<i>Gravitas</i>: Talking with Asia's John Wetton, Geoff Downes & Carl Palmer, Plus Noah Chenfeld's 'I'm Just A Soul'

Tobias Campbell shoots and edits Noan Chenfeld's video "I'm Just A Soul" just like a pro, employing the teen singer-songwriter's emotional delivery and bipedalism to make use of Central Park's beautiful snowed-under bleakness.
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photo credit: Mike Inns

A Conversation with John Wetton

Mike Ragogna: Hi John, how are you doing?

John Wetton: Very well, thank you very much.

MR: Your new album, Gravitas. Why "Gravitas"?

JW: It was originally going to be Valkyrie. That was the working title for this album. It was the first title I had in my head that would go anywhere near this album. When we first had to deal with the next chapter of this band, we were in San Francisco when we started looking for a new guitar player. The last thing I wanted it to look like was Steve Howe Leaves Band, Asia's Over. I wanted to make it seem as seamless as possible. So what we had to offer on whatever that date was when we played San Francisco was the fact that we had Sweden Rock--which we wanted forever and had wanted to get because the band wasn't tough enough--it was too soft for the selectors of the festival. We had a day for it, which I think was June 7th, we had an offer for a new album from our record company and all we needed, really to complete this was a new guitar player. We started looking around for a new guitar player as soon as we could, and the two guys we approached were my favorite guitar player Steve Lukather and the other was Carl [Palmer]'s favorite guitar player, Paul Gilbert. Both of them said, "Very flattered, but sorry, we can't." Both of them had too much commitment to their own careers at the moment. So when Paul Gilbert said this, we said to him, "We're going to get this same answer from anyone that we approach who we really like, so can you suggest someone?" He said, "Yeah, I can suggest two people..." One of them was American and one was a British guy, but it had nothing to do with their nationality, because Sam [Coulson] lives in Canada now...Alberta. But Sam was a blank page. He was virtually unknown outside of the guitar players' union and he came with no baggage at all. There were no preconceptions about what he would be like. He's from virtually the same part of the country that Carl and I come from, so there's more of a chance of him fitting in. When we met him, he was a natural. For me, what I liked about it was that he wanted to be part of this band. The ammunition I had in San Francisco at that point was, "We have a new guitar player, we'll be recording a new album and the band will be on tour in June playing the Sweden Rock festival that we've always wanted to play. Those three facts were enough to make it look like we were going to hit the ground running, which in fact we did.

I even gave them the title of the album, I said, "The new album is going to be called Valkyrie." At that time, "Valkyrie" was just four chords and a title, but I knew that was going to fly--that's a terrible pun, really, but I knew "Valkyrie" was going to fly. So we set about recording it, Geoff [Downes] and I started on the usual process of taking a sack full of ideas and sorting through them until we found stuff that was compatible and working on synthesizing it. Eventually, we came out with a bag full of pretty good, strong ideas for this new album. The name was always Valkyrie until one meeting where somebody in the band thought that it was too feminine. That's odd, because in myth the Valkyrie has more power than a male, but there you go. What I always say is that I'll come up with the titles until someone comes up with something better. If you're going to knock it down, come up with something better. It so happened that I had another title, Gravitas. "How does anybody feel about that?" and immediately the fists went into the air, high fives and whoops and they said, "That's the title" and I said, "okay, fine." So to me, then Valkyrie was not relegated at all, it was still going to be the flagship of this album because it's such a concise distillation of what this band's all about. The track "Valkyrie" is five minutes of pure Asia. I think it's still the one that's going to get the attention. It's still the one that's going to be the video, first track, single. "Gravitas," although it's very hard-hitting, is too strung out to be the promo track. Valkyrie will be the promo track of this album.

MR: John, there seems to be a theme behind this album. Can you go into that?

