About Me

Interview with Jakko Jakszyk

Jakko Jakszyk is, since 2013, the vocalist of a name that needs no introduction - King Crimson. A path that began with the founding of the 21st Century Schizoid Band, a group made up of former members of… King Crimson. To the quinquagenarian band, Jakszyk brought irreverence and a new way of playing, recognized by the giant Robert Fripp.
When he’s not working with the band or on his own albums, he is remastering classic rock albums (Emerson Lake and Palmer, Jethro Tull ...).
 A guitar virtuoso, a profound man, with moving stories, well portrayed in his solo, highly personal, albums. After “Waves Sweep the Sand” (2009) - a mix of songs left over from the previous album (“The Bruised Romantic Glee Club”, 2007) – launches, this year, Secrets & Lies. It is about this release that this progressive rock legend has agreed to answer Metal Imperium's questions.

M.I. -  Hi! It is truly an honor having you answering our questions! Thank you for that.
How’s your life right now? Excluding the wait for the new record to come out, of course.

Well, it’s weird, as it is indeed for everyone at the moment.
So lots of plans on hold for an unknown future. Crimson were meant to tour the States this summer. This has been postponed till next year. I was meant to be doing a one-man show at the Edinburgh Festival, which was cancelled too, of course. I was also hoping to play some solo shows to highlight the new album at the beginning of next year. So, all gone. 
I’m spending time in the studio writing, for myself and others as I have signed a 3-album deal.

M.I. -  You always had connections to King Crimson. Was it just a matter of time before you joined them?

Well, it can of course look like that with the benefit of hindsight.
I’d never spoken to Robert until he called me one day when I was rehearsing with 21st Century Schizoid Band. I was rather shocked. He wanted to know how it was all going.
He laughed when I told him. And we kind of bonded due to the fact that I was now working with these guys he’d worked with.
After that he played on my last solo album, and then we made an album together (along with Mel Collins, Tony Levin & Gavin Harrison) called ‘A Scarcity Of Miracles’ I also mixed ‘Thrak’ with him, so I guess it wasn’t a huge surprise when he called in 2013 to inform me that he was re forming King Crimson and would In like to be lead singer and guitarist.
The biggest surprise was that Robert had announced his retirement from music the year before.

M.I. - What is it like to play alongside a virtuoso like Robert Fripp? In the beginning, it must have been unnerving.

Well, before we even started rehearsing we sat in my studio discussing what pieces we might play from the whole Crimson repertoire. When he suggested ‘Larks Tongues In Aspic Part 1’ I was really excited, more as a fan than anything else. As Crimson hadn’t played that live in decades.
However he then told me that some of the parts (particularly the fast cross picked running lines after the opening heavy riffs) were tricky to play in the new tuning he’s been using, but as I was playing in standard tuning, I should play them!!!!!
If you think playing alongside Robert is unnerving, you should try playing his difficult parts with him sat next to you.
To be fair he’s been nothing but encouraging. I now play things I thought I would never be able to play in a million years.

M.I. -  When you play (with King Crimson), is there a lot of improvisation? Did it ever go wrong?

We have some tunes where we know how it starts, and how it ends, and what’s in the middle is up to the magic in the room that night.
I don’t recall any of those going wrong.
However, some of the more modern Crimson pieces are very complicated, interlocked and rather like a musical jigsaw puzzle. One night in Red Bank New Jersey whilst playing “Construction Of Light’ Tony Levin came in about 2 bars too early. It was a complete car crash. We carried on playing, or at least the drummers and Tony did. Eventually Tony got back to the part where we were meant to come in.
There was a collective sigh of relief. However, Robert and I thought we were back to the beginning, and the drummers thought that we were at the end of the tune where that section comes back again.
So we grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory.

M.I. -  How is it to play with 3 drummers? Which one, normally, does the rest of the band follow? Because, often, the rhythms are different, right?

Well, Gavin Harrison does all the amazing and intricate Drum arrangements. That was Roberts plan with the 3 drummers. For Gav to be in charge and arrange the parts.
So, when there are 3 drummers playing its actually like one drummer with 12 limbs. There’s no flaming or doubling, all the parts fit in between each other.
As a consequence if anyone in the band (including Robert) get’s lost, Gavin is the first guy we look at for clues. He’s amazing quite frankly.

M.I.- King Crimson, on tour, usually changes the set list at every concert. At the same time, you usually give 3-hour concerts! Isn't it complicated to reconcile so many songs?

