Q: (unintelligible)...I won't use anything that's detrimental.....
A: Yeah, they came round and said we'd like to interview your band and ask you what you're doing. And it's always nice to talk to the national press cos sometimes the people outside of the people who buy music papers, don't get to hear about you, you see, so fine. And I did this piece and it ended up we sat down to do the interview and all they said was, "How much money do you earn, is that Rolls Royce yours? And how did you afford all this?".... it's terrible, it sounds like a Monty Python thing...but what about my music, y'know?....and it's not important to them, you really have gotta..... you become so on guard, it's unbelievable, it's just the point - that's why sometimes, you like find a front, apart from the thing of course, personal egos....artistic egos....there's the thing.
Q: That's what really interests you, isn't an artistic ego rather more than a personal ego?
A: Yeah, Yeah.
Q: And it's there, you've got to admit you have an artistic ego...we all have...anybody who's doing anything...I suppose to, like a bank manager, or a doctor has got, also, not artistic, but a business ego; he wants to be a good doctor, he wants to be good banker manager.
A: I've got an artistic ego but it embarrasses me; it's the same way as with a personal ego, y'know, if you're all of a sudden made aware that you have a personal ego, you become embarrassed about it, and it's the same artistically, as soon as you become conscious of it, it disturbs you a little bit, y'know, and that's why I made the point earlier about how I don't want to become too arty....I don't want to become to much of a....there's a word for it....what's the word for a guy who like, really lays down like, the "I'm an artist....."
Q: The maestro....
A: Yeah, that type of feel..I don't want that.....cos I know man, I'm gonna look back in a few years and think "Ooo... I wish I hadn't have said that."
Q: Anybody who says that, has to go on to better things I think, the moment you say, well, I am the greatest: this is as far as anyone can take this particular field....no one will ever....and then you're finished.
A: Yeah, some things like that, in all sorts of ways and to all sorts of degrees, one must be really careful. People always ask us, they try and force us into saying things like that. Because they somehow see us as a cult - a more cultural type of music and so their questions are geared to it and probably, because they're probably afraid of thinking of us as just musicians. You know, like a jazz musician or a rock musician or whatever it is. They like to think that...they like to credit us with being cultural. And therefore, all their questions are geared towards a cultural thing. If you're not careful, you end up answering them in a cultural way, and it sounds like an interview with Stravinsky, y'know, and it's really a bit heavy. Because when you look back on it, and someone says well, let's play that album they were talking about, it doesn't tie in with the sound of the questions.....although the questions sometimes are real. Is it not a very interesting point?
Q: Actually it's a very valid point. I've known alot of artists who sort of like have symbolism read into things they've done.
A: That's right....it's the same sort of thing.
Q: The cat says, actually, I've just sort of made a nice kind of movie you know, and I got some nice actors we got a nice story and we did it and the press sees all the heavy symbolism, and he says, I didn't know that when I did it, there may have been that subconsciously, something was there, but this wasn't about what the cat was out to create.
A: I get letters about lyrics in the songs y'know, and people have read the most unbelievable things into them. I can't quite remember any beautiful incidents, but some incredible images people have got from the things I've written and some very frightening ones too. Sometimes I wonder if how much lyrics are an influence on people. And sometimes, I heard, there is no influence at all. And I think I do, and I hope my lyrics don't influence anybody to do anything.
Q: Just enjoy.
A: Enjoy it and be emotionally stimulated, but not left with any permanent image or any permanent influence. I remember the time it was fashionable to be politically influencing young people with lyrics. And I thought that was a very dangerous time. When people......groups would be anti-establishment and sometimes so much anti-establishment that they provoke unhealthy thoughts in young people. And people, I don't believe, are naturally inclined to riot or to revolt tremendously against established things....they're thinking people.... young people are thinking people. And I believe it's really an unhealthy....I remember once hearing the Beatles - during the peak of their reign, and they were in America and McCartney said "Do you know I could be Hitler if I wanted", and do you know, he could. He was right, he could. He had so many peoples' belief and support that he could have said anything he wanted and certainly a mass - a huge mass of people would have believed it and gone along with it. And that's frightening to me.
Q: But never the less, you still want followers; you want fans; you want people; you want a lot of people at the gig in the concert liking what you're giving them?
A: Yeah, yeah, we really appreciate it and I really get off on it. But they never react to anything I've written that might be....you see, they don't always understand...it's like what I said to you, the people who write letters in, and they've got it all wrong, they've read in things that were never there, you see?
Q: You like, have to cope with things like riots at concerts in Japan; like kids outside stadiums...how do you feel about these kids? Do you find it annoying that you've got to get up all sorts of hypes to like get yourself into the stadium, cos you can't get through, because of the kids; or does it become a drag to you if there's a riot at a concert, or does it really turn you off?
