Mel Collins

Mel Collins (5 September 1947)

A member of The Storyville Shakers and Circus in the 1960s, he joined King Crimson in 1970. After the Islands band broke up in 1972, and a brief return to contribute to Red, he worked with a variety of bands and was a member of Camel from 1977 to 1984 and The Alan Parsons Project between 1982 and 1984.

During a decades-long career as a prolific session musician, his melodic and passionate sax and flute work has adorned the work of artists as diverse as The Rolling Stones, Clannad, Stray Cat, Chris Squire, Tears For Fears, Bob Dylan, Dire Straits, Gerry Rafferty, Tina Turner, Bryan Ferry, Joe Cocker, Roger Waters, David Sylvian, Eric Clapton and many, many more.

In the 1990s Collins decamped to Germany playing 60,000-seater stadiums with Marius Müller-Westernhagen and recording with him for 10 years. This in turn led on to his work in the house band of German TV host Harald Schmidt for 18 years. In 2002 he was part of the 21st Century Schizoid Band, alongside other ex-members of King Crimson and Jakko Jakszyk, performing early Crimson repertoire to enthusiastic audiences until 2004.

Having appeared on Jakko Jakszyk’s solo album The Bruised Romantic Glee Club in 2006, Collins was invited to contribute to material being developed by Fripp and Jakszyk that would become Jakszyk, Fripp & Collins’ A Scarcity Of Miracles, released in 2011.

From there Collins was invited to become a member of the new incarnation of King Crimson. For many years Collins was uncomfortable with his Crimson past but after Fripp and Collins had made their peace, he was glad to be reconciled with his old bandmate. In 2014 he commented “I remember how intense it was back in the early 70s. Some of the tension was mind-bending. It’s not like that now. Robert is a different person. He’s very cool. He lets people do what they want to do and doesn’t interfere. If he sees you’re struggling and you’re not quite sure he’ll then step in and suggest something. He doesn’t demand that you do anything now whereas he would have done before.

It lifts me up when I’m in Crimson. There’s so much depth in the playing and I haven’t had anybody say to me ‘don’t do that in the solos, it’s a bit too freaky’ or ‘you’re going out from what you should be playing’. Nobody says that. I think it’s the freedom that it gives me especially with soloing. My playing goes up a notch working with players such as these where the standard of the musicianship in the band is so high. I feel I have to raise my game. There’s no slacking.”

Mel Collins in King Crimson
In The Wake Of Poseidon (1970)
Lizard (1970)
Islands (1971)
Red (1974)
Live at the Orpheum (2015)
Live in Toronto (2016)
Radical Action to Unseat the Hold Of Monkey Mind (2016)
Live In Chicago (2017)
Live In Vienna (2018)
Meltdown; Live In Mexico City (2018)
Music Is Our Friend: Live in Washington and Albany (2021)