Peter Sinfield telephone interview with David Buckley.

[who is writing a book about Roxy Music.]††

Interview conducted 17 June 2003† -but subsequently edited & updated a tad.

 

"The reported opinions of

Peter Sinfield

re events, and or persons, mentioned in this interview are his alone
and are disingenuously believed to be close upon the truth of times recalled.
The interviewer, though hopefully amused, bears no responsibility . . . *PjS*"



DB: How are you?

PS:† Iím a bit knackered, actually.††

DB: You werenít very well last week?

PS: I have recovered.† I had a friend coming down.† Ironically, he wanted me to sing a song Iíd recently written - which Iíd done as a joke, back to him down the phone.† Weíd had a few beers, and I was doing my Bob Dylan impression, which I do quite well.† I can either do Bob Dylan or Bryan Ferry, but I have quite a problem doing myself! As it happened, he came down, and Iíve got all these new computers here, and Iíve installed all these new computer programmes such as Logic, and we ended up writing this rather lovely song.† At the end of which he said, ďNow, do you want to sing the other one?í And I went (makes coughing/sick noises), because it was several packets of Gitanes, and several bottles of beer and whiskies later.† Singing it down to the phone to him is one thing, but singing it in the studio is quite another.† I put the cans on, and itís such a long time since Iíve sung anything with cans on with echo, and Iím suddenly in this very odd place.† It was like being in the studio, though I was sitting exactly where I am now in the study, and I froze.† I got a bit of ďred-light-itisí, on top of the fact that I was pissed.† I couldnít sing it softly, because I didnít have the control, and then because Iím not a very good singer, when I tried to sing it loudly, I sang it out of tune.

DB: So is it a bit like people not being able to perform sexually when theyíre pissed, is it the same for singers when theyíre pissed? Do you start singing in the pub....?

PS:† No, I hate appearing on stage for this very reason .(the† lack of confidence in my singing)† Weíd spent twelve hours writing a new song in the first place. But- If Iíd been fresh in the afternoon, I probably could have got through it, I could have pitched it, but I was knackered...

DB:† Are you recording a new solo album?

PS: Yes indeed, so rumour has it.† My friends are sort of encouraging me, nudging me into finishing it off.† All the players in King Crimson, whoops, ahem I mean The Schizoid Band with the exception of one perhaps, i.e both Ians, Ian Wallace and Ian MacDonald, Mel and Jakko have offered to play on it which is very nice, as I approach my sixtieth birthday. . .

DB:† Really!?

PS: Yes, it shocks the hell out of me too.

DB:† Well, Iíve got eighteen months to go to my fortieth, and that feels horrendous.

PS:Well, there you go - youíve hardly started.† I feel like Iím on my third lifetime, I do really. I was planning to have a day of rest over Sunday in preparation for this interview but that didnít quite work out.

DB:† But, youíre alright to talk now?

PS: Sure enough. I have a nice Beckís bubbling away in front of me.

DB:† In fact, I have a Weissbier, because Iím in Munich.

PS: Beckís was the best I could do. I only drink German beer because well itís beer!

[ A November update: The solo album may be slightly delayed for I have recently been asked and agreed to read next June at The 2004 Genova Poetry Festival. This is of course flattering & more than a little daunting.

 

For, although much of my work is 'poetic in nature, it is mostly 'verse' and not, as such, POETRY. Yes. I have written a few poems but I am well short of the required 40 minutes. However I have a cunning plan to fill this chasm by taking some of my lyrics and then sort of interrupting them with spoken rhythmic additions.

 

Jakko has bravely agreed to aid & strumscape along side me while I attempt to do this - I shall also ahem, perform some improvised, post modern? Ha! 'sound poetry' in non-existent languages. This sly stuff, which we shall record, may extend my theory that the sound of placed words is often more important than their meaning.† Indeed a spoken/noise, distant relative, of Eno's 'Music For Airports'...? Which leads us back to the interview.]

