King Crimson was in talks for another tour with Tool before everything fell apart – but not for the reason you might think. This was long before the coronavirus quarantine, bassist Tony Levin notes.

The shelved dates would have been their first together since August 2001. King Crimson was touring back then in support of 2000’s The ConstruKction of Light, which didn’t include Levin. Tool had just released their chart-topping Lateralus album.

Instead, King Crimson announced 2020’s We Paint Electric Rhythm Colour tour with the Zappa Band, a group of Frank Zappa friends and alumni who are performing with the approval of the Zappa Trust. Those dates were set to begin June 4 in Clearwater, Fla., and continue through July 11 at the Ottawa Blues Festival – until the COVID-19 outbreak changed those plans, too.

Levin talks about the prospect of shared dates with Tool in this exclusive UCR interview, as well as his own career connections with Zappa.

How did the idea for touring with the Zappa Band come about?

That’s a really good question, and unfortunately I’m not the guy with the best answer to it. We were considering doing a joint tour with Tool. The other guys in the band know them well — Crimson toured with Tool in an incarnation of the band I wasn’t involved in. They know them and musically like them and like them personally, so there was talk of touring jointly this coming summer with Tool. But it fell through in what I’d call the last minute, which was way back last December or January. The reality of booking a summer tour with those kind of bands is you need to book it way ahead of time. I think the management found itself unable to get the bookings to do King Crimson the way we had done where we were the only band. I don’t know whether they went looking or had a list of certain groups, but they eventually decided to join up with the Zappa Band. That came about after the Tool tour fell through, and I don’t even know why that happened. [Laughs.]

I really hope that Tool tour happens at some point, once things get back to normal. Are you a Tool fan?

You never know. It would be very interesting. I like their music a lot. I’m not as familiar with it as the other guys are. I’m sorry their tour fell through, too. I’m sure Tool will get going and make up that tour somewhere. And a King Crimson/Tool tour, I think there’s a good chance of it happening, depending on why it fell through.

Watch Tony Levin Perform ‘Starless’ With King Crimson

What’s your relationship with the Zappa catalog?

I don’t have much to contribute. There are many subjects I’m not worthy of delving deep into. My experience with Zappa music is not having been a fan of it, but I played with several ex-members of his band and had a great time with that. The first band I was in, really, when I moved to New York [in 1970] was with three guys from the Mothers [of Invention]: Don Preston, the keyboard player whom I’m still friends with; drummer Billy Mundi; and [singer] Ray Collins. We formed a quartet and weren’t playing Zappa music at all. It was Don Preston music — very interesting and quite inspired by Frank Zappa. The group was called Aha, the Attack of the Green Slime Beast. The name of the band was longer than our career!

What a name to go out with, though. 

Great name. Good band, but who knows why [it didn’t last]. As I remember, both Ray and Billy Mundi decided to move back to the West Coast, and I ended up on the East Coast. That’s my foggy memory of this time back in the ’70s. While I’m on the subject of how different things were now than they are now: When we formed, we rehearsed a great deal at somebody’s house in [in New York]. Record companies heard that we were rehearsing and wanted to come by and hear it, and they actually offered us record deals and money. Stop to think how different that is than nowadays. I knew nothing about it, but the other guys were saying, “No, we don’t want to take that record deal. We can do better!” That’s pretty different from nowadays, also.

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