Interview: Yes' Chris Squire on Rickenbackers, critics, Trevor Horn and more
By Joe Bosso published January 09, 2012
"Being called a 'music legend' is a very funny thing," says Yes bassist Chris Squire. "It's nice to know that my work has been appreciated and that people have given me that status. On a personal level, however, I can't think about it too much. It means a lot...but then it doesn't."
Which is another way of saying that Squire isn't letting accolades (especially those of MusicRadar readers) go to his head, nor is he resting on his laurels. In 2011, Yes released two albums, a glorious studio set, Fly From Here, helmed by longtime producer (and onetime band singer) Trevor Horn and featuring classic-lineup members Squire, guitarist Steve Howe and drummer Alan White, along with returning keyboardist Geoff Downes and 2009 singer recruit, Benoit David.
In addition, the group recently issued an elaborate live set, In The Present: Live From Lyon, also produced by Horn, which highlights the talents of Oliver Wakeman, son of legendary keyboardist Rick Wakeman, who temporarily assumed his father's spot in Yes. (Downes has since rejoined the fold.)
Recording the studio album was, in Squire's words, "a fantastic experience. In fact, Steve Howe said something that was pretty amazing: 'My God, I think we've actually made an album that everybody in the band likes!' That has never happened before. The vibe was quite good the whole time. And working with Trevor was a real pleasure."
Horn's association with Yes is a long and interesting one, and so that's where our conversation with Chris Squire begins.
Trevor Horn has worked with Yes as a producer on various occasions, but there was that brief period in 1980 and '81 when he was singing with the band.
"That's right, he had done the Drama album with us. I remember there was a lot of pressure on us at the time. We had a US tour booked, which was pretty much sold out everywhere, including four nights at Madison Square Garden. But we had a change of personnel: Trevor came in for Jon [Anderson], and Geoff came in for Rick. At this point, before such a tour, we thought that our fans deserved to know who the new members of the band were, and so we made an album.
"Drama was put together quickly; there were a lot of intense, 16-hour days. Despite the pressure, it was a lot of fun, and the end result was an album I'm very proud of. I think Drama defined Yes as they had become at that point in time, and it's stood the rest of time, as well."
During the '70s, the critics were brutal to Yes. You were called things like "self-indulgent," "dinosaurs..."
[laughs] "Sure. That's right."
And then the New Wave bands joined in on the criticism. Did that sting? Did you take it to heart? Or because you were so successful, did you not care?
"Well, at the time, Yes were doing extremely well, filling arenas and stadiums. I saw those things in the press, but I can't say they had any kind of impact on our career. [laughs] Initially, of course, the whole New Wave thing was much more of a Euro-based movement. People will point to The Ramones and a few other bands, but I don't think it was as big a deal in the US as it was in other places."
You've been a longtime Rickenbacker player. When did you come out with your signature model bass?
"The one that came out in the '90s…I can't remember when that was. It was probably towards the beginning of the '90s. One thing that's always been something of a mystery, and I've never been able to pin them down on it, is the actual number of instruments produced. There seems to be some confusion as to whether it was 900 or 1000.
"I remember John Hall, the owner and CEO of Rickenbacker, called me and said, 'I think we only made 900 of them, but I'm not quite sure.' So I said, 'Well, if you're not sure, John, then go ahead and make the other 100!'" [laughs]
The first Rick you bought in the '60s, the RM1999 model - how did you come to acquire it?
"What happened was, I had left school and took a temporary job while I tried to figure out what to do with my life - this was before I became a full-time musician, obviously. I was working in a music store in London, and this particularl place happened to be the importers for Rickenbacker guitars into England. So I started seeing these basses coming in.
"I think the first three Rickenbacker basses were imported around 1964. Pete Quaife, the bassist for The Kinks, bought one. Then John Entwistle from The Who bought one. As for the third one, I asked the manager of the store if I could get an employee discount. He said I could, and so I picked up that one. [laughs] I went on to live with that guitar and perfect my style, really."