DB:† Am I right in infering that you donít get on with Fripp [Robert Fripp of King Crimson and former colleague and collaborator]?† The reason I ask this is that I wrote a book on David Bowie.† It came out about four years ago.† Iím a big David Bowie fan, and I wanted to speak to Robert Fripp.† I did get to speak to Adrian Belew [ King Crimson], and he was very pleasant.

PS: Yes, heís a very courteous guy. (Well he was nice to me on the one occasion that I've met him and he has that reputation. Oddly... Yesterday I heard him talking on the radio about Zappa with particular reference to Zappa's guitar playing. He was careful and kindly positive; unlike the drummer from the The Mothers who† was less so; pointing out that Frank, & I† paraphrase ,"never knew when enough was† enough." †I agree with the drummer.)†

DB: He said to me something like, Robert Fripp said that he wouldnít do a phone interview, because a phone interview is not a proper interview, and heís absolutely not interested in talking about his work with anyone else, only his own work. ( Eh? Well its a semi-valid point and one reason that this, originally done over the telephone interview has, over time, been edited, expanded and updated by DB & PjS.)

PS:† Anyway - Yes, well, thatís Robert for you.

DB:† Which is a shame, because I think heís a great guitarist.

PS: No doubt about it.† A fantastic technician, brilliant, always was. As you probably know I was Ian McDonaldís mate who wrote a few words and ended up being the roadie; because I sat there listening to HIM and the others (GG&F) and couldnít believe what I was hearing.† It was the most magical thing Iíd heard in my whole life.† †

Robert has always been - how can I put it - eccentric, and he hasnít got any less so.† Now heís also running out of time, so has ever less 'space' for anything that he considers not to be essential to the core of his being - art, work, or whatever it is - apart from his wife.† I donít know if you saw her on that island thing [Iím A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here]? She came off the island, and Robert was actually sitting there looking a little like a camp Gestapo officer.† Itís in the jungle, and heís got this big leather coat on and these glasses, and was rather severe.†† It was really good because he said [in a more than passable Fripp accent], ďI donít know why I should be speaking to you when Iíve got my little wife sitting here next to me.í Which was classic Fripp.† Nobody else would have dared to say that in front of 13 million people.† He doesnít care.† And he has all these rules to his life.† Heís got more rules to his life than theyíve got rulers in Smithís probably. Heís an extraordinary chap and I have great admiration for him.† I sort of love him in a way.† I worked with him non-stop for two-and-a half, three years,on the first four King Crimson albums.† Everyone can be awkward, but Robert has a very special sort of awkward, and we just clash every so often.† He takes a sort of unilateral stance on something, and I notice. And I speak up, and the others donít. The other guys are all sweet and lovely, and perhaps Iím not as sweet or lovely, and thus say, ďExcuse me, this isnít right is it?† But Iím an admirer and I wish him well. When we were working, one of the reasons† we worked so well is because heís so precise, and so exact. He hardly makes any mistakes, but nevertheless, wonít repeat the same solo twice, which can be very annoying when you get a really good first bit, and you want an end bit.† He wonít, or he canít, repeat the same solo. Eno ignored all that, and sort of looped the first bit, and said, here you are Robert, hereís your solo. And Robert went "Ooh thatís rather good, Brian, I like that" I never dared do that. There was a sort of awe. He can be moody & hard to handle. Ask anyone, as it were. ;-)

DB:† I have to say that when I was four or five years of age, one of the first records that was played to me by my big brother was In The Court Of The Crimson King. †I remember when I was about 14, buying it on vinyl.† Itís still an absolutely fantastic record.

PS: It is.† Itís still in the Top 100 of the most extraordinary records.† It might not be very high, but itís in there with albums such as Loveís Forever Changes. Ground-breaking, brave, deft, bold† and yea possibly pretentious (as ahem, some said at the time) never the less the standard of the musicianship is incredible, the harmonic quality marvellous & the words are† [coughs, self-deprecatorily] pretty good, if a little oblique on occasion. Tho' I note, pikestaff plain compared to what followed :-§†

DB: Did you write the lyrics for the whole album?

