Robert Fripp welcomes Uncut into his study with a friendly wave, and an alarming haircut. From his customary all-one-length trim, the 75-year-old King Crimson guitarist has lately detoured into full Mohican: razored close at the sides, what remains of his distinguished white hair now running like a skunk’s stripe down the centre of his head. And this, he continues, only represents the style in repose.
“It was spiked up yesterday!” he says, before confiding that his genteel residential location cannot always permit this. “Here where we live in the heart of a Georgian market town, we have a very large elderly population,” he says. “We have the highest average age of any town in England. And were I to go out on the street in full spike there might be some among the elderly population who might be taken aback.”
It was in the sleepy town of Bredonborough*, in winter 2017, that Fripp began the latest chapter in his remarkable 50-year music career. Entertaining guests for Christmas drinks, Fripp and his wife Toyah Willcox got talking to another local, the filmmaker Toby Amies. Amies had recently made a documentary film called The Man Whose Mind Exploded about the extraordinary life of Brighton eccentric Drako Oho Zarharzar, a former muse to Salvador Dali, who had lost all short-term memory following a road accident. Fripp had seen and liked the film, and so Amies told him about the latest development with it: he had recently received a message via Instagram bearing surprising news.
“It said: ‘…You don’t know me but we’ve started a sex cult in San Francisco based on the idea of ‘Cosmic Fuck’. ‘Cosmic Fuck’ was one of the tattoos that the main character in my first film had on him. And they’ve all got tattoos of it.”
Amies made the point to Fripp that once an artist’s work goes out into the world, it becomes the possession of the audience – and they make completely what they want from it. On Christmas Eve, Amies woke to an email from Fripp asking him to pop round because there was something he wanted to discuss. “It was clearly something,” Amies says.
The idea Fripp was forming was, what with people always asking the band to make a film and the band’s 50th anniversary being on the horizon in 2019, that he would participate in, and Amies should direct, a film about King Crimson. He had more thoughts: it should be called ‘Cosmic FuKc’ and it should have a subtitle gleaned from a 1995 headline from a negative US review: Prog Rock Pond Scum Set To Bum You Out.