Greg Lake: What a Lucky Man He Is
BY HERALD DE PARIS CONTRIBUTOR’S BUREAU ON APRIL 23, 2012
By Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez & Benny Reitveld
HOLLYWOOD (Herald de Paris) – Gregory “Greg” Stuart Lake is best known as the vocalist and bassist of King Crimson and the bassist, guitarist, vocalist, and lyricist of Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
In January 2012 Lake announced a new interactive U.S. theater tour called “Songs of a Lifetime,” which began to rave reviews on April 15. He said he played songs and shared stories from his time with King Crimson, Emerson Lake and Palmer and as a solo artist.
Greg Lake is considered a legendary voice and musical icon whose impact changed the landscape of rock and roll. The tour showcases Greg’s influence on music and those who influenced his music in an unusual, personal show consisting of songs, stories, and audience participation. The tour coincides with the pre-release of the artist’s autobiography, which will be made available first to those who attend the shows in audio book form and read by the author himself. The autobiography will be released in three parts, with the full print version available at the end of the year. Volume 1 will be available at the shows.
The tour gives fans the opportunity to hear songs from Emerson, Lake & Palmer, King Crimson, and others in a storyteller format with a question and answer session. The unique format allows for a different and personal show every night, featuring stories of Lake’s encounters with other musical greats who influenced him.
Greg said, “The concept of performing an intimate and autobiographical show presents a huge challenge. My experience of this format last tour (2010’s acclaimed collaboration with keyboard artist Keith Emerson) was so invigorating it still gives me a thrill every time I think about it. The audience and I have created an intimate and unusual experience together. However, at the end of the night the most important [thing] of all is that the audience always feels they have been entertained and enriched by the whole live experience.”
Greg Lake came to prominence as a founding member of King Crimson. He was a school friend of guitarist Robert Fripp, who invited Lake to join the new band and take on the tasks of lead singer and bass player. Lake was primarily a guitarist, but agreed to switch to bass at Fripp’s request. Lake had some involvement in writing the lyrics for King Crimson’s debut album, In the Court of the Crimson King. The album, released in 1969, made King Crimson far more successful than any of Fripp and Lake’s earlier projects, and became a key influence and landmark in the emerging progressive rock genre. Lake stayed with King Crimson for only about a year, leaving soon after their debut album to start the rock trio Emerson, Lake & Palmer. King Crimson had played a couple of venues along with The Nice, and Lake had struck up a friendship with their wunderkind organist and keyboardist, Keith Emerson. As a result, they teamed up and brought in the drummer from The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and Atomic Rooster, Carl Palmer, thus forming the progressive rock ’supergroup’ ELP.
With ELP steadily becoming one of the highest-grossing live acts on earth, they released their most ambitious album yet in 1973,Brain Salad Surgery. ELP’s massive commercial success continued when they were the headline act (along with Deep Purple) at 1974’s California Jam, where they played live to an audience of some 180,000. In the midst of this unprecedented renowned and immense financial success, ELP went on a two-year hiatus. During the hiatus, Lake gained further popularity for his UK Christmas number-two-single, “I Believe in Father Christmas” (released in 1975).
After more than a decade, Emerson, Lake & Palmer reunited in the Summer of 2010 at the High Voltage Festival. As preparation for this show, Keith Emerson and Greg Lake toured North America in the Spring of 2010, presenting an intimate unplugged performance of King Crimson, ELP and The Nice selections featuring only Emerson and Lake performing.
Herald de Paris’ Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez, along with Benny Reitveld of Santana, had an opportunity to pose a few questions to the legendary Lake about his life, his times and his legacy.
Do you read music? Or was it just Keith that was the “note” guy and the other two more “ear” oriented?
GL: I learned to read music when I was young but since then have done most of my work by ear.
Was playing bass with a pick a result of having played guitar first, or was it just the sound of it, or the fashion at the time?
GL: I think it was because I played guitar first and then moved to bass. At the time when I grew up, bass players often used steel tape wound strings finger style, however this did not provide any tone sustenance and the tone was extremely dull and not at all percussive. I changed to wire wound strings using a plectrum because it brought about all of these advantages simultaneously.
It seems like you and Chris Squire pioneered the use of round wound strings. Did you hear someone else use them first? How did you actually come to start using them?
