Quoi de neuf ?

de Gaulle Charles, ‘Traits d’esprit’.

Sortie : , Chez : . Les perles du Général classées par thème, et il n’en était pas avare. A Frey qui vient de faire arrêter Jouhaud après le putsch d’Alger : « Alors Frey, il vous a fallu un an pour arrêter un chef de l’OAS ! Et pour comble, vous m’arrêtez le plus bête et le plus difficile à fusiller ! »

Robert Fripp Press Conference

RF: So firstly, many thanks for coming all this way, particularly on such an exceptionally cold morning.

I’m aware that some professionals’ interest in King Crimson is mainly professional, and I have no difficulties with that. The professional level of the questions are more-or-less allowed for in the first hour. If anyone has questions which are more personal, or of deeper interest, then the second session is provided for that. If anyone really has burning questions, then the third session is allowed for that. It’s not strictly that everyone has to go at quarter-to-the-hour, it’s not like that at all. If we’re on a roll then I’m happy to keep rolling.

For my personal interest, I have no need to do interviews. I don’t look on interviews as promotion. There have been times in my life where, perhaps because of the arrogance of youth, if on the occasional moments where I felt I had something to say of value, then these were opportunities to say that. That has now moved to, shall we say, post-maturity. Within the professional context however, it seems to me that if interviews are looked on as a promotional tool, then the value of dialogue and multi-logue is somewhat negated.

I’ve just returned from Spain, where I’ve been in a house in Los Molinos, a retreat centre for a monastic order, in a house that suits about 30 or 40 people. In fact, we had 84 guitarists in the house for a Guitar Craft course. The questions of people who, addressing the realities of our life – whatever we understand by « realities » – are very generally mundane and straight-forward and shared by all of us. But the concerns of a young person, and how they might reach music when their background is not necessarily the most supportive for doing that, these are questions which have more flavour for me than the courteous professional exchange of professionals doing a piece of work. And I’m one of those professionals here at the table. So, with this said, if anyone has professional questions then I’m happy to answer them.

But I lie, actually. I’m not happy to answer them at all – I would rather invite questions which are burning, or on fire. Most of the information that you have available is more than adequate for your purposes. So, are there any questions which firstly, only Robert is likely to be able to answer? And secondly, questions that have value for you personally?

Q: The Power Of Life, sorry, The Power To Believe, do you mean that as belief in one’s personal abilities or in something more transcendental?

RF: Well that would probably be a question for Adrian the lyricist.

Q: But he’s not here…

RF: That’s true, but he did do his promotional tour in Europe.

Q: Did he?

RF: With Adrian, this comes from a song he wrote when he met his wife. This is my understanding and simply drawn from listening to the words. I’ll put it in a more general way.

Anyone that might read newspapers, or go to work over a period of 20 or 30 years, and for those of us who act within a commercial culture, even before we turn on satellite news from around the world – a reasonable person might despair. If all that is open to us is the information on offer, then life is too hard. So, perhaps a reasonable response is simply to give up. There’s nothing we can do.

In terms of the EP Happy With What You Have To Be Happy With, the Japanese title of the EP is Shoganai, which in Japan has a very, very different resonance. A French translation might be c’est la vie. An English approach would be that’s life. But neither of these quite have the flavour of the Japanese, which is more or less along the lines of two atomic bombs have gone off… that’s life! Well, it’s a bit more than that’s life! It’s shoganai.

Q: It’s fate?

RF: Well, that’s another expression. But if two bombs went off down the road from me, I think I might say a bit more than that’s fate! In Japan shoganai is a wonderfully multivalent word which covers just about every circumstance: from someone I love has just been crushed on the subway to there is no hope whatsoever. It can be a very powerfully emotive word in Japan. You have a sense of hopelessness and despair – a reasonable person might despair.

On the other hand, hope is unreasonable. And love is greater than this.

So here you have the balance: life is hopeless, there is hope. How to hold these two in balance in a very strange world? For me, this is the thinking behind the album and the EP which leads up to it. Happy With What You Have To Be Happy With is very nicely in 11/8 which fits the music and Adrian’s particularly upbeat American take on that’s life! that’s fate! and c’est la vie.

Q: To what extent are you involved with the content or the ideas of an album like this?

RF: I don’t write the words. At a press conference the band did in Los Angeles two weeks ago, Adrian was asked to explain the words of Eyes Wide Open, which he did. And I told him, « you’re wrong, it’s not to do with that at all! » So, Adrian is responsible for the words.

In terms of how one shapes and directs, shall we say, creative projects is a far more interesting and subtle situation. For example, if you sit in a room with three other men for three weeks and hold an idea, by the end of that period at least someone else in the room will be thinking and acting on the idea you have held firmly, even if you have said or played nothing. But this is now into an interesting and subtle area. So if you ask me what is the nature of your creative input to the album and the EP? I’d say I’m the guitarist and shrug my right shoulder in a distinctively French fashion.

Q: In your new album I can see you are one of the most motivated musicians of your generation. Do you still want to do new music, new things?

RF: Thank you for this generous assessment and characterisation. I’m not sure it’s one which I would accept for myself. If you ask what I would like for myself, it would be to have a quieter life.

Q: You were talking earlier about despairing, hopelessness and stuff, but in the album would there also be some angriness there, in something like Level Five and some other one’s and I wander if that’s true, where it comes from… in reaction to what?

RF: No, I don’t myself feel anger in that. What I would see is a way of recognising the remorselessness of events once set in motion. Anything we do generates repercussions. Anything we do intentionally, the repercussions will be at a level that we can handle; we can deal with them. If we act carelessly, the repercussions proliferate and our lives will become more complex with unnecessary issues. If, however, we act in a way that we know is fundamentally not right, then the repercussions may overwhelm us. So Level Five is one way of dealing with the seemingly remorseless progression of events that follow any action. And it may not be necessarily our personal actions, although that’s part of it.

This is obviously one particular approach, and if that were all that there were in life, then life would really be hopeless. Redemption is the theological term for how repercussions on a large scale are dealt with. Also on a small scale.

Q: Are you referring to any particular personal event, for example?

RF: You can say that Level Five deals with the remorseless progression of circumstance and repercussions on a general basis. Would there be personal situations in there? Yes, I believe there would be. Would there be larger and impersonal situations? Yes. But this is one of the beauties of music: it’s wonderfully wide.

Q: You’re often described as a gentle and quiet man and yet you play a kind of music which is very heavy, often ferocious, often very loud. Do you see a paradox in that, or where does that come from?

RF: Ideas escape those who nominally seem to be responsible for them, if the ideas have any value.

So am I a quiet, private man? Well, fairly obviously. Is there anything exciting about me? Nothing whatsoever, as you yourself can judge from this table. There is nothing exciting about me. One of the most exciting things for me is I’m going to see my wife this evening. I mean, front page, FRIPP VISITS WIFE. My Wife is currently in Canterbury. She’s on tour with Calamity Jane and we had a wonderful weekend there.

When I returned from Madrid last Saturday – because of the snow I was sent to Gatwick instead of Heathrow – I drove home and did a little shopping. Then I unpacked and went down to my local pub, thirty yards from where I live. I bought a pint of cider, sat in a little corner, a little nook by the fireplace, and drunk it all on my own. And I was so happy. And then my wife came home and I was happier still. This is excitement.

(Laughs).

Q: Talking about balance, when I was listening to the record, it sounds like a typical King Crimson record to me. If I listen to the details, it becomes a totally different record, a totally new record and there’s such a nice balance of these two extremes, of these two aspects of King Crimson.

RF: I agree.

Q: Was this on purpose?

RF: It wasn’t an accident. The quick answer is yes, the form is most important. For me the form is critically important.

When the album arrived from Nashville in England at the end of July (2002), it wasn’t a King Crimson record. It was an Adrian, Robert, Pat and Trey record, engineered by Machine. And it was a good album and it’s 90% of what you hear now. But it wasn’t King Crimson. It was the remaining 10% which was added in the main by David Singleton, my partner at DGM and in ToneProbe, who was editing and mastering. We had late nights, late nights – editing, compiling and mastering and then mastering again. And while we were doing this, the late night sessions in DGM SoundWorld were interspersed with telephone calls to the Sanctuary lawyer doing the deal.

So the form as it is now was not an accident, nor was it a given.

Q: So what were those ten percent that changed from that normal King Crimson record to what there is now?

RF: If you looked at this building from the outside, it would be a building. If you came inside and there was no furniture and decorations, you’d say it’s a building. Once the building is built, what goes on inside, like furniture and what you have on the wall, is relatively less but it does determine that this is the Sanctuary building, as opposed to a building. The final 10% is that.

Q: So is David Singleton a member of King Crimson?

RF: Are you a member of King Crimson, David?

DS: No, I am not.

RF: David is not a member of King Crimson. However, what I will say for David – he has actually heard more of recorded King Crimson music, archives and albums, than any man on earth including me. David, for example, spent four months editing, listening, editing and compiling the live tapes from 1969 that went into the four volumes of Epitaph. That was hard. And that was only 1969. Wait ’til we hit 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974 and then onwards…

David is my business partner at DGM. We have a 50/50 relationship. No 51/49. If we don’t agree on something, it doesn’t happen.

Q: When you said that King Crimson was more a way of doing things than just a band, do you refer just to the style or a way of thinking?

RF: And the way of feeling and the way of acting.

If you look at one small aspect of how we live our life, you’ll find that generally another small aspect of how we live our life is actually the same. You look at a third small thing, and how we behave in life, it will have the same imprint as the first two. And then perhaps we might come to the conclusion that all the small things of our life are actually our life.

In Guitar Craft what we say is how you hold the pick is how you live your life. So, that’s how you hold the guitar pick (demonstrates). Of the maybe 1300 or 1400 people that have come into Guitar Craft, there are maybe two other hands that have yet approximated to this (demonstrates the right hand position of readiness). Generally when people come in, their wrists are like this (demonstrates a position of collapse). There, if I presented you with that wrist, or with this (demonstrates a wrist with tension) would you respond to that as a difference in attitude, for example? Here is a young man’s wrist holding his pick and about to hit a string on this guitar (demonstrates an aggressive wrist position, locked in tension), and I go like that (releasing the tension in the wrist) I am asking him to release his world-view, how he thinks of his life, how he believes the world to be, and how he responds to living in the world.

So the question of simply moving a balance in his hand, his wrist and his thumb, to hold a pick, is actually taking on the whole of his life. And it is awful. It’s awful because of all the fixity, all the energy which is locked into the assumptions and the patterns… wrist after wrist. But, it’s real.

Q: Unfortunately my English is not good enough to translate a Dutch word which comes to mind, which is not threatening. In German you say, uwiegens, I don’t know which the English impression is, but what do you want to say with the cover? Is the relation with the cover of the album with the music? Because the cover has something threatening.

RF: It’s ominous.

Q: Yes, ominous, that’s the word.

RF: The piece of art was painted by Pam Crook. She is a personal friend my Wife met on a professional project, making a film of an English woman artist in the early nineteenth century called Rolinda Sharples. Rolinda was erased from history. She was a woman, you see. And she was an artist, so that really didn’t count as proper. So the programme was about how you have a leading woman artist, in early Victorian England, simply disappear from history. This is where we met Pam.

She painted this (Fin de Siecle) in 1999, which was two years ahead of The Event and has a strangely prophetic character. In terms of the issues under discussion on the album, if you want to put it like that, there is a relevance. The artwork spoke to me. I mentioned this to Pam when she came for dinner recently. Resonances which are out there in potential, and haven’t yet happened – artists’ antennae pick up on what they are. It doesn’t mean necessarily that this has to happen, but it means there is a tendency towards this. So the painting is prophetic, ominous and eerie.

Q: Eerie, that’s another nice word, but is there a connection with the music in your opinion?

RF: Yes.

