Firstly I think I need to apologise for the lack of updates to the website this year. I have spent a lot of time updating my twitter account to keep everyone up to date but as technology has moved on I kept intending to update my website to become an all singing and dancing fully responsive desktop and mobile site. Unfortunately time has got away from me and so the site has been updated a lot less often than I would have liked.
I will be making the best attempt to keep the site more updated this coming year as well as making the move to a responsive site soon.
As years go, I think 2016 will go down as a 'building for the future' year. I released and featured on no new product in 2016 which I think is quite unusual for me. However, I did complete a lot of sessions for other artists who have albums due out in 2017 and so I will let you know as soon as release dates become available.
So what have I been working on? Good question. I worked on the whole on John Vehadija's new album. John is from Canada and contacted me to perform on a track and before I knew it I was playing on about 15 of the tracks which was good fun and I was given quite a bit of freedom to play with my moog!
I also continued work on Rodney Matthew's new album. Some of you may remember Rodney as the artist who created the wonderful artwork for my (and Clive Nolan's) rock opera 'Jabberwocky'. I started by performing keys on a track but I have become a bit more involved and have started assisting with arrangements, production and a little bit of composing. It has been tremendous fun and a privilege to work with an artist I admire greatly.
As well as various other sessions I was also honoured and excited when Dad asked me to perform with him for his reworking of King Arthur at the O2 in London.
I was a great fan of the original and was looking forward to hearing what extra bits he was going to include. The original ran at about 40 mins and so I though he'd add a few extra bits and it would probably run at about 50 mins so a bit of new stuff to learn as well as the original music. If only life was that easy.
The new album ran at over 80 minutes... some of the original music had been re-arranged, oh and we didn't get to play the entire thing through with the orchestra, choir, band and narrator until the actual show... no pressure!
Dad came to visit me a couple of weeks prior to the show and we sat in my music room and went through the parts Dad wanted me to play, lots of interesting stuff to get my teeth into but the main challenge was really the fact that there was so much to learn in such a short space of time.
I spent as much of my free time as possible listening, playing, writing notes and practicing as I could. It all seemed to be coming together and then I went up to the album playback en route to the rehearsals at the Granary in Beccles (where Dad and I performed on Grand Pianos in 2015).
We had a day and a half rehearsal with the band (and I must say thanks to Mike Clark my tech for going above and beyond the call of duty to help me prepare all the equipment and travel up and assist for the whole rehearsal and show period). We then packed up and I headed home (Norfolk to Cheltenham) in order to get some sleep before heading back into London the following morning for rehearsals with the orchestra which started at 9am.
These went well and we had Ian Lavender (Narrator and Pike from Dad's Army) join us for the afternoon sessions with the orchestra. We had a 3rd session booked in the evening for the band and the choir but not the orchestra.
I remember thinking that I couldn't remember ever having spent as much time in a single day with Dad as I went back to my hotel room and switched on the TV... only to turn to BBC4 and see dad presenting a programme about tour buses!
The following day, rehearsals continued until lunchtime where after all the gear was collected and taken to storage in preparation for the show which was a couple of days away. I headed back home for a days rest before a bit of a practice on Saturday before a very early start on Sunday to arrive at the O2 for a full run through at about 10 after set up.
We didn't actually get enough time to run through the whole thing but it all felt comfortable and so we all headed off in our separate directions to entertain ourselves until showtime.
I spent some of my time with Paul Manzi who was performing on one of the smaller festival stages with his new band and it was great to catch up with him. I also met a couple of astronauts who had traveled over from america and so took them on a quick run around London and got a nice photo of them on front of one of London's Blue Plaques (Plaques attached to buildings by the Charity English Heritage to commemorate people of significance who have lived in London).
Then before I knew it, it was show time. I got into my show clothes, had a group band hug and then went up on stage to a large crowd and performed with Dad. Oh, also it was fathers day which made it extra special.
Anyway, we started the first track and all was going ok until my monitors started cracking and suddenly they went silent - I couldn't hear anything I was playing, suddenly they came back on extra loud - this pattern kept happening through the first couple of tracks until my tech, Mike, discovered that someone had spilt a pint of beer over my speakers and the wiring was shorting and creating the problems with the sound. He got to work, cleaned it all up and luckily all was ok from then on.
