Tag Archives: music

Percussion, Allsorts, and Vermont

King Crimson played their first American gig in Vermont, at Goddard college. My first band, Tin River Junction, played its first gig at Goddard also. Unlike Crimson, we didn’t know what we were doing yet. Considering that fact, it went well. But what made the show
memorable for me was a conversation guitarist Drew and I had with a musician from the dub band that was scheduled to go on after us.

We didn’t know what instrument he played yet, so, in this nervous youthful way of starting a conversation, we asked him.

“Guitar,” said Dub Dude.

“Oh,” said Drew, “so do—”

“And I play delay pedal, tremolo pedal, wah pedal, distortion pedal, overdrive pedal,
reverb box…”

Dub Dude went on and on. He went on to list, like, twenty-two pedals that he considered
“instruments” that he “played.”

I remember, when we got out of earshot of this guy, laughing at him. “Man,” I said to Drew, “this guy’s burnt.” Dub Dude was stoned. He was very very high. “Listing his effects as instruments. He’s crazy.”

But that was twenty-five years ago and I’ve come to see things differently.

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In 1973, King Crimson released Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, arguably their best work. One of the many reasons this album is so wonderful is Jamie Muir, the percussionist who is on this album only and stuck around for like maybe six shows. On the CD release of Larks’ Tongue I have, and I assume on the original LP release as well, Muir is credited with playing over 70 instruments. Each individual piece of percussion is listed. “Hollow Log” is one. “Whip,” I think, is another. “8 x 10 piece of sheet metal” is listed separately from “4 x 6 piece of sheet metal.”

Jamie Muir of King Crimson
Jamie Muir of King Crimson

When I first read these liner notes, I remember bursting out laughing. What a joker! It had to be that British sense of humor, a remnant of the colorful and psychedelic sixties, Monty Pythonesque even. Hollow Log! That’s the one that really got me.

Yet, from listening to the album, and watching Muir perform with Crimson on a video filmed on the set of Beat Club, it makes sense. Live, he moved around the stage fur-clad like a madman on the hunt, picking up individual percussion instruments, then dropping them to move on to the next while he blew a whistle that hung around his neck.

Whether it’s meant as a joke to list all those instruments, or it’s a musicological / philosophical statement – or both, which is the way I see it (the phrase “percussion and allsorts” is what Fripp uses to credit Muir when time and/or space is limited) – I think it’s great. And hilarious. And all those sounds are certainly an important part of the album.

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Radio Bean, Burlington VT
Radio Bean, Burlington VT
My current band, Joy on Fire, just played Vermont for the first time. Radio Bean, in Burlington. It is now one of my favorite places to play, and I’d like to thank Brittany of Ivamae, who we met when she was on tour in Baltimore, for setting the show up. By the way, I’m John Paul
Carillo, and I play bass, guitar, distortion pedal, delay pedal, wah pedal, overdrive pedal, micro synth…

Chris plays drums, cymbals, congas, djembe, frame drum, temple bell, jingle bells, seed shell shakers, cowbell, claps, vibratone, …

Anna plays alto sax, baritone sax, tenor sax, soprano sax, glockenspiel, claps, piano, synth, tom drum….

—John Paul Carillo

What Kind of Music is This?

Between sets at Fox & Crow in Jersey City, a man sitting at the bar, near the performance area, said, “How would one classify your music?” He looked like a rock’n’roller in his 40s—he had the bowling shirt with a name, maybe his, stitched in red on the pocket—but it turned out he was also into King Crimson and Miles and a lot of our influences.

“Yeah, we’re not sure either,” said Anna, “but we call it ‘punk-jazz fuzz-rock.’”

This dude, a good dude, cool to talk to, didn’t accept our description. “Is it fusion?” he said.

“I’m afraid of the word ‘fusion,’” I said. “It’s gotten wanky. Fusion has gotten wanky since Miles.”

“We don’t want to call it prog,” said Anna.

“Oh, it’s definitely not prog,” said the dude—though, later in the night, the three of us had a long conversation about King Crimson, who may or may not be prog considering one’s
definition.

King Crimson
King Crimson circa 1972

“Call it 70s fusion,” said Kipp. (I’ve decided the name on the shirt is actually his, not just thrift store happenstance. Somehow, introductions were never properly made, or maybe drunkenly forgotten, though we hope to run into him again, possibly as per this writing.)

“But then it sounds like we do Miles and
Mahavishnu and Weather Report covers.”

“Oh, no,” said Kipp. “You don’t have to do covers. Just keep doing what you’re doing! The way you use saxophone, the way she plays, it sounds like an electric guitar, it takes place of the electric guitar. It sounds like she’s using effects, even though she isn’t.”

Anna smiled.

“Right!” I said. “It just sounds, you know, like we do covers if we say—”

“Call it 70s style fusion,” said Kipp.

Later, during our second set, between our tunes ‘China, North Carolina’ and ‘Slayer Jazz,’ Kipp turned to a friend, who had come into Fox & Crow as the set started, “How would you classify this music?” I heard him say.

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At another venue, in another state—Test Pattern in Winston Salem, NC—the club’s soundman came onto stage after our set, excited by our newest material. “I don’t think ‘punk-jazz fuzz-rock’ does your sound justice,” said Jenkins. “I think you should call it ‘Cinema Rock.’” I like this, but what does it mean?

photo: Roger Piche
photo: Roger Piche

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A quote often attributed to Miles Davis, though I’ve heard it attributed to others, and it’s probably been invented and reinvented many times: “There are only two kinds of music: weird music and boring music.” No, that’s not the quote. You know the quote.

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Come see us in Harlem this weekend: Friday, August 4 at Shrine; Saturday August 5 at
Silvana. Both sets 9-10pm.

—John Paul Carillo