Headspace are forged from genuine rock royalty. Comprised of touring members of Black Sabbath, ELO and Threshold to name just a few, it’s a real rarity, but a genuine pleasure when the progressive rock five-piece do get together to play a gig: “This personally for me, was one of the best days in several years”, says keyboard player Adam Wakeman as we begin our chat following the band’s set at this years’ Rambin’ Man Fair. “It’s really special” adds singer Damian Wilson. Exploring the science within us: Eamon O’Neill.
How are you today?
Adam Wakeman: It’s great here. We’ve seen so many people!
Has it been a busy day for you, catching up with old friends?
AW: I’ve just bumped into Harry [James] from Thunder, who I played with in a band called Snakecharmer. There’s all these people you bump into, and it’s great. There’s a guy up there in a fluorescent yellow shirt that I’m sure I’ve seen before – oh yes, he threw me out four years ago!
There’s the social end of things, but of course there’s the business end of things, and the reason you’re here today.
Damian Wilson: There was no business end, no, that was socialising – we were on stage, socialising with each other, and it’s fantastic. We are friends; we have a real buzz playing together, and for me, I get such a thrill with these musicians. I mean the musicianship is second to none - Adam, Lee Pomeroy [bass player], Pete Rinaldi [guitarist], Darby Todd [drummer] - amazing.
Your latest album ‘All That You Fear is Gone’ follows on from 2012’s ‘I Am Anonymous’. Was the delay between releases down to your day jobs getting in the way?
DW: There was no delay.
AW: No delay, exactly. I mean, I think that’s a very good point; it’s ready when it’s ready. Scheduling was always an issue with Headspace, because we’re all very busy with other ways of earning money, basically. A lot of time I spend away with Ozzy, or Lee spends away with ELO, Damian’s away with Threshold; we all have a lot of other things to do. Headspace is the one thing we get to take our time with, and make sure that it’s as good as we want it to be by the time it’s finished.
Obviously, it must be great then when you finally do get to step on stage, like here at Ramblin’ Man Fair today.
AW: This personally for me was one of the best days in several years. I’ve spent a long time away playing some big festivals with Ozzy and Sabbath, and I’ve loved it, I absolutely love it, but there’s something different when you’re playing your own band’s music. It’s a really different feeling, and it doesn’t take away from the other things your do; it just carries a different weight to it.
I suppose it’s more personal and you’re a little more invested in it.
AW: Totally, yeah.
DW: Well, completely, I mean, we’re singing what we want to sing, we’re saying what we want to say, and we’re hanging out with people we want to hang out with, so that’s all very personal.
How long did you get to play today?
AW: Forty minutes. It was one song! *laughing*
DW: No, we had four songs in forty minutes. We had to choose quite carefully, and it’s tough choosing the set list, especially because we want to play much longer, of course you do – we wanted a full set – but a progressive full set is quite a separate thing, isn’t it?
AW: It is, and it’s difficult as well; you can’t really suddenly cut out sections of songs, you can’t just go; “oh, you know that fourteen minute song? Let’s make it ten minutes”, because you’re taking out, like a third of the song, and it’s doesn’t work.
You can’t go cutting up songs live, otherwise they wouldn’t have made the studio version, surely?
AW: Well, that’s one thing I’ve found; we did a video for ‘The Science Within Us’, and we cut a few sections out to make it shorter, and there’s one section we cut out, and every time we play it, it just goes through my mind for a split second; "are we changing that? Are we in the right place?" It’s the only part of the only song.
Are you saying that Headspace are on the edge when you’re playing live?
AW: I’m definitely speaking for myself. I mean, it is complicated music to play, and you could rehearse for a bit longer.
DW: The thing is, to me, the audience is as important as the band. So getting out into the audience and everybody having a good time, that is what it’s about, so you can’t just ignore that. You can’t just ignore the crowd; so I go to the crowd and I give them something. Very often, you’ll see me standing on stage and I’ll be clapping and getting them to join in; but with Headspace, you cannot find a 4/4 anywhere in the music – it’s just not there.
You had a great reaction from the crowd today though, didn’t you?
DW: They were great, and I always end up throwing myself into the crowd almost sacrificially, and I’ve got to say that the response from people, again, it was really special.
