YES IT’S ARW – A PROG LEGEND BY ANY OTHER NAME…

 

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IF ONE LIVES LONG ENOUGH for Earth to rotate on its axis enough times, one will find oneself in a world where more than one YES configuration is in existence. As in 1989, the year 2017 finds itself hosting not one, but two superb constellations of this most sublime of progressive rock bands. While the Steve Howe-led YES is out there doing its thing, three veteran and vital members of the group – original lead vocalist Jon Anderson, guitar and multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire Trevor Rabin and keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman – have formed ARW which, after the following interviews were conducted, was rebranded as YES featuring Jon Anderson/Trevor Rabin/Rick Wakeman. Except for a fleeting moment in time when eight past and present members of YES came together in 1990 to throw together a relative mess of an album entitled Union and then managed successfully to go out on tour without killing each other, these three gentlemen have never been in a group at the same time. Jon and Rick have worked extensively together, as have Jon and Trevor. Trevor and Rick have enjoyed time on a project, but without Jon. The intriguing prospect of a new studio album from ARW on the not-so-distant horizon is taking shape as the group continues to perform magnificent shows where YES fans are treated to reworked material from the various eras of this most classic of classic rock artists.
Recently, after experiencing a spectacular ARW concert, one of the very first the band had performed, Red Hot Rock Magazine was provided the opportunity to speak individually with Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman. What follows is an extensive and in-depth look at an artist that, while celebrating their collective history, is clearly looking forward to an exciting, rewarding and fascinating future of groundbreaking recordings and transcendent performances.

 

JON ANDERSON INTERVIEW

RED HOT ROCK MAGAZINE: Mr. Jon Anderson! How are you?
JON ANDERSON: Hey, Ritchie! How are you doing?

RHRM: OK. Very good. Firstly, I need to congratulate you on Yes once again being nominated for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. Even though I don’t have much respect for that organization, it’s way past the right time for Yes to be inducted.
JA: I always say it’ll happen when it happens. There’s no rush. And I’m not gonna hold my breath. And we’ll see what happens.

RHRM: What do you think would occur if the band gets inducted? Do you think that all of the Yes members past and present would perform together? I know from speaking to Chris (Squire) many times over the years that he would have liked that to happen. It’s sad that he didn’t have the opportunity to experience that.
JA: He’ll be there in spirit, believe me. I think there’ll just be… The way they work, I think, is everybody that’s worked over twenty years in the band… But I know that he’ll be with me, Trevor, Rick, Alan, Steve, Bill and Tony Kaye. Whoever’s there will be there. I’m cool.

RHRM: Hopefully they get all of you up onstage to perform together. The ARW show we saw last week was absolutely wonderful. A highlight for me, personally, was you and Rick performing the sublime Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe track, “The Meeting”. What a beautiful piece of music. Just Rick’s piano and your voice, both sounding in top form. Since that album first was released, that piece of music has brought me to tears. It’s so beautiful.
JA: It’s a wonderful experience to work with Rick, anytime. And that song was a very special moment for both of us at the very end of making the album ABWH. To perform it onstage is very magical. It’s a very simple idea, but it really works.

RHRM: It’s just a gorgeous piece of music. And after your not being well for a little while, your voice is back to sounding stunning and timeless. You really are a force of nature.
JA: I’m very happy about the way I sing. I enjoy singing, so I think that’s part of it. I love what I do. I’m definitely not just getting up there for the past. I’m up there for the future of Yes music and our project together. And I’m performing those songs. And it’s kind of funny. A lot of the lyrics are very, very contemporary, for now. You listen to some of the lyrics that I’m singing about “political ends as sad remains will die” and you watch what’s happening politically around the world. It’s getting more and more greedy. It’s more and more confusing. And more and more or less for the people. And it’s nothing for the Earth Mother. Then you think it’s about time, you know, people woke up and realized that the future is in our hands and we’ve got to be part and parcel of the love and development of Mother Earth rather than, “How much money can we make?!?” Ha ha ha.

