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A Dirty Dozen with ROBERT BERRY – April 2021

| 7 April 2021 | Reply


According to a recent press release: “Robert Berry returned with a second 3.2 album, Third Impression on February 12, 2021. The band/project is a continuation of the band 3, which a band Berry was in with Carl Palmer and the late great Keith Emerson. In October 2015, conversations about a new 3 album started between Robert Berry and Frontiers President, Serafino Perugino as Robert had been speaking to Keith Emerson about releasing the long delayed 3 follow up album. Along with renewed fan interest in the band and those conversations, Berry had sparked revived enthusiasm from Keith Emerson for pursuing the project. The exchange of musical ideas and song collaborations ultimately paved the groundwork for 3.2’s first album, The Rules Have Changed. The working relationship between the legendary keyboard player Keith Emerson and singer and multi-instrumentalist Robert Berry started in 1987. Iconic manager Brian Lane (Yes, Asia, A-Ha, etc.) and Carl Palmer arranged a meeting between the two prolific musicians. The plan was to form a more melodic, song oriented band (compared to EL&P), which would allow Emerson, Berry and Palmer to follow in the footsteps of the success that Asia and GTR were enjoying in that period. And thus, 3 was born.” We get Robert to discuss new music, influences, and more…

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

Well first off Todd it is great to speak with you. I appreciate your interest in Third Impression. What might not be clear on this album if you haven’t read the liner notes within the album cover or heard another interview where I’ve spoken about it is that half this album is in the style that Keith Emerson and I had decided we would move with for the last album called The Rules Have Changed. We had a very strong set of parameters. Some paying tribute to our past album in 1988 and some new ideas we had, and then where we wanted to head in the future. With the new album, since Keith is no longer with us, I decided to do half of it in the style of 3 as Keith and I had discussed and then the other half heading towards what I may do more of in the future. After all, this is the last 3 album there will ever be. The band 3, or 3.2 as we named it for our continuation, can’t be done without Keith so I can’t do another one. Die-hard fans might recognize one song that was released in a different form years ago on an album with a band I am in. But that’s all I’m gonna say.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

My dad had a big band, and my mom was a singer and his band. My mom didn’t give up singing with the band till she was eight months pregnant, so I like to say I was in a band and in the music before I was even born. My dad then moved on and open a music store the carried Vox Guitars and amps which is what the Beatles used back then. At a very young age I was seeing the best of the local musicians and even some with hit records come through my dad store. I also had Eight years of classical piano lessons and then two years of jazz piano, so music was always around, and I was always working toward music.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

Because I own a recording studio I am involved in all types of music. Music is simply music to me as long as it’s done right. I have worked with the biggest stars in the progressive rock world and as long as were doing music the right way it is where I resonate and what I love to do. But I also have a straight rock band with my songwriting partner Greg Kihn, and I do all kinds of music at my studio. I was lucky to make my first record when I was 12 years old. When I was 17, I wound up working at that studio for 10 years. We did lots of mariachi music and country music there besides the rock stuff from the local bands that I brought in. So really my experience has been very wide.

4. Who would be your main five musical influences?

I’m a huge Jeff Beck and Eddie Van Halen fan for Guitar, I love Chris Squire and Paul McCartney for bass, keyboard players of course Keith Emerson but I’m also a huge Yes fan so Rick Wakeman is at the top of my list. Tony Banks of Genesis is also quite a favorite of mine. The rest here’s all kinds of people that have influenced me throughout my career.

5. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

I’m not sure why but I’ve always felt that Paul McCartney and myself would do something really special. Different than what he does, different than what I do. But unique in some way. That said I have written and worked with Steve Howe of Yes, I’ve written and work with Keith Emerson of ELP, the list goes on. I’ve been a very lucky guy.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

I have two sides to what I do. The main one, and the most well-known one, is the progressive side. Progressive music is orchestrated, involved, and challenging. At the same time my music adds a little AOR in to make it accessible. The other side of me is a straight rock guy. My band Alliance with Gary Pihl of the band Boston and David Lauser of the Sammy Hagar band is more along the lines of the classic 80’s rock bands. I love a song with a good chorus. I’ve never had my music compared to somebody that I didn’t like but at one point someone did tell me they thought it looked like Getty Lee. That was a little odd LOL.

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Funny enough, in the studio we will go out to eat after a long day recording, or if we’re out touring, we will go out to eat or have it catered in before a performance. Lots of times it’s better if we wait till after the performance to eat. Then of course if its catered food brought in by the concert promoter it is usually cold by the time we get to it. When you do music all day in recording studio and tour or just perform on the weekends like I do almost all the time the last thing you do in your downtime is pull out an acoustic guitar or a keyboard. I don’t even have the radio on when I’m driving the car. I just need a little silence once in a while. But music is my life and I do it all the time.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

I have worked with so many famous people that that is one of the qualities I think they like about me. I’m never starstruck, I just want to get the job done and do the best work I can. But I will say when Greg Kihn and I were on tour a couple years ago we got to meet Tony Bennett. That was pretty cool.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

I have always said I can do two things, I can play music, or I can mow lawns. I’m not about to mow lawns at this point in my career. LOL you have to remember that almost every day in my studio I’m working with singer songwriters that have written a song that they have brought to me to give it its best treatment. That is something I love to do, and it is a different type of job from what people think usually of me. It’s totally serving the clients musical tastes and referencing their influences.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

I’ve been asked everything. I can’t think of anything that someone hasn’t brought up except for maybe why my eyes are blue. LOL My moms were brown, and my dads were hazel. I’m also not tired of answering any questions as I am so honored that people still want to talk to me, find the music interesting, find the story interesting, and want to spread the word to their fan base about my music.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

Way back before 3 I was in a band called GTR with Steve Howe. I quit that band because the singer made me a little uncomfortable. As I look back, I think that would’ve been a great band even still today and I wish that I would’ve figured out a way to work that out. The good news was that as soon as I quit GTR Keith Emerson called me. It doesn’t get better than that.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

I’d like to see how Jeff Beck and Jan Hammer put Blow by Blow together. That album seems like a bunch of musicians that could play their heart out individually but intertwined perfectly in every aspect. Plus, I wonder if the title has anything to do with the working relationship, they had putting that album together?

BONUS QUESTION – Due to the current world situation with COVID-19 / quarantine / shelter in place, what have you discovered you miss the most from your life before the pandemic struck?

I did not let the pandemic change what I do. In my studio Monday through Friday I usually work with one person at a time working on their song. They sing and play their instrument and I play all the other instruments and produced a final version for them. I did that about 75% of normal all of 2020. Of course I sterilized the studio every day to make sure all my clients were safe. I went out to eat three nights a week. If the restaurant were closed indoors or even outdoors Rebecca and I would sit in the car at some spot, we like, and we’d eat our dinner out in the car as if it was our date night. I wear a mask inside, but I don’t wear one when I am walking around outside. The mask has been the main difference from previous 2020. I don’t want to minimalize the pandemic, but I’ve lived like a singer my whole career. I have a coat from back in 88 I wore at Madison Square Garden that still has Purell in the pocket. I’ve always been very careful to not be around people who are coughing or sneezing or anything that might get me sick. Because I am a singer, I have to be able to sing. When you have a cold or flu or anything that affects the throat you can’t sing. I tell everybody, you need to live like a singer.





Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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