You got your first Rickenbacker before Paul McCartney?
"I think so, yeah. If this was '64, then yes, that would be true. I don't think Paul went with his Rickenbacker until a little later."
So many bassists cite you as a major influence, but when you were coming up, who did you listen to? Who helped to shape your playing?
"When I was 16 years old, I had great influences. There was Paul McCartney, of course. I was greatly impressed by his playing and his ability to sing at the same time. I strove to make that my goal, to be able to do both things.
I loved Bill Wyman from The Rolling Stones. Jack Bruce, too: At this point, I started going to clubs, so I saw Jack play with The Graham Bond Organization, his band before Cream. And John Entwistle, he was a huge influence. I was at just the right age in 1965 when The Who broke out in London. I was one of those 17-year-olds who went to see them everywhere they played. When I was a teenager, they were my favorite band. I really adored The Who."
Back then, your gear options weren't what they are now. In a way, did that make things more interesting? You had to rely on your own creativity…
"It was fun, sure. In the '60s, you were limited to whatever guitar you chose to play and the amp you decided to play it through. Those were about your own options. [laughs]
"Eventually, the fuzz and the wah-wah pedals came into play, but originally, it was all about your guitar and amp. It's interesting, though, and I was thinking about this just the other day: With The Beatles, George and John played Rickenbackers, as did Paul, although at first he was playing his Hofner. But it was the combination of those instruments that made their sound.
"Later on, they got into Fenders and Gibsons and other things. But the quintessential Beatles sound came from Rickenbacker guitars and the Hofner bass. With The Who, Pete Townshend played Rickenbackers before he started playing Fenders and Les Pauls. So it was just that: the guitarists got their sound with the instruments themselves.
"You could make them sound different by using certain things, like different speaker boxes and amplifiers. And Townshend obviously started with the feedback idea and using volume. It was very much every man for himself and what you could come up with!" [laughs]
Because you favored a more trebly sound for your bass, on the early records, did you ever have frequency wars with Steve Howe?
"Strangely enough, it all seemed to work quite well. Steve was playing that big hollowbody Gibson ES-175. That was basically a jazz guitar, and it had a lot of body and low-end to it. Somehow or other, the two sounds worked well together.
"But something else you have to consider is that Bill Bruford was the drummer on the first Yes albums. He was more of a jazz player, which made me have to fulfill some of the drum role a bit more than the drums did. Bill sort of played around me. In theory, it's supposed to be the other way around. We had a unique way of playing, and so the engineer was able to combine the sounds and turn them into something that people liked."
Did you change your playing a bit when Alan White joined the band?
"It didn't change a bit, it changed completely! [laughs] Alan had come from a basic rock drumming background. As we all know, he had played on the Imagine sessions and was part of the Plastic Ono Band. So it was all very solid rock drumming, but very different from Bill's playing.
"When I first started working with Alan, it took a little while to get the chemistry; it was all a bit foreign to both of us. As time went on, we modified our styles to fit each other, and now here we are, we've played together since 1972. It's like riding a bike!" [laughs]
Do you have a general philosophy as to how you approach bass playing?
"The song is the main thing, so the melody and, to some extent, the lyrical content is important to what you come up with. There's all kinds of approaches, really. You may be doing something that has a riff, or the song might be written around the riff - there's all kinds of ways you can go about it. I can't say I'm limited to doing just one thing. When it comes to looking at the bass part, all kinds of information plays a role."
What is your relationship like with Jon Anderson? Several years ago, Yes decided to continue without him. Are there any hard feelings?
"I don't think so; there shouldn't be. We just had to move on and brought in Benoit David to come in and sing. At the time, it was looking less and less likely that Jon could do it, mainly because of his medical status. And, of course, he was reluctant to commit to long-term touring - and I understand why. So we had to make that change. I always hoped that Jon would see it as a business decision and nothing personal. That's where it stands."
What was it like playing with Oliver Wakeman? Having performed with his dad for so many years, was it a little strange?
