Oliver Wakeman And The Case Of The Hound Of The BaskervillesInterview by Igor Italiani of Metal-Force
When the label fixed the time and date of my interview concerning the new Nolan/Wakeman project, I was told that Clive Nolan was the one who would call me at home in the coming days. So I was surprised, at first, when I heard the voice of Oliver Wakeman on the other end of the phone when it finally came time to do the interview. But I immediately changed my mood, Ďcause Oliver (with no offense to Clive, who is a great musician as well) is one of my favorite keyboards players, as he has clearly inherited the best musical traits of his famous father, Rick. So letís start unraveling the houndÖ
Igor Italiani: Hi Oliver, so you are once again partner in crime with CliveÖ
Oliver Wakeman: Yeah! We have a lot of fun when we do albums together. Clive lives a couple of hundred miles away from where I live, so sometimes we spend a weekend together, playing something, having a couple of beers. At the end of the day we enjoy a lot working together, as we are good friends too. You know, being friends makes work a lot easier so Ö we like what we write and we work along great!
II: So now, can you tell me if it was difficult to gather for the second time the huge list of guests at hand for The Hound Of The Baskervilles?
OW: Yes, the people who played on the first album did an excellent job, but we had certain rules when we recorded the second one. We decided again to call mainly members of bands in which we play or with whom we collaborate, [however] this time, for example, we called John Jowitt [IQ] instead of Ian Salmon, because now Ian plays for Arena [which is the main band of Clive Nolan - II] Ö you know, a lot of people think that there are problems with people who have been in Arena, maybe concerning Clive, but there is none. We enjoy working together, so we just wanted to show that we are friends and we work well together. Obviously some people were available, some others not, and we also wanted to put in some new people as well. For example, Karl Groom engineered the first album, so we thought it would be nice to let him play on the second one. Another one is Michelle [Young], who sang backing vocals on the first album, and now has a song of her own on The HoundÖ.
II: But is there some other artist you and Clive would like to have in the future?
OW: Mmh, yeah, probably there are lots of people that we would like to have as guests in the futureÖ Some people that I would really like to work with areÖ I donít know Ö Iím a big fan of Julian Lennon, I think he is excellent, even if I have lost sight of what he is doing now. You know, he shares the same thing I live, and thatís being the son of a famous musician just trying to do music on his own.
II: Yeah, you could do a great duetÖ
OW: Yeah, we could do Lennon & WakemanÖ sounds good! Well, let me see if I can recall some other onesÖ wow, thereís hundredsÖ
II: I was thinking, in this precise moment, about Peter GabrielÖ
OW: Oh, it would be great, fantastic. In fact one of my dreams was to work -- I donít know if you heard about it, but to do an album with Steve Howe, and Iíve finally made it [The 3 Ages Of Magick]. Thatís a dream that came true for me! Well, Iíve been truly lucky to actually work with some of the people Iíve dreamed about while I was growing up, soÖ I donít know, there are hundreds more, it all depends if they want to work with me, ah, ah, ahÖ
II: Speaking about the future, do you think youíll do another Nolan/Wakeman album soon or not?
OW: Oh yes, we will do it. I donít know how soon it would be, because Clive writes albums with Arena and I compose other solo albums as well; we are very busy and we tend to use gaps between sessions to work on other ideas. We also live away from each other, so itís not just the case of popping next door and say hello and do some work, you really have to plan your time. I know we want to do another CD, but all I can say at the moment is that hopefully it wonít take three years, maybe only two!!!
II: Oliver, this time you recounted a Doyle novel, so, if you could choose now a story for your third collaboration, what would it be?
OW: Wow, thatís a hard one. We donít know yet, we talked about 2 or 3 different ideas, but we havenít made any decision yet. At the moment I think that while we have already gone through 2 classical [pieces of literature], probably we will go again through another one. I donít think we will venture into some story of [a] sci-fi [nature]. But Iím not gonna tell you what we discussed for the third opus yet, we will save that for a little while longer, eh, ehÖ
II: OKÖ in the meantime can you introduce The Hound Of The Baskervilles to the audience? Maybe for someone who still hasnít listened it?
OW: Well, I have to tell them to listen it! Mmh, I suppose that if I should ask someone who isnít so sure, I suppose I would ask him if they like a good story, and good music. If they like good stories and good music, and if they want to try something little different from what people usually do, well, give a try to The Hound Of The Baskervilles, hopefully you wonít be disappointed. I think that Clive and I are doing something that nobody else is doing at the moment. I really think that we are the only ones who are doing classic novels mixed with music. I mean, in the seventies there were quite a few. But today, if anybody does concepts, it tends to be their own stories.
II: You recorded and mixed the album at Thin Ice Studios. Whatís the best advantage in having a studio all for themselves?
OW: Well, the studio is actually rented out to other artists as well, so we couldnít use it whenever we wanted to, we had to book it in advance. In fact I had the studio booked the month before The HoundÖ to do the other album of mine, so I had to stop Clive from coming in sometimes, ah, ah, ahÖ The advantage is that it is in the same building as the record company, however both me and Clive have personal studios as well, so we can do an awful lot of work before we even enter the Thin Ice Studios. When we are in the Thin Ice Studios we work very carefully. Obviously we have a lot of fun, but we also look for everything to be used in the best way possible, because an album like The HoundÖ is really expensive. So we have to make sure we stay within a budget, to keep the record company happy. Another thing is that Karl is great at working in the studio, so itís excellent to have a person like him that handles a lot of stuff, too. I like Karlís work a lot.
II: But itís true that you had some problems with the recordings?
OW: Well, what happened originally was that we planned to record the album early last year, and we started, but we suddenly realized that all the people we would like to get onto the record were doing different things. Peter Banks for example was also tied up for my solo album, so the first three months of the year I had to work on that, too. Finally it came down to finding out when the other musicians were free to play on The HoundÖ. Personally I wanted to remain in the studio for only 6 weeks, but it wasnít possible. Nevertheless, the fact that it took a little more time gave us the opportunity to work on it a little bit longer, so in the end we had a better result, I think.
II: Do you think youíll be able to do at least some shows with The HoundÖor Jabberwocky?
OW: Yeah, I really hope to do some concerts. It would be really good fun; I think it would be a very good show. The problem obviously is finding the time again to get the musicians together, but you know Ö never say never. We are not planning a tour at the moment, but it would be good to see it happen. Keep the fingers crossed!
II: Talking about live shows, I think that almost always the best places to play conceptual prog albums are theaters. Whatís your opinion on that one?
OW: Yeah, I agree with you. I think that theaters are great, because they are set up for a show. You know, gigs are great, you can get great atmosphere in a gig, but the theater has something special. I would like to do more theater shows, I think that would be wonderful.
II: Oliver, the concept albums you play on so brilliantly are having a sort of rebirth in England, or not? I mean, do you think prog rock can return to prominence soon or not?
OW: I hope so, certainly it would make my life easier, ah, ah. You know, England has lots of talented musicians, but radio stations, magazines and TV stations are really set up for pop music, so thereís not much you can do about it. It seems the situation is slowly getting better, but I think that it will be hard to see the same scene we had back in the seventies. In other countries, for example, you find great shops who still have a lot of prog music; in this country you donít, and this can be very frustrating. I probably sell more records in Germany or Holland than I do in England, which is a bit strange being English. All I can do is keep working and hoping that the situation will change someday. I think that maybe it could take only a couple of artists to make the public realize that thereís more under the same bands that we see everyday on TV.
II: The beautiful sound you have is linked to the one of the 70s. Is there also something you really like of the music scene of today?
OW: Yeah, I like a lot of music styles. Nu-metal, I like some of it; and itís the same for every type of music, I always like some of it. I worked on a radio station for 3 years, and I used to play prog and rock music, and I also used to play some strange music. I used to play anything that wasnít being played anywhere else, I always chose unusual music, so I got to learn other types of music very quickly. There are always good musicians in every formÖ for example, Iím not a major jazz fan, but I enjoy some of it. The only music Iím not really keen on is dance and pop music. For me, as a piano player, a lot of my music comes through emotions, putting your soul into the music, and unfortunately I donít see it displayed in pop music. In my opinion, this genre is not designed to let your emotions really flow. Itís OK, but I donít get the feeling in listening to that.
II: Yes, same as I. Now can you tell me something about the new Michelle Young record where Clive played and managed production? You know, I prepared this question for CliveÖ
OW: Oh, fineÖ well, Michelle is excellent. She is very, very good. I like her new album a lot. Actually Iíve listened to it quite a few times. The album has a lot of great songs, and I also think that she sang brilliantly in the song she did for The HoundÖ [ďBy Your SideĒ]. We asked her to do lead vocals but she did also the backing vocals in a wonderful way, and we couldnít ask for more!
II: Oliver, can you tell me about your beginnings as a keyboard player, because you are also the son of one of the main keyboards players of rock.
OW: Well, my dad, while I was growing up, was always away on tour. He was always very busy, so I started off just sitting at his piano, and told myself to practice hard. Over the years I also went to classical lessons, and then I went and played in the pubs, so my beginnings as a keyboardist were a sum of these three things: playing on my own, then going to lessons, and then playing in the pub when I was an early teenager. Iíd like to say that Iíve learnt as much from myself and playing in pubs, that I did from my classical training. Classical training can teach you how to read or to move your fingers correctly, but playing piano on your own teaches you to write your music, and playing in a pub, in front of people, teaches you how to deal with the response of an audience. I think you canít learn music from just one of these aspects, you have to go through all three.
II: OK, Oliver. I have one final curiosityÖ is there the possibility to see you, Adam, and your father Rick playing together on the same stage?
OW: Mmh, I donít know. I mean, dad has worked with Adam an awful lot, and I donít mind doing a little show here and there with him as well, but I personally prefer to do things on my own; even if I like a lot what Adam and Rick do together. Iíd like people to think that I can actually work hard as other people to try to make musicÖ I know that some people will see that Rick is my dad, but Iíd like people to think that Iím working for myself and on my own.
II: Yeah, I can understand, even if it could be a dream that you, Adam and Rick are surrounded by castles of keyboardsÖ
OW: Ah, ah, ahÖit would be good fun. You know, when I was younger one of my problems, I think, was that I hadnít done any music, and I wanted to have people recognize me as a songwriter on my own, not because Iím Rickís son. So, once I get myself more established, you know, it may happen. I think we could unleash a lot of power from all those keyboards.
II: OK, Oliver. Thatís enough. Thank you for the wonderful talk and I hope to see you here in Italy as soon as possible?
OW: Oh, thank you. Let me say a big hello to all the prog fans! Itís great to have these fans, who are so dedicated to this kind of music; they are so genuinely interested in what you write when you compose. They really do care about everything thatís around the realization of a record, like in the old days. Itís very rewarding for me to get that, as a writer and as a composer, because they pay attention to everything you do, and this makes you work harder. Just thank you to all of you.
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