HOST: First of all, I'd like to thank Chord and Sonic for bringing Keith to you today and sponsoring this event. He's here, he's really here. I'd also like to thank GQ magazine for co-sponsoring the event and Hector Latorre for helping us put this together and putting the finishing touches on it. Thank you Hector. Now I'm gonna get the hell out of the way. Ladies and gentlemen, Keith Emerson.
K: Thank you very much. I need my glasses.... getting old. I have to read something here. God, grey hair...glasses..but I'm still going to jump over the organ, eh? All right, well, thank you all for being here, but please excuse my slight nervousness, I'll get used to it in a minute. I'll be reading from bits of paper as well, so...I'd like to thank Gary and Joan Gand...Hector Latorre for having me here. You know, as I said before, I've never done one of these things. I'm not too sure what's expected of me, but in the course of the next hour I'd like to address the questions I'd anticipate you asking, and after you can ask me anything you want. The topics I'll be addressing until you tell me otherwise would be...number one, and it's a big one...and that's the operation on my arm, the one that People magazine went to town about...number two...although I view composing as a sort of intangible, enigmatic form, I might tell you that if you discuss it, you might burst some kind of bubble that I'll never be able to reassemble again, I'm gonna try and make an attempt at that anyway. Number three, my autobiography and number four, any technical questions; please address to my faithful friend, keyboard engineer/producer, Will Alexander. Take a bow, Will.
OK, first and foremost, the operation. After having gone through alot of the pain and anguish, I felt that it was time to address my problem in the hope that it might bring forth the doctors, physiotherapists...anybody, to find, if not an answer, some therapy to deal with coping with such a trauma. ELP's record company Victory, were completely horrified by me doing the Keyboard magazine article. They pronounced that it could damage my career. In essence, of course, they were only looking after their own interests as most record companies always do. Rhino, by the way, now has ELP's catalog and I think they are going to be doing a grand job with that, so we're really thrilled about that, Greg, Carl and myself.
So why was this operation necessary? I had a build-up of unexplainable pianistic problems throughout ELP's world tour. Things like my fourth and fifth fingers curling under...general weakness with those digits. Now before all this happened, I had a small lump...they call it like a ganglian cyst or whatever, it's in the palm of my hand, and when they took that out, they removed some muscle tissue and later on, I also broke the little finger of the same hand. Now whether or not this was a contributing factor to my problems, it was never established. But at the advice of a hand surgeon, I had nerve conduction tests. They pass an electric current from one area of your arm to another part of your arm. Sticking needles in the back of your hand and running electricity through them. It's not very pleasant. The results of that test showed that there seemed to be a restriction across the ulna nerve. And that's your funny bone which is here. I was advised to have the same tests done 8 months later, which I did in California under the direction of Dr. Bassett. There they found a significant difference in the electrical response between my right and my left hand. It was so significant, that my right hand measured up to half of this one. I saw physiotherapists, I saw acupuncturists, I took herbal remedies until I looked like a walking alchemist. But it all pointed to one thing...there was no other way other than to go through that operation. So I went for the operation. Before that I saw a very good lady in London: she must have been about 83 or something. She was a renowned music therapist for treating people with alot of disabilities with playing cello and playing violin. Because, basically with violin, you're playing at a really weird angle with your arm in a very peculiar position. But what she did tell me and what I'm now trying to pay attention to is...well she demonstrated it to me like this...she said walk around for a bit, would you...so I said you want me to walk around...so I did, like this. Then she said walk now with your ankles locked, so I did that. So in some sort of way, what she was trying to say to do, is agree to develop a different style of playing, and I think that's more with a looseness of the wrist, and I think really if she had known exactly how I played on stage, she'd have chucked me out. As a result of my ulna nerve, my funny bone now, is here...actually it's round the corner...they took it out there. And they also went into what is known as the radial nerve, just for good measure, when I was under the anesthetic. Let's have a go here and see what else you can find...you know, so consequently my arm looks like I've been eaten by sharks. Those of you who have read the October issue of Keyboard will realize the hellish time that I went through, but the good news is, that just last week, I went to the Wellington Hospital in London. It was two years after the operation and I wanted to know if the operation had been a success or not. The result of those tests seem to be optimistic. Both the left and right arm have no constriction. The doctor confided to me that never before had he seen an ulna nerve transposition come out so well. I still have a certain amount of weakness in the fourth and fifth fingers. And I've just started physiotherapy with a lady that specializes in treating musicians. Her name is Kate Montgomery and I'm slowly getting back into playing again. Don't expect me to produce too many real fireworks today...but they did say it would take about two years to recuperate. But I'm very optimistic...there's a lot of good things on the horizon, particularly next year. Anyway, enough of all that.
