“I don’t think King Crimson has ever been a band that’s influenced by the times, as in, I think it’s its own thing. I don’t think it’s trying to follow anybody else or trying to do something that fits in,” said Jeremy Stacey, one of King Crimson’s three drummers, in an interview with The Daily. “It’s its own beast, as it were.”
Jumping in early on the progressive rock movement of the ‘70s, King Crimson was formed in London in 1968. Currently an eight-piece lineup, 2017’s King Crimson includes founding member Robert Fripp (guitarist, composer and producer), Tony Levin (bass), Jakko Jakszyk (vocals, guitar), Mel Collins (flute, saxophone), Gavin Harrison (drummer, multi-instrumentalist), Pat Mastelotto (drummer, multi-instrumentalist), Bill Rieflin (drummer, multi-instrumentalist) and Stacey.
In ’69, they opened for The Rolling Stones in London. In the ’80s, they toured under a different name (“Discipline”) after a brief disbanding. Now, King Crimson is coming to the Michigan Theater in the final leg of their North American Fall Tour.
King Crimson is, and always has been, a collection of incredibly impressive musicians: Fripp played guitar on David Bowie’s “Heroes,” (a tune which the group covered in Berlin in 2016). Bassist Tony Levin has played with the likes of Peter Gabriel and Paul Simon. Stacey, who joined the group in 2016, has worked with an unbelievable diversity of artists, including Noel Gallagher, Eurythmics and Joe Cocker.
“[King Crimson is] the most different thing I’ve ever done,” Stacey noted, most likening his experiences with the band to working with jazz in his 20s.
“I was always doing lots of things with lots of different people. I think the thing about jazz is that you improvise,” he said. “To improvise, you have to understand how the form of the piece goes, otherwise you get lost. It was very good for listening, which I think is the most important thing [as a musician].”
Unconstrained in his work, Stacey is the epitome of King Crimson’s charm: A bit nostalgic, a bit novel and just restless enough to be fearless.
“For me, my whole life has been musical,” Stacey explained. “I always feel like I’m on a journey. I’m very interested in doing extremely different things, and the more extremely different, the better… I don’t want to be typecast in any way.”
A fan of the simpler tracks, Stacey’s favorite song to play live is “Starless,” from the group’s 1974 album Red.
“It’s one of my favorite pieces by King Crimson. I also get to play drums and keyboard [on it],” Stacey said. “There’s a freedom to playing whatever I feel on the night. I think (it’s) my favorite moment of the gig, normally.”
This autonomy Stacey mentions is laced throughout King Crimson’s work: Each piece is malleable to the group’s interpretation.
“I feel that I’m involved in it more than I’ve been in other projects,” Stacey said. “It’s not like doing a job. There is input, and it’s a very in the moment form of input on stage … I can’t compare it to anything.”
The experience often transcends description.
“It’s very difficult to explain what it’s like being in the band — it’s very difficult. All the other things I’ve done all follow a path that’s similar to other paths that are followed by other artists — it’s standard. There’s nothing about this that’s standard in any way. There’s nothing about it that’s straightforward or normal. It just isn’t,” Stacey said. “It feels like a very good thing to be doing.”
King Crimson is set to play this Wednesday at the Michigan Theater.