On 1st August 1969, British Progressive Rock band King Crimson first started recording 21st Century Schizoid Man. 0xDJ 420 was heavily inspired by the band King Crimson. To celebrate its influence on the 0xmusic project, all 0xDJs will play in the style of 0xDJ 420 on August 1 every year until the end of time.
Additionally, we airdropped two brand-new tracks that were custom-created for the 0xmusic community. Holders of 0xDJ 420 have been airdropped the track “Iron Claw,” and holders of a full 0xDJ set have been airdropped the track “Cat’s Foot.” The tracks were mastered by award-winning mastering engineer Brian Lucey. 0xmoments are released under CC0 licensing, and holders can use them in any way they please.
When founder Robert Fripp and the rest of King Crimson walked into the studio on August 1, 1969, they weren’t trying to invent anything, and certainly didn’t know that they were going to invent a new sub-genre of music. They just walked in and did what they knew how to do best: combine jazz with more structured rock. 21st Century Schizoid Man is widely attributed as the song that founded the progressive rock genre.
More than 50 years later, few genres of music have such an uncontested and clean origin story as progressive rock. Yet, for a genre of music that has such a clear-cut and specific beginning, most of its creators can’t really define what the genre is. When I saw King Crimson at Radio City Music Hall in New York City a few years ago, they reiterated this paradox to the audience on more than one occasion.
Eventually progressive rock music came to be characterized by songs with varying structures and time signatures, and so-called concept albums that can feel like a continuous song for the length of the album. At times derided by critics as hyper-intellectualized and overindulgent, for its fans, it provides the kind of thoughtful complexity that other mainstream genres lack.
King Crimson: An Appreciation
When King Crimson played 21st Century Schizoid Man in various taverns around London, it left some of the most well-known musicians at the time in awe. When Yes drummer Bill Bruford saw King Crimson perform 21st Century Schizoid Man at a bar called Speakeasy, it motivated him to plot his move to the band, which he accomplished three years later. Bruford’s description of the band as a “god almighty powerful beast” summed up the feelings of many who experienced King Crimson’s music, and were shaken by its raw power.
Even if you haven’t heard the song, there’s a good chance you’ve listened to an artist who has publicly cited King Crimson, 21st Century Schizoid Man, or the album In the Court of the Crimson King as influential to their musical journey.
Maynard James Keenan from Tool famously joked, “Now you know who we ripped off. Just don’t tell anyone, especially the members of King Crimson”. Kurt Cobain, Nirvana’s frontman, shared that the album In Utero was inspired by King Crimson’s album Red. Kanye West sampled 21st Century Schizoid Man on his 2010 track Power. Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree took it upon himself to remix a large part of King Crimson’s catalog. The remix is fabulous — give it a listen if you haven’t already. I remember listening to his 5.1 surround remix of King Crimson’s album Lizard and feeling like I was in the same room as the band.
King Crimson has also had a deep influence on my own personal journey with music. In many ways, King Crimson showed me that music that fully embraces dissonance can imbue an otherworldly quality when used in the right ways. Apart from being one of the greatest guitarists in living memory, Robert Fripp was known for his embrace of chromaticism (think of this as all the dissonant half steps you’d typically avoid), many of which you would simply never hear in mainstream music.
A good example of this can be heard on the track Frakctured, which is the fifth track in the “Larks” suite. The verse of this song laboriously twists and turns through every single half step of the mode, and jump scales at half steps seemingly at will. At several points as a listener you wonder if the track is going to simply burst at its seams from the force of its chaotic whirlwind of chromaticism, losing any semblance of a mode it has. Not only does it retain its mode, the chorus offers a consonant palette cleanser, like a spoonful of honey during a bitters tasting.
With over 3000 notes at an average rate of 9 notes per second, played at 130 BPM over the course of seven and a half minutes, only the most adroit guitarists could even attempt this piece of music. It took this pro guitarist 22 years of practicing to finally play this piece, and this video sheds light on his journey.
0xDJ 420: Generative Progressive Jazz Fusion
The visuals for this genre were designed to evoke a darker and more sinister tone to pay homage to King Crimson and several other progressive rock and metal bands that have inspired me over the years.
While many of the 0xDJs try to stay strictly consonant, 420 is given latitude to expand into those dissonant half steps. Like the band it was inspired by, 420 loves those augmented and seventh notes, which give it its jazzy vibe. This is especially noticeable in the basslines. Inspired by the rhythms of a lot of progressive rock music, you will also find beats of an odd nature in this genre, such as snares and bass drums placed in various divisions within a beat. Another side effect of this latitude in the song constructions is that this genre can also produce a tremendous range of music — everything from music that could be the intro score to an Alfred Hitchcock movie, to more low-key jazz fusion vibe chillax tracks.
The tracks that were airdropped reflect these extremes. Both tracks get their names from 21st Century Schizoid Man’s first line of lyrics: “Cat’s Foot, Iron Claw, Neurosurgeons scream for more.”
Iron Claw is the first Progressive Metal / Heavy Metal 0xmoment. The intro to Iron Claw was taken directly from MIDI stems from a track created by 0xDJ 420. You immediately hear those jazzy bass lines combined with the eerie lead on top. The intro also provides the first taste of distortion guitars. From here the song explodes into a guitar-laden heavy metal riff. The song alternates between several sections, many of which have the Crimson style of chromatic dissonance, before finally leading back to the MIDI stems as it comes to a close.
As I noted above, King Crimson’s influence extends beyond progressive rock. The band’s seamless integration of musical improvisation with jazz also paved the way for many jazz/rock fusion acts that followed them, like Camel.
Cat’s Foot is based on MIDI stems from the 0xSong Cattle Dance. From a presentation standpoint, this song takes on a tropical house jazz fusion vibe.
King Crimson and the music the band’s work inspired reminds us that music is always evolving, and is inextricably linked with culture and technology of its milieux. 21st Century Schizoid Man drew energy from the social angst of the late 1960s, and from the psychedelic and avante-garde music of that era. The ability to have multitrack recordings of a jazz quartet and rock band simultaneously had only been made possible because of advances in recording technology in the late 1960s.
In this sense, music is a memory of humanity, serving as a sort of time capsule, encapsulating a snapshot of the collective consciousness of the era in which it was created.
If history rhymes, when people look back at the changes we’re going through now in the second roaring twenties, they will see that the music was influenced by the culture and technology of this era. They will see that music using technologies such as Web3, artificial intelligence, and generative technology furthered the expression of the human experience, and was an inevitable continuation of the immutable ledger of the human experience journal. The 0xmusic team could not be more proud to be a part of this story, and we look forward to adding another row to this journal.