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The Exclusive Rick Wakeman Interview
By Billy Donald, Rock Interviews
(more articles from this author)
2003-03-07
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Words simply do not do justice for the man that needs no introduction here, the one and only Rick Wakeman. Being progressive rock's most revered and legendary keyboardist is one of many great accolades to label Rick Wakeman, but that doesn't even sound fair in itself. He is much more than a keyboardist. He has carried the torch for prog rockers everywhere for 35 years now, a timeline which has shown Rick as one of the legendary members of Yes, as well as stints with the Strawbs, David Bowie, Elton John, Al Stewart, and Yes, even Black Sabbath! That's not even to mention the multitudes of Rick's solo efforts featuring sweeping keyboard and orchestral arrangements, and loads of great guest musicians.

This summer, Rick has returned to his on-and-off again position as Yes' keyboardist, and this time, Rick says that it is going to be for the long haul. The results: millions of very happy Yes fans who are delighted to hear the classic Yes sound with Rick driving the music behind his monstrous keyboard rig once again.

It was my honor to have Rick as my guest to answer some of the questions that fans all around the world want to know: how does it feel to be back in the Yes fold, and is this still a long-term relationship? That being said, I will now digress to Mr. Wakeman himself in this wonderful interview.

[Billy Donald] Rick, it is an extreme pleasure to have you here as my guest! Thank you very much for your time to join me. I wanted to start off here by asking you about the first leg of the Yestour (www.Yesworld.com) that just wrapped up. Obviously, there is a renewed interest from Yes fans all over the world about the classic Yes lineup, but I wanted to know how the vibe is amongst the band as far as what you accomplished on the first touring leg?

Rick Wakeman There is a really good feeling in the band, perhaps the best I have ever known it. I can really only speak for myself, but everybody is getting along really well. I have really enjoyed spending time with each of the guys both collectively and on a one to one basis. There have already been some very interesting conversations and reminiscing. I missed playing with the band very much, but you never really realize how much until you go away and then come back. I don't plan going anywhere anymore!!!!

[Billy Donald] No matter the periods of time you have spent away from Yes, whenever you come back into the picture, you slip right into the groove of the music as if you had never left the band! When you come back into the fold and you are faced with tackling a piece of music such as “The Revealing Science Of God,” do you find yourself reinventing the piece from your perspective or does it just come flowing back naturally to you?

Rick Wakeman You start from the bare bones every time. This is because unlike a guitar player or drummer, I always find myself with a whole new keyboard set up and so you look for ways to try and improve on whatever you did the last time. This was particularly prevalent on the tour that has just taken place.

[Billy Donald] Upon your return to Yes, the band seemed to have the confidence and reassurance to tackle some old tunes that they otherwise may not have without you, such as “South Side Of The Sky” and “Don't Kill The Whale.” Personally, I can’t even imagine either of those tunes played without the classic Wakeman sound! Is there a total democracy within the band as far as what was played in the set list?

Rick Wakeman Pretty much so. We all submitted ideas, talked about them and came up with what was actually played in the end. Obviously everybody had to be disappointed that perhaps there was one of their own particular choices not included and perhaps one that they wouldn't have picked, but overall I thought it was a good set and one that had a good mixture of expectation and surprise.

[Billy Donald] Just as a footnote, I wanted to set the record straight with fans on your behalf, because I am sure you are aware that some fans have constantly grumbled that you are not willing to play any material that you did not originally play on.

Rick Wakeman This is a total fabrication. From the early days, I have happily played ... “Your Move,” “Seen All Good People,” Starship Trooper,” “Yours Is No Disgrace,” “Owner Of A Lonely Heart,” “Deeper,” “Magnification,” “Perpetual Change,” “Changes” … need I say more !!!!

[Billy Donald] And of course, the same is said about Jon from the Drama album.

Rick Wakeman You'll have to ask Jon this one. I don't think it would worry Jon, to be honest, But I have to say that from a personal point of view there is nothing really on Drama that I would think would suit this band to play.

[Billy Donald] For the record, you have said yourself that you are more than willing to play music from any of the eras of Yes as long as you had a little bit of artistic freedom with the keyboard parts.

Rick Wakeman Correct.

[Billy Donald] Is there any material on which you did not originally play that you would be interested in giving a shot?

Rick Wakeman I think I've already done them!

[Billy Donald] There had been some rumours floating around before the last tour that Trevor Rabin might take part in it. Is that true?

Rick Wakeman That's the first I've heard about it. I expect this was the dreaded Internet again spreading rubbish rumours. The internet actually played it's part in stopping us all getting together earlier than we did. The number of chat rooms I have entered and found myself already there ... talking crap. I went in one once and Jon and I were having an argument. Fans who do this and think it's funny actually do loads of damage. I always say ... if you don't read it on the official web sites, then it probably isn't true. I hate chat rooms and would like to see them banned ... if that were possible.

