CHIP MONK: Good evening, this is Speakeasy, America's premier rock talk show. Tonight our guests are Keith Emerson, Greg Lake and Carl Palmer....Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Also joining us will be Jim Stafford. This portion of Speakeasy is being brought to you by Sony components. Listen easy with Sony. A few weeks ago, we were fortunate enough to be able to spend time with one of the world's finest rock groups, Emerson, Lake and Palmer. We met in Record Plant Studio C, an excellent recording complex in Los Angeles. We'll also be talking and listening to a good friend of ELP's....a new and very refreshing artist, Jim Stafford. So let's go now to the Record Plant and Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
CM: Keith Emerson
K: Hi, Good Evening and welcome.
CM: Carl Palmer
CM: and Greg Lake
CM: Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Yesterday, these gentlemen and prior to their arrival, played at a very large concert in Ontario, California and caused me to sit in a car for 4 and 1/2 hours and never get there! How was the concert, was it pleasing, Keith?
K: We had a lot of trouble....I had a lot of trouble with my equipment...due to humidity and dampness in my equipment and everything.
CM: Which is very important as far as the Moog goes.
K: Yes, the oscillators tend to drift rather a lot and things go out of tune, without any control. And there was a sort of lack of communication with the audience. They were about 300 yards away.
CM: There really was a void in between you and the audience? For security purposes, or for cameras being brought in....
K: Oh, for security purposes really. It was just this lack of communication....not seeing how people were really reacting and the acoustics also, were really dead. That usually happens when you play outside. With sound, there's no feedback for what you've played...it just goes out into the night and that's it.
CM: You didn't pick up any spaces?
G: It's like punching a bag and there's no bag there. You put all your force into it and you don't feel the impact that you have...it just carries on into space and you feel like you achieve nothing.
CM: It's a one way street.
C: They're so far away, you can't even hear them clapping. The stage was so unemotional....it was so brightly lit; there's no atmosphere on stage....so it's like a rehearsal, you know?
CM: Was touring America a pleasure for you...I know you've done it before in a number of other places.
C: I enjoy touring America....I couldn't live here.
CM: Is it the difference like living in the city and living in the country?
C: I just think of this country purely on a working basis. To live here would be wrong for me somehow. I don't know, there's a lot of music....a lot of good musicians here. And everything steers itself to come and live in America....something that doesn't attract me; I can't put my finger on it.
G: It's a different lifestyle.
CM: Orientated to what that's not pleasant for you....that doesn't fit in with your present....
G: It's not necessarily not pleasant, it's just different you know. I think, on the question of whether we'd live abroad or not...most of our life, in any event, is spent outside of our own country. I mean, we spend very little time at home, and that which we do spend is not spent in our own houses, it's usually we're rehearsing, studios, European tours. So, really it doesn't make alot of difference where you're domiciled, because you're not there very much of the time...its a psychological thing. When it really comes down to it, your home is where you were born, or where you grew up or where you began; your roots I suppose.
K: Home is where your head is, I suppose.
CM: Does the touring, or your endeavors, or what you do, wreck it? Or can you manage to keep it together?
G: It puts strain on it.
C: It puts strain on it, but you have to work it out.
G: Any person involved in any sort of show business is under a certain amount of stress with their private lives.
CM: But you've arranged that understanding in order to maintain your private lives?
C: You have to.
G: So the person you're with has to understand that you know, you're both subjected to a type of pressure.
CM: In your time off, you...perhaps sports or something...what is the best way for you to unwind...or do you unwind?
C: Oh yes, I need something to do, you know...
CM: May we have the pleasure of knowing what it is?
C: Golf...during probably the last 8 months I've been playing. That to me is alot of fun. It's not too physical, you see, my instrument is unbelievably physical. So to play a sport that is physical would be totally wrong. I think it's the people that you can meet on a golf course is what's interesting.
CM: It's certainly a broad spectrum, or cross-section of who's available in the community.
