Reload Festival interview: Rick Astley
09:00 29 August 2014
Ahead of his performance at the Reload Festival, Emma Lee meets Rick Astley.
He emerged from Stock Aitken Waterman’s Hit Factory at the age of 21, rich voiced, slick of quiff and promising Never Gonna Give You Up (or let you down).
After hitting number one with his debut single, Rick Astley seemed to take up permanent residence in the top 10. But in the early 90s he went into semi retirement to concentrate on family life.
Since then he’s released a few albums, inadvertently become an internet phenomenon and still plays live all over the world.
And Rick is joining the stellar line-up at the inagural Reload Festival at the Norfolk Showground from September 5-7, which also features Kool and the Gang, Soul II Soul, ABC, Go West, Hot Chocolate, Sister Sledge, The Human League, Five Star, Imagination, Odyssey, From The Jam, Billy Ocean, Jason Donovan, Heaven 17, Aswad, Bjorn Again and The Real Thing
“Festivals are always a bit of fun,” says Rick. “When there’s a big line-up it takes the pressure off because you know that there’s a lot of other good acts on that day, so people are still going to have a good time.”
And as a music fan himself, it’s a bit of a treat for Rick to see the other acts in action.
“I normally stand at the side of the stage and watch,” he says. “I grew up being a fan of a lot of the acts, like Kool and the Gang. And ABC’s Lexicon of Love is one of my favourite albums.”
He’s also looking forward to coming to Norwich - and visiting a certain “posh chip shop”.
“A few years ago I sang at the cathedral at Christmas for the BBC,” he says. “And we know the guys who have Hot Chip, so we’ll be going there.”
Rick grew up in Lancashire and had a love of music from an early age.
“I sang in the church choir and school choir, but to be honest I wanted to be a drummer,” he says.
But Rick’s rich, soulful voice came to the attention of pop producer Pete Waterman.
He was so impressed that Rick was offered a job at the PWL studios from where Waterman and his cohorts Mike Stock and Matt Aitken nurtured some of the country’s biggest artists as a tape op (or, according to pop mythology, the tea boy).
After Never Gonna Give You Up stormed straight to the top of the charts more hits followed, including Hold Me In Your Arms, Whenever You Need Somebody, She Wants To Dance With Me and a cover of When I Fall In Love.
In fact, Rick still holds the record of being the only male solo artist to have his first eight singles reach the top 10 in the UK.
After two albums he parted company with Stock Aitken Waterman and signed to RCA/ BMG Worldwide and released two albums - Free and Body and Soul.
It wasn’t long after the latter came out, following the birth of his daughter, that Rick decided to take a break from his music career.
He counts himself lucky to have got the work-life balance right - in addition to touring, he enjoys “messing about and playing” in his home studio and presents a weekly radio show on Magic - although he still sounds a bit bemused at having become an internet sensation.
Dubbed Rickrolling, seemingly innocuous web links would lead to a clip of Never Gonna Give You Up - and if you clicked on it you’d been Rickrolled.
It led to him performing a live Rickroll at the 2008 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.
“I’m not knocking it - it’s been good to me, and brought the song to people’s attention. I took the good bits,” he says.
As well as his solo shows, Rick gets to fulfil his teenage dreams of being a drummer, playing in a band with friends.
“We just do charity gigs and play songs we’ve learned in the garage. Some of those gigs are the best moments I’ve had on stage, it’s just about having a good time. We turn the amp up to 11,” he says.
Reload is being held at the Norfolk Showground from September 5-7. Day tickets cost from £39 (£18 children), weekend admission tickets cost from £70 (£30 children) and weekend camping tickets cost from £99 (£42 children). Tickets are available without booking fees from Eastern Daily Press offices in Norwich, Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Diss, Cromer and Dereham.