DATE OF INTERVIEW:
28th July 2010
METAL DISCOVERY: Out of all your stories I’ve heard snippets from, the Salvador Dali one’s quite intriguing.
RICK WAKEMAN: Yeah, I do that on stage tonight.
(Rick Wakeman on Marsha Hunt's 'Walking on Gilded Splinters')
"Yeah, I played one note at the end, one bass note. It was a session given to me by Tony Visconti because I needed my nine pound rent so he wrote one note for me! Three hundred and twelve bars rest and one note at the end! Good old Tony!"
PART 3 BELOW
Rick Wakeman in his dressing room at New Life, Lincoln, 28th July 2010
Photograph copyright © 2010 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
PART 3 ABOVE
Rick Wakeman's Communication Centre:
RICK WAKEMAN DISCOGRAPHY
Follow this link for comprehensive Rick Wakeman discography:
A huge cheers to Rick Wakeman for his time.
MD: Okay, I’ll wait until later to hear that then. You really didn’t know it was him?
RW: No, not a clue.
MD: To be honest, I wouldn’t actually know what he looked like.
RW: I know what he looks like flat on sawdust! [laughs]
MD: Wikipedia’s not always the best place to go for the objective truth, but…
RW: It’s the most inaccurate…I’d love to see Wikipedia closed down!
MD: There’s something on your page where it claims you doused the last Mellotron you owned in petrol and set fire to it. Is that true?
RW: Semi-true! It’s been an exaggerated story over the years. I had some that were so far beyond repair that they were basically dumped, kept the frames and there were bits that yes, they were burnt. But the double one that I made actually got stolen and it reappeared in America. It’s very funny – it got nicked in England and suddenly I got this thing through from a guy in America who’d got it, and he bought it quite genuinely. He spent, literally, about twenty thousand dollars restoring it, and he said – “I thought you’d like to see a picture”. I wrote back to him and said – “Yeah, this was stolen!”, and he wrote back in a total panic…“I didn’t steal it!” I just wrote back and said – “I know you didn’t steal it as you’re hardly likely to send me a picture!” [laughs] I said – “Look, I’m really pleased it’s not ended up in some horrendous state and you’ve now got it, and it’s in a nice museum place or wherever”.
MD: Also on Wikipedia, it’s claimed you smashed up the last Birotron you owned on stage?
MD: Wikipedia is really full of shit then! I’m collecting evidence for Wikipedia being full of shit!
RW: The Birotron was an instrument I was involved with which basically works on the same principle as the Mellotron except it used eight track tapes. We had an order that was enormous and then, virtually on the day we finished the final prototype ready to go into production, some bastard invented the chip and we were done for. We were absolutely done for.
MD: There were only thirty five in existence or something like that?
RW: I believe there were only thirty five made and, to the best of my knowledge, there’s only eight in existence. I know there was one that was sold about five years ago and I think it was for forty five thousand dollars.
RW: They are unbelievably collectable; they really are.
MD: I guess some people still favour the analogue sound, like with some people who still collect vinyl.
RW: It was a different sound to the Mellotron, and it was a great sound. It was a very, very unique sound. If I’d have known what I know now I’d have mothballed it and brought it out ten to fifteen years later. It’s the ten year rule again. We make this huge mistake that when someone brings out a new instrument that means everything before it has got to be crap. That’s why some of the young bands are going back and finding all the gear from the seventies and eighties. They’re not buying new stuff anymore.
MD: You’ve done a fair amount of session work and guested on various albums over the years from David Bowie to Des O’Connor – what’s been your proudest and least proud musical contribution?
RW: I haven’t got a least proud because even on the bad sessions you’ve learnt something. If it was a bad piece of music or a bad production and you were just being employed you learn – “Right, if I ever get the opportunity, I won’t do that.”
MD: ‘Space Oddity’ is pretty cool.
RW: ‘Space Oddity’, ‘Life On Mars’, ‘Morning Has Broken’, and piano on Al Stewart’s ‘Orange’ album on ‘The News From Spain’ which wasn’t a well known track but that was really good to do. I suppose the least musically rewarding was, but I enjoyed the session, was Marsha Hunt’s ‘Walk On Gilded Splinters’ where I played one note at the end! Yeah, I played one note at the end, one bass note. It was a session given to me by Tony Visconti because I needed my nine pound rent so he wrote one note for me! Three hundred and twelve bars rest and one note at the end! Good old Tony!
MD: But a fun time.
RW: Oh yeah, Marsha was great. A lovely lady.
MD: That’s the same Marsha Hunt that did a couple of old Hammer films?
RW: She did.
MD: Like ‘Dracula A.D. 1972’ and another one with Christopher Lee too...not Hammer, but ‘Howling 2’, I think.
RW: Yeah, she did all sorts of things, Marsha. She was quite a character.
MD: On the subject of Christopher Lee, I don’t suppose you’ve heard his contribution to the genre of symphonic metal?