GL: Chris and I actually lived together for a short while in London and we always joke together about who had the idea first. I do know that at the time I was absolutely frustrated playing tape wound strings. I can remember going into a music shop in Soho in London called Sound City and complaining about the problem. It was they who suggested using Rotosound strings.
What is your personal favorite ELP album?
GL: Well, if I have to pick one I would probably choose Trilogy. There are really three ‘best” ELP records. They are Tarkus, Trilogyand Brain Salad Surgery. These were the records that were innovative, inspired and completely original.
What was the first time you realized that you had made it in the music business; that you were, indeed, a “Rock Star?”
GL: I suppose it was when King Crimson became a headline act.
How did becoming rich and famous change your life or inform your work? Help or hindrance?
GL: I don’t think that it made a great deal of difference to the work. It obviously changed the way I lived to some extent but I would have always played music whether money was involved or not.
You are said to have a legendary voice. How do you feel about that? Who are your musical influences? Who did you listen to as you were coming up?
GL: I am obviously never able to look at myself in the same way that others view me; to me, my voice is just the voice I was born with. I suppose that over the years I have learned from the masters and developed a style of my own. These influences are extremely wide ranging and diverse, from Elvis to Joni Mitchell or from Dean Martin to Little Richard, there really are far too many to list.
Greatest personal success and failures of King Crimson?
GL: The greatest success was creating the album In The Court of the Crimson King and possibly the greatest failure was in breaking up to soon.
Greatest personal success and failures of ELP?
GL: The greatest success of ELP was probably creating such a big and original sound with only three people. The greatest failure was not to have continued to produce innovative albums.
What was the greatest performance experience of your life?
GL: This really is impossible to say. Firstly there were a number of incredible large scale events such as the concert with the Stones in Hyde Park, the Isle of Wight festival, The California Jam, The Olympic Stadium Montreal, Soldiers Field Chicago etc. The list just goes on and it is impossible to choose one above the others as they were all life changing in one way or another.
Tell us about your new show and its theatrical slant. It is very intimate. How did you get the idea and what is the ultimate expectation?
GL: I have just finished writing my autobiography, rather unsurprisingly called Lucky Man. During the writing I began to form a collection of songs that were in some way pivotal or highly influential to my career. I began to think about how these songs represented the journey that I had shared together with the audience that had followed the fortunes of King Crimson and ELP and came up with the title “Songs of a Lifetime.” The idea is to trace this journey together with the audience in real time with myself and the audience having a chance to tell various stories and accounts about what these particular songs meant to them.
The autobiography will be divided into three separate volumes. Volume One has just been released as an audio book and volumes two and three will follow on shortly. At the end of the year I will be releasing the hard cover book of all three volumes together.
What inspires you to write and perform music now? Are there things you still hope to accomplish in music?
GL: Music is an ongoing process which unfolds each and every day to reveal a new horizon. There are still many things I would like to accomplish before I am finished. I will be recording a new album during the summer for release early 2013.
What kind of an impact do you think your musical legacy will have when people look back on Crimson and ELP?
GL: I hope that when people look back that they can understand and appreciate the amount of care and dedication that went into making these records. They were not just simply attempts at achieving commercial success but were serious attempts to create enduring works of art. However, it is for others to judge whether we succeeded or failed.
There is a rock legend that before Jimi Hendrix died, he planned to work with you, and the band would be called HELP for Hendrix, Emerson Lake and Palmer. Any truth to that?
GL: When Keith and I formed ELP we interviewed Mitch Mitchell with a view to becoming the drummer for ELP. It was Mitch who suggested bring in Jimi. The press got hold of this story and started to speculate on HELP. In the end we chose Carl Palmer and a little while later Jimi tragically died so nothing more came of it.
Is there anybody you want to work with but never had the opportunity?
GL: It is not really something I think about. I suppose I am a bit of a fatalist where things like this are concerned. Just because I admire someone doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to play together with them.
What kinds of things are left on your bucket list? Things you would like to accomplish before it’s all over?
GL: I have no immediate plans to die, thank you. It was a pleasure AC, Benny, Many thanks.
Edited by Susan Aceves
Herald de Paris Interview with Greg Lake: “Greg Lake: What a Lucky Man He Is”
Greg Lake: What a Lucky Man He Is