Sunday, December 25, 2011

songwriting 101 (part 6)

this post is about 2 new songs:
13. also back in the day
rainbow unicorn

also back in the day
is the acoustic guitar version
of the keyboard-heavy back in the day.
it has a breezy jazz-like feel mostly because
of a drum loop played with brushes
and run through a bit of distortion.
not sure if it wants to remain an instrumental track
or if I'll eventually succumb to singing it,
perhaps even writing an addition verse.
as usual it is around a minute long.

rainbow unicorn was written on the AB parker fly.
I played it for a short period during the painting with guitar
show as a backdrop to the q&a section we had each night.
but it's grown into something more.
I wrote a short poem which I might recite as a voice over.
or..I might keep it an instrumental.
probably both.
it will also be short, but I don't yet know how short.
I'm recording rainbow unicorn first thing tomorrow.

and that brings us up to date on the record so far.
not all of the material is finished, many vocals are still required
but the good news, at least for me,
is I have written the words to all of these
so there will be no hang-up waiting for the lyricist.
I have 3 or 4 other songs ready and waiting in line
as well as things like variations of wave pressure,
though that may be for a separate record.

happy new year!

songwriting 101 (part 5)

this post is about 3 new songs:
10. dinosaurs in my tree
11. y

back in the days before jurassic park the movie
there were rumors of exciting new developments
in the world of dinosaurs, one of my passions.
I began reading every book I could find on the subject.
paleontolgists had proven the skeletal structure
of t. rex is exactly the same as that of a chicken,
if fact it's the same as that of all birds.
the shocker was: this means birds
are the direct descendants of dinosaurs. ergo,
birds are dinosaurs!

to this day it fascinates me to think
when I'm feeding wild birds on my deck each day
or watching them fly across my backyard,
I'm actually seeing dinosaurs!
(it follows then that if I'm eating a chicken sandwich...)

dinosaurs in my tree expresses this fascination
over top of an african-esque rolling tom tom beat
and an acoustic guitar tuned DADEBE but
with a capo far enough up the neck (on the 7th fret)
to sound somewhat ukelele-ish.
the singer expressing his amazement is surrounded
by bird chirps and dinosaur roars
(made on guitar, of course. the nice thing about
making dinosaur sounds on electric guitar
is that no one can say they didn't sound that way).
dinosaurs in my tree is under 2 minutes long.

for song #11 in our recording marathon feast
I was up to my usual manipulations of another passion:
wordplay. it comes naturally to me.

I was thinking about the letters of the alphabet,
wondering what it would be like if they had feelings.
the letter a for example might think of itself
as a trendsetter, the very first, numero uno.
the letter a might therefore possess a maladjusted ego.

given that so many names in cyberspace
now begin with a lower case i, (ieat, isnore, ipoop).
the lower case letter i would certainly
see itself as the current favorite of the main stream.
a very popular letter.

but the letter that I would envy the least is the letter y.
there you go, the letter y will always be a question.
and always next to last.
poor y.

so I wrote:

r u beside z
& stuck next 2 x
where no 1 wants 2 b

4 ever the ?
but never the answer
when u could b a c
who doesn’t like the sea?

o y
the trouble u r n
o g i feel bad 4 u
but then look @ q

o 2 b an a
or lower case i
instead of @ the end
n the alphabet line..."

y was written in standard tuning
and lasts just over 1 minute.

keeping with the same tactic of wordplay,
I saw a vanity plate that said ICTHRUU.
"clever enough," I thought, "y not use it?"

so in song #12 the singer repeatedly sings:
"I see through you".
I liked ICTHRUU so much I made a second
version called ICTHRUU2.
both songs are based on a very krim-esque
loop of two guitars and bass with some
trash can-style drumming on the same ludwig
drum kit I played on my first record, lone rhino.

ICTHRUU and ICTHRUU2 both were written
on the silver adrian belew signature model parker fly
in standard tuning, each lasting a minute or so.

Merry Christmas, etc.

Merry Christmas everyone!
(if Christmas is what you celebrate,
and if not, merry whatever you do)
and just in case the mayans somehow
got lucky and miraculously guessed
the end of the world is 12/21/12
(the odds of which are larger than
the odds of me throwing an elephant)
we hope this is the happiest new year ever.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

songwriting 101 (part 4)

this post is about 3 new songs:
7. facebook blues
8. one more day

9. rong!

what would a modern bluesman have to sing about?
in order to have the "blues" something must bother you.
I have never actually used facebook and have little idea
what goes on there except what I overhear from others.
but as a student of human nature I expect there
are sometimes "catty" comments just as there are on blogs.
and so I crafted a lyric in the style of a bluesman
who has somehow been upset by something on facebook.
it's not a hilarious concept but a curious one.

facebook blues was written with the DADEBE tuning
on the taylor acoustic guitar
and is in 2 parts for a total of 2.5 minutes.

one more day is much more uplifting in it's message:
"wake up, now it's morning
open up your eyes
see the prize you've awaited
nothing is for certain in this life we make
use what you've been given,
one more day..."

also written on the taylor acoustic in the DADEBE tuning,
one more day is a svelte 50 seconds in length
but it communicates exactly what I want.

one of the many benefits in working with an engineer
who is also an audio professor is learning the latest
and greatest new software capabilities.
rong! is a beefy instrumental piece born out of
experimenting with some new software effects.
it's brash, big, and orchestral but with an edgy drum loop.
rong! is 1:44 seconds long, but I plan to do a second
version called more rong! and maybe even a third.

rong! was written on the yamaha motif keyboard.

songwriting 101 (part 3)

this post is about 2 new songs:
5. rocketship
6. peep

upon finding this latest tuning DADEBE the first thing
I did was to discover as many chord shapes as possible.
that's one of the beauties of alternate tuning: new chords!
new chords bring out fresh melodies.

