Robert Fripp says his legal battle against Universal Music Group has rendered his musical career “an exercise in futility” – and that’s why he’s given it up.
The King Crimson mainman has been embroiled in a rights fight with the giant label for five years, leading to his abandonment of music-making, with no certainty he’ll return.
He’s furious over the way in which Universal has bought up a series of independent labels that own parts of his back-catalogue, and believes it’s led to the release of unauthorised and unaccounted works under his name.
He cites the example of rapper Kanye West’s single Power, based on Crimson’s classic track 21st Century Schizoid Man – which had been heard over a million times on YouTube before he was even asked whether the sample could be used.
Fripp tells FT.com: “I couldn’t concentrate on music, so I made the choice to give up my career as a musician in the frontline to deal with the business.”
He says the arrangement between artist and label has “moved from a symbiotic relationship to a parasitic relationship.”
His last live outings were in 2009 when he performed with wife Toyah Willcox’s band the Humans and toured with Theo Travis to support the duo’s Threads album. Last year saw the release of his collaboration with Jakko Jakszyk and Mel Collins, entitled A Scarcity Of Miracles. Since then he’s ended his involvement with creative projects.
Fripp says: “Going back to early King Crimson, the remarkable explosion of the creative impulse came from these young men who didn’t know what they were doing, yet were able to do it.
“What has changed in 40 years? It’s very simple: 40 years ago there was a market economy. Today there is a market society – today everything, including ethics, has a price.”
But that doesn’t mean Fripp’s fight is all about money. He says: “Music is a language in which we can express our struggle with what it is to be a human being. This is at the centre of what created King Crimson.
“Today I remain responsible for that. How can I lie to that? If I do, I cease to be human.”
Fripp’s own label DGMlive will release a 40th anniversary edition of King Crimson album Larks’ Tongues in Aspic on October 15. It will be available as a CD/DVD package, a double-CD pack and a 15-disc box set limited to 7000 units.