Q: The threatening feel, the ominous feel it has, the music has it sometimes as well I think.

RF: Sometimes yes. Sometimes it’s addressing repercussions that may be in potential, or maybe actions that have already been taken. It fits with the album and the EP overall. The EP also has artwork by Pam, with different covers in America and Japan. In Japan the artwork is more tuned to Shoganai, in America it’s more tuned to Happy To What You Have To Be Happy With.

There was a King Crimson competition for someone to put a balloon in the mouth of the person watching the television on the artwork to the American EP. Can you remember the exact words, David?

DS: This King Crimson video sucks.

RF: Good! This King Crimson video sucks – which is wonderful! King Crimson videos are appalling. They are awful. They are wretched things. So we don’t do them anymore. There you go, much easier.

Q: You were touring with TOOL?

RF: Yes.

Q: Do you have interest in contemporary rock bands and in any way have they influenced your work in the new album?

RF: The quick answer is yes. I’m interested in the work of other musicians. I personally prefer to see them live, and that makes it more difficult because unless one’s resident in a city centre where there’s a lot going on. One tends to miss a lot of it. But I was nevertheless listening to TOOL records in the basement in Nashville, where I work with Adrian Belew, while writing the music for The ConstruKction Of Light.

Am I influenced by the people I hear? I hope so. And the people I meet? Yes, I hope so too. I hope I register everything. The direct causal relationships are sometimes a little difficult to trace. For example, I might be more influenced by how a guitarist puts on their guitar, than how they play it or what they play. Now how to actually trace that is the difficult thing. For example, I once asked John McLaughlin (I flew to Paris to interview John when I was a contributing editor to Musician magazine) and asked him what was his interest in Sri Chinmoy. John said I wanted to see how he poured a cup of tea. Now, I understood exactly what John said. At least I believe I do. So sometimes I’m more interested in seeing how the guitarist puts on the guitar than what they actually play.

With regards to TOOL… actually TOOL do happen to be a favourite band of mine, but I don’t generally comment on who I like because it leaves out everyone else, and the suggestion might then be that doesn’t Robert like them as well. So, I make no further comment on that other than TOOL are wonderful characters. Adam asked me do you hear the King Crimson influence in TOOL? and I said « no, not at all ». TOOL are more comfortable being TOOL than King Crimson is comfortable being King Crimson. It’s in the nature of the band (KC) I’m afraid.

Q: Yeah, why’s that?

RF: It’s in the nature of the band.

Q: What do you mean, you don’t feel comfortable within the band?

RF: NO! Or rather YES, I feel uncomfortable. I always have. It’s an awfully uncomfortable band to be in. Awfully uncomfortable. Why? Because it doesn’t stand still.

Q: Sorry?

RF: It doesn’t stand still. Crimson always continues to reinvent its wheel.

Now if you go home, one of the good things about being home is your comfortable chair is there in your study, where you sit to read. With your lamp, there. Your music, there. Your books, there. It’s comfortable. If you go home and your chair isn’t there, your books aren’t there, your study is moved and your music has been turned off… it’s not comfortable.

Q: Yes but it is challenging.

RF: Right. But when I go home I would like to be able to have a moment sitting in my study… So, at home, one has one’s own particular dynamisms to keep oneself sharp. To put it another way, one’s pointed stick.

So yes, King Crimson is always challenging, and challenging is antithetical to comfort. So the answer is, King Crimson is always an uncomfortable place to be.

Q: Is that the reason that you are going to form The 21st Century Schizoid Band?

RF: I haven’t formed it.

Q: I read so.

RF: No. No, I haven’t formed the band. I know the people, at least I know some of them. I’ve spoken to some of them and some of them even are friends of mine. I support them personally and professionally, but I have no formal involvement or relationship with them.

Q: I see. So what is that band?

RF: It was formed initially by Michael Giles, the drummer in the first King Crimson, who I think wanted to play…

Q: Good reason.

RF: … and he put the band together with Ian McDonald. Obviously saxes, flute and I believe keyboards. Mel Collins, saxes from 1970-72. Jakko, guitarist and singer, his son-in-law, well known for his work in Level 42. And Peter Giles, the bass player from Giles, Giles & Fripp, and who played on In The Wake Of Poseidon. And they went out and they did some work. I bought tickets to see them but David and I spent a long, late, sleepless night on Dartmoor, mastering The Power To Believe, so I didn’t get to see them. With regret.

Q: Would you like to collaborate with them?

RF: I have been formally invited to play with them at any time, which I’ve acknowledged gratefully, but currently that’s not music which addresses my main concern or interest. That shouldn’t in any way be taken as critical, because it’s not: it’s just not where my musical interest currently lies.

In 1997 when David and I were working on Epitaph, the live 1969 music, I felt I would like to play this. I felt hot to this repertoire from a certain period, which is entirely valid in the conservatory tradition. You address the repertoire from a particular period and no-one considers that in some way you’re flunking your musical responsibilities or being dishonest. So I mentioned the idea to Michael Giles, drummer from 1969, John Wetton, bass player and singer from ’72-74, of putting together a quartet for three weeks. One week’s rehearsals, one week playing in clubs in America, one week in Japan, looking at the repertoire of King Crimson from 1969 – 1974. Any music which attracted our passion, we’d play.

The advantage was, this was not King Crimson. So it wasn’t a reformation. It wasn’t a big commercial venture. It was playing a particular repertoire of interest. I mentioned this to Ian McDonald and Ian was very much against. Ian was at that time specifically focused on reforming the original King Crimson. This has been suggested to me since 1977 and is not something which attracts my interest. So Ian said no, Michael and John said yes, and at that point the overall answer was no. So King Crimson moved towards The ProjeKcts and, in terms of the repertoire, it waited until The 21st Century Schizoid Band.

Q: In the intro of Facts Of Life there is a sense of waiting, like there is something which is about to happen. How important is the sense of waiting and the mystery and so on?

RF: For mystery I’d substitute the word ambiguity. Something which is definite-definite has little information present. Something which is ambiguous is far more open. It’s information rich. And waiting is part of life.

Q: You are the only Englishman in the band.

RF: I noticed that too. It’s why I rely particularly on David.

Q: That’s what I was going to ask you.

Q: Why it’s got to be a British thing…?

RF: No, it’s Anglo-American. Anglo-American is a very, very good relationship.

As we all know, the English have nothing whatsoever to do with continental Europe. David has a house in France, may I say, and I have myself been traveling to continental Europe since the age of eleven, when I fell in love with Paris… and well, that’s another story. I’m not myself antithetical to continental Europe, neither is David. In fact many English people are moving to continental Europe to regain a sense of a certain kind of England which once they knew.

There is a sensibility that England has that is simply explained by saying, well actually, it’s English. For a wider approach to that I recommend anyone who’s interested might look at Peter Ackroyd’s new book The Origins of Albion – The Origins Of The English Imagination. This is a very well-informed, non-academic but persuasive and informative view of what it means to be English over a 2000-odd year period.

So part of King Crimson is English, but it can’t be wholly English because there are limitations to being in England, like… well you might as well give up because nothing is possible. Or, you’ve got a really good idea? It’ll fail. Or you’re successful? How dare you! So there are limitations on being English and Englishmen, young Englishmen and maybe even young Englishwomen. But I speak of my generation of musicians, which were totally male. When they went to America, instead of having to defend what they did, they actually met people who rather liked it and encouraged them in it. And this was such a novelty in their lives they decided they might stay there.

However, you then run into the other thing. Americans are very good at getting the show on the road. The content of the show, however, is not always their speciality. You have situations in England, therefore, where England is shambolic, amateurish, unprofessional, with eccentrics and oddballs who come up with strange ideas. They take these strange ideas to America, Americans say that’s a great strange idea, and they put the show on the road. So there’s a very good combination. If you spend too long in America you become, in my view, too concerned with putting the show on the road. If you stay in England for too long you realize it’s hopeless, and anyway the little success you had was a crime.

Q: You mentioned King Crimson as a separate being…?

RF: It is. Yes, it is.

Q: How is that, how does it work and what’s it like?

RF: A number of questions there, would you like to choose one of them please?

Q: Um, what is it?

RF: Well you have a number of definitions on that. One is, it’s a way of doing things, and also thinking about things and how you feel about things and so on. It’s a particular world-view. It’s a particular strategy for engaging in and with the world, from one point of view

From another point of view, as a strategy it obviously has to be embodied, to take place in the actual world. And the body of King Crimson has changed somewhat over the years. So for me the particular formations of King Crimson are in effect incarnations. The spirit returns, the body may be different, but the spirit returns.

Q: And has there always been a sense of this spirit from the start of King Crimson?

RF: The quick answer is yes. It has an otherness about it. And even as a young man I was never silly enough to confuse King Crimson with what I personally did. And to do so would be to utterly miss the contributions of all the other people anyway, which is profoundly insulting, even were I that egotistical. The musicians in King Crimson, by and large, have all been better players than I am. What I bring to bear is something else.

My work as a guitar player is generally better highlighted in the work of other people, notably Bowie and Eno, who come to me not for my ideas or thinking or way of doing things – all of which they’re very capable of bringing to their own concerns – but they come to me as a guitar player. I happen to be a good guitar player, but King Crimson is not the best context for me to be a guitar player. As a guitarist, I do my best work with others.

Q: Joe Satriani for instance, because I understand you did some work with him as well?

RF: Yes. Joe was interested in me joining the band and touring with him. I was going out to support Joe on his tour in America in July last – 30 dates, solo Soundscapes. Oh! I so wanted to do it, so wanted to. King Crimson’s recording plans shifted back a month because Machine’s manager lied to us. He lied to us over Machine’s availability. Are we still cross about this, David?

DS: We are very cross about it.

RF: So I missed a tour I really, really wanted to do as a guitar player, with a pal of mine, because of that. Otherwise I would have been out supporting Joe. Yes, I contributed to one of Joe’s tracks, although not very much as a guitarist.

Joe Satriani is a superb guitarist, far better than anyone who’s seen him live can possibly know, because the history of the electric guitar lies in Joe’s hands. Although when he’s Joe Satriani he’s not there to give you a history lesson, he’s there to be Joe. Joe has far wider capabilities than the performer Joe Satriani carries with him on stage. I’d love to do some more work with Joe. He is a friend, and in the future maybe I will.

Q: Talking about the different bodies of King Crimson, how has it come that the four-piece band sounds even more dense than the six-piece band?

RF: There are less people playing the music.

Q: Can you explain that a little bit more?

RF: In terms of the Double Trio: the six people, the potential available to those six people, to any six people but particularly those six people, were enormous. Maybe, maybe, maybe we touched on one percent of what was possible, and I say that with reservation because I exaggerate. The possibilities available to what that band could actually do were enormous. Nevertheless they’re good people, and if there’s an awful lot going on, some of those players were inclined to stop, because there’s enough musical information already on-stage. I am one of those players, which is why you find me not doing a lot of guitar work in the Double Trio – there is enough going on. As a quartet, I am playing more because there’s more space available to me. That’s one example.

Q: You know you say that King Crimson always comes when the spirit comes back…

RF: Yes.

Q: …and in different incarnations, so this latest one, what’s the origin and how did it come about?

RF: The logistics of working with a six-piece were overwhelming. Just too complex to put six busy people in the same room together. Then for one of them, Bill, his musical passion moved. Bill’s musical passion moved into acoustic jazz, essentially. So there was a bona-fide musical difference, that Bill’s musical home was no longer properly in King Crimson. Also at that point Tony Levin accepted a tour with Seal. So a call had to be made if King Crimson were going to move and actually do something. The call I made was the Double Duo.

