Oliver Wakeman on flying from here to there and reflections of what was and what will be.
KEYS TO SUCCESS - THE PROGRESSIVE WORLD OF OLIVER WAKEMAN
Rockarea.eu interview by Piotr Spyra
Firstly I'd like to congratulate you and your band on giving a great concert in Poland and releasing a brilliant DVD.
Thank you very much, I am extremely proud of the DVD and think that the guys in the band played really well on the night. I also think that Metal Mind did a great job in capturing the performance so well.
What criteria did you use to select tracks for the concert in Poland? In my opinion you didn't treat 'Hound of the Baskervilles' the way it deserved?
Sorry about the Hound not being played as much. What happened was - we had rehearsed a longer set but at the last minute had to make a few adjustments to make sure we didn't run over time. Unfortunately the songs that we removed were from Hound. If we get to do another DVD I'll make sure there are Hound songs in there - I promise!
What are your memories from your visit in Poland? What sort of impression did the Silesian Theater and Poland in general make on you?
I really enjoyed my visit to Poland, we were performing in Katowice and thought the theatre was absolutely beautiful. I had an explore around the theatre during the afternoon and thought it was wonderful.
The day after the show, the band and I travelled out to Krakow and I think it is such a beautiful city. The buildings and history on show in the town is incredible. We spent the whole day really enjoying ourselves. We also had a very nice lunch at a beautiful old restaurant, it seemed to have been unchanged since the 40's and was like stepping back in time.
That evening a rock opera 'She' was put on stage, weren't you afraid that your concert could be somehow overshadowed by it and lose some spotlight?
Not really, I knew that our show was to be a completely different type of show to Clives. Clive was making use of a lot of visual effects, acting and stage props as well as the music - whereas we were a bit more of a rock and roll approach. 5 guys on stage, 5 sets of instruments and the songs. I enjoy the elaborate shows but I also think that a bit of straight ahead rock show can be very entertaining as well. I think, judging by the response we received from the crowd during the concert and afterwards that they enjoyed it too!
I think that you cannot be dissatisfied with the audience - you were welcomed as stars of the evening!
I do have to say that they were fantastic - having a great audience really helps you on stage. It's always great to play to people but when they are responding and singing along it takes to to a different level, you feed off their energy and it just makes the whole event great fun for everyone. We must have spent well over a hour chatting, signing and having photos taken after we came off stage. The band and I felt very honoured by the good wishes and comments people were giving us. It really finished off a wonderful evening.
For years you've been releasing various kinds of music, not only rock pieces. Right now it seems that situation is quite stable with the band's lineup fixed. So, do you plan to put out 'Oliver Wakeman Band' album? Maybe you've got some other ideas?
I do have a follow up album to Mother's Ruin called Cultural Vandals which I am hoping to record early next year which will feature the guys from the DVD but I also have a piano album I'm recording and last year I recorded a live album with the 70's classic rock band Starcastle which should be due out next year.
I couldn't find any information concerning the change in lineup after Mother's Ruin release. Moon Kinnaird is listed as a band member on the album. When did Paul Manzi take his place and what were the reasons of this change?
After I finished the album I decided that the time was right to start performing music from my back catalogue and the current album live. Firstly I asked all the musicians who had performed on the album if they were available for rehearsals, unfortunately Moon was unable to commit himself to the live shows and so that left me in the position of trying to find a vocalist that could do the songs justice. Tim's circumstances meant he was unable make a regular rehearsal schedule as well. Dave Wagstaffe (the drummer) mentioned that he had worked in the past with a bass player called Paul Brown in a band called Janison Edge and he was also aware of a vocalist called Paul Manzi who lived in London and was looking to get back to his rock singing following a 'time-out' period away from singing.
The rehearsal a couple of weeks later will still rank as one of the best music days of my career so far. The two Pauls came along, extremely personable, well rehearsed and phenomenal players!
I need to admit that I'm a fan of your collaboration albums recorded with Clive Nolan - Jabberwocky and Hound of the Baskervilles. Any chance you'll record albums in this style in the future?
Clive and I have talked about writing a third album together and I have also written one on my own which is ready to be recorded - it's just that I have another couple of albums I want to release first!
It seems that as a solo musician you have more space for displaying your great skills. Do you prefer to play with a band/lead singer or maybe solo?
