the big-hair days of pop monsters, Mr. Mister, to the monstrously
cerebral wizardry of art rockers King Crimson, drummer Pat
Mastelotto has made quite a musical journey.
He started off in Chico, California, playing in bar bands
in the 70s (which, it turns out, often brought him
to Oregon), then, by the mid-80s, made it to the bright
lights of the top-40 world of Mr. Mister. The early 90s
found him hanging around with Crimson's Robert Fripp
and singer David Sylvian on their ground breaking album,
"Damage." And by 1994, he showed up in the last
incarnation of Crimson: a "double-trio" comprised
of two guitars, two basses and two drummers.
So when the most recent creation of Crimson appeared last
year as a simple foursome, with Mastelotto on drums, former
Oregonian Trey Gunn on bass and figureheads Adrian Belew
and Fripp, it wasn't much of a surprise they kept Mastelotto.
But Mastelotto's maiden voyage with Fripp and Sylvian was
a happy accident of sorts. Back in 1993, he learned that
the Fripp/Sylvian collaboration, "The First Day,"
to be released on Virgin, was looking for a drummer to complete
the project. He convinced Fripp's manager to let him fly
out to London for the audition, with only three days to
get it all together.
"I pulled together a lot of frequent flyer miles,"
Mastelotto said. "I pulled some favors with friends
got an advance copy and was able to study the music. I never
thought I'd get the gig, and just looked at it as an opportunity
to play with Fripp and Sylvian. And the fact auditions were
being held at Peter Gabriel's Real World studios was worth
price of the ticket. But I was very surprised when I got
More tidbits of interest emerge in Crimson's relationship
to Oregon. Bassist Trey Gunn lives in Seattle and is a former
University of Oregon student. After graduating, he ran off
to the east coast and latched on to Robert Fripp's League
of Crafty Guitarists seminars, eventually landing a permanent
role as Fripps collaborator. Longtime club-goers in
the area may remember the name of a Eugene band called Punishment
Farm from the early '80s, which contained Gunn.
These days, another surprise is the company King Crimson
is keeping on the most recent leg of their tour.They are
opening for industrial-heads Tool. Also surprising is who
asked who to join. "When I heard they were putting
out a new album, I called (drummer) Danny Carey," Mastelotto
said. "I asked him if we could open on tour for them,
and he said yes."
What? King Crimson, the elder statesmen of art rockregarded
by some as having single-handedly founded that genre as
well as the genus of jazz/rock fusion and heavy metalasked
a philosophy like holding out candy for someone, and as
they reach out for the sweet stuff in your hand, you punch
them in the face".
Exotic: I've heard Tools a major Crimson fan.
Is that true?
Pat Mastelotto: Yeah, I think it's safe to say that.
You'd probably want to ask them. But yes.
Exotic: And is that how this tour came about?
PM: Yeah, sort of. They could've chosen anyone they
wanted to open for them, but they were nice enough to invite
Exotic: I understand you were an enormous fan of
Crimson back in the early days, particularly drummer Mike
Giles. What was it that grabbed you about Crimson and Giles
PM: It was about 8th grade, and I went to the public
library to listen to records because there wasn't much radio
action then in '68, '69 or '70. And by chance, I put on
the Crimson record with "Cat Food" on it, and
it wigged me out. I was a fan right there. And as a drummer,
Giles was so much more adventurous than anyone else was
I remember seeing a "Where Are They Now" segment
on VH1 about Mr. Mister, and when they got to you they said:
"And Pat Mastelotto got to live his dream and join
his favorite band of all timeKing Crimson." Was
it really like that?
PM: Sure. But it was a typical "Be careful what
you wish for or you just may get it." At first it was
with Fripp and Sylvian. I toured for six months with them,
Trey and Michael Brooke. We said our goodbyes, and then
three months later Robert rang me up about this double trio.
He said he had a vision or a dream about a double trio with
me and Bill Bruford
(co-founder of Yes and early Crimson member) both on drums.
I said, "What will Bill
think about all this?" Robert said, "I haven't
called him yet. I called you first."
Exotic: How has being in Crimson changed your drumming?
PM: There's a whole different way of thinking in
Crimson. I spent a lot of time playing mostly as a pop drummer.
And traditionally, in pop, drummers generally set up a section,
like "here comes the chorus..." and then you bring
it in. Robert doesn't like that. It's as if youll
spoil the surprise. There's a lot of conventions in pop
with drummers that aren't necessary in Crimson. It's a different
vocabulary in Crimson, so you learn that language...
Back in the "Misters," we had a Number One hit
called "Kyrie." On that song, it started off with
vocals, and then the drums came unexpectedly bashing in.
And that's a very trademark Crimson thing, although I wasn't
really thinking of Crimson at the time. It comes from that
period growing up and listening to Crimson. You don't come
in where people expect itand then you come in loud.
It's a philosophy like holding out candy for someone, and
as they reach out for the sweet stuff in your hand, you
punch them in the face.
Exotic: That does sound like a very orchestral approach,
like the old Crimson of the '70s. And I notice that about
the newest album, The ConstruKCtion of Light. There
are some very retro elements in theremoments or cells
that hearken back to that older Crimson. Was that done on
PM: As far as music on ConstruKCtion of Light
is concerned, Robert brought
in a new "Larks Tongues In Aspic" song. It has
a lot of the same elements as Red or Fractured,
from the 70s version of the band, but it wasn't the same
song or exactly the same kind of song. If this band were
to become a nostalgia band and play all the old songs, there
wouldn't be much point to it. We wouldn't be moving ahead.
dealing with the same vocabulary but writing a different
story here. People will
recognize it and go, "Hey, that sounds like something
they did 30 years ago."
I think the '80s version of Crimson was a big departure
from the '70s version. But albums like Thrak and
Light , with the '90s Crimson, are a little more
like the '70s version.
Exotic: So, would you care to do the crystal ball
thing and impart what may be in Crimson's future? Are there
perhaps any new members on the horizon?
PM: I don't think so. But the plan, as I understand
it, is to continue as a four-piece a little longer and to
continue touring with Tool for a while. We're planning another
record, and have half the material written, but we're searching
for the rest. We had planned to record in September but
have adjusted all that to play with Tool.
King Crimson opens for Tool at the Arlene Schnitzer Hall
on August 8. Tickets were sold out within minutes. At press
time, a show was added for the Eugene Hult Center on August
5th. Tickets for that show will also be gone by the time
you read this. This exotic blending of the old and the new
is likely to have rock aficionados wagging their tongues
for years to come. Just make that Larks Tongues In