It took us probably two years to find ourselves, and Trey and Pat recreated the Crimson rhythm section. They rebuilt the notions of the Crimson rhythm section in the opposite way to the Tony Levin/Bill Bruford rhythm section. With Tony and Bill, Tony held the foundation and Bill moved about on top of it. With us, Pat holds the foundation, and moves about on top of it to a degree. Trey also holds the foundation, but moves about on top of it as well. Essentially Pat is now the foundation in the band, whereas it used to be Tony.

Q: The Power To Believe has a strong oriental flavour, how did it come about?

RF: On a functional level, world music, if you want to put it like that, has been easily and simply available in the West since about 1976.

In 1969 there was this wonderful vitality in the centre of rock music, and with The Beatles there was very much a European flavour. Hendrix brought very much an American flavour. There was so much power in the heart of music at that time. It changed. It never moved into 1970, but that’s another story.

So if you have young English rock musicians playing music, what do they do? Well, The Stones looked to America. Led Zeppelin looked to America. For me it was a question of, if Hendrix had been playing The Rite of Spring or Bartók, or Bartók had been the guitarist, what might it have been? So, rather than being a very bad Chicago Blues player from Wimborne, Dorset, it was a question of what is the musical vocabulary which is part of my culture and background, that nevertheless has that spirit and energy which comes with American rock?

And Schizoid Man was the beginning approach to that, although it was obviously written by all of the band. Larks’ Tongues was another approach to that. Red was another approach to that and Level Five is another approach to that. So you have a vocabulary which would probably not have been adopted without some sense of the European tonal tradition, and may I say Bartók, which is a very different slant on things.

After 1976 there were other cultures easily, readily and simply available. Not just American blues or rock music, not just Scotty Moore sitting there with Elvis in a recording studio in Memphis – that I have driven by! I have driven by the original Sun Studio on the corner, and what a small little place it was. (Laughs). This pivotal place in my musical history… there it was on the corner! I was not nostalgic. May I say it was pretty dumpy, but it was interesting. But after 1976, here you have all the musics of other cultures available. So on a functional level, probably one assimilates them.

On another level, there is a particular world-view which goes with, for example, the Balinese gamalan. You couldn’t have a Balinese gamalan if you lived in – pick your Western culture. Well, now you do, because gamalan orchestras have moved and you find them in various cities in America. And African drumming on the beach of Venice, California. A good friend of mine goes along to do his African drumming on the beach in Venice, with surfing out there and African drumming over here. And the character who skateboards by – you would’ve seen him in films – the Hendrix-looking character on his skateboard.

So the musical vocabulary of world cultures is now widespread. And the thinking within them speaks to me as much as the vocabulary. Often the cultures, and the sense that informs the music, resonate with me to a greater degree than the specific musical forms. Like the guitarist, I’m interested in how he puts on his guitar. What he plays may be a different thing.

Q: Where does it take you, that… isn’t expressed so well in The Power To Believe, to?

RF: Some musical structures can only be performed if you let go of how you think about yourself. You can create musical forms which have the functional effect of bringing people together. For example?

Q: Embracing other cultures…?

RF: Another way of asking this is ‘is Robert a Liberal?’ And yes, yes I guess I am. That doesn’t quite characterise my position, but am I open to other cultures? Yes, and respectful of them. Yes, while enjoying my own and recognising its own limitations.

It’s a very interesting time in the world now that so many cultures are available to each other. With gains and losses. It’s not a question of making a condensed soup of all of us and saying all our cultures are honoured in this soup. You have interesting questions about whether you attempt to resuscitate or resurrect small dialects and languages – languages are evaporating at a very rapid rate. If no-one speaks a particular language, are you concerned that the language is lost? So there are wider things involved. You also have questions of cultural imperialism – how dare that rock group take ideas from the Balinese gamalan, or North Korean music! The interlocking drums on Happy With What You Have To Be Happy With are very close to North Korean music. Do you know how I know that David?

DS: No.

RF: I read it on an internet news group that discusses King Crimson music. I was myself utterly unaware of those North Korean origins, other than it’s reportedly very close.

Do you know the work of Peter Brook, the English director living in Paris?

Q: Peter Gabriel also?

RF: Peter Brook. He worked with the English former, now deceased, poet laureate Ted Hughes. Ted Hughes was working with Peter Brook to develop a poetic language called Orghast, and one of Ted Hughes’ invented words was shopatiketpahohopatitse. I’ll say that again:

shopatiketpahohopatitse.

And Hughes discovered that it was a Swahili dialect for ‘set your feet dancing’. So what I’m suggesting is that there may be a common musical language, I suppose the terminology would be « of the collective unconscious ». In other words, each part of us is capable of accessing any part of anyone else at a certain level. The fundamental ideas, I suppose genes or memes would be current terminology, in potential it’s all there, available.

In actuality, different parts of the common musical language tend to be discovered and developed in particular cultures. It then influences the cultures and is redirected and reshaped in turn. So you have musical work which is entirely in place in North Korea, suddenly pops up on a King Crimson record in another part of the world. Without any, as we would normally say, intentionality being involved.

Q: It’s just that I was thinking of the event that you call in this present situation, and at the same time the despair that comes and the urgencies that come through the record, so that to bring about these sounds like Arabic and Indian sounds too, whether there was something else that you wanted to express there?

RF: The difficulty with knowing what you do, is that you do what you know. And that’s not interesting. So, within certain structures which are given and certain parameters which are defined, you then proceed hoping you are able to play what you don’t know, or do what you don’t know – trusting the process. If you ask me to rationally address the irrational elements of making the album, I’m not able properly to do it. I can give you my best guess. On a functional level, world music vocabularies are widely available. But that still doesn’t answer really why you might use them.

Q: Specifically…?

RF: Yes. So I would say, I trust that the action in the moment is to be followed. And then if it doesn’t work you drop it, but that’s what part of the creative process is. You don’t go in there to pin it down. You go in there to assume innocence within the context of experience. The difference between play, spontaneous play, and the creative activity of, shall we say, the mature artist has to do with responsibility and accountability. If a child plays they are being creative, but they are not held to account for the repercussions from their play. If, however, the creative artist undertakes a piece of work they are expected, asked, to be creative. Which means to act spontaneously. But at the same time they are held accountable for the repercussions of their creative behaviour.

Q: With retrospect you can go, even if you are creating in the moment, you are not rationally… later on you can go back and think about it…?

RF: But the creative event has occurred. And if it’s in a live performance and people’s lives have been affected in any particular way, you can’t then go back and say well, I’m not responsible for the effects of what I did. So the difference is, any action by the creative artist – they’re held accountable and responsible. For the play of the child, or may I say even play of adults, if it’s play, defined play, one is not held accountable and responsible for the repercussions from that spontaneous activity. With a professional musician, for example, you are held responsible – your album sucks or that video sucks.

Q: But then I don’t understand this reluctance to try to, well I know you’ve been trying to explain, but particular things in the music. I understand that in the moment you create you don’t think about that, but then…

RF: Well you might be thinking about it. But if you do, best that you have creative thinking models in mind. The mind holds the form. It doesn’t make decisions for you. If it does, then the music sucks big time. But the mind holds form. It holds the pattern.

Q: With all these different musics that are now widely available to us, would you say that this is a good time for music that we live in?

RF: For music, yes. For the music industry, no.

Q: What do you mean exactly by that?

RF: The music industry has nothing to do with music. The question was music. It’s a wonderful, wonderful time for music. Yes.

Q: On the one hand there is this enormous amount of music. On the other hand there is an increasing streamlining of what is easily available.

RF: It’s fairly recent historically that anyone, certainly in Western culture, anyone other than very rich people are able to listen to music at home. The whole change was generated by the Napoleonic Wars and the decline of patronage that followed. After then, the only ways to be a really successful musician – there were two routes, if you had burning ambition. One was to write opera, and the other was to be a virtuoso. So you had the virtuosi appearing in post-Napoleonic Europe. But it was still quite a while before you could actually get music in the home. Probably the development of upright pianos which swept Victorian England, in the later part (of the 19th. century).

In terms of music being easily available, I’m grateful. I have a wonderful music library on my computer. My little Japanese active speakers that I plug in the back of my Mac G4 Powerbook have transformed my miserable, wretched life on the road. Because now I go into this vacuum-with-a-bed-in-it (otherwise called a hotel room) and I set up my computer. My active speakers – oh! those wonderfully flat little Japanese speakers, just on the market in Tokyo last October when David and I were there – hah! and there it is. I have Bartók, Beethoven, Brahms, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert String Quartets, complete and total in my computer. And that is only partially what I have. Charlie Parker with Strings, ah! Bliss. And much, much more.

So the question is: making this music easily available, does it do me any favours? And I have to say I’m not sure. I think maybe, maybe, if I had to make an effort to listen to music, I might appreciate it much, much more. If I went to a concert, knowing that unless I listened I would never hear this performance again, the performance would be transformed. The mass-bootlegging of concerts, photography at concerts, and now mobile `phones held up in front of my speakers, has undermined performance to a dangerous degree. It’s crippled live performance. Live performance, within my relatively short performing lifetime, has been undermined and the value of it severely compromised. And that pisses me off. Because I don’t do it to earn a living.

Q: So David how would you describe the King Crimson sound?

DS: I can’t describe the Crimson sound. The only album I can give you is the album The Gates Of Paradise. It’s a Soundscape album. When Robert and I were compiling The Gates Of Paradise and listening to Soundscape performances, both of us knew when we listened to a Soundscape whether or not it belonged on The Gates Of Paradise. But neither of us ever discussed or probably could even explain what it is that made something belong on The Gates Of Paradise. There was a particular thing about them, and in the same way there is a particular thing that is King Crimson. You could listen to a performance by the same people that wasn’t King Crimson.

Q: What is it, the atmosphere that brings back King Crimson?

RF: Well, this is in the nature of individuality. Individuality and identity and flavour. How do you recognise the difference between a Beaujolais and a fine claret, for example?

Q: Does it occur that King Crimson performs, but King Crimson doesn’t appear?

RF: In my experience, yes.

Q: On stage and public performance?

RF: Yes. Rarely but yes, occasionally.

DS: Actually the 1972 King Crimson at times was a King Crimson that perhaps wasn’t King Crimson.

RF: In the first half of ’72, yes.

Q: Is that one of the reasons that you don’t call The ProjeKcts King Crimson, that you call them ProjeKcts?

RF: No. The spirit of King Crimson is alive and well within them. But the reasonable expectations that the listening public might bring to bear, for example in terms of repertoire or formal structures, aren’t likely to be present.

Q: How far into the future of King Crimson can you see at present?

RF: 2010. It’s seven years from now.

Q: And what is the basic plan until 2010?

RF: I’m not going to tell you that as it will generate all manner of expectations, which would upset what will otherwise likely happen. But I have my own personal calendar underway. There are obviously… the `phone could go and all this might well change. And there are one or two things under discussion at the moment. So I have the most likely working scenario, the contingency plan for that, and then the most likely plan beyond that. Then after all that has happened, I have a sense of something in 2010.

Q: And the underlying ambition is that there will be an existence of King Crimson?

RF: No. No. Maybe. That’s one of the contingencies in there, but I think it will. If I look at King Crimson’s history, to sit here and suggest that you will see King Crimson touring for the next seven years, I think is pushing my luck. King Crimson appears and then disappears. It appears when there’s work to do, and then it seems to disappear. And that’s fine.

Q: And running for longer now than…

RF: It does feel like forever, yes.

(Laughs).

Q: So may I ask you the same questions I did…?

RF: Yes, would you like to repeat it please so everyone has it on their microphones.

Q: I wander why you don’t want to sign autographs on the records and you don’t want to have pictures here.

RF: Alright, let me put it another way. Why should I want to?

Q: You’re a musician… it’s just for memory or whatever.

RF: What is part of my memory, that I sign an album cover for someone else, as a musician? Firstly, what is the relevance to that as a musician for me? And secondly, how does that improve my memories?

Q: I don’t take any pictures, not even when I go on vacation, it was just a…

RF: Photography is a hobby of mine.