I've always, as I said before, had a certain reluctance to prying into how I write and what prompts or inspires me to write... may burst some sort of a bubble. As if I've got some untold secret that even I'm not to know about. I've often been approached to do videos on the subject and turn them down for that reason. But I decided that you good people here must hear something. Alright...sometimes I've woken up with an idea...sometimes fallen asleep with one. I've woken up with a surprise present on a piece of manuscript. Other times scratched it down on the nearest piece of paper and tried to find the nearest keyboard to check it out. The Five Bridges Suite that I wrote for The Nice was written out on an air sick bag courtesy of Aer Lingus. Sometimes the result of this has been out right crap....and sometimes, I have to admit, absolute brilliance. Whenever something has made it through that fine pass mark, I've always been in awe of where it came from. I'm sometimes inclined to relate to the idea that music is all homogenous stuff I suppose. I remember discussing this with the late Frank Zappa. We were talking about time and key signatures. In reference to time, he said, they're all one really. And when I asked him about key signatures, he had the same response. There was a universal one if we all worked at it. The result of my meeting with Frank was that I wrote this one. (plays some of Tarkus recording) Applause.
Alright, more of that in a minute...we had a mad idea last night. And the mad idea was, what would Tarkus sound like with an orchestra of kazoos? Are you up to it? Well, we can give it a go. I'll pass some out....those of you who can, join in. This is fun, isn't it? You want an A? Brilliant! So Tarkus started with a whole, tonal, quiet...you want an F, OK? (plays recorded opening notes and audience plays kazoos)
Maybe you could give it a little more energy, could you....you be the left hand and you guys be the right hand.....does that make sense...let's give it another try. (audience plays kazoos to opening section of Tarkus)
I've never allowed keys or time signatures to interfere with that special moment when creativity strikes...I could be strike in a third, or a fourth or a fifth, or an octave....I mean, to give you some examples, with octaves...I woke up one morning and played the piano and I just did this (plays a recorded phrase) and it suddenly transformed into (plays recording of An Officer and a Gentleman interlude) and that bit there...I know what you're thinking...very Rachmanovich, right? In a way it is, yes, but it only gets close on that....(continues to play piece)
There's one piece of music I've recently written for the updated re-release of my Christmas album. I think it's got great emotional value even in its simplicity. And that all started messing about with thirds (plays a recorded example) and a walking bass line with it. I suppose there's a certain broadness to it and to a degree, a folk element with it that eventually transcends into a Celtic thing. This is the main theme. (plays recorded piece; and applause) The finished piece is about 9 minutes long. It's all orchestrated with the help of sequencing, and please excuse the sequencing...you know how I feel about that from Keyboard magazine. I'd like to play you part of it, the whole piece is called Glorietta and it's dedicated to my mum. (plays recording)
For a bit more fun here, I'd like to read a bit from my autobiography....which I was prompted to write after realizing such alot of my contemporaries had all had biographies written by somebody else, and there were alot of inaccuracies and mistruths in those books. My mother kept scrapbooks ever since a was a shepherd...believe it or not, in a school nativity play. Bless her heart. So I had all the information that I needed. It's a very revealing, no holds barred account of my life...it's loaded with funny anecdotes and I think it's going to shock a lot of people when it's finished. If you think the Sex Pistols were bad....wait til you read about what ELP got up to on the road! It's titled Pictures of an Exhibitionist and I'm hoping to have the whole thing finished by Christmas for release in the new year. It will very likely be published by Faber and Faber in England and at the moment, they're looking for some publisher for here.
One section I'd like to read, which is one of the cleaner anecdotes...involves my meeting with Leonard Bernstein.
