Fact: There are countless people around the world who, if they found a genie’s bottle, would immediately wish for the chance to play “Paranoid” and/or “Iron Man” onstage with Black Sabbath. Adam Wakeman does that — and the rest of the set, too — on keyboards and rhythm guitar. “I still have to pinch myself sometimes,” he told Hive backstage at Lollapalooza this past weekend. Wakeman’s been surrounded by rock his entire life. His father, Rick Wakeman, was the keyboardist for Yes and Adam played with both Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne’s band, where he also co-wrote a number of songs with Ozzy for his more recent releases. He was picked for those gigs after serving time with a diverse group of musicians: Brit-pop group Travis, Annie Lennox, Victoria Beckham, and early-00’s girl group Atomic Kitten. Hive caught up with him to get some Sabbath stories and to learn who parties hardest of the acts on his resume.
You’re several decades younger than the guys in Black Sabbath. What’s hanging out with them on tour like?
This year, we’ve only done two shows with Sabbath. It’s such a different ballgame to being in Ozzy’s band. Ozzy’s band is a band, and it’s all great. With Sabbath, I’m kind of like the hired keyboard player, shoved off the stage. So it’s a bit of a weird one with me, especially after being in Ozzy’s band for my ninth year now. The first two years were actually spent with Sabbath. So I was really young, then. But it’s great – they’re a really nice bunch of guys. When I first started doing it in 2003, when Bill Ward was doing it, as well, we rehearsed for a month in the studio in White Horse, and we’d all go out for walks and stuff. Spending time with them — I was surprised at how little they spoke about music.
What do they talk about?
Everything else. It was only when pressed, when you ask them questions about stuff. I spent quite a lot of time with Geezer [Butler, Black Sabbath bassist], and he was on this last Ozzy & Friends tour we’d just done. He’s hilarious … such a funny bloke. You start talking, and asking questions, and then they open up. They’ve been talking about it for 45 years. My dad’s the same. He won’t talk about music unless you ask him questions.
What are they like to hang out with? Is Ozzy eating crisp apple salads, watching the History Channel, and going to bed at ten o’clock these days?
He’s obviously left the curtains open! That’s exactly what happens. He’s mad on the history and documentary channels. With the Sabbath guys, it’s been a while since we’ve all been touring together. I think with the Ozzy thing, it’s slightly different — we tend to fly everywhere, so we’re all on the same plane, and there’s a good camaraderie. With this, Tony’s coming from England, I’m coming from England, Geezer’s coming from Los Angeles, Ozzy’s coming from England or L.A. — their schedules are ridiculous. We try to get together for a dinner when we can. I haven’t seen Tony since we played download on the 10th of June. But Geezer’s been on the Ozzy tour, so I’ve spent a lot of time with him. They’re all just normal, nice guys. Like the old school rock royalty that they are. I’ve played with quite a few pop artists in my time, and very few of them come close to the kind of class of the older generation.
You’ve got a really diverse group of collaborators. Who parties hardest: Travis, Annie Lennox, Victoria Beckham, or Black Sabbath?
Travis were pretty good for that. But the most rock and roll tour of all the tours was a band called Atomic Kitten. They were three Liverpudlian girls. They were a proper pop act; just gorgeous-looking girls. And the band that was around it were just full-on. A month tour with them, you needed a month off. I look back at it and think, “If only people realized that the pop acts …” A lot of the old rock acts, they’ve done all that. That was them 20, 30, 40 years ago. Hearing some of the stories – I ask Geezer quite a lot about the old days. My dad, as well, has got some crazy stories. You just start to realize how mental it was back then to be in a rock band. It was insane. And however hard the kind of pop stars party now, it’s nothing compared to how it was back then. I kind of wish I was born a little bit earlier to experience some of that, but I’d probably drown in a swimming pool.
The Sabbath guys are all older gentlemen now, anyway. I can’t imagine my dad staying up and partying all night, either.
There’s the thing now: Ozzy doesn’t drink, Tony doesn’t really drink much. They’ve gotten to a point in their lives where they’re just happy to be still here. Things are much more civilized now. There’s no craziness. I think they’re just appreciative that they’ve got through it and are still here. They’re a good bunch.
Watch Black Sabbath perform “War Pigs” at Lollapalooza here: