NO EVENT IS MORE EMBLEMATIC OF THE RESURGENCE OF
interest in prog-rock than Britain’s High Voltage Festival. Last
July, Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP), one of the best-selling
acts in the genre’s history, reunited for the first time in 15
years at the large-scale London prog-focused concert. They
performed a set of their epic, long-form suites including
“Tarkus” and “Pictures at an Exhibition,” as well as delicate
acoustic guitar-driven pieces such as “Lucky Man” and “From
With the well-received show behind
it, the group is considering future activity.
A Time and a Place [Shout! Factory], a
new 4-CD box set of live ELP tracks, is
certain to content fans while they await
further news. A duo tour with guitarist/
bassist Greg Lake and keyboardist Keith
Emerson playing ELP classics is also sure
to be of interest to the group’s audience.
Emerson-Lake will be performing in Japan
and Europe in 2010, with a U.S. leg
planned for 2011, while drummer Carl
Palmer gigs with Asia.
During the years in between ELP activity,
Lake has worked on several high-profile
projects, including playing with the Who
on its 2004 “Real Good Looking Boy” single
and touring with Ringo Starr’s All-Starr
band, captured on the 2003 Ringo & His
New All-Starr Band CD [King Biscuit] and
DVD [Geneon] releases.
Reflect on the High Voltage performance.
The band was in pretty good shape
and the audience was really enthusiastic,
though we had tremendous technical
problems onstage. It’s very difficult doing
a one-off show in isolation, but everyone
enjoyed it regardless. I consider performing
live a privilege these days and treat
every show as if it could be the last,
because it may be. I hope not, but one is
always aware of the fact that there will
come a time when it will no longer be
possible. So, I performed with an underlying
sense of gratitude and commitment.
There was also an unmistakable feeling
of bonding and friendship with the audience,
many of whom grew up with ELP
and its music.
What doors did the event open for future
We haven’t made any more plans, but
the doors are open. Keith and I are touring
as a duo and we may work with Carl
as well, depending on how he feels. Keith
and I have also been writing together for
a while and have a lot of new material. It
is exciting, fresh stuff. At some point soon
we’ll start to record and at that point,
we’ll decide if it’s for a duo or ELP release.
What is your current signal chain?
For both the High Voltage ELP show
and the Emerson-Lake tours, I’m using
a Gibson J-200 Montana acoustic-electric
guitar with a Fishman Matrix Infinity
undersaddle pickup. The Bass Boost
switch is on and the Tone and Volume
knobs are at 10. I also use a Taylor W65
jumbo 12-string with a Taylor pickup. For
basses, I use a ’62 Fender Jazz Bass and
a Sadowsky Jazz Bass-style custom bass. The guitars are sent directly to the house,
dry, through a Demeter Tube DI. My
basses go through a Sadowsky Outboard
Bass Preamp/DI pedal and into a Mesa
Boogie M-Pulse 600 bass head and two
Mesa Boogie Powerhouse 1000 cabs.
The Gibson J-200 and Taylor W65 have been
mainstays in your rig. What makes them so
ideal for your music?
I’ve played Gibson J-200s all my life.
If you’re strumming they sound deep and
rich, and if you cross-pick they possess
a really delicate quality. It’s a fantastic,
all-around rock singer’s guitar that’s
worked successfully for everyone from
Elvis to me. The Taylor W65 has very comfortable action and a very light touch,
especially for a 12-string. My preferred
12-string is my custom Zemaitis, but I
don’t bring it on the road because I’m
afraid of it getting damaged. It’s a very
large, very thin guitar, with a narrow body
cavity and a big soundhole. It’s got a beautiful,
harpsichord-like quality that I love.
What are your favorite electrics?
My favorites are pretty much all of the
classics. I love Fender Stratocasters for
the reasons we all do. I also have a 1959
Gretsch 6120 that just screams rock and
roll, and has a beautiful country and western
twang to it. Another favorite is my
1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard Gold Top
because of the fantastic, crashing rhythm
sound I get with it.
Describe your overall philosophy as a
I began as a guitarist, but because I
also started focusing on bass in the late
’60s, I never developed my technique
much after that point. So, I’m a 1969
guitar player, but quite a good one. My
philosophy is to be as accurate as I can,
as thoughtful as I can, and as good as my
heart will let me be. I’m not into trickery
or bluffing techniques. They are all
right and fancy, but not very soulful. I
think one well-placed note is worth a
hundred arpeggio ramblings.