PS: Yeah, some of them long before the album, in fact.

DB:So you wrote ď21st Century Schizoid Maní?

PS: Indeed so, to/ i.e. after the music, which was a collaborative effort.

DB: Oh, I love that.

PS: Yes, Tony Blairís favourite song - did you read about that?

DB: No, I didnít.

PS: Great fun. There was a whole hoo-haa about it. There were articles in a couple of UK papers.. Because, although the song is plainly anti-war, anti politicians/leaders/Tony Blair. Apparently he just loved the guitar solo. Presumption-There was an odd bit of old hippy left in him somewhere?

DB:† David Bowie picked it as one of his favourite tracks of all time [Radio 1, Star Special, May 1979].

PS: Itís an amazing track.† In fact I will have the joy of hearing it in Hyde Park on the 17th †when the Schizoid band plays it [the July ďRoute Of Kingsí gigs in Hyde Park ended up cancelled when the promoters, Triple A, went into receivership.† Roxy Music were to be the headline act].† Do you know about the Schizoid Band?† The Schizoid Band now has more members of King Crimson in it than King Crimson has.† Adrian and those guys have taken up the standard, as it were [But Ian Wallace, Ian MacDonald, Peter Giles, not Michael Giles, and Mel Collins and Jakko Jakszyk, who played with Level 42, and is a brilliant guitar player and very good singer are playing together. They are not a tribute band, in so far as we are already writing new stuff, and they are also very good players and are supporting Yes.]

DB:† Prog Rock Heaven!

PS: I guess!† The mind boggles at what the audience is going to look like.† Most of them are going to be almost as old as me - also with their younger brothers & their children. I had a bank manager who was a KC fan (which is useful in a bank manager), and his 12 year old son liked the band too. It reaches a second and a third generation. The point being clearly its (The Music Of KC) got something.[er, like yeah man...PjS]

DB:Tell me about Roxy Music.† I was intrigued because I was commissioned to write a short article on Roxy Musicís first album for Mojo, and I dug up an old quote from you about Brian Eno, where you were trying to articulate a sense of frustration in that I think you thought that Eno and you were doing the same act.† Is that true?

PS: I actually did say that, but added that he did it better. Which was a sort of joke, and sort of true, in so far as I was ďthe otherí member of King Crimson but never appeared on stage, although I had all of the lights, and all of the sound, and the synthesisers in the audience.† Now, he had the same synthesiser, the VCS3 on stage, and he had the peacock feathers.† And I thought if I were sitting at Sheffield City Hall or where ever it was, it was not the best idea to be sitting in the audience wearing peacock feathers.† But we did more or less the same thing - we did the same tricks with the sound & the environment. Tho' he did it on stage and I did it off.† Because heís this post-modern non-musician - which means that you canít play anything very well, but have fantastic ideas - I relate very much to him. I canít play anything very well either.† He puts dots on his piano keys.† Well, Iíve been known to resort to similar techniques.† He really took looping tapes and things to huge degrees, so, we have a sort of affinity.

 

Of course, there was a clash [In Roxy] Bryan was singing but Eno is very clever. AND Ferry on stage, especially in those days, not so much now, looked well - awkward. I remember the first time I saw them [Roxy Live], and I thought," my God !Its like Joe Cocker on a bad night." He was so awkward. I mean, It was so uneven his performance; the positions he took. His stances were so odd [angular/stiff/jerky] - a bit like somebody had gone mad with one of those little artistís models, do you know what I mean? (Laughs). He just had† very, very odd stage movements. Heís cooled it all down now, heís famously Mr Smooth. But back then it was eek!! What are people gonna think?† But it didnít matter did it?

 

[It occurs to me, as I read this, that even the holy Elvis, in his early performances, looked more than just a tad peculiar/awkward/original...hmm...Gold jacket... however no peacock feathers.]

DB: How did you get the gig?† At that stage you were still part of King Crimson, werenít you?

