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Robert Berry

Interviewed by Gary Hill

Interview with Robert Berry from 2018

MSJ:

If you were to put together your ultimate band (a band you'd like to hear or catch live), who would be in it and why?

Definitely Jeff Beck on guitar, Simon Phillips on drums, myself on bass and some keys, and at this point in time it would be Rick Wakeman on keyboards.

MSJ:

If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?

That is a tough one.  I have different pockets of interest in the music business.  First off I'd go back to my early influences and try to put together anything still working that is from the 70s/80s: Yes, Jethro Tull, Deep Purple, Carl Palmer's ELP legacy is a good follow through from ELP.  Then I have a more modern mix of bands that influenced the newer generation.  To me it sounds like Cold Play and a few others really got their sound from U2.  It would be a bit of a puzzle to put it together but I think it would be amazing to pair two bands (past and present) together that way.

MSJ:

What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?

Funny enough I don't ever buy CDs.  I am in the studio everyday producing artists, and the last thing I want to do is listen to music at night.  (Laughter) Sounds nasty doesn't it.  But one of my modes of operation for producing is having the artist tell me and play for me what influenced them to become what they became.  Sometimes it's very interesting to have a sweet female vocalist come in, and she brings up Ozzy as her favorite.  You just never know.  That said, I get lots of new music mixed in with those examples too.  That is where I expand my world of listening.  I also do lots of soundalike/parodies for high tech companies where I take the latest hit song and put their lyrics to it.  Just did a track on Portugal the Man for a company - cool track and interesting vocal. 

MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?

I barely ever have time to read.  I am checking mixes and writing lyrics in my spare time.  I have a fantastic wife, and in my down time we spend time having fun. The best life is one that works hard and plays hard.  The playing hard has always been the part that I've had trouble with.  Rebecca changed all that.

MSJ:

What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?

I just played at the Light of Day Winterfest for a Bruce Sprinsteen benefit show.  He had the horns from the Conan O'Brien show work up an arrangement for Greg Kihn and I on our tour.  13-piece horn section and LaBamba just knocked it out of the park.  Great guy.  I stuck around and saw some very cool big band arrangements and singers from that section.  I don't get out to concerts very often.  But I will say Carl Palmers ELP Legacy knocked me out.They were really good.

MSJ: Do you remember the first concert you attended?

When I was very young my dad was friends with the stage manager at the San Jose Civic Auditorium.  My dad would take me down with the spare Vox amp from his music store to sit with the stage manager George Wright and guard the amp.  I was all of ten years old.  I'm sure I wasn't much of a guard. But I remember the first one was the Who. When Pete broke his guitar I was hooked.

MSJ:

Have you come across any new gear recently that you love?

I totally redid my studio at the beginning of last year with the latest ProTools.  I was to do a new album with Keith Emerson we were to call “3.2.” I also had the Moog rebuilt and got all the old equipment from the original 3 album shined up and ready to go - plus a Telefunken c12 mic I've been wanting to do the vocals.  The plan changed abruptly, as you know.  But I am still going to release that album this year, so that old and new equipment will shine.

MSJ:

Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”

Music is my life.  Every day is creating music, every night is writing music, and then like last week I was on tour - seven shows in six nights with Greg Kihn. I guess the thing I do that I don't consider music is collecting guitars.  Check out my website at Robertberry.com.  You'll see I have a real problem.  And twenty newer ones aren't even on there yet.

MSJ:

If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?

Well, of course number one would have to be Keith Emerson.  We were in such deep conversations about our new album when he died.  I would love to just put the final touches to that.  I miss that guy.  Number two would be Jeff Beck.  I swear that guy doesn't know how to play guitar, it is just a part of his heart and soul.  I can't believe what he does and how he does it.  Just amazes me. The third would be Paul McCartney.  I have a great respect for how he rebuilt his career after the Beatles.  I have a great respect for his writing, his playing and just the way he is so comfortable in his own skin.  How could a guy that everybody in the whole world wants a piece of be that comfortable?  I would love to know.

MSJ:

What would be on the menu?

Keith, white wine.  Jeff, road stew. That's hot water mixed with used guitar strings and guitar picks. McCartney, well I'm a wanna be vegetarian so anything a deer would eat I guess.

MSJ:

Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?

Music has been good to me. People like you have supported me for so many years.  I'm one of those guys that works under the radar, and you have always found me and my projects.  I am hoping that my 3.2 project is well received. I have written it from small little pieces Keith sent me to start from, from listening to him play over the phone and from the ideas I had way back in 1988 for a second album.  That along with the road I have travelled as a musician over the last 30 years has lead me to become who I am.  Good or bad, I am hoping my efforts at finishing up an album I have dreamed of doing for so long gets listened to by the fans.  Keith left us before we could sit down in a room and put the songs together.  But we traded ideas, we traded feelings on the format and creativity, we traded hopes and dreams for the future. 
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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