Carl Palmer Interview; ELP
Carl Palmer is bringing The Return of Emerson, Lake and Palmer Tour to the Lorain Palace Theater and the Robins Theatre in July.
Palmer (with the Estates of Emerson and Lake) opted for what they felt was a more honest approach using live footage of Keith and Greg on massive video walls alongside Carl (and his band) playing LIVE on stage. The voice and instrumentation of Greg Lake and the unmistakable keyboard mastery of Keith Emerson will be mixed with Palmer’s onstage live drumming to magically reunite ELP once again.
We had a chat with Carl to discuss his upcoming appearances in northeastern Ohio, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and his memories of Cleveland.
Greg Drugan: Hey Carl, thanks for taking some time with me today.
Carl Palmer: Thank you!
GD: So you are gearing up to come back to the States for your US tour next month. How did this tour come about with the use of performance videos of ELP as well as playing live?
CP: It’s already been in America, we toured last fall with this production. The Return of Emerson, Lake and Palmer are actually Keith Emerson and Greg Lake on film. I’ve got three large screens, one on each side of the stage and one down stage, roughly about twelve foot by eight foot and I project Greg and Keith on stage. The footage I’m using is from the Royal Albert Hall in London. It was a DVD that we made in the mid-nineties. It was a five camera shoot. What made this interesting for me was the audio tracks were recorded separately. This allowed me to look at the video footage, take out the shots I wanted and then remix the audio in a live situation with my drums playing live with Greg and Keith. So this gave me an opportunity to present them at the top of their game.
I tried with the hologram thing, before you ask me that question, I went to Canada and a bunch of companies, and I didn’t think it was a very honest approach. Basically, you’re getting actors getting made up to look like members of the band. You’re getting the right clothes on them and posing the face and getting the mannerisms and off you go. I really didn’t want to do that. I don’t think Greg and Keith would have liked that. It’s the guys at the top of their game, it’s the best they could ever be. It was group approved. The Emerson family and the Lake family, this seemed to be the most honest way (to do it), because they both loved technology. Technology enabled me to synch it all up and play with them live. That’s what we’ve got!
GD: Great, now what year was that filmed again?
CP: Mid nineties at Royal Albert Hall. Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends, Emerson Lake and Palmer.
GD: You mentioned that you brought this to the States this past fall, how did the audiences respond to the shows as opposed to your other tours?
CP: You need to check out the sizzle reel. There are a lot of testimonials on there. This is not a hologram, this is like seeing these guys on a large screen. Over the years, we got accustomed to seeing a lot of people on screens because these arenas and stadiums are so big you’ve got to project on a screen on the side of the stage. Obviously, I’m not playing in large arenas but it’s the same kinda the same deal, as if you were going to an outdoor concert, you see the artist on the screen. That’s what you see here. There’s a lot of vintage interplay going on as well.
GD: What is it like for you to hear Greg and Keith playing while you are also playing live?
CP: You must understand that I’ve taken eight or nine weeks editing all of this. So all of the emotional things I’ve already dealt with. By the time I got to playing live with them again, I was already through that. I was just there to enjoy it.
GD: Do you also have a live band with you as well, on stage?
CP: I do yeah. I have Paul Bielatowicz on lead guitar, he also triggers a lot of synthesizer parts from his guitar. I have Simon Fitzpatrick on the eight-string Chapman Stick. We play a list of Emerson, Lake and Palmer tracks together like “Tarkus” and we play “Hoedown.” We play fourteen pieces of music and seven pieces are played with Greg and Keith and the other six or seven are played with Pual and Simon. It’s and ELP show through and through. When Greg and Keith are playing with me, Paul and Simon are playing a supportive role.
GD: Very good, sounds very interesting. Since I am Cleveland based, and there is a big prog rock following in Cleveland, I have to ask, what are your thoughts on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? It seems prog rock is a very underrepresented genre. Many people feel bands like ELP, King Crimson and Jethro Tull are long overdue to get inducted. What are your thoughts on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
CP: I’ve been there. It’s a great thing to have started. Unfortunately, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for me has nothing at all to do with the people. It has nothing at all to do with the people of America. Nobody can vote for an office because it’s all done in-house. As far as I’m concerned, I’m already in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because the American public has given me a living for fifty-odd years! From 1968 when I played with the Crazy World of Arthur Brown and I had my first hit single. Then again with ELP and again with Atomic Rooster. To not be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame means very little to me. It’s not public driven. The public buy your records, the public go to your concerts, the public buy your merchandise, the public listen to you on the radio, so why should four or five people who sit behind a desk decide who gets into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? That doesn’t seem right to me, it doesn’t seem honest.
GD: Fair point. I totally agree with you. Hopefully one day, the next Prog-Rock band that gets in has to be ELP. It would be if I had a vote, but I don’t!
CP: I would accept the award, but I would make a similar statement about what I’ve said to you. Then I would put the award up on eBay and auction it to some charity.
GD: Speaking of Cleveland, do you have any memories of playing in Cleveland back in the ‘70s and did you ever stay at the legendary Swingos?
CP: I stayed at the legendary Swingos hotel, I had rooms there for three nights and there was a terrible storm coming through Cleveland and we were there for three days. We were asked to order very little food because they were running out. Swingos was a very interesting place, all the rooms were different. I also played with my band down in the port area, there’s some kind of sound stage down there. We’ve always had a great time in Cleveland. And don’t get me wrong, I love Cleveland and I think the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a great idea. But you have to understand some of us have certain principal in which we have to stand by. Cleveland is definitely rock and roll and I love playing there!
GD: Well, we love having you. You’ve played here often, like you said. So, ELP is considered to be one of the first “super groups.” You happened to be in two “super groups” in your career with ELP and Asia. How do you compare the two bands?
CP: I don’t think you can compare them musically. One was a prog-rock band and the other was classic, rock American sounding band. In the vain of Journey and Styx types of bands. That’s what Asia was all about. The music was in a genre that was already going and we just produced it in our own way. We gave a little bit of a prog tag to it but ELP was the beginning of a movement. We started the prog-rock movement, we were the blueprint. One of many to come out of the UK. America gave the world blues and jazz and Great Britain gave the world prog-rock.
GD: Very good! So you will be headed to northeastern Ohio for two shows. One at the Lorain Palace Theater and the other at the Robins Theatre. What can fans expect from the show and how long is the show?
CP: It’s about an hour and forty-five minutes. You will see Greg Lake and Keith Emerson playing with me live, as if they were actually there. That’s how convincing this is. We play “Lucky Man” we play from the beginning, “Paper Blood” we play a whole host of stuff. There’s a great feature for Keith Emerson when we go into “Fanfare” and also we have my band there. All in all, it’s a very clever show which I personally think people will enjoy. It’s the only one of it’s kind that’s touring right now and I’m extremely proud of it. The Emerson and the Lake families are totally behind it and it’s with their blessing that I’m able to do this.
GD: Carl, I’m excited to see this show. I wish you safe travels across the pond and I’m looking forward to seeing you here in July.
CP: Thank you very much Greg! I do appreciate the interview!
Check out Carl Palmer and the return of ELP on July 15 at the Lorain Palace Theater and on July 21 at the Robins Theater in Warren.