Headspace Interview with Adam Wakeman: "It’s important to have an emotional and an artistic outlet, that isn’t just playing for other people. For us that is Headspace"

27/06/2012 @ 16:12
While the set was made for Black Sabbath to hit the stage of Download Festival the debut album of Headspace, “This Is Anonymous”, was playing from the headphones and this was not by chance. It’s strong, solid and it continues the legacy of the Wakeman family in making great (progressive rock) music. Adam Wakeman talks openly about the formation of the band, the music, his relationship with his father, Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath, progressive rock music and music industry in general. It seems like he’s here to stay and judging from Headspace, that’s really good news...

Although Headspace was formed in 2006 the debut album only arrived in 2012? How come?
We follow the footsteps of the other great progressive rock bands that take three, four, five years to make albums (laughs). We formed as you said in 2006, we produced a 4 track EP in 2007 and after we finished it, we did a few shows with Ozzy and I was away on tour with Ozzy, as a band member, for 2007 and 2008. When we got together again as Headspace in 2008 we decided to make a concept record and, as we didn’t have a label involved or any producers, we could spend time and make the record we wanted to make. We were also tied to our commitments to our other bands, Ozzy kept me busy, I was away for most of 2010 and 2011. So, the time that we could spent together was very limited and this is why we ended up recording a lot of the tracks in pieces. Pete and I get together, then we sent the ideas to Damian, then he got together with Lee, and then Richard came by for a week and spent some time playing the tracks. We built it gradually all over these years and I think it worked. It’s very fragmented, but I think it worked for us because we could really concentrate on making sure that the concept of the album as a whole really worked and there was nothing we weren’t happy with.

So the writing process you followed all these years was you writing the songs and sending them to everybody else to put their ideas and parts?
Well not just me writing the tracks. I mean Pete (guitar) and I probably started most of the tracks and we sent them over to Lee and he would write his section and we sent ideas back and forth, so at the end, Pete and I would start to put the piece together. Damian was very much in charge of the lyrics and the melodies, he was kind the driving force at that front. It did take a long time, but I think that what we did to it was that we lived with the ideas, live with the songs, before we had to submit to any record company. We kept the full control of this band and this album right up to the last minute, because we wanted to be 100% happy with it.

HeadspaceYou‘ve mentioned that it is a group of old friends. Have you collaborated in the past with these musicians? How was the band formed?
The band was formed originally in 2006, I had that idea since I’ve just finished a tour with Black Sabbath and I’ve been away with Travis again. You know I love doing these other tours with other people, but I wasn’t really feeling full like with a personal band and the guys that I know from a lot of different bands. I had a band with Damien back in 1996,I worked with Lee before in a number of session bands, Richard Brooks played with me with Victoria Beckham, he also played in on one of my solo records and I always thought he is a fantastic drummer. All these guys that I met  all the way, I really connected with them, I felt them really close to me and I thought back in 2006 that if I had to spend nine months of the year solely with other people, It would be with these guys that I  would like to be with.  You know, it’s what I told you before. It is a hobby band and I really hope that it would be successful enough, so we can tour and we could keep making records together with these people. So the idea was that thise could be the band that we can spend time while promoting and playing gigs.

This was going to be my next question. Is Headspace a full time band knowing that Damien is back with Threshold, Lee has It Bites and you of course play with Sabbath and Ozzy?
If we were 20 years old I probably would give you a different answer, because we could get in the back of a van and tour all across Europe and drive through America for years and years, but you know I have children and Damien has children and Lee has... in fact everyone has kids in the band and there’s a responsibility. That means that we can’t do the things that we want to. We all have our bands that we work with and make our living as musicians, but I think it’s important to have an outlet; an emotional and an artistic outlet that isn’t just playing for other people. For us that is Headspace. It’s us five guys and would be us five guys until one of us dies ...I hope (laughs). You know I don’t hope somebody dies, I just hope that this will go on for many, many years to come.

If the band is successful do you consider making things more permanent?
If the album is successful enough, if touring is successful enough that is where we put our time with. I would be very reluctant to leave Ozzy because he is such a great person and such a respected person in the industry. It would have to be something really amazing not to be working with Ozzy, but the same time he doesn’t work for so much in the year, so what I would like to happen is to stop working for the other people I work for, keep working for Ozzy and then have Headspace as my other main source of income. We have to see how it goes. You know we didn’t start this band for making money, we started this band for making music and as long this continues well, then that’s how it goes. The priority for us is to keep making honest records and if people want come and see us play, then we come and play.

