Ipswich: It’s all in the wrist says Cameo Hotel-bound rock drumming legend Carl Palmer

Legendary drummer Carl Palmer. Photo: Michael Inns, copyright 2013 Carl Kendall-Palmer

Legendary drummer Carl Palmer. Photo: Michael Inns, copyright 2013 Carl Kendall-Palmer - Credit: Archant

Being known as the drummer’s drummer is not a title to be taken lightly, but Carl Palmer is one of the few percussionists for whom the name is totally merited.

Having started out with the Crazy World of Arthur Brown and their 1960s hit Fire, he moved to seminal prog rock band Atomic Rooster before becoming one third of the legendary Emerson Lake and Palmer.

Along with Keith Emerson and Greg Lake, he recorded a string of hit albums like Brain Salad Surgery, Pictures at an Exhibition and Works, from which the classic hit single Fanfare For the Common Man was taken. He then co-founded super-group Asia, with whom he is still touring and recording.

Away from Asia, Palmer - who was awarded a Virtuoso award at the inaugural Prog awards in 2012 - is a man of many talents. Not only is he touring with his own band, he is also an artist.

Utilising state-of-the-art technology, he creates works by harnessing the kinetic power in his playing and the results have been exhibited in Los Angeles to rave reviews. You can see examples at www.carlpalmerart.com.

Named after his art collection, the Twist of the Wrist tour sees Palmer and his band undertaking a short 12-date tour of the UK in February and March.


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“I still feel blessed to be doing something I love,” he says. “And I certainly didn’t come into this business to be rich.

“My grandfather was a professor of music and I’ve been a working musician all my life - I don’t care whether I’m playing in front of four or 4,000 people. I just love what I do and amazingly I’m still improving.”

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He tells me that he wanted to become a drummer at a very early age.

“My father took me to see the film Drum Crazy starring Gene Krupa and when I walked out, I knew what I wanted to do with my life.”

Palmer’s show is billed as The Carl Palmer/ELP Legacy and encompasses a lot of ELP material as well as his solo work.

“We also use some great footage as a backdrop,” he adds.

“As well as myself I have Paul on guitar and Simon on bass. The songs are strictly instrumental and it’s our interpretations of the songs.”

Among the numbers he and his band will be playing are Tarkus, Pictures at an Exhibition, Hoe Down and of course Fanfare For the Common Man.

“A few years ago, the technology wouldn’t have allowed us to do it without keyboards, but now we can.”

Other numbers in the set-list include America and Carmen Burana, which will make for an excellent selection.

“There’s quite a varied set,” says the unassuming legend.

Things are busy elsewhere in Palmer’s life.

“We’ve just finished recording the new Asia album, that’s being mixed at the moment and I have a live DVD out soon from our show in Bethlehem in the US about 18 months ago. It’s also like a documentary so it should be interesting.

“I’ll also be touring everywhere either with my band or with Asia... oh and I also lecture at Southampton University.”

In such a long career, there must be many highlights.

“God, yes, too many major landmarks, but among them are when ELP played in front of 78,000 people at the Montreal Olympic Stadium and in front of 200,000 at the Ontario Speedway. “Of course, Asia was a great moment in my career and Arthur Brown was very influential.”

It must seem strange that after appearing in such massive venues, he is now appearing in much smaller halls.

“I don’t let it affect me,” he says matter of factly. “It’s the fact I’m keeping this music alive that matters and I’m keen on going down in history as being one of the great rock drummers.”

I don’t think there’s any danger of him not being.

Carl Palmer and his band will be performing at the Ipswich Cameo Hotel on Thursday, February 13. Tickets are available from the Ipswich Regent box office.

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