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Gregory Stuart Lake


Born: 10th November, 1947

Poole, Dorset



"Greg Lake, who snaps a cathartic bass guitar to the fore of the music, also sings lead like a hoody choir boy. But with all volume controls open, both his bass line and voice resound like thunder in the night." Billboard Magazine

Personality

"Greg is the cool member of the band. He's a strong contrast to Emerson's violent musical personality and to Carl's intensely energetic approach. In many ways he is the least flash technically, for vocal brilliance is more connected with feeling than identifiable skills." Rick Sanders, Music Scene

As a musician he's of a different make up to Keith and myself. He's very levelheaded: not too many things stir him up. I doubt if he'd ever get into smashing a guitar..." Carl Palmer

On his playing style

"My sound is a natural reproduction of the string which is connected to my fingers. I like a lot of the sounds which have been prostituted, but that wasn't the way I went. I just got into making the instrument as beautiful and as powerful, naturally, as it could be made."

This runs parallel with Greg's conception of his role as a bass player, which is "to provide a bottom end, a liquid bottom end to this band, a fluid end and - at the same time - percussive, because the style of our band is a percussive style. So, if you like, it's melodic-liquid-percussion. Apart from that, I think of myself as a singer really. It's difficult to analyse; it's better that other people analyse me. That saves me a lot of problems.

"I continually try to develop clarity in what I am playing. Above and beyond that I'm really not an effects man. I believe in playing the thing. I believe that's where it comes from. If you spend so much time developing a phase-fuzz-wah (effect), you've got to be able to play something through it. And you'll find that the cat who has spent all that time just playing is going to come out with something a lot better, really."

But when it comes down to it, Greg values his vocal skills more than his instrumental ones: "It's not easy to sing and play any instrument at the same time. You've almost got to use a counterpoint principle. But once you've learned it, once you've got into the habit of the two functioning independently, one doesn't detract from the other and one really doesn't affect the other. I'm essentially a singer. I mean, if I had to do away with everything and just keep one of the things I do, I'd sing without a shadow of a doubt - because nothing is so expressive, so unlimited, so flexible as the human voice or has so much capacity to transmit feeling."

On technique

"The more you know musically the better you can explain and define what's wrong and what you want to hear in its place. There certainly is a need to be skilled musically but there's more of a need to see the whole picture."

What do the lyrics mean?

"I believe that lyrics, like paintings, should be the property of the person who is listening to them or looking at them. They should be what that person wishes them to be. I think the value of a lyric is that it can mean different things to different people. I guess it comes back to beauty being in the eye of the beholder.

"As far as my lyrics go, I'm not in search of any profound meaning. I write words according to the way they feel and the way they fit. I like the way they convey pictures, feelings, visions. I'm not trying to educate anybody about philosophy but if, by the good grace of those words, people pick up some better meaning than was intended, then I can only be grateful that they see something that I didn't. Take some of the great painters. When Renoir did his first paintings, do you think he thought they were going to be worth £5,000 each? I doubt it. He did them as a gift for his mother. Other people interpret greatness in them which was never intended".

Greg's contribution

"I'm more of a romantic than anyone else in the band. In terms of music I believe in beautiful things rather than bizarre things. I'd rather have harmony than dissonance. I know there's a lot of dissonance in this band but it's that contrast that makes the music dynamic. It's the combination and the battles between the romance of mine and that technical development of Keith's which make this an interesting and exciting group."

"It's hard working in a group like ELP because so much of the music is written by Keith and his songs are instrumentally orientated, which makes it very difficult to find the vocal line. But then again, there's a good and a bad side to it. Strictly from a singer's point of view, it's harder work, but it also gives you a special experience you wouldn't have otherwise. When I sing in 'Pirates' or 'Karn Evil 9', the phrasing is complex, whereas in something like 'Lucky Man' itís completely natural.

"I'm in a strange position in this band because I see things from two sides and that can make working in the group a very frustrating experience. I see it from a composer's side and from a singer's side, whereas Keith really only sees it from the composer's side. My work in some circumstances, then, has to be more imposed, whereas for Keith it's completely natural".

On producing

"To be a record producer you have to be a great listener. A producer is not there to command the artists but to perform the artists' wishes and interpret them. ELP does not work well with outside producers. The only way this band works properly is in a room on its own without any people around it and working on music with a vision".






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