The Carl Palmer Interview
By Shawn Perry
Of all the drummers that popular music has produced, Carl Palmer has to rate as one of the most unique. His style - a combination of precision, speed and finesse - continues to astound audiences and fellow musicians alike. Yet Palmer, especially when he's playing with Asia, also knows how to serve the song in a more restricted capacity for the greater good of the finished piece. This may be due in part to the fact that the 56-year-old drummer excelled at music at a remarkably young age, learning all aspects of his craft and becoming a prodigy of sorts. At a mere 20, Palmer was already a music business veteran when he accepted an invitation to join Emerson, Lake and Palmer in 1970.
He would go on to become an internationally acclaimed virtuoso with ELP, equipped with a exceptionally disciplined musical vocabulary, range and aptitude. Nine years, a half-dozen best-selling albums, and multiple world tours with ELP placed Palmer in the pantheon of legendary stickmen. When ELP disbanded in 1979, Palmer enjoyed continued success with Asia, whose debut album went on to become one of the biggest sellers of the early 80s. But it was short-lived, and Palmer would eventually return to the ELP fold for another run in the 90s.
Unfortunately, ELP charted some rough seas during the changing musical climate of the 90s. Things looked promising at first, but the trio would produce only two mediocre albums in the span of seven years before tossing in the towel shortly after a tour supporting Deep Purple. Lesser players might have called it a day, but Carl Palmer carried on, forming his own band, touring Europe incessantly, and teaching at various drums clinics throughout England.
When word leaked out that Palmer was venturing to the United States on his own for a round of shows this summer, I rang him up to discuss the tour, as well as his colorful past and busy future. As it happened, it was the drummer's birthday, and he was caught off guard by my call. Nevertheless, he was gracious enough (and seemingly anxious) to talk. Having been an avid follower of ELP for quite some time, I was equally anxious to get the skinny on a few tidbits that had been on my mind. Palmer was alarmingly quick, forthcoming and honest in his answers. He spoke with an air of excitement that reminded me of his drumming. You can only imagine what a thrill ride our chat turned out to be.
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