SOUNDS, August 3, 1974
GREG Lake as a musician has always confused me. The diversity in his styles of playing is almost schizoid. One minute he could be hammering away some powerhouse bass and the next minute he could be slowy picking a soft, gentle ballad like "Lucky Man".
"It's definitely schizophrenic. All my life I've played in bands that played tough music and it's because I'm with a band that play tough music that I play it that way. One applies oneself to a given environment. But just left completely alone without any influence, any compromise ... anything, I'm a folk singer I suppose or a singer of songs. And yet in the environment of a band, especially this band. I become a man of different tricks. I still sing and I love singing and that's really what I am and only what I am. I'm a bass player second, really."
At the time of "Trilogy" it seemed that the band reached some kind of musical stalemate, was this so?
"It's funny you should say that, because I read something by Eddie Offord who thought the same thing and I listened to it, and Keith listened to it. We wondered if it was true, whether it was a period where we weren't producing new ideas and I just don't agree with you. I don't know why you hold that opinion, but it's your opinion so there you go.
"Once you've made one album and it's a hit album then it's obvious you're going to make a second. And if you make a second the likelihood is that you're going to stay around for a while. It's when you get your third that people say 'well we've heard this band, it's just not a new band'.
"We certainly did put everything we had into that one. There wasn't anything held back, there wasn't anything brought through from other albums. We sat down and worked on a new album."
When did you actually start working on "Brain Salad Surgery?"
"Ummm. Christ my memory's awful. I know we worked on it for a long time."
How did you initially start working on the album?
"They don't start with a concept. We kinda work backwards. They start with one note ... two notes ... three notes that sound good. And then a piece of music comes, and then a song comes to that piece of music, and then words come to that song, and they perhaps suggest a title for an album".
Probably all of you SOUNDS readers have seen the ELP documentary, it received mixed reviews like everything else the band has done. I asked Greg what sparked them off to do the film.
"We were trying to improve the way we were doing our live shows. We tried to create an atmosphere, an ambience, that was concert-like and didn't change. So that at every auditorium we played it didn't change. We tried to create something that remained stable every night. It was a good idea, but the actual machinery we got together to do the project was so expensive, so costly in terms of money and the people required to move it.
"I seem to remember at one time somebody coming up to me and saying you've got a hundred road managers and it just lost a fortune But the idea was good. It was such a mammoth thing to do, that not to have filmed it would have been a joke. From that we learnt how to do the production we're doing now.
"Anybody who saw the Wembley show will know that something like that just doesn't come together like that. You got to have made a lot of mistakes, there's a lot of shit that's gotta go on before you can put on a show like that. You've got to move it every day and you can't waste time, it's impossible. You just get fatigue problems with all the crew and in the end it reflects on the whole show. Then your gear starts getting tatty, the equipment's not working right and then you walk on every night thinking 'Christ, is my stuff going to work'. We play in front of a lot of people, you just can't hang them around."
Going back to the documentary, do you think it achieved its purpose?
"We had a real go at making an interesting film about a rock and roll ... er ... a rock band. To show not only the glamour of it, but what it took to do tours, what it really meant to do them, some of the unglamorous things, like they took a lot of pictures in the dressing rooms. A lot of pictures when we were not feeling so well. We also tried to give an insight on how we lived, just so it would have some substance and not just of a concert.
"It's a fifty-fifty thing, on some things we succeeded but in retrospect you need twice as much planning for films like that. Certainly there isn't enough substance that one can draw from a rock band for a full length feature movie. Even if you take things like Presley's films, right? They don't make it as films. There just isn't enough from that situation. There's enough for concerts, enough for records, but a movie is a different area altogether. But for a television documentary, we really did have a go."
You were going to make a full length movie of the European tour. "We were planning to write the music for a full length feature film, but not a film about ourselves. We would have at one time ... or still may be involved in the direction of the ideas of a full length film but it wouldn't have been about the band."
It's interesting to note that "Brain Salad Surgery" was attacked by the press about the same time as Yes brought out "Tales of Topographic Oceans".
"It was damaging", says Lake.
The main criticisms of both albums were saying that the bands were being too self-indulgent. I wondered what Mr. Lane (sic) thought of this.
"All our albums are totally self-indulgent. If you don't enjoy it, if you're not writing it because you love it or it excites you, how the hell do you expect it to excite somebody else?
"That's the basic difference between what we do and what Garry Glitter does. He designs his things to entertain other people, we write our things to please ourselves, it just so happens that people like to hear us. I don't think people mean self-indulgent, because if they do then they've got the whole thing wrong. The whole point of it is to be self-indulgent, the whole point of an improvised solo is self indulgence. Where there's no self-indulgency there's very little love for what you're doing. It just must be a motion you're going through.
"My response to that criticism is that they should have thought more before they wrote the things they did, not only about us, they did about a lot of bands. I think they made most of the good bands in this country very shy to talk to the press, very shy to bring people into their lives, into their music And then left a void which was amazingly quickly filled by a very surface type of music, a very surface type of artist and I can't see how this benefits those whose lives have to do with music."
(Many thanks to Donna for sending this article & pics!)