500 Albums – 5000 Songs – an interview with Phil Palmer

imagePhil Palmer is guitarist – a very busy guitarist. He played with some of the greatest musicians in the world, eg. Eric Clapton, den Dire Straits, Tina Turner, George Michael, Robbie Williams, Pete Townsend… We had the honour to do an interview with him.

A2m: What do you do at the moment?

Phil Palmer: Currently I am involved in live concerts with Renato Zero in Italy, with Murray Head in France and various odds and sods with Pino Daniele and Valentina Parisse … some studio stuff too for Trevor Horn and Chris Porter in the UK. We are seriously looking at second  album with my good friends Steve Ferrone , Tony Levin , Paul Carrack and Rupert Hine , known as Spin 1ne 2wo

A2m: When did you start to play guitar? What were your influences?

Phil Palmer: I started playing a ukulele when I was 5 years old , gradually progressing to guitar as my hands became big enough. By the time I was 10,  I was competent  enough to play with other kids in bands . I grew up around music , my two uncles Ray and Dave Davies of the Kinks were a huge influence … I was 12 when they had their first UK number 1 – You really got me.

A2m: You’re well-known for your work with so many famous bands and musicians. What was your first recording you played on?

Phil Palmer: The Kinks had their own recording studio (Konk) in north London … it was a massive interest for me and I spent far too much time there when I should have been studying.  I was around when a lady called Claire Hammil was recording an album and got asked to contribute . I played bass on one track and guitar on 2 others – this was my first recording experience – 1969 I believe

A2m: If you remember the work with Eric Clapton, how did it influenced you for your further work? How’s your remembrance about this time?

Phil Palmer: Working with EC was an education. Up to that point , through the 80s ,  I had become an established , accomplished  session man,  able to walk into any situation and contribute something musical and precise. The education came from standing behind the man for 3 years watching and learning about feel , emotion and inspiration … before this point I had become focused on precision … I liken it to “The Force” from Star Wars … when you are surrounded by the great musicians of the world , like Erics band of that era , there is definitely a feeling you are part of something much , much bigger which takes you to another level … I experienced Eric at very close quarters and realized his playing is totally dependant on whats coming back from the audience and the energy and inspiration coming from the band … this is a great lesson and once a player can be relaxed with this gift he can perform at the highest level

A2m: Nearly you had been sit with Stevie Ray Vaughan in the helicopter. What are your thoughts about this evening, the concert and the crash?

Phil Palmer: Eric and I stood at the side of the stage watching Stevie Ray that night.  I remember looking at EC with an amazed look on my face, he was nodding back at me, smiling.  Stevie Ray was incredible. The events that followed are best left alone, we lost friends that night along with one of the greatest guitar players of all time.

A2m: What do you prefer? Playing in Stadiums or in smaller Clubs or Arenas?

Phil Palmer: I think I have the best job in the world. I love to play, I love to see the world , I love new challenges. Recording, playing live, writing, arranging. I love it all …. So playing in front of 10 people or 10,000 is all good for me.

A2m: In 2004 you was the musical director of the StratPack concert. How did you got the Job? How did you choose the involved musicians?

Phil Palmer: I kind of applied for the job actually. It was a new challenge.  Bob Young and I put the thing together, he made most of the phone calls and I concentrated on the music , with a lot of help from Pino Palladino , Ian Thomas and Wix the incredible house band . We had hoped to get Eric and Jeff Beck to drop by but they both pulled out because of other commitments sadly. It was still a great show. Gary Moore played the greatest version of “Red House” that I’ve ever heard , Gilmour was majestic as always and extremely loud , Joe Walsh was just so much fun .

A2m: I’ve read David Gilmour played the first ever built strat there. Is that correct?

Phil Palmer: Yes the first Stratocaster ever made 001. I had a go on it … it’s a bit of a pig actually .

A2m: How did the idea of founding “The Straits” grew up? You wrote on Facebook, Mark Knopfler was not amused about that band? Did you asked John Illsley to take Part?

Phil Palmer: There’s a nice Italian chap called Marco Caviglia , who has spent a great deal of his life studying Mark Knopfler . He’s been all over the world finding rare strats , Pensa’s ,Nationals etc. and is probably the closest thing to MK that I know, you can ask him to play the solo from sultans on a recording from 1985 and he will or any live recorded version of anything from the straits , he can  … note perfect … its alarming.

Alan Clarke ,Chris White , John Illsley and myself played a few charity gigs with him in Italy a few years back , it was then that we discovered just how strong the Dire Straits brand still is and how hungry D.S. fans are for more . It’s a shame that MK is so determined not to do it again. It would be huge.

A2m: When you look back on your career, what would you describe as the best experience?

Phil Palmer: Best experiences would include any gig with EC because it was such a great band , The Albert Hall shows were always amazing and I would arrive on gig days 4 or 5 hours early just to soak up the atmosphere of the old place. I love working at the Albert. It’s like playing in your own home … comfortable, familiar , friendly . The Olympic closing ceremony 2012 with George Michael was very special just for the scale and importance of the event … it was an amazing day and a chance to hang out with some really good friends – Pete Townsend and Ray Davies among many others . The Queens golden jubilee event in the garden of Buckingham Palace is also up there for memorable moments.

A2m: You’ve appeared on several recordings which is your favourite one?

Phil Palmer: Several thousand recordings! … It still surprises me just how many , but having put together a discography recently , I can tell you it’s over 500 album projects and probably over 5000 titles.  Some very successful, others best forgotten. Favourites? Probably some of the more obscure stuff -David Sylvian , L Shankar , Rupert Hine for example .

A2m: Is there a musician with whom you always wanted to work with?

Phil Palmer: I still have an ambition to work with Donald Fagen someday. His work has always been inspirational for me. If he’s reading this … give me a buzz Donald

A2m: Is there a chance to see you sometime again in Germany ?

Phil Palmer: Germany yes of course , I don’t get there often enough these days … fond memories of great shows with Tina Turner  , EC and the straits …. Give me a buzz Germany.

A2m: You wrote on Facebook, you’re planning a “reunion” of Spin 1ne 2wo ?

Phil Palmer: Yes , as already mentioned Spin 1ne 2wo was a fun little idea, which seems to have developed a bit of a cult following worldwide . The problem is to try to find a period when everyone is free at the same time -Tony Levin is with Peter Gabriel , Steve Ferrone is with Tom Petty , Paul Carrack is with EC and I am doing my bits with George Michael , Trevor Horn and Renato Zero in Italy. We are looking at it seriously though and hope to have news soon.

We have to thank Phil Palmer for that really nice interview and we wish him all the best and much verve for the music.

Photo Copyright: Phil Palmer