Robert Fripp Opens Up on ’Suffering’ of Playing in King Crimson, Explains Band’s ’Ongoing Concern’

No matter their current status, King Crimson will go down in history as one of the most innovative and ground-breaking bands. Led by guitar master Robert Fripp, they pushed the boundaries and went places no one ever dared to enter. This, however, comes with great responsibility — paying absolute respect to the music that you’re performing.

Robert Fripp circa 1979 FRIPPERTRONICS

And according to Fripp, this is far from an easy task. In fact, while chatting with The New York Times recently (source via, the guitarist reflected on the band’s incredible ambition to achieve perfection in every aspect of their work. This goes not only for their challenging pieces, which get so intense if you want to perform them to every detail, as they were originally intended. But Fripp also looks at their ambition to spark social changes with their music.

Discussing the matter, Fripp explained:

“I knew what King Crimson would be if it formed […and] King Crimson for me is grief. Nothing else in my life can happen when King Crimson is in go mode.”

King Crimson - Starless

“It is such a responsibility. The aim was to change the world. [While most artists don’t think that’s possible anymore,] it’s still an ongoing concern and a responsibility to the originating intention within King Crimson.

If you’re familiar with the band, you know how incredibly detailed they get when it comes to performing their music live. But for such complex music, we can only imagine how excruciating it can get when they aim for a flawless top-notch performance. He continues:

“There is a quite distinct experience of King Crimson as an individuality [..and] for me, that is validation. But if, for whatever reason, a performance doesn’t meet what is possible, it is an acute suffering for me. I remember with King Crimson, […] in the autumn of 1972.

“I threw off a lick and it was awful. It felt like I was lying to my mother. It violated conscience for that one lick. I was lying to music and that was appalling. And it still irks me to this day.”

During the chat, he also added that going away from King Crimson has opened up new horizons for him, allowing him to approach music in different ways. Fripp explains:

“It was a privilege playing in Crimson, but it was a very specific repertoire. As a guitar player, it’s like the Olympics of guitar, phenomenally difficult lines, and it required two to four hours of practicing a day. Now, King Crimson is not in go mode. I can step back from it to a certain extent and move my attention into learning E tuning.”

Photo: Sean Coon (Robert Fripp)


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.