Oct 042010

RTH: What brought you to King Crimson?

JW: I grew up in the Bournemouth area, which is where KC was conceived, and I met Robert Fripp when we were both in our mid-teens. We kept tabs on each other’s progress (as we still do), and when we both lived in London, remained in fairly regular contact. Robert had approached me at an earlier date to join the band, but I felt it was under the wrong circumstances, so when the time was right, and with a new line-up, I eagerly accepted the mouth-watering invitation to join a “magic band.”

RTH: As the new frontman and lead vocalist for a heavily instrumental band directed by a seemingly imposing, seated guitarist, what were your marching orders? I mean, did Fripp have expectations of you to project his vision to an audience?

JW: I had no brief on entering Crimson—all of the guys were high caliber, and yes, it was instrumental-heavy, as were most of the proto-prog bands (Yes, ELP, Genesis, Soft Machine), but demanded the chorister vocal foil to the firepower of the band. When the KC vocalist sang, people listened, because the the human voice is such a welcome oasis of solace in the maelstrom of slashing chords and manic percussion that was the Crimso beast.

RTH: How were songs composed for and learned by King Crimson? As I hear it, there are the “Fripp bits” that’s he’s played through any incarnation of the band (with Fripp playing that scale he seems to have exclusive rights to playing), and then there are the melodic bits, which I could imagine someone like yourself composing independently and presenting to the band on acoustic guitar. Were the distinctly Fripp passages typically composed with the more traditional melodic/lyrical passages, or was one part usually added to the other?

JW: Robert would usually write the instrumental pieces–“Larks Tongues II,” “Red,” “Fracture”–but there were group rehearsals where everyone would bring their wares to the party. I brought “Starless” to the writing rehearsals for Starless and Bible Black, but it fell on deaf ears until the next batch of rehearsals, when suddenly it had found favour. Attached to Bruford’s demonic bass riff, my pretty ballad became a showstopper, and now sits proudly in Crimson’s catalog as a perennial fave. You only have to look at the writing credits to see it was no one-man band from ’72-’74. A lot of our live stuff was improvised, and we had only one rule–that the one person who led (and that could be anyone) would be supported.

RTH: Do you have a favorite album or line-up from your time with King Crimson?

JW: Probably Red. It was a band with players at the top of their game. Muscular, powerful, yet capable of extreme tenderness and intimacy. A joy.


  10 Responses to “The Rock Town Hall Interview: John Wetton”

  1. Seems a nice chap! Great interview!

  2. BigSteve

    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.

  3. 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.

  4. Nicely done!

  5. 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.”


  6. 2000 Man

    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!

  7. hrrundivbakshi

    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.


  8. mikeydread

    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.

  9. 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.

  10. jeangray

    Man, he seemed to downplay it, but the dude does have some serious bass guitar skills. Nice work, Mr. Mod.

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