A Conversation With Robert Berry
Douglas McLean chats with Robert Berry for his latest Sound Cafe Podcast, they chat about Robert's latest album 'Third Impression', his musical past and creative process. Robert is a Grammy nominated recording artist, songwriter, producer and performing musician.
You can listen to the entire interview and music HERE
Robert Berry, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer, has released his third album,
‘Third Impression’ by 3.2, (Keith Emerson and Robert Berry), a celebration, tribute and musical extravaganza, dedicated to his working partner Keith Emerson.
While he may be best known as the vocalist/bass player in the Emerson, Lake and Palmer 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, Sammy Hagar 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 an 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.
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 legendary 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.
You can listen to the entire interview and music HERE