A: It depends what sort of riot. I never get turned off by people being enthusiastic to the point where they want to perhaps see you after a concert and get a look at you and maybe talk to you.....they want you to sign autographs, I can't see anything bad in that. I did that myself when I was young, with people I admired. I used to go to watch speedway racing. I used wait and see the guys who used to race. I would have been really insulted if they had been insulted. And so I'm happy when I see the people. I get annoyed when people do silly things that they endanger other people. I've seen that happen at alot of concerts. Somebody will throw something, you know because somebody stands up. Somebody will pick up a Coca Cola tin or a bottle and throw it and that really annoys me...I mean, you can't imagine. I've really had to get strong sometimes with people because of that....as a rule, I get off on it, if people get off on it to the point where they stand up and they're physically moved to shout or to do something, then, I mean, I'm twice as physically moved by it. No, I don't find that bad. It's just the unhealthy things that I find like, unhealthy.
Q: What sort of things have you had to do to try and get through the fans? I mean, sometimes it's nice that people come up and they want your autograph...probably want to touch you, see you, talk to you.... but there are times, like, there are a few hundred thousand of them - you just can't cope....how do you get in and out of gigs?
A: If you can't cope, you just make use of whatever you can lay your hands on. If you can con the local police force into using a police wagon or an ambulance, or anything you can do to get out of the gig. Leave by another entrance, you can go out of there. Um, if it's too heavy, you just have to find another way out, or stay in there until they go.
Q: No hardship provided with some alcohol?
A: Yeah, if you can get a bit of that.... it's usually not that much of a problem, because you find that the people who are enthusiastic enough to wait to see you, usually genuinely want to see you, and so they'll let you through and maybe they'll hustle a bit for autographs, but they're not going to do any damage. They'll maybe scratch the car, but it's not my car.
Q: Also, it must have upset you very much in Milan when you went down with laryngitis, and there were alot of people who were hoping to see you, that were, in fact delayed for a week.
A: There's more to that than meets the eye. When you cancel a gig, and we've only canceled perhaps two, three in the whole of our career. It's a heavy thing, because maybe I don't know how many people turned up to that concert whatever it was, a lot of people came, and they come from a very long way away some of them, and they've had to travel maybe 100 miles and some of them have had to hitchhike 100 miles. And they reach the door, to find out that you're not playing, y'know, and maybe they haven't got the money to return, even if you would give them the ticket for nothing. Y'know, which we of course do. We had to pull out of concerts, we'd just it play again. And all the tickets that were held are used again. But some people can't afford to travel the distance.
Q: Refer specifically, if you like, to your laryngitis cancellation.
A: Yeah, in Milan the same thing happened, you pull the gig and the people want to know why it's pulled. And I come in, and I'm lying on my back, I can't tell them why it's pulled, I can't say speak. I certainly can't sing. The promoter writes up a notice on the board which may say rain stops playing or anything else he feels might just get the people away quickly, and ah, in Milan, the people weren't happy, and they came to the hotel and they demanded to know why we weren't playing, and ah, eventually arrived up to the room and convinced them with a doctor, in fact, that I was ill. And they stoned the hotel...they threw stones....you missed it, it was great. It was a funny story. These people arrived...this crowd of people.....I was at the Milan Hilton on my back with tonsillitis. The people all arrived outside and were quite orderly. It all started quite orderly. They all arrived and they just wanted to know why the gig was cancelled. And as we went on, it got a bit more riotous, a bit louder. And I still didn't know why all these people were downstairs, and I asked someone to look out of the window and find out, and one of the roadies looked out and said that somebody famous must be arriving, right? So I said when they arrive, call me, I'll just get out of bed so I want to have a look to see who it is y'know, just to be a bit nosey. And as it went on, the police commissioner came up and told them that they were there waiting for me, and by this time they were throwing stones and everything and it was heavy...but, this is a point again, that people are basically reasonable. Once they knew it was real, and I was ill, they didn't mind. That makes me feel very warm towards those people y'know, cos they could have minded. I mean I don't know how sympathetic I'd be with somebody who had tonsillitis, if I'd hitchhiked 100 miles.
Q: And how about the other people it obviously affects..like the people around you. Your road crews?
A: They don't give a bugger!
Q: They don't care, or you don't care, I mean, it's all the same to them, the fact that they just put the proscenium up and have to take it all down again?
A: Oh no, that's a heavyweight thing. I don't know. I've never been quite able to understand how much a road crew cares about the show. I've never been able to quite...they obviously do, to some degree. I think maybe they're conscious of the responsibility, y'know. When a show gets pulled it's heavy, it is heavy. It's heavy for the people in the band, it's heavy for whoever has to suffer because of having to come a long way, it's heavy to the road crews when they have to move it twice, it's just an incredible scene. It's like moving a town, like moving a whole town twice. It's really heavy.
Q: How do you...I mean, what do road crews do...there are an awful lot of people who really don't know what they're all about and what their functions are. How do you split yours down?
