The EMP Project

A Brief History
Core Members
Guest Musicians, Members & Contributors
Frequently Asked Questions
The Music
 

A Brief History...

The EMP Project was formed when its founding members,  Mark Estes and yours truly, "met" each other on the forums section ofTommy Farese's web site. Tommy is a vocalist currently on tour with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

While I'm simply a devoted fan, Tommy is actually an old friend of Mark's. It was this accidental meeting that allowed two die hard ELP fans to join forces to cover some of their favorite music.

As you have already read, I'm a classically-trained pianist and a life long fan of Keith Emerson. Mark, who plays guitar and bass, is a devoted fan of Greg Lake and tries to pattern much of his guitar and bass style from him.  A match made in heaven, huh?  ;-)

We decided to try our first long distance test project - a rendition of Emerson Lake & Palmer's "Promenade 3" from their Pictures at an Exhibition album. I would email my keyboard tracks to Mark, who then added his own bass lines and assembled the project in Mark's home studio, known locally as "Hawk Studio". Not having a percussionist, we assembled our first drum track using a MIDI editor and various drum machines.

With this simple ninety second test track in the can, I started a music page on MySpace.Com and dubbed the band "The EMP Project". We immediately went to work on another project, the much longer and more technically complex "Hoedown" from ELP'sTrilogy album. I again provided multiple keyboard tracks for Mark to assemble, and Mark went to work using analog soft synths to recreate Emerson's unique analog synthesizer sounds. After many hours of testing and patching, the keyboard tracks were combined. Mark then added a "borrowed" MIDI drum track and his own bass line to complete the work.

Interestingly (and a sort of back-handed compliment, I suppose) we received moderate criticism that "Hoedown" was "too perfect"... almost sterile, as though entirely created by computer.  With that criticism firmly in mind, for our third effort we intentionally opted for more raucous, live-sounding performance of "Nutrocker" (also from ELP's Pictures at an Exhibition album). Besides enabling us to break out of the "mechanical sounding" style of "Hoedown", it also allowed us to stretch and improvise a bit. To that end, I decided to "Emerson-up" my portion of the piece by inserting most of the instrumental bridge from "Tiger in the Spotlight" (from ELP's Works Vol IIalbum), followed by Mark rewriting the "Nutrocker" bridge to include a bass solo. Again, a MIDI drum track was programmed and the piece was completed just days before Christmas 2005. We are very pleased with the results.

Just after releasing "Nutrocker", I met percussionist Mark DeGregory on MySpace. MarkD, as we like to call him (to help differentiate between Mark Estes, aka MarkE), is a talented drummer and long time fan of Carl Palmer. It was a karmic match made in Heaven, allowing us to take a major step forward towards completing our sound. I once said, "MarkD can channel Carl Palmer with the best of 'em". lol  MarkE couldn't agree more. He was instantly welcomed into The EMP Project!

MarkD sent-in some drum tracks for our previous projects as well as for a few of our upcoming works... and in every case they were a perfect fit!  MarkE went back to the studio to remix these live drums into both our old and new tracks, and we'll have those available in the very near future.  

With The EMP Project's overall sound nearly complete, we set about trying to find a vocalist (the problem being that none of the three of us have the strongest of voices - certainly not sufficient to carry-off Greg Lake's "choir boy" tenor).  And while we would have thought that finding instrumentalists capable of playing their parts would have been the difficult part, it turned-out that the vocal piece would vex-us for many months.  With some boredom setting-in from being limited to recording only instrumentals, our output declined for many months.

But that all began to change when we (first) found Steve Calzone, whom you can hear on "From The Beginning" (also from ELP'sTrilogy album) - and now with the services of Graham Seaman (who not only has the perfect timbre but also brings an authentic Brit accent as well!).  As of this writing, Graham is finishing the vocals for both "Take A Pebble" (from ELP's inaugural album - sometimes referred to as "The Bird" because of the cover art) and "Pirates" (from ELP's Works Vol I - and, without doubt, the most technically challenging piece we've attempted to date).  I'll add links to both as soon as they become available.

