Robert Berry Interview (ELP TRIBUTE)
MuzikMan: What inspired you to start playing and how old where you?
Robert: My dad had a big band and my mother sang in his band. When I was just a baby there
was music around all the time. They used to rehearse in our livingroom. I started taking piano
lessons when I was six. Took 8 years of classical and 2 years of jazz. When I was 11 two guys came
into my dads piano store and asked my dad if I could play organ in their band. My dad asked me, I
said I'd give it a try and I was off and running.
MuzikMan: When did you first start listening to ELP?, do remember what album you first heard
by them and what your reactions and thoughts where at the time?
Robert: A lot of people ask me what albums I bought or currently want to buy. The truth is I
never did buy albums. So many of the musicians in the bands I was in bought albums that I never had
to. I also very rarely had time to listen to a whole album. I would mostly listen to the songs I had
heard about from other people and study those. I have never owned an ELP album but my friend and
Hush band mate Paul Keller bought them all. We learned Lucky Man because I had one of the first Moog
Synths in by neck of the woods. The audience was quite taken back by our sound. The first time you
hear the Moog is quite impressive. I know the first time I hear it was on a Beatles album trying to
sound like a horn or something like that. Then Bang. There came Keith with this huge swooping sound.
That left quite an impression on me. I don't know how many people know it but I started as a
keyboard player in bands and only changed to bass in 1985 after I recorded my first solo album.
MuzikMan: Was Greg Lake a hero to you growing up as an aspiring bass player?
Robert: Oh no. I was into Chris Squire. Greg never stood out like McCartney or Squire. Even
Jack Bruce had a very out front kind of style. I was more interested in the keyboards back then.
Don't get me wrong though. Greg was the folk song writer to me in the early days. I was into that
wild keyboard and drum style. It takes awhile to develop past the parts you personally like best. I
only found the importance of the Greg Lake folky part of ELP after 3 had split up. To write a good
song and then have the band put the hot parts in is very important. It gives the listener the depth
of lyric and story line mixed with the emotion and power of the music. That is what's wrong with a
lot of the new prog music today. It seems to be contrived. Sounds to me like they write this great
piece with acrobatic playing but the melody and lyrics are laid on the top as an after thought.
MuzikMan: Do you think Prog Rock is as popular as ever? Do you think that it has changed that
much do to today's technology? Has it's roots and core that it was derived from remained the same?
Robert: I actually think it has gained some respect again but not back to where it was. There
are some very fine bands still putting out good music but many of the new ones are more into a metal
prog sound. I think progressive music is suppose to be like a symphony. Different movements and lots
of different textures. And virtuoso playing by everybody in the band not just the guitar player. If
you listen to Yes, Genisis, ELP, you will find that the space that is left is as important and the
MuzikMan: Are you really excited and continually inspired by doing this most recent tribute
album? Would you like to be involved again with another project soon?
Robert: I was inspired on this album. If you check out the 5 cuts I did you will find that I
did not write any new material. I took the parts I thought were really happening, cut the fluff and
kicked up the groove and the toughness. That is where the challenge for me was. To retain the
writing of ELP and do what I thought they might do if they had it to do all over again in the 90's.
I know Keith and Carl well and they have been dying to kick some butt musically.
By the way I have had a band called Alliance for the last 5 years. We have a release in Japan called
Bond of Union and one in Europe called Alliance. This is not a prog band but includes some great
players. Gary Pihl of the band Boston, Alan Fitzgerald from Nightranger and David Lauser from Sammy
Hagars band. I also played bass for Sammy from 96' to 98'. Check out my web site at Robertberry.com
MuzikMan: Do you feel that artist, for the most part, mutually respect each other regardless
of backgrounds, beliefs and genre types?
Robert: Interesting question. No. It takes a certain amount of success at your own music
before you can totally let go of that competitive spirit. And I think that competition keeps some
musicians from actually getting where they want to go. They're so busy trying to beat out somebody
else that they don't focus on their own growth. There is so much to learn and so many different
styles and experiences in music. I learn something new every week especially when producing a band.
That all said I must admit that I was feeling very competitive with Trent while producing my tracks.
I felt a deep responsibility to Keith and Carl to do something they could be proud of while at the
same time doing it completely the way I say fit. I would love to know what your readers think. If
possible have them get back to you and forward anything you get to me. I would appreciate it.
This has all been a lot of fun. Thanks Keith. (MuzikMan)
MuzikMan: Thank you Robert!