MD: He’s now metal’s oldest singer. He released an album this year.
MD: Yeah, ‘Charlemagne’.
RW: I’ll have to check that out! [laughs]
MD: I had it for review and it’s…interesting!
RW: It’s interesting you’re talking about metal – what’s interesting is the metal, as it started, if you wanna go back to…I still think dear old Tony Iommi is the godfather.
MD: Definitely. If you read the metal press to this day and they have polls for the most inspirational bands on the genre that have influenced so much metal after, Black Sabbath are invariably number one, and Tony Iommi in a lot of metal guitar polls. He invented thrash metal, doom metal…every subgenre of metal can be heard on early Sabbath albums. A lot of people only know ‘Paranoid’ and ‘War Pigs, and whatever, but they were such a diverse band.
RW: Yeah, they were absolutely brilliant. Tony’s one of my dearest friends.
MD: You were at High Voltage this weekend just gone, weren’t you? Did you catch Heaven & Hell?
RW: Yeah, I was, but unfortunately I didn’t get time to see them, but Tony’s one of my dearest friends. When you look at what Tony started and to many extents, you’re quite right, in everything that he did. Metal’s another great example, in a strange way, like prog – they’re not miles apart, but in so much as so many different bands have taken a chunk of it. It might not be totally metal but they’ve taken chunks of the sound. I was talking to Nicko from Iron Maiden about it. Nicko’s a good mate and we were saying it’s amazing that, even in recent years, the lightest of pop bands will do something and you’ll go – “Shit! That’s a heavy metal riff!” [laughs] And I think that’s really quite healthy, you know, in many ways. And I think, to some extent, also, it’s hard for bands like Sabbath who’ve had a chequered career because Tony is someone who’s always looking at new things he can do. He’s not a stand-still guy at all, and I think absolutely the world of everything he does. That’s very difficult when a band, and a heritage, such as Sabbath is so rooted in the things it does. That’s really tough to do because I’ve been to a few Ozzfests and I went to the classic one in New Jersey where Ozzy was ill and couldn’t make it. It’s very interesting when you announce to 41,000 people that – “Ozzy won’t be with us tonight”! [laughs] Brilliant! Because my son Adam plays with Ozzy now. He’s been with Ozzy for five or six years now.
MD: You wasn’t at the one where Bruce and Maiden got pelted with eggs by Sharon Osbourne, was you?
RW: How long ago was that?
MD: I think it was about five years ago.
RW: Oh, Adam would’ve been there.
MD: I think Bruce made some comments on stage about Ozzy reading lyrics from an autocue, or something like that, in Bruce’s dry style, and Sharon took offence, as she does with anyone who disses her family, so gathered a few people in the photopit to pelt them with eggs while they played, and cut the PA sound a few times too.
RW: Sounds like Sharon! Bruce is a nice guy too; I like Bruce.
MD: Okay, one final question – what do you want to be best remembered for in the annals of rock music history?
RW: Well, the truth of the matter is it doesn’t matter as I won’t be here to know! [laughs] Do you know, I’ve never really thought about it. I suppose if you could come back…it’s strange because there was a programme about Van Gogh on recently and, in the play, they brought him back. They could time travel and they brought him back, you know, because he committed suicide and he thought the world hated him, then became the world’s most well-known and famous artist and it freaked him out. I think if you could come back it would be nice…and nobody would say it wouldn’t be nice if somebody still remembers something that you actually did…I think it would be nice for the great-great grandchildren, if you know what I mean. You know – “Our great-great grandad wrote that.” That would be quite nice.
MD: And I guess it’s nice having bands now saying how much you’ve influenced them and to think that, in the future, bands might still be influenced by what you did.
RW: Well, it’s very interesting when I go down to South America, and take a band, and do the prog show things, and the audiences are much, much younger. I always thought people were coming because it was their parents and, when we talked to people, we discovered that, yes, it was a little bit of that, but that wasn’t actually why the majority of them came. The majority of them came because the bands that they liked were South American prog bands, or metal bands, or whatever, and when they were asked by an interviewer who their influences are, and if they said - “Oh, keyboard-wise, our influence is Rick Wakeman”; they go - “We’ll check him out”. And they go – “It’s only the same as what we used to do”. I remember Ritchie Blackmore writing that his great idol was Albert Lee. I’d never heard of Albert Lee so I went and checked Albert out and shit, what a great player. I went to see Albert. I mean, I know he does the country and western stuff, but I went to see Albert and thought – shit, I can see why. David Bowie’s hero, vocally, was Biff Rose. I’d never heard of Biff Rose but I found all of Biff Rose’s stuff. So they’re only doing what I was doing. They don’t have any ageism, so that’s why a lot of that’s happening. They’re the people that keep things alive. It goes back to what I think we said earlier, that everything is new to someone.
MD: Of course, that is a very good point. Right, thank you so much for your time.
RW: You’re most welcome. Thanks ever so much.