All of Lake's recorded work has been highlighted by his deep, resonant voice, which in person, gives him an air of unconscious suave -- like a "pre-Cordoban" Ricardo Montalban. Between puffs on a long Havan cigar, Greg discussed with Circus Magazine his musical goals and how they conflict with ELP.
It's hard as a singer working with a band like ELP because so much of the music is written by Keith and his songs are instrumentally-oriented, which makes it very difficult to find the vocal line. But again, there's a good and a bad side to it. Strictly from a singer's point of view, it's harder work, but it also gives you a special experience you wouldn't have otherwise. That's why it's valid for me at this point to do it. When I sing in "Pirates" or "Karn Evil 9," the phrasing is complex, whereas in something like "Lucky Man," it's completely natural. But, you see, in any group situation you have to have compromise and cooperation, which defuse the natural source of the energy. You get a less pure but more colorful product in the end.
I'm in the strange position in this band because I see things from two sides, and that can make working in the group a very frustrating experience. I see it from a composer's side and from a singer's side, while Keith really only sees it from a composer's side. My work in some circumstances, then, has to be more imposed and for Keith it's completely natural.
Keith and I write quite differently. For me, songwriting is a very direct path between an immediate thought and the final product. There's very little self-conscious thought in between. You virtually end up with what you started with, and the strength of the song is almost completely on that in initial inspiration and more dependent on the subsequent work and development of that thought.
My lyrics are mostly influenced by my life experiences -- not books or anything -- just wisdoms you grow up learning to be true. I'm particularly interested in things that are *universally* true. It's actually just a stage I'm going through. I mean, I can actually see myself going through it. I know I'll come through it with less concern for the truth, but right now it's very important to me. I still feel I haven't exhausted the possibilities of writing within this framework. I can't think of any songwriter who's exploited the subject as much as I have.
But I come from that sort of heritage. I was in King Crimson before ELP and that was a "thinking" band. I mean, you have to make your mind up early on -- you're either going to go for a quick commercial kill or you decide at some point that you're going to be a real artist, and I made that decision back then. It's something all painters go through. You go through a stage where you have to feel satisfied with yourself technically before you can relax and do things that are just emotive.
I'm more of a romantic than anyone else in the band. In terms of music, I believe in beautiful things rather than bizarre things. I'd rather have harmony than dissonance. I know there's lots of dissonance in this band but it's that contrast that makes music dynamic. If you have either element on its own, it's just not as dynamic.
This band runs on the cooperation between us. That element is the power of ELP. It's the combination *and* the battles between that romance of mine and that technical development of Keith's which makes this an interesting and exciting group. Not that it wouldn't be just as valid and exciting if Keith were to do a strictly instrumental thing or if I were to do a complete album of simple songs, but at this moment this is the way it is and right now we're committed to that, because being in a band isn't something you enjoy. It's not a fairground ride. It's something you're a part of creatively and it's often a very painful experience if you're sincere.
The reality of being in a band like ELP is an artistic reality. For promotional purposes it would be great to say "Yeah, we had a fantastic time making this album," but we didn't. It was a long hard struggle to achieve what we wanted to achieve. The only question left is: are the people of America ready to listen to our idea of the future of music? Because I don't believe the future of music is going down an electronic path. I believe we have exhausted the possibilities of that on the last few albums. And I believe what we've done now is more exciting -- it's the only way forward for us. I mean, wouldn't it have been boring if we just keep banging out electronic albums? Before long we would have been nowhere.
We won't be tempted by people who say, "Oh man, why don't you clean up? Just make another five or six albums of the same junk and then retire to the south of France." Well, we don't *want* to retire. I want to be a singer for the rest of my life. It would be a waste of my talents and what I have to say. and also a waste of this band's position, because, you know, we're very lucky people to be able to afford to do something like this... with the orchestra and all this expense. We're probably one of the only bands in the world in that position. I met Dave Brubeck's son recently, and he said, "Thank God you've done it, man," and we said, "Done what?" And he answered, "Putting the orchestra together, it's just fantastic." The orchestra is fantastically powerful -- more than a moog synthesizer could ever be. *IT WILL MOVE BUILDINGS*. We weren't satisfied with the power of electronic instruments. They were not dynamic enough. They didn't give us the vehicle to play the music we wanted to write, and that's why we find ourselves here today, in this precarious position.
Obviously, we realize the risk in taking this orchestra on the road. It could be financially disastrous. We've invested everything we've ever made into this project, and nobody's given us any guarantees. We're alone out there and only time will tell if it was all worth it.
Thanks to Rob Adams, NewPapa@AOL.com.