MM: For every the music lover the first albums of King Crimson have a special appeal. There's a tremendous strenght in all of them. A sense of art, a perverted, perfect melting of visions, sounds and words. Pure Magic.
The first album was an avantgarde work for both words and music and still is. Islands is a breathtaking masterpiece expecially for your lyrics.
Why and how did you left King Crimson? After you left the band they turned into something completely different. They still were an amazing band, but the magic, to me, was lost.
PjS: Frankly, I was bored. In any relationship when one person becomes disinterested with the intellectual company of his or her partner, there is a tendency to treat them in an offhand and increasingly rude fashion. This is more or less (after all I had explored Air, Earth, Fire and Water with him) what happened with Robert, and to a lesser extent the rest of the band, to the point where Robert was forced eventually to call me up and say that he felt unable to work with me anymore. This was both a shock and yet at the same time a great relief because I instinctively felt, as I often do, there would be something new and exciting just around the corner. I have been very privileged that until recently this has been true, and it is why I am increasingly now turning away from songs to paintings and poems. I have a low boredom threshold.
MM: How did you start to be a wordsmith?
PjS: I think that it was probably in my mother's womb, because I was born with a tyrannical talent to consume and put forth words. At the age of 10 I wrote poems for the school magazine and a little bit later, used to waste my time in geography lessons rewriting the words to the current hits. Thus, Poetry in Motion became Hargreaves Bungeon Lotion. After I left school at 16 and a half, my talent lay dormant for many years until my early 20s when I spent a lot of time in the company of young art students from Chelsea Art School. I couldn't paint but I remembered, at some stoned moment, that I had a small creative talent with words. I bought a guitar, a Hoffner as a recall, and started to write simple folk songs in the manner of Dylan and Donovan. I enjoyed it immensely. So much so that one crazy day I went to my boss, Mr Smith, and told him that I was giving up my very well paid job running computers to become a professional songwriter. His reply was "OK Peter, your job will be here when you want it back..." Ha! I'll show you I thought... I will succeed come hell or high water.. the rest as they say is history.
MM: Lizard was an extraordinary album as well as Islands. Your work especially on the latter was immense. However can you compare from your very personal point of view your later Crimso album with the very first?
PjS: The first King Crimson album, made with a group of musicians, contained ideas and that I had been accumulating for years. It was very exciting to make and in many ways we were all so naive that the only time we stopped to question anything was to ask if it was original or not. By the time I got to Islands, three albums later, I had spent a couple of years in the music business an began to discover, to quote Hunter S. Thompson, that "the music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There is also a negative side." Having said that, if you are as fortunate as I was to be working with such talented people as Roxy Music, PFM and ELP, you do have quite a lot of FUN which keeps some of the darker aspects of the business at bay. You do not notice for many years, for instance, that you are not being paid!
MM: Your work as record producer was so brilliant. What about the work of the producer? Would you be interested in producing again new bands if asked?
PjS: I loved producing records, but it is possibly one of the most demanding and exhausting jobs on the planet. You are in the studio for 16 hours day after day after day, trying to please most of the people most of the time... Thank God for wonderful engineers like Andy Hendriksen. I suppose were I to be now producing an incredibly talented, easy-going artist (you will note the contradiction), I might managed four hours a day with lunch and tea breaks. Hardly a satisfactory situation. Therefore in brief the answer is no. I can't easily find the strength to produce my own next solo album.
MM: Some of Greg Lake's own tunes were deeply influenced by your poetry. Then you worked together again in ELP. Everytime he speaks of you he does with the deepest respect. Are you still in touch with him? Was Lake/Sinfield a magic duo-team like Lennon/McCartney?
PjS: No. I regret that that Lake/Sinfield are even further from Lennon/McCartney than Hill/Sinfield. I have little else to say about Greg, at this time, except that we did have a few laughs along the way. . .
MM: There is a particular song I think about when someone asks about perfection in lyrics and it is "Closer To Believing". I think it's breathtaking, Terrific. Perfect as a sphere. And another I love deeply is like its opposite, Shakespearian in some way but so simply intense that's "If you're Right". Can you tell us something about these two songs you wrote?
PjS: There is a similarity in the writing of these two songs, I might add two of my favourite lyrics. That is, the first few lines of both of them were written in a couple of minutes to lovely tunes that arrived from nowhere (one by Greg Lake and the other by Andy Hill). Problem was, the first few lines in both cases were so good that it took me weeks, or in the case of Closer to Believing months, to write the following verses to the same standard. In fact, what I had to do was find a new way of writing what I had already written that had a continual intensity and deep down honesty. I might add that both songs don't really have a chorus and are made hugely atmospheric by their wonderful arrangements. Andy arranged If You're Right and the very talented Godfrey Salmon arranged Closer to Believing beautifully, even utilizing the wonderful voices of the King Singers along with the thirty piece choir and sixty piece orchestra.
