STORY WRITTEN BY ROB NAGY
For 21st Century Media
Defying mainstream music by epitomizing originality, Adrian Belew has secured a longstanding reputation for his distinctive, often radically diverse, style of guitar playing.
Mimicking a variety of sound effects, including animal calls, industrial noise and car horns, Belew is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, songwriter and producer. Most notably, he is widely recognized as the veteran front man for the legendary progressive art rock band “King Crimson.”
Earning the praise of many of his contemporaries, Belew has collaborated in the recording and stage performances of Frank Zappa, David Bowie, The Talking Heads, Nine Inch Nails, Laurie Anderson and Paul Simon, among others.
Currently dividing his time between the “Adrian Belew Power Trio” (with Philly native/bassist Julie Slick and drummer Tobias Ralph) and the intermittently active King Crimson, Belew is back on the road performing concerts through the U.S. and Canada.
“We’re really happy doing this tour,” says Adrian Belew while on tour in British Columbia, Canada. “It’s just three of us in a van driving around the United States and Canada. I think that when you have a band that sleeps, eats, drinks and lives together and does it happily, and there’s no friction, no animosity, nothing weird going on, it results in much better music.”
Belew formed “The Adrian Belew Power Trio” in 2006. Featuring Paul Green’s School of Rock alumnus/drummer Eric Slick and bassist Julie Slick, Belew vividly remembers his introduction to the brother and sister team of Slick and Slick.
“Paul Green, the founder of the school said, ‘I really wish I could introduce you to the two best graduates I’ve ever had,’” recalls Belew, “and that was Julie and Eric Slick, bass player and drummer. So, he brought them over to the school, and I played with them for a little while and that developed into, ‘Wow! This might be the perfect trio for me?’ The only concern I had was that they were so young. I wondered whether that would make me look like some old guy up there? Instead, it has lit a fire under me. It was a great band from the start.”
The trio was featured on Belew’s 2007 live recording “Side Four” and the 2009 downloadable-only “Live Overseas.” In June 2009, the band released an all-new studio record titled “e.”
Eric Slick left the trio in 2009 and was replaced by Marco Minnemann until Tobias Ralph came on board in 2011.
“I’m really happy with the band,” says Belew. “We are playing so great together. Tobias has amazing technical prowess and can play anything that the music requires. I’m amazed what a world-class musician Julie Slick has become. It makes me feel really good to know that I’ve had some stake in that.”
Influenced by Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, The Beatles, Igor Stravinsky and Spike Jones, Adrian Belew’s avant-garde self-taught approach to the guitar and music composition still fuels his desire to push the creative envelope.
“What we’re doing is something called “FLUXX,” music that is never the same twice,” says Belew. “We’re applying that same kind of concept to the live shows. We’ve gone back through the whole catalog of material from solo records and King Crimson records, and we’re playing material from 14 different records.”
“The way a lot of it works is like this,” added Belew. “We’ll play the song, but we won’t play the whole song. At some point, these things that I call ‘snippets’ will abruptly interrupt the song. They’re an important part of the Fluxx music concept. The snippets usually are just a few seconds long. They can be any kind of sound that I like. They can be a common ordinary everyday sound or a guitar sound or an electronica sound. Their usage is to interrupt the music and surprise the listener. They come and go rather quickly, and they surprise people. We play about 30 songs, 25 of which I sing. The idea behind this show is to remind everybody of all the places we’ve come from. People who have been following me and listening to my music for any period of time will be pleasantly surprised of all the things we’re reminded of. It’s pretty amazing.”
The idea for the project is nothing new to Belew. Decades earlier, while on a European concert tour with David Bowie in 1979, he had a creative epiphany.
“I was sitting outside between two cafes. Beautiful day – the doors were open at the cafes, and each of them had different music playing,” recalls Belew. “And, at one of them, a radio station was kind of skipping around as well. And so you had that going on in each side of my head, and you had in front of me all the various noises and sounds that occur in a place like that. It hit me all of a sudden, that that is the way I wanted my music to be someday, like life itself. That it would just change and include natural sounds – to never be the same.”
“That sounded like an impossible task then, and it was for 25 years,” added Belew. “But, I kept coming back to it. After I had finished writing this piece called “e,” which I did with an orchestra, I had stopped songwriting altogether ‘cause I was concentrating just on the piece of music. So, when I came back to songwriting I thought, ‘what am I going to do? I feel like I’ve kind of exhausted all the normal ideas that I have. Where am I going to go?’ And, I was a bit tired of the regular format that you’ve been required to use now for the last 50 or 60 years – verse, chorus, verse, chorus, chorus, chorus. So, I just started forming this idea. As I’ve lived with it, I’ve realized how different this is from any other approach to recording that I know of and that is that it’s never finished. It’s not meant to eliminate anything else or replace anything. It’s just a new wrinkle.”
Routinely exhibiting the complexities and nuances that define him, the artist Belew’s creative intension is beautifully simple.
“My music comes from my heart,” says Belew. “I really want people to just enjoy it and love it as much as I do. I think overall what I like to have come through my music is: it’s all OK, life is good.”
IF YOU GO
What: The Adrian Belew Power Trio
Where: The Sellersville Theatre, 24 W. Temple Ave., Sellersville.
When: Concert is set for 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 7.
Admission: Tickets can be purchased by calling (215) 257-5808 or online at www.st94.com.
Info.: To stay up to date with Adrian Belew visit www.adrianbelew.net.