Interview with Trey Gunn in Tylko Rock

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Date Submitted: 4-Dec-1997
Submitted By: Michal Kopczak (mkopczak at usa dot net)

I've just ended transcribing this interview, which was published in "Tylko Rock" - a Polish music magazine in May 1996. All possible grammar mistakes are my fault, of course :))))

Michal Kopczak


How had happened Your collaboration with Rober Fripp, and King Crimson?

I've met Robert in 1985. When I've found out, he's started teaching guitar an music, I realised: 'I can't miss this opportunity!', 'Can I not find Robert and don't ask him if he could became my teacher?'. In fact, there is not many rock musicians, who are able to teach you something'. Undoubtly, Robert is one of those. So, I've started studying under his direction. Two years later I've reached for an instrument named 'Chapman Stick'. In fact, this is when I've begun work with Robert, as a professional musician.. For example, I've been playing in the 'Sunday all over the World' group, which recorded one LP, but then it lost. So, I am collaborating with him for about ten years. I took part in many of his projects.

I've been playing in the "Robert Fripp String Quartet", in common project of Robert Fripp and David Sylvian, etc. So, when he decided to restore King Crimson - I know he's been considering that for some time, but still waiting for suitable moment - he asked if he could count on me. I said 'yes'....

I wonder how do you value 'Kneeling at the Shrine' only LP of 'Sunday All Over the World' after years. I must confess, I like it very much, and was disappointed it passed almost absolutely unseeigned....

I still like over half of these pieces.... I think it's a good music. But there are some things, which doesn't fit to me. You don't know that we had enough material for second LP, unfortunately it never come off to produce it. We have some live records as well, plus idea of releasing it, but will this happen in future? I don't know. Anyway, there is some really good stuff on DAT's... Maybe You can find it interesting one piece on my new solo album, which has been written by me and Robert for 'Sunday All Over the World'....

Beginnings of present 'incarnation' of King Crimson are surrounded by mysteries, Virgin Records describes one version, you are telling something completly diffrent...

As a matter of fact, even I do not remember how it had happened exactly...I know we were starting in small groups , not in large, six-persons personnel. You see, Robert have been working on essence of present music vocabulary of King Crimson for some time. Later, we were working in small working groups: Robert, me, Pat or: me, Robert, Adrian, Tony. There were many combinations...(laughs). But since we've recorded 'VROOOM' we've never met in one room, so "VROOOM" session should be recognized as beginning of present King Crimson. Then, We said to ourselves: 'OK, we are going to Woodstock, where Tony lives, to spend one and half week on rehearsals, work on the material, and on recording it.'. This is how we did it, in four weeks, we locked in studio in Woodstock, and created all pieces, then we registered in four days (May, 1994 - MK). This how LP 'VROOOM' has appeared. You know, we are really a large group, and this is difficult to gather us together in one place, without any special reason. It looks impossible to me if someone of us said: 'hey, come into me, we'll play some Crimson in garage...'(laughs). It won't work, it is really hard to pick six of us in one place.

So, who has given idea of six-person personnel, with two guitarists, two bass players and two drummers as well?

Robert has aired it. He's found out it, but it seemed such a crazy, he put this idea off for a long time. Few years ago, he asked me about my opinion, but I answered: 'I don't know, but it seems, there could be many complications according to that'. One day he decided we should try to work in a six, and get as far as it is possible.

Do You think this idea was right?

We still need to work with it, but I think idea is good, what do you think?

It's not easy to answer this question; when I am listening to 'VROOM' 'THRAK' I am not always sure who exactly do particular parts of music...

....And this is really cool; we have the same problem too.

What was, in your opinion, artistic essence of Crimson in 90's?

As you know , our repetoire is very various, King Crimson is very special group. It seems, it is more heterogeneus, than in the beginning. On the tour we play various music, such as 'Red', 'Vrooom' or 'Waiting Man'. Undoubtly, we wanted to create really heavy music, usually you have only heavy sound. Powerful guitars, electronically deformed vocal, loud drums...But it doesn't mean you hear heavy music. One of our tasks was to create heavy music, music which frightens.

How is in your opinion, difference between this and previous incarnations of the group?

You see...I hadn't been King Crimson fan before 1981. I can value older LP's from my own perspective. And part of this music sounds obsolete, some doesn't. Actually, for me King Crimson has started after 1981. And I think, that present Crimson is group playing heavier than this reminding Crimson from 70's, but with fuller, even orchestral sound. We perform some pieces from 80's, and of course, they sounds better, because all four musicians, who were playing then play now... But I have the impression that we can move far more. For example: Robert is playing better, than ever in the past, and older compositions in our repetoire get more perfect shape than ever.

But even you cut off from music of 70's you admitted that present works compares rather to Larks Tongues in Aspic, than Discipline or Beat... Was this retreat from 80's stylistic intentionally move?

Crimson music in 80's was something very exciting, especially for the musicians. It was style, which was just forming. Close to works of Philip Glass or Steve Reich. Then, no one was playing like this. Maybe, except of "Talking Heads", but with much less boldness. It was new type of playing. And according to that, it was far more harder to play. But now, it is a common sound language. Now, this music doesn't give any difficulties for us. So, it doesn't attract us not at all. And as I said before: heavy music was something which attracts us, like VROOOM for example...

You reminded me of something: what do the words: THRAK, VROOOM mean?

(laughs) Well...I am afraid I can't help you with that...It's just word joke. We were trying to invent titles, which don't give any associations. The idea was to shock someone who looks on the cover, and thinks: what's that, what does it mean? The answer is: everything you want...Chevrolet model...anything.

You are playing on very special instrument Chapman Stick. Is it a kind of challenge for You?

Well.. Yes it is. You see, this instrument was invented only 25 years ago. It is still new. If you're playing saxophone, for example, you can learn from Coltrane, or many others. But there is lot work to do lying ahead with Stick....