Let The Music Do The Talking #11 : Rick Wakeman

#interviews #yes

"It's a wonderfully entertaining, but extremely busy, life"

Your first solo triumph came with "concept albums" like The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1973), Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1974) and The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (1975) and it seems that ever since you've always had a fondness for "concept albums", be it The Seven Wonders of the World (1995), Return to the Centre of the Earth (1999) or even a trilogy like Country Airs / Sea Airs / Night Airs. Even though you also released more straightforward albums - like Silent Nights (1985) for instance - would you say that "concept albums" are the best vehicle for your music? Why is it that your work is so often "thematically" driven?

Simple answer really, as the vast majority of what I write is what I describe as visually instrumental and even in the concept albums that have lyrics and songs, the majority of the music is very much painting the picture of what is happening in the story. It's been pretty traditional for years that popular music, be it rock , country and western, metal etc., is based around love and relationships and for me that is extremely limiting (in spite of the fact that having been married 4 times I have a reasonable first hand knowledge of this subject). I am always on the lookout for stories and subject matter that inspires me musically and currently have a firm list of 6 that I dearly want to do in the next few years.

You've done thousands of sessions, for artists as varied as David Bowie, Elton John and Lou Reed. To choose just one example, you played on Black Sabbath's "Sabbra Cadabra" on Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (1973). Do you have any memories of this particular session to share with us?

I don't remember an awful lot about this session to be honest . It was the early hours of the morning and I was in a studio just across the road from where the Sabbath guys were recording. They asked me if I would pop over and put some synths lines on for them which I readily agreed to being a huge Sabbath fan (and still am)... I walked into their studio, slightly the worse for drink, in the early hours of the morning and I think they were slightly the worse for drink too ! I played the parts they wanted and that was it really and we've been great friends ever since...

... Was the session just a case of you recording in the next studio and offering your services off the cuff?

This was a rarity. The only other session i can recall happening like this was with the late Viv Stanshall... Strangely enough, the same studio .

Is there any particular producer you particularly enjoyed working with? Was there any producer who you would say influenced your work when you went on to produce your own albums?

Working with such greats as Tony Visconti, Gus Dudgeon and Denny Cordell, I learned so much. They were all very generous with their time and knew that I wanted to learn and so by the time I came to produce my own solo albums I had had 5 tremendous years of the best apprenticeship course you could have ever wished for .

Do you consider yourself to be a "rock musician"? Does this kind of simplistic label mean anything to you anyway? What are you listening to these days? What inspires you? Is "rock" part of it?

I am what I am on any given day really, I suppose. For example, as I am writing this I know that this particular day, I am off to London to be part of a BBC Radio 4 comedy programme, so today I suppose I'm a sort of comic !... Yesterday I was filming for watchdog for BBC1 which goes out tonight... So I suppose that makes me a presenter!... Earlier this week I was recording my radio show for Radio Nova in Ireland so maybe that made me a dee-jay for the day!!... I also did some recording for some tracks for myself and Jon Anderson to work on, so I'm a musician... I think the truth is that, as I've got older, things have happened that have expanded my career and I really like that. I could never get bored. I still have the big rock concerts with choirs and orchestras and my band that I do, plus one man shows as well... It's a wonderfully entertaining, but extremely busy, life.

On your Twitter account, you very generously let us share your deep, amazing thoughts about low-cost airlines, haircuts, backpack aggressors, sand and cucumber sandwiches on the beach and neighbour-offending snowman building. Where does such wisdom come from?

Age !!!!! And a large element of the "stupid gene" !!!!!

Rick Wakeman's official website : http://www.rwcc.com