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Ten Questions with...

RICK WAKEMAN

Rick Wakeman

What are you currently up to?

All connected with Hampton Court really!...although there is a lot of other stuff going on.

The paperback version of grumpy old rockstar comes out soon as well and so does the acoustic album I recorded last year with Gordon Giltrap .

There's also performances , with full orchestra and cast of millions, of journey to the centre of the earth scheduled for Australia and also South America for later in the year.

There's also all the Saturday radio for planet rock , more filming for Classic Media for the television face to face series which I host. (To find out more about this go to www.rockondigital.com - this website will act as internet TV and also fans can download/view the full 52 minute episodes of the series...

I have interviewed Brian May, Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Scott gorham (thin lizzy), Whispering Bob Harris, Judas Priest, Andy Fairweather-Low, jazz & blues legend Chris Barber, Dennis Locorriere (Dr. Hook), Jon Lord, Hugh Cornwell and many more..

And the one off piano shows here and there .

It appears my moving to the country to quieten down my work load has not exactly worked out

Why has it taken so long for the full 'Six Wives Of Henry VIII' suite to be performed live?

Simple really ...in 1973 I wanted to perform it at Hampton Court and couldn't get permission . I didn't want to do it anywhere else and also I was extremely busy with Yes and there wasn't time to be honest and then along came Journey to the Centre of the Earth and things moved on, then came Arthur etc etc.

Also, no promoter ever asked me!

It is something I have always said I would like to do one day ,and when I got the call from Hampton Court I just sat back in my chair, and grinned from ear to ear.

What sort of show can the fans expect at Hampton Court?

1970'S meets the 21st century...there will be my seven piece band, a narrator, the 40 piece English Chamber Choir, an orchestra, guest appearances , considerable surprises on stage, and a genuine event in every respect.

From the moment people arrive they will be treated to a mock rock Tudor experience. No burger bars ...hog roasts and chicken on spits ...(we haven't forgotten the vegetarians either)!!!...there will be jugglers and lute players scattered within the enclosure and many of the people involved in the organisation will be in period costume...the show starts at 7.30 with opening acts and we come on at 9pm and will perform through until close to 11 .

All the original 6 wives will be performed , plus three new pieces all connected with Henry . The original pieces are extended as well. The event will only happen twice . It will never be repeated anywhere ever again. We are filming it for posterity.

The show ties-in with the Hampton Court celebrations to mark the 500th anniversary of Henry VIIIís accession to the throne.

What made you originally choose to compose a suite of work based around Henry VIII and his wives? How did you go about capturing each wife's character in music?

It came from reading a book on a Yes tour called the Private Life of Henry VIII. I got to a page mentioning Anne Boleyn and I kept getting this theme coming into my head.

I started reading about the other wives and more music came into my head and that was the springboard that started it off. The music is not meant to follow their lives in any way manner fashion or form. The pieces are abstract I suppose.

When writing the music I concentrated on each wife at the time . I didn't watch any television or listen to the radio or read anything else except that of the six wives.

The pieces and the themes became synonymous with the wives for me. There was meant to be an additional track for Henry himself , but there was not room on the album to fit it in so it was left off.....it will be done at Hampton Court though.

Why do you think that progressive rock is much more popular on mainland Europe yet many of the greats in prog rock (Yes, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Marillion, IQ et al) have originated in the UK?

Because of the pathetic way that the UK treats music. Virtually everywhere else in the world , when a new fad or fashion in music comes along , they embrace it just like the UK does.

The difference is that they still keep all other genres of music in the public eye. On the radio , on the shelves and written about in the press...here we don't, we clear the shelves of everything.

We have also become entrenched up our own backsides ...we have the Brit awards...not the world awards .....you ask a music journalist in Chile for example what is happening musically around the world, he will tell you everything that is going on from Russia to Rutland !...ask a journalist from a music paper in the UK and I doubt they could tell you where either Russia or Rutland actually is .

Are there any new bands/artists out there you have been impressed with?

Muse, Air...there are a load of great bands and players out there. Trouble is, the country is obsessed with X factor and so that's the standard that reaches the public in general.

Were you pleased with the reviews and reaction to your book 'Grumpy Old Rockstar'?

Amazed to be honest. It's sold really really well and the paperback comes out in a few months .

What is next for you writing wise?

Grumpy old rockstar volume 2 !!!

How did the 2006 tour with Jon Anderson go?

Wonderful...it was like two very close brothers simply enjoying themselves every evening with all their friends invited round to watch .

Are there any more plans for a similar tour and possibly US dates?

Anything is possible but, as you know, Jon has been poorly and he needs as much time as it takes to get strong again. His health and friendship are the most important thing to me. The music is a bonus .

Do you find you get a better audience reaction in these theatre shows than the big arena shows with Yes?

It's proportionate really. Yes fans are family .

How do you view the current music scene in light of the 'credit crunch'? Do you think this will affect live shows or will people still pay to see live gigs that are an event rather than go and see newer/upcoming bands?

I wish I knew...but I don't. I think it's going to be a very very tough year for a lot of people and when things do improve it will take a lot more time for those who have really suffered to get back to any sense of normality .

Your 'Grumpy Old Picture Show' was a unique idea and proved popular with the fans. How did you come up with the idea and do you adapt the show in anyway to each venue/town you played?

In retrospect I am extremely pleased I did the show and very proud of the team that made it happen. It received great reviews and was well received...but cost an arm and a leg.

6 months of preparation and 10 people out on the road just to put me on stage on my own!!!! I had loads of bands and artists asking me how I put it together. I told them...and they said, wow, we're going to try that. Then they asked how much it cost to put together...I told them and they then said...I don't think we'll be trying that!

You can download some of the live sections from this at www.rockondigital.com

How did you get your first break into the music business?

There was never one break as such. I did nothing but music all my life from the age of five. I played in dance bands and jazz bands from the age of 13. I played anywhere I could for nothing and listened and learned from those around me and older than me. I don't believe really in big breaks or luck. The definition of a big break or luck is when preparation meets opportunity...

What piece of advice would you pass onto budding musicians?

Honesty...know what you can do...and never think you know everything. It's the world's longest apprenticeship course...i should know...I'm still on it

Message for your fans...

Thanks for being there. I couldn't make the music I do without your support . Music is to share and that's always what I have tried to do.

Rick Wakeman plays Hampton Court Palace on May 1 & 2.
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Interview © March 2009 Jason Ritchie.
All rights reserved.


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