‘If I never do it again, that’s OK’: Adrian Belew dives into ProjeKCt work, with no King Crimson regrets

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The Crimson ProjeKCt, a Robert Fripp-approved King Crimson offshoot group, begins its new tour today in Tel Aviv — even as the mothership band is set to restart featuring two of the ProjeKCt’s stalwart members.

One of them, however, isn’t the busy Adrian Belew, who’s immersed himself in a deeply intriguing solo project called Flux while Tony Levin and Pat Mastelotto prepare to rejoin the new Crimson lineup again led by Fripp. In the meantime, their ProjeKCt — a double-trio formulation comprised of the Belew Power Trio and Levin’s Stick Men — released Live in Tokyo just before leaving for 23 dates through Europe into April 2014. The sets, as always, will focus on the 1980s and 1990s era of King Crimson, with some notable additions.

“What we’re doing is trying to celebration and recapture the spirit of the King Crimson music Tony, Pat, and I were part of,” Belew tells us in this exclusive SER Sitdown, “though we do play a couple of older things that none of us were involved in like ‘Red’ and ‘Larks Tongue,’ as a hats off to the Crimson legacy.”

Belew, who has worked with the Talking Heads, Frank Zappa, David Bowie and Nine Inch Nails over the years, is joined in his Power Trio by Tobias Ralph and Julie Slick. The Stick Men’s lineup also features Fripp protege Markus Reuter. Like Belew, Levin (Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd, John Lennon) joined Crimson in 1981; Mastelotto (Mr. Mister, The Flower Kings) came on board in 1994, completing a short-lived double-trio format that this ProjeKCt revives.

Belew, Levin and Mastelotto last performed together with Fripp in King Crimson in 2008; their most recent trip to Europe was in 2003. Later this year, they’ll return to the Full Moon Resort for the Three of a Perfect Pair Music Camp, to be held August 11-15, and featuring a week of performances and workshops in the Catskills …

NICK DERISO: It seems like the Crimson ProjeKCt has provided a constant for you during a period of transition, in particular last year — which began with your departure from Nine Inch Nails. Was there some comfort in returning to this familiar music out there on the road?
ADRIAN BELEW: There is that, to be sure. Crimson has been such a part of my life. It’s not just playing the music — which, of course, I wrote or co-wrote, and so I know it very well, I’ve played it hundreds of time. But moreover, it’s the people I’m playing with. I’ve known Pat and Tony for so long — and Julie, I’ve been playing with her for eight years; Tobias, for four years. It’s like putting on a pair of comfortable shoes. But there is still spark.

NICK DERISO: Versus Nine Inch Nails, where everything was brand new.
ADRIAN BELEW: That’s to be expected. I knew no one in the band, and hadn’t played the music — had no idea what it would be like. I knew I’d be travelling around the world in that situation. I welcomed the challenge and in fact I was very excited, but quietly a bit conflicted too. Because when you go on tour, it really helps if you have a great relationship with the people you are involved with — at least a few of them. That’s your family when you’re on tour. You’re whole world! If you don’t have that family, you don’t have that shared history, funny incidents you remember together, people you know together — if you’re just building new relationships, it can be a lonely road for a long time. I felt very much like a horseshoe in a swimming pool. I didn’t fit in. Of course eventually I would have. But there’s nothing quite like looking over, and there’s Tony. Me and Tony have shared hundreds of moments, and there’s a comfort level there. Maybe that’s how [NIN leader] Trent [Reznor] felt. I was only in Nine Inch Nails rehearsing for two and a half weeks. Then he pretty much went back to the band he had before. I didn’t have time to fit in. So, of course, I work better with people I’ve known a while.

NICK DERISO: Most of that has been in King Crimson, which has now rebooted with a new lineup. At the time, there was some controversy with regard to Robert Fripp notifying you by email about the changes. Was that a big deal?
ADRIAN BELEW: It never was a big deal to me. After all, that is the way we usually communicate. There is nothing bad between Robert and me. I support what he’s doing, and to be patently honest, I wouldn’t have been able to do a new Crimson at this point. So, it saved me having to disappoint. I’m happy with everything we’ve done in Crimson. I’m proud to be part of that legacy. It’s been an incredible run of stuff for 32 years. If I never do it again, that’s OK. If I do it again, that’s OK too. But I don’t have to continue doing it, to feel good about it. My relationship and friendship with Robert is not based on being in a band together — because most of the time, we’re not in a band together. But we’re always friends. Now I’m hell bent, so to speak, on continuing my solo career in a new direction — which is called Flux, and that’s taking up most of my energy anyway. It wouldn’t be easy to be in King Crimson and the Power Trio and be doing something as all pervasive as Flux is.

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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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