Markus Reuter on Robert Fripp, Crimson ProjeKCt, Stick Men and Ian Boddy: Something Else! Interview

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You’ll need an Outlook calendar to keep up with Markus Reuter these days. The composer/guitarist has just released his latest forward-thinking ambient release with Ian Boddy, even as he preps for more dates with the Crimson ProjeKCt — featuring current and former King Crimson members Adrian Belew, Tony Levin and Pat Mastelotto, along with Julie Slick and Tobias Ralph.

In the meantime, Reuter recorded and toured with the Stick Men (also featuring Levin and Mastelotto), and saw the world premiere of his sweeping Todmorden 513 orchestral suite. Reuter’s dizzying schedule of other projects has also included a performance at the WOMAD Russia Festival, solo U.S. shows, sessions with Angelica Sanchez and Tony Geballe, and a third touch guitar seminar with King Crimson alum Trey Gunn. West Coast concerts with the Stick Men follow in January, then a date on the Cruise to the Edge at-sea concert series.

In this exclusive SER Sitdown, the always-creating Reuter took a quick moment to discuss things — beginning with Colour Division, his just-out collaboration with Boddy …

NICK DERISO: How has the partnership with Ian Boddy grown since your 1999 debut?
MARKUS REUTER: I really like long-term partnerships, because then there’s time and room for development. Ian and I have released more than a handful of albums, but there are four major works that line out the development — Distant Rituals, Pure, Dervish and Colour Division.

NICK DERISO: Is it fair to say that this album has more in common with the debut Distant Rituals than a more recent release like Dervish?
MARKUS REUTER: Yes, that is certainly true. On both Pure and Dervish, I had taken the compositional lead and the pieces on those album are very thought out and conceptual. For Colour Division we took a more relaxed and intuitive approach, just like on Distant Rituals. I am very pleased with my melodic guitar playing, which was all improvised as first takes and just accepted it as is, with hardly any editing.

NICK DERISO: There’s always been an intriguing tension between the two of you. What drew you toward Boddy’s sound — which can be a kind of ambient electronica?
MARKUS REUTER: I am an primarily a composer, and the first few of my solo albums somewhat fall into the ambient genre. At least, they were played regularly on ambient radio shows. And also, my experimental electronica band Centrozoon pre-dates my collaboration work with Ian by many years, so when I was introduced to Ian, there was quite a bit a familiarity with that scene and approach, but I came from a more serious direction.

NICK DERISO: The new album with Boddy, I think very importantly, never trails off into drowsy space-rock. What’s the secret of working in quiet abstraction without letting it get away from you?
MARKUS REUTER: It’s certainly not a rock album at all. (Laughs.) The secret for me is to always do my best, and I just love music and this is real music, not just some guys re-creating a sound that has been around for decades.

NICK DERISO: How has collaborating more recently with Tony Levin in Stick Men impacted your approach on these separate projects?
MARKUS REUTER: That’s a good question. I think it’s made me more confident as a performer and more sensitive about sound. There’s also the influence into the other direction. A lot of my sound has also found its way into Stick Men’s music. Our 2013 album Deep has quite a few more experimental as well as ambient sounds build into the rock fabric.

NICK DERISO: The looped guitar soundscapes, of course, immediately bring to mind Robert Fripp’s legendary experiments in Frippertronics. Describe how his Guitar Craft courses shaped your musical life.
MARKUS REUTER: Oh yes, Robert’s Frippertronics and soundscapes have inspired me immensely, which is totally obvious. It was a challenge to find my own unique voice using a similar kind of setup. It’s developed quite a lot over the years — I’ve been doing this for 20 years — and I think I have now arrived at a very interesting place, since I can use the technology totally intuitively now and it’s just another musical instrument or tool for me. Guitar Craft was very important. It felt like home to me back then — from 1991 to 1998 — because all my concepts and ideas about music and work got confirmed within Guitar Craft. I’m grateful that I discovered
it through Robert’s music and was allowed to learn so much from him.

NICK DERISO: More dates are also planned with the Crimson ProjeKCt. What has that experience been like?
MARKUS REUTER: Yes, we’ll play about 40 shows in the first quarter of 2014, which is great. There will be tours in Australasia and in Europe. The experience has been very good for me. First of all it’s given me a lot of additional exposure, but it’s also challenging because some say
it’s a cover band. To be honest, it’s never felt like that to me, since the energy on stage and on recordings felt and sounded so right. If that wouldn’t be the case, I’d immediately stop doing it. However, I would love to with more with Adrian Belew, in a band context with totally new material.

NICK DERISO: 2013 also saw the debut of your Todmorden 513 project by the Colorado Chamber Orchestra. Tell us what that meant to you — and what’s ahead.
MARKUS REUTER: It means the world to me that the piece has finally been performed live. I have confidence that the composition will continue to make its rounds. We’re currently finishing off the surround and stereo mixes, as well as the documentary. The CD/DVD package will be made available around February next year.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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