RHRM: While introducing “The Meeting” during the ARW show, you spoke of Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe as being “a trip, on many levels”. Ha ha ha. Do you think that I could push you to elaborate on that statement just a little?
JA: I was approached to make an album by a record company. And would I work with Steve and Bill and Rick. And I said, “Well, of course.” I hadn’t worked with them for about ten years by then. So I thought, well, I’ll go to London. And I spent a couple of days with Rick on the Isle of Man, where he was living. And a day with Steve. And a day with Bill. And I collected some music from them all on cassette. In those days, we had cassettes. They were very busy with their own projects, so I went to work in a studio just outside of Paris by the river Seine. It was a magical time for me because I was working with musicians who understood what I was reaching for and really loved Yes music. We had the best time ever creating a demo of the album. It was truly a fun event. Great people and a love for music, wine and pizza. These were wonderful musicians and I sort of did a creative devil of an idea of an album. And then took that album of music to the island of Montserrat in the Caribbean to George Martin’s beautiful studio. He had AIR Studios there. And Bill and Tony Levin and Rick Wakeman and myself worked on the album. It was a joy to be there. Steve didn’t like that idea because he didn’t like the Caribbean so much, so he did his overdubs in London. I think he missed out on a good thing. And I just enjoyed it so much. It was just such a three-way thinking of making music. It wasn’t that I owed anybody anything. It was important to make a really good musical album. And we mixed it up in… I think it was where the big festival was years and years ago. North New York State. I’ll remember it in a minute.

RHRM: Woodstock.
JA: Yeah. It was Woodstock. I was very excited with what we had. Then, I was told by the record company to let go of the album and let other people mix it. So, they had these two really cool dudes come up from New York and mix it in Woodstock. And I didn’t want to sit around in the studio all day while they mixed. I thought, hey, it was sort of January. And I went skiing every day an hour away up in the mountains. So, in a way, the whole project was a great trip for me. And I’d come back at five in the afternoon, listen to the mixes and go, “Hey, that sounds really good. Well done. Thanks, guys. Let’s go for dinner.” It was a wonderful learning experience. Ha ha. So, that was my three weeks in Woodstock. It was fantastic. Skiing every day. So, it was very interesting making an album that way. And the tour that followed was amazing. ‘’Real Yes music at last,’’ I was thinking.

RHRM: I have already spoken to Rick and Trevor and they both seem so happy about the good vibes on this ARW tour, how well all three of you get along and how exciting it is creating new music together.

 

TREVOR RABIN INTERVIEW

RED HOT ROCK MAGAZINE: Hey, Trevor.
TREVOR RABIN: How are you doing, man?

RHRM: Very good, thank you. Before we jump into talking all about ARW, I need to congratulate you. The word just came through the last hour or so that Yes has once again been nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. You just woke up, so I don’t know if you’ve heard the news yet.
TR: Oh, I didn’t know!

RHRM: It’s way past the right time for the band to be inducted.
TR: Wow! That’s amazing. Thanks for telling me.

RHRM: Of course, they selected the members of the band they felt should be included, as they always do. You were one of them. But I just don’t understand that organization. For example, Geoff Downes, in and out of the band beginning with the Drama album many years ago and currently a member, has not been chosen. That makes absolutely no sense. And I believe that Peter Banks, the band’s original guitarist who is no longer with us, was not honored. Disgusting. The Hall seems to do this with so many of the artists that get nominated. They arbitrarily pick and choose who they feel should be included without having any real understanding of the history of the artist. If Yes does get inducted this time, what do you think is going to occur at that event? Have the various members of Yes, past and present, talked about getting up and playing together?
TR: This is the first I hear about it. I have no idea. The last time it was mentioned, obviously, Chris Squire was alive and we talked about it. But we never really got further because there’s been false alarms a couple of times. We’ve always assumed, yeah, a nomination doesn’t mean you’re in. So, that’s kind of how I think we’ll look at this one. But, obviously, it’s a real honor.

RHRM: I think that Yes fans are going to rip that place apart if the band doesn’t get in this year. It should have happened a long time ago. I would think that if Yes does get inducted this year, there will most likely be a nice tribute to Chris. He is the common link that all members of Yes have had, being the only one who was in every lineup until the time he fell ill.
TR: Yeah. I would just be kind of sad that it couldn’t have happened before he passed away.
(Editor’s note: Yes was finally inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 2017.)

RHRM: You knew Chris better than I did, of course. But I had the pleasure of interviewing him many times over the years. It was always a lot of fun. He was always generous with his time and gave all of himself to every conversation. I looked forward to it so much every time.
TR: Yeah. I think I probably was closer to Chris than anyone in the band. And the last time I talked to him was certainly the last guy from… musician, even, that spoke to Chris. Outside of his wife, I think I was the last person. He had absolutely no intention of not getting back on the road. So, it was very sad, his passing.

RHRM: Yes, it was. If you don’t mind, can I ask you for the lowdown on that night back in 1994, or whenever it was during Yes’ Talk tour, at the Harley Davidson Café in New York City? I was hanging out with your cousin, chatting with you. You had quite a few drinks in you and you were very angry at someone, as if you were very close to a fight. If my memory serves me correctly, I believe that you were dressed from head to toe in leather. You described the incident when I spoke to you backstage last week as a “rumble”. Ha ha.
TR: Yeah. I still feel embarrassed about that.