JW: Well two of the main tracks, "Gravitas" and "The Closer I Get To You" are both about disintegration of relationships. It's something that's fairly universal these days, most people have either been through it themselves or they are very close to someone who's been through it, so it kind of strikes a chord in most people. Now, in "The Closer I Get To You" the situation is almost redeemable. He doesn't know whether it's going to completely fizzle out or whether he can get it back on track again, but in "Gravitas," it's completely gone and it's dealing with the aftermath and the guy is saying, "Please, let's do this with some respect, let's not just tear each other's throats out, because I don't want it to end like this." The underlying theme of the whole album is redemption, really, and treating other with a little bit of respect. It's the non-violent solution. It's trying to find another way where people retain their dignity. The meaning that I take out of Gravitas is dignity. We didn't want to make a straightforward rock 'n' roll album. Most of this band are in their sixties--we've got one exception who's twenty-six, but most of us are getting to that respectable age now. We can't come up with punk anthems, we never have done. What we do is we reflect the internal conflict that people get. Look at "The Heat Of The Moment." It's an apology. "Only Time Will Tell" is about a relationship falling apart because of infidelity. My complete change-around as far as lyric-writing came in 1971 when I had three records that I listened to all summer. One was Joni Mitchell's Blue, the other one was What's Going On by Marvin Gaye and the last one was Surf's Up by The Beach Boys. The one that hit me the hardest, really, was Blue by Joni Mitchell because she wrote every song in the first person. It's all like she's reading straight out from her journal. For me, who had been brought up on art rock where you're observing other people from a distance, it catapulted me into the world of, "Why don't you write it from your own experience? To this day, if I hear someone bleating on about fame, I want to hear about their fame, not someone else's. If it's coming from the horse's mouth, great. If it's coming from the horse's ass it's no good at all.

MR: [laughs] When you guys are creating the music, there's a point where you're all very accepting of the material that you bring into the process, like a surrender to it, right?

JW: Geoff and I have an unspoken agreement that anything goes when we bring it into the writing studio, whether that be at his house or my house, or we could do it on the road in a hotel room. But we have this unwritten agreement that anything goes. We will never laugh at each other's suggestions. They can be as completely un-PC as you could possibly imagine and then some but we won't poo-poo each other's ideas. Maybe we'll trim it later and bring it within the bands of public health, but anything goes. Nothing's out the window, which is kind of different from the way we approach the music, because the music is actually quite structured and it's structured to very strict rules, really. We're both sticklers for keeping notes within the chords and things like that. Things have to be in tune, things have to be in the right place chordally. We're quite strict about that, but as far as the content of the song anything goes. So we kind of write about anything we want basically, but normally it falls into the bounds of either anti-war songs or songs about interpersonal relationships and feelings. I got criticized on our first Asia record for being "anti-female," that I portrayed women as duplicitous. I was tarred with that brush, but I think that's unfair, because I'm just giving you my point of view, my experience with my relationships. Maybe I'm not very good with relationships. On the next album I tried to regress that down a little bit with "Don't Cry," but you've got to be really careful with that, because if you constantly try to regress that balance you end up inevitably going too far the other way and you get accused of being patronizing.

But one of the standouts from the second Asia record was "My Own Time," which was a real kind of "f**k you" anthem. "I really don't care, I'll do this anyway and I'll do it in my own time." Actually, most of the guys that I speak to love that song. They probably would, wouldn't they? It's a real stick one finger up and say, "I'm going to do this anyway" song. I don't like to confuse myself like that, so I just write from the heart mostly. They almost always, these days, end up being about personal relationships. It's nice that they can be seen on a few different levels. I did one called "Holy War" which actually was on Omega and I thought, "Oh, Jesus Christ we've got to be careful about this one, going on about the crusades and stuff" but actually it came out and in places it's more like a personal war, and a song of hope, which is great. But back to Gravitas, the underlying theme always is optimism for me. There's a little bit of a slight humorous twist in "Nyctophobia," which is the fear of the dark, but again it's all from personal experience. I wouldn't dream of writing a song about something that I haven't experienced. When I came out of alcoholism--actually, I've still got alcoholism, I just don't act out on it anymore--but when I came out of that very black period, any phobia that was around, I had it. And fear of the dark was a big one for me. It's not like I'm inexperienced in that. And I am incredibly grateful for the other guys in the band because when I came out of that period of alcoholism--and they were incredibly supportive, by the way--when I came out of that I was like the Japanese guy who'd been on an island in the Pacific for twenty five years and didn't realize that the second world war was over. I didn't know anything about anything that was current, at all. I kind of had a computer but I didn't know how to use it, I had a credit card but I didn't know what the pin was for it, I had a mobile phone but I didn't know how to text or anything. They had to kind of lead me through gently into the twenty first century. I am eternally grateful to all of them for doing that. We got thrown straight into being on the road again in 2006 and suddenly we're all sitting in a car driving up to Buffalo and it's like the old days but I really was unaware of what happened in the last ten or fifteen years. It was quite amazing.