A: Well, a road crew is there essentially, to move the equipment from gig to gig, each night. They perform all sorts of functions, like in the event of a riot, they're expected to act as security and try and keep the situation cool as much as possible. They.....
Q: You each have your own roadie to look after your own equipment?
A: Right, we each have one guy who looks after our own equipment personally, and then you have roadies who look after PAs and roadies that look after lights, and roadies who drive lorries and roadies who are there just to hump the equipment off the stage into the truck. You have wiremen....all sorts of functions are performed, but they basically work as one team.
Q: How many people did you take with you on the European tour?
A: Seventy people....sixty five too many....
Q: A lot of those had to do with the proscenium itself, weren't they? Tell us something about the proscenium...I mean what was the original concept and how it came about?
A: The original concept of the proscenium was really quite clever. What it meant was.....first off, I should explain perhaps something about the concerts. Each concert you do every night is totally different circumstances. The lights change, and the size of the stage changes, and the acoustics on the stage change, right? We really wanted them to remain constant so that we could really play in a relaxed atmosphere that remained constant; that we could develop our performance in each night, y'see. Now to do this, you have to have something on which to hang your lights, and if you want to put on a proper theatrical type of performance, you really need curtains. So you need a structure similar to a stage; so we designed....we didn't, but we commissioned someone to design a proscenium which is a metal frame-cuboid type of issue.
Q: Do you know what cuboid is?
A: It's like a matchbox, but up the other way...huge, huge mind you...60 feet across I think. If it were a one day event, and only one day, it would have been a marvelous thing, cos we could have put it up and it would have been great, but the truck, with these tons of metal girders, lights and curtains doing one nighters is an amazingly difficult thing, it's unbelievable. And we worked it out originally, so that it would be possible, but we didn't allow for me getting tonsillitis and having to return to play somewhere. We didn't allow for sickness, we didn't allow enough for fatigue, we didn't allow for weather; and all of these things as the tour went on, crippled the project. It just ended up to be impossible, it was just impossible. It became dangerous in the end, that's what had happened. People were suffering fatigue and not doing their jobs properly, which is understandable. And so lights would fall down off the thing. Now lights from 30 feet up can kill ya, y'know. It became such a risk in the end, that we decided really, that it would be best to abandon it. It's a shame, cos it is a good idea...and if somebody can design one that is more portable, then it will work.
Q: It was an amazing amount of hard work for the roadies, it really was, you know I saw these cats putting it up and taking it down.
A: Those cats suffer.
Q: But the roadies are amazing guys, cos no matter how much the they suffered, I never really saw any of them down...they used to get together in the evening, and all that....great gangs; do a town, and get pissed and fall about....they really were amazing.
A: It's the same as an army in the war...morale stays high cos it has to stay high. It just has to, and in the same way, that men in the trenches create their own...although they're suffering, they manage to create a team spirit which keeps them alive as people. And that's what the road crew did. And they held it together. Most of us look upon it from the outside and don't believe it because it's something I would find hard to believe that a man could stay awake for 5 days without sleep, hump equipment, drive 1,000's of miles...go without food because there's no time and still get drunk! It's amazing. I don't see how they can do that, but they can.
Q: Immediately, someone talked about roadies and most people are thinking about some fuckin guy lifting equipment and all the rest of it, when in fact they've got to do so much more, I mean I saw Kelly at all those border posts having to sort out things with the Italian cats and the German cats. You know, they are expected to do a hell of alot of organizational stuff.
A: Roadies are almost superhuman men apart from way they look. They don't look as though they're really together at all, because most of them, half way through a tour, haven't had time to wash and change and they look terrible, y'know. They're often people with, at the least, with tremendous experience in trucking, setting up equipment, complex equipment, not just putting a mains' plug into the back of an amplifier; bur, to ensure peoples' safety. Sometimes....I don't know how many kilowatts we have on stage, but it's enough to fry a person if they touch it, and these guys have to make sure that nobody does get electrocuted. And that there is sound, and that it does work; I mean it's more complex, say, than a recording studio. They also.... they have to be totally in control of their emotions, because they have to know what to do, given an awkward circumstance. If somebody runs on the stage, they've got to know the difference between somebody who is a maniac with a gun or knife, instantly, and somebody who gets a little bit freaked and just wants to get up and put their arms round you. They've got to be very diplomatic people, because they have to get in and out of countries that they don't speak the language of, through the borders, sometimes they look terrible so they come to the border looking like death and now they've gotta get this equipment through. If it doesn't get through, the gig gets pulled, and that's heavy. In so many things, they've got to be really masters. But at most things they're like half masters. At so many things they have to be half masters. They really are incredible people, some of them. I'm interested in years to come to see what all happens to them all. I'm sure they'll all become really heavy people.