Suddenly I found myself playing the opening chords on my own (as arranged) in preparation for one of the narration parts, it was a nice feeling thinking that for a few moments it was just me and a keyboard in the O2! Reminded me of the YES days when I used to perform the middle section of Close the the Edge on my own.
Then the rest of the show rocketed past and suddenly there we were, all stood at the front of the stage taking our bows and heading back stage.
Lots of smiles and hugs all round as the crew packed everything away.
After a bit of a get together with guests after the show I met up with a producer friend who is working with me on my new musical project for a chat and I gave him a lift home. He directed me through the centre of London on a late and quiet Sunday evening and so I enjoyed a late night tour of a lot of the tourist hotspots from the comfort of my car with no traffic!
I arrived home at about 3ish to meet up with Mike and we unloaded the cars and then I went off for a well deserved sleep!
There are plans for another big show in 2018 of Arthur which I am hopeful to be involved in again and if you follow me on Twitter you will have seen some tweets about a site visit I undertook for the show...
Later in the year I was delighted to be asked by Rodney Matthew's to provide the musical entertainment for his wedding to the lovely Sarah up in Scotland. I had to perform the music for the ceremony including a couple of hymns which was very enjoyable. The main part of my involvement was performing a solo show to the assembled guests. I put together a show featuring a lot of pieces from my solo albums and from the collaboration with Gordon Giltrap along with the obligatory stories! The set list was (if my memory serves me correctly)
A Perfect Day (Ravens & Lullabies),
Heaven's Isle medley (Heaven's Isle),
The Forgotten King (3 Ages of Magick),
Lutey and the Mermaid (3 Ages of Magick),
LJW (Ravens & Lullabies),
A Mayfair Kiss (Ravens & Lullabies),
Tachwedd Priodas (translated 'November Wedding' a piece specially composed for the big day),
Memories (Heaven's Isle)
Wondrous Stories (Piano arrangement)
I travelled up the night before with the mild panic of missing the flight when the motorway became completely gridlocked but, thanks to a quick couple of route calculations, I was back on track. I got parked, transfered to the airport just in time to see that.. the plane was delayed...
Eventually I boarded and flew to Aberdeen only to arrive in pouring rain. After waiting an age to collect my bag and then an hour taxi ride further north I arrived at a Manor house in the middle of nowhere at about 12.30am expecting to find the house in darkness.
Only instead of darkness I was greeted by lots of Sarah's family and Rodney's family who were a very kind and enjoyable group of people to be around. A plate of food was placed in front of me and we all then spent another couple of hours chatting and getting to know each other before everyone slipped off to their beds in preparation of the big day.
The wedding was held in a lovely little church and I was involved in playing various classical pieces whilst people were arriving and assembling in the church. The plan was for this to be for about 5 mins (ended up being about 20!) after which I would start playing my track 'A Perfect Day' as Sarah walked up the aisle.
I had re-arranged the piece to be timed correctly for her arrival at Rodney's side which was all going to plan until Sarah stopped briefly to receive a compliment from a family member in the congregation... A quick bit of re-calculating and a little bit of impromptu re-arrangeing to account for the extra time and we were back on track and the final notes rang out just as Sarah arrived at Rodney's side.
The Vows were followed with a couple of Hymns, the signing of the register to a rough mix of a piece from Rodney's new album and then I performed some more pieces as people left the church for the photographs.
The evening solo went down really well and everyone was very complimentary which was a huge relief and the highlight was when I finished performing the piece which I composed for the happy couple and I saw Rodney and Sarah's faces light up and Rodney shout out 'That's going on the album!'. High praise indeed.
I then joined the festivities for the evening and somehow ended back on the piano playing blues and light jazzy bits for a chill out half hour which was then followed by a rousing sing along of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah which was even more poignant due to his passing away a short time before the weekend.
After a late night and a half decent nights sleep I headed back to the airport and back home.
The year finished with a few more sessions, some more recording for Rodney's album and then some recording of Dad's piano parts for one of his orchestral pieces in which I played the role of engineer...
And to top it all off I got asked to be an endorsee of the new Dexibell VIVO piano range. I had an S7 delivered to my house and I am performing a demonstration of the keyboard on the weekend of the 21st/22nd Jan in Kent which I am very much looking forward to.
So that was 2016 and already 2017 looks like being a busy year...
I have realised that it is Heaven's Isle, (my debut solo album) 20th anniversary in 2017 and I intend to celebrate that somehow, I haven't decided how yet but I think it is a special milestone that requires acknowledgment.