MR: John, Asia started at a very high point, didn't it.

JW: Yeah, we got let out of the elevator at the penthouse instead of the ground floor. We didn't have the opportunity to develop organically as most bands do, where we'd spend two years bumming around and two years looking for a record deal and five years making our first album. That didn't happen with Asia. I'd been writing a lot of the material that was on the first Asia record for about five years, but we weren't a band, we were just a studio outfit that recorded a load of songs. When we went out on the road we only had forty minutes of material. We had exactly the amount of material that was on the album, I think thirty-eight minutes. So we never had a chance to do it organically. The following year the band was split up, but we all felt there was unfinished business and we wanted to do it again properly. So in 2006 that's exactly what we did. Lo and behold what you have before you now is a real, live organic rock 'n' roll band. It's a classic rock band. We make records, we get on tour, we have regular band meetings, we know what we're doing, we plan our budgets, we do everything properly, just like a real band should.

MR: I also have to ask you, you said "classic rock," but Asia also falls under the category of progressive rock, which I think allows you the freedom you talked about before to do anything you want with your music.

JW: Yes. We have a foot in three trenches, really. We're classic, we're prog, and we verge on pop at times. We certainly can have singles that will appeal to people outside the prog fraternity, which they probably don't even like. It's clearly elitist, this prog thing. The bands that we came from, certainly all of them were prog. They died in the war of prog. But Asia, when it came out, reached far beyond the prog circles. To this day our audience is so varied, we get real kids at concerts, we get people our age and everyone in between. It's great, I love it. And we still have a fairly broad spectrum as far as gender. Usually, we don't have a room full of beards and sweaters, it's usually a good mix of women and men. Very, very healthy audience. It's great.

MR: Don't you think the cross-generational thing speaks for the music as well as the fact that your music keeps popping up in movies and TV? South Park has one of the most classic Asia shoutouts with "Heat Of The Moment."

JW: It certainly is classic, isn't it? Cartman even says, "I'm going to use the words of a classic song." It's great! If Cartman thinks it's okay, then it's cool with me.

MR: And also Forty Year-Old Virgin gave you gusy some luv.

JW: Brilliant. And it's exactly the right time, as well. Apparently, that had to beat out something else to get that spot. "Heat Of The Moment" was up against two or three different songs when they take them out to cinemas and try it out and "Heat Of The Moment" won it because it was the most appropriate. It's an abject apology, he knows he's blown it and he's trying to get back to the girl. The line in the song is, "I never meant to be so bad to you," so it's kind of perfect. And that big guitar intro helps.

MR: And like you were saying about the songwriting and your inspirations earlier, when you're writing these songs, you're focusing on the message overall as well as the confessional part.

JW: I think the music has to strike a chord somewhere. I've seen enough really out there heavy metal acts where all you're getting is the throb tribal thing and I can't see anything that comes from the heart. My favorite male artist of all time is Don Henley because it's like he's reading poetry that comes straight from himself and it's so gorgeous. It has to twang the heartstrings or else it's really not worth it. There has to be something more musical going on.

MR: Do you feel that that's why Asia has had such longevity? Because it's striking a chord on a personal level more than other acts?

JW: Yes. A guy that I spoke to recently said, "I think when Asia started it was all music and now it's kind of more people listening to what you're saying," and I said, "no, Asia wouldn't have been successful in the first place if people weren't listening to what was being said in 'Heat Of The Moment' and 'Only Time Will Tell.'" It's always been like that. Nothing's changed. As far as the ethos of the songwriting is concerned, nothing's changed. We're still the same guys who wrote "Heat Of The Moment" and "Only Time Will Tell," we're still the same guys who wrote "Rock 'N' Roll Dream," nothing's changed there, it's all the same people, and the ethos has remained the same. There has to be something personal that happens in the song.