I found one set of chord changes which had unique voicings
I was certain couldn't be played in standard tuning.
curious what they were, I worked them out on the piano
and found it was a real stretch for the fingers.

instead of only writing a song from these chords
I decided to use their notes as the basis
for an a capella chorale of 5 voices.
I knew the effect would be beautifully mysterious.
something like the beach boys in outer space.
so I decided to make the chorale the intro to a song
which would have something to do with outer space.

usually I find chords and a melody which intrigue me
and then I play them over and over again
or record them and listen to them over and over,
until a lyric line or subject matter comes to mind.
I let the song tell me what it wants to be about.

but this time I determined to be more purposeful.
I decided to write a PIXAR-inspired song.
what I mean by that is a song whose content
and demeanor might fit well in a pixar film,
not a song meant to sound like randy newman,
even though I love what randy's done with pixar.
(there is only one randy newman).

lyrically I started with
"I wish I was on a rocketship sailing far beyond the moon".
from thereon I based all the words on visual things
one might encounter during a space adventure
imagining what those stunning pixar animators could do.

it took several weeks to craft the entire lyric.
then daniel and I recorded rocketship
and sent copies to my pixar buddies
andrew stanton and pete doctor.
on my solo drive to new york to do our
3 of a perfect pair
band camp
I received phone calls from both andrew and pete.
they both loved the song!
which meant so much to me.

I would never presume to do a pixar film,
(they already did a fabulous space adventure WALL E).
I wrote rocketship to prove something to myself.
but I am so pleased it was acceptable to andrew and pete.
I love their work so much.

rocketship is another of my personal faves,
but with further listens I realized I recorded it too slow
just as I had done with picture show.
I think my body tempo slows down when I'm at home.
so we sped the song up a bit and solved that problem.
from now on I am being very aware of song tempos.

song #6 we've recorded is called peep.
it's about the boundless joy of our puppy peep.
she is a miniature yorkshire terrier now one year old.
after years of continual badgering from the girls
I finally broke down and bought a puppy. glad I did.
yorkies are smart, quick, and playful.
and peep is just hilarious.
if it's true dogs can extend your life expectancy
I should live to be a hundred and twenty.

the song peep is much like the dog.
small, quick, and happily full of pep.
it features some of peep's best vocalizations
and some of her amazing squeak toy performances.
peep is 1.5 minute long.

songwriting 101 (part 2)

this post is about 2 new songs:
3. the war within me
4. I'm a food for you

"the war within me

to sink or to swim
I’m fighting to survive my own indifference
and most of the time I feel like giving up
because I know my best
is never good enough

a long time ago
I was a simpleton
I set my sights too high, I thought I’d always win
but now I’m getting older I see that ship has sailed
and left me here to ponder
the reasons I have failed

hour after hour
I sit in a chair
and stare out the window, I no longer care
I’m paralyzed by knowing the fundamental truth
that nothing really changes
no matter what I do

the war within me
problems I can’t solve
daily the battle erodes my resolve
and most of the time now I feel like giving up
because I know my best
is never good enough..."

sometimes you're perspective of life comes at you
in such a rong way as to disarm your ability to reason.

songwriting is all about perspective.

the war within me was written
on my favorite taylor acoustic using standard tuning.
it is 4 minutes long but I may make into two-2 minute parts.

the 4th song we've recorded is called
I'm a food for you
it's about the various foods the singer likes to eat.
and all of them are bad for you.

written on the yamaha motif keyboard
complimented with a rockin' band of adrians.
it's the kind of looneytune I may have written
back in the day of twang bar king.
meant to sound like a live club gig
with a blues-ish singer pouring his heart out.

except that he's singing about bad foods he likes.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

songwriting 101 (part 1)

this post is about 2 new songs:
1. picture show
2. back in the day

since returning from our fabulous 6-week extravaganza
I have been utterly preoccupied with two things.
my first preoccupation has been songwriting.*

there is an excitement in the ongoing journey which begins
with the germ of an idea (a melody, a set of chords, a riff)
and more or less plagues the writer until the big payoff,
which is the day the song is finally completed
and righteous enough to be communicated to others.
what a sweet moment it is when you finally
hear your idea fully realized.

songwriting is all about communication.

as I said elsewhere in these posts
there was a string of 5 years when I all but abandoned
songwriting and doubted I would ever write songs again.
then one day I suddenly remembered one of the oldest
songs I had written, in fact it is the oldest song of mine that
I can remember from my early days of trying to write songs.
I believe I wrote it in 1970 at the age of 19.
it's called picture show.

for some reason picture show reappeared in my mind
just like a record being played and I was able to recall
not only the melody, chord changes, and lyrics
but also my ideas for the production of the song.
it would be another full decade before MTV arrived
but I remember deciding to write the song based
on a very clear idea I had for a "short film" (i.e. video)
to go along with the lyric of picture show.

the song is about a lonely guy who rides
the downtown bus to a noon matinee of the latest
"picture show" and ends up alone in the second row
imagining himself to be the star of the movie
"with his name across the screen" only to end up
realizing once again he's really just "a nameless face".
I had blocked out each camera move in my head
and could clearly visualize the piece.

songwriting is all about visualization.

remembering picture show is what caused my reawakening
back into the world of being a songwriter.
so I tried to work out on acoustic guitar how I had played it.
it wasn't easy since I knew it had been in an alternate tuning.
but by remembering the finger-picking method I had used
I was eventually able to recall the alternate tuning.
D A D E B E.
(I have always preferred simply alternate tunings
which don't require changing string gauges.)
it's an easy enough tuning,
you tune the low E down to D and the G down to E.

what happened next surprised and amazed me.
the more I fooled with the new chord shapes I could
achieve with this new tuning the more songs began
to pour out of me like someone had turned on
the creative faucet. I was inspired again!
the melodies came along at the same time
and uncharacteristically for me, so did many of the words.

songwriting is all about inspiration.

another inspiration I had was to do a hand tremelo effect
over the sound hole of the acoustic taylor
to make what sounds like a leslie slowing down.
I've never seen anyone else do it
so it was an exciting discovery.
I'm going to post a yourtube of the effect.

naturally the first song daniel and I recorded was picture show.
but the first version was too slow and in the wrong key
so last week I re-recorded a much better take.
this week I plan to add the vocals, orchestration, and bongos.
it is only 2 minutes long.

in the new studiobelew a yamaha motif keyboard
is the centerpiece. able to be utilized for everything from
samples to midi sequences it is the perfect tool for arrangers,
or songwriters, and is used in many movie and tv scores.
as soon as I got my yamaha motif I began writing with it.

the second song daniel and I recorded was written entirely
on the yamaha and has a "synthesizer pad and groove track-feel"
unlike anything I normally use on my records.
back in the day is a phrase I often encounter watching
one of my few favorite tv shows: pawn stars.
the old man on the show (known as "the old man")
uses the phrase repeatedly in reference to better times.
though I watch very little tv I never miss pawn stars.
I'm a history nut and the show manages to be highly
entertaining while teaching wonderful nuggets of arcanery.

the song back in the day is about my boyhood.
the simplicity of loving to be outside, to ride a bike, and so on.
it's a yearning for a time of innocence.

"back in the day we used to play, even if it rained
we couldn't wait to run outside or ride our bikes at night
man, I wish it could be so simple again
I wish it could be innocent

there was a time when boys would climb
to fall into leaves
back in the day when money meant nothing
and love had not come into play..."

it's one of my favorite songs I've written in a long time.
I plan to do a second guitar-based version for the record.
back in the day is 2.5 minutes long.
it's a trend I intend to follow throughout the record:
short songs connected in quick surprising ways.
(a la op zop too wah)

don't go away, I plan to continue this dialogue about
each and every song we are adding to the ever-growing list
of new music you will (hopefully) someday have in your earbuds.

*the second preoccupation could be so amazing it keeps me
up at night just thinking about it though is not something
I should talk about now (in case it ultimately doesn't work out)
but believe me it's an extremely exciting prospect,
one I have dreamed of for many years.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Adrian Belew Fitness Camp

if you are ever fortunate enough to be part of a "big" tour,
say, the david bowie sound and vision tour
which traveled first class around the world for nearly a year,
you would have loads of time for shopping in rome,
or visiting the louvre in paris or the prado museum in spain,
or you might take in a movie, have a delicious meal,
nap, read a good book, or send home some corny postcards.

but on the kind of touring we can do you barely have time
to make it from one city to the next in time to set up gear,
change guitar strings, do a quick soundcheck, maybe eat,
maybe shower, play the show, sign autographs for a while,
have a drink, go to bed, get up early, and do it all over again.

many of our show days included an 8-hour drive
which requires a 7:oo wake up (do the math)
before even arriving at the next city,
then doing the soundcheck, etc.
which meant there was pretty much no time for anything.
so what do you do trapped in a stretch van all day?

used to be I would read a lot and I still do
but sometimes that can make you carsick.

in our van, "the fun van", tobias and I share the driving duty
while julie's responsibilities run the gamut
from assistant navigator to our GPS (whom we call "genie")
to soft drink refresher, review reader,
and breakfast finder.

on this tour we mostly tried to amuse ourselves
and each other and did so very well indeed.
lots of talking. lots of laughs.
it seemed the longer we drove the more ridiculous we became.

at the beginning of the tour so many fans commented
on how buff I was and how much weight I had lost that
I began to wonder aloud, "just how bad did I look last tour?"
why was everyone saying how trim I am?
the funny thing is I had done nothing whatsoever
to lose weight or become buff.

so I began joking about having my own fitness camp
revealing the "secrets of my success".

one day tobias was driving, I was in the seat behind him,
and julie was riding shotgun and fiddling with her new iphone
when she caught me in one of my ridiculous modes and filmed it.
next day I tried to top myself with another ridiculous episode.
and then for about a week it became a daily event.
sometime shortly after breakfast each morning
julie would film another fitness camp episode for our amusement.
at some point we decided to put them on youtube. (oops, big mistake?)
we ended up doing six episodes, a couple of minutes long each.
I never rehearsed them; each one is improvised.
now I can add "sit-down comedy" to my resume'.

I realize how silly I am in these but please remember
the circumstances described above and the numbing
effect of riding across texas in a van.

here are the adrian belew fitness camp episodes 1 thru 6:

I'm going to leave this stuff on youtube only a short while longer.
then my self-respect will no doubt get the better of me.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

the final rhino

in case you haven't heard by now
the black rhino is officially declared extinct.

keep your lone rhino album covers
as a lasting image of a magnificent creature.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

a powerful barrage

so much to say about the 2 of a perfect trio tour
where do I begin?

the look on my face in the above photo says it all:

probably best to let you, the audience, tell your thoughts
and I encourage you to do so here,
but from a very personal vantage point within the tour
here are my honest impressions:

musically and practically speaking it was close to crimson,
but it was not crimson nor was it treated as such.

the crimson experience obviously has a heavier
yet more ethereal vibe because of robert's rigor,
whereas within the 2OAPT tour I tried my best to lighten up
the atmosphere with joking off the cuff commentary
while maintaining the integrity of the music.
still the shows were very intense,
especially in they way built to the inevitable climax.
that speaks volumes about the material itself.

while all 3 trios and the 6-piece band were certainly on fire
it was you, the audience who inspired me the most.
it was amazing to see the sizable turnouts include so many
young, therefore new fans, many of the female gender,
and to feel your enthusiasm for something
you may thought you'd never experience,
or for the longtime fans
something you thought you'd never experience again.

it's as close as we can offer and no one seemed cheated,
(though I missed my ol' partner robert).
I was amazed at the nostalgia in evidence.

crimson is indeed treated differently:
bigger venues, more money, more prestige,
free pretzels,
but those of us within the tour were very
happy with what we had to be happy with.
I think all of us would like to go at it again.

ironically, I prefer smaller clubs for their capacity
to truly reach people through the performance,
even though the money has a lower ceiling
and therefore dictates what is possible (or not).
the tour was probably too long but no matter.
my red shoes held up remarkably well as did my voice.
it was also one of the most copecetic tours
I've ever been a part of.
no bullshit. no drama.
just the joy of making music.
seeing tony levin setting up his own gear also speaks volumes.

day to day there were so many hilarious moments
mixed within the insanelylong drives and harried soundchecks.
highlights include patricia fripp reading a message from robert,
playing with danny carey again and meeting his girlfriend ryan
and her sister sarah (delightful people) then riding in danny's orange
lamborghini (yikes, 100 mph in less than 4 seconds!)
and living to see so many old friends
(including rob and bob bear)
danny zelisko's ever-popular bud abbott impresssion,
and in the "fun" van making the ridiculous
adrian belew fitness camp videos with
julie filming on her new iPhone while tobias drove faithfully on
after conducting the ongoing search for the perfect breakfast spot,
then meeting so many of our 2OFPP campers again,
and finally playing for my girls, ava and leah.

