King Crimson are a rock band founded in London in 1968 by members from western England. Widely recognised as a foundational progressive rock group, the band have incorporated diverse influences and instrumentation during their history (including jazz and folk music, classicaland experimental music, psychedelic rock, hard rock and heavy metal, New Wave, gamelan, electronica and drum and bass). They have been influential on many contemporary musical artists and have gained a large following, despite garnering little radio or music video airplay.
Pete Sinfield, interviewed for Prog Rock Britannia: An Observation in Three Movements, described Crimson thus: "...we had an Ethos in Crimson...we just refused to play anything that sounded anything like a Tin Pan Alley record. If it sounded at all popular, it was out. So it had to be complicated, it had to be more expansive chords, it had to have strange influences. If it sounded, like, too simple, we'd make it more complicated, we'd play it in 7/8 or 5/8, just to show off."
Though originating in England, King Crimson have had a mixture of English and American personnel since 1981. The band's line-up has persistently altered throughout their existence, with eighteen musicians and two lyricists passing through the ranks. The only musician to appear in every line-up of the band has been founding guitarist Robert Fripp, although drummer Bill Bruford was a member from 1972 to 1997 and guitarist Adrian Belew has been a consistent member since 1981.
The debut line-up of the band was influential but short-lived, lasting for just over one year. During 1970 and 1971, King Crimson were an unstable band, with many personnel changes and disjunctions between studio and live sound as they explored elements of jazz, funk and classical chamber music. By 1972 the band had a more stable line-up and developed an improvisational sound mingling hard rock, contemporary classical music, free jazz and jazz fusion before breaking up in 1974. They re-formed with a new line-up in 1981 for three years (this time influenced by new wave and gamelan music) before breaking up again for around a decade. Since reforming for the second time (in 1994), King Crimson have blended aspects of their 1980s and 1970s sound with influences from more recent musical genres such as industrial rock and grunge. The band’s efforts to blend additional elements into their music have continued into the 21st century, with more recent developments including drum and bass-styled rhythm loops and extensive use of MIDI and guitar synthesis.
King Crimson's existence has been characterised by regular periods of hiatus initiated by Robert Fripp, and their current status is ambiguous. Despite online diary posts from Fripp suggesting that he does not feel a powerful desire to work within the King Crimson context, he and other members continue to work within the context of related "ProjeKCts" (an ongoing succession of spin-offs from the main band initiated in 1997, of which the latest example is the song-based "Jakszyk, Fripp and Collins").