PS: No. I was not. Robert, on the day he famously changed his name from Bob to Robert, rang me, 'twas just before before Christmas Eve, the end of 1971, & said (in again, a more than passable accent), ďThe thing is, Peter, I really canít work with you anymore, one of us has got to goí. So, it was a case of, this town ainít big enough. And it had to be me, because they (KC) were booked to do an American tour. And my guitar playing was barely four chords, let alone up to King Crimsonís music. I wanted them to do the tour, so I said, ďFine, byeí, and put the phone down. Leaving me not a little sad and having not so much lost a battle but lost the opportunity to take the band in a certain direction that Robert didnít want to go in. So it was truly was a matter of er, musical differences. I didn't think at the time it was personality differences so much as musical direction.

 

[Now I must add, in retrospect, that of course when one's vision or ambition/fun is frustrated by a former ally. One likely treats said Ďfrustateteeí with increasing, off-hand disrespect.† [Shock .... a reaction most overcast & well, there you go ... musical differences do/did become personal. Cíest les egoistes.....]

It left me rather exhausted, living in a little cottage down in Somerset, which Iíd saved enough money to buy.† Because in the music business you donít actually ever get some real money no matter how successful you are, until they take you off wages and give you a few quid, or lend you the money to buy a house. Anyway I was still managed, if that is the right word, by EG management.

DB: And what were they like?

PS :† Well the original EG management, that is to say David Enthoven and John Gaydon, were absolute darling people - wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. They actually mortgaged their house to pay the bills so that we could finish the first King Crimson album.† More than that you canít really ask of your management. And they were charming, ex-Harrovian, wonderful people. John Gaydon now works in films, and Davidís doing pretty well as the manager of Robbie somebody or other.

DB: Are you still in contact with them?

PS: Slightly.. I like them very much. However round about that time other partners joined EG. Sam Alder, an accountant from the Isle of Man and Mark Fenwick of Fenwicks ( They have a large shop in Bond Street.) I think it is true to say that Sam, a shrewd business man, who could and did charm birdies down from trees to sign on dotted lines overa period of time distanced EG from the idealistic, 'good hippy' ethos that existed at the genesis of EG + KC.

DB: Mark Fenwick went on to manage Bryan Ferry, didn't he?

PS: Yes, for a time. They were very good pals.

I'd say Bryan is/was not the easiest person to manage because he is very much an artist. He's a painter in some ways. Originally he was a painter who happened to sing, I think he often paints rather than just sings his songs. . . .

I think Johnny Gaydon left because he got fed up with disagreements with Greg Lake as Emerson, Lake and Palmer and their egos became huge (famously so) and so he moved on to other things. . Yes it was about this time that EG said, "We've found this band' and I went down to their rehearsals. I thought they were very, very interesting, not so far on musically, but very intelligent, lovely people with brilliant ideas. They made up for their lack of technical ability with imagination. I wasn't doing anything else particularly at the time. I had recovered from my split with King Crimson. So when asked if I would produce their album I said, "Yeah!', and then it all got very rushed. I did it for no advance and 1.5% royalty.

DB: So this was Sam Alder negotiating?

PS: Frankly I can't quite remember. Quite possibly. Because of course it should have been 3%, Any producer would have got 3%, allowing for the fact that I had already done four albums and knew my way round a knob or two, to coin a phrase. But I was excited and one trusted ones management did their best for you.(I was not concerned about conflicts of interest or that they owned the album.)

DB: Indeed

PS: So it was all very rushed.† We rehearsed quite a lot, two or three weeks, then we went straight into the studio.† They had a few gigs inbetween, and it was really when I got into the studio that the lack of technical ability made life difficult; given the standards that I was used to in King Crimson, you understand, with lots of very fine musicians.† We didnít have the toys we use now.† You couldn't put things back in time or pitch like you can now.† You had to do another take or cut up large pieces of tape.†

 

And also the bass player Graham [Simpson] was having a mild nervous breakdown, he really was.† Kept bursting into tears, which didnít help very much. The one stalwart person was the drummer, Paul [Thompson], who was solid, just like a rock. There is an old expression, ďa bandís only as good as its drummerí, well, thank God for him, man, because every time we did another take, heíd be right there, right on the clock, holding it together, which was a God-send.†

 

If they had all been as good as that, it would have been much easier.† He was always there, so at least I knew I would always get a drum track, and then I could drop a bass in and build it up - and work from there.

