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Interview: Tony Levin (King Crimson, Stick Men, etc.)

Tony Levin (right), Stick Men / Photo Credit: PMP

Tony Levin is a musician best known for his work with King Crimson and Peter Gabriel. He also fronts his own band, Stick Men (founded in 2007 by drummer Pat Mastelotto, Tony Levin and Michael Bernier). He plays a lot of things (bass, mostly) but is best known for his use of the Chapman Stick, a guitar-like thing (more of that later).

Stick Men play Prague's Lucerna Music Bar this March. Protišedi was delighted to interview Tony Levin.



Every time i see your band name I smile. What led you to call your band this playful name (i know there is the Chapman Stick but still)?
I did a solo album called "Stick Man". It was the first time I had played multiple parts on the Chapman Stick for recorded songs of my own. Later I was thinking it would be nice to tour and play that music. Pat Mastelotto, my King Crimson rhythm section mate, had played drums on the album, so of course he was my choice for the band, and I only needed to find another Stick player (or 'touch guitar' player in the case of Markus) to be able to play that music.

We find, with only 3 players in the band, it's a nice challenge to have the sound of a big ensemble, and we can do that with these multi stringed instruments and Pat's electronic percussion. 

You look like you have a special kind of communication when you play live, at least what i can ascertain from your videos. How long has it been since you first started and how did your musical (or other) relationship develop?
Stick Men began about 10 years ago, and with our composing together and touring a lot together, we've become what I consider a "real band" in that we have our own sound and make distinctive music that isn't like any other bands.

All of you are presumably doing also other things (not sure about how it is right now but i know you have all been involved in a plethora of beautiful projects) - is it hard to sort of align your schedules?
The scheduling is pretty simple; when Pat and I are not touring with King Crimson, we try to book shows with Stick Men. There are other things we do during the year, recording and tours, but Stick Men is the priority after Crimson (and Crimson is often booked way into the future, so it's not hard to work around that schedule.)

Any plans for a new studio release?
Right now we're not planning any follow up to our "Prog Noir" release - and we still haven't played that new material in Europe.

Is it tough to make a living as a musician these days?
Yes, increasingly it is, though I am lucky and have no problems in that area. I sympathize with young musicians and bands about how complicated it is to get some success now.

How do you stay fresh and concentrated when you travel to faraway places to play?
Well, it's the music that inspires us -- that's why we're on tour - so the nightly concerts are, hopefully, uplifting.

Best and worst things about being a musician?
Getting to do the thing you love, getting to share music with people around the world for a career… what could be better. There is no single worst thing. A career in music is not for everyone - there are challenges and things that can discourage you. I've found that most of us who end up musicians are people who would be playing music no matter what.

Any advice for the young? Is it all worth it?
As I said before, a career in music is pretty much only for those who are devoted to it and would do it no matter what. But others, who have jobs on the side, can certainly still play their music, be in bands, and have a lot of fun with it. 


Stick Men

Lucerna Music Bar

March 13


(tickets available here)


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