Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Emerson, Squids + Kevin's Birthday

Still in the process of setting up this LA/NY trip. Just had an amazing phone conversation with Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake & Palmer. We talked about the details of me coming out to LA and sampling his massive Moog Modular system that I mentioned in my previous blog post. We talked about possibly doing a music session as well (shrouded in mystery for the moment). Then we talked about his latest CD with the Munich Orchestra which he insisted on overnighting to me so I could hear it before I saw him. He didn't even want to wait to give it to me when I saw him. How cool is that? Like a big kid!!! I love that.

Then we started talking about how today would have been Kevin Gilbert's 46th birthday. I originally met Keith through Kevin when Keith came out to see us play at the Alligator Lounge in Santa Monica. It's a great story that we just revived in the phone conversation. I can't believe he remembered it. I was pulling in to unload my keyboards for the gig and outside I saw Kevin talking to who appeared to be Keith Emerson. So I pulled Kevin aside and said "Dude, is that Keith Emerson????" and Kevin said "Yeah." and I said "What's he doing here???" (Because this was a real dive and an under publicized gig with a small turn out) and Kevin said casually "Oh he just wanted to come see us play. You want to meet him?" and I said "I'm a keyboard player. Of COURSE I want to meet him!"

When I did Keith was so nice. A minute after meeting him he saw that I was unloading my keyboards and offered to help me move my Wurlitzer electric piano (aka "The Mighty Wurlitzer"). Then, as we were moving it in he said "Would it be alright if I was your roady for the evening?" and we all laughed. I told him on the phone today that this has become one of the favorite of my stories amongst my keyboard player friends. "Oh Keith Emerson? Yeah he's my roadie when I need to play various dive bars around LA." Huh?

Keith Emerson and Kevin Gilbert

Since then Keith and I have become friends and last year I came to visit him in Santa Monica to sit down and chat for Sonic Reality. We talked about ELP, his latest projects, his keyboard sounds including his Modular Moog (which he still has... this apparently is the question people ask the most and when he says 'Yes I still have it' they usually reply with a very happy "Awesome!" or "That's fucking cool!"). Here are some clips from that very casual but informative interview I did with him:

So, then in the phone conversation we started talking about Kevin Gilbert. We shared some personal experiences that wouldn't be appropriate to talk about here as they're private but it was very interesting and insightful. Keith really liked Kevin. He loved his sense of humor as did I. He appreciated Kevin's talent. We then started talking about a piece of music Keith wrote after Kevin's death called "For Kevin" which he sent to me. He was telling me about a powerful slam on the piano with his forearm at the very end which was emotional and metaphoric. I thought it was fantastic. 

I told him about a song I wrote where the end also ascends into chaos. I actually recorded that song on the new 'band album' coming out with Simon Collins so I sent the song to Keith and this was his amazing quote:

"Brilliant! The harmonic changes are as much as a shock as the passing of the guy.
Love the interplay on the outro!! Very 60's. Kev would have loved this. Great stuff.

That's so amazingly cool I should frame that quote! To get a positive comment about your music from someone like Keith Emerson alone is beyond fantastic. I've never played him anything I wrote before and you know... it takes a bit of guts to do that because you sort of have one shot for an impression. I did it anyway without thinking because there was a specific reason for him to hear it. Anyway, on a whole other level for us to be sharing our songs about Kevin with each other on Kevin's would-be birthday... man, that's heavy! Could not have been planned. It just happened and I'm still blown away. I have to think that if there was any way Kevin could have known that we did that he'd be so happy. Keith and I sort of did a 'here's to Kevin' virtual toast on the phone after reminiscing. Wow. 

Remembering Kevin with Keith Emerson... sharing our personal music and stories with each other as real people, musician to musicianscomposer to composer (and putting aside that he's a rock keyboard legend who used to throw knives on stage and all that and I simply go by the name "Squids" haha). PRICELESS experience. So grateful for these memories...  both the ones from over a decade ago and the one that just happened. I'll never forget it. Thanks Keith! Thanks Kevin... and Happy Birthday. 

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