|King Crimson was conceived in November 1968 and born on January 13th 1969 in the Fulham Palace Cafe, London (Fripp/Ian McDonald/Greg Lake/Michael Giles/Pete Sinfield), coming to prominence after supporting The Rolling Stones at Hyde Park. Their ground-breaking debut In The Court Of The Crimson King (1969) described by Pete Townshend as "an uncanny masterpiece", began a career that has spanned four decades and influenced many bands and individuals including Yes, Genesis, Tool, and Porcupine Tree.
Despite the original line-up imploding after an American tour King Crimson continued to produce constantly challenging and intriguing music on albums such as In The Wake of Poseidon (1970), Lizard (1970), Islands (1971), Earthbound (1972), Larks' Tongues in Aspic (1973) and Red (1974). Following Red, an exhausted Fripp declared "King Crimson is completely over for ever and ever."
In 1981, Fripp reconvened King Crimson along with Adrian Belew (Zappa/Bowie/Talking Heads), Tony Levin (Paul Simon/John Lennon/Peter Gabriel) and his old sparring partner, Bill Bruford. "The bleak Crim view lightened" according to Fripp as their musical vocabulary widened and Crimson combined gamelan, funk and rock grooves that would threaten to "tear out and flatten ear hairs within a mile." Albums which followed include Discipline (1981), Beat (1982) and Three Of A Perfect Pair (1984) and a stunning live album from their last ever performance in 1984, Absent Lovers (finally released in 1998).
Following a lengthy period outside the music industry mainstream - during which Fripp not only established Guitar Craft, engaged in a protracted but ultimately successful legal battle with his former mangers, and collaborated with David Sylvian—King Crimson re-emerged in 1994 with Trey Gunn (touch guitar) and Pat Mastelotto (drums). Joining forces with Belew, Levin, Bruford and Fripp and dubbed the Double Trio, they recorded an ep VROOOM (1994) and THRAK (1995) and a suite of live improvs, THRaKaTTaK (1996).
In 1997, the group subdivided into research and development units collectively known as the ProjeKcts, producing an exciting and inventive blend that mixed hard-core improv and electronica (King Crimson The ProjeKcts box set 1999). With Tony Levin temporarily leaving to work with Seal and Peter Gabriel, and Bill Bruford returning full-time to his ongoing Earthworks jazz group, King Crimson entered the new millennium with The ConstruKction of Light (2000). In the same year the double duo of Belew, Fripp Gunn and Mastelotto produced a live set, Heavy ConstruKction, before returning to the studio to record the critically acclaimed, The Power To Believe (2003). After a tour playing 21 countries with over 70 dates, Trey Gunn departed to pursue his own career in 2003. The present and seventh line-up of King Crimson is Adrian Belew (guitar, lead vocals), Robert Fripp (guitar), Tony Levin (bass guitar & Chapman stick) and Pat Mastelotto (drums) and work has begun on new material.
Musical style and influences
The band's music was initially grounded in the rock of the 1960s, especially the acid rock and psychedelic rock movements. The band played Donovan's "Get Thy Bearings" in concert, and were known to play The Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" in their rehearsals. However, for their own compositions, King Crimson (unlike the rock bands that had come before them) largely stripped away the blues-based foundations of rock music and replaced them with influences derived from classical composers. The first incarnation of King Crimson played the Mars section of Gustav Holst's suite The Planets as a regular part of their live set and Fripp has frequently cited the influence of Béla Bartók. As a result of this influence, In the Court of the Crimson King is frequently viewed as the nominal starting point of the symphonic rock or progressive rock movements. From its earliest years King Crimson also initially displayed strong jazz influences, most obviously on its signature track "21st Century Schizoid Man". The band also drew on English folk music for compositions such as "Moonchild" and "I Talk to the Wind".
Several King Crimson compositional approaches have remained constant from the earliest versions of the band to the present. These include:
the use of a gradually building rhythmic motif. These include "The Devil's Triangle" (an adaptation and variation on the Gustav Holst piece Mars played by the original King Crimson, based on a complex pulse in 5/4 time over which a skirling melody is played Mellotron), 1972's "The Talking Drum" (from Larks' Tongues in Aspic), 1984's "Industry" (from Three of a Perfect Pair) and 2003's "Dangerous Curves" (from The Power to Believe and the Level Five EP).
an instrumental piece (often embedded as a break in a song) in which the band plays an ensemble passage of considerable rhythmic and polyrhythmic complexity. An early example is the band's initial signature tune "21st Century Schizoid Man", but the Larks' Tongues in Aspic series of compositions (as well as pieces of similar intent such as "THRaK" and "Level Five") go deeper into polyrhythmic complexity, delving into rhythms that wander into and out of general synchronisation with each other, but that all 'finish' together through polyrhythmic synchronisation. These polyrhythms were particularly abundant in the band's 1980s work, which contained gamelan-like rhythmic layers and continual overlaid staccato patterns in counterpoint.
the composition of difficult solo passages for individual instruments, such as the guitar break on "Fracture" on Starless and Bible Black.
pieces with a loud, aggressive sound akin to heavy metal music.
the juxtaposition of ornate tunes and ballads with unusual, often dissonant noises (such as "Cirkus" on Lizard, "Ladies of the Road" from Islands and "Eyes Wide Open" from The Power to Believe).
the use of improvisation.