Q: I’d like to know…

RF: No, this is a good question.

Q: I take pictures of friends of mine, I know you’re not a friend of mine, but I take pictures of whatever. I mean it’s unusual that someone doesn’t want to be photographed. I mean I have nothing of course against your decision, I don’t even have a camera with me.

RF: Friends take my photograph.

Q: So just friends are allowed to take photographs, I see.

RF: Well, there is a consensual aspect to it. But returning to autographs. My question is rather than – why would I not like to sign them – why should I like to sign them? And the answer is well sometimes I do, but they’re with friends. For example, I give a friend a book and in the front page I write a dedication to them. And something of me goes with it. My good wishes go with this.

So the answer is yes, actually I do. I’ve also yesterday signed a pile of King Crimson formal band photographs for competition winners in Europe. So the answer is yes, I do this. My question is why should I like to do it? I’ve said in terms of my friends, a part of me and my good wishes, go with this. But why should I otherwise wish to do this?

Q: But what about the fans? Not even the fans?

RF: As a generalisation, there is an expectation and a demand to sign various memorabilia which is oppressive, and it carries with it the assumed right that I may approach you at any time, whether you’re clearly having a quiet moment, a personal moment, of reading over coffee in a restaurant, you’re on the street, you’re walking with your wife, at any time whatsoever – going to your place of work, leaving from your place of work, at your place of work – I have the right to interrupt your process and demand, as of right, your signature on this.

That’s oppressive. There is no volitional space allowed to me to respond. If I can’t say no I can’t say yes. And I’m allowed no room to say no, so I can’t say yes. So I don’t do it. That’s one approach. Another approach is to say that I find it very uncomfortable to be put in a position where I am assumed, or seen to be, something special. Because otherwise, why would I be signing this? Anyone could sign it. That makes me very uncomfortable.

Q: But you are something special, for many people.

RF: No.

Q: Otherwise they wouldn’t buy your music…

RF: Let me put it another way, then. I do not see myself as a celebrity and if I did, life would be too hard. So I do not see myself as a celebrity. I don’t accept myself as a celebrity, and I refuse to have celebrity forced upon me by those who wish to give it to me so I can give it back in the form of signatures. It’s absurd, isn’t it?

Q: Even if some people are thinking of you as a…

RF: Well, let me ask you a question. Do you sign autographs very often?

Q: Um… not very often, sometimes.

RF: Suppose every time you went to work there was a demand on you, from the moment you left your home to go to your place of work, to be approached; as you go into your place of work, to be approached; during your time at work, to be approached; and so on all the way back. You are available all the time because another person imposes on you their notion of who and what they think you should want to be. And be grateful for it!

Q: I know, I don’t want to monopolise all this…

RF: No, no this is a very important thing.

Q: Let me put it this way, I’ll just try to make myself a point. I’m not as famous as you and I will never be, of course. But, if I was as famous as you I would probably think that maybe I should give something back to the people that are important.

RF: Very good. The question is how?

Q: That’s probably the most direct way that those people have to be in touch with you, or otherwise in the music.

RF: Then our relationship has just ended. Our relationship has just ended. Nothing is possible.

Q: But you give some happiness to them, don’t you think so?

RF: I can’t. I can’t respond to that because I don’t know whether they’re happy or not, if you understand. I can’t speak to peoples’ response to my work. In terms of wanting to make people happy. That’s not my work. My work as a musician is to be true. Now, if instead of that my concern is signing stuff, in which I am not allowed to respond yes or no to stuff, my concern has moved from the music. It’s moved to, the technical word is, reification. Or what Dr Lucy Green, an English musical educator, calls fetishising the inherent and delineated meanings of music.

In other words the creative process, the musical process, has become a commodity-and-commercially oriented process. And that I reject. This is how and why King Crimson occupies a very precarious place in the music industry. Because what are accepted as entirely reasonable and conventional norms of conduct within a commodity-and-commercial process, like signing pieces of your work, in the creative process are not only antithetical but are utterly destructive.

Now, who am I to say this? Well, I’m a character who’s now been playing in front of audiences for 44 years, in rock-groups for 39 years, as a professional musician for 36 years and in King Crimson for 34 years. In other words, my response to this is not arbitrary. This is part of daily warfare in the front-line of being a working musician, where you privilege music over the professional aspect.

This is an indication of the difference between music and the music industry. A possible response would be you’re being naïve. And the answer is, there’s no naivety in this: this is the stuff of my daily work. It’s why I have to seriously consider abandoning public performance. Because the nuts and bolts, the machinery of my life as a professional musician, has so little to do with music. And my responsibility as a musician, foremost, lies in being true. And included in that is courtesy and respect for the audience. What do I do, then, when I look down and see a young man holding a mobile `phone in front of my speaker? Is he listening to what I’m doing? I’m not sure. And when this gets to the point that I have to protect myself against this, on a daily basis on the road…

I don’t walk on stage to erect barriers between the audience and myself. I walk on stage to, as best as possible, find a bridge to our common humanity. And a very, very good way to end that, to end a human exchange, is to put forward a CD cover and a pen. Because our common humanity is not an issue at that moment. When you move to a non-consensual area, that I have the right to demand of you whatever because I have put my hard-earned pay on the table, there is a non-consensual element here which moves to violating, to violation, and then it’s hard. And then the question is well if this is what you do, perhaps you should do something else? And the answer is, I agree. And I am actively considering what that might be.

It’s not for me to tell people how to behave. On the other hand, if their demands on me are unreasonable, and compromise who and what I am, then obviously a response is justified. As a musician, do I have to work as a public performer? No. There are many other things I can do.

Q: Before you start an album, do you have all the sounds and musics in your head, or is it trial and error?

RF: Are those my only two alternatives? In terms of a King Crimson ProjeKct, we often walked on stage having no idea whatsoever of what we were going to play. That’s the extreme end of it. That’s one of the six possible creative strategies you can adopt. There is a seventh, and it’s invisible, but of the six creative strategies that is one. With ProjeKct One we met the day before our first of four nights, at The Jazz Café in Camden Town, to see if our equipment worked. It didn’t. So we left. The next day was the first of four that we played, without any idea of what we might play.

If you go into a studio where studio bills do have to be paid, it’s likely, although not necessarily so, that you have a more formal structure. I like to go into a studio knowing exactly what I’m going to play, knowing if that’s all that happens, it will be wretched. But, trusting the situation sufficiently that if you go in with that framework, and with people of that quality, the situation will ignite. And then having confidence that David and I can take the bonfire back to England and turn it into a formal statement of that creative process, which is meant to be enduring. It’s the difference between writing an essay and standing on your feet to deliver a lecture or a talk. There is a mobility, a fluidity and a spontaneity possible when speaking. But when you deliver your printed essay the words are fixed, so there is a very different flavour. Nevertheless, as a considered statement of what King Crimson thinks on this particular subject at this particular time, The Power To Believe is a strong one.

Q: Is it meant to say that you improvise a lot?

RF: The quick answer is yes. It’s often determined by context. For example, if there’s lots of photography, you’re not going to be improvising. If you can see lots of microphones held up, you’re not going to be improvising because you are being pinned to earth. The protective sphere available to that is punctured.

So at that point you move to a more structured situation where you can rely on the framework, but then trust the framework to come to life. Even though there may be composed material, it works as a land map. You know you’re going from Wimborne to Blandford, and the way on-the-map is going through Badbury Rings. But there’s one other main route and several subsidiary routes as well. You know you’re going from Wimborne to Blandford, you know that’s your most likely route but, depending how the journey unfolds, you might go different ways. So there is a re-creation: you contact the determining spirit of the piece, if you like, and see where it leads.

But in live performance, as I’m suggesting, it’s becoming increasingly difficult because the nature of public performance in the rock sphere has changed radically in the past 35 years. It’s no longer possible to do what was once possible.

Q: How important is improvisation to the soul of King Crimson?

RF: It’s a necessary part of King Crimson. When you hear the final recorded version, it may be the outcome of improvisation although there may not be a lot of actual improvising on the record. On this particular album, David, how much improv would you say there was?

DS: The Thrush, the Soundscape of The Power To Believe, the Coda, the Power To Believe II

RF: The main one (The Power To Believe II) was all improvised in its origins.

DS: Other than that, they come back to your road map – they are pieces with form, but the exact…

RF: …details change, yes. There is a fluidity and a mobility within them.

Q: Talking about relations with the fans, I’d like to know if for you internet is a valuable tool for this? I’ve read your diary in Discipline and I want to know what do you think about the exchanged musical platforms, like WinMX?

RF: May we go back to the first question please?

Q: Yes.

RF: David Singleton and I were involved in Bootleg Television. David came up with this conceptual device for creating a matrix between performers, music and its audiences. So that, in a sense, technology was in the middle – the linking device between them. We raised four million dollars and spent it. And then when the money was spent and the technology industry down-turned and Broadband hadn’t really happened – where I live in England getting online is still an adventure in daily life, something like crossing the Amazon – all these high tech ideas remain there in potential. They provide a much more exciting and interesting way of bringing music to its audiences and its performers than the current structure of the music industry. The music industry as it currently works, the business model, is so lacking in intelligence it’s frightening.

So technology is a way forward, but obviously not currently. When, from where I live in England you can go online and download music from DGM, from the new DGM site under construction, life will be better. At the moment you can do it in most of America, the city of London and the M4 corridor. The various forms this will take, or the platforms that will launch them, are under discussion.

Q: I will return to the creative process once more, when you write music do you have a vocabulary of the other band members in your mind?

RF: Yes. Yes when I write for King Crimson it’s specifically for these particular people that will be playing it.

Q: So how does that work, how do you put all these things together when you write?

RF: Generally what happens is I go to stay in Nashville with Adrian Belew and his cellar, in his Basement, in the studio apartment next to his studio. I get up anywhere between five and six in the morning. Generally by eight or nine a pencil, a manuscript book, a guitar is in hand, so by the time the band arrives to work for eleven or twelve, I will have had between two and four hours preparation. So I can present them with outline ideas which we’ll then play. That will take us so far into the day, then we’ll go somewhere else. Like we may look at another piece or framework, or we might just play and see where that leads us.

Then at the end of the day I am wiped and exhausted and dribbling and pitifully exhausted, and next day it begins again. We go on like that for a period of time. The next morning with pencil, will be to look at the details of how the other members have responded, or what else has come up in our days’ work previously, and we keep going.

Two weeks of that is utterly exhausting. For me four hours a day working with other musicians five days a week – there is nothing left at the end of the day, nothing. And no interest whatsoever to get up the following morning to begin again, but I do.

Q: What is the thing that makes you wake up, get up?

RF: A commitment to the process.

Q: Your responsibility?

RF: Commitment is something other than responsibility, but once one has made the commitment to the particular process underway, then one has responsibility. So I get up to honour it.

Q: No pleasure in it…? When you are composing it sounds so hard.

RF: Yes it is. When the ideas fly by, unbidden – it is a joy, a joy. And they do. But then trying to pin down, to catch these wonderful things as they fly, and bring them from a world of freedom into a world of definition and limitation, that’s hard. But once they have become absorbed and played by the band, and then they’re set free again to go into the world, that is also a joy. Unless there are people trying to kill them for the very best reasons like, they have a right. That is hard. Fans who want to photograph these children as they’re released into the world, or record them as they’re released into the world, or autograph them as they’re released into the world – it pins to earth a joy.

Transcribed by Laura Hills at DGM HQ, Salisbury, UK; Edited by Robert Fripp in Alexandria & New York between March 3-6, 2003.

de Saint Marc / von Kageneck Hélie / August, ‘Notre Histoire 1922-1945’.

