The actual sound of the note may change, like if you’re sustaining or whatever. But that’s the criterion. Is this note true? And I remember with King Crimson, I think it was in Preston — it might have been Darby — in the autumn of 1972. And I threw off a lick. And it was awful. It felt like I was lying to my mother. It violated conscience for that one lick. I was lying to music and that was appalling. And it still irks me to this day.
What have you learned from all the pop songs you’ve been playing on YouTube? When I heard “Toxic,” that sounded like a Crimson riff.
Some of the riffs, I think, “Hmm, maybe we supped at the same table.” I love playing classic rock riffs. They are relatively easy, providing you’re alert when you’re playing them. It was a privilege playing in Crimson, but it was a very specific repertoire. As a guitar player, it’s like the Olympics of guitar, phenomenally difficult lines, and it required two to four hours of practicing a day. Now, King Crimson is not in go mode. I can step back from it to a certain extent and move my attention into learning E tuning.
You’re touring with your manager, and you have an aphorisms deck called Finance. How does having to earn a living affect your music?
I have no problem singing for my supper. My sense has always been: Present your work to the public. Some people change their work to meet what they believe their public is. Well, that might work for a while, but I have no idea what my public will want, so if I hear something, I follow it. If I see something, I follow it and present it to the public, trusting that there will be a sufficiency in order for a supper to arrive. And historically that’s worked. Some times have been better than the others, but riches and popularity have never been on the top of my to-do list.
I’ve learned to trust the music, trust the process. And it’s important that the audience should know they are as important as the musician. If the audience is present and engaged and listening, the relationship is qualitatively different. When that happens, the moment becomes actually real. And there is a profound satisfaction in there. And then you go back, you get on the bus and you drive overnight to the next venue and it all begins again.