few copies. I like it. As for an insight into the squabblings. Though it documents 'them' it falls short of exploring in depth the psychological backgrounds of the players involved that lead them to make the decisions, in hindsight wise or otherwise, that, due to pressures ineffable, they made at the time . This would of course require expanding it by about a thousand pages. And a degree in...?
MD: Do you think that Sid Smith gives a fair insight into the workings and break-ups of the early Crimson. I know the section dealing with your departure was very touching.
Peter: It has been mentioned to me before that the section dealing with my departure is touching. It was certainly melodramatic.
MD: Was your involvement with ELP due to Greg Lake's involvement with early Crimson?
Peter: In a word, yes. In many words - well we will not go into the many words.
MD: Which of ELP's song/s are you still fond of?
Peter: Tiger, Pirates, Karn Evil. . .
MD: Do you think, that by the time of Love Beach, ELP had kind of lost interest, their way, their minds?
Peter: I don't think I know. Classic rock and roll lost the plot stuff. Keith E in his upcoming, hilarious from the bits I have heard, autobiography will doubtless cover it well in all its grizzly detail. Including scuba diving with my new girlfriend (Ms. Spain) to illegally spear some very large fish which she would smiling bring back to my ELP rented millionaire's villa to disembowel and descale; covering the walls with blood and guts. These and other distractions, I beg to proffer m'lud, are partially responsible for my writing the worst set of words in my career. Ahem.
MD: what do you think to the recent Crimson and ELP back catalogue being released with 'original' artwork, and those sweet little covers replicating the vinyl versions?
Peter: I think it is splendid.
MD: Do you reckon the remastered versions are any better than the originals?
Peter: Absolutely. They have been cut in 24bit and therefore include all the texture left out by old CD cuts. Now close to analogue. Lovely.
MD: I must admit that when I played the recent In The Court I hadn't realised what a cracking drummer Mike Giles was.
Peter: Did you realise when you played the recent ITCOTCK what a cracking drummer Mike Giles was? Hang on, who is asking the questions?
MD: No, what I meant was, obviously the remastering process, here at least, seems to work, 'cos I never really 'heard' him, as such, on the original. What do you think about Gordon Haskell's recent rise to fame?
Peter: I think that it proves the FA cup is not to be overlooked.
MD: Do you keep in contact with any of the 'old' crew, be they KC or ELP?
Peter: Yes... From person to person swirling through possibilities upon maybes - passing back parallel to times. Long may they!
MD: When your solo album, Still, was re-released (and retitled Stillusion), were you happy that they changed the order of tracklisting about.
Peter: Since I was responsible for it at the time yes. However on reflection it was a mistake...
MD: Why a mistake?
Peter: Well. . I had to fit in two new tracks and where was I to put them without unbalancing the flow of STILL. . . So I decided incorrectly to ignore the balance of Still and sort of pretend it was a new album ... It is only a mistake because so many people have been upset about what was well intentioned... BUT that makes it a mistake. Perhaps I should have stuck them ....welll where eould YOU have put them Hmm..... Hmmm.?
MD: I'm sure I read somewhere that you were working on a second solo album. Is this true, and if so, where the hell is it?
Peter: Well, to be honest its in-between. . . sloth and a hard place. Its not so much the putting of it together as what follows.
MD: We all know that things move on, so how did you actually start to get your lyrics into the mainstream?
Peter: Finding myself demoted from a 16th C farmhouse, divorced and penniless, to a 2 room bedsit in Olympia and my previous style of writing more than a tad unfashionable. . . I set about learning how to write 'real' pop songs and yet somehow give them the flavour, stamp, ire, fire and melancholy that I am able to impart on a good day. Andy Hill was the key to that door.
MD: Andy Hill? Tell us a bit more about him..
Peter: He grew up in Bracknell New Town and because he is15 years younger than me we recently worked out that I might have delivered his Dad's Evening Standard. Well obviously because I ALSO spent several years of my life living in Bracknell New Town. It may be somewhat difficult indeed to find any musical link therein! We share a masochistic bent to work and work on THE THING; bravely tossing the detritus to all sides and even after several days - just looking up and wearily agreeing that;"It isn't is it"?- "No it isn't!" This may seem as nothing to you; but I declare that it is rare, brave stuff. Neither of us understand the songwriting school of 'mud against the wall'. He is without doubt the greatest HIT melody writer I have ever worked with.
This was most convenient. Within the context of KC/ELP/PFM though I had endless strange structures to apply my craft upon they were not very accessible exceptions being the faux popular, Wind, C'est La Vie, etc )SO - I did that.For ten years, better or worse, all that I wrote went directly to vinyl. A privilege indeed for any chap.
However as I may have mentioned and anyway you know, the days of ART ROCK were by1979 dwindling to - 'ng. For after a while in the widerness writing my baby dun left me, as opposed to my ol' robot hath misfunctioned, with the likes of Tim Hinkley, Boz Burell and other blues/rockers [My RETRAINING in the BASICS PERIOD!!] - Into my life, courtesy of Billy Lawrie (Lulu's younger brother), songwriter turned publisher, stumbled ~ Andy. It is perhaps unfortunate that he won the eurovision song contest shortly afterwards; leading me to write several very POP songs for Bucks Fizz. You may think that this would be a simple task. You would be wrong. It is10 times more difficult to write a 3+ minute HIT song (with a veneer of integrity) than it is to write anything for KC/ELP. But I half suceeded. For instance "The Land of Make Believe" beneath its TRa La la IS a virulent anti Thatcher song... Oh yes it is... "Something nasty in your garden, waiting, til it can steal your heart. . ." Lovely & my first No. 1..Still enough about me...and back to A. Hill esq, A man who lives so far beyond his means that his dreams wear skis and rollerskates in a desperate attempt to catch up with him to drop silvery smiles on the bank manager beneath. He is talented enough that I'll find long patience to wait for that 'magic moment' (with a nudge here and there) that he mostly ignores. . . but while this is going on I can often make him laugh -at me -him - women & life in general.
There you go. He has just bought a vinyard in Sussex which he can't afford...Unless the Gods smile on us and we write another Think Twice or Heart Of Stone. Time will tell. . . He is a 'lucky' person (like me) but much beset by devils!
MD: Would you like to name some other songs that your lyrics have appeared - surprise us!
Peter: Well I'm damned if I know what would actually surprise you. So humbly suggest U visit works at http://www.songsouponsea.com/ Enjoy?
MD: Peter - Thanks very much
copyright Peter Sinfield