now the girls know I'm not just a guy
who hangs around the house looking lost.

in the van after breakfast julie often read us
the glowing reviews. great reviews. every one.
everybody loved it!
but one small snaggle I did notice:
some reviewers left me out!
please don't leave me out. it's disrespectful.
"the friendly frontman may easily be taken for granted"
that was my most recent fortune cookie.

one last thought:
it is incredible to be in the middle of such a powerful barrage.
thanks so much to all involved; hope we do it again.

also of note:
my last appearance of the year comes this sunday, nov. 13
at the chicago humanities festival. at 5:00.
I'll be giving a one-hour q&a/demonstration of guitar effects,
technology, and the future of ...who knows.
then it's back to making more music in studiobelew.

photo: ava belew

Friday, September 16, 2011

my latest adventure...

the ellnora guitar festival
was just as perfect as the 3 0f a perfect band camp.
I'm on a roll! with sesame seeds!

the showing of e for orchestra was not well-attended
but it didn't matter, those of us who were there were thrilled
to see and hear it on the big screen where it belongs
and that included the ol' gang of friends from when I lived
in champaign-urbana. (della, deb, mike getz)

daniel went with me and we agreed every night
was a tasty dinner/party with sparkling conversation.
we were treated so well by everyone.

the keynote address was cool. I launched into it
like a presidential candidate and I really enjoyed it.
I spoke about the electric guitar, it's history,
my involvement with it, and the life it has given me.
it was held in the great hall, a gorgeous space
where the chicago symphony orchestra sometimes play.
so nice were the acoustics I didn't even need a microphone.

on our fourth night there came the big event:
the painting with guitar one-man show.
it was held outside in the amphitheatre.
it was a stunning evening with beautiful clouds slowly
passing by a large shinny near-full moon.
and even more perfect, it was jam-packed.
after the show I met up with many of my former
neighbors outside my dressing room, a special treat as well.

and then came a moment I've waited for a long time.
my tai chi teacher grandmaster song was at the performance.
it was so wonderful to see him again. I miss him.
I decided then and there to begin practicing tai chi again.

afterwards daniel and I were off to a happy night of free drinks
at the famous esquire lounge, former hang of the bears.
the esquire is right across the street from my old rehearsal
space where we recorded twang bar king
and many rehearsals with krimson
and writing sessions with the bears.
all in all, a very special week.

thanks again to mr. spelman.
and to everyone at ellnora guitar fest.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

next?...Ellnora Guitar Festival

I have fond memories of the krannert art center
in champaign-urbana from the few years I lived nearby.
with the krannert as the focal point this will truly be
more "arts festival" than "shredfest" I'm happy to say
and with artists like bill frisell, richard thompson,
daniel lanois, robert randolph, and taj mahal
the variety of musical approaches will highlight
the expressive abilities of that most versatile partner:
the guitar.

on wednesday evening, sept. 7th at 9:00
I will debut a showing of the new dvd e for orchestra
at the art cinema and answer questions afterwards.
at 3:00 on friday, sept. 9th I'll give the keynote address.
(sheesh, I'm already starting to sweat...)
on saturday evening at 8:30 I'll play the one-man show
painting with guitar which is completely different
than the show we'll be touring around the U.S.
and Canada beginning 9 days later on sept. 19.

I hope to catch some of the amazing artists performing
and hope to see some familiar faces in the audience as well.
I'd like to thank david spellman for asking me to be involved
in what I'm sure will be a very special event.

Monday, August 29, 2011

bulletin: you missed it!

if you weren't one of the 75 very happy campers
tony, pat, and I entertained over the last week
I have to say you truly missed something special.
we had a ball!

highlights (for me) included the 75-strong camp jam
(conducted by tony and resulting in monumental moments)
which we filmed and recorded as gifts for each camper
(downloaded onto a USB stick with our cartoon faces),
having 30 or more guitarists divided into two sections,
one group playing my part in frame by frame
and the other group playing robert's part,
having a special viewing of the new e for orchestra DVD,
(which garnered a standing ovation from everyone),
some fabulous storytelling and big laughs,
and the final night's first-ever performance
by the pat, tony, and adrian trio
and 5 of the double trio (sorry, no markus yet)
blazing through a best-of set of krimson hits.
(if I may abuse the word "hits").

full moon resort is in a gorgeous mountain setting,
the staff are super nice people, everything very smooth,
(special thanks to amy and jesse for keeping
my jar of coke, coca-cola of course, filled with ice)
the food was much better than I expected
(I had planned on losing a pound or two, but...)
delicious in fact, the accommodations were,
well... very accommodating,
the bar, the nightly jam and campfire...
the entire experience was simply fabulous.
so much so that we have announced
we are doing it again next year
august 13 through 17.

there was only one thing which didn't surprise me:
the cool people who attended.
they proved once again I have the best fans anywhere.
to our happy campers I would like to say thanks again
and I hope each of you will sign in and take the time
to post a brief re-telling in your own words
of our encounter right here on my blog.

there were many manufacturer's who gifted things
for our campers to use and even things to take away.
we gave away a beautiful Parker Dragonfly guitar,
a bunch of Whirlwind gear, D'Addario strings,
Vic Firth sticks, 3 Ampeg bass amps, two guitar amps,
and 9 custom-made Hammerax cymbals given to us
by their not-so-evil-genius inventor John Stoddard.
we were loaned so many things including 50!
G-Dec amps from Fender and 3 drum kits from DW.
my friend David Koltai demonstrated a plethora
of his Pigtronix pedals, very entertaining,
and John Collinge gave a class on having
a career in today's music strange business
everyone took home t-shirts, a copy of tony's
book The Crimson Chronicle, strings, a copy of e,
drumsticks (once again featuring our cartoon faces),
Whirlwind cables, stickers, catalogs and pictures.

