An 80s icon, twenty-first century Internet sensation, and the man voted the “Best Act Ever” by MTV Europe viewers, the legend that is Rick Astley is set to perform a three-date mini-tour in Japan this week starting in Tokyo before moving on to Osaka. Fortunately for Weekender, he managed to take five minutes out of his busy schedule to answer some of our questions.
By Matthew Hernon
You started off as a drummer in the band FBI; were you more Ringo Starr or Keith Moon?
If I were to compare myself to anyone it would probably Charlie Watts from the Rolling Stones.
Was it a difficult decision to leave FBI?
I really loved being in the band so I was initially reluctant to leave, but I also really wanted to try living in London and I thought I would be crazy to turn the offer down from Stock Aitken & Waterman.
Pete Waterman called you “the singing tea boy.” How did you feel about that?
He said in an interview that he first heard me singing while making tea in the studio. I guess that sounds more interesting than “I discovered him while he was performing on stage.” It did annoy me a bit at first, but I soon realized that the truth should never get in the way of a good story.
Waterman also wrote “Never Gonna Give You Up.” What does that song mean to you? Are you still worried about it embarrassing your daughter?
That song gave me the life I have and I am extremely grateful for it. My daughter is in her twenties now and is doing great. I am sure she is proud of me: at least that is what she tells me. I’m very grateful for that.
All that success at such a young age! Why did you give it up?
I look back at that time of my life with a lot of appreciation: it brought me to where I am today so I have no regrets about becoming a pop star. That said, I knew I had to stop when I did or I would have gone crazy; as I had just become a father at that point, it was not an option.
You were back in the headlines with the whole Rickrolling thing and “Never Gonna Give You Up” being played everywhere from 2007 onwards … did you have a personal favorite?
The White House one was good [they responded to a complaint on Twitter about a dull fiscal policy briefing by posting the words “here is something more fun” alongside a link to Rick Astley’s music video] it doesn’t get much bigger than that.
The Family Guy version was fun: I mean, what’s not to love about that show.
(Rick also got in on the act during Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2008)
What was it like to win the “Best Act Ever” award?
Best act ever my arse; best hair maybe!
How excited are you about coming back to Japan?
My wife, daughter and I all love Japan. We had a week holiday here eight years ago and our daughter came back for a couple of weeks in 2012. It’s just an amazing place: so much history and so modern at the same time.
What can we expect to see in your upcoming shows? Any new dance moves?
I can’t dance any more: my knees have gone. I don’t have a new sound either: I just do what I do. People love to hear music from their past and it’s the same with me. I want to have a good time and I hope the audience does too.
Finally, according to the Internet you died earlier this year—how did that feel?
I am a zombie and loving it!!
Rick Astley Timeline
1966 Born on February 6 (sharing the same birthday as Bob Marley, Axl Rose, Babe Ruth and Ronald Reagan).
1973 Begins singing in a local church choir.
1984 Joins local band FBI as a drummer. David Morris, now a Conservative MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale in Lancashire, England, plays electric guitar.
1985 Becomes lead singer for FBI and is soon discovered by leading record producer, Pete Waterman.
1987 First solo record, “Never Gonna Give You Up” is a mega hit, topping the charts in 25 countries.
1990 Tired of negative press and being described as Stock Aitken & Waterman’s puppet, Astley cuts ties with the trio.
1991 Becomes the first male solo artist to have his first eight singles all chart in the UK top ten after “Cry for Help” reaches number seven.
1993 After selling more than 40 million records, he retires from the music industry at the age of just 27.
2002 Returns with the album Keep it Turned On, followed by his first compilation record Greatest Hits.
2007 Becomes the subject of a viral Internet meme called Rickrolling, in which users are tricked into watching the “Never Gonna Give You Up” video by following a link that claims to be something else.
2008 Named the “Best Act Ever” by MTV Europe viewers, receiving more than 100 million votes. Perez Hilton and Katy Perry receive the award on his behalf.
2014 After more than 70 million views the original Rickrolling video is removed from YouTube. Astley announces tour dates for Japan and Australia.
And just in case you might have been living in a cave for a couple of years during the late 2000s, here it is, raw and uncut: