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Rick Wakeman's New Zealand Connection

Rock Star Rick Wakeman on His Music and New Zealand


Rick Wakeman, keyboard legend

Rick Wakeman, keyboard legend

Image Courtesy of Lee Wilkinson

International progressive rock legend Rick Wakeman is visiting New Zealand next month for a series of concerts. He is one of the many international musicians and performers who include New Zealand in their schedule. I recently spoke with Rick about his music and his connections with New Zealand.

Rick, how is that you are going to be performing in New Zealand?

Well initially I got an email from promoter Stewart Macpherson in New Zealand. He'd heard about my one-man show called 'An Intimate Evening with Rick Wakeman' and he simply asked me if I'd like to come down to present it in New Zealand. The difficulty was trying to find some time because I've been nuttily busy lately on my new production of 'Journey to the Center of the Earth'. And of course I had to allow the three days it takes each way to get there and back, so coming up with a slot of 8 days for 3 concerts was pretty difficult. But we did so, so I'm on my way. The sad part is that I'm literally only going to be there for 3 days for the concerts.

It's great that you're coming. Do you have any particular knowledge of New Zealand?

Actually I know quite a lot. One of the people who sang in my band a few years ago, Chrissy Hammond, was from New Zealand and she was always talking about the place. Of course I always knew to duck when someone said to her, "So what part of Australia are you from?".

And actually, New Zealand is my wife's favorite country. We've been together for ten years and a couple of years before we met she had a holiday down there with a couple of friends and just fell in love with the place. I was not at all popular when I told her I was going to New Zealand and she wasn't!

What do you think the perception of New Zealand is in the UK?

Very good, in fact. Of course there's quite a few New Zealanders over here as well. I think the general perception, apart from the rugby of course, is that it's a very unique part of the world. It has everything you could want climate wise, place wise and people wise. People know it as the place where in theory you can go skiing in the morning and sunbathing in the afternoon, that sort of thing. The Christchurch earthquake disaster also got massive coverage over here and an incredible amount of heartfelt sympathy. There is an attachment, there's no doubt about it.

And you've been to NZ before I believe?

I was there for a performance of the original 'Journey to the Center of the Earth' way back in 1975. I remember it incredibly well. We were only there for the one concert in Auckland and it was blisteringly hot. It was a great experience - great orchestra - and we had just a wonderful time. It was also back in the days when I did like a drink, as did my band and crew. We were only there for a week which I recall gave us about three days to enjoy many of the alcoholic taverns of various places! As I said, we had a wonderful time.

Is there anything in particular that you would like to do if you came to New Zealand on holiday?

Well my wife and I really enjoy walking, because you get to see more. I would love to go on a walking holiday or even take an RV to park up at places and go walking during the day. I'm also very fond of all things historical so anything to do with architecture, I love that.

Well I don't know about the architecture - are you aware that the oldest building in New Zealand was built in 1821?

Ha - I actually live in a house that was built in 1799. I remember Chrissy Hammond coming around and telling me that it was older than anything she knew of near where she lived. And I said, "yeah, but on the other hand, so am I."

About your musical style, do you think anything has changed for you over the years? Do you have a different approach to what you did in the early days?

I try not to really think about a style. To be honest, I simply do what I know I can do. It sort of happens and it's the only way I know how to do things. Obviously music develops over the years because instruments develop, sounds develop and recording techniques develop. So that makes things change. I don't think the basic style hasn't changed, it's just the way you do things and obviously you're able to do a lot more with current instruments being so unbelievably clever.

How about the future - what's coming up for you?

I'm just finishing off 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth'. That's been a mammoth task - I started redoing it in 2009. The music actually went missing - it was missing for 35 years! When it finally turned up it was in dreadful condition and took a year to restore. I've also used the opportunity to put in other music that was always meant to be in there but never made it. So what I thought was going to be a simple project has turned out to be a huge and expensive job. It's going to be out next year, probably initially in the UK as a special limited edition with a 150-page book. If that goes well it will be released in a similar way in other places around the world.

Rick Wakeman is performing his one-man show, 'An Intimate Evening with Rick Wakeman,' in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch from October 6-8. For tickets go here.

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