Interview with Robert Berry
Sofa King Cool caught up with Robert Berry and we discussed the new album 3.2 The Rules have changed, this was Keith Emerson last album, we discussed working with Keith Emerson, his final days, touring, and Robert shared that he will be releasing a song book hand written by Keith Emerson for that final album
Singer/multi-instrumentalist/producer Robert Berry’s new album, The Rules Have Changed,” under the name 3.2 will be released on Frontiers Music srl on August 10, 2018.
The full-length album will feature contributions by Keith Emerson. The album is the last musical project in which Emerson was ever involved prior to his untimely passing in 2016.
The working relationship between Emerson and Berry began in 1987. Former Yes manager Brian Lane and Carl Palmer arranged a meeting between the two prolific musicians. The plan was to form a more melodic, song oriented band (compared to the complex symphonic rock compositions for which ELP was known), which would allow Emerson, Berry and Palmer to follow in the footsteps of the success that Asia and GTR were enjoying during that period. The result of that collaboration between Emerson, Berry and Palmer was the band 3 and the album “… To The Power of Three,” released worldwide by Geffen Records in 1988. The first single, “Talkin’ ‘Bout” reached #9 on the Billboard charts and the band successfully toured the U.S. to support the album.
With the success of the first release, Geffen urged the band to go back into the studio to begin work on a second album, but Emerson felt uncomfortable with Geffen’s momentum stifling, inconsistent strategy that ultimately cut the first album’s success short, consequently prompting the band to call it quits.
At the time of their breakup, several songs were already written for the band’s second release (the songs were later released on Robert Berry’s solo album, “Pilgrimage to a Point”).
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 about releasing the long delayed 3 follow-up album.
Along with renewed fan interest in the band and those conversations, Berry in turn sparked revived enthusiasm from Emerson for pursuing the project. The exchange of musical ideas and song collaborations ultimately paved the groundwork for “The Rules Have Changed.”
After Emerson’s death in 2016, Berry was left with Emerson’s final musical ideas for the project. From old cassette tapes, keyboard parts written over the phone and long discussions between the two friends about style, the framework of the album was set and ready to be produced.
“Keith and I developed together a vision of what the new album would be like, explains Berry. “There were many times over the past 30 years since 3 had come out that Keith either played on a session for me or we just talked on the phone. The new album consists of some past 3 writing from 1988, some newly written last efforts from Keith, and some songs written exclusively by me after Keith’s death. “
After several months of grieving and contemplation about what to do with these co-written songs and musical fragments from Emerson, Robert decided to resume work on the material that was created and craft a record that would ultimately be a fitting tribute to Keith Emerson’s musical legacy and at the same time re-energize and update the musical style started with 3 some 30 years ago. The final result is “The Rules Have Changed,” a reboot of the original 3 project, centered on Robert Berry’s amazing musical talents.
This is a record that deserves to be heard by every fan of the great Keith Emerson and includes many exquisite musical adventures, which every progressive music fan will be delighted to experience and enjoy. Pre-sales for the album will start on May 22.
“Every second I worked on writing, recording, and performing those songs I had one thing on my mind,” says Berry. “The phrase… ‘What would Keith do’…drove me, it guided me, it consumed my creativity. It was so important to me to fulfill our vision for this album. I believe Keith worked through me. I especially felt him with me when I did the solos. The songs we had worked on together but the solos were to be improvised while recording. You will hear his flare coming through on the solos. The solos are played by me, but, at the same time, also by him. I would never say I was even close
to being the player Keith was. But I believe you can hear his spirit in the sound and in my playing. I am so proud of this album. I can’t help but think somehow he is proud of the results too.”
TRACKLISTING: 1. One by One 2. Powerful Man 3. The Rules Have Changed 4. Our Bond 5. What You’re Dreaming Now 6. Somebody’s Watching 7. This Letter 8. Your Mark on The World PRODUCED BY: Robert Berry SONGWRITERS: Keith Emerson, Robert Berry ARRANGEMENTS: Keith Emerson, Robert Berry RECORDED and MIXED BY: Robert Berry at Soundtek Studios, Campbell, CA MASTERED BY: George Horn Mastering, Berkeley, CA INSTRUMENTATION: Robert Berry
Robert Berry has managed to survive in the treacherous minefield that is the music business and flourished as a performer, songwriter and producer. It seems he’s done it all. While he may be best known as the vocalist/bass player in the ELP spinoff, 3, with Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer, Berry impressive list of credits include a stint fronting Ambrosia, and long running affiliations with Alliance, December People, and the Greg Kihn Band. Berry has released 5 solo albums, contributed to a number of high-profile tribute albums and has an impressive track record in the studio.
He grew up in a musical family in what would become Northern California’s Silicon Valley. It didn’t take long before he appropriated a Vox Continental organ from his father’s music store. By the time he was a freshman in high school, his group had released a single that went on to become a regional favorite. Although he denies it, according to his school mates, Berry was known as his school’s first full-fledged rock star. His bands became solid fixtures on the Bay Area college and club circuit, where they worked constantly. It was during this period that his interest in multi-track recording blossomed. Legend has it, Berry somehow finagled the very first Teac four-track recorder to arrive in the valley. It wasn’t long before he had written and recorded a experimental twenty-two song ‘rock opera’. As his quest for knowledge grew he managed to snag a part-time position as ‘assistant everything’ person at a busy San Jose recording studio. By the time he was a senior in high school he had acquired a reputation as a solid performer and in-demand studio musician.
