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Tony Levin

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Tony Levin from 2006


MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

It’s been a while since we chatted, and as always you’ve been very busy. Can you catch the readers up on what’s been going on with you?
The main new thing for me is the release of Resonator, the cd I'd been working on for the last few years. It's a new direction for me in that it's got lyrics and vocals. The reason for that is that there are things I want to express now, that I can't get across with just instrumentals. Having said that, there are two instrumentals on the cd (one co-written by all my band) and the musical style is still what I consider to be the one I've been writing in for some time. One song, "Utopia," is even a re-make of the composition I'd had on an earlier release, but with a
small vocal section now.

The musicians on the cd are primarialy my touring band: Jerry Marotta on drums, Larry Fast, synthesizers, Jesse Gress on guitars. There is also a "new guy" on the cd (and tour) - my brother Pete Levin, and he plays some Hammond Organ and piano. Guest appearances on the CD are Adrian Belew, guitar on "Throw the God a Bone" and Steve Lukather, guitar, on "Utopia."
MSJ: You have a book out called Crimson Chronicles. What can you tell us about that?
It's a very complete photographic record of the 80's incarnation of the band. Really, it is titled "volume 1" because there will one day be another book, of the 90's band. I'd planned both for this book, but as I looked through my thousands of negatives from the beginning rehearsals in 1981, it seemed a shame to hone it down, and have the fans of the band never have a chance to see behind the scenes, as we rehearsed in Dorset, England, writing the Discipline material, as we did our first show (at tiny 'Moles Club" in Bath) and so on.

So the planned 96 page book became over 200 pages of photos, and that's
just volume one!
MSJ: Your new album seems a bit more diverse than a lot of what you’ve done in the past. Was there a conscious effort to do something a little  different or how did that change come about?
I was not aiming at diversity, but just at expressing what I felt I have to "say" about things. Sometimes that comes out humorously, sometimes serious. There is a very quiet ballad at the end, with just me on piano, which is quite out of the rock style of the rest of the CD- but the subject (Peter Gabriel and I spent a day jamming with Bonobo Apes!) is so unusual, I didn't want to miss the chance to have it included.
MSJ: The cover also seems to be a change – how did that one come about?
Actually I must credit the record label with finding that art. They  submitted a few ideas to me, and the x-ray of a man with headphones fit the "resonator" theme best, to me. Then we followed up with more x-rays for the package - a dog, a bass, and even my hand with funk fingers (that one made it onto the tour t-shirt too.)
MSJ: Are there any tracks on the new disc that you are more connected to or proud of than others? If so, what are they and why?
Usually there are, but this time I really like all the tracks. The difference this time is that I spent an extra year on the music, even after it was mostly done - so I was able to choose the tracks that worked best (there were quite a few more) and fine tune the lyrics and the mixing, to get just what I wanted. It was a luxury I wont' always be able to enjoy - the time taken was unusually long for me, and the cost was only within reach because I did the engineering myself.
MSJ: I understand that on your recent tour in Italy you gave an attempt at doing all your “stage banter” in Italian. How is the study and practice of that language coming? Do you speak any other languages, or are you thinking of attempting to learn any?
I am, indeed, midst the Italian tour, and am doing okay with my  language. Italian is the only other language I've worked at, and I've still got a long way to go, especially with the verb tenses - they have more than we do.
MSJ: Do you think that downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians? It’s been said by the major labels that it’s essentially the heart of all the problems they are having in terms of lower sales – would you agree?
I've got no special insight into that - at my level of sales it's not a big problem - in fact, it's nice for me that fans can share the live music they have of my band (we allow taping and video.) As to what the future will bring, I don't know, but I hope it's good for the music
making itself.
MSJ: What’s on the road map for the future for you?
This tour will continue for some time - we want to cover the whole U.S.  after Europe, and then maybe E. Europe too. Of course, if Peter Gabriel or King Crimson call, then I'll have to re-arrange plans.
MSJ: What have you been listening to lately?
Just got, here in Italy, Ivano Fossati's new CD, "L'arcangel"
MSJ: How about reading?
Ray Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near
 
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