The Crimson ProjeKCt is a King Crimson offshoot featuring three current members of that historic, nay, iconic band – Adrian Belew, Tony Levin and Pat Mastelotto – along with Julie Slick, Tobias Ralph and Markus Reuter.
And a typical Crimson ProjeKCt concert is a marathon of musical might that shifts through many moods and configurations. As Belew explains, “What happens is this: Stick Men (Levin, Mastelotto and Reuter) play a set of their music, which includes a Crimson track or two, then the [Adrian Belew] Power Trio (Belew, Slick, Ralph) plays a set of my music, which also includes a Crimson track, then Tony and Pat and I play a Crimson song as yet another trio, and then comes the big finale – both trios play more than an hour’s worth of Crimson music as a double trio. It’s a helluva show!” And the group is coming to Australia and New Zealand to spread their particular brand of musical majesty in January, with shows in Auckland, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Fremantle.
“To me it’s a celebration of all the things that we’ve done in King Crimson, all the things I’ve been a part of for the past 30-plus years,” explains Belew, who in addition to an extensive Crimson tenure has also worked with the likes of Frank Zappa, David Bowie, Talking Heads and Nine Inch Nails. “But also there’s improvising so the show is fresh for us as well. It’s the closest you’ll have at this point to King Crimson, at least for the moment. And as well as that you get to hear the Power Trio doing some of my music, and you get to hear Stick Men doing their music. So you put it all together and it’s a pretty nice night of music. A very long set. As a six-piece band we play about an hour and a half of Crimson music and we cover everything, one era to the next. So it’s a lot of fun. It’s part of my legacy and I really enjoy doing it.”
Belew says at this point there’s no particular need to take liberties with the material or put it into a new context. “These are comfortable shoes for me now. I just put them on and I’m ready to run. But that’s not so much what it’s about – it’s not about the invention of something, it’s a celebration of this music. But I will say it’s different night to night. Different things happen that will surprise me. I might know the music so innately after all these years but there’s always going to be something that happens that I’ve never heard before. It’s music that you have to really concentrate on, even if you know it really well. You can’t just be looking around. It’s really complicated and everything has to be really connected if you want it to work right, especially in a band with two drummers and two bass players.”
Curious listeners who might not be well versed in the Crimson lexicon but would still like to have a jumping off point to appreciate the show should know that the band has explored many different styles. Crimson has gone from the vaguely hippie-ish psychedelia of ‘Moonchild’ to the prototypical progressive rock of ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’, the more recognisably prog ‘Dinosaur’ and the angular math rock of ‘Thrak’. But Belew has a suggestion for a suitable place to begin. “If you want to start with the Crimson that I’ve been a part of that started in 1981, I would start right there with the first record that we did; myself, Robert Fripp, Bill Bruford and Tony Levin. That was called Discipline, and even to this day [that] record is something that people still talk about a lot as being something that was kind of unique. Nothing ever sounded like that before. I think if you heard that record you would know right away if that was something you’d be interested in, and strangely I think it still sounds ahead of its time despite being over 30 years old.”
Belew has a unique insight into working with great visionaries such as Zappa, Fripp, Bowie and Trent Reznor. Between them, Bowie and Zappa, in particular, required completely different things of the guitarist. “With Frank,” says Belew, “I can put it in one sentence that he said to me: ‘I want you to play my music correctly and consistently.’ So Frank wasn’t looking for someone to add anything to what he did. He wanted you to play what he had already written. He knew what he wanted to you do, he spelled things out for you, and for me at that time in my life that was something I really needed. I needed a teacher for a while, so Frank was my teacher for a whole year. Right after that I graduated into being in David’s band, and what he wanted was for me to just play as wild guitar as I could. That’s what he needed in his music, someone to colour it with lots of wild sounds and solos and things. And that’s the same thing that Talking Heads wanted from me too, and kind of the same thing that Nine Inch Nails always ask of me – to play as wild as I can. Some people come to me for songwriting or singing, and some people want me to play as wildly as I can. And I like all those roles.”
BY PETER HODGSON
The Crimson Projekct play The Hi-Fi on Friday June 27.