"You'll probably be aware that the first hit record I had was an arrangement of America from West Side Story that was performed by The Nice. It was a very controversial recording in its time, heightened by one of the performances where a certain flag was involved. I don't intend to make an issue of that now, as I've just accepted my green card and wish to become an American citizen. I was told last night that I have to learn to say water properly...there in the back you can hear the recording by The Nice. This was done in 1968 and that was when we all were going through the fashionable period of being radical. (You can turn it off now.) Although we settled an amicable split on royalties with Bernstein's publishers, Bernstein himself, interviewed by BBC television later that year, looked into camera with a somewhat practiced expression to say "The Nice?" As if he'd never heard of us. I was to meet him some 7 years later in Paris while ELP was mixing the Works Vol.1 album. Stewart Young, our manager, and a French promoter invited me to a concert of his; after, to be received by the maestro himself along with many others. Perhaps this was his time to reap his retribution. He stayed after our introduction....the only comment he made after eyeing my attire, was that he liked my leathers......and what was I doing in Paris, particularly later that night? "So what?" was Greg's reaction. 7 o'clock and I see a limo drive up outside and the same cashmere coat worn cape style sweep across the courtyard towards the studios entrance. He's coming guys.....the boy delivering the pizza would have received a least a stirring of the gastric juices, but sadly in his case, everybody else was too busy with the tape displays. The control room door burst open allowing his magnificence to flood everywhere. Greg put his feet firmly up on the control desk, still smoking a joint, growls, "Hi Lenny baby, how they hanging?" The outcome of this little episode was that Lenny baby surprisingly, made no reference at all to Greg's inquiry or to America - either of them, standing on my attribute, was complementary on the whole; listening to a piano concerto and a programmatic piece. He was consulting both scores and watching at the same time. Oh this is the finer, killer one. He expressed a concern that sometimes he had a fear of sounding too much like Beethoven, where upon Greg pronounced...and I'll never forgive him for this....."I wouldn't worry about that Lenny, you'll never sound like Beethoven". Terrible, terrible.....that's it.
Here I thought we'd open it up to a sort of question and answer time, yeah? Anybody got anything....anything at all you know...no holds barred here.
Q: What are you going to do with Emerson, Lake & Palmer....anything else?
A: What I'm doing at the moment is orchestrating....pieces like Tarkus, Karn Evil 9 and some original pieces for concerts next year. I'm already booked for one that's in Rome, with an orchestra. With a symphony orchestra in Rome. And I would obviously like, to a degree, once we work out the planning, whatever, for them to be involved in some way or another. So we're actually trying to negotiate with either the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra or the Pacific Symphony Orchestra over here. So that's the future. And another great idea that Carl came up with when I was in London, and I think he had spoken with Jon Anderson about this, is to do a joint project with Yes and ELP. I'm planning on meeting with Jon at some point, but there's an awful lot of things that Will and I want to get together and do.
Q: How much of the big old Moog still works?
A: Well, Will, you can answer that....you did most of the renovations on that...
W: It's in pretty good shape right now, actually. There are a few more things to take care of....it's kind of like having a vintage car you know; it's never completed, and there's always little things that are going to be breaking on it. You've got to realize that this things has been around the world like 25 times and literally thousands of shows. And it was never intended to go out on the road, so there's quite a few things that are always going to be wrong with it. But it's in excellent condition right now.
Q: Is any more of ELP's arrangements and music going to be published in the near future?
A: The original manuscripts are out of print; they were originally published by Warner Brothers. I just spoke to Sy Feldman in Miami where Warner Brothers Publishing is. I spoke to him last week and asked him about that and also to see if it was still....what do you call it; when it's on the print racks and you can actually run off other copies....he thought they were all destroyed. So the thing now, and I've realized there's so many demands through Keyboard magazine and through mail and stuff, I've realized that alot of people are looking for this music and I do have copies of it...my own personal copies of it, so it will be possible to republish those, and that's probably something that even Will and I might be getting involved in. That's it...there's a big demand and we'd definitely like to fulfill that.
Q: Have you thought about doing any Stravinsky transcriptions...The Rite of Spring or any of those types of pieces?
A: I did like the Firebird Suite and that was suggested when ELP were doing that In the Hot Seat album. I was out-voted on doing any classical pieces on that, but it's definitely in the back of my mind to do that. It'd be a marvelous piece for adapting with an orchestra.
Q: Where does the Celtic influence come from in the Glorietta piece?
A: I can't really work that one out. I was actually in Mexico of all places, when I wrote that....so instead of a Mexican thing, I decided to come up with this Celtic thing. I'm sitting on the beach, and drew the bar lines in the sand, and had another margarita and that was the result of it, really.
Q: Would you ever work with Pete Sinfield again, and what about piano concerts?
A: I love Pete Sinfield. I think he's the all time best lyricist and I think, when he collaborated with Greg, that they came up with some of their best material. Pirates...the lyrics read very well without the music. It reads like a story...every line, everything folds into one...it's just a brilliant mark of Pete Sinfield's genius, really. Last I heard, he's working with Virgin Publishing and he had a big success with a number that Cher did....Hearts of Stone. As for the piano...I don't know, maybe I'm wrong, but I've always felt that a concert entirely of piano music would be very boring and by the third number, people would be getting up and going "check please, table one". The first keyboard thing that got me was Green Onions. Booker T and the MGs. So you can all play the riff and I'll do the moog solo. (plays song with moog....audience uses kazoos again)
Thank you....so stick around and I'll give you autographs.
(Thanks to J. Walker Grant for transcription)