King Crimson’s Robert Fripp and longtime manager David Singleton prep for an evening of contemplative dialogue at The Sofia on Feb. 24

By Eddie Jorgensen

King Crimson’s founding guitarist Robert Fripp and businessman/producer David Singleton have been hosting a number of live discussions – and one is slated for The Sofia Theatre on Saturday night. The topics each evening are both heady and heavy with few boundaries set. The time on stage will include untold King Crimson stories with Singleton acting as the perfect counterpoint.

We caught up with David Singleton, who helped form the Discipline Global Mobile record label with Robert Fripp some 31 years ago.

News & Review: What are your current production projects outside of Robert Fripp and King Crimson?

David Singleton: After we first started the label, many artists were keen to join as we were perceived (rightly I would argue) as artist-friendly and ethical. So the roster swelled to about 20 artists. However, running a label of that kind took Robert Fripp and me away from our primary focus as artists and producers. So, in the early 2000s we took the decision to reduce the roster to just the work of King Crimson, Robert Fripp (including his various collaborations) and The Vicar (my own solo work). Since then, we have arguably had many of our most successful releases.

SN&R: The DGM label has produced myriad projects. Do you find that today’s business model of streaming, YouTube and the like, is more fruitful than simply releasing physical product as most labels did in the past?

Singleton: The digital and physical worlds are very different and we approach them differently. Every year we have released a substantial and lovingly curated boxed set based around each of the core albums in our catalog. These have been very well received and have arguably set a standard which others have sought to follow. For many years, while the majority of labels were complaining about falling sales, we had rising physical sales. The physical market remains very healthy if you make beautiful products which people wish to own. For us, the digital market divides into two camps. The first is the opportunity to make niche recordings available, which would never justify a physical release. A good example would be the DGMLive website where it is our intention to make available every recording we have of a King Crimson concert. This replaces the clandestine bootleg market. It is also at the bottom of a pyramid of releases. The website means that every recording is transferred. In so doing, we find the special moments which may justify wider circulation. Either as part of the King Crimson Collectors Club (the next step of the pyramid), or an individual release, or as part of a boxed set. The second part of the digital world are the mainstream streaming platforms such as Spotify. These do not make sense on a financial level. They do not generate sufficient income to justify creating a release just for the streaming platforms. In fact, we were one of the last artists to join them – waiting until 2019, the 50th anniversary of King Crimson. We made the catalog available on those services not due to the financial return, which remains tiny, but due to a responsibility to keep the music alive in the world – to present it to future generations who look to such places to find their music.

SN&R: What are your biggest concerns when releasing a new record?

Singleton: The world of physical distribution is changing rapidly as the market shrinks. We still have healthy physical sales, particularly in vinyl, but we are moving from a situation where we could justify manufacturing separately in Europe, the USA, and Japan to a period of consolidation. The high quality 200gm vinyl which we sell is, for example, only manufactured in Europe (one of the few places that still makes it) and then shipped all over the world. These changes should hopefully not affect music buyers (assuming that their local stores remain open), but there are changes within the systems that lie behind. And Amazon, of course, remains one of the main sellers.

SN&R: The latest ‘In The Court Of The Crimson King’ documentary is very somber in nature and seems purposely uneasy. Was that the intent?

Singleton: We have been approached many times over the years by broadcasters wishing to make a King Crimson documentary, and have always rejected these offers because they tend to make exactly the same cookie-cutter movie, just with different musicians – the musicians sitting in a studio talking about the old times, interspersed with comments from some journalists and some live clips. Robert Fripp knew Toby Amies was a fan of his first movie “The Man Whose Mind Exploded,” and we commissioned him to take the leap and make a brand new-style of music documentary. Beyond that, we gave him complete artistic freedom with no outside control. The movie was originally intended for release in 2019, which was the 50th anniversary of the band as, to misquote Robert Fripp “it seemed a good time to take stock of what it is that we have been doing for all these years.” If the film is uneasy, it is not purposely so, in the sense that this was not the intention. Perhaps that is simply a reflection of that fact, as mentioned by many of the protagonists, that being in King Crimson is not an easy experience. Hopefully, however, it is an artistically rewarding one.

