Keyboardist Rick Wakeman (YES, David Bowie) recently spoke with Jackson of the Atlanta radio station Rock 100.5 about his upcoming solo tour of America, "The Grumpy Old Rock Star" tour. The full conversation can be streamed below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On the tour's title:
Rick: "The 'grumpy' thing is a very British thing that started happening a few years ago. There was a big TV show called 'Grumpy Old Men' which ran for six [seasons]. [It was] very successful, and I was on all six. I became known as the Grumpy Old Man. I got asked to do a couple of books, which I did do, but the name 'Grumpy Old Man' had been registered by the company that did the TV show, so we changed it to 'Grumpy Old Rock Star'. That really stuck. I did a couple of books with that, and I just became known as the grumpy old rock star moaning about everything and telling ludicrous stories. Grumpy really is funny. It's telling stories about ridiculous things that have happened in your life that are funny. They're not angry; they're not annoying. I've just lived a ridiculously ludicrous life. Somebody once actually said to me, quite recently, 'Nothing normal ever really happens to you, does it?' It doesn't, and it's quite funny... I tell all those stories on stage mixed in with [music]. I sit at the piano and play music from YES, my own stuff, other people I've been involved with like Cat Stevens and David Bowie. I do some Lennon-McCartney stuff. It's all stuff I've been involved with over the years and all have stories and things to go with it. It's just great fun. I just really thoroughly enjoy doing it."
On how audiences differ around the world:
Rick: "Once you walk on stage and you start, there is no difference. You'd like to think that people have come along to enjoy themselves, and if you know that and you're sitting there and you're enjoying yourself, then it's the same wherever you are to some extent... American audiences have always been unbelievably supportive, and that always shows. I think American audiences understood very early on that if they're really responsive to what's happening onstage, more comes off stage than what was originally intended. It certainly gives you a huge boost to really go to another level somehow, and American audiences have always been brilliant at doing that."
On YES's multi-generational appeal:
Rick: "The interesting thing is — and I hear this story not a lot, but quite a bit — I've had people come to me and say, 'This is my dad' or 'This is my mom,' and 'Music was the only thing we had in common. Thankfully, it's kept us together'... Music is a wonderful [thing]. I've often thought you can look at a row of people sitting in a theater and you have everything there from a refuse collector to a gardener to a banker to a politician, and you've all got the same thing in common — it's the music."
On the state of modern progressive music:
Rick: "There are a lot of fantastic new young musicians about. The interesting thing about when I started out in the '60s and early '70s, it was a period of time where the musician was ahead of technology. There was no technology to do the things you can do today. I use the example sometimes of the beginning of 'Closer To The Edge'... that took us nearly three weeks to produce. Nowadays, you can do it on a computer in 20 seconds. You had to create everything. It wasn't there for you at the press of a button. Keyboards didn't have presets. You buy a keyboard now, it's got 10,000 sounds in it. Back then, you got a keyboard, we used to take it to the hotel room and try to get a noise out of it. It's quite hard to be innovative when everything exists in technology, because everybody's using that same technology to try and produce stuff. It's interesting how much has changed over the years. A lot of the young singers and the songwriters, they've gone back to acoustic guitars to writing their songs or writing on the piano — which, truth of the matter, was always the best way to write. It's great that it's gone back to that. I think in coming years, there are going to be some people who are going to emerge. The secret, really, is they have to go out and play live — and I mean really play live, not play to backing tracks or mime to a lot of stuff. That's the only way you find out what you're doing and where you are, who you are and how people will react to you. I think the people who do that, they'll be the ones that will be here long after I've gone."
Wakeman's 25-city "Grumpy Old Rock Star" tour kicks off September 21 in Annapolis, Maryland. The show is advertised as "an evening of superb musicianship, featuring music from YES, Rick's own solo epics and early David Bowie hits, plus fantastic arrangements of BEATLES tunes and much, much more, interspersed with knockabout (and sometimes bawdy!), typically British humor."