Q: I remember it so well the night I went through the night with them with all the border posts things...I mean, an awful lot was expected of them, I mean, they hit that border post, and as you say, if they don't get through.....(end of tape)
Q: .....with Carl talking about where he wanted to go as a drummer. He was talking about thinking about himself as a musical drummer and he desperately wants to be stretched. By that, he would ask to play things that at the moment probably were a bit too difficult for him, but he wanted to get into.....do you find this, that you need to be stretched?
A: It's not so much a conscious thing with me. If I look back over what I've done, alot of the things I've done, when I look back, have seemed a push at the time to do, yet later, they become part of what I want to do. I don't know if you understand that....initially it's a strain, and something that is perhaps unnatural, and later they become part of what I am naturally as a musician.
Q: Which presumably is like a progression?
A: Yeah, that's what it comes down to, but I don't know how important that is to me.
Q: Do you in fact, actually sit sometimes, and say I've got to learn, like new chords and new ways of better fingering and all that?
A: Oh yeah, yeah.
Q: So in fact, you still practice.
A: I don't call it practice...practice to me is a thing you do and tends to be associated with things that you don't really want to do. And I've never found that doing what I don't want to do makes me happy or better. If I do what I don't want to do, I become miserable. Although I play in my spare time, alot of the time, it's because I want to play....the things that are new, are things I've discovered through the want of discovery.
Q: So with your playing.....you do things difficult at the time, and they become fairly natural. Is this the same as your writing?
A: No, writing tends to be a thing that....for me, it's an instantaneous thing. You see, there's an interesting difference between a singer and a musician. And being a bit of both, I find, like a tremendous sort of schizophrenic part for me in the band. One is a musician, and I have to concern myself with technique, and all the music that the others apply themselves to, and all the things that surround that music, which are the things perhaps that Keith talks about. A certain amount of freedom, a certain amount of discipline....alot of research and hard work, and as a singer, you don't do that, you sing like a bird would sing, tweet-tweet.....through just the want to sing. It's a very natural thing, it's not a thing you sit and work at.
Q: That you put well. Now, the other thing is, what happens...I mean, how much of your writing comes from emotional feeling and things, and how much is like, technique? Like last week, when you've got an album to finish by a certain date...there were lyrics to be done. I mean how much can you say you like, write? Like 10,000 words in eight hours...and therefore a book's gonna take me three weeks. Are you able to just suddenly bring technique out from experience?
A: In a way you do. Somebody famous once said that you should at least write one line a day. And that's to keep your hand in it, learning how to turn words over in your head so they tie into something in your emotions. But what you do, in fact, is apply more hours to it. It still comes from an emotional root, an emotional base. When you're pushed to finish something, when an album is reaching its end, and I like to write the words and sing the songs when all the rest is on, because it's more...when all the music's complete, it's more emotionally stimulating then to write the words or then to sing the song. It's not a thing that I could practice doing....I couldn't practice writing words, you see, the words either are there and are there forever, or they're no good at all. You can't practice the technique of writing words. Although it is true to say that the more words you write, the better you become at it. And it's a very strange thing, each set of words is a work, and each song sung is a work that has reached a climax and an end. And the next one you do isn't a practice, it's a work...a piece of work.
Q: Therefore, if you, like, write the words, do you ever go into the band with something that's like a piece of poetry with words written; and they've worked around that?
A: That happens with the things...the songs that I write myself. Usually what happens with us, is that Keith usually writes the music, the musical structure, the basic musical form. And then he plays it to Carl and myself. Carl works his parts out and I go out and work out usually a melody, and then in the last stages of the recording, I usually write the words. It usually ends up that I get more pushed toward the end of an album, and they're more pushed toward the beginning of an album. And also Keith's really pushed before we start, but once that's finished, his work is almost done. For him then, it's a matter of technique and practicing so that he can play what he's written. For me, it's one in the same thing. Once I've written it, it's done and once I've sung it, it's done.
Q: Do you enjoy writing about any particular things? Or do you wait until you hear the images in the music and then....
A: It's largely a thing of imagery.
Q: Everything very much comes at the end for you, Greg. When you get an idea for music though, when you write music and words together, how does that operate then, you going with a basic melody?
A: I go in with basically everything.
Q: And Keith and Carl do what....they sort of ornament round it?
A: Yeah, then it's a question of arrangement. If I write a piece - both music and lyrics....
Q: Like what? Like something you've done....
A: Well like, on this album now, there's the song STILL YOU TURN ME ON, on which is basically just acoustic...voice...a simple folk song basically. But then with arrangement, you can turn it into almost any type of feel musically. Any direction you can take by arrangement, you see? So it can change the form of something quite alot. The definition between writing and arrangement and lyric writing....they're very difficult to define. It's a question of vibes, and how do you define a vibe? A vibe is just an emotion y'know, that you feel. One melody line may take 10 seconds to come up with and it will live forever. Now, how do you evaluate that...in terms of somebody being...somebody might have taken years to write a piece for an orchestra, and it really might not be appealing to almost anybody. Somebody else has a flash for a magic melody and yet you have to somehow evaluate this too. The guy who arranged it might take 30 hours to arrange something that took 20 minutes to write. So the lines of definition are quite hard.