After graduation, Berry entered San Jose State University as a music major and again carefully balanced his academic and professional interests. It was at this time that a booking agent devised a plan to create a local ‘super group’ by recruiting members from several recently disbanded outfits. The band that resulted was known as Hush.
From the beginning, as main songwriter and chief strategist, Berry was the guiding force in the group. It didn’t take long before he snuck his new band into the studio and onto tape. Hush became popular up and down the west coast. Their independently released single garnered significant air play on Bay Area FM stations. They were included in several radio stations produced compilation discs. They won numerous radio competitions, one of which gave them the distinction as ‘Northern California’s Best Unsigned Band’. While they didn’t take that label seriously, the notion did prompt the release of their first complete album. That self-titled album ultimately landed them a contract with a major label, a across country tour, and even a minor hit single in Japan. Then suddenly their record company folded.
After returning from the tour, Berry built and opened Soundtek Studios, his own recording facility. He began writing new tunes and mapped out plans for Hush’s next album. A cut from the forth coming album, Gotta Get Back to You, won another radio station contest and became one of the station’s most requested cuts. Berry and band wasted no
time and released their self-produced Hot Tonight album on their own imprint. That album went on to win the coveted BAM Magazine/Bay Area Music Archives’ “Bammie” Award for the year’s Best Independent Album of the year.
Robert Berry continued to write and recorded Back To Back, his first solo album. With a collection of songs that were stylistically different from the Hush material, Berry stretched out from his role as band member, this time singing and playing all the parts himself. Included here were nine new original songs and powerful covers of Lennon and McCartney and Eddie Cochran. Back To Back shows Berry’s writing, playing, and producing skills reaching new levels of sophistication.
The important music trade magazines, Cashbox, Record World, and Billboard, each gave the album high praise and “Pick of the Week” recognition. The influential Bay Area radio station KOME, announced they would be adding “Life the Game” to their regular rotation. The album landed on the desk of the legendary John Kalodner from Geffen Records. Kalodner soon set up live showcase performances in Los Angeles and San Francisco. A couple of interesting scenarios resulted from those showcases. One with Sammy Hagar’s recently orphaned band, and another with legendry British drummer, Carl Palmer.
Both scenarios ultimately worked out as Berry formed long term relationships with Hagar’s drummer David Lauser and (now Boston) guitarist Gary Pihl in the band Alliance and would eventually embark on an exciting new project with Palmer.
On the strength of Back To Back and continued interest from Geffen, Berry moved to the UK where he found himself working with Yes guitarist Steve Howe in his new band, GTR. He also received a fortuitous invite to dine with Keith Emerson at the Savoy in London. It seems Palmer and Emerson were imagining a new project and they invited Robert Berry to join. Together the new band simply known as 3 would purposefully step away from expectations, aiming instead to break new ground. The union resulted in album ‘To The Power of Three’ on Geffen Records, a supporting tour and eventually the release of several live 3 concert recordings.
Upon returning from the 3 tour, Berry and Hagar band alums, along with former Night Ranger, Gamma, Montrose keyboard player, Alan ‘Fitz’ Fitzgerald got busy and formed Alliance as an ongoing project. The band has released 4 well received CDs.
With his stature elevated by numerous high-profile projects, Berry found his recording studio busy with a long list of notable clients from around the world. At the same time, he was being offered numerous opportunities to perform with prominent recording artists. He signed on for the daunting task of trying to fill in for David Pack during a stint fronting Ambrosia. As a multi-instrumentalist, he has occasionally performed with The Tubes when they need a hand. He has established himself as long-time bass player for the Greg Kihn Band and has developed a strong songwriting partnership with Kihn.
2010 marked the live concert debut of the December People – Classic Rock Christmas. Berry developed a concept band that performs around the country during the Holiday season. The band includes friends from renowned classic rock acts such as Boston, The Tubes, Sammy Hagar, Y&T, Greg Kihn Band and occasional special guests, performing classic rock versions of popular Christmas songs. The project is designed to make holiday music hip and relevant for today’s listeners and as a way to raise funds, gather food and clothing donations through Community Food Bank donations. December People have released 5 albums of classic Christmas songs recorded in the imagined style of great classic rock bands.
2016 was a big year for Robert Berry as he met with pal Keith Emerson in Los Angeles to discuss a 30th anniversary release of the long awaited follow up to the debut 3 album. If that wasn’t enough, he co-wrote 11 all new songs, produced and played Rekihndled, the Greg Kihn Band’s first studio album in over 20 years.
The year 2017 was noteworthy for some major efforts. Early in the years, Berry, on bass and lead vocals joined with Terry Brock (GIANT, STRANGEWAYS) on lead vocals, Gary Pihl (BOSTON, SAMMY HAGAR, ALLIANCE) on guitar, and Matt Starr (ACE FREHLEY, MR. BIG) on drums, to form ALL 41. They release the band’s debut album, “World’s Best Hope”. Simultaneously, he mounted a dedicated effort to complete his collaboration with Keith Emerson on the long awaited 3 follow up. That album, which took shape in 2016, was nearly shattered with the news of Keith Emerson tragic death. Ultimately and as a tribute to the friendship of Emerson and Berry, it somewhat painfully got back on track and is set for a summer of 2018 release date as 3.2 – The Rules Have Changed on Frontiers Music SRL.