Win Tickets: Q&A With Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s Carl Palmer, Playing Melting Point Friday

Drummer Carl Palmer is a key figure in the story of progressive rock, most notably for his work with the supergroup Emerson, Lake & Palmer. He plays the Melting Point Friday, Nov. 7 with his current project, Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy, which celebrates the music of his most well-known outlet.

We’ve got a pair of tickets, as well as a meet-and-greet with Palmer, to give away to one lucky commenter. To enter, tell us below why you deserve the prize package. We’ll choose a winner Friday at 2:30 p.m.

Flagpole caught up with Palmer for a telephone chat.

FlagpoleProgressive music has taken several turns since you helped to define the genre in the early ’70s. Are there any active progressive rock bands producing interesting work?

Carl Palmer: Well, I think Steve Hackett has produced an interesting album. A couple of years back, he had Album of the Year in a progressive rock magazine in the UK. It’s changed quite a lot. It’s in the minority now. It doesn’t get played on the radio. It is an English art form. It’s still alive. There’s Prog Nation… It reaches everywhere where music goes to, but obviously it’s not as popular. It won’t ever be as popular; we all know that. I think that the players of today are probably better than the players of yesterday, that’s for sure. They’ve had a lot to draw upon. But, the form is still alive and well. 

You’re known for your technical proficiency. What drummers or percussionists these days do you admire?

There’s so many great drummers today. So, so many of them. Whether they’re American or Italian or Austrian, or whatever. There are just so many, like there are great guitar players. I don’t have any particular favorites. All I can say is that the standard throughout is incredibly high. Once you dive into it, it’s really quite amazing. I think it’s because all of the information that they can get—whether that be DVDs, or books, or whatever. A person can learn a lot faster. There are so many great drummers, but they’re not young the ones I’m talking about. They’re probably in their 30s and 40s. And there are some younger than that are coming along. But there are so many now. But, this is happening with people who play all instruments. It’s a healthy thing to see. 

You’ve performed in huge arenas throughout most of your career. Is it thrilling to be playing such intimate venues?

Everyday is a different day for me. I can play to 800–1,000 people or I can play to 400 people. It really depends on what town, what day of the week and where we are… I tend to play in smaller places because I can fill them. If I could play in bigger places, I would. My approach… is exactly the same. I don’t even think about the size of the venue anymore. It seems, to me, irrelevant.

Overall, I’ve been incredibly lucky. I’ve just managed to carry on working my entire life, which is a great thing. 

People in my demographic would rather pay more money and see a band in a smaller environment rather than seeing them in a stadium and watching a video screen all night… Who wants to look at a video screen? Why not see a band in a smaller environment? And I’m in that realm. That’s where I am.  

Looking back on your career, which lesser-known projects do you wish had garnered more attention? 

To be honest with you, I left The Atomic Rooster, which I formed. And in six months, they had a No. 1 single in Europe, which is not easy to do, and [were] really big. I recorded the single with them, but it had to be re-recorded with a new drummer, because I left. With that band, it could’ve been taken to even bigger heights if I stayed with it. But I don’t really think of it, to tell you the truth. I’ve done things that haven’t been successful. I’ve had more that have been successful, thank the good Lord.

Overall, I’ve been incredibly lucky. I’ve just managed to carry on working my entire life, which is a great thing. You do control your own destiny. I’m always looking for something new. I’m always looking for a new project. I don’t jump ship very quickly. I take my time on things. I have other things in the pipeline at the moment and they may be more popular than anything I’ve ever done. You just never know. 

Do you think your work still finds new audiences even though radio is pretty much dead?

Radio is dead. We don’t have to candy-floss that fact. Radio is dead in regard to anything like Asia. Asia doesn’t get played during drive time. I just played six dates with Asia, and we had some phenomenal concerts. We had a great time doing it. And the demographic that came to see us play was extremely wide. That music will carry on itself.

It’s part of the American diet. It’s what I would call “corporate rock.” It’s in the Foreigner, Journey, Styx type of music. That goes on forever here, even if it doesn’t get played on the radio quite as much. I don’t think Asia has a single in the Top 500 FM tracks, but I know ELP has. I know that music gets played on the radio somewhere. Whether it is as well received as what it used to be, I don’t know, but the concerts are. It’s still there, especially here in America, because this genre of music is quite Americano in its approach, to tell you the truth. Journey, Foreigner, Styx, that’s where Asia fits in. In Europe, not so much. But, here, it means more.