The EMP Project

 
   
   
   

A Brief History

   
   

Core Members

   
   

Guest Musicians, Members, and 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 of Tommy Farese's website. For those who don't know, Tommy is one of the original vocalists with 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 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, eh? ;-)

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 at Mark's private 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 and dubbed the band "The EMP Project." We immediately went to work on another tune, the much longer and more technically complex "Hoedown" (from ELP's Trilogy album). I again provided multiple keyboard tracks for Mark to assemble, and Mark also went to work using analog soft synths to recreate Emerson's unique analog synthesizer wail on that particular track. 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 the more raucous, live-sounding performance of "Nutrocker" (also from ELP's Pictures at an Exhibition album). Besides enabling us to break out of the "mechnical sounding" style of "Hoedown", it also afforded us an opportunity 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 II album), 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 (little did we know that this would become an annual rite of the holidays). We are very pleased with the results.

Just after releasing "Nutrocker," I "met" percussionist Mark DeGregory on MySpace (btw "met" is always in quotation marks because, with the exception of one meeting between Mark and myself, and one between Mark and Graham, none of us have ever met one another in real-life). MarkD, as we like to call him (to help differentiate between he and 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 all of 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 vocals). 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's Trilogy album) - and now with the services of Graham Seaman (who not only has the perfect timbre but also brings an authentic Brit accent - since he hails from the UK). Graham very quickly finished 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... without doubt, our most technically challenging piece to date).

In the ensuing time, Christmas has become a big focus for The EMP Project. In 2006, on the heels of Trans-Siberian Orchestra's "Wizards In Winter" contest, we released our first music video that included all of our contest submissions blended-into one seamless track. In 2007, we did two versions of Greg Lake's "I Believe In Father Christmas". Then, in 2008, we returned to the music of TSO with an extended cover of their "Christmas Eve / Sarajevo 12-24" that included narration otherwise only heard when they perform in concert. This is clearly our video masterwork to date, thanks to the expertise brought by EMP Project member Larry Curtis.

Also from ELP's first album we've done "Lucky Man"; but, not wanting to be type-cast, we also have done two Beatles classics: "In My Life" (which featured another music video), and "Drive My Car". Larry and MarkE are BIG Jethro Tull fans - and on the side have done an entire cover of "Thick As A Brick". And these are just for starters!

What else is in the works? I can take all of the blame as the hold-up for "The Barbarian" (from ELP's "Bird" album) - mainly because I've still not 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 taste). In that same vein, we envision a darker version of "Tarkus" (from the album of the same name); from Brain Salad Surgery, we'll likely do our take on "Karn Evil 9, First Impression, Part 2"... and maybe even "Benny The Bouncer". And "Fanfare for the Common Man", also from Works Vol 1, is frequently mentioned in our plans. Longer term expect tracks from diverse bands such as The Moody Blues, King Crimson, Fleetwood Mac, and...

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 48 of his 54 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 mid-teenage years. That interest led to him having 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 paths 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 something of a learning-curve with today's 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 this older photo, you see (starting on the left, top-down), a Minimoog Voyager, Roland A37 Midi Controller (driving a Korg Triton Rack with EXB-MOSS & EXB-PCM08 cards), and the Hammond Pro XK-System; on the right, top-down, there's an Alesis Andromeda A6, a Kurzweil PC2X, and a Korg Oasys. Everything is fed into twin Roland KC550 keyboard amps and (now) recorded on a Fostex 8-track digital recorder. For more detailed information, click on the "Gear" link in the top menu.

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

Mark Estes was born in New York in 1955 and currently lives in 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 (and perhaps fortune? ;-). 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 sem-retired, he has again turned his attention to music - setting-up a home studio (known locally as The Hawk Studio) and going to work.

Mark discovered the music of Emerson Lake & Palmer in the early 70s, 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 regularly attempts to emulate his style.

After a lifetime of working as an Electronics Design Engineer, synthesizers have always fascinated him. Mark states, "it is the ultimate bond between man, music, and electronics." Mark feels that Keith Emerson is (at least 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 time and 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 collective efforts.

