Emerson Seeks A Partner
old-timer considers real time
Keyboard player and ELP founder Keith Emerson was recently in London to promote his new soundtrack for the film "Best Revenge"? Following our life story on the man in July's One Two, we grabbed the chance to fill in the missing gaps
Why are you doing film scores?
"Subconscious masochism, I suppose. It's a lot of hard work for limited rewards, both financially and artistically, but I do find it challenging, and when ELP split up, I wasn't about to get another band together. It was the last thing I wanted to do. After making concept albums with ELP... arrgghh 'concept'... I fell very easily into doing film scores where you establish themes and take them all the way through.
"There's more work involved than an album. You have to do two mixes, one for the eventual soundtrack record, and one for what they call the four stripe. The orchestra is on the first track; percussion on the second; keyboards on the third, and the fourth has the sync pulse. So when you get to the sound stage, the guy that's governing the whole issue can take out the percussion if he feels it's too heavy for what's being said on screen.
"You can console yourself that there will be a soundtrack album ultimately so people will hear what you originally meant. I've really loved all those albums I've done."
Are you planning on forming a new band?
"For the last two years I've been working with different people but I haven't come up with the right balance of musicianship and personality. Nothing seemed to gel until recently, Roger Daltrey was helping me out with some demos and the result was an exciting combination. We both realised the potential, and so have various record companies. We're at the talking stage right now, and also I'm having chats with my old partner in crime, Greg Lake. In fact I'm seeing him tonight."
Do you miss playing in a band?
"No. I like working on my own. I did go through a bad period when ELP were off the road for a year but honestly, now, I don't care. I'm certainly not going to get into that self indulgent, half an hour piano solo nonsense again. One thing I've learnt through film scores is you get one idea and make the most of it in two or three minutes, or whatever time you're given."
So no piano concerto number two?
"I did make a draft for a second piano concerto, but I grew out of the idea. My reasons for doing the concerto were kind of selfish ones, proving I wasn't just someone who throws organs all over the place. But I made that statement, and now I really should move on."
What keyboards do you have now?
"I'm still very much in love with the Yamaha GX1, otherwise referred to as the dream machine. I've got the whole line of Korg instruments. Because I endorse them, they tend to give them to me.
"I bought the Yamaha for about 33,000 dollars. It's got a solo manual and an upper and lower, and all of those three manuals are coupled. I was fascinated by the pitch bend ability and I had it modified so I could control the bend by putting my knee against a switch under the keyboard. Then by pushing my knee against a bar that came down, I could control the growl.
"I bought it sometime back in 1976, maybe '77, and its value is really what I've got out of it, a distinctive sound.
"I've used the DX7 with the MIDI output in conjunction with the Korg Poly 800 — I like all that, it's good stuff. Really I'd like a MIDI on the back of the GX1 so that would be the main console.
"I wouldn't mind a Fairlight or Synclavier, but Fairlights are so expensive and there are so many functions I wouldn't have time to get into. That computer composition side is too boring. I haven't got the patience to spend five hours getting two bars together when I could just go over and play them."
Best Revenge does have an orchestra, not the first time you've used one. What are they like to work with?
"Something of a pain in the arse, really, and very expensive. The standard of their professionalism has been totally sloppy in the past. When I did my piano concerto, I couldn't believe the sloppiness. I recorded it at Kingsway Hall and it cost me a bloody lot of money — a mobile unit, right piano, limited rehearsal time, limited recording time, and the fucking brass players are sitting at the back reading porno magazines!
"They couldn't care a shit. Their attitude is 'here we are, we've got a rock and roll chappie, reckons he's written a piano concerto, oh yes', they won't look at the score until the conductor's got his baton up."
What else have you been doing?
"Oh, keeping my pilot's licence valid, flying aerobatics over Sussex — I don't get time for much else, except a lot of running. I've run four marathons, two London ones, best time three hours nine minutes, not bad for a 40 year old is it?"
And what else do you listen to?
"I've just bought Tom Robinson's 'Back In The Old Country', and Wang Chung, The Police I like, and I still like to listen to classical music and my favourite jazz albums. I saw the Yes concert, very impressed with their stage set up, very clean, very tidy, no leads anywhere, all radio controlled... thought the music was a bit samey, though."
"Yes, I did a Christmas single once with a school choir and it's a really lovely Christmas song, cute kids song, but no one wanted to release it... maybe it will find its way out sometime."
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