Carl Palmer – Interview With Rock’s Legendary Drummer

Carl Palmer - Photo by Michael Inns - Copyright 2013 Carl Kendall-Palmer

April 1 2013Carl Palmer is truly a rock legend. The British drummer has been a member of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Atomic Rooster, Emerson Lake & Palmer (ELP), and Asia. Palmer is also listed in Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the Top 10 Drummers of All Time (along with names such as John Bonham,  Keith Moon, and Canada’s own Neil Peart) and is in the Modern Drummer Magazine Hall of Fame. In terms of pure rock star talent it does not get much bigger than this. Palmer is currently on tour and will be stopping in Toronto’s fabled El Mocambo on Sunday April 28th on what we deem to be a “Must See Gig of 2013“. Tickets are $25 Advance and can be purchased here.

We had the privilege and honor of speaking to Carl Palmer before his gig, this is how it went down: 

Carl Palmer – Photo by Michael Inns – Copyright 2013 Carl Kendall-Palmer

T-Mak World: Carl, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. You are stopping by  Toronto on April 28th. I noticed you are playing 33 gigs in 46 days including Canada, The States, South America and even a cruise ship. How can you possibly handle that rigorous travel schedule? 

Palmer: Well we wouldn’t put it in unless we knew we can handle it. It’s what we do, and logistically it was possible. We booked it because we knew we can do it, and that’s the answer (laughing).

T-Mak World: How about the cruise ship – it was called Cruise To The Edge and was full of prog bands such as Yes, Steve Hackett and even Toronto’s own Saga (who had to unfortunately pull out at the last minute due to a deep personal trauma). How was the experience? 

Palmer: It was a fantastic experience, we had a great time. Obviously playing to a lot of different people who normally wouldn’t come out to see us play. A lot of Yes fans and Steve Hackett fans came out to see us play. So really this is the ultimate package tour in a way. 

We played twice – once indoors in the big theater on the ship and then I decided to play outside on the deck of the ship. Both of the concerts were a great experience and both shows were sold out because well there is nowhere else to go on a ship (laughing) so its a captive audience. It was a great experience and I will be definitely doing it again next year at some stage.


T-Mak World: Wow that really does sound like a fantastic idea, having a bunch of bands and a bunch of real music fans together on a vacation celebrating music while on a Caribbean cruise.

Palmer: It’s a good thing to do because obviously they are some of the most dedicated fans, so it is a great experience.


T-Mak World: You are currently on a tour with the Carl Palmer Band. What can we expect to hear from you, a selection of your solo work or work from other projects you have been involved in such as Asia or ELP?

Palmer: Yea if you go to the website, you will see this is the Carl Palmer ELP Legacy Tour (it is not called the Carl Palmer Band anymore). We have used the ELP logo to let people know that we will be playing a significant amount of ELP classics such as Welcome Back My Friends, the complete version of Tarkus, a version of Knife-Edge from the first ELP album, we are also delivering Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition and we are playing for roughly 2 hours. 

All the material is actually on a new DVD entitled Decade which is now finished but will come out sometime in the next 6 months. I am featuring Paul Bielatowicz on lead guitar and Simon Fitzpatrick on bass guitar. We have a fair amount of classical adaptations that aren’t ELP, but there is enough ELP material to satisfy most of the fans I would hope. 

I am also using a cinematic approach to the performance as I am showing film in most of the pieces of music. For Pictures At An Exhibition I have the royal Russian family on film at the back of the stage and there is use of various clips of them at their castle for example. I try and give a media experience. It’s an instrumental band and  I needed to add a bit more color there so that worked out well. We have some great shots of the Grand Canyon when we play Hoedown which is a famous American piece of music from Aaron Copland.  So overall it’s quite an impactful show.

Carl Palmer – Photo by Michael Inns – Copyright 2013 Carl Kendall-Palmer

T-Mak World: Sounds wonderful. Also on this tour you will be featuring some art you are involved with called Twist Of The Wrist. Can you tell us a bit about that? 

