‘I wasn’t that into progressive music’: Jerry Marotta on how Peter Gabriel, Robert Fripp changed everything

When Jerry Marotta was hired on to work with Peter Gabriel and Robert Fripp, he’d heard of neither one of them. A fan of rhythm-and-blues players, and most famous then for his work with Orleans, the drummer brought his own sensibility.

“I actually didn’t know who Peter Gabriel was,” Marotta, who played drums with the former Genesis frontman’s solo band from 1977-86, tells Lileigh White Lilith. “I had never heard of him or Genesis, when I started playing with him. I really wasn’t that into progressive music. I think that’s why it worked so well. That’s what Peter liked about me. My background was simply R&B, black music. That’s the kind of drumming that I was interested in doing.”

Fripp, meanwhile, played guitar on Gabriel’s self-titled debut in 1977 (known as Car), and subsequently toured with him. Fripp then produced Gabriel’s second self-titled project (called Scratch) in 1978. Gabriel also appeared on “Here Comes the Flood,” from Fripp’s 1979 album Exposure.

Marotta says Fripp, who’d founded King Crimson a decade before, was an even more mysterious character — but he adds that their musical connection was instantaneous.

“Everybody that spoke about Robert was almost afraid of him,” says Marotta, who adds that Fripp was particularly interested in a groove-focused style of drumming. “Robert and I, we just clicked from Day 1. … It was very interesting to work with them, and I think it was a great situation because I came from such a different background.”

Gabriel’s bassist Tony Levin would later join Fripp in King Crimson. More recently, Marotta has put together a tribute band focusing on those early days with Gabriel called the Security Project — which also features former Crimson member Trey Gunn, as well as singer Josh Gleason.

Besides his work with Orleans (1975–82) and Gabriel, Marotta has also had stints with Hall and Oates, the Indigo Girls and Levin’s solo band. He’s played on countless sessions, including dates for Stevie Nicks, Elvis Costello and Tears for Fears, among others. Orleans is best remembered for its No. 5 1976 pop hit, “Still the One.” Marotta appeared with Fripp most recently on the 1993 Sylvian/Fripp album The First Day.

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