"Usually, my default setting to email requests is to say 'no', but this one was asking me to go and meet Jeff Wayne, and I thought I should give it a go..."
... Which is how Kaiser Chiefs frontman Ricky Wilson found himself in a recording studio, laying down tracks as the Artilleryman (a role originally peformed by David Essex) for Wayne's brand new reworking of his rock classic War of The Worlds - one of those seminal albums that every generation knows, even the ones who don't know they know it. Since its 1978 release, it's sold more than 15 million copies and spent 330 weeks in the UK charts. Wilson agrees it's one of a kind:
"I revisited the music the night before I met Jeff, but it's deep in my DNA, and in a lot of people's around my age (34). I think dads liked it."
"Jeff said I was his first choice, but they always say that. When he said the Richard Burton role would be taken by Liam Neeson, I was sold.
"I was all bravado about it, saying I could definitely do it, then got back home and thought, ‘what have I got myself into?’ The day came, I was back in the studio, he was looking through the glass, pressing record, and suddenly it was done.
"There are new bits in it, extra added stuff, people have asked if I've made it my own, and I don't know, I just did it as well as I could, that was more up to Jeff."
As well as the new album, there is the prospect of an Arena tour which, as if by magic, convenes with dates already scheduled for breaks in the otherwise full schedule of Wilson's day job with the Kaiser Chiefs.
"A tour is not really my thing, I’m already in my favourite band, but we always take Christmas off, so I thought, 'I like Jeff, it seems like a laugh, travelling through Europe in style... why do I keep turning these things down?”
(Wilson won't say exactly what offers he's previously turned down, but the mind boggles - from musical collaborations to reality TV invitations, presumably).
"I read any offer that comes in, and sometimes I've been tempted by loads of money, but I don’t want it just to be beneficial to me, or to them," Wilson expands. "I have done all right, and I don’t want to give that away too readily. But this felt like something I could do. And I like Jeff."
Wilson pauses at this point, as Jeff himself enters the room to say goodbye. There's a hug and few words before Jeff disappears and Wilson continues to reflect:
"It's going to be weird, not having my gang around me, quite exposing - but I am looking forward to having my own dressing room.
If it should be even more weird, even challenging, putting his voice to sounds that helped define a previous generation, Wilson's not saying:
"It wasn't intimidating. It was just me, him and his engineer. I don't know why I wasn't intimidated, maybe that's just down to how good Jeff is."
Is Ricky Wilson a fan of Jeff Wayne? I'm still not sure...
War of the Worlds tour starts its UK tour in Dublin at the end of November. Click here for more information. And here's a clip of the original below:
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