Q: Is it important to you to feel that you might write something which will live in peoples' memories?
A: I'm always afraid of getting into this sort of arty crafty thing. Of being pretentious about the things I create. And because I feel perhaps, that when I'm older, I'll look back on what I've said, and wish I hadn't said it. I think that perhaps there's a danger in putting what you create on too high a pedestal. I mean, I believe in what I write and I think it's good and it gets me off, and I hope it gets other people off, but I don't like to get artistically too intense about it, because if I look back now on things I wrote 3 years ago, I'm glad that I didn't herald them as the world's greatest piece of modern music...or, I didn't get too much into how great the art was. It isn't art...it's an art form that can live on. But you can't control that direction when you're creating it. I believe the difference between a piece of art that lives on, and a piece of art that dies out, is purely a question of originality. If it's totally original, it stands more chance of living on. But the amount of music that is totally original is very limited.
Q: You've talked about writing, and you've talked about singing and playing music, but what about yourself as a producer of records. Are you able to stand outside and look at all of the things that you've done and have been a part of as a member....objectively? Is there a tendency to want to play up the lyrics or play up the guitar?
A: No, you don't stand outside it, because I'm too much a part of what we all do together, to actually be totally objective, but I hear with the ears of a person who wouldn't know what we were about. I mean, I just listen and I bring out the most important qualities of any one moment in time in the piece...sometimes a chord structure on the organ will be an important part of the piece that's going on...more important say, than the bass line, and so as a producer, I would tend to bring out the keyboards more. Only if I thought that the vocal line was so important it should totally dominate what was going on, then I'd bring my vocal line out more. Production's a very weird thing, you can't really talk about it....but you can....
Q: Better hold it......(change of tape).....why is this difficult to talk about?
A: Well, it is, because to a large extent, producing has nothing whatsoever to do with music - and almost everything to do with people. You see, as a producer, in the true sense of the word, you don't so much play the instruments, but you try, I mean I try, and get a good feeling with people, and inside the band, I try and develop a good feeling in the studio, so that the best things come out...or a nice relaxed atmosphere. If Keith's trying to play a solo...he's trying to put a solo down, and one that's very difficult. I can't really help him play it, I can get a good sound for him, but a Steinway piano has a good sound anyway, so there's really nothing you can do...the thing that you can do, is to try to encourage an atmosphere under which people can work and create, and that to me is the important part of production. Because I tell you, when the atmosphere's right, and when the people perform with a true love for what they're doing, it really doesn't matter. The amount that the sound matters to that, is less than alot of people would ever, ever think. Maybe it's the same in filming. If what you film is a great event, the quality really isn't so important as people would notice.
Q: I agree with that very much. I know were talking about albums, but do you feel the same about live concerts, and the sounds coming out of that? Carl said something the other day, which I'm not going to use in the film, but he said that "I do think that our music would appeal to more people in live concerts if there weren't quite the volume there; there are alot of cats heavy into classical music that would come to the concerts, if there wasn't quite so much volume coming off the stage."
A: Yeah, and if alot of people didn't hear it that loud, they wouldn't get off on it, so alot of people wouldn't come. I think on live performance, again you see, there's other factor in live performance is that you're there, you're actually there, and there's something visual taking place. I don't believe live performance is a question of too much or too little volume. It's a question of adequate volume, but it's so much a question of it being undistorted. If something is undistorted, it can be played at almost any volume. If it's distorted, I can't take it out of a radio speaker. I just can't tolerate a thing with distortion on it. Even distortion can be clear. Clear distortion is different to distorted distortion.
Q: Keith likes distortion, doesn't he?
A: Yeah, but he likes clear distortion; you see, you can distort sound at the source, but if it is distorted at the same time at the speaker....Jerusalem......
Q: To me you need it to echo outward, and somehow it was a controlled echo inward....do you know what I mean? For me, I would have just like to have heard it (Jerusalem) go on and out and....
A: But that's the nature of the music. As many times as I've heard that piece played by all sorts of people and at all sorts of functions - women's guild included.
Q: I'd like to know, it (Jerusalem), for me personally, when I first heard it, it was terrific. And I came back and I saw either Keith or Carl and said " Knockout, really a knockout"; and then I heard it again yesterday and suddenly, it was just folding in at the edges....Mike reminded me of it.
A: It's a piece of music that will sound better the louder you hear it. That's the first thing, but by the nature of the way it's constructed, it always seems to require just a bit more of everything than it's getting, and when we mixed that, we mixed it twice on two, almost 18 hour sessions, so in other words, we spent the best part of almost 36 hours mixing that, and I assure you, I tried every type of echo that there was and every type of delayed echo on the whole track and went through it unbelievable amounts of time, and whatever you want .....whatever you put on there, it always wants a little extra, a little more....and it's like the lost chord, y'know, no matter how much you try, you'll never find the absolute. It'll never be absolutely right.