Palmer: Yes sure, Twist Of The Wrist art is available here. I produced about 200 versions of 11 paintings – when I say paintings they are actually created with LED drumsticks. The drumsticks have a small LED at the tip of the self generated sticks and the LED lights come in four colors, red, green, blue, yellow. I set myself up in a pitch black room and I had a guy with two handheld high powered handheld slow frame cameras recording as I would play on the drums with these drumsticks whilst they were illuminated. I would play something from Tarkus, or Brain Salad Surgery or the song Tank for example and the actual movements of the sticks and the shadows and light reflections being created  were quite stunning. I thought it was worthy of an arm form – it’s a hidden art that you wouldn’t normally see. I mean you would see my arms moving but not a ray of light being created. I am actually playing the drums when I use the sticks and I we have sold over a quarter of the collection already.

It will be in some galleries around America very soon, and we are bringing some pieces to the shows to sell. Tank is a very big seller, because in this particular picture I am using a large chrome gong, and a freak reflection came off the gong and you can see my face, its the only one where that happened and you actually see me in the art.

T-Mak World: Sounds like a perfect album cover for your next release perhaps. Will you have some in Toronto that we can photograph and feature on the site?

Palmer:  They are very modern contemporary pieces of work and yes of course they could be used for album covers but the problem is that they are a certain size. Its quite a good idea, who knows I may just do that. 

Yes we will have those on sale at the show, as well as some lithographs which are a bit cheaper. These  range between $300 to $2000. I have some lithographs that are exclusive to this tour, if I don’t sell them all on this tour they will not go out again. I have one called Stones Of Years which is also an ELP song from Tarkus and that will be available as well as some of the larger full color versions. So yes there will be stuff for people to see and there will be stuff to purchase.


T-Mak World: Carl, are you satisfied with what you have accomplished in your life as a musician?

Palmer: Yes I have offered as much as I possibly can for the amount of talent I’ve got. People are still coming to see me play, people are still recognizing that I am one of the very few great rock drummers in the world – even though I am saying it myself (laughing). I just picked up a virtuoso award from the Progressive Rock magazine in London just late last year so I’m still being recognized by the younger players. It’s still there, I’m still producing, I’m still developing. So from my point of view I have fulfilled my dream and I am still fulfilling it. I feel extremely content and am happy that I am touring again. So all in all I have been blessed and I am one of the few that have managed to continue at a very high standard.


Carl Palmer – Photo by Michael Inns – Copyright 2013 Carl Kendall-Palmer

T-Mak World: There is a great buzz about this upcoming show particularly with many of Canada’s musicians. I was talking to a drummer from one of Canada’s hottest up and coming rock bands (Kurt Dahl of One Bad Son) and he was genuinely excited that you are touring. Do you find appreciation from musicians to be extra special for you? 

Palmer: Let me explain for you to completely understand what I am doing. I could have continued to play with guys my age, to be very honest though many people at my age are not setting the standard as far as playing. They are resting on their laurels and I don’t believe in that. I am still improving and I need to play with the very best musicians that are available. I am playing with virtuoso, young musicians, 25-33 years old at the very top of what they do. 

For me the way to express this music and to push this ELP music forward to a new generation not using keyboards but using guitars I have to use the very top end of players I can get. I am selling virtuoso-ness along with this Emerson Lake and Palmer music which has been the beginning of a lot of progressive rock. I am also selling the fact that we are Europeans and we are playing classical adaptations. These virtuosos manage to get their hands around this music and we make it our own.

Today there is only one way I can continue and that is playing with guys who are at the top of their trade and for unfortunately a lot of guys my age are not good enough to want to hook up with and that’s why I have gone this younger route.  For me these are the musicians of today that are setting the standards, that’s what I like to be involved with, that’s how I started with ELP and that’s how I plan to continue.

Today the guitar and guitar playing has advanced so much that guitarists can play things they could not have many years ago –  that for me is very fresh. I don’t want to work with keyboards anymore, I played with the greatest keyboard player in the world and I want to make this music fresh and give it a different life and bring it to young people. I’m just very lucky to have these guys to work with. Guitarists has developed so quickly the last 10 or 15 years that there are probably more great guitar players than keyboard players in the world right now. For me it’s a dream come true.