C: The last time I was in LA, I managed to play with Alice Cooper who's an excellent golfer, and we had a foursome going...two other people were playing with us and it was really enjoyable, and Alice made a point of saying that, on the golf course, he's like anybody else, you know, rock and roll is totally forgotten. He made a point of saying that one day he was playing with a doctor, and at the end of the game, the doctor said to him, "What do you do for a living?" and then he said, "I'm Alice Cooper", and the doctor went WOW!
CM: That's a wonderful sense of insulation!
C: By the way, he's very serious on the golf course.
CM: I have had the pleasure of meeting him a number of times, and he's such a departure from obviously, "the act", and in his case, it certainly is an act...where there's a straight, direct communication and very reasonable.
C: He's a gentleman.
CM: Indeed, and a good host. Greg, when you're not recording or touring, can you get away from it all?
G: I don't think you can really ever get away, totally from the thoughts of it. There's always something going on in my head with music and with the band. And even in moments when I try and relax....I relax at some of the most ridiculous moments actually. When there's most confusion and when there's most going on, sometimes I'm just isolated. I go fishing; which is a type of relaxation, but I probably do more thinking when I'm fishing than I do when I'm supposed to be thinking.
CM: Are you a country or are you a city person? Can you live comfortably in the city?
G: I'm a schizophrenic...I suppose basically, at the root, I'm basically a country person and a folk singer and I don't know how I got into all this, so I lead a sort of schizophrenic existence. But in the band, there's a place for both of those things for me. So instead of it being a schizophrenic sort of strain, it's a balance for me.
CM: Carl, when you finish recording, or get off the road, do you still work with music?
C: To a certain extent, yes I do. I find that one has to still take private tutoring in some form or other. I am at this moment, studying tuned percussion which is proving very valid within the scope of this band.
CM: Certainly you've been credited with being the fastest drummer, contemporary drummer, or fastest ever period.
C: If people were to say I was a musical drummer, I'd feel alot happier. I mean, speed is just practice, you know.
CM: And not necessarily interpretation?
C: No. Speed comes by sitting down and practicing X amount of hours per day. It's rather heavy when people say, hey, this guy's fast or he's not funky, or whatever. If people could relate to me just as a musical drummer, because that's what I try to put across in this band. I'd be happy, you know.
CM: What techniques have you yet to master, I would imagine you are well on your way...it's very impressive and I'm not a percussionist, so it's difficult for me to say, but are there little bits and pieces of the world of percussion that you're right on top of and just ready to master?
C: Well I'm trying, you know, in various fields. I think the aspects of tuned percussion; such as tubular bells, vibes.....I've since learnt...I was studying tympani at the Guild Hall of Music, and really that was the wrong thing to do. What I think now, is the right thing to do, is maybe study vibes.
CM: Because then, it's a bridge to keyboards?
CM: Well, not to keyboards, but if I can play vibes; electric vibes, I could play tympani quite easy, you see, the musical scope on vibes is far superior then tympani...that's something that I've realized. It's also something that I know I'll need in this band eventually you know, cos the band moves so fast musically, that I have to have this scope. I like to refer to myself as a percussionist and not as a drummer.
CM: Well, percussionist is obviously a much wider scope.
C: It stretches into bigger fields, you know, I have to know how to play these instruments, so I have to keep learning, and that's why when I take time off, for me personally, it's a great pleasure in going to a guy who's the right teacher to teach me; I go along and I'll learn.
CM: Carl, do you have any qualms about your fans knowing you still study a musical instrument with a musical associate, shall we say?
C: It worries me to a degree.....putting it in a film, because I think maybe they see me as supreme, and I don't need lessons any more....but then again, I have to relate to being a musician, and being someone that must progress and obviously there are many people in this world who could teach me things.
CM: Do you, in your composing, is that a relaxation, or a work for you?