Q: So much of ELP's music, and your music and Keith's music comes from, I mean, the enjoyment comes from hearing and rehearing. Alot of your stuff is not one off and forget it.
A: It tends to have...it tends to be that way.
Q: You're certainly going to listen.When you are rehearsing and working in a recording studio, is there much friction through creativity, which often causes a bit of strife between people.... is there much of that?
A: (no answer)
Q: (I will hold it)......and the caring about the product....nothing would ever fuckin happen any way, if you didn't fuckin care anyway, you do. If you didn't care, you wouldn't spend 36 hours mixing Jerusalem.
A: No, surely. With us, there's what I would term, petty friction. There's none at all apart from if anybody's been up for 18 hours in a studio, they're gonna get awfully tired. To that extent, there's petty friction, but overall, we've really never had a cross word, and haven't had for all the time the bands' been going. Because we do very much see eye to eye, and we are after one end. But the frictions that are there, are much, much deeper and they've always been there. And that's when you get to know someone terribly well, it's like a man and a wife...it's almost like a love relationship. There is a friction somewhere, and there always will be between two human beings. I don't analyze it and I don't analyze relationships. I think it's a very unhealthy thing to do.
Q: I agree with you on that, actually.
A: I've never done it, and don't think anyone in the band does. And that's why, I think, one of the main reasons that we've always been well together...well-suited together, is we've never really analyzed our relationships with each other. I think if we did, maybe we'd find out a lot of things that would be better not found out, you know, or not realized, because you realize everything in your subconscious. Everything registers with another person and yet, some of the things your consciousness has chosen to reject and to keep and subside, and those things are for a reason, and I believe they are best left - some things.
Q: Having put so much work and thought...you know, there's alot of bootlegging of late, of new music and things, does this affect you much now, and do you try and stop it?
Q: You can refer specifically, if like, to the recent tour and the ghoul collecting tape recorders and things....it would be quite nice.
A: It's like, bootlegging...the worse thing about bootlegging to me, the very worst thing, is that when the people get the record, it's a piece of shit. That's the crime; is that it's just dismal as a piece of a recording. And they pay too much for it, simply because it apparently is unobtainable. The bootleggers try and usually record something which is not yet recorded.
Q: No matter where or how?
A: Bootlegging is most certainly always done at concerts on very poor quality equipment by people who are trying to make money from artists who are playing live - selling it to people, regardless of the quality or content. It really doesn't damage us from the point of view of how many records we sell. It really doesn't matter that much. What does damage us is, if somebody picks up an album by Emerson, Lake and Palmer and it sounds unbalanced, or maybe the music in certain parts wasn't as good as we'd like it. And then they get that record....in a way it reflects upon us. We only want records to be sold that we approved of....that we thought were right for people's enjoyment.
Q: Is there any way that you can prevent this?
A: That was heavy....the only way you can attempt to prevent it is to try and stop people coming into the halls with recorders. But it's very difficult....people get annoyed and understandably, if somebody tries to take their recorder off them and it probably, say, took maybe three years to buy the thing, and then they get annoyed about it and can't really understand why they shouldn't record. Maybe only one person in 100 has actually got the intention of recording a bootleg, but you have take it off 99 others to insure that's there's no bootlegs. But some people really don't get too happy about it. The unhappiest people of all are the true bootleggers. And that's how you usually know if you've caught a bootlegger, because they scream blue murder, and get the police in and everything, or bring in a load of gangsters to try and claim their tape recorder back during the concert.
Q: That's good! That would take the sting out of the ghoul rushing around. That is important, because that could have its nasty moments.
A: It's a heavy thing....its had its moments.
Q: Before a concert, and somebody's out there collecting all the tape recorders, do you get nervous before a concert or after a concert? When does the tension start for you on a night you're playing live?
Q: Can you postpone the answer?.....end of tape ("roll 3")
A: One of the only roadies that I've stayed friends with afterwards - just been really friendly with all the time...great guy, great guy. Yeah they're all heavy.
Q: Assuming the equipment gets through, and the roadies get it there, and they rig this difficult proscenium...the nervous thing of yours, Greg...at what stage do you really start worrying, or getting tension about playing?
A: Only when I hear the people....only when I hear the people, because then you know. The most tense point is just before you go on...it's the minute before you go on, because it's got to happen and it's gotta happen then. All this time to build up to the concert...I get like frantic, and I make people check things like three times over...but I've still got time for things to be checked. Just before it happens, you have no time, it's too late....everything's done, and it is what it is at that point. That's the worst time for me.
Q: What runs through your head...that you're gonna fuck up on the playing, or the singing?