There is my large scale musical project which I have been working on all year with a well known music producer and my business partner. We are confident that it will see the light of day this year.
There may also be a few other surprises along the way.
'An Evening with Rodney Matthews plus SPECIAL GUESTS':
PETER LEDEBOER, legendary founder of the Big O poster company, who published Matthews posters world-wide, in their millions, throughout the 1970s AND award winning keyboardist and composer OLIVER WAKEMAN, who has performed over 150 shows as a member of prog band Yes and is currently recording on Matthews album 'Trinity'.
28 January at 20:00 to 22:30 at the Royal George Hotel, Birdlip, Gloucestershire.
Oliver was proud to have been asked by the Charity English Heritage to perform a piano version of the Queen song 'We Are the Champions' for their video showing how the Blue Plaque for Freddy Mecury was made.
The comments that have been made about Oliver's performance have been extremely kind.
You can see the original video here on Queen's YouTube Channel.
Oliver was also invited to the unveiling which was also attended by Brian May.
Rick is delighted to confirm that he will be performing the entire work "The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and The Knights of the Round Table" at this year's Stone Free Festival at the O2 on Sunday 19th June 2016 at London's O2.
Rick says, "Following the success of Journey to the Centre of the Earth in 2014, the date of June 19th 2016 has now been set in stone to perform The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, with full orchestra and choir for the first time since 1975, at the 02.
There will be a two day indoor festival with Alice Cooper headlining the 18th. All in all, this will be a great event and to play King Arthur again as it was recorded, will be another ?tick? off of my list, although we will be adapting some of the music with extended solos and a few other tweaks and also with a ninety minute set, there will also be other musical surprises."
Oliver will be performing second keyboards for the show.
It was just over 2 weeks ago that I was rushing around my house desperately packing up everything in preparation for our move the next day to our new home. I had left all my studio and office stuff until the last minute so I could make sure I was able to work up until the last second before our internet got switched off and the keyboards had to be packed away.
I needed some music on to help relieve the monotony of making up boxes and for some strange reason I chose to listen to 'Live from Lyon' - the triple live album I performed on with Yes during our time together.
It was an album I was very proud to have been on but due to the nature of my departure from the band I had decided not to listen to Yes music any more. But for some reason I had an overwhelming urge to listen to it and relive some of the happy times we had during those tours. Moving home - an ending and a beginning together. I wondered whether that was behind my decision to play the record...
I decided to stop for a bit and have a quick cup of coffee. I had my laptop set up on the dining room table and as the kettle was boiling I decided to check my email. A message flashed up from Paul Silveira the Yes tour manager. 'That's odd' I thought as the sound of Astral Traveller drifted down the stairs from my music room above.
I opened the email and was shocked to read that Chris had lost his battle with Leukemia.
I had had little contact with Chris since I left the band, just a single email with his honest feeling about how he had never thought I would be out of the band for which I was grateful.
4 years came and went and I read the news that Chris was battling leukemia and I decided to drop him a quick email to wish him a speedy recovery. Chris replied with his thanks and his hopes that all was going well for me and my family. That was on the 19th May. Little did I know that a little under 6 weeks later he would no longer be with us.
I said to my wife that I couldn't believe Chris had passed away and made my way back up to my music room where Astral Traveller had moved into Yours is no Disgrace. I turned off the record, sat quietly for a while and then had to carry on the task of packing everything away for the move the next day.
The last two weeks have been a blur - I have been sorting out the new house, getting kids settled into new schools, finding our where the supermarkets are and all the other necessary things you forget about when moving.
So here I am this evening in my new music room listening to the second half of the 'Live from Lyon' album which I had stopped 2 weeks ago and I realised that it was finally beginning to sink in about what had happened. I decided I wanted to write something about my time with the band and with Chris in particular.
If you have ever visited my website you may be aware that I write tour stories after every tour and there are a few there about the tours with Yes so I will not be repeating stories from those write ups but will pick some specific instances which I hold particularly dear and I hope will go someway to sharing some of my experiences with Chris.
Many people will have thoughts that when I was young the Yes guys were always round our house drinking fruit juice, herbal tea, whisky and beer (decide who would be drinking what yourselves...) and coming up with great music. That may well be true but unfortunately I wasn't born when Fragile came out. (I am mentioned in the booklet though - referred to 'one future offspring').
