Carl Palmer talks drums

Carl Palmer Talk About Drummers, Drummer talk and Emerson Lake & Palmer

Saturday, February 21st, 2015

Carl Palmer – he is called the ‘drummers drummer’ the one they go to watch and was in the top 10 of Rolling Stones: 100 Greatest Drummers of All Time. Carl is a true brummie who was born in Handsworth, Birmingham and grew up in a musical family from a long line of musicians. By the time he was 10/11 years old he had started to put together his first drum kit.

Before that he cut his musical teeth on the banjo and violin before he had what he described as his’ light bulb moment’ when he knew he was a drummer and drums were his passion. His musical pedigree has seen him be part of bands including The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Atomic Rooster, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and Asia. For many the most famous of these is ELP whose sound is dominated by the Hammond organ, Moog synthesizer, and piano.

Formed in 1970, the group were at the forefront of progressive rock (prog rock) selling 40 million albums. Starting at the beginning, Carl said: “My parents bought it (first drum kit) for me. “At first it was a snare drum and one cymbal and then the next year I had a bass drum and another cymbal. “This was when I was 10/11 years old. “Finding I enjoyed playing the drums was a light bulb moment. “It was like having your favourite meal which you knew you were going to enjoy.

“I had to chose an instrument and started with a banjo and then moved to violin and then the drums. “I studied music at the Royal Academy of Music and before that I had five music teachers. “A lot of people learnt in different ways but I came from a family with a strong music tradition and so going along this route was not strange.”

Palmer started off in a band known as The King Bees which changed its name to The Craig. Talking about why he thought Birmingham has produced such a glut of bands and singers he said: “Liverpool was a port which had records come into it which many other people had not heard before.

“Birmingham was a large industrial area of factories. “It had a huge workforce which worked in steel foundries or car factories and they needed somewhere to go at the weekend, somewhere to let off steam. “This meant there was always somewhere to play and people to listen. “The opportunity to play was plenty as there was always a club which needed a band.”

In 1966 he was invited to join Chris Farlowe and The Thunderbirds before he joined The Crazy World of Arthur Brown in 1968 and was part of the groups hit Fire. Then in 1970 he was with ELP.  Talking about this period he said: “Being in ELP was hectic and you do not realise how successful it is all going until it is over. “We were always under pressure as the music scene in England was like a bubble.

“ELP were big in England for about three/four years and then we were dropped but we were still big in Europe, America and Japan. “There is a quick turn around of music in England and you have to be able to adapt to the changes. “You have to beware of what is going on around you and be able to spot these trends.

“I was part of a number one single Fire in 1968 when I joined The Crazy World of Arthur Brown.“I also had a number one with the underground band Atomic Rooster before joining ELP where I experienced another number one. “I wanted to play in ELP as for me it fitted me like a glove.

“Prog rock was created in England and this was something I wanted to be in as it was an adaptation of classical music. “When ELP were together we used no guitars just synthesizers and now I can use guitars which is much more a symbol of rock n roll. “I am a technical drummer who tries to set the bar as high as he can. “I have high standards and am passionate about what I do.

“You have to be in control of what you are doing and get to a place where you can sit back and enjoy it.  “You need to play at a higher level so you know all the parts and can improve on it. “This is gained from experience and being good at what you do. “Being a drummer is good as it inspires others to play.

“Many drummers like to take a back seat but I am more dynamic. “The drummer sets the tempo and speed things up or slow the tempo down. “It is an audio experience. “Now I am part of the Carl Palmer ELP Experience. “I can express the music of ELP to a new generation and make it completely different.  “I am an original member of ELP and have every right to do what I want.”

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