Following a tosssed-off aside in a recent analysis/appreciation of a Lark’s Tongue in Aspic-era King Crimson performance an immediate groundswell of support gathered around the previously inconceivable notion that John Wetton (Asia, King Crimson, Roxy Music, UK, Family, Uriah Heep, and much more) was the Sexiest Man in Prog-Rock.
To clarify, it’s not that Wetton’s good looks had previously been inconceivable but that good looks ever played a part in the brainy, challenging progressive rock scene. In the wake of this discussion Townspeople were polled, and between the results of nearly 1000 voters and a panel of rock experts, Wetton was officially deemed – once and for all – The Sexiest Man in Prog-Rock.
That’s the silly part of the story. We managed to contact Wetton for his thoughts on this distinction (“I’m delighted to be deemed a cute pig in the litter,” he replied). Better yet, he agreed to an interview with us. It’s the following interview, one focusing on his musical experiences rather than beauty tips, that’s the most appreciated thing to come from a silly notion and an unexpected encounter with Wetton and a broad swath of prog-rock fans.
As you probably know, if this is even your second day in the Halls of Rock, Rock Town Hall regulars tend to be deeply immersed in the music we’ve lived through. Musicians like Wetton, whose careers have woven through a broad swath of rock history, can be especially enticing as interview subject. We spend more time than the average person contemplating Rock’s Big Issues, and who better to hear from than musicians who’ve straddled eras, genres, and band responsibilities? In the following interview, John Wetton provides insight on these issues and displays an enthusiasm for and confidence in his musical ventures and colleagues that I found refreshing. I hope you do, too.
RTH: How is your health, John, and what are you working on these days? Did I read correctly that been at work on projects with both Asia and Eddie Jobson?
John Wetton: My health is good, thank you—having survived (with enormous help on both counts) two life-threatening conditions, I’m being a little more circumspect, but still have a lust for life and a desire to enjoy the journey, regardless of the destination. I’ve just completed 50 dates with Asia–in Europe, USA and Japan—we complete the world touring for 2010 with a 5-date UK tour before Christmas.
I played 3 dates in Poland with Eddie Jobson last November, “for old times’ sake.” It was generally regarded as a UK reunion and was great fun, but we have no plans to extend that run right now. It was a terrific band–myself, Eddie, Marco Minneman, Tony Levin, and Greg Howe.
[NOTE: Mogul Thrash would spawn not only Wetton but two the founding members of Average White Band, which Townspeople also know as the band that gave us RTH hero Hamish Stuart.]
RTH: Your career must be a dream for writer Pete Frame and his Rock Family Tree books. The earliest band I knew of that you were in was Family, but I learned that you were in an earlier band that recorded an album, Mogul Thrash. The music sounds in the jazz-rock vein of Soft Machine and Colosseum. Prior to Mogul Thrash, were you already rooted in jazz and improvisatory music?
JW: I guess my name would have cropped up on many of Pete’s Family trees, but I did most of my band-hopping in the ’70s—since then I’ve done side projects, but the bulk of my work has been either with Asia or as a solo artist.
Jazz was never really an influence until I was in my early 20s, when I started to listen to some fantastic players–John McLaughlin, Miroslav Vitous, Herbie Hancock. My huge early musical influence from around age 5, was my brother, a church organist and choirmaster. Piano is my first instrument.
RTH: At the same time, you’ve also displayed a strong pop sense through your career. As a boy, were you more a Beatles or Stones fan?
Seems a nice chap! Great interview!
I’m a big fan of Manzanera’s early solo records, and Wetton made some notable appearances on them. I love his duet with Doreen Chanter on the odd-time-signature classic Same Time Next Week from the Diamond Head album. Great voice.
Good job on the interview, Mod. And Wetton definitely earns RTH Good Egg status.
Very cool, Mod.
Mr Wetton seems like such a nice guy that I may find it in my heart to forgive him and his UK cohorts for sonically traumatizing my 13 year old self back in ’77.
I love his answer to the “Beatles/Stones” question. He lists all these classical greats and The Beach Boys. Awesome! He just throws them in there like they fit. I wonder if he was referring to “Kokomo”-era?
“I was a Beatles boy, but influences were Beethoven, Bach, Beach Boys, and European church music in general: Pergolesi, Vivaldi, Tallis, Handel all feature prominently.”
That was a terrific interview! John seems really easy to talk to, and while that was a fairly long interview, my only complaint is it’s not longer. He did so much as a hired gun, I’d love to hear him go on at length about what that was like, but I suppose he’s actually very busy working. That was really nice of him to talk to us!
Yay! Three cheers for John Wetton! I may not be a fan of much of the music he’s been involved with, but that shouldn’t stop me from shouting from the rooftops that he is indeed a Rock Town Hall Good Egg.
Thanks, Mod, for the great innerview.
Great work, Mod. Who knew I could be so interested in Mr Whetton’s resume? Or in prog-rock.
Blimey, all those gigs with Asia, he must be seriously coining it.
I was deep in thought contemplating the 10cc/XTC/Styx Art Rock connection while doing some food shopping yesterday, when what should come over the store PA but Asia’s “Wildest Dreams.” No kidding. At an Ack-a-me, no less.
Man, he seemed to downplay it, but the dude does have some serious bass guitar skills. Nice work, Mr. Mod.