What else is in work?  I am the hold-up on "The Barbarian" (from ELP's "Bird" album) - mainly because I just haven't taken the time to learn my parts!  We're also going to do "Knife Edge" (again from the "Bird" album), although with a darker tone than the original (nice thing about not trying to be a pure cover-band is that you can change-things-up to suit your personal preferences).  Because it will be pretty quick knocking-both-out we're doing "Benny The Bouncer" (from ELP's Brain Salad Surgery album) and "Lucky Man" (once again the "Bird"... perhaps we should look at covering "The Three Fates" and "Tank" - at which time we will have covered the entire thing! :p).  Further down the line we foresee doing "Karn Evil 9" (also from Brain Salad Surgery - we'll likely initially do The First Impression Part 2, then later augment the rest... as I learn them!), "Fanfare for the Common Man" (from Works Vol I), and perhaps even the "Tarkus" suite(from the album of the same name).  

I mentioned the notion that we are NOT an Emerson Lake & Palmer cover band.  Once we have completed our "wish list" of ELP tunes, we plan to move onto songs from other bands as well as some original pieces. To that end, female guitarist and vocalist Lindsay Estes (MarkE's daughter) was added to the team (hence why we call ourselves a "project" - akin to past efforts by the likes of The Alan Parsons Project). Lindsay and MarkE have already worked together in the studio for several years covering tracks from Alice Cooper, The Beatles, NIN and many others. Lindsay is  talented on both guitar and vocals and is well versed in music production. Her "Stevie Nicks" style voice will compliment some of our upcoming covers quite nicely! To that end, you can expect to hear tracks from The Moody Blues, King Crimson, Fleetwood Mac and others in the very near future. 

The EMP Project thanks you for listening and appreciates your continued support.

 

The EMP Project - Core Members

David "Keith" Presley
Piano, Organ, Synth, Production
Location: Los Angeles, CA USA

David Presley was born in Texas in 1956 - and has been playing piano, organ, and synth for more than 51 of his 57 years on Planet Earth. Classically trained for five years beginning at age 6, it is assumed that he gets his ability from his paternal grandmother - who, at one time in her life, was a concert pianist. David's interest in music expanded exponentially when he discovered his musical idol - Keith Emerson - during his late-teenage years. That interest led him to have a go at being a professional musician after graduating college; but, unfortunately, he never seemed able to connect with serious musicians (i.e. those who wanted to treat it as both their love and a business) so he changed gears and began a 25+ year career in commercial insurance.

Despite the hiatus, David never lost that love of the music of Emerson Lake & Palmer. While not yet quite ready to retire, his current position - where he works from a home office - affords enough spare time to resume serious practice and recording. Well-versed in the analog synth technologies "of yesteryear", David admittedly is still on a learning-curve with todays digital / MIDI keyboards. Therefore, it was a natural choice to join forces with Mark Estes - to not only cover some of their favorite ELP tunes - but because Mark has mastered much of the production artistry needed to create first-class, professional renditions.

BTW, people have asked about the keyboards - in the photo shown above you'll see a Kurzweil PC2X (with Orchestral ROM), a Roland A37 MIDI Controller driving a Korg Triton Rack with EXB-MOSS card, an Alesis Andromeda A6, a Hammond Pro XK-System (two manual organ), and a Minimoog Voyager  - all fed into twin Roland KC550 keyboard amps and recorded onto an Apple MacBook.

Mark "Greg" Estes
Guitar, Bass, Synth, Production
Location: Wilkes Barre, CA USA

Mark Estes was born in New York in 1955 and currently lives Pennsylvania. He was attracted to music early in his life with sounds from the likes of The Beatles, Stones, Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull flowing through his veins. Not limiting himself to rock, Mark also enjoys musical scores from Broadway and Classical.

Growing up in Island Park, NY, a town surging with musical talent with garage bands on every block, Mark started playing guitar at age 15. In spite of his love for the instrument he quickly discovered that bass guitar was the instrument for him. Mark says "Bass is the cement that bonds the band's leads with its drummer, and in a band situation, that is what I like to provide".

