The Crimson ProjeKCt interview (Tony Levin)

"Playing the music of King Crimson is not just a matter of getting the notes right"

17/02/2014 @ 12:38
There is a double reason but with a common ground. Tony Levin and his given relationship with King Crimson is coming in the foreground not only with the official announcement of the reactivation of Robert Fripp and Co. but also with a new group of musicians which under the name The Crimson ProjeKCt and three former members of King Crimson is reestablishing the glory of this important band with the recording "Live In Tokyo". Although Tony Levin's CV is capable to daze anyone with the variety and importance of the musicians it includes, obviously our short discussion was concentrated in these recent events.

The Crimson ProjeKCtIf I am not mistaken this Crimson ProjeCKt is the first one where Robert Fripp is not involved. How did the idea come up and whose was it?
Well, the numbered projects all included Robert, for sure. This isn't really one of those. This is two bands, both with Crimson members, that have combined their trios - and the show includes both new material of Adrian Belew Power Trio and of Stick Men, and the 6 players all together, doing a lot of King Crimson material.

You are concentrating on the latest period of King Crimson. Besides the obvious members connections what else do you find appealing in these recordings?
Really, we have a lot of Crimson material to choose from, and we do love some of the older material that we've played in the band, but which was written before any of us were members (like "Red" and "Larks Tongues"). I find it a great challenge to play the Crimson music from any era - it's not just a matter of getting the notes right, there are unusual elements in these songs, and when the whole band comes together on a performance, it's pretty special.

The Crimson ProjeKCt - Live In TokyoHow would you describe the legacy of King Crimson? What is it to you and how do you believe that it has been preserved in your live recording?
I'm not good at deciding how things are seen historically – in fact, I rarely look back at what I've done – but to me King Crimson was a great inspiration to my musical career. From when I met the guys in 1980, their way of playing and of approaching their music was different than in the other bands I'd been in. In Crimson it's important to keep pushing yourself to come up with new ways of playing your parts, and also for the band overall to push to come up with new ways of playing. Of course, nobody can re-invent rock every time they record an album, but the important thing is that we're making the effort in that band, and that's what I think the term Progressive should refer to... we're not trying to do more of what we did before, even if that was very good, and successful, and even if it's what the audience wants!  To come and see King Crimson play, you're getting to see a band that's trying to constantly create new things. As you can imagine, for me as a player, that was an awakening experience, and I've tried to incorporate the sense of it, as I can, in my playing with other musicians.

Tony Levin (The Crimson ProjeKCt)It seems that there is a number of musicians that belong to the Crimson family and occasionally they are on or off. Can you define the artistic connection that all of you share?
I don't think I'm an expert at that. I only occasionally see some of the former Crimson players. I do see, and play with, Adrian Belew and Pat Mastelotto, quite a bit. From next September, I'll be touring with a new line-up of King Crimson, including some players I haven't even rehearsed with yet (we will start rehearsing for that later in February.) I think it's safe to say that for all of these players, having experienced what Crimson is about, they try to bring a high level of expertise and creativity to each musical situation they get into.

Would you imagine at some point King Crimson continuing through the projects even when (and if) Robert Fripp stops?
A good question, but I really can't guess at that.

Of all your session work which one do you remember more fondly and you are most proud of?
I don't look back at what I've done, so I don't know about that - in fact, I rarely have 'favorites' about music or musicians. There is a lot of very good music, and I enjoy it pretty equally, whether it's something I played on or something I'm hearing for the first time. Of course, I'm very lucky to have played on some great recordings, with some great players and artists - I am grateful for that. Looking forward, I hope to be involved in more high quality musical projects -whether they're famous or not, and whether they sell a lot or not- those things aren't as important to me as the music.

Tony Levin (The Crimson ProjeKCt)It is common in technically very efficient players such as yourself to mostly record different projects (especially with equally efficient players) and mostly shortlived rather than having a steady group. In your perspective, why does this happen? Do you consider LTE as such a project or as a normal band?
That's a good point. For me, a 'project' is quite different than a band. You put together some really good players and do an album, hopefully a tour, and then if it works well, you try to do more. But with a band, you each have a commitment to it, and you KNOW you'll be doing more. So the big challenge with projects is to find a way each of the players can put aside time to do more, since they're all in bands which have a higher priority in their schedule.  LTE did some great recordings, and fortunately got to do one short tour... whether we'll ever do more is up in the air. I certainly hope so. Recently I did an album (Levin Minnemann Rudess) with Jordan Rudess and Marco Minnemann, which was very well received by the progressive rock community... but we have commitments thru this year (Jordan with Dream Theater, me with Crimson ProjeKCt, King Crimson and Peter Gabriel) so it'll be 2015 before we can record or tour again. It makes it complicated to do many 'projects' but the truth is, it's hard to resist the chance to make really good music with really good players... so I and the other guys I know keep doing it, and then we struggle to arrange schedules to do as much playing as we can.

Kostas Sakkalis