Carl Palmer – Photo by Michael Inns – Copyright 2013 Carl Kendall-Palmer

T-Mak World: Do you have a current full time gig? Is Asia still considered an active recording and touring band? 

Palmer: Yes for sure. Asia is like an old family, we have been playing on and off together for 40 years. I have known Jon Wetton for 43 years so we are old friends. We are going out in June for Sweden Rocks and various other large festivals in Netherlands and Germany. I will work until the 12th of May with my band (Carl Palmer Legacy) then we will take a few weeks off and go out with Asia in June.

I will take July off and do some dates with Asia in August and September and then at the end of the year work with Asia on a new album. To round out the year I also have the DVD I mentioned earlier coming called Decade. 


T-Mak World: There’s a YouTube video of you out there from 1971 and you were asked what your hobbies are. Your 21 year old self said that you didn’t really have any hobbies other than maybe driving. How has your answer changed now 42 years later? 

Palmer:  To that I would say I never really had hobbies as such unless you call things like running or swimming or fencing hobbies but those are really just done to keep fit and well. I don’t really have any real hobbies, I mean I play the banjo but to me thats something I do for a release and its comforting. I am possibly more of a collector, I have collected many things through the years and still collect a lot of art and have since day 1. Driving is possibly a hobby because you have to do it so I get as much fun out of it as I can (laughing)


T-Mak World: I have been listening to early Atomic Rooster lately, and I think they had a very interesting sound and a commercially viable sound for the times. What is the story with that band?

Palmer: I don’t know if you know but I actually formed the band and then Vincent Crane came along and asked to join the band and I said that is fine by me. The Atomic Rooster was a very big band in Europe, with an underground following that was huge. It wasn’t so big in America, we never really got here. We here huge in Germany, Italy, France which was unheard of, and Sweden – we could have worked all the time, the album sold pretty well (that very first album). It was a great band that worked really well. 

We actually had a number one single called Tomorrow Night which I recorded with them, which was re-recorded because I had left the band so imagine how I felt having left to join Emerson and Lake. I thought it was a terrible mistake. I was still in a  rehearsal room and Atomic Rooster had the number one song in the country.

Atomic Rooster were definitely one of the first with that keyboard, prog rock sound using flutes and musicianship with good writing. So ya I was really proud of that band, unfortunately only myself and the bass player are still alive as Vincent Crane died a while ago and John Du Cann who came in on guitar died a few years back also. So thats all over and can never be brought to life again but it was a great experience.


Carl Palmer – Photo by Michael Inns – Copyright 2013 Carl Kendall-Palmer

T-Mak World: I always try to end my interviews with a light question so bear with me (laughing)… if Twitter had existed in the 70’s who would have had the most twitter followers? E or L or P? 

Palmer:  Well as I don’t participate in Twitter at all, I can’t imagine who would. Possibly Keith as he has a lot of free time as he doesn’t tour much so I guess E would win that one.

T-Mak World: Hey Keith if you are reading this and have some free time we would love to interview you nextCarl I want to sincerely thank you for giving me the honor to speak to you and we can’t wait to be at the El Mocambo watching you and your band serve up progressive rock masterpieces!

There you have it folks, Carl Palmer is performing at Toronto’s historic El Mocambo on Sunday April 28th on what will surely be a sold out show. Make sure you check him out live, you won’t be disappointed. Click right here, right now to get your ticket!

Interview and Article by Terry Makedon
T-Mak World: Toronto’s Site For Music, Movies and Culture  
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5 Responses to Carl Palmer – Interview With Rock’s Legendary Drummer

  1. Matt says:

    Thanks for the interview T-Mak, really looking forward to hearing those classic songs at the El Mo.

  2. Terry Makedon says:

    My pleasure Matt, it will be a wicked show for sure.

  3. Pingback: Toronto’s Upcoming Must See Concerts of 2013 | T-Mak World

  4. Pingback: Toronto’s Upcoming Must See Concerts of 2013 | T-Mak World

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