"Oliver's a really nice guy. We spent a few years on the road together, and we get along very well. It was a little strange. [laughs] Probably 50 percent of his is exactly like his father, and then the other half is all him - he's his own man. But when it comes down to playing, he's as accomplished as Rick."
Speaking of Rick Wakeman, here's probably the most important question of all: Did you ever tease him about that whole King Arthur on ice thing he did in the '70s?
"Uh…no, not really. At the time he did that, people were going for the lavish productions, and Rick just took it one stage further - onto the ice rink! [laughs] I didn't actually see it. I assume there must be some film of it. What can I say? Those were the days."
Joe is a freelance journalist who has, over the past few decades, interviewed hundreds of guitarists for Guitar World, Guitar Player, MusicRadar and Classic Rock. He is also a former editor of Guitar World, contributing writer for Guitar Aficionado and VP of A&R for Island Records. He’s an enthusiastic guitarist, but he’s nowhere near the likes of the people he interviews. Surprisingly, his skills are more suited to the drums. If you need a drummer for your Beatles tribute band, look him up.
E-Gear Talks to Yes' Jon Anderson : Singing in the ‘World Studio'
Legendary former Yes vocalist talks tech and charts out his musical future
By Howard Whitman
Throughout his career, Jon Anderson has always lived on the cutting edge—not just in music, where he was the voice of progressive rockers Yes for nearly 40 years—but also in the areas of design, audio and even technology.
Consider this: Yes was always ahead of its time with sophisticated lighting and sound at its legendary live shows. The band was one of the first to record an album—1994's Talk—completely on computer. Even the “Avatar” movie had visuals that were eerily reminiscent of Yes album covers!
The voice of Yes has had his share of challenges in recent years. In 2008, as he prepared for the band's 40th anniversary, Anderson was sidelined by serious health problems. Yes quickly —and controversially—replaced him with a singer from a Canadian Yes tribute band they discovered on YouTube.
Fully recovered, Anderson has moved on—has he ever! He recently released The Living Tree, a CD with former Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman , and has a new solo CD Survival & Other Stories, out now. He plays solo concerts around the world, on his terms. He's incorporated modern technology into his life and work with gusto.
E-Gear recently chatted with Anderson to talk about how he utilizes today's tech, and his innovative ideas for the future.
Note: The following is the complete E-Gear interview with Jon Anderson. Photos by Robin Kauffman.
I understand you're touring solo these days. I'm just getting ready to start. Go to jonanderson.comOpens in a new window (for tour dates). I'm also doing some singing, writing songs, working on ideas for different people and generally keeping busy. i've got an album coming out, by the way—it's called Survival & Other Stories.
What's the style of the new CD? It's songs i've written with people via the Internet that I've been doing now for five years but I didn't release any because I got sick. So I had to spend a period of time getting better and then last year I started finishing off some songs and I finished up with a couple of albums' worth. So I'm releasing one album at a time and it's a reflection of what I've been through these last four years with getting sick, and it's a new world. My life is very exciting and I'm very excited about doing a lot of different kinds of music, especially with the people I that meet on the Internet. It's a great world studio.
How did you write with people on the Internet? It's very simple. I tried getting the guys in the band of Yes to send me music via mp3s, but I couldn't get anything from them for maybe a year. So I thought i'll put an advert on my Web site, which I did and I got a lot of replies from people all over the world. They'd send me one minute of their music and that really inspired me because there were some very, very talented people out there. I wanted to work with them and they wanted to work with me, so we started writing some commercially ready good songs, interesting longer songs, musicals, operas, symphonies. I finished a violin concerto with a guy called Bill Kilpatrick and I'm working with the guy who does the music for South Park, Jamie Dunlap, on my new album, so you never know who you're going to meet.
What kind of music are you doing with the South Park guy? You'll hear it on the album. We've done three tracks—two very strong pieces and then an acoustic guitar song. When you work with people, you find that everybody has so much talent and there's so much to go around, so its a very wonderful experience.