DB: I have to say that Roxy Musicís first album is my favourite of all the albums theyíve ever done.

PS: Woargh!† Well, itís messy but it is atmospheric.

DB: Itís just for personal reasons because I remember when I was eight, I got Hunky Dory and my brother John got Roxy Musicís first album.† It was Christmas 1973, and he put both of them on, in the dark, as it was so early. For an eight year-old, it was literally, a mind-blowing experience.

PS: Yeah, I can imagine.

DB: ďLadytroní, to this day, is a haunting piece of music.† I think itís Roxy Musicís finest song, actually.

PS: Well, thatís interesting.† It may be their finest song but we had this whole album, but no single, it was just at the beginning of the days - before that in the days of King Crimson and early Prog, if you like, I donít like that expression, I donít know what else you could call it, unfortunately -

DB: Art rock?

PS: Yeah, thatís better, it covers a multitude of sins, I suppose.† One didnít have to have a single. Traffic had ďHole In My Shoeí, I suppose; but all us bands on Island didnít have to have singles, we made albums† ;-)† It was just turning then the 'business. It was advised to sell your album† a single was a requisite, and I was most definitely trying to make, one. .I think it was the first track -

 

DB: ďRemake, Remodelí?† Itís great isnít it?

P : Yes, but I couldnít get it into an obvious form.† I was working sixteen hours a day with this engineer (who really should get a mention, Andy Hendricksen.† Heís an unsung hero is Andy, he later did my solo album.† He had patience beyond Job.)† The albumís quite King Crimsony in a way. It has IMHO† my style stamped all over it - the little band sitting in one corner, drum kits in another, bombs going off and all that stuff. There are lots of pictures in it, which I used particular because they werenít as funky and as groovy and as clean as they later became. They just couldnít play well enough reall and it was verboten to get any session guys.† Fortunately -Just after the album, we were rehearsing and Ferry was in the corner going ďde de de deí in 8's. ( A tad Supertramp?)†† AnywayÖ

I said, ďwhatís that, I havenít heard that?í, and he said, "Iíve got this idea for this thing with the bass coming in ba-do-dah.í† He sung it to me, and I went ďwowí. It was a bit like hearing ďSatisfactioní really in so far as you could hear a fuzz bass at the front.† And I said, ďI can hear, it, I can hear it, I can hear ití, and I said, ďwhatís next?í† And he said, ďwell, there isnít much moreí. (although there was)† And I said, ďletís take it to the studio.† Why donít we take every bit of the band, all the players, and do a precis history of rock and roll, illustrating something from rock and roll? Thatís how those bits got into the middle, because there wasnít a middle. Those bits in the middle, the Duane Eddy guitar, and the Ride Of the Valkyries and all that stuff, are there because thereís nothing else, but it seemed† a good way of showcasing the band....†

[Note: Hi Peter: I think you are confusing ďVirginia Plainí with ďRemake, Remodelí surely?† The sequence where the players solo is on ďRe-make, re-Modelí not ďVirginia Plainí]

 

Oh my. You are right David!!† So as I confuse my myself with this and that of then.

 

 

A PROVISO


Mostly the answers given by me - *PjS* (a wily artiste), to the questions
posed by David Buckley (a crafty inquisitor) and now boldly quoted in this
interview: relate to events, the work of some very creative people and the
er, doings, allegedly, of our mutual managers - All of which happened many
moons ago. Given the passing of time, quirks of memory and the fancies of
my ego; I have strived to 'answer' with the tongue which is not forked.
Whatever - As is the case with all 'histories', even though the recollections
of witnesses can vary a tad - The inquisitor should never be blamed! *PjS*

 

Best to call a halt for now; say "happy hols" and finish part 2† in the new year *PjS*






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