I want to thank tony and pat for being such great partners,
Amy Carpenter and Danny Heaps for making all of this happen,
our crew, John Sinks, Adrian Bienviedes, and Robert Frazza,
our resident crazed cartoonist Denis Rodier,
and the wonderful staff at full moon resort.

ps: if you missed it, it is never too early to sign up
and plan for next year's happenings at:

Monday, August 15, 2011

e for orchestra! it's here!!

like an 8-year-old kid running to the Christmas tree
on the BIG morning to find the gift he's longed for
I answered the door to greet Dan, our UPS man
and to help him unload boxes of joy.

we now have a limited run of CD's and DVD's of

e for orchestra
the metropole orkest with adrian belew
conducted by jules buckley

the CD's are from the two-day studio recording session we did.
you hear every little detail in tom trapp's fabulous score.

the DVD's are of the amazing one-time-only performance
at the Paradiso in Amsterdam on February 27, 2011
which was filmed beautifully in HD with a 5-camera shoot.

both are wrapped in a striking black artwork
designed by our own mark colman.

I would characterize the differences in the two this way:
the studio version: pristine and powerful,
the live DVD version: raw and exciting.
if I were me I would want both.

my apologies for the extended time taken to produce
these beauties but as with most special things
it is worth the wait.
so please join in our celebration of this very happy occasion.

"I've never heard the Metropole sound like this!"
gert-jan blom, director of the metropole orkest.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

a songwriting goldmine

despite a workload that could choke a horse,
I'm still working as often as I can in the studio with daniel.
I stumbled on to a songwriter's goldmine recently
and songs have been pouring out like free beer.

for the last 6 years I gave up songwriting altogether,
so it came as a surprise to find those gears turning again.
I gave up songwriting because it seemed pointless.
that's how I felt for the last 6 years.
a sad weary mixture of "it's all been said and done
before", and "maybe I'm getting too old for this"
inflamed by the bitter knowledge my songs have
mostly been "orphans on the streets of radioland"
as I once put it.

but in the back of my mind during the first 3
of those years while I was composing e
(which I consider a "composition" not a "song")
I had thought I probably would return to songwriting
again specifically for the power trio, that was step 2
in my plan, after showing the world what the trio
could do musically with e.
but once eric absconded, I truly lost all interest.

what with the internet, free downloading, free burning
of CDs, and the bleak landscape of modern radio
which demands pop songs be mindless dance beat
fodder for young kids who need to procreate
or wallpaper for those who don't want to think,
perhaps you can empathize how defeated I might feel.

but following the BIG EVENT orchestral production of e
and my subsequent return to earth I suddenly knew
that songwriting is such an important aspect of my art.
it's the reason I picked up a guitar in the first place.
doesn't matter how many people hear my songs
or whose top 100 list they are never on,
my songs are integral to my creativity
and no, I'm not too old, and I do have new things to say.

I've often wondered what might have been different
had frank zappa never discovered me and my answer
has always been the same:
apart from remaining poor (as I was)
and having no one know my name,
nothing would be different.
I believe I would have continued to make music
for a very few people and write songs no one ever heard
because that is who I am.

my re-entry back into the world of songwriting
was brought on by two things I've always relied on.
1) when you're stale, switch tunings.
I made up a new tuning as I often have in the past.
from low to high it's spelled D A D E B E.
the low E tuned down to a D, the G down to an E.
suddenly it was like starting all over again.
my habitual chord shapes no longer mattered.
I found myself discovering new things every time
I picked up my acoustic guitar.
it was (and still is) exciting.

2) switch instruments.
I switched to piano, an instrument I don't play enough.
my piano chops are non-existent so any time
I write on piano I have no idea what I'm doing
which forces me to follow the melody in my head
and focus on the logic of the accompanying chord changes.
for me that's ideal.
I thrive on discovery.

the end result of all of this?
I'm currently writing and recording a new batch
of solo songs that I'm enjoying immensely.
hopefully by next spring you'll be enjoying it too.

Friday, July 29, 2011


so sorry everyone.
I announced there will be florida dates prematurely.
please allow me to change that to:



Tuesday, July 26, 2011

don't answer that question

don't answer that question...

today I'm taking stock of what I have in front of me:
a) the 3 of a perfect pair band camp in late august,
at which I'll be teaching, talking, playing, jamming,
and learning material with pat and tony.
b) the ellnora guitar festival in champagne-urbana, Il.
which happens only a week later in early september
at which I'll be giving the keynote address at
the krannert art center, performing a one-man show,
and possibly debuting the DVD of "e for orchestra"
at the art cinema in town.
c) jumping straight into performance mode with
the 2 of a perfect pair tour (which is selling well, btw)
which is being extended for another week into florida
as we speak making the total of dates nearly 40,
the miles to be driven more like 14,ooo,
the time away from home nearly two months!

this means within the next 3 weeks I will have to:
a) decide on a teaching curriculum and plan out
what to do each day of the band camp,
which ends by the way with a performance
(of what I'm not yet sure)
b) write a half-hour keynote address
(about what I'm not yet sure)
c) put together and rehearse the material for
the one-show (which means I"ll have to re-learn it),
d) put together and rehearse the material for the
2 of a perfect trio tour including whatever
krimson we decide to play as a six-piece band and,
e) pack my bag, get in the van, and drive...

that's what I'm thinking about today.

tomorrow I'll begin recording vocals for the
9 new songs daniel and I have been recording.
my cut off date for working on this material
meant for the new solo record is august 1
so I'm going to record as much as possible until then.
after august 1 I will have to stop recording
new material in order to concentrate on the above list.

right this very minute I'm asking myself...
"are you NUTS!!"

Monday, July 4, 2011

more about the tour and more...

hey everybody, thanks so much for all the comments,
questions, and support you've shown for the fall
2 of a perfect trio tour.
I feel the excitement building.
I knew we could count on you.

to clear up some of the questions you've been asking
I scheduled an interview with myself
for 9:30 this morning and that's now!
so here I go:

q: adrian, can you tell us what we can expect from
the upcoming tour with tony and pat and the two trios?

a: I'm glad you asked. the tour has been designed
to showcase each trio's music like any other concert
but with the added effect of having the remaining
players from king crimson who are still playing
king crimson music live join together to celebrate
some of our favorite pieces from our work in krimson.
tony and pat and I will do a few songs then
the six of us will play an encore set of krimson music.

q: are you excited?

a: you bet! I'm tri-cited, excited 3 times over:
1) to be playing with the power trio all across the U.S. again
2) to be playing for the first time ever with tony and pat
as a trio doing "crim-centric" material.
and 3) very excited at the sound I hear in my head
of this particular "double trio". monstrous.