Sortie : , Chez : . Ils sont issus de l’aristocratie française et allemande, il ont connu l’indicible dans leurs vingt ans : Buchenwald pour l’un, le front de Stalingrad pour l’autre. Ensemble ils retracent ce naufrage de notre vieille Europe sombrant dans la barbarie et qui ne s’en est jamais remise. C’était notre XXe siècle… Ils ont cette calme réserve des hommes qui sont allés au bout de l’enfer et pour qui désormais tout jour qui se lève est une nouvelle lueur d’espoir.

Etxebarria Lucia, ‘Beatriz et les corps célestes’.

Sortie : , Chez : . Par l’auteur de Amour, Prozac et autres curiosités. Une histoire de paumé(e)s entre Madrid et Edimbourg, l’héroïne et le crack, le bi et l’hétéro… la vie et la mort. Nous en sommes tous là. Racontée avec un allant qui masque le sinistre, une sorte de Djian méditerranéen.

David Bowie – 2002/09/24 – Paris le Zénith

Depuis plusieurs semaines Paris bruisse de commentaires sur les dernières œuvres de David Bowie : pleine page dans Le Monde en juin où notre star britannique débat sur « l’écho du chaos », show annoncé aux Arènes de Nimes en juillet suivi d’un concert improvisé à l’Olympia, soirée spéciale sur Arte et interview sur Canal+ en septembre. Et surtout, sortie de Heathen, son dernier opus, terminé devant Ground zero post 11 septembre dévasté par notre folie, à deux pas de sa résidence new-yorkaise sur le palier de laquelle voisine Moby qui a remixé une étrange version de Sunday (Nothing remains/Its a beginning of an end/And nothing has changed/In your fear of what we have become/Take to the fire/Now we must burn/All what we are). Ce vingt-cinquième album est un disque d’exception, coproduit par Tony Visconti, le compagnon des premières années. On y retrouve une inspiration existentielle et sombre. Sur la quatrième de couverture cohabitent Einstein, Freud et Nietzsche… les briseurs de certitudes délétères : le temps est élastique, l’inconscient gouverne tout et Dieu n’existe plus. Nothing remains, encore le chaos !

Ce 24 septembre, une joyeuse assemblée multicolore et poly-générations se retrouve au Zénith pour un concert qui sera jubilatoire. Les plus anciens amènent leurs enfants et leur passent le relais en se souvenant de Heroes déclamé en 1977 aux abattoirs de La Vilette, à deux pas d’ici, à presque trois décennies de là !

La mise en scène est dépouillée. Un B-O-W-I-E composé de puissantes ampoules meuble le mur du fond en ajoutant à l’ensemble une note un peu clinquante. Le concert démarre à 20h.

Pendant que Mike Garson déroule quelques trilles au piano, Bowie entre, vêtu (par Hedi Slimane) d’un costume rouge corail à reflets moirés, chemise blanche, cheveux blonds longs qu’il passera beaucoup de temps à recoiffer, souverain et souriant, serein et félin, il entame Life on Mars pour nous narrer une fois encore la triste comptine de cette fille étrange aux cheveux mousy, seule et perdue devant un mauvais film, le freakiest show.

Le reste du groupe ensuite les rejoint : un trio de choc aux guitares, Earl Slick, lunettes noires et manteau cache poussière, Mark Platti, barbu, affublé d’un couvre-chef Yoruba et Gerry Leonard, cheveux blonds coiffés au pétard avec un air de Johnny Rotten. Une rythmique noire : Sterling Campbell à la batterie, Catherine Russel percussions-claviers-choeur et bien sûr, Gail Ann Dorsey, la bassiste-chanteuse fétiche de ces dernières années, crâne rasé et tenues affriolantes. Tout ce petit monde est brillant et détendu, professionnel et déluré. Ils entament une plongée torride dans les pérégrinations du Major Tom avec un Ashes to Ashes sous haute tension, martelé froidement, Bowie répétant mécaniquement pour ceux qui l’auraient oublié que Tom est un junky.

Ce sera d’ailleurs la marque de la plupart des reprises de ce concert : le sceau du Rock pur et l’évacuation des influx funky ou des tentations techno qui ont pu marquer certaines créations des récentes époques. Le set de trois guitaristes est là pour marquer ce retour aux bases. L’apothéose de cette nouvelle vision rock est illustrée avec les arrangements terrifiants de I’m afraid of Americans, Hallo Spaceboy, ou Cactus (de Black Francis des Pixies), qui seront joués sur la même veine : Dorsey arc-boutée sur son instrument, souriant malicieusement, écrase tout d’une rythmique brûlante et barbare pendant que Bowie accroché au pied de son micro, tendu en avant, hurle ses peurs et déclame ses angoisses. On approche l’enfer. La salle est en feu. On baigne dans la violence de la musique et des mots. Les rappeurs des cités peuvent aller se rhabiller !

Entre deux, un retour lumineux sur l’album Low avec Breaking Glass et A New Career in a New Town calme le jeu et nous rappelle l’époque berlinoise glaçante de la collaboration avec Eno du milieu des années 70. Ces deux morceaux sont enlevés, joués avec enthousiasme, la pesanteur originale en moins. Nous aurons même droit à une reprise de Heroes au début méconnaissable avant que ne retentisse la stridence des guitares, zébrant l’inutilité de feu le Mur de la honte. Bowie n’oublie pas combien exceptionnelle fut cette époque, marquée au fer de l’Histoire, dans son périple musical. Nous non plus !

Après, une grande partie du dernier album sera jouée sur scène : Slip Away et son final au stylophone, 5 :15 the Angels have gone, Afraid, Sunday, Everyone says « Hi ». Heathen (The Rays) terminera la première partie dans une beauté froide, digne de Warzawa, enrobée de nappes de claviers surnaturelles venues des entrailles de la terre, et comme dans une longue incantation l’artiste revisite les stances de ses doutes d’une voie profonde et tragique : Waiting for something/Looking for someone/Is there no reason?/…/I can see it now/I can feel it die.

Une seule référence à Hours, l’avant-dernier album : ce sera Survive pour laquelle Bowie prend la 12 cordes. Puis des chansons plus anciennes : China Girl, jouée ici sur un rythme effréné teinté jungle, retour à la noirceur de la version initiale écrite pour Iggy Pop (My little china girl/You shoudn’t mess with me/I’ll ruin everything you are/I’ll give you eyes of blue/I’ll give you man who wants to rule the world), Fame précédée d’un mime, Fashion et Rebel Rebel.

Tous ces morceaux sont chantés avec élégance. Moins dansant que par le passé, Bowie déborde de sérénité sur scène, gestuelle mesurée et diablement troublante. Bien sûr, toutes les femmes de l’assistance fondent à chaque déhanchement. Il parle beaucoup, rit encore plus. Sa voix a mûri, parfaitement contrôlée, plus grave mais toujours terriblement à l’aise pour grimper dans les registres aigus qui se terminent par un trémolo si particulier. L’artiste est simplement heureux de jouer ses compositions et de ce retour généreux à la simplicité basique du Rock.

Pour le rappel, Bowie revient habillé de noir avec une longue redingote aux reflets toujours moirés. Le compte à rebours de la fin de ce concert est lancé. Il s’achèvera sur une version inattendue de Let’s Dance, tube phare des années jet-set et une ultime référence au passé avec Ziggy Stardust. Les guitares grasses et lourdes dégorgent alors leurs riffs ravageurs des murs d’enceintes sur la foule électrisée et comme pétrifiée qui replonge dans le mythe fondateur et destructeur des aventures intergalactiques de la bande déjantée des Spiders from Mars. Cet instant qui tend au sublime est éphémère (qui en eut douté ?) et la star, les bras écartés scande une dernière fois « Making love with his ego/…/Ziggy played guitar » alors que les lumières s’éteignent. Le groupe, libéré et apaisé, salue la foule en repartant bras dessus dessous, laissant pantois les fans de trois générations successives sur le parterre du Zénith.

En voyant Bowie quitter la scène, on ne peut s’empêcher de repasser dans nos neurones les images accélérées de quatre décennies de transformations et d’innovations mémorables, parfois stupéfiantes, orchestrées d’une main manipulatrice, durant lesquelles il a sans cesse repoussé les frontières de son imagination. Il nous a fait nous épuiser à le suivre et rêver dans des univers stratosphériques et sombres, et quand la réalité dépassait la fiction l’artiste se noyait en s’approchant des frontières dangereuses de la déraison. Fort de ses expériences théâtrales et de son goût pour le mime Bowie a toujours interprété ses chansons plus qu’il ne les jouait, à commencer bien sûr par le personnage de Ziggy Stardust inspiré par le théâtre japonais et assassiné sur scène dans un autodafé purificateur le projetant vers d’autres créations et de nouvelles perversions. Il a beaucoup dérangé et on a aimé qu’il le fasse à notre place. Avec lui nous avons vécu par procuration et nous étions aussi des Rebel. De mutations en dérisions, de métaphores en introspections, de vertiges en folies, il a poursuivi son chemin flamboyant. Il a ingéré toutes sortes d’influences musicales en les retraitant à l’aune de ses propres visions. Il a sauvé de la mort artistique nombre de ses coreligionnaires et inspiré tant de vagues musicales qui peuplent les hits internationaux d’aujourd’hui.

Dorian Gray funambule, fil après fil il a tissé une toile de quarante années d’un itinéraire unique. Il s’est caché derrière une panoplie de personnages fantasmagoriques, figurines de cristal brisées après usage comme on jette un verre vide de vodka derrière son épaule, ombres mouvantes occultant la personnalité de son compositeur pour en concentrer les clés dans sa musique et elle seule.

Avec cette tournée 2002, Bowie, voltigeur sublime, nous propulse à nouveau aux sources de l’énergie primale du Rock, sans fioriture, mais toujours utopique. De Life on Mars à Ziggy Stardust nous avons repassé ce soir, telle la locomotive emballée de Station to Station, les étapes d’une carrière unique. Les spectateurs ont vécu avec ardeur le retour sur trente années de jalons musicaux et fictionnels qui ont marqué ô combien leur propre imaginaire. Ultime clin d’œil, Bowie, à 55 ans, ressuscite Ziggy, qui en a 30, en guise d’adieu. De la réalité à la légende, où comment l’artiste d’une génération, tragédien intergalactique, a érigé le mythe à la portée de tous !

Peter Gabriel – 2002/09/23 – Paris la Mutualité

« Darkness »

Il y a vingt cinq ans, un Ange descendu d’un opéra rock faisait déferler un torrent d’émotion sur les cent mille spectateurs de la fête de l’Humanité écoutant, le cœur serré, Peter Gabriel interpréter Here comes the flood, seul face à son piano à queue.

Après nous avoir fascinés aux commandes de Genesis avec des fastes de lutin incestueux et créateur, il avait délaissé ce vecteur pour continuer, solitaire, un chemin de traverse qu’il parsèmera de jalons fondateurs dépassant largement le stricte domaine musical qui néanmoins en reste la sève.

Solitaire ? Pas tout à fait. Notre artiste polymorphe a consacré ces vingt dernières années à s’ouvrir au monde via son label Real World, à construire son château/studio de la banlieue de Londres, à conceptualiser la World Music, à voyager et collaborer avec des artistes bigarrés, à gérer des engagements politiques, à mixer ses convictions, à inventer des clips retentissants, à commettre des productions innovantes, bref, à toujours nous étonner.

Depuis dix ans Gabriel avait disparu de la scène discographique pour courir vers d’autres cieux. La sortie de son disque Up et la tournée actuelle mettent fin à cette longue absence musicale.

Et il nous revient physiquement transformé : enrobé, le cheveux blanc et ras, affublé d’une petite barbichette de sage du Tonkin. Il nous apparaît moralement assombri même s’il jongle toujours entre des textes dérangeants et le sentiment de chaleur d’une voix unique, à l’enrouement caractéristique, voguant entre deux décrochements. La musique reste subtile mais heurtée, frappée de cassures de rythmes qui la font vivre.