[Billy Donald] With a lot of the dissentions that arose during and after the 1991 union tour, do you feel that another similar union-type tour would ever be feasible for Yes again?

Rick Wakeman No.

[Billy Donald] I know that yourself and Tony Kaye seemed to get along and co-exist wonderfully during union.

Rick Wakeman He was on one side of the stage and I was on the other. I had complete freedom with what I wanted to play and so it was no problem for me.

[Billy Donald] But the Rabin-Howe tensions have been hyped and dissected ...

Rick Wakeman In chat rooms, probably. Rumours, rumours, rumours!!!!! I loved that tour. I really enjoyed myself. It was a one off and that's it. I would not ever want to do it again with eight people.

[Billy Donald] Bill Bruford has voiced his discontent for the whole situation repeatedly.

Rick Wakeman Bill always had strong views about the union tour and never shied away from saying what he felt. He and Alan worked very well together on that tour. Great fun.

[Billy Donald] Did you feel that the music ever suffered due to any tension between the members on that tour?

Rick Wakeman What tension on stage? Do you know something I don't ? ... or perhaps there's a chat room I should visit?

[Billy Donald] Back to the present day here, you had stated previous to the first touring leg that you envisioned a 3-5 year plan for Yes to continue touring and recording with yourself.

Rick Wakeman I didn't mean that it would come to an end after that, I merely meant that there should be a three year plan as to what we could achieve in that period and then look at everything and move on to the next plan.

[Billy Donald] A couple of months into the tour, do you feel that the plan has solidified a little bit?

Rick Wakeman Going completely according to plan.

[Billy Donald] Do you feel that a new studio album is only a matter of time?

Rick Wakeman I would think later next year that will probably happen.

[Billy Donald] As always, Yes isn't exactly the only project you have in the pot right now!

Rick Wakeman True !!!

[Billy Donald] While you are on the second leg of the tour, your next album with the New English Rock Ensemble entitled Out There is due to be released.

Rick Wakeman In January

[Billy Donald] Being involved with Yes at the same time, how hard is it to try to get out there the kind of promotion and exposure it deserves?

Rick Wakeman Difficult one to answer. Basically, everything revolves around the Yes itinerary and plans. We delayed the release of Out There deliberately so that it wouldn't interfere with the release of the Yes box set. I will tour in-between Yes tours, but won't be booking anything until I have clearance of dates from the Yes office.

[Billy Donald] Rightly so, your health has been a top priority for you in recent years. With all of the projects going on right now, are you worried about stretching yourself too thin and compounding any health concerns? Is there a point in which you will know to say that enough is enough?

Rick Wakeman This is probably my greatest fear. I try to keep as fit as I can, but past health problems, (heart attacks, sclerosis, pleurisy, chronic pneumonia ... to name but a few), have taken their toll and I am aware that to some extent, I am running on extra time with the workload I am taking on. We'll just have to wait and see.

[Billy Donald] I wanted to ask you about your kids, because they are all really out there making waves on their own right now in the music world! How has it been for you to sit back and watch Adam, Jemma, Benjamin, Oscar, and Oliver following your path a bit?

Rick Wakeman They're all from broken marriages, which is very sad and so I have learned to learn from my past as regards my children. I am very proud of them all and they are all loved equally. I try to encourage them as much as I can, but never try and suggest they should go in a direction that is not of their own choosing. It's been wonderful to watch them all enter music in one way or another. I haven't exactly sat back yet, but when I do, I can look and listen to each one of them with pride.

[Billy Donald] Interestingly enough, I interviewed Adam (www.adamwakeman.com) just before you hit the road with Yes, and I asked him if you had heard his new album, Neurasthenia yet, and he told me that he sent you a copy but never heard back from you! Ha ha! Have you gotten a chance to hear it yet since your little break?

Rick Wakeman I don't know where he sent it to, because I haven't heard it yet. I will call him tonight and demand my free copy!!!!!!

[Billy Donald] Rick, I want to thank you sincerely once again for joining me here. It has been a thrill and an honor for me.

Rick Wakeman No problem sir!

[Billy Donald] I want to finish up here by asking you what is left on your list of goals to achieve not only in the music industry, but in life as well?

Rick Wakeman The problem with setting goals is that you tend to lose track of other possibilities whilst aiming for them. When driving down the road, I like to look over the hedges and see what is there, occasionally stop and spend quality time with whatever it is I saw. It's the same with music. I have a path I'm aiming down, but I like to look around as I walk along ... maybe that's why I trip up so much!!!!

Be sure to visit Rick Wakeman's official website for all news and album info at www.rwcc.com.

Reprinted by permission from Billy Donald, Webmaster of Rock Interviews Rock Interviews.


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