He played in several high school bands, and some of his old buddies went on to fame. But not Mark - who decided to pursue a career in electronics. During that time music took a back seat as he focused on his career and raising his two daughters. Now that Mark is semi-retired, he has again turned his attention to music - setting-up a home studio (known locally as Hawk Studio) and going to work.

Mark discovered ELP in the early 70's and was instantly drawn to them. Mark says "Greg Lake is an amazing bassist, exceeded only by his talent on guitar and vocals". "His style of alternate flat picking gives his guitar and bass lines a unique punchy sound". Mark considers him to be the center of ELP's sound and attempts to emulate his style.

After a lifetime working as an Electronics Design Engineer, synthesizers have always fascinated him. He states, "It is the ultimate bond between man, music, and electronics". Mark feels that Keith Emerson is arguably, the master of this instrument. Add to that the incredible percussive lines of Carl Palmer and you have, "the best musical match-up since The Beatles". "Pure magic"!

Today, Mark still loves playing bass and guitar but tends to focus more energy on learning music production and molding sound with analog synthesizers. Linking up with David Presley and Mark DeGregory has allowed him to explore music that, up until now, had been unreachable. To that end, he humbly hopes that you enjoy our efforts.

Mark "Carl" DeGregory
Percussion, Vocals, Synth, Production
Location: West Trenton, NJ USA

Mark DeGregory was born, raised, and currently lives in West Trenton, New Jersey. Entering the world in 1971, he first took an interest to the drums at approximately age 5 - when his Mom bought him a toy drum kit he was eyeing at a neighborhood flea market. Old kits formerly played by Mark's great grandfather and cousin soon followed, and he and brother Dan immediately started destroying drum heads. Coming from a musical family, Mark was encouraged to expand his musical horizons when it came time to choose an instrument in grade school - where despite choosing trumpet, drums remained a much-loved hobby.

While the birth of MTV provided Mark with a myriad of influences, a landmark event was seeing his first Asia video. At that point, Mark decided he wanted to learn to play like Carl Palmer. Asia became the first group for which Mark considered himself a die hard fan, much to the chagrin of his more-hip older brothers Dave and Dan who told him to that he should see what these guys USED to do.  THAT was the turning point!  Mark became hooked on Emerson, Lake & Palmer just a few bars into the Brain Salad Surgery LP and the fraternal advice ultimately led to Mark's appreciation of progressive rock, such as the likes of Yes, Rush, and King Crimson.

Mark went on to play drums in original and cover bands between 1987 and 1996, and then took an indefinite hiatus from playing to focus on marriage and his career in environmental consulting... save for occasional requests from former band mates to record or fill in for some live shows. He just recently picked up the sticks again, having joined a cover band based in Mercer County, New Jersey. Marks participation in The EMP Project affords him a welcomed opportunity to play and record his favorite types of music with other musicians who share the same love for the music.

Graham Seaman
Vocals, Guitar, Production
Location: Mersey Side, Liverpool UK

Coming directly from the land of The Beatles we have Graham Seaman. Graham is an accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and producer. Being another die hard Emerson, Lake & Palmer fan, Graham was a lucky find for EMP. His original contributions to the band are the incredible vocals that he provides for "Take a Pebble" and "Pirates".  EMP will be putting him to work on many other ELP covers as well, including "I Believe In Father Christmas", "Benny the Bouncer", "Lucky Man", "Trilogy", and others.

Larry Curtis
Guitar, Production (especially Video)
Location: Porter, TX USA

Larry Curtis was born in Texas in 1955. His father worked for the airlines so he moved around the country a bit during his childhood. He graduated from High School in Denver and one year later embarked on a 20 year military career as a helicopter pilot, which has remained his profession since he retired from the military in 1994. He spent exactly half of his military career living in Germany and has traveled all over the European continent.

