Yeah‚ he didn't treat me that way. He sort of took me under his wing. Actually‚ the people that didn't want to hang with me was the band. They didn't care too much about me. So‚ I hung with Frank all the time‚ and‚ like I said‚ he took me under his wing and it was really generous. I felt a little like a teacher's pet‚ but I felt like this was my opportunity and I want to learn as much I can from this guy who is a genius. You don't get around that everyday! [laughs]
Yeah‚ most people don't‚ but you always seemed to be sought after by folks who many consider geniuses. From Zappa‚ you next worked with Bowie?
I actually went straight into David Bowie. Which was a really different experience because Frank's band was very precise and correct‚ and about being consistent‚ and it wasn't about making up your own stuff. David's band was quite the opposite for me because he needed a guitar player that would stretch out -- playing songs like "Stay" and "Station to Station‚" songs that have a lot of room for guitar playing. So‚ Frank got me in gear‚ and David let me loose! [laughter]
Then later on you became musical director for David Bowie. What was that experience like?
Well‚ to me‚ it's a lot like producing. I'm a producer‚ and I've had so much experience in the arranging of music and the collaboration and what works and what doesn't work‚ what kind harmony can we use here and why you put two instruments together like that‚ etc. It's an endless puzzle. With David's music‚ as music director‚ you were basically covering an entire career of records‚ each one made with a different lineup of people‚ some made with orchestras‚ some of them with saxophone sections‚ and ones with different producers. So‚ to cover that‚ what I tried to do was to take the essence of each piece of music‚ the signature parts of it‚ and just design the rest of it for the four-piece band.
A four-piece band playing "Major Tom" isn't easy. [laughs] So‚ we used some sampling‚ which back in those days‚ 1990‚ was a brand new thing . Nobody was really doing that. It took a lot of time‚ especially working with Rick Fox‚ the keyboard player‚ and a lot of time working with David figuring out the keys. David has always been really an enthusiast to me. He always said‚ "Do what you want." And he'd love it‚ standing on the sidelines telling you‚ "This is great. I like it." It was a hard job and it took a lot of time‚ but I felt really encouraged working with David. I really enjoyed that.
I'd say that's the second magical moment of my life -- that one-year tour where we were treated in the superstar way and‚ you know‚ we had a private jet and all that stuff. The real rock star thing‚ and a lot of money involved and everything. And‚ you know‚ touring with David‚ everything is first class and he's such a superstar that you got see people like Mick Jagger and Dustin Hoffman. It was a real nice thing to have in your career. Everybody should have that type of experience once. [laughs]
How was it coming into King Crimson‚ a band that already had a rich history and such a strong foundation? And what was it like at first playing with Robert [Fripp]‚ who never played with another guitarist before? What was that experience like?
I'll tell you‚ at the very beginning‚ it was really a little bit… What's the word I'm looking for?
No‚ not shaky. A little intimidating. Because I was a real big fan of all that early King Crimson stuff. I loved that music -- second only to The Beatles. Stepping into that band was something that I never imagined I would do‚ and it was the first time that anyone has given me the reigns to say you're frontman. You're the singer and you're the songwriter. We're going to be doing your material‚ so you're going to be representing King Crimson. [laughs] It was scary at first‚ but it didn't take long to wear off and to find my way. The first thing that happened that was really helpful is that Robert is a lot like David. He's so encouraging of me. He likes what I do so much. I have to say‚ "Thank you‚ Robert" for that.
The first thing that happened was that Robert and I worked out the guitar thing‚ and we realized that we're easily two different sides to the same coin. He does this‚ and I do that‚ but we have this in common‚ but we come from a completely different approach. But it was easy to figure out who does what. And I think once that was figured out and the material started to flow a little bit‚ I find myself writing with Robert and doing it in a way with respect to the tradition of King Crimson -- which is experimental music‚ really heavy rock pieces and some classically written songs‚ like "I Talked to the Wind" on the very first record‚ [In the Court of the Crimson King] could have been a Beatles tune. "21st Century Schizoid Man" is a classic prog-rock‚ adventurous song.
That's really one of my favorite album openers. It's such a great jumping off point.
Yeah‚ and you have that and "I Talk to the Wind" right back to back! And that taught me from the very beginning with King Crimson‚ wow‚ these guys are real players and also play songs.
Where did the Double Trio idea in the mid-'90s come about?
That was all Robert's idea. It was just something that occurred to him -- to have two separate trios and playing together. The only problem was -- and I loved the idea when it was first brought out -- that you would have two trios and at any given time one could take over or one could stop or one could be doing one thing complementing the other -- well‚ it never got to the point. That was unfortunate. The only song that I was able to get the band to do that to with was "Dinosaur‚" where in the middle in turns into a different trio. Mostly what happens is that you had all six people wanting to play all the time. [laughs] Which is normal. I never really envisioned that it would be two drummers‚ two bassists and two guitar players all going at the same time.
I remember seeing that lineup at the H.O.R.D.E. tour at Randall's Island‚ and you could see people sort of getting lost in the mix.
It was really too much I think. If it got to the point where it was supposed to‚ then it would have been even more brilliant. It's still good music‚ and a lot of great stuff came out of it‚ but after all‚ you don't really need another drummer if you've got Bill Bruford [laughs] or Pat Mastelotto‚ frankly. Here we are in King Crimson again with two drummers‚ which I think we work a bit differently this time.
I always felt it was a great idea that didn't blossom to what it should have been. I think we made some great music.
What does the future hold for King Crimson?