‘It all came, really, from Paganini’: Greg Lake on King Crimson bandmate Robert Fripp’s idiosyncratic style

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Over the years, Robert Fripp has developed his own legend within King Crimson, both has its only continuous member over the decades and for his famously eccentric stage presence.

Greg Lake, who co-founded the band and remained through its first two albums, takes us into the genesis of both.

“It’s funny how these things start up,” Lake tells Rockin’ Rich Lynch in the video below. “In those days, it was de rigueur to have some kind of quirky gimmick, I suppose you’d call it. Every guitarist had his thing.”

Lake and Fripp met as childhood musicians, having shared — along with future Police star Andy Summers — a guitar teacher in Don Strike. “It was like two brothers, really,” Lake adds. “It was a bit like two brothers being in a band. We had a complete understanding of what each other knew.”

Strike had initially introduced them to Paganini, the early 19th century Italian violinist and composer. “Paganini was a sort of strange character,” Lake says. “He was a bit evil, really. He used to play in between two black candles. He used to challenge other violinists to play in competitions. He was a kind of nasty piece of work, really. But he was a fantastic player, and Robert had really become fascinated by him.”

Lake says he eventually suggested that Fripp base some portion of his still-emerging stage persona on Paganini.

“We went down to Portobello Road in London,” Lake says, chuckling. “I remember we bought him a load of clothes — and dressed him up as this sort of Jack the Ripper-type character. So, that’s how it started, with Robert scowling at the audience and playing these blistering, fast solos. It developed from there, I think, into playing with his back toward the audience and behind the speakers and all of this. It all came, really, from Paganini.”

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