Several members of his extended family were musically inclined as he was growing up and his father played the guitar as well, teaching Larry his first guitar chords at the age of 8. Larry’s musical training actually began at age 7, however, as his parents enrolled him in accordion lessons. The real turning point in Larry’s desire to play music came, however, in 1964 at the age of 9 when Beatlemania came rolling across the airwaves. After seeing the Beatles perform on television, Larry saw that playing the guitar must be a good thing as he had never seen girls screaming, crying, and passing out over accordion players…sorry Weird Al…

As he developed is guitar playing, using a Mel Bay book of guitar chords and learning to play by ear from songs on the radio, Larry was playing popular Beatles songs by the age of 10 which is when his parents bought him his first electric guitar. By this time, the accordion was getting less and less attention.

Larry’s musical influences were Beatle-based until the late 60’s when Led Zeppelin, Cream, Iron Butterfly, and others became popular. A significant turning point came, however, with the release of Jethro Tull’s Aqualung…right about the time the Beatles broke up. Larry steeped himself in Tull and has never come out of it!

Larry now lives in the Houston, Texas area with his wife, Tess, their 3 cats, Casey, Smokey, & Ashley, and their two dogs, Beaux and Spike. A few years ago he learned how to make multi-track recordings using his PC, and for lack of any playing partners he has been making music in this fashion. Recently he began making and posting videos on the internet, and it was because of his videos that he became acquainted with the members of EMP.

 

The EMP Project - Guest Musicians, Members & Contributors

Jakob Wimler
Flute, Wind
Location: Austria

Jakob Wimler is a talented young flutist from Austria that was discovered quite by accident by MarkE. Being primarily a bassist, MarkE had a bug up his ass about recording Jethro Tull's version of "Bourée". One night while surfing through youtube.com - looking for Tull videos of Glen Cornick performing this song - Mark happened on a short video of Jak playing flute to "Bourée". MarkE contacted Jak, who jumped on board immediately. Listen to EMP's "Bouree" for a sample of his outstanding abilities.  Jakob has opened the door for EMP to record any Tull song or other tracks containing intricate flute passages.

Lindsay Estes
Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals, Production
Location: Bellmore, NY USA

Lindsay is a young musician and actress from Bellmore, NY. She is a talented song writer, guitarist and vocalist. Lindsay has made a huge contribution to EMP's overall sound. Much of her time has been spent in the studio with Daddy (MarkE) tweaking out the final mixes. She has also recorded several of her own solo tracks. Lindsay is currently touring as an actress with "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" playing in New York City and Long Island.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is EMP?

EMP is a long distance music recording project made up of a variety of musicians from all over the world. EMP's goal is to create music using tracks that are recorded and transmitted electronically by its members to Hawk Studio for production.
EMP is not a commercial interest.  No members or guests are paid for their services and EMP does not charge for any recordings or services. It exists simply for creativity and the love of music.

How was EMP conceived?

EMP started when its two founding members, Mark Estes and David Presley, met each other on the Internet. Both are die hard Emerson, Lake & Palmer fans, so they decided to get together to cover some of their favorite tracks. Read our history here.

What type of music does EMP record?

Initially, EMP has primarily covered the works of Emerson, Lake & Palmer. But now we are branching out to include covers from other popular bands and some original content as well.

What do the initials "EMP" stand for?

Actually, EMP originally stood for (E)stes, (M)idi and (P)resley. The "M" for MIDI was chosen because at the time EMP had no drummer - instead, drums were programmed in MIDI and mixed into the projects. Since that time, EMP has picked up it's third core member, percussionist Mark DeGregory.  The name, however, remained the same... although we are now toying with a new/revised meaning: E-Music Project.

Can I join and participate in EMP?

EMP is always seeking new "guest" members to participate in our evolving projects. If you are seeking a top rate band to help you cover some of your favorite tunes, simply email one of our core members with your ideas: Mark EstesDavid Presley, or Mark DeGregory. Vocalists are especially encouraged to join-in.  Alternatively, feel free to leave a message in the forums section of The Hawk Studio website.

 

The Music

Promenade I Believe in Father Christmas (v1)
Hoedown I Believe in Father Christmas (v2)
Nutrocker Wizards In Winter
From The Beginning Christmas Eve / Sarajevo 12/24
Take A Pebble Jerusalem
Lucky Man Bourée
Pirates Abacab
Drive My Car In My Life
   
 

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