K: It's very difficult for me to define what is work and what is relaxation, because I can be relaxing and I can be working at the same time. I can be just sitting around and thinking about what's going to happen, you know. Either sitting before going on stage and going over in my head what I'm going to play, or...
CM: Which is really part of your gig, isn't it?
K: Yeah, like writing, I don't know, I allow myself to become very uncontrolled...not controlled. I'm basically a very disorganized person. So I just allow myself to be that way. I live in the country, and I wake up in the morning and maybe I might feel like playing something, or probably I'll cut the grass or do something else, you know, and suddenly I get a flash and I run to the instrument and play whatever is down. If I'm writing to a strict form, like a fugue, I prefer to set it down on manuscript paper and work it out mathematically. After I've created that, it's a most incredible high, I mean, I can just walk around floating on air....I'm just living off that sensation.
CM: Keith...how did you get into flying; how did that interest arrive?
CM: Just pleasure with the people who were flying you...
K: No, there's a practical purpose to it. You know, I'd like to get my own plane and fly to gigs. I don't like to be tied down...getting to a certain place at a certain time. Another thing which turned me on to it was what I said before.....I find music very challenging, but there are points when you cease to be inspired....perhaps a dull moment....so I like to do other things just as challenging. And flying to me is challenging.
CM: Greg, most actors or actresses, athletes, prepare themselves both internally and externally for their part or their entrance. Do you go through that sort of preparation when you are ready to go on?
G: Yeah I think so...I think you just consider what you have to do. You run over things in your mind that you know are going to take place. And you try to get yourself in a mental state.
C: When you go on stage and you actually perform, you must be at full commitment, total commitment. Right, so if you were to express yourself for a 1/2 hour before you play, you might be slightly bewildered, your mind isn't as accurate as what it should be when you really do it for real in front of the public. So the thing is, to only play for ten minutes, fifteen minutes before....just to loosen yourself...get adrenaline flowing. Cos when you go on stage, it is total commitment and that's what a performer has to go for, at least I find I have to go for.
K: There is the ideal state of mind to get yourself into for playing, and I discussed this with conductors I know. And well, they've been experimenting with alpha and theta brain waves, right, and I'm probably wrong, but the ideal state is probably the alpha one. Which is the kind of state when you wake up in the morning-you're not fully conscious, but for me, I find the ideal way is performing in this way. It's not a question of being like, in a state like sleep, but it's not being affected by anything which is around you.
C: Except your instrument.
K: Drastic things happen on stage; I mean, I've blown my fingernail off, you know, through an explosion. I mean, things have gone wrong. Things have broken down. And if you allow these external things to affect you, then it can seriously alter your playing. You really have become like numb. I think the preparation before playing is extremely important. I think we all have our own different ways of getting ready for it.
C: Individuals find their own way.
G: We try and play a whole spectrum over what we've created. I think people do want to hear the early albums or the early tracks, and we try and balance it so that there's something from each album that we think would be most typical and most enjoyable. Perhaps the thing that we're most conscious of doing is to play new things.
CM: And sort of encourage them along the new way, or the direction that you've decided?
G: Well, we don't get into that thing of saying, we're not going to play anything from the first album cos it would bore them.
CM: Do you accept requests...it's just out of interest...it's nothing to dwell on, if anything.
C: We can't really get requests.
CM: I see...it's really a very private arrangement of tunes?
C: No, I think we satisfy everybody when we play, you know.
K: We get letters, we get lots and lots of letters.....
C: Rain drops keep fallin on my head.....I think we play, you know, everything that people need to hear. We play something from every album, and it's pieced together in such a way that the show builds, and each individual in the band gets time in which they can show off....express themselves. So really, everything is catered for, you know. It's not a case of seeing a hand shoot up in the audience and suddenly were playing the Endless Enigma....it isn't that.
G: I think this request thing comes from when you have hit singles. And we never do, so we play albums. It's a concert.
C: Any hit singles we have, we play...I have to tell you that.
