Tony Levin, Pat Mastelotto, and Marcus Reuter make up The Stick Men. Levin and Mastelotto are both members of the famous prog-rock band King Crimson along with saxophonist Mel Collins who will be joining the trio, including for this Japan tour. KS last spoke with Tony Levin in 2015 and caught up again with the touch guitarist to find out about the upcoming visit to Japan and the new album Prog Noir.
The Stick Men are well known for the use of touch guitar. When we last spoke in 2015 you mentioned that the future of touch guitars looked exciting. Do you think we’ll eventually see the touch guitar becoming almost as common place in bands as regular guitars?
I must admit that I’m not an expert on following how touch guitar playing is progressing in the music scene. But I do know that I’m hearing a lot of great players doing special musical things. So I won’t predict the future for touch guitars, but I can attest that the players are already a valuable part of the music scene of today.
The new album Prog Noir is now out and available, how would you describe the album briefly to the fans that have yet to hear any of the tracks?
I feel that our band is a special one in that we have our own sound and our own approach to music. With two touch-style guitars in one band, and Pat Mastelotto’s unique drumming approach with acoustic and electric percussion… it gives us sound options that are pretty unusual. The Prog Noir album represents about two-and-a-half years of writing and refining new pieces, so I feel that some of them are the best we’ve come up with in our 10 years as a band.
To describe the sound of the album to those who haven’t heard us… that’s not so simple for me. We are making ‘progressive rock’ music, for sure, and some of the pieces are complex, but others not so much, and quite a few have lyrics. The song themes are about various things, some of them dark, like the title track Prog Noir. The Tempest lyrics are about how, after 9/11, there seemed to be more connection between the people in New York City. There is a humorous piece, Plutonium, which talks about the planet Pluto having been downsized to a ‘dwarf planet’ and is
interspersed with musical quotes from other pieces we all know. The song Never the Same is about my own experience, being again active in King Crimson, and how the musical ethic of that band can affect you.
Saxophonist Mel Collins will be a special guest, is Mel only joining you for the Japan dates on this tour?
Yes, it’s going to be a very special event for all of us – only at these shows will Mel be touring with Stick Men. Pat and I play along with Mel, of course, in our King Crimson tours, and it’s because he’s such a great player that we had the idea of him joining us as guest in Japan. But he’s also a big part of the history of King Crimson and that makes it special too.
Prog-rock band featuring King Crimson members and use of touch guitars • Billboard Live OSAKA, Osaka • Rock • 4:30pm/7:30pm • ¥7,900/¥8,900 • Tel: 06-6342-7722