I enjoy playing is all types of set up. In a band it's great fun because you can really let rip sometimes because of the support you get from the other musicians but I also really enjoy the challenge of playing solo piano or as a duo. There is no-where to hide when you play solo and you have to be very accurate and I find that challenging but great fun.
You're a versatile musician so is there anything that you can surprise your fans with?
Not sure really, I like to think that in this day and age where lots of artists put out album after album that are quite similar, I will always hopefully release something slightly different to my last release!
You designed a few artworks for covers of your albums. I think that DVD's cover is the best one, which one is your favourite?
I must agree, I really like the artwork for the DVD. I also like a lot of the inlay artwork I put together for the Mother's Ruin album. I studied at Art college in my youth and have worked as a freelance graphic designer, it is something I really enjoy.
When I was a child I remember my father getting his latest album cover through the post and he was looking at it for the first time (I can't remember which album is was now) and saying - they've mucked up the cover again. I remember thinking at the time that if I ever released albums I would try and control the cover artwork as much as I could or if I couldn't do the artwork I would use people I could trust.
I do think it's so important, you spend so much time on the music it doesn't seem right to then just release it with a cover that doesn't do the music justice.
Do you think any of your albums was a turning point in your career?
There have been a few that have made a more of an impression, Jabberwocky was a very important album for me, it introduced me to a wider audience. 3 Ages was an album that I think proved to people my ability to write and perform complex instrumental work and Mother's Ruin was a great way of showing that I could write for a band. I think as an artist, every release is a progression of sorts and hopefully they all help shape you.
How did your position on prog rock scene develop? Was it improving gradually or did any album make you suddenly become much more popular, attracted large numbers of fans and increased sales?
As above, I think Jabberwocky made a big difference as did Mother's Ruin.
Do you find it easy to be a keyboard player and a son of a legendary keyboard player? Did that help you in your career or just the opposite?
It's a bit of a double edged sword. Maybe people will pay you a bit more attention at first because of the Wakeman name but if you can't deliver or have your own personality people get bored pretty quickly and move on.
I think I've spent enough time doing this now that hopefully people are looking at me as my own person. Obviously the link with Dad will always be there and it's something I'm very proud of.
One of the things that is always in my mind is that Dad has released loads of great records and I want to make sure all the records I release are building on a list of Wakeman albums that are of a high quality and enjoyed by people.
Unfortunately due to health problems of Jon Anderson it was impossible for you to play with Yes which cancelled the tour. Do you think that this could be rescheduled for some other time? Is Jon's health improving so that we can hope to see you all on stage soon?
I'm hoping that all will be re-organised and that I will get to perform with the guys and play some of those great tracks. It was a great honour just to be asked and something I was really pleased about. Fingers crossed - but we'll just have to wait and see!
However, I did a duo show that other day and as a bit of a tribute my singer and I did a version of Wondrous Stories which was really well received and fun to play!
I wish you every success and hope that some day we'll meet after your concert in Poland. Please write a few words for your fans and RockArea readers.
I'd just like to say thanks to all the people who support artists like myself. We really need people who enjoy good music to allow us to keep doing what we're doing!
Questions: Piotr Spyra
Blogger News Network Interview by Simon Barrett
Oliver Wakeman is the son of Rick Wakeman. And just like his dad he has opted for a career in the music world, and just like Rick he has become one of the pillars in the world of Prog Rock. Oliver is not the first progeny to follow in their fathers footsteps, many have tried, and most have failed. Oliver is different, Oliver has that spark. Yes there maybe some similarities between Rick and Oliver, but they are completely different composers and performers.
I have been a fan of Rick Wakeman since the very early 70's, my god I am getting old! It was through a rather convoluted route that I discovered Oliver, but discover I did.
I am a huge fan of prog rock, and Oliver is part of the re-emergence of prog rock. I guess we could call it Prog Rock 2.0. Oliver has just released a new DVD Coming To Town, and it is well worth seeking out. Even my wife Jan, who thinks that the music world begins and ends in Nashville really likes it!
I had the opportunity to talk with this gifted musician:
I really liked Coming To Town it had a great combination of old and new techniques. You have created a great band. How long have you been playing together and who are the rest of the band?
Thanks for the kind words. We have been a band for about 5 years. I had done a number of solo projects, and played lots of music, with lots of bands. I decided it was time to have a stable platform. The band is Paul Manzi on vocals, and a great job he does. Paul Brown on bass, and I have a great story about him. David Mark Pearce is on guitars, and Dave Wagstaff is the guy on the drums.