RHRM: All of these years later, what actually happened that night?
TR: You know, I actually don’t remember very much other than there were some incredible insults hurled at me. And it kept coming and kept coming. It is so unlike me to respond to anything like that. I was severely… My father who’s passed away heard about it and severely reprimanded me. And he said, “We don’t do those kind of things.” So, it was quite embarrassing in retrospect. But I really don’t remember what it was about. It had to have been something extremely extreme for me to have responded. Although I remember I was extremely inebriated that night. And that doesn’t happen anymore, anyway. So, it’s unlikely to ever happen again. Ha ha.

RHRM: I just remember how surreal it was because we were standing talking to you and Jon Anderson was sitting at a table with his family, I believe. That was almost like in a peaceful storybook kind of thing. It was like two completely different worlds in the same room. But you were very friendly to me. That was the main thing that I took away from that evening.
TR: Well, I’m happy to hear it because, sincerely, it’s so… I’ve never done anything like that before. That’s I think the reason I remember, even as vaguely as I do, that there was an aggression that I had to really check myself and went, “What is that all about?” afterwards.

RHRM: Before we discuss ARW, your new project with Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman, I would like to quickly say a thing or two about an album you released a few years ago, Jacaranda.
TR: Yes.

RHRM: That is a phenomenal record. I love it! What I like most about that album is that you found a way to somehow bridge your rock and pop work and your love of jazz fusion with your job as a creator of wonderful, instrumental film soundtracks. You put it all together on one album, but it flowed seamlessly. It is a great piece of work.
TR: Oh, thank you so much. I’ve never heard it put like that. And I think it is, for want of a better word, the most intelligent analysis of what that was. Without thinking about it, that I think is what naturally just happened because that’s where I was at the time.

 

RICK WAKEMAN INTERVIEW

RED HOT ROCK MAGAZINE: Hello, sir! How are you doing?
RICK WAKEMAN: How are ya?

RHRM: Very good. I need to congratulate you on Yes once again being nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. Even though I don’t have much respect for that organization, it is way past the right time for the band to be inducted.
RW: Well, I’m with you on that. I’ve been to the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame a few times. And I have to admit, for many years, I’ve scratched my head at some of the people who are in there. And scratched my head at some of the people who weren’t. I mean, Deep Purple, who are only just in. How does that happen? The tragedy for me, whether Yes get inducted or not is… What I think is a tragedy is that, if they do and Chris Squire is not there… ‘Cause Chris being the only member that was there from start to finish… If anybody deserves that accolade, to be there, it was Chris. I don’t understand how it works and I don’t think I ever will.

RHRM: I had spoken to Chris many times over the years and I know that he wasn’t holding his breath. But it’s very sad. I know that it would have meant a lot to him to have been able to experience a situation where all of the Yes members, past and present, come together and accept the induction. And that’s another thing. The Hall decides, they arbitrarily pick and choose with each artist that gets in, which members will be inducted. A lot of bands have been quite upset about that. It should not be up to the Hall to decide which members of a band are allowed in. Everyone has their opinions about the various Yes lineups, but I don’t understand how a few of the guys that have been in the band, played on important albums in the Yes’ history and toured for many years with the group are not being inducted.
RW: Again, that comes under reading about nine-point-seven on my bewildering meter.

RHRM: Ha ha ha! And another thing that is pretty clear. The Hall does not look favorably on an artist that is comprised of musicians who can play their instruments well. They don’t like progressive rock very much. Anyway, what do you think would occur at the event? Would all of the Yes members perform together?
RW: Uhm… If you want an honest opinion, I would think no. I would think that’s unlikely to happen. If there’s a performance, I don’t know who it would be and how it would be. I mean, I don’t think anybody, certainly from ARW… We are not sort of making any plans or counting any chickens until an announcement is made. Then, that’s when you start to think about the logistics of what can, what might happen, what could happen and what individuals are happy to happen.

RHRM: OK. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. But I know that fans of the three of you individually, as well as Yes fans, would be very upset if you, Jon and Trevor were not part of whatever performance occurred at the event.
RW: We’ll have to wait and see.

RHRM: I need to say that the ARW show that we saw was a wonderful night of music. A highlight for me, personally, was you and Jon performing the Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe track, “The Meeting”. What a stunningly beautiful piece of music that is, just your piano and Jon’s voice, both in top form.
RW: That’s kind. Yeah. It was a piece that we put in just to, should we say, bring the temperature down a little bit. Because it’s quite a full-on show, as you saw. And we felt that there needed to be a spot, which was just where everybody could almost take a breath, both onstage and offstage. “The Meeting” is something that is very special to Jon and myself. And it’s kind of funny. It was Trev’s idea to put it in in the first place. He said, “You must do “The Meeting”.” And it’s a joy to do with Jon. It’s an absolute joy.