MR: Hey, John, what is your advice for new artists?

JW: Sticking on. Looking at my personal life, most of it is fairly tragic. If anybody wants to follow in my footsteps try and avoid the pitfalls that I've made. Don't become an alcoholic, don't get divorced. Stick to your guns. Whatever your beliefs are when you start out, stick to them. Don't get carried around by the wind, just try and believe in yourself, even when nobody else does. That way you only have yourself to blame when it goes wrong. Don't take other people's advice is my advice.

MR: Nice. And who are the Joe DiMaggio fans in the band?

JW: [laughs] Nobody, really. I heard that expression, and I can't remember where, but someone said, "It's as soft as Joe DiMaggio's glove" and it went "Bang!" It just immediately registered and I said, "I've got to use that." But I've no idea how soft Joe DiMaggio's glove is, but it's a lovely thought, isn't it? This beautiful buckskin soft glove. Yeah, it's lovely. We're all sports fans in Asia, some more than others, but no one in particular. It was something that I'd heard and it was completely out of context, just someone saying "Oh, that's as soft as Joe DiMaggio's glove.

MR: Well, having that song on the album is now going to make you guys unofficial Yankees fans, you know that, right?

JW: Absolutely, yes.

MR: What does the future look like for Asia?

JW: It's never looked brighter than it does today. This very moment when I look at what Asia has on its plate it's never looked better. We have a solid foundation, we are good personal friends as well as colleagues, and we have an exciting new guitar player in the band. If you'd heard the band at the last ten concerts we've played, I've never heard the band sounding better. I even tweeted that, "If you think Asia is over, come to one of these jamming club gigs we're doing and it will change your mind because the band's never sounded better." It's all sort of brilliant. The band is good on stage, we've made a great record and we have tours coming up. It's never never been in better shape, really.

MR: Beautiful. Is there anything that's caught your eye in the papers lately?

JW: I saw one of our athletes win a gold medal in Sochi so I'm very pleased about that. She won it as we were talking, in the skeleton luge. This country is under six feet of water as we speak. It's all doom and gloom. There is no end to this biblical flood at the moment. All they're telling us is to keep doing what we're doing because there's no end to it. I'm sure it will turn around one day, but all that weather that you get in the united states we get six weeks later.

MR: Love the expression, "I wouldn't wish our weather on anyone."

JW: Well, we'll be getting it, because that's the way the world turns.

MR: John, you're awesome as always. I really appreciate the interview. All the best and let's do this again.

JW: You too.

Transcribed By Galen Hawthorne


A Conversation with Geoff Downes

Mike Ragogna: Geoff, many Asia albums have been created over the years. How does your new one, Gravitas, hit you?

Geoff Downes: I think it's a fine album, and we are very proud of the way it turned out. Apart from showing the instrumental skills of the various members, I think the songwriting from John and myself provides pivotal support for the arrangements to build from. The album has a very "complete" feel to it.

MR: Is John more of the lyricist during the creative process?

GD: Yes, although I have made minor contributions in the past, it's fair to say John is at the helm when it comes to writing the lyrics. It's important he sings about what he believes in. A vocalist who also writes the lyrics can often deliver them with more conviction in my experience.

MR: Geoff, I've heard that originally "Valkyrie" was going to be the title track.

GD: We always set about writing the songs quite methodically, and 'Valkyrie' was the first one that appeared on the scene. At the time, we felt it was a fitting album title, but then "Gravitas" came up, and we felt that title better encapsulated the spirit of the entire album.

MR: How did you approach this album sonically?

GD: In very much the same way we normally do. There are certain textures and layers that are quite unique to the way we approach our recordings. I believe this is one of the reasons Asia has its trademark sound. I'm not giving away any secrets here!

MR: You've been with every Asia album, right? What does Asia, after all these years, mean to you?

GD: Obviously, it's very much a part of me, having been involved with the band for over half of my years. That said, we do try to approach each new challenge with fresh ideas and motivations. I think that's what keeps us going and helps us stay inspired to continue with the band.