Prog fans really do invest themselves in the music as much as the band does though, don’t they?
AW: Absolutely, and the fact that they do that; the fact that they come out and stand and listen and watch makes it all worthwhile.
Obviously Adam you come from progressive rock royalty yourself, being the son of Rick Wakeman.
AW: Well, yeah, my dad’s been around a bit. I was born in a flight case in 1974!
How have the latest dates with Black Sabbath been going?
AW: It’s been great. I was lucky enough to start with them in 2003, so this is my thirteenth year with Ozzy and Sabbath. I keep half expecting a picture of a spitfire and a watch at the end of each tour, but they keep asking me back, and I’m happy to come.
You first appeared with Ozzy on the ‘Black Rain’ album.
AW: Yeah, ‘Black Rain’ was the first album I played on, and ‘Scream’ was the last Ozzy album, where I co-wrote six of the songs with Ozzy and [producer] Kevin Churko. So it’s great to be involved in the studio stuff as well as the live stuff. I mean, I don’t know for the next one – who knows? But one of the great things about Ozzy, is he reinvents himself, and he works with different producers and musicians. I mean, he’s very happy with his band, so hopefully that will continue. I’m there whenever he needs me.
‘Black Rain’ is a better album, than perhaps it’s given credit for in the Ozzy discography.
AW: It was the first album that Kevin Churko, the producer, was involved in, and it was a different period where Ozzy was between guitar players as well. One of the reasons I got brought in, is I play guitar, so I wrote a lot of the songs with Kevin and Ozzy. But Kevin Churko really brought a new kind of ear to everything, because he’s a multi-instrumentalist; he plays drums, guitar and everything else, he could really work with Ozzy and sort of, bring in a bit of fresh blood.
Of course your Dad has a long history with Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath as well.
AW: He played on ‘Ozzmosis’, and he also played on the Sabbath album ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’. Interestingly, he played an ARP 2500 [synthesiser], I think it was, on that Sabbath record, and when I was recording ‘Scream’ in Ozzy’s studio, Ozzy brought in this keyboard and he said; “oh, the last person who played this was your old man in 1975”, and it still had the Black Sabbath sticker on the back of it! So I was like; “I’ve got to use this on the record!”, so we got it all wired up, and everything else, and it was broken! We could get some noise out of it, but no notes, so we made this sound effect thing, and it does sneak in somewhere in the ‘Scream’ record. I can’t remember which track, but it is there, and it’s great to know that the last time it was used was on a Sabbath album in the seventies by my old man.
Back to the present day with Headspace, and is there any more room for live gigs given your busy schedules outside of the band?
DW: We’re trying to get as many live gigs as we can possible get in.
AW: We’ve got 19th, 20th, 21st and 22nd December [in Germany, Belgium and Holland], which is after the next run of Sabbath stuff, and when Damian’s free again, and Lee Pomeroy’s not away with ELO. And then next year we’re looking at getting a proper tour together in summer, and hopefully there’ll be a lot more festivals.
Scheduling must be a nightmare for you guys.
AW: I think it probably is for us, but it’s not through not wanting to play; it’s just really getting the time to get it done. Next year, I have a feeling it’s going to be a better year for us, scheduling-wise, so that’s what we’re trying to put together.
Black Sabbath are coming to the end of their run early next year, aren’t they?
AW: Well they’re finishing on February 4th, and then we’ll see what happens with Ozzy after that. I mean, he wants to do another tour, he wants to do another album, but there’s going to be a period of time when he needs a rest, so yeah, hopefully we’ll be back out.
So finally, is it your commitments that keep the band from working?
DW: He blames me!
AW: It’s not just me. Damo’s as busy; I mean, I’m talking to the guy that sorts Damo’s shows out – I talk to him fairly regularly, and the months fill up pretty quickly in Damian’s diary. Lee is away a lot with ELO and Take That, and he’s quite busy, so we all have commitments.
So that must mean that it’s all the more special when you do get together?
DW: You can’t beat it, I tell you. It’s flippin’ marvellous!
AW: Absolutely. Let’s steal a tour bus, let’s take this on the road! Come on!
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'All That You Fear Is Gone' is out now. For a full list of live dates and more visit the official Headspace website.