Close to the Edge - I was 6 months - Tales - probably 2 years. By the time Dad had left and rejoined for Going for the One my mum and Dad had separated and I was 5. So my memories of Chris from that period are non-existent. I met Chris fleetingly during the 35 anniversary tour but only to say hi to.
I had always had a good relationship with Steve Howe after getting reaquainted with him during the ABWH years. After I was invited to join the band in early 2008 (and subsequently for the Jon-less version in late 2008) Steve invited me to meet up with Chris in a bar in London.
I headed off and after meeting up with Steve - headed to the restaurant. Chris walked in - he had arrived in a mini which I found quite amusing - particularly when you realise how tall Chris was. He came in and said hi and I remember thinking was a distinctive voice he had.
We sat down and started chatting about the upcoming tour, about unusual pieces that could go into the set and surprise people. I remember I had an early smart phone - pre-iphone - some slide out qwerty keyboard thing with a stylus. Chris had the same phone and we started chatting about it and phone technology in general whilst Steve had gone to the bar. I'm pretty good at working out whether I'll get on with someone and was confident that I would get on well with Chris.
2 months later and I was arriving at a Canadian airport to be met by Paul Silveira. I was slightly apprehensive. I had had one week of rehearsal on my own working out the parts for the tour and we now had 2 weeks to get battle ready - I had a new keyboard tech and a completely new keyboard set up which I had yet to see. Yep, apprehensive would be a good word. So would understatement!
Anyway I asked Paul if we were heading off to the hotel and he replied that we were waiting for Chris and Scotty - who I was yet to meet. Anyway Scotty and Chris shortly arrived and Chris said hi, introduced Scotty who was pregnant and very nice.
We started rehearsals and over the next few weeks I spent a lot of time with 'The Squires' and often ate out with them. Chris and I would often chat about the music and I was amazed at how good his memory was.
A great example was I remember we were rehearsing Siberian Khatru and after we finished he asked if he could have a word about a part that I wasn't playing.
He explained that it was a minor version of the main riff that came later in the piece as a reprise of the original riff. I said that I didn't know what part he was referring to and asked him to point it out on the original. We got to the point and Chris said 'there'. I listened and couldn't hear any keyboard part. And so we replayed it and again Chris went 'there!'. Again I couldn't hear it.
I said to Chris that I couldn't hear it to which he agreed that it wasn't on the record after all. However he said that he remembered the part being worked out in the studio but obviously hadn't made it to the final mix and would I mind recreating it. I thought that was a great challenge - recreate a part no-one had ever heard except Chris in his memory banks!
I did have a go however and was very proud when I played Chris what I thought it should be and he said 'That's it! Can you put that in to the song at next rehearsal please?'
The tour was a blast - I really felt that I was getting comfortable by show 5 at the Mohegan Sun in the US and by this time I had started to get a reputation as a shopper for clothes and gifts for my family. I don't really drink and so I would spend my free time looking for things I thought my son and wife would like. I missed them terrible but this helped keep them close to me in an odd way. I spent a lot of time with Scotty choosing clothes and toys and I think this was noted by Chris as when ever we had a tv spot of video recording he'd bring a shirt up to me and ask my opinion as to how it would look on screen. One particularly colourful version was chosen for the 3D shoot for Machine Messiah - the link for which can be found on my twitter feed.
I may jump around a bit now as my memories come back to me and so the chronological order may go a bit haywire but that's how memories work so apologies in advance.
When we were on tour around Europe we toured on a bus which was a lot of fun. Especially as Chris bought the whole family on it. Scotty, Scotty's mum and their daughter Xilan who would fly up and down the aisle in her wheeled walker. We would do shows and there would be the aftershow ice barrel full of bear and wine and you would always see a baby's bottle of milk in amongst it which I remember taking a photo of as I thought it was quite amusing! Chris and I would stay up late on the bus talking about doing a new record and re-booting the band in a brand new way.
I also remember I played a part on Astral Traveller and which Chris mirrored my line with a bass part. One day shortly before we recorded Live From Lyon we were chatting about this part and how it never quite went together as well as it should.
We were talking after the show and Chris said 'I don't know why it doesn't sound right, it's just a run down from C'. 'No' - I replied - 'it's a run from B'. 'It's C' he countered - 'I remember doing it in the studio'. I knew better than to argue with the famous memory but we agreed to have another listen to the original recording which we slowed down in Pro-tools.
