Jakko Jakszyk’s 40-year wait to become part of King Crimson was described by friend Nick Beggs as the longest audition in history.
Vocalist and guitarist Jakszyk has begun work with Robert Fripp on three new Crimson tracks after the latest lineup of the band completed their US tour – and set their sights on playing the UK next year.
“When Robert asked if I wanted to be in the new lineup, one of the first people I called was Nick,” Jaksyzk tells MusicRadar. “His response was, ‘That’s the longest audition in history!’ I was a King Crimson fanboy. I saw them in 1971 and I had a romanticised idea that this one event had changed my live on some enormous level.”
He joined lyricist Pete Sinfield’s 21st Century Schizoid Band in 2002, in which every member had been part of Crimson at some point. That led to a lunch invitation from Fripp, and their 2011 album A Scarcity Of Miracles.
But Jaksyk didn’t know the bandleader had ended his self-imposed exile after completing a long legal battle with his former label. “When Robert phoned and asked would I like to be in the new King Crimson, I was surprised,” he admits. “He’d announced his retirement; it came out of the blue.”
And he says replacing previous frontmen Adrian Belew and John Wetton isn’t as challenging as it might be in other situations, because of Fripp’s constant reinvention of the music.
“One of the questions I’ve been asked is, ‘How does it feel to replace Adrian?’ Well, I’m not – in the same way Adrian didn’t feel like he was replacing John. You don’t feel, ‘I’m stepping into this bloke’s shoes.’
“It allows you to go into it with a different mindset. The band’s been going since 1969 so while there’s a recognisable harmonic and rhythmic centre that makes it King Crimson, a lot of the music sounds very different.”
Jakszyk adds that he hasn’t experienced any of the recorded negative aspects of working with the mainman. “I can only speak of this version of the band and this version of Robert,” he says. “I’ve read all the reports of his ‘daunting personality’ and he often refers to himself as the ‘venal leader’ – but I haven’t seen that.
“I hate to smash a perception that I know he’s quite keen on perpetuating, but he’s been incredibly supportive. He’s very encouraging of you being you. He will tell you what he doesn’t like; but he’s not dictatorial, or like I imagine Frank Zappa was, whom he’s often compared to.”
And here’s footage of Jakko talking about his custom PRS P24 guitar featuring the iconic artwork from the band’s In The Court Of The Crimson King debut album, and cutting loose on his axe