CM: Do you do anything in the singles market at all?
C: In the last few years, yes, but you don't sit at home.....and like write.....
CM: In your management, and in your record company; and it's in a sort of self-sustaining manner, can you give me a little bit of background about how you almost manage yourselves, so to speak, or the use of Manticore and what it is, if I can...Manticore being the management company...is it correct...and the record label?
C: We don't really manage other people as it happens....
CM: But you are very actively involved in the management of yourselves?
C: We take a personal insight to what goes on inside the company. Obviously there's lots of other people involved with us. I would prefer to think of it as a record company, and not as a management company.
CM: I see....an operations office, perhaps?
C: I think the only people who are managed, are us ourselves, by people we employ to do specific jobs.
CM: The houses, the cars, the necessities...while you're out working....
G: Manticore grew out of a need for us, really, to control the destiny of our own creations, rather than create something and put it in the hands of someone else...not necessarily that they would do anything bad to it, but that they may. And we would rather have the best representation....
CM: The best of all representations is that which comes from within. It's like finding an office manager or something...looking for representation as an individual. What you're after is, you're after someone who you could almost tutor...these are the areas of concern...these are the dangerous areas.....these are the areas where we've been misrepresented before. Now let us give you all the forte or all the expertise we can in those areas.
C: We have someone, as a band, that we relate to like that, you know.....and his name is Stewart Young.
CM: I understand he's excellent.
C: He's probably the worlds' best negotiator. Opener and closer too!
CM: Greg, I'd like to introduce you to a good friend of yours....I will include you all in this...ladies and gentlemen, a very gifted new talented singer/songwriter....Mr. Jim Stafford.
CM: how did you get to meet ELP; or actually Greg, whom you know best of all?
JS: It was at his birthday party.
CM: Super occasion, right?
JS: It was fun....we had a fun time - it was down in Miami.
G: How does the rock audience react to you?
JS: Well, it's kind of interesting, I really don't like to play the concert situation. Like I've been performing for 14 years, and this is just the last year or so that I've gotten into concerts. I've played in places, you know, where they booze it up...cabarets or whatever, so this is really a new experience for me and it's really very nice.
CM: How exciting; it's like a whole new opening. Any ambitions beyond just the recording and the musical area?
JS: I'm trying to write a movie now...I have an idea for a screenplay that I'm working on, and want to get into TV; I'd like to do TV, and sit and chat.
CM: It's a new experience for most of us!
JS: I like it all. I like everything connected with it. It's really a nice thing to be riding along on.
CM: The video experience for me is one that I think we can go alot farther with...much farther than what has been going. I'm very eager.....the use of the contemporary musician with the funds available, with the success available to be able to go into films, and not necessarily exploit, but start to put your ideas down in video. The excellence in audio for you gentlemen of course is certainly there, and then to start into your own film activities is really very important, cos I think the sight and sound together is obviously, really necessary.
JS: You get the complete situation.
CM: What sort of future plans or excitements do you have in store.....to continue working as you are?
JS: Yeah, I'm gonna do this for awhile, and then record some songs, and I'm trying to think of some TV concepts. I'm just sort of easing into this whole thing, and have plans for concerts into the summer so far, so I'm just out jobbin' around.
G: The thing you do is very intimate and very quick....the subtleties are very important. And I wondered if you felt it was harder to reach lots and lots of people. It is for us...it's harder if you've got 2-300 people, because all the little subtleties they pick up on, but as soon as you get up into the 20-30,000; they're miles away.
JS: Yeah, it's really amazing...the biggest crowd I ever played for so far, was 20,000 and it was like playing under water.
CM: Can you play us out?
JS: Yes, I have an old, obscure banjo song that I'd like to try to play for you. It goes like this.
CM: On behalf of our guests, Jim Stafford, Carl Palmer, Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, this is Speakeasy and Chip Monk. Good night.
(Thanks to J. Walker Grant for transcription)