MR: Do you get a kick out of how Asia's music is used in things like South Park and Forty Year-Old Virgin?

GD: Of course. Any publicity is good publicity in our eyes to a degree. The fact that our songs are still featured in current exposure is great for Asia, and demonstrates that our music is not just something which was once popular, then forgotten. We seem to get more requests for usage than ever these days, funnily enough.

MR: Geoff, do you feel that the group is evolving into another sound?

GD: Yes, I think it evolves with each album. Although we do adhere to the hallmark sound of the band in some respects; otherwise, it would not be Asia. However, the sound that comes from the collaboration of the four members is the key - it's organic and, unmistakable.

MR: Some of us might hear "Heat Of The Moment" or "Only Time Will Tell" play in our heads, you know like any other pop classic, because they're so ingrained in the culture. Do you ever have some of those familiar Asia songs pop into your head as well?

GD: It's certainly a privilege and honor to know that some of the music you have written becomes embedded in the minds of generations. It's not something you design - it just happens. The music that stays in my head is usually what I'm working on at any given time, but it's still a buzz to hear one of our songs either in passing or on the TV/radio.

MR: Asia has had a long, amazing run, and now you have a young guy in the band, Sam Coulson. Why that move?

GD: I think Steve [Howe] wanted to concentrate his efforts on other things, but the three of us were of a solid mind to continue what we had built up over the years. Sam was recommended, and we felt immediately he fitted the bill and would be part of the next chapter.

MR: What advice do you have for new artists?

GD: Stay with your own beliefs and don't be swayed by trends or fashions, or what others think you should be doing. Only accept the advice you acknowledge from those who you know have your best interests at heart.

MR: How do you view Asia as it's heading to the future?

GD: I think we have a great future. A band that is still going thirty-three years on shows the level of longevity and the depth of the music that we have achieved, and deserves to be preserved.

MR: So the songwriting team of Downes and Wetton is as strong as ever?

GD: Over the whole time I've worked with John, we never seem to have a problem coming up with new ideas - touch wood! It has always been a seamless and natural partnership. We understand the same things, about life, love, literature...anything. It's important in the creative process.

MR: And it's still fun to be making music together after all of these years?

GD: Absolutely. We see each new chapter as a challenge, and there is a fair amount of self-satisfaction in achieving those aims and ambitions. And yes, we do have a sense of humor. I don't think we'd still be going this long if we didn't!

Original Interview Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne, Rebirthed By Bruce Pilato

A Conversation with Carl Palmer

Mike Ragogna: Do you have a second or two to talk about Gravitas?

Carl Palmer: I can definitely talk about it, yeah!

MR: Take us on a little tour of the album. What were some of your favorite experiences while recording?

CP: You know, it's really difficult to talk about experiences because we don't record together as a group, we record individually, so I'm never in the studio with all the other men there at one time. We never have done it that way. But when I'm in the studio, I listen to the raw demo tracks that have been put down and I listen to what's happening and what I'll do is I'll create various drum parts for the various sections whether it be the middle eight, the verse, the chorus, the intro, the outro, whatever it might be and I do lots of various versions just so we've got lots of choice. The reason being that we do everything through a Protools base so that means that we can have a huge library of intros and outros and whatever we want and we can keep constructing the music bit by bit as we go. The minute you put the drums down, that's the track, you can't really change it. Today, that's not the case. There are so many alternatives. Basically, I try to work on all of the tracks myself. I go in and I get the drum sound, get the sound that's going to be set up and I think that works, tune the drums within the monitor system, get that going and I work just with the engineer. There's no producers there, no one actually producing it, just me and the engineer and I go through whatever tracks have been put together at the time. That's how each one is constructed, really. There's no real connectional fusion between band members at that stage, it's simply not like that. We've got the piece of music, we know what it is and I just create what I think is the appropriate drum part.

MR: Nice. How does the material of Gravitas hit you, compared to the other albums?