MM: Peter, from your so much awaited new solo album "Thread To Heaven" ( I know now there's a new title in the pipeline) you donated a demo of a very brilliant tune from your website, "Rope Burns", to your fans. We want more. Are you going to release it? Who plays with you? Please tell us all you can about this.
PjS: I am not happy with much of the material and plan hopefully, time and energy allowing to write some more and edit some that I have, which then I may record in a fairly Live situation with my friends Jakko Jasszyck and Mel Collins. This will take some time and I doubt I will have enough material to release a complete album of music.(That allows me to use spoken word) before 2011. Keep your eye on my website songsouponsea.com for further news.
MM: Your 1973 masterpiece "Still" have been just released in an expanded form and state of the art remastered by the guys at esoteric. What about this reissue? How do you think about your album after all those years? Are you still satisfied?
PjS: I haven't thought about it until recently when we put some of the finely re-mastered cuts up on the website as free downloads. I am fond of the texture and mood of most of the album which are not entirely undermined by my somewhat 'etheral' vocals. Some tracks I should have been told NOT to attempt.
MM: Sinfield and Italy. My country loved very much progressive music and your band was the favourite. Like Pollen your work did fecundate all the avant-rock music in Italy. Groups like PFM, Le Orme (that I recall were helped by Peter Hammill), Banco del Mutuo Soccorso. You were involved in producing and writing with some of them. Do you rememeber The Italian rock scene in the seventies?
PjS: Fecundate!!? Yeah well you said it. It was a joy working with PFM in the beginning they were/are such fine musicians. The music was like happy King Crimson for me and had a warm Mediterranean feel that I was partially searching for on 'Islands' after my journeys to Ibiza and Formentera (and having heard rather a lot of Miles Davis, Ahmad Jamal etc.) I am particularly fond of" Promenade The Puzzle" from PFM and from my two albums with Angelo Branduardi I love The Herons... beautiful sad strings. What is also rather sad is that I receive no royalties from any, of what would otherwise be some of the highlights of my career, Italian albums. Somebody somewhere must be enjoying what I am owed and I curse them. Urrgh you are cursed SOB's!!
MM: How do you see the Legacy of your albums and the progressive way of making music in our time?
PjS: I recently saw on CNN a very wise, old, Norwegian man called Johan Galtung say, "one's legacy should be to leave behind as many sparks of inspiration as possible". Wow- I can't top that. (Oh- I've never thought "Progressive Music" to be other than some lazy journalists unfortunate pigeon hole.)
MM: What about "I believe In father Christmas"? What do you think about last year's U2 cover?
PjS: I am very fond of the song. Among other things it describes an actual Christmas that happened to me at the age of eight. I remember the moment as Lake doodled about on the guitar when I said, "Hey what's that ...play it again ... I think it might make a Christmas song.... and moments later with Lennon whispering somewhere in the back of my head (...so this is Xmas) I said to him, "hey try singing, They said there'd be snow at Christmas. They said there'd be peace on earth over that jingly riff." the rest is history. I love Keith Emersons's idea for using the Prokofiev and Godfrey Salmon's arrangement. I remember the morning at Abbey Road Studios where we overdubbed the 90 piece orchestra and choir as if it were yesterday. U2's version? Well of course I am flattered that they did it I guess; but it was just a quick throwaway for charity; its very 'thin' and a tad disappointing.
MM: Poetry and music. Apart from yourself, Dylan, Cohen and few more, can you think of poetry in songwriting.
PjS: Well I would class Randy Newman as a man who conjures intelligent, 'poetic writing' with depth and disburbance. With him sit the mighty Mose Allison;in fact dozens of old blues legends. John Lennon of course, Bob Marley and Youssou N'Dour. There are so many; very recently a young singer called Laura Marling (another old head on young shoulders) whose new album, " I Speak Because I Can", I am currently listening to.
MM: Tell something about your love for Haiku poetry
PjS: It goes back to the sixties when it became fashionable for myself and like others on the "Underground Scene" to investigate the literature, music and philosophy that was becoming available from all over the world. George Harrison discovered Ravi Shankar and I discovered Basho. Perhaps Haiku appeal to me as a lyricist since it seems I have been forever trying to describe life, love and the universe (to sit with music) in the minimum of words.
MM: Can you tell to our readers your all time desert island books?
Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins
MM: I was thinking about a thing Fripp once said that the "In The Court Of The Crimson King" failed on two things: the former was the sound quality that wasn't completely satisfying and the latter that the album failed in capturing the fiery energy, the wilderness of the live acts. Do you agree?
PjS: No. I don't agree. But then I, ahem, famously don't agree with much that Robert says. The new re-masters cover the first point and he has released almost as many live, self-pirated albums of the various versions of 'The KC Ensemble' as the Grateful Dead which covers the second point. Amen.
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