THE INTERVIEW: John Wetton-School of Rock

John Wetton was the lead singer/bassist for King Crimson, was one of the songwriters (as well as vocalist and bassist again) for UK, recorded and sang with just about anybody who was anybody in the late 70’s, early 80’s and has released brilliant solo albums. He currently fronts the all-original line-up of 80’s super group ASIA and as you’ll read below he was recently in town for some “School of Rock” shows. Bolstering twenty or so students with his musicianship and support (as he did three years ago with an earlier ‘graduating’ class) Mr. Wetton lends his time to yet another one of the many projects he’s got on his very busy schedule.

Let’s first talk about the ‘School of Rock’ shows. How did you get involved with that organization?

Three years ago, when I first agreed to do it, I remember coming back from the rehearsal with those 20 kids attempting King Crimson tunes and thinking, what the fuck am I doing? But 10 days later I was in love with kids, their personalities came through and I saw how much work they’d done and I was completely smitten by them. They all graduated, so we have a new generation now and so the process starts again, so when I was asked to do it again, I said yes.

What’s your role in it all?

A lot of the stuff we do is like 35 years old, and I was there when the stuff was recorded originally so they learn from me stuff that’s not necessarily on the records. Because like I did, even when I was learning classical music, I listened to the record to learn the music.
I’m there so they can ask me anything they want, what kind of tea were we drinking when we recorded, anything.

And these are mainly younger players, right? I mean most of them would not have even seen you in some of the projects you are known for, back in the day.

They are between 13-17, they have to learn it and they work really hard; they are damn good.

And some of the graduates have gone on to actual careers in the business, right?

Out of the twenty last time, three went on to do stuff. One plays with Trans-Siberian Orchestra and another with Adrian Belew. It’s really a combination of personality, confidence, and whatever.

Do you keep in touch with the kids?

Yes, we swap emails; we keep in touch.

And the actual shows, themselves; what can someone expect to see and hear?

They play 30 minutes before me and I really have no idea what they’re gonna play. When I get on stage we start off with RED, 7-8 other King Crimson tunes, some UK tunes, 5-6 Asia. It’s 2 hours of me singing all the time and I play some acoustic guitar, bass.
My function here is that they all get to play

Lots of people of course know you from your work with Asia and with the original hit-making line-up back together, can you tell me how long you think you might continue touring, playing, recording?

It’ll go as long as we’re still vertical (laughs). It’s already lasted longer this time around then the first time. Looks like we’ll make another record in September. We start a tour of Europe after I come off the School of Rock tour, we’ll be in America all summer, Japan, the rest of my year it’s Asia.

One of my most favorite performances of yours is on Steve Hackett’s Genesis revisited album. I was wondering, and I know all these instances are different, but how does something like that come your way? Does Steve Hackett just call you up, or does your management get an offer?

Just from Steve, he said this is what I’m doing I want to get other people to do a different version of Genesis. He wanted to try some of the tough ones-that went well-so we just went with that. Played shows in Japan with a great great band.

Forgive me for not knowing, but where do you make your home these days…when you’re not touring!

I live on the South Coast of the UK, in Bournemouth where I grew up. I went back to roost when my son was born 11 years ago and I kinda stuck there.

I can’t thank Mr. Wetton enough for his time; this guy is one busy musician/writer/producer and with his work with “School of Rock” he’s also a champion to all that’s good about the future of rock and roll.

Ralph Greco Jr.

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