Le disque comme le show démarrent avec Darkness, longue évocation des peurs d’un homme qui affronte le naufrage du vieillissement et se rapproche de la tempête annoncée de la mort:

I’m scared of swimming in the sea/Dark shapes moving under me/…/I’m afraid I can be devil man/And I’m scared to be divine/…/The deeper I go, the darker it gets.

Sur scène, habillé d’une tunique à col Mao, moins mobile qu’auparavant, il reste sur le coté, de profil, manipulant ses claviers. Sa fille Melanie chante et joue des percussions un peu en retrait. Avec eux, notamment, les deux fidèles crânes chauves de toujours : Tony Levin la plus grosse paluche du rock à la basse et David Rhodes, guitare, qui assène des riffs secs et glaçants, coupants tel un sérac de banquise bleue qui s’effondre dans l’antarctique.

Gabriel décline son nouvel album à la sensibilité complexe centrée sur le triptyque naissance-sexe-mort. Il hante les terres infinies de perdition de son âme qui enfourche des angoisses incontrôlées de fin, additionne des doutes et interrogations :

My ghost likes to travel so far in the unknown/My ghost likes to travel so deep into your space/…/The breathing stops, I don’t know when/In transition once again Growing up.

D’autres chansons sur la mort, la séparation et la souffrance :

I grieve, Sky blue, No way out, Digging in the dirt (Stay with me I need support/I’m digging in the dirt/To find the place I got hurt/Open up the places I got hurt/I’m digging in the dirt.

Quelques chansons plus gaies, voire ironiques, avec Red rain, Sledgehammer, The Barry Williams show, Upside down.

Derrière cette noirceur, il y a l’étrange sérénité d’un homme sage, en lutte pour que la création soit la Mère de toute existence ; l’optimisme du père d’un tout jeune bébé et de Melanie qui chante en duo avec lui un bouleversant Mercy Street :

Looking for mercy/In your daddy’s arms.

Derrière cette peur il reste l’espoir, insufflé comme bouée de survie, et la certitude qu’il ne faut jamais abandonner (Don’t Give Up – qui ne sera pas repris sur scène cette fois-ci). On ne peut pas lutter contre le temps qui passe inexorablement (In the ashes and the dust/Life carries on and on and on – I Grieve) mais il convient d’emmagasiner la sagesse qui permet d’attendre l’échéance ultime en activant le processus créatif et émotionnel.

Le show se termine par Father and sun et In your Eyes une si belle chanson d’amour, de survivance et de dépendance :

In your eyes/The light the heat/In your eyes/I am complete/I want to touch the light/ The heat I see in your eyes.

Peter Gabriel a ravi une audience déjà conquise. Sa capacité à s’adresser avec une grande simplicité aux ressources intimes de chacun frappe au cœur. Il a déroulé avec délicatesse sa propension à transcender nos misères. Dans une époque où le cynisme et le mépris sont érigés en modes de vie, il nous rappelle que seule l’émotion donne un sens à l’existence et peut panser les blessures.

Faithfull vs. Nico

Marianne Faithfull a écrit une chanson sur Nico dans son dernier disque Kissing Time. Elle y raconte avec nostalgie l’errance de l’ange blond de Lou Reed :

She’s innocent…
… Yesterday is gone
There’s just today, no tomorrow
Yesterday is gone
It’s just today, no more…

Touchant hommage de la pasionaria des Rolling Stones à l’égérie du Velvet Underground : la seringue s’incline devant la cuillère, l’une a survécu, l’autre non.

David Bowie – Heathen

david_bowie_heathen

J’ai su qu’elle arrivait pour me retrouver par avion spécial dans l’après-midi.  A peine l’aéroplane atterri j’étais déjà fébrile dans le hall d’arrivée à l’idée de l’apercevoir se profiler dans la file des passagers. Elle est sortie, rayonnante et déjà troublante. Je l’ai tendrement enlacée. Plus tard, dans la voiture, je la sentais à mes cotés, sereine ; je l’ai effleurée de mes mains avides alors que nous faisions route vers la maison. Mais alors que quelques rendez-vous m’empêchaient de me consacrer tout entier à elle, c’est dans un coin de mon bureau qu’elle m’a sagement attendu, offrant ses atours aux regards de mes invités, toujours calme et patiente tandis que l’excitation me gagnait. Quand enfin l’heure est venue de nous retrouver seuls face à face, après un instant de recueillement partagé pour goûter ce lien si fort qui déjà nous unissait, cette attirance irrépressible qui nous menait l’un vers l’autre, j’ai voulu doucement, tout doucement, la découvrir et elle s’est abandonnée à moi, enfin !
Ce fut une nuit de délices et d’engagement où quelque chose s’est passé au-delà du plaisir éphémère d’une première rencontre. Ce furent les prémices d’un amour fort et intense qui nous emmènera loin. J’ai senti de l’inspiration et de la profondeur dans ses paroles, un rythme de braise dans la musique qu’elle m’a jouée cette nuit. J’ai vécu le début de quelque chose de sublime. Et lorsqu’au petit matin, épuisé et heureux, j’ai senti le sommeil me gagner, j’ai jeté un ultime regard attendri sur la dernière œuvre de David Bowie qui venait de m’offrir une nuit de résurrection.

Velvet

Velvet toujours

J’ai divagué une heure durant avec Étienne Daho devant ma télévision. Il y a quelques années, ED est parti en Amérique sur les traces de Kerouac, accompagnée d’Édith Fabuenna du groupe Les Valentins, sa guitariste fétiche, et d’un cameraman pour marquer ces moments étranges sur une pellicule noire et blanche. Il en est ressorti un film troublant où l’on voit alternativement notre petit monde au Chelsea Hotel de NYC, déprimer sur les traces de Nico et d’Andy Warhol, faire un « boeuf » avec Chris Isaak à la Nouvelle Orléans, rouler dans une décapotable rose sur les routes rectilignes de la vallée de la mort entourées de sable blanc, découvrir émus la grandeur de l’Amérique en gratouillant sur une guitare dans un motel au milieu de nulle part.

J’ai communié avec l’ambiance de ce film « On the road », avec cette attirance morbide pour l’underground new-yorkais, avec l’image de cette époque révolue où les junkies hantaient le Village à la place des boutiques fashion d’aujourd’hui. L’hiver dernier, alors que terré à New York je courrais après mes illusions (« Pale blue eyes »), j’ai moi aussi divagué en écoutant le Velvet, fumant cigarette sur cigarette, repassant en boucle sur un baladeur Sweet Jane et Heroin dans les rues aseptisées de Soho, essayant d’imaginer une époque jamais vécue, des héros à peine entrevus. Depuis, je suis saisi d’une loureedite aigue et il ne peut s’écouler plus de 24 heures sans que la voix chevrotante du poète américain n’irrigue mon cerveau assoiffé de musique.

Velvet encore

Poursuivi par le Velvet et ses démons, je fus pendu à la tv devant un troublant docu John Cale, l’âme damnée du quatuor warholien. Et de revoir nos compères apprendre à jouer dans la Factory d’Andy dédiée à l’Art underground, Lou se déchirer avec John avant de le virer. Lou et John s’arracher Nico pleurant sur la vie dans un désastre de blondeur et de drogue. Cale faire sa vie après le Velvet, produisant « Horses » de Patti Smith et goûtant la fascination du précipice. Découvrant Iggy et les Stooges. Puis se marie et procrée. Puis affronte la mort de Nico et de Warhol. Retrouve Reed pour les funérailles d’Andy à la cathédrale St-Patrick de New York. Ils ne se sont pas parlé depuis vingt ans, ils vont lire ensemble le journal intime de Warhol sur un fond musical qu’ils improvisent avec guitare et harmonium devant l’underground new-yorkais, survivant de ces années de braise. Et ils vont écrire Songs for Drella, hommage à Andy.

Il parle de Nico de façon bouleversante et écrit un ballet pour elle : Nico, mélange de danses corporelles bizarroïdes sur fond de son moderne sur orchestre classique et guitares électrifiées. 1993, reformation du Velvet Underground pour une tournée européenne et un enregistrement live à l’Olympia. Moe Tucker ressortie de sa retraite aux baguettes, riant de ces querelles d’hommes. Et puis nouvelle fâcherie Reed/Cale sur la route du retour vers New York où leur projet de disque studio avorte. Toujours cette étrange tristesse sereine qui émane de ces survivants quand ils se penchent sur leur passé avec de longs plans rapprochés sur les visages fatigués de Reed et Cale parlant sans relâche l’un de l’autre et de leurs aventures des années 60. Quelles vies !

Il faut réécouter les disques solos de Cale et bien sûr posséder le « Velvet Live ».

Mick For Ever

Le chroniqueur vient de passer 1h avec Mick sur C+. Dans ce monde de sigles ce furent 60 minutes d’allégresse. Loin du foot et du loft, un peu de noblesse et une dose d’ego : Mick à Miami chez Lenny Kravitz, Mick dans des jets privés au-dessus de nulle part, Mick et Jade, Mick à Los, Mick et Jerry (au fait, je croyais que ces deux-là étaient broken in two), Mick à la guitare, Mick avec Elisabeth et le Prince Charles. Mick et le BLUUUUUUUES.

Bref : « Mick… déroulant le tapis rouge de quarante ans de Rock’n Roll sur lequel galopent les chevaux sauvages de tous nos fantasmes de gloire et de destinée. »

Bryan Ferry – 2000/03/09 – Paris le Grand Rex

Ferry is the Drug

Bryan Ferry, ex-chantre glamour du rock décadent, ex-leader de feu et flamboyant Roxy Music, ex-dandy marié à Jerry Hall, ex-crooner so british, et encore un peu de tout ceci, nous revient. Il a réalisé son rêve d’enfant en enregistrant un album de reprises de classiques du jazz des années 30 qui ont bercé sa jeunesse : Cole Porter, Kurt Weill etc. Il nous présente son nouveau show à l’occasion d’une tournée dont la dernière étape passe par le Grand Rex à Paris.

L’ambiance est résolument jazzy, la salle s’y prête. Sur fond de lourdes tentures noires sur lesquelles flashent des étoiles, le band entre en scène. A tribord, une section cordes : violons, alto, violoncelle tenue par quatre jeunes créatures de rêve blondes, sanglées dans des pantalons de cuir noir et body microscopiques de même couleur. A bâbord, une section cuivre : saxophones, trompette, clarinette de quatre sexagénaires en smoking, bedonnants et chauves. Au milieu en figure de proue une harpiste, blonde bien sûr, et trois smoking à la guitare, la bass et au piano à queue. C’est un doux mélange de Cotton Club et Sexy Parade sur les grands boulevards.

Le navire trace sa route, les douze musiciens souquent ferme dès le déhalage et lancent le show avec deux instrumentaux jazz. La croisière s’annonce sportive mais raisonnable. Le Capitaine peut prendre la barre.

Ferry entre en scène, pantalon de cuir noir, veste de smoking sur chemise blanche. Et toujours tellement d’élégance féline. Il fait le lien entre cuivre et cordes, la synthèse du cuir et de l’alpaga. Il démarre avec As Time Goes By et enchaînera quasiment toute sa dernière production discographique : Where or When, Sweet and Lonely, Love me or Leave me, Falling in Love again, I’m in the Mood for Love etc. Le tout est résolument plus optimiste, plus léger, que les derniers disques solos de Ferry à la beauté sombre et tragique.

La musique est fluide et coule comme de l’eau pure sur des rochers de diamants. Le groupe est dynamique, parfaitement contrôlé par le pianiste maestro. La voix de Ferry, mûrie avec l’âge, nous emmène sur des sommets de légèreté et de profondeur. C’est de loin l’instrument le mieux maîtrisé sur scène. Il en joue avec délicatesse et tellement de charme.
C’est comme de la crème brûlée qui fond sur le palais. C’est onctueux comme un câlin au coin du feu. C’est doux comme un sourire d’enfant. C’est noble et inutile comme l’Union Jack flottant sur les restes de l’Empire.

