Four-string rock instrument – what’s that? Bass? Not always. Bass found its way into blues much later than some other thing, which was fiddle, or violin. Come ask THE MISSISSIPPI SHEIKS. Or David Cross whose violin heavily contributed to the mid-’70s KING CRIMSON unique sound and established a violin as rock’s weapon of choice. Thirty years later, David still does it good, and even more sharp and hard than ever, his new album, “Closer Than Skin“, the evidence. It sees maestro join forces with former CRIMSO lyricist Richard Palmer-James and, as witnessed by THE DAVID CROSS BAND’s live oeuvre, take the audience by force. Still, there’s been some wait for it, so the starting point of our conversation seemed obvious.
– Why did it take so long to come up with a new album?
I had to have a major operation for oesophagal cancer in 2001 which forced me to slow down for a bit and gave me time to start re-thinking my musical direction. In much of THE DAVID CROSS BAND reperoire the music seemed to be doing one thing and then another. I wanted to try and focus the various elements into a new style that was more focused than before. It was also important to have a small team of writers to create a consistent approach. It took time to go through a number of experiments until that style started to emerge.
– “Closer To Skin” is surely aimed not only at KING CRIMSON fans. Who do you think is your listener now?
It is intended to include CRIMSON fans within a broader rock audience, but it’s certainly edgy and not background music. It’s for people who listen to their music.
– Still, there’s a strong CRIMSO spirit. How would you describe this spirit?
The spirit of adventure!
– Does your academic career influence your music – or vice versa?
It’s a two-way street, and I have always worked hard to make the connection between different areas of musical activity. Sometimes it’s useful to think about what you’re trying to achieve. My involvement with music education has shown me that there are as many responses to music as there are people. Many people are happy to identify with a limited number of genres and develop their understanding within those. I suppose I am the same, but I enjoy playing in the territory between these stylistic boundaries. “Closer Than Skin” tries to explore some of that territory but from a definite rock perspective.
– How has this academic approach to music developed? I mean, you’ve always been more of a rocker than an scholar.
Indeed so. I made a conscious decision as I moved into music to follow my instincts rather than my intellect. The trouble is you can’t really suppress any part of yourself without having it fight back in some way. There was a stage when I was getting fed up with music and I embarked on a Master’s degree in Performing Arts looking for stimulation in other areas. In fact the process shed new light on my understanding of music and inspired me to move on and explore even more.
– Where does this new metallic sound come from? Save for Peter Hammill-sung track, “Exiles” was a much softer record…
My ideas are more focused and direct; the sound reflects that.
– Do you use many effects on your violin these days?
Yes – more than ever – but, paradoxically, I find myself even more concerned with the basic sound production challenges that all violinists have to work through. I suspect I use a wider range of more subtle effects than I used to but I still like laying it on thick with a powerful overdrive or distortion sound.
– How do you manage to combine heavy riffage with such lyricism as on “Are We One”?
How do other people not? I don’t know any one-dimensional people so I can’t conceive of one-dimensional music.
– Have you been in touch with Richard Palmer-James since CRIMSON days or you contacted him especially for “Closer Than Skin”?
No, I got in touch with him when I realised he would be ideal for this new sound.
– Did you give ideas to Richard or just allowed him to follow your melodies?
It was an interactive process.
– Was it difficult to gather a band of your own and take them on the road?
– How do you feel getting back on-stage?
– You said the next record would see the light of day quite soon. When it’ll be out and will be it a natural progression from “Skin”, or you’d rather explore some new avenue?
There’s a live album in the pipeline, and Richard, Mick [Paul, bassist] and I have started writing the follow up to “Closer”.