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Stick Men discuss King Crimson, Prog Noir and #livingthedream

With day jobs involving high-profile roles in King Crimson, Stick Men has to be a hit-and-run operation for its three members – and new album Prog Noir packs one hell of a punch.

Since joining Stick Men in 2010, whenever Touch guitarist, Markus Reuter uploads photographs of his time on the road to social media, he uses the hashtag #livingthedream. They offer glimpses of a life on the move: anonymous airport lounges, ennui-laden baggage reclaim areas, closed restaurants, blurred milage, cramped vans and seedy dressing rooms.

Showing the exact opposite of what most people imagine a professional musician’s life to be, #livingthedream seems heavy on irony, almost chiding the reader and, perhaps, the poster himself to be careful what they wish for. Yet there are other photos offering an alternative take of life in a working band: beautiful travelogues, crossing continents, the camaraderie of colleagues and crew, empty soundcheck stages that appear to pulse with expectation and rooms filled with ecstatic, cheering fans, eager for more.

Together, these photos, and especially those of bandmate and Stick Men’s founder Tony Levin, reflect something of the musicians life as it really is, at a time when the prospect of making any money or a full-time living from recordings or touring is, at best, something of a precarious undertaking.

Formed in 2007 when Tony Levin’s solo album Stick Men was released, the initial idea was to do a couple of shows every now and then. Recruiting Levin’s Stick-playing neighbour, Michael Bernier, they worked live when Levin and drummer Pat Mastelotto’s busy scheduled allowed. “Back then I thought we’d be together maybe a year or something and then Tony or I would be too busy to carry it on,” says Mastelotto.

Yet nine years later, and with their sixth studio album, Prog Noir, ready for release, Stick Men are very much a going concern. Of course, Levin and Mastelotto have high-profile roles as long-standing members of King Crimson, and with Levin in upstate New York, Mastelotto down in Texas and Reuter a resident of Berlin, getting all three together for rehearsals and recording is a costly business.

The challenges posed by their respective geography has meant that Stick Men has been something of a guerilla operation, a hit-and-run affair with the players constantly piggybacking onto other commitments and sessions in order to drive Stick Men projects and recordings forward.

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