A: Well no, you eventually become experienced enough not to worry about what you do yourself, cos it does you no good. If you spend time thinking about whether you're gonna make a mistake, you certainly will. I'm just concerned that everything works for me, that's my main concern. There's an emotional....I mean, you're going out there to play to 20-30,000 people, you've just got to feel some type of fear, y'know, but you learn to control the fear and try and think logically about what you've got to do, and what's got to be right. It's a very mixed bag of tricks before a concert.
Q: And then afterwards, is it relief, just tiredness...exhaustion?
A: It's half a relief and half an anticlimax. I mean after a gig, is never really a very eventful period of time. You've finished, the show's finished and it's not very close to tomorrow's show. And it's a real anticlimax...you've finished doing what you've spent the whole day building up to do. You've finished what you've got to do and there's nothing more to do but kill the time between that and the next show. And you just have to devise ways to kill the time.
Q: What is your individual method of killing the time? Do you like hang together and go out, eat, parties?
A: Usually after most gigs, there's a get together. Which is always great, because you can talk about everything you've done and there's always a time when it's a relaxing...two hours after the gig maybe, is a good time to relax and talk about everything, and talk about what's got to be done for tomorrow, and all that thing. But you can't do anything with time in a hotel room. It's the worst place on earth. In America when we tour, the hotel rooms.....because we stay in the chain of hotels that are all the same often. The hotel rooms stay the same, so you wake up every morning looking at the same telly, in the same place, cos each of the rooms are the same...identical, and you don't know the difference between one end of the country and the other. It's the worst experience on touring.
Q: I noticed very much, and not knowing the three of you particularly well when I came in on this....the complete difference between your approach....all of you towards the concerts...I mean, Keith goes away quietly into a corner and like hits keyboards and you're always jolly and always seeming very up...and jovial. I remember an instance where like, PFM came, and the guy Kent broke his arm, do you remember...and you were the only one actually, that went and spoke to them, because Keith and Carl were all likened to...you know, they've got the blinkers on at that stage.
A: I tend to be better at hiding my nervousness or controlling it. There's no point in me going mad two minutes before the gig...it wouldn't do anything....and so, somebody's got to keep it light or we all would be like frantic before gigs y'know...I think that perhaps the fact that I smile around the dressing room keeps the others a little lighter. It takes away a little bit of the tension...maybe it irritates them, but that takes away the tension too!
Q: Carl, I mean, for instance, really does get physically affected some times.
A: He's a very physical guy.
Q: You know this came out of his interview, like he's taking all sorts of amazing judo lessons. In fact, he was saying, which is very interesting that, he feels his progression now has got to come through a physical thing....the sheer coordination of doing things...he's got to....he was saying that Buddy Rich is like a brown belt judo man.....and he can tap dance....he's got all this fantastic coordination, which Carl is now willing to get into very much.
A: I suppose that's true for a drummer. For a guitarist it's not true; for a singer, you have to be healthy, to be a singer. You have to be healthy in a lot of ways, but not fit...and there is a difference there. You have to be happy to be a singer, I think, either happy or very sad...but it isn't so important....I could have one leg and I could sing as well, but a drummer couldn't have one leg and sing as well and play as well. See...to be a singer, which I am principally, I mean I think of myself as a singer. There's a totally different set of rules to your lifestyle than to be a keyboard player, or to be a drummer or to be any other instrumentalist. It's like there are no polls for lyric writers in the music business...did you ever notice that? There are no polls for lyric writers in music papers. Because people don't think that, that is a vibe. It's a hell of a vibe...there would be no songs if people didn't write words to them, and yet, people don't regard a lyric writer as an artist or as a...he certainly isn't a performer, that would be true to say, but you've got polls for top arrangers and top producers and not for lyricists...and the same thing; instrumentalists really don't respect singers...they don't respect them, you know they live together with them, they need them, they enjoy them, but they do not respect them. And so I get respect in the band as a bass player, so when I'm talking about music, everything's great, but as a singer, great, sing this song man, see ya....and they're gone; they needn't be there when I'm singing it. It's really cool, you know. They know I'm good at what I'm doing so they don't really care.
Q: What's interesting is that probably it's the only part of the music of ELP that doesn't come into sort of complete criticism. I mean, you'll talk about Keith on the organ and he'll talk about you as a bass player, but nobody ever talks about you as a singer in the band. They never say you sang that well Greg, or...
A: Well they do, they do say all that. They get very excited you know, but Keith can relate to Carl musically, but neither of them can relate to me musically as a singer. Because my art...it's as far away from what they do as a painter is, you see, because they don't sing, they don't understand, because it's to do with words and it's to do with your voice...it's part of you that's making the sound. It's not something you control by a technique and an amount of knowledge. It's part of you. And if you make a mistake, it registers so quick upon your brain, because it's part of you. You make a mistake in your throat, it hits your head within a split of a second. If you make a mistake on a bass, it takes quite awhile for it to register. And if you like the embarrassment or the sensitivity to a feeling, for me as a singer, is so much quicker, so much more acute than as a bass player. And that's why I'm principally a singer, because it relates to my emotions twice as quick and twice as vivid as something that I merely control. I think if you can have any gift in music, the greatest gift I think, is to be a singer.