q: you've recently been playing some select krimson pieces
with the power trio. how will this performance differ?

a: ABPT currently plays 6 krimson songs which is most
of the viable material that would work in a trio format.
I love the way we do the krimson stuff as a power trio.
but remember none of that material was written for or done
by a trio so it is limiting what we can and can't do.
there's no way to do, say, matte kudasai for example
with just 3 players and the same is true for most krimson.
I expect these performances to be vastly different because
for one thing we can tackle a wider range of material
such as pieces from the "double trio" era
but mostly because of the addition of tony and pat.
I expect they will singe the hair off the folks in the front row.

king crimson is an elite club.
there have only been 7 members in the last 30 years.
having tony and pat onstage, two legitimate krimson players,
will make this as close as currently possible to the actual thing.

q: have you spoken to robert about the tour?

a: we have batted emails back and forth.
robert is clearly supportive (as usual).
his called it, "an ace idea and wonderfully exciting".
for me personally I will sorely miss robert.
after all we have been partners in all of this
and so much of king crimson IS robert.
so tony and pat and I will have to carefully chose
material the two trios can make our own.

meanwhile I'm trying to convince robert of the significance
of having a life-size cut-out of him in the dark
somewhere on stage.
then people can photograph him as much as they want!

q: I know one question you've been asked most often
is whether or not this tour will go international.

a: that's right, how did you know that?
it's too early to say for certain but I think it could happen.
the tour is a behemoth with nine people traveling together
and it costs a king crimson's ransom to operate but
obviously there are fans everywhere who would love to see it.
all of us would like it to happen. we're excited.

q: what material have you thought of playing as a double trio?

a: it's still to be decided but two suggestions I have liked so far
are matte kudasai which I mentioned earlier and possibly
neal and jack and me. there are the obvious ones like
dinosaur, elephant talk, three of a perfect pair, maybe
one time or sex eat sleep drink dream but I'm also keen
to surprise with something like dig me. pat mentioned
man with an open heart as a trio with me and tony.
that could be intriguing.

stickmen will play vrooom vroom in their set,
that'll be a scorcher, and ABPT will play neurotica as a trio
which is something we really enjoy.
I'm sure many other suggestions will be considered
but that's plenty to chew on for now.

q: are there any plans to record or film this for CD or DVD?

a: nothing definite yet but we're looking at options.
right now pat and tony are in russia so communication is nyet.

q: speaking of DVD's what's happening with e for orchestra?

a: you read my mind (it's a short story). we just mastered
both the DVD and CD this past week. they're incredible!
mark colman and I have finished the artwork for both things
so I think we're about ready to go to press!
I'll be announcing something soon.

q: anything else to mention?

a: well, yes, I have been recording new material with daniel.
we're working on 7 songs right now. I have 3 more ready to do
as well as a few instrumental pieces like
variations of wave pressure.
I've been on a creative tear of late.

q: what do you do in your spare time?

a: this IS my spare time.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Celebration of King Crimson Music and Much More...

remember when I mentioned something special
was being planned for our next tour?
well, here it is:

the Two Of A Perfect Trio tour.
the show will go like this:

(tony levin, markus rueter, and pat mastelotto)
will play a set of their music
the adrian belew power trio (me, julie slick, and tobias ralph)
will play a set of my music
tony, pat, and I will play a few crimson songs as a trio
both trios will take the stage for a glorious set of
king crimson music including pieces from the double trio era.
two drummers, two stick players, a bassist, and a guitarist, YOW!
what a sound that's gonna be.
the dates should be listed here soon.

2011 marks my (and tony's) 30-year anniversary
of being in king crimson, something I'm very proud of.
this once in a lifetime show is a perfect way to celebrate.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

tomorrow morning (wednesday, june 8) I'm going to drive,
yes, drive two days to brooklyn to rehearse with ABPTv4,
aka julie slick and tobias ralph
we'll play a lovely 45 minute set on saturday night, june 11
at the williamsburg waterfront as the opener
for coheed and cambria. come on out!

I'm really looking forward to playing with julie and tobias again,
heck, I'm even looking forward to the two days
of solitary confinement in my honda van (and two days back).
it will give me some time to write lyrics for all these
new songs which have been pouring out of me lately.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ned Evett Rides Again!

this past monday we put the final touches on ned's new record
tenatively called treehouse which also happens to be
one of my personal favorites of the 14 songs on the record.

it all worked out beautifully: great songs from ned
and great performances from everyone involved made it
a very pleasant experience, one I hope to repeat in the future.

if I had to catagorize ned's music (which moves from delta blues
to r&b and even, dare I say it, flashes of pop music)
I would call it modern americana in the best sense of the term.
vocally he has a flexible cast of characters which keep
the songwriting variety even more interesting.

what often sounds like blazing slide guitar work is actually
ned's main instrument fretless guitar and he uses it
in various ways from open-tuned chording and finger picking
to out right slamming solo passages.

it's a wonderful record and I can't wait to hear the finished mixes
which will not be done by me and daniel but will be deftly
handled by grammy-winning mixer ryan hewitt (chili peppers, etc.)

check out for future info.
great stuff, ned!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ned Evett's Newest Effort

I love it when reviewers and critics call
a new record an "effort".
some effort, it's more like giving birth to 12 children.

today we are loading in the necessary gear, people,
and caffeine products for my production of ned evett's
next record which will dominate my "efforts"
24/7 for the next few weeks.

ned is a terrific guitarist/singer/songwriter from idaho
who I recently met in milan, italy before he moved
here to nashville. (confused yet?)
ned's trio was opening for some guy named satriani
and the power trio shared the bill as well.

one of many unique things about ned:
he mainly plays fretless guitar, a difficult instrument
few people attempt and one which is near and dear
to my heart (more on this in another installment).

daniel rowland will assume the engineer's seat
for our first true studio "effort" together bringing along
various student assistants from daniel's normal workplace:
the art institute of nashville.

ned's trio will include drummer lynn williams
(actually lives right here in mt. juliet)
and bassist malcolm bruce,
jack bruce's son.
yes, that jack bruce!
I have yet to hear them play but I'm already excited.

for my part I've been studying ned's rather prolific pile
of songs, choosing the material for the record,
and preparing my thoughts on how to ruin,
I mean, produce his shiny new brood.
I'm also looking forward to running
my new studio through its paces.

meanwhile, behind the scenes other things
on the horizon may possibly include a very special
upcoming fall tour with a surprising twist.