CP: Your last album is always the best. That goes without saying. This is basically Asia the way Asia is. This is Asia being Asia. All of the songs are written by Wetton and Downes and that's probably a question you should put to them more than to me As far as I'm concerned it's typically Asia; not soft rock, not super hard, not middle of the road even and it's not metal, it's kind of its own style, really. It's in that Foreigner, Journey vein I would say. It might not be quite as heavy as that, but it's in that area. That's the only way that I can really describe it. A title's a title and obviously we do try to have one word titles because they tend to catch people's imagination and things. It was going to be called Valkyrie at one stage--I think you've seen that written in print many times--but there is a song called "Valkyrie" so that's how things developed.

MR: So when Geoff and John sent you the material were there a couple of tracks that you couldn't wait to get to when you heard them?

CP: At that particular stage there aren't many top lines, I know the verse and the chorus and whatever but the stuff is not really that mature by the time I get it. They need a very strong rhythm track to actually develop it and take it further, so that's why I do so many different permutations of verses, chorus, outros, intros and things, so they've got lots of possibilities of choice. That's really what it's all about, and really that's my skill in what I do. But I don't always hear a guide vocalist if that's what you're insinuating, because there's not always one there. Sometimes the top line hasn't been written yet. I actually come in at a very, very early stage which would be wrong, really, if you couldn't change it like we can change it through Protools, but we can. I come in with all of the various variations of all the sections so we've always got something there that's more than adequate for what we need. Of course, I've been doing it for so long I know exactly what is needed, and that's how it's put together. So basically I cover a library of parts for each of the various sections so whoever's going to produce--it was these two [John and Geoff] in this particular case--have something to sort out and play from. That's how it goes.

MR: Do you find Sam Coulson adds a different kind of energy to the band that's different from Steve Howe's?

CP: You'll have people tell you that Asia isn't a "hard" sort of band, we're more middle of the road, but nevertheless great musicianship and good songs and good stage presentation. We figured that going in for a new guitar player we might as well see if he could pick up the hard edge. Whether we've achieved it on this album is not for me to say, and not for even you to say, it's down to the man on the street. If he likes it and he thinks we've done the job and we are tougher sounding and the material is as well-written then we could say that Sam has played his part within the setup. But that's all I can say at the moment. Music is for listening, it's very hard to talk about it. We are so much older than him, it's a case of, "Will he be accepted?" Yes, he's been accepted, he's already played some of the biggest concerts here in Europe like Sweden Rocks and some English dates and we'll go on to tour America with him and possibly even play on a cruise in the future, who knows? It's just a case of waiting to see if the transition works with the die-hard Asia fans who only ever saw it as the four original names. We're just hoping that it crosses a boundary and gives it a new life and only time will tell, forgiving the pun.

MR: Absolutely. When you looked at this album after it was finally mastered, what was your first impression?

CP: I didn't really have an impression, to tell you the truth. When you've been around it for that length of time it felt Asia. I didn't suddenly think, "Oh, I'm missing Steve," which is a good thing. As far as I was concerned it felt comfortable, it felt that it was right, it didn't feel like we were doing something that wasn't really or trying to put a Band-Aid over anything. It felt, "Yes, this is working, this is an album, and this is our calling card and we'll be able to go on tour and prove to everybody that we're still a band and produce this sound on stage as well as we possibly can." There wasn't any one track that popped out to me. "Valkyrie" gets talked about, but at the end of the day you just never know. I kind of sit back at this stage and wait and see. Not to be rude to yourself, but whatever people write about it or say about it, if they were to say it was the greatest album in the world, at the end of the day it's the public that has the last call and if they buy it and they want to come and see us playing it then we've done our job. If that doesn't happen, it doesn't matter what people put in print, really.

MR: That's true, that's true. What advice do you have for new artists?

