Getting to know ELP
‘Group relationship grows stronger’Emerson’
A massive nerve- straining European tour over, Emerson, Lake and Palmer are safely back home rehearsing and recording again in preparation for another American stint and their fifth album.
Parts of the European tour were recorded, and if, when they’ve heard the tapes, ELP are satisfied with the quality, there’s a good chance that some of them will be included on the album.
Their commercial future looks rosy and as a group their relationship grows stronger.
“Right from the start of ELP up to the present date,” said Emerson, “we can say in all honesty that we’ve had two arguments.” The band, he insists, is as solid as the Lyceum Ballroom, a venue they’ve played in the past.
“It’s just personalities. We’ve been together now over three years and we know our personalities more or less inside out. And we know our musical personalities as well. It’s a relaxed position to be in.
“All three of us feel quite secure at the moment. We’re not going to collect our pensions from this band and we’re not going to give each other gold watches when we’re 60.”
On a note of pessimism he continued: “I don’t know how long it’s going to last, quite honestly. Business wise for the band, I only think about the next record. I don’t believe in tying myself down to any one thing or anything at all.
“It’s when you start feeling tied down that you start looking for a way out.”
However, it can’t be denied that each member takes pride in the praise he himself has accumulated. Neither can it be ignored that three strong personalities can explode when cram-med into such a tight unit as a working band.
“Of course there’s an ego thing,” agreed Keith. “Musicians are at fault for having them. It’s that ego that makes you get up there and do it. If I didn’t then I’d play in a little club somewhere.
“But with three people, I feel it’s important that all feel responsible for the end result. And they’ve all got jobs to do, which are quite important. If they don’t do them the whole band goes down.
“It’s a question of finding out from the three of us who’s best at doing what. Now Greg (Lake) is best at producing and recording the band. He’s also good at writing words. I can’t write words at all. I’m quite happy if I’m considered to be the main contributor to the musical direction of the band. That doesn’t mean to say that I don’t accept anybody else’s music — I do.
“Carl is, I guess, the ombudsman; the referee. Chips his bits in now and again and likes to get into a bit of everything. He’s got into writing a little with me and he’s got heavily into the financial affairs of the group — which is something I just can’t get into. Also he’s into arranging, and I think he’s very happy. He gets his artistic release because I’m very aware of how he wants to play and how he likes to play.
“I listen when he’s practising and occasionally, he plays a riff to me. Maybe it’s in 11/4 or something pretty weird. So I bear that in mind, and when I’m writing the next thing, I think, ‘Carl has a riff which’ll fit in great’.”
AS CAN BE GATHERED, most of the musical stimulus comes from Keith Emerson — a tall, thin guy who carefully deliberates before replying to questions. Showing traits of introversion, he shies away from being recognised as the leader. “I don’t always like being the front man. In fact I couldn’t be in a band like that”.
And he puts the inventiveness of the band down to the co-operative effort of himself and Lake.
“It’s just a question of Greg coming up with a tune, or I will, and maybe it has to be changed because it doesn’t suit his vocal range. The original ideas will be bent slightly. But we’ll get together, put our heads together, and work out which is the best way.
“People always say they find our music very confusing on first listening. But if you grasp a piece of music all at once, surely it’s value is gone? That’s why music has lasted so long, or jazz as well for that matter. Pop music has ch tremendously, but jazz and the classics are still played in the same way.”
WITH THREE strong talents in the band, there obvious temptation for individuals concerned to stretch themselves beyond the world of ELP. Greg Lake does a bit of producing outside the group and some time ago, Emerson announced the start of work on a solo album. Both activities now been cut short I pressure of work. The album was never completed. Whatever the members would like to do on their own, the group always comes first.
Emerson explained: “When I write something and that piece knocks me out totally, it’s not enough to just put it on an album. It’s more than that. I’ve got to play it to an audience and get the reaction to it that way.”
The talent for which Emerson was first renowned with the Nice, and with Mussorgsky’s “Pictures At An Exhibition” on the third ELP album, a talent for bringing the well-known compositions of others refreshingly alive, has been less prominent his recent work.
Emerson said it was “because I’ve got more confidence and I believe in what I write, which is the most important thing, not to say that I didn’t believe what I wrote with the Nice, but I’ve turned myself more. I’m hearing di harmonies now than what I did with the Nice. Different things in music I’m getting aware of more.”
THE CONFIDENCE, and the financial freedom that ELP has given its members will inevitably re-inforce individuals’ motivation towards fulfilling their own musical ambitions.
“I see a lot more freedom for the three of us, not just being tied down to confines of ELP, but keeping it as the nucleus. ELP could be known as just a central working point, and working from there, branching out into different things. Possibly doing concerts individually but still keeping ELP as a nucleus. And, of course, still performing as a band to people.
‘We’ve worked tremendously hard these last few years. I’ve worked harder – and I must say it — ever did with the Nice, or ever did with anybody else. And I’m only happy when I’m working. I get bored sitting around on my arse doing nothing.”
(Reprinted from Music Scene, July 1973. IPC Magazines Ltd).