Paul and Paul were great, because they actually turned up for rehearsals.
A really funny story involves Paul the the Bass player. I had sent the song notation to him in the mail. He turns up for the try-out, and fits right in. I really liked his style. After the session I was talking to him, thanking him for being well prepared, well it turned out my letter never got to him, he did it all by ear, on the fly.
Track 3 of the DVD Is big and sweeping, it reminded me a lot of some of your fathers compositions.
Oh, you are talking about The Agent. There is a bit of a story behind that one. I had just been ripped off, and I was in a really bad mood. I started writing, just as a way to blow off steam. I had the first part done when my wife Lisa asked me when I was coming to bed. 'In a minute? was my answer?. I sat and wrote, the music just started to flow.
The Wakemans are a musical family, I guess its in the genes. What attracted you to the Prog rock genre?
Actually I am classically trained, and I put a lot of stock in that, to me it is very important. From an early age I used to spend hours playing on the piano at home when no one else was around. My first real playing experience was in an R&B band, I played with them for about 3 years. We played in pubs and clubs, it was a lot of fun, and I learned a great deal. here was a lot of improv in our music.
If we call it prog rock 2.0. There is a big difference with it from the 1970?s version. In 1.0 there was what I would call turf wars. This next generation seems to be much more open to collaboration. Is that the key to modern success?
Yes I guess the music scene is a little different today. It is a different world, Prog Rock doesn?t get a lot of media support they it did in the 70?s and 80?s. The bands today are all good friends and we help each other. We don?t have a lot of airs and graces.
Is it a blessing of a curse having Rick Wakeman for a dad?
That?s a difficult one to answer, it is both. It is great having the name recognition, the curse part is being compared to him. My father is a wonderful musician. I go out on stage and just do the best I can.
I know your sister Jemma is in the music business, I have seen her perform on a couple of DVD?s, I believe you also have a brother, is he also a musician?
Jemma has a great voice, she is still in university and only gigs occasionally, Adam is a session musician, and pretty much you can find him wherever Ossie Osbourne is. Oscar is also in university and there are a couple of other brothers floating around, my dad has been married more than once.
I was watching Coming To Town last night and I was trying to figure out the setup you use, but the camera angle was not cooperating. I know that you were playing a Korg T1 and a Roland, what are the other two keyboards?
They are a Korg 01W, and a Korg Triton Pro. The T1 in the music industry is an antique, and it is old, I think it was bought in 1996. It is also big and heavy. The problem was that I used the T1 in the studio, and when I was playing live I had to fight to get the same sound from the other keyboards. So the T1 has become part of the live act.
Coming To Town was recorded in Poland, and we shipped our gear in a van. I really wanted to take Yamaha keyboard with me, it has a great Moog sound, but I was worried about having all my eggs in one basket. I needed something to work with in England, plus the van only had so much room.
Yes were planning a tour, and I understand that you were invited to be the keyboard player, alas Jon Anderson has been sidelined with some medical issues. Was this a big disappointment?
It was a very great honor to be asked to play with Yes. Disappointed, yes I suppose I was, in someways But maybe the will be another opportunity. Jon is a great guy, and it was two weeks before we were going to start rehearsals. I understand though, my dad has had his problems with illnesses.
The cute bit about being asked to play with Yes was that I made it to the front page of the BBC and CNN web sites. I even took screen prints!
What is next for Oliver Wakeman?
Early in 2009 we are going to start work on a new album, I already have the title picked out 'Cultural Vandals?, I am also a fair way through a solo project on the piano.
Thanks for talking with us Oliver and I am sure I speak for everyone here at Blogger News in wishing you every success in your future projects.
Sea of Tranquility Website Interview
To see the original click here.
You've put together a hot new band and a heavier sound for "Mother's Ruin"-can you talk a little bit about the musicians that you are playing with now and how you came to collaborate with them?
The band that I put together for the album consisted of Moon Kinnaird vox, David Mark Pearce Guitars, Tim Buchanan bass and Dave Wagstaffe Drums with myself covering Piano & Keyboards.
Moon had sung the concept albums I wrote with Clive Nolan, firstly in the choir on Jabberwocky and as the character Seldon on The Hound of the Baskervilles. He also sang with Landmarq many years ago and was well known by Dave Wagstaffe who also plays drums for them.