Premier retour vers le passé avec Casanova suivie de Out of the Blue où le violon enfiévré d’Eddie Jobson est remplacé avec brio par celui de blonde n° 1 debout pour reprendre ce classique que devaient fredonner ses parents.

Intermède de douceur avec The Only Face. Ferry assis au piano dialoguant avec le cello de blonde n° 2. Oh ! ce cello si déchirant marquant avec délicatesse la voix soignée de notre crooner : no backstreet woman / you drive me crazy / I want to be alone / me myself no-one else.

Avalon et Jealous Guy sont enchaînées avec grâce. L’assistance pétrifiée de bonheur, retient son souffle pour ne manquer aucune intonation de cette voix si chaude, si douce, dont ferry joue avec une redoutable et manipulatrice séduction. Le solo éthéré de Yannick Etienne sur Avalon est remplacé, sans l’égaler, par la trompette nasillarde de smoking n° 3.

Le jeu de scène de notre crooner est à l’image de ses compositions, simple et de bon goût, élégant et parfois un peu distant. Sa façon de se mouvoir est empreinte de cette touch of class propre à la vieille noblesse européenne enfermée dans des rêves du passé et qui ne veut pas mourir. Ses mains rythment la musique, miment la guitare, ponctuent le beat. Quelques pas de danse parfois, on croit entendre des claquettes sur fond de trompette en sourdine. Sa lourde mèche de cheveux bruns marque son opposition à l’ordre établi. La seule rébellion dans un show si délicat.

Ferry qui en a vu d’autres n’hésite pas à quitter son micro pour donner la vedette à ses partenaires, blondes ou smokings, délaissant la scène pendant de longues minutes. alors que l’orchestre déploie une énergie maîtrisée.

Pour le rappel, un peu de liberté et blondes n° 1, 2 et 3 ont détaché leurs cheveux qui volent en rythme. Elles portent un T-shirt noir qui couvre maintenant leurs épaules. On ne peut pas tout avoir ! Debout, elles font les chœurs de Love is the Drug. Les archers sont remisés. Les blondes s’amusent, et nous avec. Comme il se doit au terme d’un concert ferryen, Do the Strand clôture une prestation qui déclenche le tonnerre d’applaudissements d’un public conquis. Ferry n’ose partir et, se tournant vers le maestro au piano lui fait signe de relancer la machine pour un ultime As Time goes by qui clôturera cette magnifique soirée : it’s still the same old story / a fight for love and glory / a case of do or die ! Ferry a largement gagné ce combat. Quelle sera la prochaine étape ?

Et lorsque le chroniqueur encore ému quitte le restaurant du coin de la rue pour retrouver son stylo, il croise Ferry sortant du Grand Rex dans un loden, sans un faux pli bien sûr, coiffé d’une casquette de titi parisien qui lui donne un air de gavroche des rues. Avec beaucoup de gentillesse et un grand sourire l’artiste serre quelques mains, signe des autographes, se fait prendre en photo avec des fans avant de monter, seul, dans un taxi qui l’emmènera dans un grand hôtel parisien, à moins que quelques soirées de la ville lumière se disputent l’honneur de s’approprier cette étoile qui brille d’un feu si chaud, si rassurant, et encore pour longtemps.

King Crimson – 2000/06/24 – Paris le Grand Rex

21th century schizoïd band

Grand-Rex, Paris, fauteuils larges et profonds, programmes sur papier glacé, King Crimson est en ville. Flashback.

En pleine lumière Fripp leader-créateur-concepteur-killer-rédempteur de King Crimson accueille ses invités, seul en scène, avec sa musak d’aéroport à mi-chemin entre Klaus Shulze et Tangerine Dream. L’électronique a remplacé les Revox d’antan, le clignotement des diodes s’est substitué au déroulement des bandes magnétiques. De l’analogique au numérique, c’est toujours l’électricité qui court, guidée par l’inspiration du musicien pour créer les ondes du plaisir délétère.

L’homme est le même : costume noir, petites lunettes rondes, cheveux court taillés, mimique posée et attentive, peut-être ironique. Une bouille de Trotski sans la barbichette. Il est relié par des vagues de fils à son armoire d’amplis. Sa guitare est posée en équilibre sur un genoux, une main sur le manche pendant que de l’autre trifouille les machines, branche les prises, pousse les curseurs, sans que cela semble d’un quelconque effet sur les sons étranges qui sortent de la six-cordes autonome. Il s’amuse. On s’installe !

Puis Fripp s’en retourne vers les coulisses le temps de laisser les lumières s’éteindre. King Crimson entre en scène. Trente ans plus tard, les quadra frémissent. Sur le devant, l’inévitable Adrian Belew, aussi bon guitariste que piètre chanteur. Il a joué pour les plus grands : clown hystérique du Frank Zappa de Cheik Yerbouti, guitare frippienne de David Bowie sur le Heroes Tour, second couteau des Talking Heads lorsqu’ils se sont rapprochés de Brian Eno et puis retour avec Fripp et King Crimson depuis 10 ans. Il écrit des textes parfaitement hystériques et pourtant on lui donnerait le bon dieu sans hésitation ni même confession. On dirait un cadre de banque, mais il tire de sa guitare d’incroyables et effrayantes sinusoïdes sonores.

Fripp, en arrière plan au bout de ses fils, est toujours juché sur son tabouret, à moitié caché dans la pénombre. Bill Bruford et Tony Levin ne sont pas du voyage. Leurs successeurs font plus que de la figuration.

Les anciens ont profité de cette longue mise en place pour se remémorer le parcours éclectique du Roi pourpre et de sa cour. Des mélodies douces de Moonchild aux ironies désespérées de Epitaph en passant par les délires métalliques de Red, les Rois Crimson nous ont habitué à tellement d’avance sur leur temps qu’ils en furent souvent incompris de la masse et adulés de l’élite. Passant avec bonheur et subtilité de l’harmonie au désenchantement, du déchirement à la cacophonie, ils ont inspiré la musique progressiste des années 70 d’une manière fondatrice. Les nombreux musiciens qui ont joué sous l’étiquette de King Crimson ont ensuite essaimé l’âme du Maître au hasard de leurs vies musicales. Genesis a acheté son premier mélotron à Fripp et Peter Gabriel découvre à peine les mérites de cet instrument alors que les Crimson en ont fait le tour en berçant l’intelligentsia hippie de la vieille Europe sur les nappes d’harmoniques de In the wake of Posseidon. Alors que Bill Bruford leur batteur inspiré les quitte pour rejoindre Yes, Jon Anderson chanteur-compositeur de Yes retrouve Fripp sur Lizzard. John Wetton, bassiste-chanteur des derniers enregistrements, auteur des chants les plus bouleversants du groupe ne se remettra jamais de la séparation et errera dans des groupes dénués d’inspiration, à la recherche de son passé. Et lorsque Gabriel brise le rêve de Genesis, il fait appel à Fripp pour produire et jouer sur ses premiers disques solo. On le devine même, à Londres sur scène, caché, comme toujours derrière les amplis, jouant dans les coulisses pour la première réapparition de Gabriel en public.

Mais notre homme était déjà ailleurs. Il a approché les frontières troubles et démoniaques du délire métallique de la guitare kamikaze et répétitive sur Red et Lark’s Tongues in Aspic, il ne va plus quitter ce nouveau monde.
Nous sommes à la fin des années 70, le progressisme n’est déjà plus qu’un bon et lointain souvenir, la nouvelle vague éclate. Le Clash et les Stranglers explorent l’environnement primaire mais Ô combien réjouissant d’une musique basique rythmant les affres du chômage et de la crise économique durable. Pendant ce temps, Fripp débute une errance musicale et intellectuelle qui le mènera à jouer les invité sur Parallel Lines de Blondie, à quémander un poste d’intérimaire chez Devo ou à commettre de longues solitudes musicales sur les créations éphémères de Brian Eno sur No Pussyfooting ou Evening Star.

Et alors que David Bowie, quittant la Cité des Anges où il fréquenta la folie et ses compagnes malfaisantes, erre dans Berlin et tente de se refaire une santé et une morale, entre schizophrénie et guerre froide, parcourant à vélo les allées enneigées de Tiergarten au milieu des porteurs de valises de la CIA, Fripp exorcise ses démons dans une école de discipline au fin fond des Etats-Unis d’Amérique.

Bowie, entre chien et loup, équilibriste désarticulé sur son fil, travaille avec Brian Eno et Tony Visconti dans le studio Hansa by the Wall, bâtisse délabrée au pied du Mur qui servit de salle de bal à la Gestapo en d’autres temps. Ensemble ils explorent, ils visionnent, ils inventent la musique de demain. Comme chaque matin, à la conquête de nouvelles compositions, à la recherche de permanentes inspirations, Bowie se penche par la fenêtre du studio pour regarder tristement le Mur de la honte et, comme chaque matin, il découvre, au pied de l’ouvrage, le même couple d’amoureux se câlinant à l’ombre des baïonnettes des Vopos. Ainsi lui viendra le texte de Heroes, point d’orgue de la trilogie berlinoise glaciale HeroesLowLodger.

Avec Heroes Bowie et Eno tiennent, ils le savent, le morceau d’anthologie de la guerre froide et de l’amour vainqueur, mais il leur manque…, que leur manque-t-il d’ailleurs ? Penchés sur le Mur, guettant les ombres, ils veulent marquer le déchirement d’une fin de siècle si sombre, Fripp leur apparaît comme une révélation. Il atterrit 48 h plus tard à Tempelhof où les Dakotas du Luftbrücke ont nourri Berlin en 1948, assailli par la famine et le blocus communiste. Aussitôt amené à Hansa by the Wall, encore dans les brumes du décalage horaire et de l’arrachement à sa méditation, Fripp commet l’inoubliable, l’achèvement ultime de ce que un immense talent et une guitare peuvent produire : hurlement dantesque, stridence hallucinée qui rythme les mesures de Heroes, douleur constante qui vrille le cerveau de tout être, marquant la séparation fulgurante qui pose le Mur au milieu de tout.

Fripp poursuivra une collaboration avec Bowie sur Lodger et Scary Monster et se lancera dans d’étranges récitals solo intimistes avec guitare et Revox, pour lesquels il accueille personnellement ses spectateurs en leur serrant la main à l’entrée de la salle et erre parmi eux durant la première partie, avant de déployer ses étranges arabesques musicales, seul, assis devant une table basse où est posée sa théière.

Au début des années 80, ragaillardi et sûr de lui après ses aventures berlinoises il relance King Crimson avec trois condisciples : Bill Bruford, Tony Levin et Adrian Belew. Leur premier disque est surprenant. Il s’appelle Discipline. C’est un long dialogue de guitares où Fripp et Belew se passent le relais, démarrant à coup de pizzicatos parfaitement convergents, d’un brio éblouissant avant de diverger indiciblement, pour superposer deux partitions séparées d’un huitième de mesure chacune, mêlant les dissonances et les cassures de rythme. C’est le sang d’une époque, l’âme de la future House music où la mélodie est oubliée au profit du rythme et de la répétition.

S’en suivent une série de productions du même tonneau, difficiles à aborder, où parlent l’acier en fusion et la performance des guitares, agrémentés de textes délirants chantés par Belew : Beat, Thrak, Dekonstruction of light. Ces trois créations constituent l’essentiel de notre concert. Et toujours on se demande comment l’homme qui a engendré les mélodies ambrées de Starless peut maintenant générer un tel Hiroshima sonore. Imperturbable, Fripp décline sa logique de la boucle : Lark’s Tongues in Aspic créé en 1973 revient comme un jalon référentiel tout au long de ses productions, chaque fois plus torturée et violente. Lark’s Tongues in Aspic – part four nous est resservie trente ans plus tard dans son dernier disque et en final de cette soirée. Le Grand Rex est en feu. Les héros se retirent.