I'll keep you posted.

Monday, March 21, 2011

groenburgwal 38

when I found out my apartment on the canal
at groenburgwal 38 was one of the most often photographed
and one of the most common postcards I had to have one.

if you look on the left hand side of the postcard
the white doorway underneath the streetlamp
was the entrance to the apartment.
I lived on the top two floors.

for the first two and a half weeks
I shared the apartment with daniel rowland.
on march 7 daniel had to return to the states.
for the last week I shared it with john sinks.

I'll always have fond memories of groenburgwal 38,
my home way from home.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

hey kids, I'm back

from my wonderful month in amsterdam.
everything went better than I ever expected.
I will write a full account soon.

meanwhile, I am so saddened by the events in japan,
another of my favorite places to play.
I have met so many great people there over the years.
I played in Sendai with krimson.
unbelievable what has happened there.
my heart goes out to the people of japan.

Monday, February 28, 2011


I have no words to aptly describe last night's world premiere
performance of e with the metropole orkest at paradiso...

phenomenal? powerful? overwhelming?
those terms don't even come close to describing it.
the audience was stunned, as was I.

following the closing dynamic chord of e
there was a split second of shared amazement
followed by a huge surge of energy screamingshoutingwhistling
which nearly lifted the paradiso off its foundation.

pardon my french but the orchestra was fucking phenomenal!!
the sound was hugely powerful
and utterly delicate
aggressive and chaotic
and perfectly precise.

emotionally I was so overwhelmed
more than once I nearly burst into tears.
joyful tears, the best kind.

so perhaps those words are fitting.

I know this much: it was unlike anything
I have ever experienced before.

today, our day off between performing
and 5 days of mixing
I'm walking on air through the streets of amsterdam,
still in shock.

I can't wait to share this with those of you
who weren't able to be there.

Monday, February 14, 2011

time to fly...

this saturday the 19th I leave for my month in amsterdam.
daniel rowland will be flying with me, john sinks will meet us there.
VPRO is providing me an apartment along with
the very healthy schedule of things to do listed below.

feb. 19: fly to amsterdam arriving early morning feb. 20

feb. 20: working through the score with tom trapp, followed by
an interview with one of holland's largest newspapers in the evening
to appear in the paper on thursday feb. 24

feb. 21: rehearsal in Hilversum, at Studio 3
with the Metropole Orchestra rhythm section only

feb. 22: first rehearsal with the Metropole Orchestra
followed by the taping of the tv show "Vrije Geluiden"
("Free Sounds") filmed at the Bim Huis in amsterdam
which will include a solo performance and interview

feb. 23: second rehearsal with the Metropole Orchestra

feb. 24: recording e in studio 3 with the Metropole Orchestra

feb. 25: recording e in studio 3 with the Metropole Orchestra

feb. 26: day off

feb. 27: The Big Event: the Paradiso concert in Amsterdam.
(the soundcheck will be recorded as well)
the concert will be filmed by VPRO
and will include a half-hour solo guitar set,
and the world debut of the orchestral e
(as well as a surprise or two)

feb. 28: day off (phew...)

march 1 thru 5 : mixing the studio and live recordings
in Hilversum at studio 3

march 6: "painting with guitar" solo concert
at the Paradox in Tilburg, Netherlands

march 7: taping an interview for the autobiographical
radio shows to be broadcast march 10 and 11

march 8: travel to Verviers, Belgium to perform a
"painting with guitar" solo concert

march 9: travel back from Belgium. day off

march 10: a 4-hour masterclass at the Amsterdam Conservatory
(what on earth am I going to teach for 4 hours!)

march 11: a two-hour masterclass at the Rotterdam Conservatory

march 12 & 13: days off for museum scanning
and happy nights at Biblos!

march 14: fly home

here is the schedule of radio shows happening in march
for VPRO's "painting holland belew" series:

thursday march 3 VPROJazzLive radioshow (2 hrs)
Adrian Belew Power Trio, live recording
+ website (audio on demand, video impression)

saturday march 5 De Wissel radioshow
musical highlights from the seventies & eighties:
Zappa, Bowie, King Crimson, guitar (& other instruments)
playing & gear developments.

thursday march 10 + friday march 11 VPROJazzLive
radioshow (total 2 hrs) AB’s "Life In A Nutshell" expanded,
incl tracks from discographic history, interview fragments
+ website (audio on demand, video interview)

thursday march 24 VPROJazzLive radioshow (2 hrs)
Adrian Belew & the Metropole Orchestra, live recording
from feb. 27 + website (audio on demand, video impression,
making-of video)

thursday march 31 VPROJazzLive radioshow (2 hrs)
Adrian Belew's Painting With Guitar, live recording from march 6
+ website (audio on demand, video impression)

a splendid time is guaranteed for all.
wish me luck!

ps: concerning the hat:
no hat.

Friday, February 4, 2011

get your stinkin' badges here...

just a few words about our music camp coming up in august:


if you want to know the particulars and maybe even decide
to attend you should visit of course,
meanwhile here are my thoughts on what to expect:

monday afternoon on august 22 you will arrive
and check into the accommodations you've chosen.
the fee you have paid is mostly based
on your choice of accommodations, otherwise
all of us campers will be treated the same,
we'll all eat the same food together (delicious I'm told)
and have access to the same classes and events
as well as the delights of a 70-acre summer resort
in the Catskill Mountains no less!

for the next 4 days you'll be busy choosing
which activities you want to participate in,
which classes you would like to learn from,
who you want to befriend and hang out with,
how long you should stay at the late-night jam,
which "rock star" you should ask tony about first,
how long you will practice what you've just learned,
whether or not to join in pat's morning "practice pad session"
even though you're not (much of) a drummer,
what shirt to wear at this evening's bonfire,
which king crimson lick to ask about today,
when is the perfect moment to approach adrian
for one of his custom-made "sticky picks",
how much food and drink you can possibly absorb,
and how often you can hear another very-likely-hilarious
road story from these three seasoned road warriors!

