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Audix Up Close: Spotlight on Prog Rock Legend Carl Palmer
Posted on Monday, September 10, 2018

One of progressive rock's biggest influencers, Audix endorser Carl Palmer is a drummer with a staggering career. He has been a member of four bands with #1 records-The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Atomic Rooster, Asia, and the group for which he is arguably best known, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, who have sold over 43 million records. Palmer was made a Prog God by Prog Rock Magazine, has been named one of Rolling Stone magazine's top 10 drummers, and was inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 1989. Carl sat down with us during his recent world tour to discuss his career, his important advice to drummers starting out in the industry, and all things Audix.

Carl Palmer has kept a rigorous touring and playing schedule ever since turning professional at age 15. He started by touring with The Crazy World of Arthur Brown at the height of their career, when their #1 hit "Fire" was burning up radio. He went on to form underground prog rock band Atomic Rooster, who had incredible success, especially in Europe, and he would later join Keith Emerson and Greg Lake to form one of prog rock music's pillars-Emerson, Lake & Palmer. 

It was the beginning of the prog rock movement, and the band was part of the genre's original blueprint, along with bands like Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull. Emerson, Lake & Palmer continue to influence generations of music culture. Carl explains, "I play to three generations now-people my age, their sons who are in their late 30s/early 40s, and their kids, as well. And it's great to see because the younger generations have made [the music] their own; it belongs to them as well now. That's what it's all about."

In 1981, Carl Palmer became a founding member of supergroup Asia, and the band's debut album exploded on the charts, rocketing to #1 and selling more than 7 million copies. Songs like "Heat of the Moment" continue to appear in film soundtracks, TV placements, and cover versions to this day. Palmer describes the band as "sophisticated rock mixed in with melodies and singles. It was taboo in those days. And you very rarely hear that today, either."

Presently, Carl continues to tour with Asia as well as his own project, Carl Palmer's ELP Legacy, which creates instrumental experiences of the songs of Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Palmer's three-piece metal prog rock ensemble delivers versions that capture even seasoned Emerson, Lake & Palmer fans in a new way. "Instead of playing [the songs] with keyboards and having people singing, it's basically instrumental, with guitars and Chapman Stick. We're presenting the music from Emerson, Lake & Palmer in a different way, so a new generation can make it their own."

When discussing gear, he explains he has been using Audix microphones for over 15 years. "I've looked at the product as hard and as deep as I could," he says. "In studio, wear and tear from a touring point of view, casual recording at home-I've gone through every scenario with them. And I have to say the durability and sound, which is most important, has been absolutely superb."

Talking about his favorite Audix microphones in his kit, he names a few that stand out most. "For me personally, the overheads I've always found to be exceptionally good-there is no doubt that the ADX51 overheads, which I use on the hi-hat and on the ride cymbals, are perfect for me. I'm using the Audix Micro-D on the rack toms, floor toms, and the D6 on the kicks. For me, that's what works all the time."

By the year's end, Carl Palmer will have played 142 concerts in 2017, in addition to doing productions in his home studio. Emerson, Lake & Palmer have just released a box set, a summary of the lives of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and Carl himself has a new album coming up, Carl Palmer Live in the USA, a tribute to the late Keith Emerson.

When asked what advice he would give drummers or engineers starting out in the industry, his answer is a simple, yet poignant reminder to be brave. "When you're young, you're very brave, and you take on things that you can't really do as well as you should do them. But you take them on because there's a certain amount of bravado. I would say to all [young musicians], as you go through life, keep that air of confidence going, because the older you get, you don't want to take as many chances. But when you're young, you say you can do things and you take chances and you do pull it off, and it's miraculous. So remain positive and confident, and listen to what other people have got to say as well, but don't ever lose that confidence that you have when you're young. Get in there and prove your point. That's the attitude that drives music."