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.
Happy New Year and Merry Xmas to all the vistors to the site over the last year. We apologise for the lack of updates throughout the year. Oliver has been busy on Twitter keeping you updated where he can.
There has been a lot of work and planning going on behind the scenes which accounts for the lack of visible activity - however 2015 is shaping up to be very special and so please bear with us and hopefully we'll have more news to report very soon!.
Quote form Trevor Raggatt of Rock 'n Reel magazine
"Ravens & Lullabies saw Gordon Giltrap dip his toe back into the world of prog in the company of Oliver Wakeman. Chock-full of virtuoso musicianship and great tunes, it was my personal 'album of the year'.
High praise indeed, thanks to Rock 'n Reel magazine and Trevor.
We are really pleased to announce that Oliver's 'The 3 Ages of Magick' album, featuring YES guitarist Steve Howe, is due for re-release on the Esoteric Recordings label on the 30th September 2013.
This album was originally released in 2001 and hasn't been available on general release since 2007, a year before Oliver started working with Steve in YES.
Following the critical sucess of the Ravens and Lullabies album with Gordon Giltrap, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to hear Oliver's work with another classic guitarist 12 years earlier!
This expanded and remastered release features 3 bonus tracks, 'Hit 'n Myth', 'The Faerie Ring' and a demo version of 'The Storyteller' titled 'Dream Weaver'. The album sleeve features a background story on the making of the album as well as unseen photos from Oliver's personal archives.
On Sunday Oliver was the guest on Paul Baker's Soundscapes show which was broadcast on ARfm.
In between playing 'Moneyfacturing', 'Fiona's Smile', 'A Perfect Day' and 'Credit Carnival', Oliver was interviewed by Paul live on air about the 'Ravens & Lullabies' album. They also chatted about some interesting bits of information regarding previous album releases and bands Oliver has worked with.
If you missed the show but would like to hear what was said you can listen again by visiting mixcloud.com ('Moneyfacturing' starts at 25 minutes and 50 seconds and Oliver's interview begins at 33 minutes).
Firstly there was a two day rehearsal with my Dad, brother Adam and sister Jemma at Blackfriars in Gloucestershire for the Wakeman with Wakeman with Wakeman and Wakeman shows.
These rehearsals were closely followed by 2 shows on the Saturday evening one after the other! It was pretty exhausting but really good fun and the two sold out shows were really well received. It was a beautiful setting and we gave Dad a hard time with the stories we told too...
I will be putting some photos up on the photo album portion of the website soon. The evening consisted of music from all of our careers, for the record I played 'LJW' & 'A Mayfair Kiss' from Ravens & Lullabies and an 8 keyboard version of 'Elizabethan Pirates' from the 'Heaven's Isle' album.
Another rehearsal followed on Sunday, this time with Paul Manzi and Gordon Giltrap in preparation for Radio 2...
Gordon and I, together with Paul Manzi had been invited to record a live session and interview for Bob Harris on Radio 2 and so off to London we went! It was an amazing experience, one which I will remember for a long time. We performed 'LJW', 'Fiona's Smile' and then an acoustic version of 'Ravens Will Fly Away' with Paul Manzi singing.
The album continues to sell well and is still receiving rave reviews which is very rewarding.
Gordon Giltrap & I are also delighted to announce that our track 'Moneyfacturing' from the 'Ravens and Lullabies' album has been nominated in the 'Anthem' category of the Progressive Music Awards 2013
Prog Magazine has scoured the activity in the progressive genre for the past twelve months and come up with what they feel is a perfect representation of the best artists and releases of the last year. Winners will be announced at Kew Gardens on September 3, and the results are decided by a public vote. so if you feel inclined and would like to see us receive the award please vote using the below link
Gordon and I will be heading out for another tour of the UK towards the end of the year in 3 different formats. We will be taking our 2 man duo show around to some new venues as well as a few places we've been invited back to. We are also performing a full band show as headliners of this years Summer's End Festival in Gloucestershire. In November we will also be touring our duo show as special guests of Barclay James Harvest which is something we are both really looking forward to. The current dates can been seen in the section below or by clicking the 'Scheduled Concerts tab in the menu...
