Keith Emerson: I was jealous of Jon Lord
Interview by Geoff Barton
We’re here to talk to Keith Emerson about his most recent album, Three Fates. But instead the keyboard king is regaling us with a tale of Number Twos…
“I got stuck in the toilet with Rick Wakeman,” Emerson chuckles, referring to an incident at the Progressive Music Awards staged by Prog, Classic Rock‘s sister magazine. “There was a break in the proceedings and I excused myself from my table, went to the gents and found myself standing behind Rick. There was a big line of guys but only a couple of cubicles. I wanted to go Number Twos. And I think Rick also wanted to go Number Twos.
“Just by chance the cubicles became vacant at the same time. So we’re sitting on the loos, chatting to each other and swapping jokes. I think I threw a toilet roll over and Rick threw one back. We were having a bit of a laugh… because, of course, Rick enjoys a laugh.
“A few minutes later I can hear Rick’s finished up; he’s flushed the loo. I say to myself: ‘Jesus, I better hurry up.’ So I get down to it. Rick’s out there washing his hands while I’m wiping my arse. And, um… then I realise my door is jammed.
“So this very feeble voice – mine – goes: ‘Rick? I’m locked in.’ Rick says: ‘I don’t think you should climb over, Keith, you’re not that agile.’ I say: ‘Do you have anything sharp that I can jam into this lock to free it up?’ Rick says: ‘Hang on, I think I’ve got a hotel room key somewhere.’ He throws it over; I whack the bolt and escape.
“So there you go, it’s true – Rick Wakeman rescued me from the toilet!”
After that light-hearted beginning, it’s time to get down to… business. We’re sitting in the bar of London’s Soho Sanctum, supposedly the most rock’n’roll hotel in town. The décor, with its low lights, low tables and low seating – plush red-velvet banquettes so well sprung they bounce like trampolines when you sit on them – falls somewhere between stuffy gentleman’s club and sleazy bordello. Still, Emerson seems perfectly at home. Bigger and burlier that in his Emerson, Lake & Palmer heyday, he might be approaching 70 (he’s actually 69 today, November 2) but he’s still got a full head of hair and can carry off wearing a scuffed leather biker’s jacket with aplomb. He’s munching on pâté and toast and sipping a tall glass of chilled Pinot Grigio.
So, then. Three Fates. Nothing to do with the track on ELP’s self-titled 1970 debut, the title actually refers to the key trio of prime-movers involved in the release. So in place of Clotho, Lachesis and Acropus we have Emerson, Californian guitar phenomenon Marc Bonilla and Norwegian conductor Terje Mikkelsen.
…Forget ELP – let’s hear it for EBM!