King Crimson revient sur scène et, du haut de son tabouret, Fripp enclenche à nouveau le solo mythique, le concert se termine sur Heroes. Quittant la salle, les fans du début chantonnent Confusion will be my epitaph.

The Cranberries – 1999/12/09 – Paris Bercy

Le chroniqueur est abattu. Dolorès et ses Cranberries étaient de retour à Paris après leur sublime prestation d’avril dernier au Zénith. Mais pour Bercy ils avaient vu les choses en grand et le résultat fut piteux. Mise en scène tape à l’oeil avec deux musiciens supplémentaires et inutiles, juchés sur des présentoirs surélevés, pour renforcer le quatuor habituel. Dolorès passe d’un cache poussière léopard à une mini jupette cuir et body microscopique, telle une Sheila décatie. Ses maquilleuses travaillent toutes les quatre chansons pour lui en remette une couche. Elle était blonde, elle est redevenue rousse. Le son est fort et nasillard. Le répertoire classique passe comme un boulet. Le bon peuple aime. Du délicat au vulgaire, du ciselé à l’outrageant, du rock au yéyé, du blond au roux, Cranberries dérape sans contrôler. On espère un recadrage rapide car les compositions sont toujours d’exception et la voix superbe. Il reste à changer de directeur marketing. Le chroniqueur désespéré reste confiant et relit sa chronique du 14 avril 1999 !

Eurythmics – 1999/10/15 – Paris Bercy

Le couple fringuant du rock écossais des années 80 est de retour. Annie Lennox et Dave Stewart ont reformé Eurythmics et entamé une tournée aux relents humanitaires, qui fait suite à la sortie d’un nouveau disque.

Bercy n’est pas plein lorsque le groupe entre sur scène et quelques problèmes techniques d’éclairage et de son confirmeront tout au long du show que tout notre petit monde n’est plus très ajusté ; depuis le temps… Stewart toujours blond, Lennox grande et mince avec ses cheveux courts et roux, cachée derrière ses lunettes noires ; tous deux et leurs musiciens sont uniformément vêtus de costumes en style camouflage, tendance forces spéciales russes en Tchétchénie qui dénotent quelque peu avec les sponsors de la tournée : Amnesty international et Greenpeace. Sans doute un message antimilitariste qui vient compléter le titre de l’album du jour : Peace !

Mais tout ceci n’est de guère d’importance car la longiligne Annie chante toujours aussi bien et ses vocalises vibrionnantes envahissent le Palais de Bercy dont elles remplissent l’espace et comblent les oreilles des spectateurs. Elle occupe le devant de la scène avec son partenaire ; leurs musiciens et les trois choristes, essentiellement black-soul, sont relégués à l’arrière. Stewart à la guitare, qui a pris du ventre, s’écoute un peu jouer et s’avère toujours meilleur compositeur que grand virtuose. La scène est dominée par un large écran rectangulaire qui affiche alternativement des images filmées en direct du groupe et des compositions picturales informatisées aux couleurs vives du meilleur effet.

Eurythmics nous fait revivre avec bonheur et énergie tous ses tubes chéris il y a dix ans et chacun écoute avec émotion les rythmes appuyés de I need a Man, Would I lie to You et autre Missionary Man qui déclenchent quelques ondulations dans la foule conquise par avance. Le nouveau disque est décliné sans que l’on note de véritable évolution musicale par rapport aux compositions du passé. Eurythmics ne brille plus de l’éclat de son originale modernité des années 80 mais la musique tourne rond, harmonies et rythmes sont au bon endroit. La voix d’Annie s’est fortifiée avec le temps : puissance, justesse et précision particulièrement bien mises en valeur par la bonne acoustique. Elle en use en grande virtuose tout spécialement dans les morceaux lents : The Miracle of Love, There must be an Angel

Le rappel est commencé par notre couple qui réapparaît devant un mur de sapin verts pour un set acoustique et vocal de bonne tenue et se termine avec l’ensemble du groupe sur Sweet Dreams, après un petit racolage de circonstance pour les sponsors de ce Peacetour.

David Bowie – 1999/10/14 – Paris l’Elysée Montmartre

Mercredi, la rumeur enfle dans Paris : David Bowie en concert à l’Élysée Montmartre jeudi 14. Seules 700 places sont à vendre. La bagarre sera rude…

Jeudi soir, dans l’attente du Thursday’s child, bracelets oranges et bracelets jaunes distinguent les invités des fans qui ont consenti à cinq heures d’attente au petit matin devant les guichets du boulevard Montmartre pour obtenir le sésame.

Bowie entre en scène avec Mike Garson, son pianiste d’antan, et chante Life on mars, très simplement et sans fioritures, comme le sera l’ambiance tout au long de ce concert. Il est vêtu d’un pantalon de nylon marron et d’un polo turquoise dont les manches longues se terminent en mitaines. Ses cheveux longs et châtains lui tombent en mèches sur les épaules. Très détendu il rit beaucoup. Il nous annonce que ce concert est un peu une répétition publique. Un chevalet est posé à coté de son micro, s’il tourne les pages de ses partitions consciencieusement entre chaque morceau, il ne les consulte pas pendant. Comme répétition, on a vu plus improvisé !

Les musiciens montent en scène après ce rappel du passé : Page Hamilton, le guitariste et leader du groupe Helmet, Gail-Ann Dorsey et son crâne rasé à la basse, Sterling Campbell à la batterie et Mark Plati comme guitariste rythmique, plus deux choristes pas très utiles. On regrette l’absence de Reeves Gabrels qui a co-écrit tout le dernier disque, pour cause de fâcherie semble-t-il !

Et l’on rentre dans le vif du sujet avec Thursday’s child et Something in the air, les deux premières chansons du nouvel album Hours…, presque fredonnées. C’est un retour nostalgique et parfois angoissé sur la vie qui s’est déroulée et sur le passé qui s’éloigne. Et quand la seule chose qui justifie et fait accepter ce passé c’est l’Aimée dont on a brisé l’amour en se demandant encore pourquoi, alors il faut survivre. Et Bowie enchaîne le si déchirant Survive.

Nouveau flash-back avec un China girl extatique et très dur, bass prédominante et rythme effréné. Des retours sur image qui font vibrer les bracelets jaunes : Driving saturday, Changes, Always crashing in the car, Repetition, Word on a wing et même son premier enregistrement Can’t help thinking about me.

On craignait un concert promotionnel centré sur Hours…, nous aurons un brillant résumé d’un parcours musical unique peuplé de visions fantasmagoriques. Les extravagances d’antan ne sont plus de mise. Bowie est apaisé et élégant, et cela suffit à nous consumer de bonheur. Il est heureux sur scène et la sérénité inonde ses gestes. Bowie sourit et reste souverain même en nous déclinant ses amertumes de quinqua.

Le rappel commencé par Seven (I got seven days to live my life/or seven ways to die) se termine par Rebel Rebel. Mais la rébellion n’est plus de son fait, il est maintenant le Maître du monde. Tel Orphée sublime et décadent dont le chant a charmé les Dieux et les mortels pour tenter de sauver Eurydice, il parcourt le système solaire où il a propulsé Major Tom dans l’orbite de nos rêves schizophréniques avant de nous révéler, vingt ans plus tard, que le Major était un junky.

Histrion démoniaque grimé de Ziggy Stardust en Scary monster, il nous a emmené aussi loin que possible dans ses mythes planétaires. Il nous accompagne de nouveau sur ce parcours initiatique pour tenter d’oublier qu’Orphée a perdu Eurydice et terminé sa vie désespéré et solitaire.

Maintenant que Ziggy et le Thin white duke voguent à jamais dans les poussières d’étoile de l’espace intergalactique, David Bowie explore la planète Internet depuis sa maison des Bahamas qu’il partage avec Iman. Du rêve de l’âge lunaire au pouvoir du silicium, le héraut britannique continue à tisser sa toile de modernité sur BowieNet.

Le problème avec un tel artiste c’est que l’on se sent bien peu de chose sur la Terre face à ce géant. Mais heureusement nous savons maintenant qu’il y a la vie sur Mars.

Vendredi, les bracelets jaunes sont encore en transe pendant que les bracelets oranges qui ont suivi la star pour une soirée privée au Man Ray transpirent sur leurs copies. La presse du jour étale déjà leurs chroniques désabusées où, à défaut de pouvoir critiquer ce concert au-delà du sublime, ils en tancent les buts soit disant commerciaux. Bref, les pisse copies dégorgent leurs désillusions mondaines mais les fans savent qu’ils ont croisé Bowie pour une nouvelle étape de sa création, plus introspective mais toujours flamboyante.

Massive Attack – 1999/09/10 – Paris Bercy

Massive Attack se produit à Bercy. Le concert est complet depuis plusieurs semaines. Ambiance glaçante et lumières tamisées. Beaucoup d’ordinateurs, de samples et d’électronique. C’est le nouveau son des années 90. Créé sous le nom de The Wild Bunch le groupe a adopté son pseudonyme actuel en 1991 lorsque le Conseil de sécurité a voté une résolution de massive attack contre Saddam. L’Occident racoleur et repu est alors parti à l’assaut de l’Empereur de Babylone. Le message a été entendu à Bristol où les fils d’esclaves ont recomposé un ghetto métissé sur la terre de leurs bourreaux.

D’inspiration rapp et black-soul, nos compères déclinent une musique sombre et radicale qui vogue au cœur de l’univers intergalactique. Les mots sont noyés dans des nappes de sons s’étageant dans l’espace. Les chanteurs(euse) se succèdent. Un duo grand black et petit blanc, rappeurs-diseurs-conteurs, évolue avec beaucoup d’élégance, la démarche souple de deux guerriers du désert au milieu des mirages. Ils s’échangent le devant de la scène, se répondent et s’entrechoquent. Les mots confus se fondent dans le rythme. Leurs voix lancinantes sont basses et sourdes. Une chanteuse, noire également, apparaît, parfois solo, parfois pour des chœurs. Un dernier chanteur black et enrobé, à la voix haut perchée, assure l’unité ethnique de ce patchwork musical venu de Bristol, Royaume-Uni.

Beat lourd et envoûtant qui aspire notre énergie. Les boîtes à rythmes font battre le sang sur nos tempes affolant les ventricules de nos cœurs cataplectiques. Le son courre dans nos synapses et transite dans le hub de nos émotions. Tout est tactile et irréel. Le flux fébrile d’une musique hors du temps repousse le bouclier de nos perceptions. Les flots de notes avancent à l’assaut de nos résistances et dévalent sur la peau comme un arc électrique. C’est la musique de la fin du siècle. De nos années barbares à l’ère des computers, Massive Attack nous ouvre le portail du nouveau millenium dont le beat sera désormais le fluide vital.

Le son naît du courant qui irradie les puces de silice : plus/moins, attraction/répulsion, noir/blanc. Il n’y a plus qu’une alternative, nos sentiments énucléés ont transformé un syncrétisme décadent en manichéisme ultime. Nos neurones en fusion absorbent goulûment cet ample magma électronique. La vitesse est le maître mot, l’énergie magnétique file et n’attend pas. Les compositions de Massive Attack brillent comme le quartz mais échappent à l’entendement de nos cerveaux hallucinés.

Massive Attack séduit. On y retrouve la musique impersonnelle et révolutionnaire de Kraftwerk qui aurait été réinitialisée en noir et blanc. Le process a été rebooté et formaté au langage techno du ghetto. Il faudra double-cliquer à nouveau sur l’icône de leur label. Il s’appelle… Melankolik. Son slogan est : Glad to be Sad.

Brrr…, il fait froid dans le nouveau monde.