INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Hit Parader JUNE 1974 - by Scott Cohen
FRIPP AND ENO: NO PUSSYFOOTING AROUND
"You think you know what goes on, but you don't. You go on." Everyone thought British rock band King Crimson would go on forever, but after five years and eight albums Robert Fripp, AKA King Crimson, has abdicated. "It was just time for King Crimson to come to an end," Fripp explained as he set out for newer realms.
Robert Fripp is too intellectual and philosophical to "just" do anything. When pressed, Fripp reveals three more complete reasons for the break-up.
"First, it represents a change in the world. It's a transition from what you might call the old world which is now dead into the new world which is nascent. In the new world the characteristic unit will be small, highly mobile, independent and intelligent."
Fripp goes on. "Whereas once King Crimson was for the best liberal education I could conceive of for a young man, it is no longer the case. I have found something far more useful.
"And thirdly, the energies that are involved in the lifestyle of the band are no longer right for the way I want to live."
Fripp gave "Atlantic Records" as an example of old world politics and "pure communism" as an example of the new world. "Hammond organs and batteries of synthesizers" are examples of old world instruments and "bamboo flutes" are new world instruments. "Howard Hughes and Nixon" are old world people and new world people are "anyone who decides to become that." "Emerson, Lake and Palmer" is an example of old world music and an example of new world music is "Fripp and Eno".
Robert Fripp, a small mobile intellectual who looks more like an economics student (which he was) than a rock musician, met another small, mobile intellectual named Eno, formerly of Roxy Music and recently voted fourth best instrumentalist in the world. Fripp met Brian Eno through Bryan Ferry, who had once auditioned for the lead vocal spot in King Crimson. It was more than natural that Fripp, whose first love is the electric guitar, and Eno, whose is the tape recorder, "the only instrument I can handle really well," should meet, form a duo and record a very innovative album called No Pussyfooting.
Robert Fripp's manner makes you hesitate to call him Bob. He is short, stocky and bearded. Wearing wire-rim glasses, he looks like a real estate broker, a profession he once seriously considered. Eno, whom no one ever calls Brian, is small and delicate with thinning blond hair. In contrast to Fripp, who is solid and earthbound, Eno is vapourous and other-worldly, looking as if at any moment he were about to disappear. Eno's etherealness makes Fripp look less a pip than he would otherwise. Their minds, however, mesh so tightly that you wonder how their bodies can be so different.
Fripp and Eno are men of ideas who can talk incessantly about practically anything. Both like the idea of deliberately using musicians who aren't compatible with one another. "By doing that," Eno explains, "you create new frictions. I work from the proposition that the characteristic of art is disorder, not order."
Both look towards fashion and slang. Eno points out that they are incredibly fast barometers of the rate of cultural change. Fripp's favourite slang word is "boogalooga," a word he developed as a non-specific utterance... "that one could utter with some enthusiasm or write at the bottom of letters when other forms of address may be too specific or too impersonal or too personal."
Another Fripp favourite is "walnut", which describes "the state of one's scrotum when it contracts, like when you come out of a sauna and plunge immediately into icy cold water. In other words, a response which is favourable."
Neither Fripp nor Eno were born with the qualities which you would expect in a musician. Fripp, who doesn't sing, played his first song, Jingle Bells, on the guitar when he was eleven years old, "at the time when I was tone deaf and had no sense or rhythm, or timing."
"I asked myself why would a person who is tone deaf and had no sense of rhythm become a musician," Fripp recalls, "and came to the conclusion that I needed music and music needed me."
In that sense Fripp is an inspiration to any aspiring musician lacking natural talent. He, however, still can't dance, which explains why much of his music is so undanceable.
Never being a good enough musician to steal from others probably caused me to develop an original style," Fripp admits. Some of the musicians he was listening to at the time he formed King Crimson were Bartok, Debussy, Ravel, Hendrix and Clapton. Today he listens mostly to Bartok, Debussy, Ravel and "the sounds of nature, the nature noises."
Like Fripp, Eno is totally obsessed with technology and philosophy, systems and theories, but is kinky enough to come off interesting rather than boring. He produced the Portsmouth Sinfonia, an orchestra whose only requirement is that you come to four rehearsals; any ability to play an instrument is optional. Part of the Sinfonia's repertoire are such popular classics as Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, The 1812 Overture, The William Tell Overture, The Nutcracker Suite and The Sugar-Plum Fairy. The orchestra plays only the parts everyone knows. Their show stopper Thus Spake Zarathustra lasts only two minutes.
In addition, Eno has added to his already incredible tape collection of over two million feet of tape, his wonderful recording of the United States Air Force Starfighter jet. Prior to his first Island Records album Here Come The Warm Jets, he was a member of Roxy Music until he was asked to leave when he started to get too much attention from fans and critics.
No Pussyfooting is the result of the Fripp-Eno collaboration. The title of the album is not the best title for the music. The Heavenly Music Corporation on side one and Swastika Girls on side two aren't the best titles either because neither tells you what the music is really about. But the album jacket does. On the cover is a colour photograph of Fripp and Eno posing in a cubicle lined with mirrors, The mirrors endlessly reflect of both similar and varied sounds which are repeated over and over, creating a mysterious hypnotic drone that goes on into infinity. The album was recorded with only two tracks, a Gibson Les Paul guitar with the Fripp Pedalboard and Frizzbox. Eno worked on two modified Revox A77 tape recorders, with the guitar going through the Revox and into the other, building up a tape loop effect that sounds like fifty guitars.
Originally Fripp wanted The Heavenly Music Corporation, which is perfect for meditating, to be entitled The Transcendental Music Corporation, but Eno was afraid people would think they were serious and nix it.
"Eno, while walking towards the studio on the night of the mix," recalls Fripp, "saw upon the pavement a piece of paper from some magazine with the headline 'Swastika Girls' on it. On it were these naked girls with swastika emblems on their sleeves. On the back was this maiden in bondage... Eno, having some interest in bondage, thought this appropriate. Since he left side one to me I left side two to him."
No Pussyfooting came from the slogan Fripp had written on a piece of paper and planted on the mixer in the studio the night the record was being recorded. "No Pussyfooting is the best thing I've ever done," Fripp remarked triumphantly. Unfortunately the album, which was released in England almost a year ago, probably won't be released in America because Atlantic Records fears it won't be supported here.
Will Fripp and Eno tour? Fripp has no idea. "It wouldn't be touring in the normal sense of the word. It depends upon who wants us and not too many people will."
Considering their intellectual approach to music, they would be more likely to perform in an art gallery or museum situation than a concert hall. "In a small concert hall or a large lecture hall," Fripp thinks, "with no more than four or five hundred people."
Outside of touring, both Fripp and Eno are open to offers for production work, which fits into their definition of being mobile and independent. Their names are in the phone book and they welcome callers: Fripp is also available for guitar lessons.
"For some time I've been pondering the creation of a new guitar technique which will cause a change in the personality of the person going through the discipline.
"In learning technique, the person will be put under enough stress to force him to develop emotionally and mentally, and these feelings involved will change his personality."
At the same time Fripp is working at developing techniques for better living. "I asked myself the basic question, 'Do you want to live,' and as soon as I answered that the rest came easy." He is working at becoming a small, highly mobile, independent, intelligent unit, fully prepared for the new world.