Q: It's really I guess, the only natural talent, if one goes back to pre-stone age, the voice was the only instrument, and the next thing that came in were drums, which was a very straight forward basic rhythm again and the clapping of hands and the stamping of feet and then came the sophistication after that...many thousands of years after that came the sophistication which, by then, was into string instruments.
A: Yeah, it's the number one vibe, it totally is. Because not only do you get music, you get the language with it...you get poetry you see, it's the most flexible of all the sound mediums there is. It's so flexible. There's nothing like a voice that will catch your ear. You have to listen to a voice. Interesting thing...the whole thing about singers is interesting. Then there's opera. It's become very much in vogue now, to dig classical music, because bands like ourselves, who have often appreciated the classics and sometimes played them.....have brought classical music back into vogue, and yet, opera never seemed to have taken on that....maybe that's an idea, maybe I should get into some.
Q: Ginastera was a man who wrote a few operas in his time; he was very heavy into doing the operatic scene. Again, I was thinking the other day when an analogy between like a record producer and probably thinking the nearest thing is like a producer of an opera, who needn't necessarily be a cat who is totally into music...he's assuming that his singers and so on and so forth can do it, maybe there's another guy behind him whose looking after that. But as long as he can make....he can focus the highlights, and get the shape of the performance and stage it so that visually, things are working. I mean people like Peter Hall are not great musicians...people who are knowledgeable with music. And someone like Franco Zefferelli, who's done opera, is not a great musical man, but he is able to turn...I mean, this to me, is like a record producer. You needn't be a great musician....and often isn't.
A: To be a record producer, you have to be a great listener, because you're listening on behalf of all those people that are eventually going to to listen to the same thing that your listening to. And if you hear something that grooves on your ears; sure as hell, it's going to groove on other peoples'. And if something that really stimulates you, fair chance, it's going to stimulate everybody else...because we're all basically the same.
Q: But you've got to know what you're listening for. It implies a whole knowledge....
A: Yeah, then it comes into a balance doesn't it? You know, the more musically you know, the better you can explain and define what's wrong or what you want to hear in its place, and there certainly is a need to be skilled musically, but more of the need is to see the whole picture. I think as a producer, I sometimes get frustrated when Keith wants to change one note, y'know, and I say listen, it really makes no difference because even though that run isn't perfect, it sounds perfect. I really mean like, a grace note or something is missing - which not one person, not the most acute ear is ever gonna hear. But y'know, we have to go through it and put the note in or redo the run or something.
Q: This is what we've got to be a little bit careful of about the film actually.....that we are talking about music recorded live, in concerts.....
A: Make it sound like a bit glossy see...so it doesn't sound too......like you're looking right in its face, y'know, and put up the audience a little bit, give it a bit of that and away you go. And people, when they're watching, they realize it's a live thing.
Q: The most important tracks to us is, is that audiences now lose track musically.....and everything is fine. That says it....
A: As long as you don't insult their intelligence, but if you give them half a chance just to clap, they'll just clap to hear themselves. They'll clap to get themselves off you know, and so really you only need the slightest bit of a thing and then a suggestion of well, now it's time to clap and they'll do it y'know, because they get into that. People dig people, and they all dig themselves getting off on the vibe. And as a fact, I think an artist seems very small in the whole event of a concert.
Q: It'd be a different concert if only like three people turned up.
A: A drag! Keith brought up a very interesting point the other day. He said that in one classical concert a guy had....nobody was allowed to come, right? Can you imagine it? Going in, listening to the music and walking out, but no applause.... what a weird vibe that would be. I think, that to me, that's what gives a buzz to our live films; you hear all those people.
Q: That's also what's missing from our film at the moment, not only hearing them, but seeing them man, because they were really getting off on alot of those things. But that to me is stuff that's easy....the difficult thing is getting the shape of it. What I remember; I started life as an actor on a wet Wednesday afternoon fucking matinee in Wickham, you know, and it's for old age pensioners and a couple of fuckin' broken down old cruds who haven't got TV or something, and no matter how good the play, or how capable the actors - it's 100% below the Saturday night, second house, with everybody grooving on what you're doing.
A: One thing is for sure, is that you do play to the people. You play for the people, y'know? Cos you just put so much more in when all the people are diggin' it and there's a reason for that, you know. And it's an impressive sight when you see 20, 30, 40, 50,000 people really getting off on something that you're doing. It's an impressive sight, and the first few times it really makes you think...really makes you sit back and think about it. It's one of the greatest feelings...for me it is. That's what I play for, on a live concert. I play to hear that. I play well, so I hear more of them, basically.
Q: OK, let's wind it back...it's good stuff....(recording of a live concert intro.....ELP playing hoedown)
(Thanks to J. Walker Grant for transcription)