Dave Pearce and I met through a mutual friend. I was talking to him about needing a guitarist and he knew of Dave and so we met up and got on really well. He was the guitarist on the View from Here single which was released in 2002 and has also mixed my Purification by Sound and Enlightenment and Inspiration new age albums.
Tim Buchanan and I go back a long way. We both used to jam together at a blues club in North Devon (where I used to live) and he joined the blues band I played in (Smokestack) for a good couple of years. Tim first recorded for me on the 3 Ages of Magick album (which I recorded with Steve Howe in 2000 and released in 2001). He also performed on the View from Here and the latest album.
Dave Wagstaffe and I have known each other for a long time, I first met him during the Jabberwocky sessions and he also joined me on the 3 Ages of Magick album.
For various reasons it was decided that Moon wouldn't be involved in the live band and shortly afterwards Tim also left the band because of a variety of reasons. But it all worked out very well as they have been replaced by Paul Manzi on Vocals and Paul Brown (Janison Edge) on bass guitar and both have fitted into the band superbly and have actually been performing live with me for the last year and a half.
Serious prog rock fans are saying very positive things about the new album and its abundance of more aggressive guitar sounds and bombastic keyboards. Did you intentionally try to "up the ante" as far as the heavier approach on some of the songs, while still keeping the symphonic nature that is the essence of your style?
It's great that people are enjoying the album. I deliberately wanted to do something different. I had recorded the 3 Ages album which was very instrumental and had a variety of different styles on it and I'd recorded the 2 rock opera's with Clive. I'd also written the Celtic single and then a couple of New age albums and I felt it was time to show that I could also write strong rock tracks with a band focus. Obviously the keyboards are going to be to the forefront of the music but I love great guitar and bass and drums and so made sure that the album wasn't a keyboard album backed by other instruments but and album where all the instruments worked together as a band.
Although "Mother's Ruin" is filled with plenty of instrumental fireworks, what really strikes me is the use of catchy hooks and melodies in each song, wonderfully performed by the musicians as well as singer Moon Kinnaird. How hard is it to write a catchy song yet still retain enough complexity and use of chops to keep the prog crowd happy?
I've always been a great believer in melody and hooks and I deliberately try to not over use a hook to make people want to listen to songs again and again. I think that music is becoming a harder and harder industry and so you have to work really hard at writing. I don't like writing'filler' tracks, I try to make each piece really work and spend a great deal of time on arrangements and producing the song to give it it's best shot and appealing to as many people as possible.
Have you given any thought or been asked to take this line-up on the road for a tour or to play any festivals?
The live band has been performing for the last couple of years at various venues across the UK. We supported Arjen Lucassen earlier this year which was great fun and we've got 3 shows lined up for later this year in the UK, Sheffield, Cardiff and London. Hopefully we'll get a few more booked in before the end of the year if people are interested they can check the website www.oliverwakeman.co.uk for more details. I am also going on tour with Bob Catley next week which should be a good laugh as Bob and I have been good friends for years.
You can hear some possible influences of bands like Arena, Uriah Heep, Pendragon, and Saga, besides the obvious Yes connection. What bands did you grow up listening to, and what current music do you enjoy?
I grew up with the obvious stuff like Yes but I was a big fan of Deep Purple, Rush and my big love was for Styx as I thought they married the great songwriting with great musicianship. More recently things like It Bites and Dan Reed Network although I don't really listen to a great deal of more modern stuff I never seem to find the time!
What type of keyboard arsenal do you use these days?
For the live show it's based around my Yamaha electric Piano, a Korg Triton, Roland XP-30 and Korg O1/W. In the studio I use all the above as well as a D50, Yamaha V50, and whatever else I can find to use in the studio!
You have done various different projects over the years with many different musicians-do you plan on moving forward and continuing on with this band format, and do you have other projects and perhaps solo instrumental ideas in the works?
I have the follow up to Mother's Ruin almost written and I want to start recording towards the end of the year I also have plans for a piano album which is partly finished and a concept album of sorts. Clive and I keep threatening to write the third collaboration as well so maybe that'll happen in the near future. But a band follow up would probably be the next one.
How is your father Rick doing these days, and what is he involved with? Any plans to do something with him in the future?
Dad and I (along with my brother Adam sister Jemma) did a couple of theatre shows towards the end of last year which were really good fun and Dad joined me on stage for the launch concert of Mother's Ruin but there are no plans to do anything else at the moment but we'll have to wait and see!
My pleasure, Cheers. Oliver