CP: Today the market has so much of everything. There are so many different genres of music that just didn't exist when I started and there's nothing wrong with that. If there's art to be created, let's create it. But it's really, really difficult. Years ago we would build up a reputation through going out and playing and building up a solid base of real loyal fans, not just in the country that we're from, but on a global level. That's very important, but on the other hand you can cut to the chase here and suddenly be doing a broadcast from your bedroom every Saturday night on a webcam and have people sign up for it. You can do it a different way, and isn't that fantastic? The only thing that is really important here is that it doesn't matter how you do it, whether you do it the old way or whether you do it from your bedroom or whatever you're doing, you need to know that you're good at what you do and you can produce this music live. Producing it live is very, very important today, mainly because CD sales are what they are. New albums, unless you're a mega, mega, mega star are merely a calling card. Downloads don't make you money, you'll be living at McDonald's all your life unless you've got an album that is selling so, so, so many. So at the end of the day you need to know that you can go out and physically perform in front of people, because that's what's left. If you've got new material that people enjoy, who knows, you might start to chart, and if you chart you'll play bigger places and wouldn't that be great? But really, the deal is, you've got to be so good live these days because there are so many of us doing it in all genres of music. So really it's a case of perfecting your craft as much as you possibly can because the live situation is the only thing they can't take away from musicians right now. Playing a tour like we did years ago where you go out to promote the CD, you didn't even consider making money on tour, you went out to promote your vinyl, your CD, cassette, whatever it was. Today it's the other way around. You're going out to make money from touring and your CD is the calling card.

MR: Hey, Carl, there have been a few amazing groups that you've been in over the years including of course Asia, but especially also Emerson, Lake & Palmer. What do you think of the legacy that these groups have left on pop culture?

CP: Well, I've actually got the Carl Palmer ELP legacy and I'm on tour in England at the moment, it's my first tour in two and a half years. I actually don't play any Asia music in my set, it's basically classical adaptations and original ELP music because that's kind of what I'm promoting and playing at the moment. But a lot of people are interested in the past. Whatever way you go, whether it be Asia or the legacy, we always have like three generations there. I've got guys my age, obviously, bringing their sons and before you know it those kids have got their boys with them. You've got this makeup of a family thing. People who like the music stay with the music because they grew up with it, their dad played it and that's the way it goes. I've been very fortunate to have been in four bands that had number one singles. Atomic Rooster had a track called "Tomorrow Night" which hit number one. They had to rerecord this track because I had just left the group. I recorded a demo, which basically was going to be in the master and then I joined Keith [Emerson] and Greg [Lake] and played with them in the studio for about four months while Atomic Rooster when number one with "Tomorrow Night," so I thought I'd made a terrible mistake. Of course Emerson, Lake & Palmer have had a number one with "Fanfare" and " Son Of Eve" in Canada. And obviously, prior to all of that, I was with The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown and we had a number one album and single in America at the same time which was in 1968 which was unheard of at the time, and of course Asia had a very successful beginning--we've not repeated it since, but we were extremely popular when we very first came out.

MR: Well, on the other hand, the band Asia and its material keep popping up in culture through South Park, Forty Year-Old Virgin, et cetera.

CP: I've got my trace within that infrastructure, and that's a nice thing, I'm very, very pleased about that, but at the end of the day I like all of that but I always consider myself as a musician, this is what I do, I don't consider myself a rock star. I happen to have been in so many different bands that have been really famous, it's not been luck, obviously, there was a certain amount of luck involved but you also have to know what music you should play, what environment you should put yourself in. I've been very lucky, the bands that I've been in have been very successful. I'm kind of happy that I'll see something in South Park or you'll hear some music in Matador or whatever. It's really nice. I don't have any problem with it at all. One of the biggest kicks I had with it was when British Airways put their new ad together and they were playing "Fanfare For The Common Man" as this huge jet would take off from Heathrow airport. We thought this was fantastic. They had to use it so much and they had to pay PRS on it, so they had to rerecord it because of how much money they had to pay us. It's got some really nice things attached to it. Some of the things have been very successful, so I'm very grateful.

MR: This was wonderful, as always, Carl. Thank you so much for your time and all the best for the future.

CP: Thank you so much, and thank you for the interview.

Transcribed By Galen Hawthorne


Tobias Campbell shoots and edits Noan Chenfeld's video "I'm Just A Soul" just like a pro, employing the teen singer-songwriter's emotional delivery and bipedalism to make use of Central Park's beautiful snowed-under bleakness. As Mr. Chenfeld gets older, he grows more relaxed and believable in his songwriting and delivery on and off camera, and though most of us want to kick Winter's miserable ass by this point, this snowy stroll to the soundtrack almost seems to make this oppressive season charming when serving as the backdrop for this young old soul. Stay warm...

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