And Chris was right. He did start on C.
But Tony Kaye started on B!
We were both right! So we agreed to sync the two parts to make it gel a little better in the live show.
I remember picking up Chris and Scotty on a trip they made down to Devon to Steve Howe's house where we discussed all the plans for the new album we wanted to write (it didn't happen in it's intended form - the album eventually become the Fly From Here album).
Anyway - another piece we were working on was a Yes reworking of a classical piece - I forget which now - but it was a great idea and would have been a lot of fun. We also listened to a few of Chris' pieces which I really enjoyed and spent quite a bit of time working on arrangements with him. We were all sat in Steve's kitchen and I was listening to the two of the reminisce about the writing sessions for The Yes Album. A day to remember.
We had lots of great material which never saw the light of day - some of which I have here with Chris's parts on. One particular track we co-wrote which I was very proud of is called Gift of Love and I've just found it in my library and it's currently playing. I'd forgotten about how good that one was - and I've just found a completely different arrangement of The Man You See in Me which we recorded in Pheonix during the writing sessions and a few of the other demo sessions we recorded which were never used.
It's always amazed me how music can take you right back to a time and place. I am currently in the rental house we all lived in in Pheonix in the US for 3 weeks to record the demos.
That's just reminded me of the evening after recording this version of The Man You See In Me, Chris and I went with Benoit to see Muse perform and Benoit getting a speeding ticket on the way back to the rental house we were writing in. I don't know if he ever paid the fine though, I'll have to drop him (or the authorities) a line and find out.
Fast forward a year or so and we were all Oklahoma when our stage was wrecked by a tornado and all of our equipment was seriously damaged or written off. We had a couple of days to repair and source new instruments - I remember seeing one of Chris' basses and asking if it was every going to be repairable and he just looked at me and shrugged. I know it had upset him more that he let on though as it was a special one from his collection.
Three days later and we were at the Greek in LA performing to a sell out crowd. I was busy programming my new rented moog with all my sounds right up until the show start and Chris was busy chatting to Richard, his bass tech, about whether his basses were all going to work ok.
We started the show and I remember feeling a huge sigh of relief as I realised the keyboards I had sourced were all working as expected. I looked across at Chris (we were always on stage next to each other) and he seemed happy. Suddenly one of his pieces of equipment failed and I watched as he maintained his composure in front of the crowd whilst Richard worked feverishly in the background trying to repair the damaged rack unit. I remember that night in particular as that was the night that Trevor Rabin guested with us and I know that Chris really enjoyed playing 'Owner of a Lonely Heart' that night!
Over the years of working with the band Chris nicknamed me the 'facilitator' as I was pretty good at getting agreements from all members of the band and help get everyones opinions heard and taken on board. No easy task in a band like Yes!
One of the nicest things I remember Chris saying to Benoit David (Yes singer at the time) and I was that he was so proud of the line up and how he didn't think there was a Yes song that the band couldn't deliver. High praise indeed and I take great strength from that during those occasional days when as a musician you doubt yourself (I have yet to meet a musician who doesn't go through those feelings!).
One of my last memories which reminds me of that was on my last tour with the band. After I had been replaced I was contracted to finish one last tour, 'The Rites of Spring' tour and I remember the first rehearsal being a bit awkward.
I was stood behind my keyboard rig when the rest of the band walked in. They all looked at me a bit sheepishly and then Chris said 'Right lets start with Parallels, Oliver can you remind me how it goes'. This was a nice touch as Chris and I had spent a long time dissecting the original version to make sure we recreated it as close to the original as possible and it showed how much he appreciated the work we'd put in! It put us all in a more relaxed state and the tour went well.
I could go on for hours with different memories, some which I will keep to myself, others which I may recount at a future date but I will always be proud to have been Chris's band mate and, I hope, friend.
I am still finding it difficult to think of Chris as not being here any more but I was pleased to have been around him during a particularly happy period in his life with Scotty and Xilan and his music will continue to inspire and enthrall people across the world.
Cheers Chris, next time I hear thunder - I'll remember your Rickenbacker and amp stack right next to the keyboards and know you're still playing up there!.
It's been a while sice the site had an update and so we have just updated the albums page to show the last 3 albums Oliver appeared on. Please scroll down to the Other Stuff / Collectables etc... section.
For quick reference the three albums were:- Carrie Martin - What If?, BBC's Songs from the Great War and Hypatia by Telergy.