Interview with Trey Gunn by Howie Shih
Submitted By: Howie Shih
Trey Gunn Interview 6/30/1995
This is the complete and vitually unedited interview I did with Trey back at the end of June. I was only able to use a small portion of it for my Crimson article in the September issue of Smug Magazine. Fortunately, you don't have to put up with my 'ums' and 'ahs' and I'm sorry that Trey had to. It was only the third interview I'd ever done. I'd love to get any feedback from people out there. I know I didn't ask the best questions in the world so I wanna know how I can do a better job next time. Enjoy! Howard Shih: How would you define your role in the new King Crimson?
Trey Gunn: It's a very different role mostly because the function of my instrument in the sound of the group is not one that normally takes place in rock music. It's kind of a baritone range.
Howard: Well, is it a problem finding space to play in since you have Tony on the low end plus Robert and Adrian on the high end?
Trey: Well, there's no problem. It's more of an ensemble kind of playing than you would normally get in rock n' roll; where everybody kind of has their own territory where they make as much sound or do whatever they want in that territory. You can't really do that in this group. It needs to be more organized and a little more thought put into who's covering what territory when. Tony is generally always on the low end. Although last night we were kind of cuing each other and I was going below him. Generally, he's down there and Adrian and Robert are up top and I'm somewhere from the middle to all the way up top. The instrument I play actually has a five and a half octave range. So generally what happens is Tony's playing very,very low bass, although there are times when I take the bass over from Tony, but generally when he's in the bass register and when I'm in the bass register we have parts worked out where I'm in a fuzz bass and he's in a clean bass with an octave divider on and I'm an octave above him. We do that on "VROOOM"and "VROOOM VROOOM" and on some other pieces but generally I'm up in the guitar register.
Howard: When I first heard your record,1000 Years, I was really surprised by the range of The Stick. I had no idea it was so broad because the only Stick playing that I've heard has been Tony's on the 80s Crimson albums.
Trey: Yeah, it's quite an amazing instrument. One of the things that I wanted to do on that record is just present everything that I discovered you could do with the instrument.
Howard: Do you have another album ready to come out?
Trey: Not ready, no. I'm gonna start recording this summer.
Howard: Is Raw Power still availible?
Trey: Not unless you happen to find a cassestte somewhere. I only made a couple hundred copies of it. I have archived it to DAT and a lot of other recordings that I'd done on cassette. I may put out something at some point but right now it's unavailible.
Howard: How have the audiences been reacting to the new material?
Trey: Great. They seem to know it.
Howard: The reason I ask is because during your show in Red Bank the audience started applauding after the quiet interlude in "Dinosaur", not knowing it wasn't over yet.
Trey: Actually, that happens every night. I guess it just sounds like we're finished when we really aren't. Howard: Do enjoy playing the older material, like "Red", or the newer material?
Trey: I like playing newer material since it's more appropriate to the time. Although some of the older pieces, especially "Lark's Tounge" and " Red", are truely timeless and don't sound dated. I'm sure you could play "Lark's Tounge" in a 100 years and it wouldn't sound dated.
Howard: Do you guys plan out who's going to lead off in the improv section in the middle of "THRAK"?
Trey: We haven't really discussed anything about what we're gonna do for that. The drummers' have a couple of things that they can pull out and cue on the moment but generally we just go for it. It's evolved into quite a different thing since we played in New Jersey.
Howard: Is there a track on the new album that best represents the new Crimson?
Trey: Unfotunately no particular track does. The thing that's most interesting about the band is we cover so much territory; more territory than you would usually expect from one band. I think "VROOOM" is probably my favorite insturmental. "VROOOM" and "Dinosaur".
Howard: Why didn't "Internet", the Stick duet, make it onto the album?
Trey: Well, we recorded a lot of stuff for the record and not everything made it.
Howard: So have plenty of new material for the next album?
Trey: We'll probably end up re-recording things. The thing is that just because you record something doesn't mean it's going to end up on the record. The record has a certain feel to it and we felt that that particular piece didn't fit in with everything else. I was trying to get Tony to put it on his solo record but he had too much material and he didn't even get to use all of the material that he had. So who knows? It's only about 90 seconds long.
Howard: How strange was it for you to get feeback about the VROOOM ep while you were recoding THRAK?
Trey: That was kind of fun because Adrian was actually laying down the vocals for the second version of "One Time" as we were reading reviews of "One Time". It was kind of fun for awhile because the kind of things that you read about your work are purely from professional critcs published in a magazine and the stuff that you get on the Internet is purely subjective, which is refreshing because you just don't get that kind of feedback from the critics. So it was really good for awhile but I think it has a tendency to infect your thinking.
Howard: How different is the from The Stick?
Trey: It has the same tuning and string configuration that I have on my Grand Stick so the range is the same. It has generally everything that's availible on the stick and a little more because you could play it like a guitar. It has a bit more of an electric sound on the top side of the instrument and ithas several different pick-ups. It's really a cross between a Stick and a guitar.
Howard: Did you use it when you recorded THRAK?
Trey: No, I never recorded with it. I just got it three months ago and I wasn't planning on using it on the tour.
Howard: Have you guys been able to devolpe the 'double trio' concept any further? Like in soundchecks?
Trey: Unfortunately, we haven't been able to do any work at all during soundchecks. We were hoping that we'd be able to write some more material but there just hasn't been time between when the gear gets setup and when we have to clear the stage. They've just been soundchecks which is a little dissappointing. We have been experimenting with different textures but we haven't been able to do any writing. We really have to get together just for that. I think we're gonna do that in some smaller groups over the summer for a few days. We also have quite a lot outtakes from rehersals that are quite interesting that we'd would like to release.
Howard: What are some bands that you enjoy? Or what do you generally listen to?
Trey: I don't listen to that much actually. My favorite band is still XTC. One of my other favorite singers is Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. He's a Pakistani singer and he's got several records on Peter Gabriel's Real World label. Also the Latin Playboys.
Howard: Is there definitely a second album in the future?
Trey: Yeah, definitely. We have the live record and we also have a lot of interesting outtakes from rehersals that we'd like to release. The next studio record may not even be next, it could be in the fall of next year. It depends on when we have the material. When we've got the material we'll record it. So it looks quite good for the future.