I expect there to be a wealth of knowledge dispersed
in all directions, served up with a dose of silliness.
I expect to teach someone (could be you)
how to make the perfect lemon drop martini.
I expect I will be listening closely to everything
tony and pat have to teach because I still have much to learn.
I expect someone (could be you) to ask me to demonstrate
the sound of a chicken chasing a steam roller.
I expect to stay out too late at one of the late-night jams
and I expect to regret that decision the next morning.
I expect by day 5, friday, all of us will have exhausted
ourselves in a very unique and lasting experience.
and I expect to win the "most likely to succeed" badge.

seriously though, when I think of the amount of collective
experiences, savvy, and knowledge buried in the psyche
of this particular trio of people: tony, pat, and me,
and when I truly remind myself of all the great people
the three of us have known and worked with,
all the amazing records we have been part of
and the music we have each created,
all the travels around the globe,
the hours spent in recording studios,
all the concerts we have performed
over our long tenure in the rock music world
it's hard to know what to expect
except to say IT HAS TO BE GOOD!

so I expect to be excited.

ps: thanks to denis rodier for the fabulous illustration seen above.
and special thanks to daniel heaps, amy carpenter,
and mike gilbert for organizing the camp details thusfar.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


if you have followed my recent posts
you'll know I have led you to believe
I'm busy recording new material.
I'm sorry but that's not true.
I do have new material ready
and I am eager to record
but I can't do so just yet.


in only 30 days from now I'll be boarding a plane
for amsterdam to begin rehearsing for The Big Event:
the orchestral version of e.

I've known from the start this will be the most
challenging performance of my professional life
and I have been suitably rattled for the last two months.
though I've been practicing daily I still don't feel ready.

a. I don't yet have all my guitar programs written
perfectly and in a sequence which allows me
to move easily from one program to the next.
there are a perplexing amount of moves in e.
the semi-automatic choreography of my footwork
has always been an essential part of my sound.
most guitarists play with their two hands.
I play just as much with my two feet.

b. the guitar playing for the orchestral e
is not the same as for the power trio version of e.
in the power trio version I make 16 different loops
on the fly (so to speak) with my feet, of course.
but early on I realized this would not work
in the context of an orchestra.
to expect the entire orchestra to hear correctly
and follow consistently my 16 loops would be folly.
so I decided on this approach instead:
I will play what would normally be the guitar loop once,
then it will be taken over by the orchestra.
I've designed various ways for this to happen.

for example, in the section called c
after I play the opening 64-note chromatic phrase
which I would normally make into a loop,
I'll stop and let various members of the orchestra
take over the 64 notes from there on.
to make it interesting I have scored it so each
of the 64 notes will be played by a different instrument.
that way the notes will seem to bounce around the stage.
(that should make 'em sweat).

point being I have to re-learn how to play e
in order to know what to play and when NOT to play.

c. I have never been conducted.
I have always taken my cues and tempos from
the drummer or from myself but now I will need
to watch what the conductor does while I'm playing
and learn how to follow his movements.

also there are rules in an orchestra.
if, for example, I want to comment about a certain
part I don't address the player, I address the conductor
and he passes my comments or questions on to the player.
no big deal, just more things to get used to.

d. how does a "rock guitarist" adjust his or her
volume level to balance with the volume level of an orchestra?
in a rock band it's easy: you play as loud as the drummer
plays. no more and no less.
ah, the tyranny of the drummer.

which reminds me of one of my favorite stories
from when I played drums in the Holiday Inn circuit.
we had a complete moron as our booking agent.
I'll call him Ron.
Ron had sent one of his bands to play
in one of the Holiday Inn lounges.
soon he received a call from the manager of the lounge.
he was complaining about the band.

ron: what's wrong with the band?
manager: the drummer is too damn loud!
ron: do you have him miked?
manager: no.
ron: well, mic him and turn him down!

one last concern I have is, head.
the concert in amsterdam is at the Paradiso,
one of the most revered venues in all of europe.
(in his recent autobiography keith richards mentions it
as one of the 3 best venues the stones ever played).
crimson played there in the 80's.

problem is, after they build the stage out far enough
to accommodate a 55-piece orchestra there will be very
little room for people on the main floor.
the Paradiso has two huge balconies which ring the venue.
that is where most of the audience will be seated.
and what will they be looking at?
the top of my balding head!

in the last two weeks I've spent a considerable amount
of effort surfing the hat shops of the internet.
in fact, I've purchased 6 new hats and every one of them
make me look like Ron the moron booking agent.

there are guidelines for wearing a hat on stage.
if it has too large a bill you'll have "coon eyes".
if it's too hot you'll sweat like stevie ray vaughn.
plus the audience has to "accept" you in your hat
or it can become a distraction.

phew...sometimes this rock star thing is for the birds.

regardless I aim to spend the next 30 days heads-down
with one eye on the hat shops of the universe
and one eye on the fretboard of my parker fly.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

looking ahead...

to the rest of this year it's difficult to know what may happen.
I don't even have a calendar yet to pencil things into,
but I have the sense we may journey into new territory.

one of my main concerns will be to have the trio
performing again throughout these great united states of ours.
not really new territory I know, but we'll make it seem new.
and perhaps to revisit some of our international favorites.

a new solo record, now that I have a studio again,
that is a must and it definitely will include new territory.

performing by myself with an internationally famous orchestra,
now that is certainly new and truly one of the biggest
undertakings of my long and storied career.
but of course that will be finished (sadly) by march.
which leaves a lot of year to fill.

there are several very new ideas being discussed
and I hope soon to announce at least one of them.
or they may crash and burn in flames
like so many good ideas.

either way I feel empowered by possibilites...

new StudioBelew up and running!

yesterday daniel and I inaugurated the new improved
state-of-the-art StudioBelew when I added guitars
to a track by the atlanta-based band Sun Domingo.

it was a really cool song, I enjoyed meeting and
working with the band, and the session went perfectly.
can't wait to hear the complete record.

so we're back in the business of making records!

Monday, January 3, 2011

to open my eyes ever wider

so I might see life differently.

that's my new year's resolution.

when I was 27 years old frank zappa
once scolded me for being "too happy-go-lucky".
my aim is to get back to that status.

time to get happy.

Happy New Year!!!