Sunday, 03 August 2014 09:22 | Written by Michel Scheijen |
TONY LEVIN: MORE THAN 40 YEARS OF SERVICE
“Sometimes I think I can do much better, so I’m pretty normal in that way”
American bass player Tony Levin is best known for his collaborations with Paul Simon, King Crimson and Peter Gabriel. Beside that his fascinating technique can be heard on over more than 500 albums. Tony is currently on tour with The Crimson ProjeKCT, a King Crimson offshoot featuring 3 current members of that historic band, primarily focusing on repertoire from early 1980s through to the mid-90s. To Lazyrocker.com Tony Levin reveals what it takes in being a session musician for over more than four decades and the truth about the ressurrection of King Crimson.
Is there a kind of difference between playing in the original King Crimson and The Crimson ProjeKCT?
“They are completely different, allthough the music is the same. With The Crimson ProjeKCT we play music that we played before. We aren’t busy with writing and rehearsing together. With King Crimson we are spending a lot more time in writing and rehearsing than we are actually on stage performing. The Crimson ProjeKCT also plays music from our individual bands Stick Men and The Adrian Belew Power Trio. So a big difference is that King Crimson spends a lot of time in the studio, and we spend our time in playing shows.”
Is it true that there will be a brandnew King Crimson in the near future?
“No, I even can tell you that we aren’t working on an album right now. We are just working on music to play live during the U.S.-tour in september and october.”
Aren’t there any European tourdates booked?
“Unfortunately not. The tour is already booked in the USA and we are going to see how things work out. What will happen next year will really be up to Robert Fripp. I hope that there will be more touring, writing and recording in the future. But there are no concrete plans right now. “
As a musician you’ve got a very innovative philosophy and it seems that you always try to step over the limit and explore new things. Don’t you accept borders?
(laughs) “Is that so? Am I really so innovative? Well, I would like that say that I don’t have any boundaries, but ofcourse I do. I always try to be flexible and as creative as I can. Sometimes I feel good about what I did, and sometimes I think I should have done much better. So I think I’m pretty normal in that way. What I found out in being a professional musician for quite a long time is that when you get older you get less flexible both physically and creatively. For the last ten years I push myself a little bit harder to be as flexible or creative as I can. That doesn’t mean that I’m good in doing that. I just try to fight against that stiffening that happens to your body, mind, and musical ability when you get older. I’m also very lucky that I had the oppertunity to do so many different things in music”.
What kind of influence has playing with so many gifted musicans on you as a professional musician and social human being?
“Well, I never thought about that. In fact all my friends are musicians. That has been so since I was a child, and I think I don’t know many people who aren’t musicians (laughs). Even my older brother is a musician (MS: jazz keyboardist Pete Levin from Gill Evans Orchestra). Personally I’m definitely effected by being friends with musicians. Musically I grow from playing with anybody so I can take different things from different players. Even if it’s something that’s not involved with bass playing. There are great drummers with a special kind of feel and time, singers with a particular sense of melody, horn players with a different kind of phrasing. There are so many aspects in music. You can always grow on you own instrument from listening to other people. “
You started being a professional bass player in Paul Simon’s band in the 70’s. What kind of experience was that?
“To be honest: I started a long time before that. He’s such a briljant performer and songwriter. Probably one of the greatest poëts of our…or should I say... my generation. He also has got a very good charisma and a very special sense to deal with the audience. It’s a very extraordinay experience to be with someone like Paul Simon on stage. “
Most of the time you always play in service of worldfamous musicians. In fact you are always in the background. Did you never had the abiltiy to step into the forefront?
“A very good question. No, I never did. Althought I released a couple of solo albums and I had my own Tony Levin Band for some years in the early 2000. The tours I did with this project were a very good experience for me. It was a challange to be the guy in front, to be the guy with the microfone, and being in charge of what the band does. To my surprise I found out that it’s all equal to me. I don’t care if I’m in the back behind in Peter Gabriel’s band, being an equal bandmember in King Crimson, or in being the frontman. It’s not important if the spotlight is on me or not. I don’t have a preference for any of that. My only preference is that the music and the players are good. Like all the other guys I know I went into the music to play great music, not to get attention or to be famous”.