RHRM: When I spoke to him yesterday, Trevor surprised me regarding some of the songs that he looks forward to performing with you and Jon. For example, he mentioned “Close To The Edge”. It’s great that he wants to tackle some of the more complex Yes pieces from the time before he joined the band. If this was going in the opposite direction, I don’t know if Steve Howe would be so excited about playing Trevor Rabin’s pieces. But that’s another story.
RW: One of the things, I mean… Trevor and I are just blood brothers. We’re really very close. And we both have a similar view on the Yes pieces that we didn’t play on. We both agree how fantastic it would be if… yes, happy to play on music we weren’t on. And, of course, you play the parts that were there that are important to the piece. Then, we both try to imagine what it would have been like if we’d have been in the band at the time and what would we have played. What different sounds would we have used. For example, Trev on “Awaken” does some amazing stuff! Absolutely amazing. And the different rhythms and things that he uses and plays on “Long Distance Runaround”, for example, are actually amazing. I love them to bits. Likewise, when we’re doing a piece like “Lift Me Up”, I play all of the parts that were there originally, but I’ve added at least another fifty per cent of parts again that I would’ve played had I been there within the band at the time. Which doesn’t take away from the piece. It’s the same piece, but with additional ingredients. And that’s what Trev and I have tried to bring to all of the music so that it’s still very recognizable as to what it is, but we’re adding things. You know, like the fun solos we have at the end of “Owner” and, also, at the end of “Rhythm Of Love”. Things like that are just great fun to do.

RHRM: Trevor expressed to me such warm feelings towards you and he spoke of such good vibes on this tour.
RW: Yeah. There are. Trevor and I, as I said, we are, quite genuinely, like blood brothers. We think alike and I sort of almost know what he’s going to do, sometimes. There’s been more than a few times onstage when there’s been a smile on my face because I almost know what he’s going to do. And he can really try some surprises. But he’s a phenomenal player. A phenomenal musician. Phenomenal writer. And he’s an absolute joy to play with.

RHRM: I find it so interesting that, years before you played with Trevor in Yes, Asia before it was Asia was originally supposed to be comprised of John Wetton, Carl Palmer, Trevor Rabin and yourself. It’s funny how life sometimes circles around like that. What actually happened to that configuration?
RW: Oh, that is a story that would fill about ten pages.

RHRM: Ha ha ha!
RW: To be brutally honest with you, it started with Carl Palmer, myself and John Wetton. And we put that together. It did not have a name at the time. We didn’t have a name for the band. And we were going to be signed, which eventually the band did, to Geffen Records. There was a meeting. And what concerned me, at the time, was that there was going to be an album, this, that and the other. But we hadn’t even played together. The three of us never actually sat in a rehearsal room and played. And that concerned me at the time. And I said, “Look. I don’t want to commit until we’ve played together to see what we can come up with.” I mean, John Wetton and I had written stuff together before when we had tried to put a band together with Bill Bruford. A three-piece, with myself, John Wetton and Bill. That was scuppered by a record company, as well. That’s another story. So, I was very keen to that we played together before anything was committed to. But that didn’t seem to be acceptable to management and to Carl and John. And they went ahead. Which was fine by me. And then, we had talked about Trevor coming in and I knew of Trevor. I’d heard Trevor. Seen Trevor. I loved the band Rabbitt that he had. It was a fantastic band. And I just thought he would be just absolutely perfect. But then, what happened after that, after I walked away, because I wanted us to play together and do some things, after I walked away, it became a bit of a mess. I don’t know the full story, but I know that somehow Steve Howe suddenly ended up with John and Carl Palmer to become Asia. And Trev ended up in Yes. Well, initially Cinema, which then became Yes when Jon went back. So, it was a bit of a… I suppose it was quite early days of internet matchmaking, I suppose. Ha ha. It was really quite bizarre. I never really knew quite how that all happened and came together. But I’m glad it did because, obviously, Trev was the major, major element in 90125. Which, in my humble opinion, is the album that saved Yes’ life. Because, in the mid eighties, when prog rock was about as popular as porn in the Vatican, to come out with an album like 90125 and do so incredibly well was just fantastic. And I don’t think that I would be talking to you today had that not happened.

RHRM: Pretty funny how incestuous that all was. Steve replaced Trevor and Trevor replaced Steve. I don’t know if you have heard this before, but to make you feel a little better about that whole thing, Trevor mentioned to me that after you had backed out of that band with John Wetton and Carl Palmer, that’s when he decided also to back out. The reason he had been interested in that project was mostly because of your involvement.


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