Ascending note structure (i.e. "Facts of Life", "Thrak")
The 1981 reunion of the band brought in even more elements, displaying the influence of gamelan music and of late 20th century classical composers such as Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and Terry Riley. For its 1994 reunion, King Crimson reassessed both the mid-1970s and 1980s approaches in the light of new technology, intervening music forms such as grunge, and further developments in industrial music, as well as expanding the band's ambient textural content via Fripp's Soundscapes looping approach.
King Crimson have been influential both on the early 1970s progressive rock movement and numerous contemporary artists.
First-wave progressive rock bands such as Genesis and Yes were directly influenced by the band's initial style of symphonic mellotron rock, and many King Crimson band members went on to other notable bands: Greg Lake to Emerson, Lake & Palmer; Ian Mcdonald to co-found Foreigner; Boz Burrell to Bad Company and John Wetton to the supergroups UK and Asia (the latter of which also drew members from Yes, ELP, and The Buggles). Some aspects of the work of Emerson, Lake & Palmer can be seen as Greg Lake's attempt to continue the early work of King Crimson. The veteran Canadian hard rock/progressive rock band Rush cites King Crimson as a strong early influence on their sound (drummer Neil Peart specifically credits the adventurous and innovative style of original King Crimson drummer Michael Giles as a very important influence on his own approach to percussion).
Latterday progressive rock bands also cite King Crimson as an influence. These include Porcupine Tree who, as with Tool, have invited King Crimson (this time, in the form of ProjeKct Six) to play as their support band. Progressive/heavy metal rock band Between the Buried and Me are heavily influenced by King Crimson, covering the song "Three of a Perfect Pair" on their 2006 album The Anatomy Of, as are Primus, whose Les Claypool routinely opened his 2002 tour concerts of Colonel Les Claypool's Fearless Flying Frog Brigade with a cover of the song Thela Hun Ginjeet. Progressive metal band Dream Theater included a cover of King Crimson's "Larks Tongues In Aspic, Pt. 2" on disk 2 of the special edition of their 2009 release, Black Clouds & Silver Linings.
King Crimson's influence extends to alternative rock bands of the 1990s and 2000s. Nirvana are known to have been influenced by King Crimson as a result of Kurt Cobain having mentioned the importance of the Red album to him. Tool are widely held to have been heavily influenced by King Crimson, with their vocalist Maynard James Keenan even joking on a tour with them that "Now you know who we ripped off. Just don't tell anyone, especially the members of King Crimson." Los Angeles punk band Bad Religion quotes the lyrics of "21st Century Schizoid Man" in their hit single 21st Century (Digital Boy). Steve Steele, mentioned in an interview that King Crimson was a prime influence on his songwriting and arrangements, and in a biography, he cites that other than traditional literary sources, Richard Palmer-James (King Crimson's lyricist from 1972-1974), is one of the only lyricist he credits as having a personal impact.
King Crimson have frequently been cited as pioneers of progressive metal. Members of both Iron Maiden and Mudvayne have cited King Crimson as an influence. The angular, dissonant guitar patterns associated with Fripp's distinctive approach are also evident in the music of Thrash-Metal pioneers Voivod, especially in the band's mid-period work. Voivod also did a cover of "21st Century Schizoid Man" on their 1997 recording Phobos.
King Crimson have also provided source material and inspiration for hip-hop and dance music acts. Rap star Kanye West sampled King Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid Man" on his 2010 single "Power" and British hip-hoppers The Brotherhood used a prominent sample from "Starless" to open their debut album. British techno/house music act Opus III covered "I Talk to the Wind" on their 1992 album Mind Fruit and released the track as a single.
King Crimson has also influenced the Japanese noise artist Merzbow who has stated his passion for the progressive genre and among those King Crimson and has influenced several tracks on both his solo career as well as his collaborations like taking samples from "The Great Deceiver" for a track on Spiral Honey while in collaboration with the Japanese band Boris released Walrus/Groon where they take the name from one of Crimson's improvisational pieces called "Groon".