Asia, ELP Drummer Carl Palmer Puts The Art In Rock
In a field known for vibrant characters, Carl Palmer may be the most colorful drummer of them all.
A founding member of ’70s progressive rock band Emerson, Lake & Palmer and ’80s rock supergroup Asia, the Birmingham, England-born Palmer will premiere his new art collection, Rhythm of Light, at Miami Beach’s Effusion Art Gallery.
The 16 images in the exhibit were created using a photographic process in which Palmer plays his drums in a pitch black, 12-square-foot room, using custom LED florescent drum sticks. As stick hits drum or cymbal, a burst of light forms a pattern, and the visual images are captured on canvas.
The procedure has evolved considerably from its origins in 1974. Palmer, then at the height of ELP’s career through such albums as Brain Salad Surgery and the live set, Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends…Ladies and Gentleman, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, decided to add visual artist to his credits.
“We were not using LED lights then,” Palmer said in a telephone interview a day after celebrating his 64th birthday in the English countryside. “We were using normal light bulbs taped to light sticks taped to a battery on the floor. I couldn’t play the drums. Now, you can play the drums physically and can choose red, green or blue or whatever you want really. We deal with the reflection of light and the movement of light and the shadows reflected on different materials. By the time I’ve gone through it, about three [images] normally work, and we go from there.”
For these pieces, Palmer played ELP numbers Tarkus, Jerusalem and Bartók’s Allegro barbaro ( The Barbarian). “That’s why it’s called Rhythm of Light. It’s extremely abstract. Art is like music. Very hard to explain. You have to hear it or see it,” Palmer said.
Less abstract is the 14th studio album by Asia released Tuesday. The richly melodic Gravitas is the first Asia album without guitarist Steve Howe (of Yes) since the original lineup reunited for 2008’s Phoenix. Gravitas, along with the preceding XXX in 2012, marks the finest music Asia has crafted since its eponymous debut ranked as Billboard’s best-selling album of 1982.
“Asia’s been going for a long time. Asia isn’t a prog rock band. It isn’t even a heavy rock band. It’s more middle-of-the-road but, on the other hand, it works well, and I’m happy,” Palmer said.
Along with the artwork and Asia’s new album, Palmer released a solo concert DVD, Decade, and a two-CD Anthology set.
“I just had a birthday the other day, and I’m on the right side or wrong side of life, however you look at it, but I’m still improving as a musician, I think. If you have that in mind or feel that way you don’t want to stop,” he said. “The traveling is getting harder, no doubt about that, and the music business has changed so radically you have got to deal with it in a different way. But the creative side, that will stay with me until the day I die.”