 
       
  Mark "Carl" DeGregory
Percussion, Synth, Vocals, 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 in the drums at age 5 - when his Mom bought him a toy drum kit that he had been 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 the trumpet, drums remained his 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 that 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 & Dan who told him 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 - with 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 a lengthy 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, NJ. Mark's participation in The EMP Project affords him a welcomed opportunity to play and record his favorite types of music with other musicians who share this same passion for the music.

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

Coming directly from the land of The Beatles we have Mr. Graham Seaman. Graham is an accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and producer. Being another die-hard Emerson Lake & Palmer fan, Graham was a lucky find for The EMP Project. His contributions to the band are the incredible vocals that he provides on such classics as "Take A Pebble," "Lucky Man," and "Pirates" - but also a wonderful production capacity at Sack The Cat Studios.

Since joining The EMP Project, Graham has also become the vocalist/bassist for (arguably) the best ELP cover band on the planet: Noddy's Puncture. Congrats, Graham - well done!!

 
       
  Larry Curtis
Guitar, Vocals, Video Production
Location: Porter, TX US
 
 

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

Several members of Larry's extended family were musically inclined, including his father - who played the guitar quite well, teaching Larry his first chords at the age of 8. Larry's actual musical training began one year earlier - as his parents enrolled him in accordion lessons! The real turning-point in Larry's desire to play music came, however, in 1964 when Beatlemania began 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 :D ).

As he developed his guitar chops - 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 ten... which is when his parents bought his first electric guitar. By now, his 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, their three cats, and two dogs. A few years ago, he learned how to make multi-track recordings using his personal computer - and, for lack of any playing partners, has been making music in this manner for some time. Not that long ago he was making and posting videos on the internet, and it was because of his work that he became acquainted with the members of The EMP Project - and invited to join.

 
       
 

The EMP Project - Guest Musicians, Members, and Contributors

 
       
  Jakob Wimler
Flute, Wind
Location: Austria
 
  Jakob Wimler is a talented flutist from Austria that was discovered by MarkE quite by accident: 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 - looking for Tull videos of Glen Comick performing this song - Mark happened on a short video of Jack playing flute to "Bourée." MarkE contacted Jak, who immediately jumped-on-board. Listen to EMP's "Bourée" for a primer in his outstanding abilities. Jak has opened the door for EMP to authentically record any Tull song - or other tracks requiring intricate flute passages.  
       
  Lindsay Estes
Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals, Production
Location: Bellmore, NY USA
 
  Lindsay is a young musician and actress from Bellmore, New York. She is a talented song writer, guitaris, 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 (aka 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 and Long Island.  
       
 

The EMP Project - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

 
       
 

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 either Hawk Studio or Sack The Cat 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 simply exists for creative and the love of music.

How was EMP conceived?

EMP started when its two founding members, Mark Estes and David Presley, "met" one another online. 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 have since branched-out to include covers from other bands. Original content is also under discussion for the future.

What do the initials "E M P" stand for?

Actually, EMP originally stood for Estes, MIDI, and Presley. The "M" for MIDI was chosen because, at the time, EMP had no drummer - instead, percussion was programmed in MIDI and mixed directly into the projects. Since that time, EMP has picked-up its third core member - percussionist Mark DeGregory. The name, however, remained the same... although we now consider it to mean 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 Estes, David 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 EMP Project - Presenting The Music

 
       
  Promenade     Lucky Man  
  Hoedown     Bourée  
  Nutrocker     Wizards In Winter  
  From The Beginning     In My Life  
  Take A Pebble     Drive My Car  
  I Believe in Father Christmas 1     Thick As A Brick  
  I Believe in Father Christmas 2     Christmas Eve / Sarajevo 12/24  
  Pirates     and... coming soon...  
   
Abacab
   
   
Against All Odds
   
   
The Barbarian
   
   
Benny The Bouncer
   
   
Cross-Eyed Mary
   
   
Fanfare For The Common Man
   
   
Jerusalem
   
   
Karn Evil 9, First Impression, Part 2
   
   
Knife Edge
   
   
Tarkus
   
   
Year of the Cat