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Progressive Rock Interviews

Tony Levin

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Tony Levin from 2016
It's been a few years since we last did an interview with you. As usual, you've been incredibly busy. What are some of the highlights in the adventures of Tony Levin that you'd to mention?
Thanks for that. I don't know about highlights as such, but I feel very fortunate to have a bunch of great tours, with great musicians inspiring me. The last couple of years have indeed been busy, and there's a lot of luck involved with that. Even if you have three or four groups you're regularly working with, it often happens that they want to tour in the same season, and you have to choose one, and step aside from the others. So, really cool for me that Peter Gabriel and King Crimson haven't conflicted on schedules, and we were able to fit Stick Men into the openings. As for Levin Brothers, our touring has been kind of waiting in the wings, but we'll have a nice stint in Latin America next March.

Also significant for me, in my little world, was the release in June of a book of my poetry and lyrics. It's something I've been meaning to do for a long time, involved a lot of tweaking to get it right, and it feels great to just have it out there, in the form I chose, to maybe connect with a few folks one day - very gratifying.

MSJ: What's ahead for you at this point in time?
As I write, I'm on the Stick Men Prog Noir tour in Europe. In a couple of weeks King Crimson will re-assemble in Antwerp to continue our Fall tour until December. Then in January/February, Stick Men will tour the West Coast, into Mexico, hit the wonderful Cruise to the Edge from Florida, and go to Japan for a week with guest (King Crimson sax / flautist) Mel Collins.

Then in March/April I'll tour with Levin Brothers (which is a jazz quartet) in South America and U.S. East Coast.

Summer should have some King Crimson activity - not confirmed yet.

We'll do our annual Three of a Perfect Pair Summer Camp in August - with Adrian Belew, Pat Mastelotto and myself, with guest instructor Markus Reuter - it's become a high point of the year for us, and for the wonderful "campers" who attend.

After that, another Stick Men tour, probably more Crimson touring. And waiting to see if there might be another leg of the Peter Gabriel / Sting tour that we did last June, and was so special.

MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?

Truthfully, not much time to listen to anything but the music I need to learn! Some classic Crimson pieces were added to our last tour leg (which I hadn't known) and more for the next one. Then there's learning the new Stick Men pieces from our Prog Noir album - which I'd recorded, but it's quite a different thing playing and singing it live, covering all the parts. I don't mean to sound like I'm not interested in other music - I am, very much so. But in some seasons, like this one, I just have to focus on learning, and practicing the current music I'm involved with.

MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
Lots. My iPad Kindle reading keeps me happy on all the van rides and plane trips. Lately I'm reading a lot of science, and fair amount of fiction, both sci-fi/fantasy and mysteries. My recent visit to CERN in Geneva spiked my attempts to get more up to speed on particle physics, anti-matter, and related fields. I'm just a fan-boy, not at all a player, but there's no end to good, accessible writing about those fields.
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
In Tokyo, a few of the Crimson guys went together to see Hiromi Uehara, with Anthony Jackson and Simon Phillips. Great show - she's a force of nature!
MSJ: Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”
Yes, playing jazz on the upright bass. Takes me back to being 10 years old.
What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
Too many to list. Most recent was two days ago, in a venue in Wiesbaden, Germany, which seemed to be a gear rental warehouse, with a venue attached. Wending our way through the warehouse to the back way onstage, we didn't even bother to intone "Hello Cleveland."
Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
As always, I'm grateful to the fans of progressive rock, who go out of their way to come to our shows, and even pay for the albums and downloads. We realize that there are 10 reasons for not coming to a show for every reason you have for going… and that support for us is the difference between our being able to tour in a significant way and only doing a handful of shows each year. For me, it's live playing that nourishes me musically, so I'm particularly thankful for that opportunity.


MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2016  Volume 6 at
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