SN&R: Your role as The Vicar releasing new music is multi-faceted. Will we see new music in 2024?

Singleton: You will see both a new Vicar Chronicle and new Vicar music in 2024. My only regret in recent years is that I have been unable to give sufficient focus to this – which is the key part of my work. Being a songwriter, as opposed to a singer-songwriter or a performer is a uniquely difficult and frustrating experience. You create music that no-one can hear until someone else gives it voice. I have wrestled with this conundrum my entire life. Some kind souls, such as Jeremy Stacey from King Crimson, are convinced that the solution is that I must sing the songs myself. That is one point of view. On the other hand, when I hear the right contribution from great singers such as Andy Yorke singing San Manuel on the first Vicar songbook, I know that I could never personally match that. So the songs are ready with many of the arrangements complete. I need to keep searching for the final piece of the puzzle, but there will be music!

SN&R: What do you feel is the sole purpose of these discussions you and Robert are holding?

Singleton: There is not a “sole” purpose behind the evenings with Robert Fripp and me. They are an open and exciting canvas, and I encourage people to come and help us paint. The evenings are worthwhile if we all leave feeling enriched – both the audience and Robert and me. In practice, the evenings tend to cover a number of different areas. Inevitably some fans want to hear Robert tell stories that he has told before. Which is fine. Or ask me about the workings of the industry. Which is also fine. But the excitement tends to start when we get beyond that often into territories I have never visited before. That can be mildly terrifying when you have several hundred people waiting to hear what you will say. I am personally fascinated by the whole question “what is music?” Why do so many of us dedicate our lives to its service, including the majority of those who attend these evenings, as they would not be there if it was not important to them. My own experience is that music is the language of the soul – but where does that lead? Perhaps we will all find out in the coming weeks. My own favorite comment about our evenings was from someone who went away saying that they “heard music” although they had been to an evening of talking. We are certainly not there to promote “new music.” This is a joint venture of exploration.

SN&R: On any given day, even without a new Robert Fripp or King Crimson, is there a lot of business to attend to?

Singleton: Sadly, there is endless business. Hence my problems in finding sufficient time for The Vicar. It has been reported in the press that we are currently in dispute with UMG over under-payment of streaming royalties. A case that is likely to go to court in May. In order to protect the catalog, and the income of the artists, we need to pay attention to such items, which are a constant irritation and really a distraction from our core purpose. So there is endless “stuff” seeking to fill the day. In fact, the various mis-dealings of the industry which have historically plagued my inbox were the genesis for The Vicar Chronicles – ‘Tales from the underbelly of the music industry,’ ‘Sherlock Holmes meets Spinal Tap’. I was working late one night in the studio with Robert Fripp when one such item hit our inboxes, and I asked Robert “why, given all the available material, has no-one written whodunits about the music industry?” His reply was “because you haven’t written them yet.” So now I have.

SN&R: Why don’t we see more King Crimson music licensed in movies and other like-minded media?  Where have you licensed music in the past?

Singleton: We are certainly not against King Crimson music being licensed for movies. There have been standout examples, such as the use of “Starless” in Nicolas Cage’s movie Mandy. Or “In The Court of the Crimson King” in Pam and Tommy. There are some requests that we reject because the scenes seem unsuited to the music, but mostly we don’t get asked enough. I encourage more music editors to call.

‘An Evening with Robert Fripp & David Singleton: Englishmen Abroad’ happens at The Sofia located at 2700 Capitol Avenue in downtown Sacramento. Upper tier tickets are $45 while the much closer lower tier seats are $55. Both options can be purchased at Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m. All ages are welcome.

Our content is free, but not free to produce

If you value our local news, arts and entertainment coverage, become an SN&R supporter with a one-time or recurring donation. Help us keep our reporters at work, bringing you the stories that need to be told.


Stay Updated

For the latest local news, arts and entertainment, sign up for our newsletter.
We'll tell you the story behind the story.

Be the first to comment on "King Crimson’s Robert Fripp and longtime manager David Singleton prep for an evening of contemplative dialogue at The Sofia on Feb. 24"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.