Jeremy Webster “Fred” Frith (born 17 February 1949)is an English multi-instrumentalist, composer, and improvisor.
Probably best known for his guitar work, Frith first came to attention as one of the founding members of the English avant-rock group Henry Cow. He was also a member of the groups Art Bears, Massacre, and Skeleton Crew. He has collaborated with a number of prominent musicians, including Robert Wyatt, Derek Bailey, the Residents, Lol Coxhill, John Zorn, Brian Eno, Mike Patton, Lars Hollmer, Bill Laswell, Iva Bittová, Jad Fair, Kramer, the ARTE Quartett, and Bob Ostertag. He has also composed several long works, including Traffic Continues (1996, performed 1998 by Frith and Ensemble Modern) and Freedom in Fragments (1993, performed 1999 by Rova Saxophone Quartet). Frith produces most of his own music, and has also produced many albums by other musicians, including Curlew, the Muffins, Etron Fou Leloublan, and Orthotonics.
Frith is the subject of Nicolas Humbert and Werner Penzel’s award-winning 1990 documentary Step Across the Border. He also appears in the Canadian documentary Act of God, which is about the metaphysical effects of being struck by lightning. Frith has contributed to a number of music publications, including New Musical Express and Trouser Press, and has conducted improvising workshops across the world. Frith’s career spans over four decades and he appears on over 400 albums. He still performs actively throughout the world.
Currently Frith is Professor of Composition in the Music Department at Mills College in Oakland, California. He lives in the United States with his wife, German photographer Heike Liss, and their children, Finn Liss (born 1991) and Lucia Liss (born 1994).
Frith was awarded the 2008 Demetrio Stratos Prize for his career achievements in experimental music. The prize was established in 2005 in honour of experimental vocalist Demetrio Stratos, of the Italian group Area, who died in 1979. In 2010 Frith received an honorary doctorate from the University of Huddersfield in West Yorkshire, England in recognition of his contribution to music.