Goodbye, Captain Fingers. RIP.
It was Keith Emerson’s music, and the impact ELP had on me as a kid, that helped shepherd me back into making music.
I’d stopped making music in 2004 (for a bunch of reasons). But in 2014, after working on Pono Music for a while, my excitement about music started to return. Not least because working with Neil Young will do that to you — his enthusiasm for music, art, technology is very contagious. I started to get the itch to create music, but I was on the fence.
And one day, my friend Niko Bolas (the great engineer and producer and more importantly one of the kindest, wisest, smartest, and most patient man you’d every hope to meet) and I were having lunch. I’d mentioned my musical past, and how I didn’t know what the hell to do to get back into it.
He asked me, “If you could pick one song from your childhood that makes you feel good, which one would it be? Why not cover that song?”
I immediately replied “The Barbarian, by ELP.” It wasn’t the first song I’d ever heard by ELP, but the version from their debut album always stuck with me, and I remember how good I felt listening to that album and to the Trilogy album, lying on the floor with my father’s headphones on my head. Dreaming about playing this ambitious, complicated music — a fusion of rock, classical, and jazz. So I didn’t have to think about it. The first song that came to mind — Emerson’s gifted take on Bartok’s “Allegro Barbaro”. (It helped that I also liked Bartok)
Of all of the music that had a significant impact on my desire to play piano and keyboards: Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, “The Yes Album”, Vangelis, Jean-Michel Jarre, and Jean-Luc Ponty (if you wonder why my solo lines are so violinic, now you know!), it was Emerson’s weird instrumental that took me back to the joy of making music.
(I’m sure that had I chosen “Cosmic Messenger” or “Red” or “Captain Senor Mouse” I’d have been just as happy. But that wasn’t the very first thing to pop into my mind)
So, taking Niko’s advice, I started to learn this challenging music. And it ended up as a track on my first project in ten years, “New Metal from Old Boxes”.
It was the kick in the ass I needed to start creating music again, and to create music that I loved. Music for me; if others like it (and some do, which is simply fantastic!), that’s great!
First, thanks Uncle Neeks. And thanks, Uncle Shakey. But now, most of all, thank you Keith Emerson. RIP.