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Carl Frederick Kendal Palmer

Born: 20th March, 1950

Handsworth, Birmingham

"A superlative percussionist whose speed, invention and dexterity with Emerson, Lake and Palmer put him in the front rank of world drumming." A-Z of Rock Drummers, 1982

"Plenty of drummers do solos - only certain ones become known as legendary soloists. Carl Palmer is one of those few". Modern Drummer, 1983


"Carl was always full of fun and games and still is." Keith Emerson

"He's tremendously energetic, an effervescent person and he keeps things bubbling". Greg Lake


"You cannot dismiss practice. If you are really into music you never draw the line at anything. All I can say is that if a guy wants to be around for many years he should learn all the things he can, even though he might not need them all the time".


"Basically a drummer should learn to play as many different types of music as possible. Latin American, rock, jazz, dance band music. That's our trade. To be just a rock drummer or just a jazz drummer is very boring. It's like wearing the same jacket all your life. I've never said to anyone I'm just a rock drummer. I always tell people I'm a percussionist because I play other instruments, a bit of vibraphone, timpani, bells".

On composition

"We always rehearse in such a way that if Keith has written a piece of music he will give Greg the chords. Then he will play with Greg and then I will come in and sort out all the timings, where they stop and where they start, see if they're playing the right amount of bits in each bar. Then I will learn my bit".


Carl Palmer's analysis of time is different from the majority of drummers. He plays very slightly ahead of the beat to give an exciting feel to the music.

"That's my way of thinking about it. I expect the bass player to be right on it, the drummer to give the excitement and the lead instruments to give the emotion. You shouldn't mark time you should propel it. That's what I mean by playing in front. Not racing away - it's just a small thing we're talking about here but that's the way it's been in all the bands I've been in. I've always been a bit 'edgy', but that's what drums should be all about. I don't think a drummer should be right on the spot - it's boring. It should be to the point where it's exciting, although not to the point where it's pulling. It's not as extreme as that. It's a fine line which I think is probably the mark of a good jazz drummer.

"I'm a lot more considerate to the music today, I think, than in the 70's. I listened to 'Stones of Years' live in 1974 and felt it a little hurried so I try and groove a little bit. I'm also older and more mature and I think this reflects in my playing".


"A drum solo is a release for me, and it's for the people who enjoy that sort of thing. I'll tell you quite honestly, I've timed my drum solo and I play 7 1/2 minutes and in that solo, I play about 2 1/2 minutes for me. During the other five minutes I basically perform as an entertainer. I actually have a complete programmed drum solo which happens the same every night as far as 'landmarks' are concerned. There is a certain time I play the tambourine, a certain time I play the gongs, a certain time I juggle, a certain time I play my electronic drums and a certain time I play my timpani. In between all of those things there are little bits and pieces that I do for myself but all of the things have been put together in such a way as to gain the most audience reaction. That's the way I like to do it. It's almost like a classical pianist with a cadenza that's completely worked out, leaving small areas along the way for ad libbing, but not having something that is ad-libbed from beginning to end.

"I can truthfully say I could sit up there and improvise for 7 1/2 minutes and it would be interesting but it wouldn't go down as well as what I have now. If you could see how I write out my drum solos, I mean it's put together like theatre. I even have a time when I take off my shirt. I take it off every night at the same time and it's when the audience is clapping. This has nothing at all to do with drumming, it's the entertainment part but when they see me do that, they start clapping even more and that sets me up for a little bit of ad-libbing. That really juices me up to play real well".

On ELP's stage act

To get music across is one thing. To present it with some ribbon tied around it is show business, which is the glamour, the glitter and the lights. I think people like to see something up there which needn't happen to get the music across. We bring that element into the music when the music warrants it. I wanted to do something else while I did my drum solo, so I started turning it (the drum kit) around. Keith does the same - throws the thing (his organ) over. Another way to climax. They love to see it. The only thing is that it's a shame that those are the only things they remember".

On ELP's music

"We do the most uncommercial things and hope that people like them, because that's the way we are. We're one of the most self-indulgent bands you'll ever meet. They used the word pretentious years ago because of the amount of money we used to spend on our stage show. I'm sure that if you go to a concert you want your money's worth; yet when we give people their money's worth critics call us pretentious because we're so extravagant.

"It (ELP) doesn't actually fit into popular music which we have today. We've made our own style and approach, which I think is very European. We are sort of unique and one of the few rock trios that are still together".

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