So you work together via mp3s? Exactly. We'll do that for a while and they'll send me the files and i'll mix it and that's the album. Done.
That's how you worked with Rick Wakeman on The Living Tree? Yeah, exactly. He would send me music and I was on tour at the time. I'd sing the songs, send the voice back to London to his producer guy, and he'd mix it in and that was it.
You were in the states, he was in London, and it was all done over the Internet. It's the modern world, you know? And it's getting better every day. We're getting to a time where people can work with each other live, but that's always been tricky because of time problems. But it's becoming better and better, and within a year everything will be locked in so we'll have a global time zone for technology. When you watch the people on the “Today” show in the morning, they're speaking with somebody in Libya, it takes them three seconds to remember what they're saying and get back to you. Within a year it will all be in time.
You foresee a time when you can perform music with people all over the world live via the Internet? Oh yeah, there's no question, and at the same time you can have people doing visuals and dance, theater ... you'll have theater live, you'll have people talking to people, having arguments, doing theater live on the Internet, so people actually create theater, it's like watching beautiful theater on the Internet live, but you'll plug it into TV screens and your screens will get bigger and bigger, you'll have a wall screen, before you know it it'll be 10 feet by 10 feet, and then there'll be 3D in five years' time without glasses ... modern technology!
Are you into 3D TV? Not with the glasses, no. I don't want to get a headache. Avatar was brilliant in 3D, and I'll wait until they do it without glasses and then I'll be cool.
You'll know they'll get it right. They'll figure it out. They always do. You know 100 years ago, we couldn't fly.
You used to make albums by cutting up audio tape. Oh yeah, those were wonderful days. You do it with the mouse now!
Would those albums have been made in less time now? I don't think so. Music takes time. This morning I was singing, I finished a beautiful song for a couple of friends of mine and yesterday I was singing, finished three songs for them and that's that. Sometimes it takes a week to get around to figuring out what you're supposed to do that day. Things have their ups and downs, you never know what's going to happen.
You recorded your parts for The Living Tree while you were on the road. Yeah, it's the modern world. The world is a studio now. You can do the old school if you want to do it, but people have some methods to the madness.
Do you incorporate MIDI technology into your solo shows? I used to, and I will do next year, but this time I'm just acoustic guitar, acoustic mountain dulcimer, ukulele, piano and that's my show. It's a lot of fun.
You've played before crowds of hundreds of thousands of people. How different is that from performing solo in front of a smaller audience? It's like walking a tightrope. You've got to make sure you're good. You've got to have your show together. You've got to have everything organized, and I want to perform great and it makes me sing better because I can hear myself, because in a band you can hardly hear what you're doing. You try your best and sometimes it's great and oftentimes its "Turn the bass down! I can't hear!" But that was life on the road with the band. They're all trying to be louder than everybody else. So they're not listening to each other, after a while people just get up on stage and perform their own thing. You watch bands now and they don't listen to each other and that's not great. You can always tell a good band when they're listening to each other.
Is your solo set tightly organized, or more free-form? It's well-organized. I do songs from Yes, Jon & Vangelis, some new songs, I'm doing three new songs on this tour, and some old songs I've never tried before that I'm doing on mountain dulcimer from an album Olias of Sunhillow that I did.
Great album! I'm actually going to perform it next year with an ensemble, a group of people out of New York and an orchestrator out of San Francisco. They want to do a production of it and I think, "Go ahead. I'll get up and sing it." And ... poof!
I've heard you're working on a sequel to that album, part two to the story? Oh yeah! Part two is Zamran. It's very exciting because it's a large-scale project and large-scale ideas but the technology isn't ready for what I want to do. I have the music and it's slowly cooking in the oven and it's coming along. It's about three hours of it now and it's going to be probably a five-hour project. People will be able to go into the realm of Zamran and they can choose their path every time they go in there. They don't have to take the same pathway so they can choose different pathways and hear different versions and different styles of music relating to the same theme that carries on all the way through. It's about the discovery of how the earth works. That's all.