It's been a couple of months since I last wrote an update about what has been going on in my music world and reading about the passing of Peter Banks this morning has prompted me to sit down at the computer keyboard.
I thought that I would start with a few thoughts about Peter. For those of you who aren't aware of Peter and his work, Peter was the original guitarist with Yes back in the late 60's and worked on their first two albums. I enjoyed performing Astral Traveller when I was in Yes and it was great fun to play on a track that was linked to this early incarnation of the band.
However, Peter and I did work together on a couple of my albums back in 1999 and 2001. My first rock record 'Jabberwocky' (a collaboration with Clive Nolan) featured Peter heavily as the main lead guitarist and he came up with some amazing parts.
He worked in a slightly unusual way in so much that he was a great improviser and never played the same part twice - he'd give you lots of great solos in their entirety to chose parts from. He also had a wonderfully jazzy style which was best represented on the Jabberwocky album with his great solo in Coming to Town. I'd originally written the jazzy chords with the idea of having a sax solo (in fact the original demos have me doing a sax solo on a keyboard) but when Peter put his jazz solo down, all thoughts of a sax solo were soon forgotten.
The record came out whilst I was working on my next album 'The 3 Ages of Magick' which featured Steve Howe. I played Steve some of the album and he was genuinely impressed with the guitar work he heard - 'Is that really Peter..?' I remember hearing him say in his studio in Devon during one of our arrangement sessions.
Peter & I got together again for the followup to Jabberwocky, 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' and again Peter came up with some great - completely unique - guitar lines. His solo on my track 'By Your Side' is particularly gorgeous and completely unexpected in construction and approach.
Peter and I kept in touch for a while afterwards but as is often the way, paths take different directions and I hadn't been in contact for a few years. But I am proud to have met Peter and I'm even more proud that I have some of his performances on 2 of my albums. RIP Peter Banks, thanks for the music.
Ravens & Lullabies
March saw the release of my latest project 'Ravens & Lullabies' which is a collaboration with another unique guitarist - the wonderful Gordon Giltrap. The first few reviews and reactions have come in and I can only say thanks for the wonderful things people have been writing abut the album. We really seem to have hit on an approach that people seem to relate and warm to. I really hope the album has the opportunity to reach as many people as possible as I am really proud of the project and people need to hear Gordon on an electric guitar again.
We have been overwhelmed with the speed at which the initial pressing of the limited edition sold out - they had all gone before the album was actually released which involved a quick repressing to meet demand. A very encouraging start indeed!
If you are unsure about the style of the album, you could always buy this months 'PROG' magazine which features one of the tracks ('Moneyfacturing') on its cover-mount CD as well as a great 3 page article in the magazine.
We are currently touring the UK in support of the album, having performed twice so far with another 11 dates due over the next couple of months. We will be following up with a longer run of dates later in the year as well as performing a shorter set as special guests of Barclay James Harvest later in November. If you get a chance, please do come and see the live show, we have a great time of stage playing pieces from the new album and from Gordon and my past musical endeavors and people are often complimenting us on the on stage interplay which is very rewarding.
Following the tour we have been invited to appear as gusts on Bob Harris's show on Radio 2 for a live session and interview. This will be recorded in June for transmission in July which is something I am really looking forward to.
I will also be this weeks guest on the Dutch radio station Paperlate where they will be playing tracks from the new album and interviewing me. The show is to be broadcast on Sunday evening and all details can be found at www.paperlate.nl.
Some of you may remember that I recently played on my friend Paul Bond's song Blue to help raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital who were instrumental is saving his son's life from cancer. Paul wrote to me recently to let me know that the download song raised over £1000, so if you were one of the many who downloaded it then thank you very much indeed for contributing to this worthy cause.
On a final note, I would just like to thank all the people who have written such nice things about the album on the web. It is very much appreciated and hopefully it will help spread the word!
All the best to you all, and I hope to see some of you at the upcoming shows.