Particularly at the beginning of the tour. That’s when the sets change more significantly. We get the evenings set list at around lunch time, so we have a few hours to panic and try and remember how a specific song that we haven’t played in a while goes. Then we run through those new additions at the sound check.

M.I. -  What distinguishes your sound and music, as Jakko Jakszyk, from King Crimson?

Well, as I’d been listening to Crimson during my formative musical years, I guess it’s part of my musical DNA. However I have lots of other influences too. So the songs on this album that I had written specifically for Crimson (but that were decided not to be included in the repertoire) sound different than they would have done had they been taken into rehearsal and Crimsonised.
These are my versions of those songs so the arrangements are subject to my ear. Lots more vocals too I suspect.

M.I. -  What can we expect from “Secrets & Lies”? Will it be such a personal work like “The Road to Ballina”, for example?

Well it’s more of a conventional record than that. The songs have structure and sections. But some of the subject matter is drawn from a similar source. So, yes, subject wise it is largely taken from personal incidents and moments. 

M.I. -  Your last solo work was over 10 years ago (“Waves Sweep the Sand”, 2009). What are the big differences between this and “Secrets & Lies”?

‘Waves Sweep The Sand’ was not a proper album, but more a collection of bits and pieces that didn’t make the previous album “The Bruised Romantic Glee Club”
So, its that album that has the comparison.
I think this record is more focused, I think I’ve progressed certainly in how its been put together and how it sounds.

M.I. -  “Secrets & Lies”, was a necessity, to do something outside of King Crimson, or was it something that had been fermenting for some time?

Well, I’ve been mostly writing for Crimson as it’s my day job. But some of the things I presented to Robert didn’t make it, but I was convinced they had merit and didn’t want them to get lost. Plus I’d written stuff that I never thought of being suitable for Crimson. Thomas Webber at Inside Out had been very keen for me to do a solo album, so it was in part his confidence and encouragement that pushed to me to do it.
And after I’d started it kind of took on a life of its own.

M.I. -  Over the years, sometimes you were part of a band, sometimes you decided to make your way solo. What do you prefer? Are you a team-player or a lone wolf? What is easier: making an album by yourself or doing it in a band? I know you consider yourself a little dictatorial...

Well I think I WAS dictatorial when I was younger. But I love being in a band.
When it comes to recording I of course like t get my way, and that of course can be difficult when you have other stringer personalities all pitching in opinions.
I’ve made a couple of collaborative records with Gavin, and whilst we have similar tastes and opinions, there are moments when we just don’t agree. That can be tricky, but then sometimes its those differences that make for something unique and special.
Having said that, when you have access to the kind of musicians that I’m fortunate to have, I wouldn’t dictate what they should play. Indeed that’s part of the joy of making the record. Turning a programmed drum track, into something that Gavin comes up with is always a joy. He frequently takes the song to a place I would never have conceived of. Same with Tony Levin. He comes up with these amazing parts I wouldn’t have thought of.

M.I. -  During your long career, you collaborated with renowned artists and bands, in the most varied styles. Is there a genre that you don't have the courage to play? 

One that you know that nothing good would come out.
Ha! Well I don’t think I’d feel comfortable playing country and western music. But I’m pretty sure no one would ever ask me. So I think we’re fine.

M.I.- England has always been a hotbed of great artists and bands. Probably the best in the world. Who did you dream of sharing a stage with?

Well I’ve been very, very fortunate to have worked with so many of my childhood heroes. That there isn’t many left.
I am, however, a huge fan of Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel.
They have both come to see Crimson (Kate 3 times!) and were very complimentary, but neither have been in touch, so I’m pretty sure it will remain but a dream!

M.I. -  Music aside, you also like to work in comedy. You have even appeared on television shows, comedy festivals… Was it a lost career or is it just something you like to do from time to time?

I was an actor when I was younger. I was in the National Youth Theatre. I would love to do some acting, but quite possibly rather late to explore that career now.

M.I. -  After all this pandemic madness is over, are there any plans for live concerts? In your own name or in a joint project.

Yes. I would love to do some solo shows and had planned to do so. I was also going to a one man show at the Edinburgh festival based on “The Road To Ballina’ this August before the pandemic cancelled the whole event.
Plus another couple of ideas I’ve been working on with a couple of pals. 

M.I. -  Any last words for our readers?

Hey. Thanks for asking me. I hope this makes for an interesting read and encourages you to check the album out.

M.I. -  Let me once again thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. Keep doing what you do brilliantly and stay safe!

For Portuguese version, click here

Questions by Ivan Santos