HeadspaceThe album is really good and adventurous. Was it obvious for you that you’d play progressive rock music?
Not really. When the band first got together we didn’t have any idea if there would be a proper band or what it would be. I said to everybody when we got together in the rehearsal room, don’t come along with ideas and riffs and things you think we should play because that’s not what we come up with. Let’s get together and see what happens. We could turn out like Keane or the Killers or Kassabian or who knows what... the point was that by not trying to get in one direction, you naturally flow in a certain direction and thats what I wanted from this band. Naturally everybody maneuvered themselves in the way we wanted to go. When we started, we weren’t as progressive as we are now and that’s the part of the process and the evolution of the band.

I’d say it’s closer to metal than to rock, although there is a thin line there. Would you consider yourself more into metal or into rock?
Personally I find that line becoming blurred; you know I talked with a lot of metal magazines that I really didn’t think I’d be talking to, cause I don’t consider this album to be a metal album. I considered to be a progressive rock album where there moments with metal influences and metal riffs. I don’t know many metal albums that has so many acoustic sessions, but to me it’s not just trying to be one thing or the other. It’s just music to me and it’s the way that naturally came out. This caused a lot of problems to begin with, because the label said we weren’t metal enough, but that was not the reason we started. We wanted to make music that we’d be proud of and we want to listen to, and that’s what we did. If it’s successful it’s great and If it’s not, at least we’ve got a good album to listen to.

Till now my favorite song is “The Fall Of America”; A great tune, with excellent melodies and a very strong performance from Damian. Do you have any favorite songs or maybe favorite parts on the album?
There’s a couple that are particularly favorites of mine. “Fall Of America” is one of my favorite tracks definitely. On the section when the choir comes in, on the repeat of the chorus, we enlisted the Stowe Chamber Choir [editor: Stowe School in Buckinghamshire] to come and I wrote the parts down and we recorded the choir in one of the music rooms in their school. It really just becomes more emotional when you hear the choir singing “This is the fall of America”. The message of this song could be for any country, it’s just happened to be America, which is the current western super power and in 300 years it would probably be another country. I had a little bit of problems with people who think that I’m giving America a hard time. But it’s not about America. The whole album is about observations on events and our individual relationships with humanity and thats across the board, whatever race, whatever country, these are observations, we are not taking sides. I think that’s one of  the reasons that “Fall Of America” is such an evoking title, that people can take from it what they want. They can stare into emotions and that’s what we are hoping. That’s the whole thing with this album, we worked quite well there and we wanted to be heard, and it has nothing to do with specific religion, race or country, it’s all about humanity, we are all the same and that’s going to continue until the end of time.

Headspace - I Am AnonymousThe album is a concept. I know and you already told me that Damian Wilson wrote the lyrics, but what is the idea behind it. Is it just a story you told or is it something more meaningful?
The general idea is as I told you about everybody and our relations with humanity and what we tried to do is reflect these relationships with current events in the world. Obviously there are a lot of references to war, there are a lot of reference to religion and all these things that affect the cycles of life. We tried to do it without being too specific to particular events because these things will happen again, they do the natural cycle of life, the battles that we individuals have to fight from children all the way through our lives, and then we die, and our children will go on through the same things and then their children will do the same. We tried somehow to encapsulate different tracks by using the Kübler-Ross’ five stages of grief theory, which theory is a hypothesis about the stage of grief a person passes through when something is lost something or someone is dead; denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance. We tried kind of loosely base the movement of the album through those five stages as well. To make it simple as possible it’s about our relationship with humanity and man’s inhumanity.

And what’s the story behind “Daddy Fucking Loves You” this 15 minutes anthem?
(laughs) I can tell where the title came about, although the song has nothing to do with this. Damian was in a pub and was talking to a guy who is a soldier and has just came back from a six months mission in Afghanistan, and was talking about his relationship with his wife and his children, and how when you’re away from your family fighting, you are start to question what you are really doing out there and why you’re away from the people you love, fighting people you don’t now, or don’t really know what you are fighting for. I think the frustration for being so confused, trying to understand all these things, made him more and more emotional and he was telling the story to Damian and he said he held his child, and the child was crying telling “don’t go” and he was standing there telling to the child “it’s ok daddy fucking loves you all right, daddy fucking loves you”. It’s that kind of emotion when you hear a story like that and you see how that kind of conflict in somebody’s heads that you can use.

