Interview with DAVID CROSS

October 1999

David Cross

David Cross

A rock viloinist: a nonsense. Not so much, especially if it’s an ex-KING CRIMSON player. That band knew no such thing as nonsense, and David Cross just spiced their no-nonsense up. And he’s as straightforward when talked to.

– Did you ever consider violin as a rock instrument? It’s interesting because if one thinks about it, he thinks off hand of you, Eddie Jobson and Jean-Luc Ponty.

I always thought of the violin as a potential rock instrument. It seemed possible to me because of the blues violin playing of Sugar Kane Harris and Pap John Creech. Its a question of sound and feel, and over the years I have gradually got closer to working with the violin as a rock instrument. The technology now makes it easier and I am beginning to get a feel for it now.

– What are memories of work with P.J.Proby? His “trousers extravaganza”? What of his hits you played on? Had you a chance to meet THE BEATLES through him?

I only played live with PJ Proby; I didn’t do any recording. He was a great performer and a good singer. I have never met any of the Beatles or anyone who has. I am a very shy person and if I get near any one famous I usually run away as fast as possible.

– You play music for thirty odd years of which only 16 months you spent with KING CRIMSON. Don’t you feel resentful to some extent that most people know you only by this work?

I’m very lucky that some people know something of my playing. Most performers never have the opportunities that I have had.

– In your childhood days you wanted to be a spy, a psychiatrist or a detective. Can you say you were three of them playing in CRIMSON?

A very interesting question. I’m not sure what you are implying here but I guess there are aspects of those activities in being a musician. I suspect I was the one who needed a psychiatrist!

– Let alone Jamie Muir but in classic four-piece CRIMSON you were the one quite unknown to progressive rock fans. How did you feel about it and how you were treated by your famous colleagues, Robert Fripp, John Wetton and Bill Bruford?

My famous colleagues treated me just fine.

– Do you feel proud that CRIMSON of 1973-1974 was always considered the best and “The Great Deceiver” boxed set is entirely dedicated to this era?

Immensely proud.

– Playing a sort of jazz before joining KING CRIMSON you should have felt closer to Bruford rather than to others. So who was your real mate in the band? What can you say of all of them as persons?

I had quite different perspectives on music than Bill or John and felt very much in tune with Robert’s rhythmic and tonal ideas. Bill particularly went to great lengths to help me understand what he was doing. Socially, Robert didn’t drink and kept himself to himself so I probably spent more down time with Bill and John, particularly John, who enjoyed a party.

David Cross

David Cross

– Your violin was as important to the band’s sound as were Bob’s guitar, John’s bass or Bill’s drums but you shared mellotron with Fripp as well. Who played it more often?

I think mellotron duties/safaris were pretty equally split.

– Wetton also played violin. Did you ever played together live as a violin duo?

Yes we used to do a violin/viola duet on our first live gigs but someone in Family criticised what we were doing at a concert and John never wanted to do it again.

– As Fripp wrote, in 1973-1974 he always had a kind of battle with rhythm section and Wetton and Bruford won in the end. What was your position in this battle?

I think the evolution of the band can be seen in that way. There was less and less room for musical doubt, ambiguity, vulnerability; the more sensitive expressions that had been sustainable at the beginning of the band were not there at the end. There was also less humour. On the other hand Bill and John achieved an incredibly powerful and imaginative coalition; they couldn’t understand why their front line didn’t want to constantly wail over the top it.

– There always was a question: who played flute on original version of “Exiles”? Can you shed a light on this one?

I played flute on “Exiles”.

– Either John Wetton or Robert Fripp explained once the reason of KING CRIMSON’s break-up in 1974 – the band discovered they played together only because they couldn’t find other musicians of their kind. You left CRIMSON before the end but can you comment it?

I think the answer lies above.

– How did it come that during the “Red” recordings there were members of various KING CRIMSON line-ups – you, Ian McDonald, Mel Collins? Did Robert feel that “Red” would be the definite last album?

Ask Robert.

– You decided to go as there were tour dates planned after the “Red” recording. They never happened and the band came to its end. Was it partially because of your departure?

I don’t know.

– What of your parts on the “USA” live album were re-recorded by Eddie Jobson and why?

Presumably my parts were bad and needed replacing. Ask Robert.

– What kind of person is Richard Palmer-James, the CRIMSON lyricist?

Richard is obviously very talented and an interesting mixture of down to earth and mystical.

David Cross

David Cross

– What did you do between KING CRIMSON and your nineties’ activity?

Please see my biography on My life is a source of great pleasure to me. Some frustrations balanced by a lot of good luck!

– What do you think of the “double trio” CRIMSON?

Brilliant and NOISY!

– In nineties you seem to prefer electric violin to acoustic one. Why?

I understand rock better. I have less respect for classical music, good tone. I prefer a good NOISE made by a human being, I can’t be bothered with microphones. I don’t enjoy recording violin. I don’t really know….

– Was your brilliant album “Exiles” some kind of tribute to nostalgia for old times?

The working title was “Unfinished Business”, and I suppose that reflected the feelings I had about the end of my time with Crimson. As the album progressed the ghosts of the past were buried. Working again with John and Robert was a pleasure and somewhere along the way the whole experience put 1972/4 into a new perspective. I’m not sure who the exiles are; perhaps all of us.

– How did “Exiles” come about? I mean, were you in touch with Wetton and Fripp for all these years or was the album just a result of your meeting at “The Night Watch” presentation?

It all started with “The Great Deceiver”. Robert got in touch out of the blue.

– The new version of song “Exiles” is so majestic in contrary to the old, gentle, version. Why did you decide to make it this way? Was Wetton the obvious choice to sing it?

John was the obvious choice and the right choice. The version that we recorded was based on the way it had evolved with the band in live performances.

– For how long do you know Peter Hammill, who sang “Tonk” on your “Exiles”?

I met him in the studio on the day he recorded the songs. He did a wonderful job in very little time. A brilliant performer.

– “This Is Your Life” of “Exiles” seems to be your first collaboration with Peter Sinfield, yes? Did Peter and Fripp meet during your sessions and, if so, how do they get along now?

This was the first time to work with Peter and I learnt a great deal from working with him. Robert was not involved in this and did not meet with him during recording.

– How can you describe the kind of music you played with RADIUS?

This is a real problem. Can you help me with this? I need to find some way of marketing it. Urgently…

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