Carl Palmer, the legendary drummer of the prog-rock band ELP (Emerson, Lake and Palmer) is a very busy man these days promoting his new signature art collection, “Twist of the Wrist,” (which is the same name as the tour) touring, a new CD "Working Live: Vol. 3" (Eagle Rock Entertainment) and has released a new DVD entitled: Carl Palmer, Decade 10th Anniversary celebrating the legacy and music of Emerson, Lake and Palmer; recorded live in October 2011 at Musikfest in Bethlehem, PA. Carl Palmer resigned from ELP and and is now doing solo gigs with his own band, The Carl Palmer Band; which formed in 2001 as a trio featuring guitarist, Paul Bielatowicz and bassist, Simon Fitzpatrick. ELP has since disbanded, but still continues to tour individually. He still tours with ASIA whenever possible. ELP reformed two years ago and had a reunion tour and he still remains close with his band mates, Keith Emerson and Greg Lake. ELP celebrated their 40th Anniversary in 2010 and ASIA celebrated its 30th Anniversary in 2009.
Palmer spoke to me by phone from his home in the UK, about his artwork, the upcoming U.S.-Canadian and Pan-American tour, and the Cruise to the Edge tour aboard a cruise ship and how he balances being in both ASIA and his own band.
“We sit down at the beginning of the year and we talk about what would be the best times for the band or project to be working and we take it from there—sometimes I work in the summer sometimes ASIA takes the summer and it’s been really easy over the years to work that out,” Palmer said. “I started off very early in Japan and I just came back from Europe I played 14 concerts in 16 days; and soon I’ll be leaving for America to start the Cruise to the Edge Tour and then a tour in South America after the five-day turnaround and back to America to finish off the tour around May 12.” He continued, “Asia doesn’t start until June what they call “Fly-in Festivals” into Europe this year—so we might be in America for three weeks but we map it all out and then we try and fill in the gaps as we go. Geoff Downes plays in YES and so does Steve Howe (who’s no longer with ASIA); so we have to make that work for them but it’s relatively easy to tell you the truth it just takes a bit more time but we’re cooperative.”
With the Cruise to the Edge tour fast approaching, (on the MSC Poesia 5-day cruise with various headline acts such as YES, Steve Hackett, Carl Palmer Band, Genesis Revisited UK, Zebra, Tangerine Dream) and with the news about the security of the cruising industry, we asked if Carl is concerned about his safety aboard the ship.
“Anytime you get on board a ship, you always panic and get a bit worried,” Palmer noted. “My younger brother who spent seven years as a musician on a ship, he’s probably the best one for me to talk to daily just before I leave. There’s a drill and everything you go through beforehand,” he states. “Only half the ship is sold as a prog-rock tour “Cruise to the Edge” the rest of the passengers on the ship are regular-paying passengers—so it’s slightly weird actually; this is the second cruise which has been set up this way the first cruise (which departed March 20) has got The Moody Blues on it and that’s half the ship as well it’s set up professionally; it’s a proper company the ship is well-run but yes, you have to take all security into consideration.”
Joining the Moody Blues is an ASIA cover band; one of the artists featured aboard the MSC Poesia.
“John Payne’s ASIA is on the boat we’ve known John for a few years so we let him use the name providing he puts his name in front of it but it’s more of a cover band it’s not the original members of ASIA.”
Palmer’s unique artwork is attracting a lot of attention. The very cool art effect uses LED lights and rhythms to create the art and light as the vehicles at the tip of the drumsticks and slow-frame motion cameras to reflect stylish imagery. He calls it, “Twist of the Wrist.”
“I call it, “Twist of the Wrist” because that’s the title I’ve had for years. It’s a relatively new venture that started early last year. I met some people who started to talk to me about using LED lights set into the end of drumsticks; which I have experimented with before but you couldn’t actually play the sticks in any real fashion; you could mime with them but you couldn’t actually play them. That was about fifteen years ago that I came across it. Since then, there’s been a lot of development and dedication to the cause and now there’s a company (Scene-Four) that had come up with LED lights, (red, yellow, green, blue) set into drumsticks and you can actually physically play the drums which was quite interesting. I disregarded them as a gimmick because they’re not of any use to me but I remember that when I used the sticks about fifteen years ago they created some incredible patterns, flashes and rainbow rainbow-type effects and different shapes and shadows when I played with them or pretended to mime with them."
Palmer mentioned that it would be an interesting concept for him to play the drums using these LED light sticks.
"These new sticks today, I thought if I could actually play the drums as well this would obviously be a different game all together because I could get something out of it. The company that makes the drumsticks approached me and said, “We’ve been thinking about doing this” I said, “Fine, yes I have been involved with something like this in the past, we talked and we spent 4 ½ hours one day in a very dark room; they had these two hand-held slow frame cameras which were very new and for first-time use and I started off playing various rhythms and things to do with music from the past whether it’s Tarkus, Tank, Pictures at an Exhibition, just to see what we could create in the darkness using a red color in one stick and a blue in another, a yellow and then a green and then four sticks all together and the results were outstanding it was like a hidden art form that had been exposed! Normally, you wouldn’t see these shadows, shapes and things. Playing drums you create a lot of movement and when movement is connected to light you get quite a few reasonable impressions created. This has been quite a nice experience because you can actually see part of me or the shadow of my face or profile and it’s a bit haunting at times with all this beautiful color around the drum set which you can’t see you only see the shadow, shape and color that the sticks are making,” Palmer explained. “The LED drumsticks were invented by a particular drum company they’re a gimmick you can’t play with them they are not weighted very well as drumsticks so you wouldn’t want to play with them all of the time."
There are currently 200 hand-signed limited edition prints of Palmer’s artwork, available on CarlPalmerArt.com.
“It’s proved to be something that’s new and has merit and it’s definitely working well. We’ve sold over 50 prints already!” The company, (Scene-Four) are four young guys really into computer graphics, one of them stumbled on the idea and they approached me and wanted to get hold of a drummer who could play really well and see what shapes could be created using all of these colors. I didn’t invent it but it was a combination of ideas. The artwork is limited and is something I wanted to keep special,” he confessed. “I’ve done two banks this particular release and then another selection completely different again—but that’s it you can only do this once and I’m releasing it half at a time. I would like to see how this is accepted because it is a serious art form.”
Carl is also writing his autobiography.
“I’m writing a book at the moment I thought it was time and there’s only a set window of opportunity to these things, I’m in my 60s now and I’ve had an incredible amount of success as a drummer; from the age of 18 playing with the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, having a number one single and album in 1968 in America moving on to the Atomic Rooster, a big underground group here in Europe which I formed and then going on to Emerson, Lake and Palmer, ASIA (which I’m still in today) and now having my own band and I’ve been very lucky having starting off back in 1966 backing one of England’s leading soul singers who had a number one single written by Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. I felt it was time to write a book; I kept all the pictures and information over the years and we’re in the process of just editing it now. I was going to call it, “Twist of the Wrist” so I decided to call the tour and the art, “Twist of the Wrist” because it just seems to be relevant to the whole situation that’s happening now. It gives a synopsis what I’ve done since the age of 15 right up through today.”