HeadspaceReally, do you also believe –like I do– that Damian is an underrated vocalist?
I always rated  him very high, and I never had a doubt about Damian’s vocal achievements. I think one of the cool things about Damian is that he’s got a very original sounding voice and I think the reason why he hasn’t a more mainstream credibility or success is because his voice is not a mainstream voice. Personally I would much love him to have success with Headspace or with one of his solo albums than suddenly become a pop idol winner. I think he is a very talented guy and he is a good friend of mine for many years and I think finally Damian has found a band, he works a lot of different projects and things, but this is the first time I really heard him say this is as much as my band as his band or Lee’s band or Pete’s or Richard’s. Everything is split down in the middle and it’s clearly our band. It’s nice to see Damian in that position because he is not commonly in that position, he’s often just hired to do something and if he is going to have success with something he’s got to be part of it. That’s why I said to him when we first started this, that everybody is going to benefit from this or nobody will. Everybody is on an even ground and everybody share the success or share the failure.

I’m glad to hear that because reading your company’s newsletter it felt like it’s your band and that you are the mastermind behind all this.
Perhaps, it’s because I started it and because I found everybody and put the band together. It’s definitely from the record company prospective that they want to capitalize the Ozzy connection, because that’s what is going to get people talking about the band. The rest of the guys of the band are very aware about how it works with marketing within a record company. Any way they want to promote the band is fine. The important thing for us is that we’ve made this album as a band. We may have fragmented the process but we spent the time making an album that we are very proud of and it’s something we can hold up and say this is our debut album as a band.

In the U.K. there seems to be a progressive revival. New bands emerge, old bands reappear, there is a magazine about prog, even festivals that expertise in prog rock and metal? How do you explain it?
Well I think it’s... in its country really. Britain has the prog stage at this big festival in London, “High Voltage” and that’s fantastic and it shows that people aren’t as narrow minded with the music as I thought they were. I think more and more people are opening their eyes to prog and it’s a great thing. America is a country that I always found a little more... you know... music never last long in America. In Britain it is an important genre of music  and it shouldn’t just be thrown away as a mismarked and as you said there are festivals pumping up, the number of people going to see bands playing is really refreshing the scene and hopefully will be out to this festival next year and certainly we are going to do this sort of European tour in the beginning of September this year.

Adam WakemanWell I guess being the son of your father has opened some doors, but at the same time it may have been a burden and a reason for people being harder on you. How do you look at it now?
Well. How I look at it now is probably a bit different of how I’ve looked it to begin with. When I started working with my father when I was 18 we recorded seven or eight albums together and we did seven or eight years of touring. All that time, it was a fantastic apprenticeship period for me, because I was working with my father who was very well respected in the music industry and had a lot of success and was giving me great exposure. What happened after a while was that I felt as I was living in his shadow. That’s why I started looking more into London’s session scene and started working with some of the other bands, other pop artists and other rock bands. Now, regarding what you said for the opened doors... well it helps to start a conversation. For example if I’m in a room talking to somebody and maybe they signed in A&M records, I can start a conversation and say that my dad signed in A&M records in 1973, but at the end of the day it doesn’t get you a job. You can make a job or you can’t. I’ve got a very good friend whose dad is a builder and he is a builder and what he knows is that people don’t hire him because his dad is a builder. They hire him because he is good as well and that really has to do with everything regarding a father-son common job. I really am more relaxed about it now, because when I was younger I always wondered why all these people were talking to me and was it because of my dad. To sum up it won’t get you any gigs to put it that way.

So, what’s your favorite tune your dad has composed and what’s your favorite Yes album?
Yes’ album easy choice would be “Fragile”, because it has “Roundabout” on it. For my favorite album of my dad I would probably say “No Earthly Connection” and for a song I would probably say…maybe “Anne Boleyn” from the “Six Wives Of Henry VIII”.

How was growing up in a family with such a famous dad?
My mother and father separated when I was three so I lived with my mother and stepfather for most of my childhood. We were kept out of the music scene really. We would visit my dad and see his concerts but it was kind of a weekend thing, we didn’t spent that much time with him as youngsters, so it wasn’t going from one rock party to the next. It was quite normal living with my mom. It wasn’t too long before I saw him in a few concerts and I was about ten or eleven when I decided that this was what I wanted to do in my life. I didn’t have aspirations to be a policeman for example. I just wanted to make music.

As we were told you are rehearsing with Ozzy at the time so let us ask a few questions. Firstly, what should we expect from 'Ozzy And Friends'. You will also appear in Athens...
Yes, Athens is the last show on the first of July I think. It’s going to be a very good show because Ozzy doesn’t want to let people down, especially because of Tony’s situation with the Sabbath and his illness. The thing with Ozzy is that he loves playing. I don’t know if he is happiest when he is in the studio or when he is on stage. It’s a good idea getting these people on stage. Zakk and Slash are in lot of festivals with us anyway, so it all makes sense, Geezer Butler is going to come up and play some songs and it will just be very nice and this is the way music should be, I always love to see people playing with bands. I saw Joss Stone a little while ago and Jeff Beck played guitar and it was brilliant. I’d want more people to do it.

I read somewhere that Slash is going to only play “Paranoid” at the end of the show. Is that true?
Slash will probably play a little bit more than just one song at the end of the show. There’s gonna be a few sections where people will come up and play.

Adam WakemanThen, will you play with Sabbath?
The rehearsals starting tomorrow morning and those rehearsals are for the Download show on June the 10th and then we do Lollapalooza in Chicago on the weekend of 3rd and 5th of August.

We are coming in Download so you better play well.
(laughs) The funny thing is I don’t really know if I’m playing more keyboards or guitar, once I get to rehearsals tomorrow I will find out because I may end up playing more guitar parts than keyboard parts. We will have to see how it goes and I’m looking forward to see, find out what Tony wants me to do.

How is Tony Iommi doing?
I heard the treatment is going very well. I can’t say, because personally,I haven’t seen him or spoke to him since he had the treatment. I’ll see him tomorrow and I know there are a lot of people who sent him their best wishes. Everybody is hoping for a good recovery.

Is there anything new about the drummer that will play with you that you can share with us?
I can’t give you any information because I don’t know any information. When I’ll get in the rehearsal room tomorrow I’ll know whose there. (laughs) Fortunately, I only play keyboards and guitars and I don’t make that kind of decisions which is good because it keeps me out of that involvement.

Will you play at the Sabbath album that’s in the making?
I don’t know, because they haven’t got that far down the line yet, but if they need any keyboards they know where to find me. (laughs)

Wouldn’t it be great if Headspace played also in Download Festival?
We tried, but they couldn’t fit us on...

Well, probably because you would do only a couple of songs...
(laughs) Yeah they said we have closed the two hours slots and we don’t have time for you.

What are your favorite artists today? What music do you listen to? Do you have a wishlist of musicians that you would like to collaborate with?
Wow... there are a lot of artists which surely are not noted in prog rock, artusts like Will.I.Am and the Black Eyed Peas, that I’d love to see someone collaborate with something, which is far removed from what we are doing, and to see what happened. Sure there are a lot of people... I loved working with Slash in the rehearsals of the Ozzy & Friends shows. He is probably one of my favorite childhood guitar players and I’m such a huge fan of his. I also love his attitude towards music and I think there’s maybe something I could do with him at some point, I certainly like that. We’ll have to see... You see, I like things to happen like they used to... Ozzy told me a story when he was at Morgan Studios in London and Sabbath where in one room recording “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” and in the next room was Yes recording an album, I don’t remember which one it was. That was how Ozzy and my dad first met and began their drinking buddy relationship and that’s how  my dad ended up playing on “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”. He was just sitting at the bar with Ozzy and he said come and play on our album. I love how the music used to work like that and it’s unfortunately not how it works right now. If you meet someone in a bar and agree to play on a record, it would be "if your manager could arrange an appointment with my accountant and that accountant could talk to the record company and see if I can get a clearance then, OK". It has become more business-music than music business. I hope things return more to the music business.

Adam WakemanAnd what music do you listen to nowadays?
There’s a place for all music. I’m not going to give pop music a hard time because there’s always a place for pop music. There are people who like to listen to popular music on the radio while driving their cars and there are some who want to listen to other things, and I’m glad about that. It’d be a pretty strange world if everybody  was listening to prog. I’d be happy for records sales (laughs), but I think we need the diversity in music to appreciate all the different genres out there. I’m not a big jazz fan, but I listen to Thelonious Monk and I like some of the traditional jazz pianists, but that doesn't mean that I listen to it 12 hours a day. I listen to all sort of music. There are moments when nothing but AC/DC would do, and other times when David Bowie or Counting Crows comes as necessity. It’s about the moment and what you want to hear, isn’t it?

I read somewhere recently that 1 out of 6 houses in England has the Adele’s “21”. What do you think of her success?
I will give you a link between Damian Wilson, myself and Adele if you like. The best man at my wedding was Fraser T. Smith with whom I started a band called Jeronimo Road with Damian and although the band split up in 2008, we are still very close friends. He started a studio writing and producing and he wrote and produced “Set Fire To The Rain” which was the 3rd number one single in America and UK from Adele’s Album.

Adam, thanks for your time.
Goodbye and I hope to see you in Athens.