Is that going to be CD? It's going to be an app. At each juncture you find about more about the mysteries of the planet earth and then more about the mysteries of the human condition, and then more about the inter-dimensional condition of this planet and how many inter-dimensional beings are out there that we don't see. And then of course, the extension of that is the inter-galactic people that we don't see. But they're here, don't worry. They're here. They've always been here.
The app will incorporate visuals? I'm working with three people at the moment—one guy in Poland, one guy in Canada, one in Brazil—and we're just creating slowly these projects and visual arts. It's looking really good. It takes time. It's something that's so different and so revolutionary. Because gone are the days of records, CDs, etc. etc. In five years' time, we will be using “mind drive”, don't you know.
This will be an app for smartphones and iPads? It's an app for everything—an app for your computer, to your wristwatch, whatever you want to do. Because you'll have an implant and you can actually watch it in virtual reality with your Ray-Ban virtual reality glasses, when they actually make them. So that's the way it works.
What was your favorite era with Yes? There's been so many really ... the beginnings, the first album, the second album we did with an orchestra, Time and a Word, of course Fragile, Close to the Edge. Getting to know each other, learning to work together. There was so much beautiful harmony, we were excited about life and that happened again when we did an album Going for the One. 90125—we were rock n' roll superstars for 10 minutes, which was fun, and then in the 90s we did the Talk album, which I love very much. Me, Trevor (Rabin) and Rick (Wakeman) want to re-perform that next year. We're working on songs, but we're talking about doing songs from Talk and Big Generator and 90125. It takes time, we can't say exactly what it is, but we're talking. We believe. We're all busy. Timing is everything. My new mantra is “It will happen when it happens”.
That's still an active project, with you, Trevor and Rick? Oh yeah, we were working on songs last week. It's slowly moving, it takes time.
You're trading files back and forth? Yeah.
Trevor's in L.A. doing movie soundtracks. Oh yeah. I went to see him working on “I Am Number Four” about a month ago. It was great. He's a good guy, he's very brilliant.
And you'll do shows together? Next year.
And new music. Oh yeah. I would never just go on stage and do the old stuff. I would rather do some new stuff with the old stuff and make people aware that music is timeless, and we shouldn't be judged on what we've done, more what we're about to do.
It would be great if you revisit Talk; that was such a wonderful album. Oh yeah, we were singing … (sings) "it's the last ... time ... telling myself everything." Trevor and I were singing that together on the phone. We love it.
It would be great to hear that music live again. We will. We'll definitely be doing it.
Rumor had it you were getting Bill Bruford back on drums. Well, we asked him but he doesn't tour anymore. You never know, he might say, “Hmmm, I need some money”. You never know!
As you've shown in your career, you just keep on playing, right? What else are you going to do?
Do you foresee Yes getting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Oh yeah, we're going to be wheeled in and it will be fun!
You should've been inducted years ago. Oh well, it's no big thing. People love what Yes has done musically and I'm a big fan of what we've done and I'm very proud of what we've done musically. That's all I've got to say about that really. When it happens, it will happen. My new mantra.
Do you envision yourself working with Yes again in the future? Probably when we do the hall of fame.
You'll get up and play together? Oh yeah. There's probably about 20 of us!
There are a lot of guys who've been in Yes! Oh yeah. We'll see.
What about your future plans with Rick Wakeman? We're touring. We're going to be at Carnegie Hall this coming November I think. We're practicing. We're going to tour the east coast in October and November. It's a funny show. The new album is beautiful to sing and perform. It's very different. People are not ready for it. They think, “Oh it's going to be whatever, and then they hear it ... you've got to listen to it. You have to listen to it two or three times and then you get it. People say it's really nice and they like it.
This show will just be the two of you, not a full band. Yeah. It's good fun. Life is for fun.
I hear Rick is a big TV star in England. He's a mega-star, bigger than Simon Cowell.
Getting back to technology, what kind of gear do you have at home? I just use the normal stuff, Apple Mac Pro and a couple of computers that I set up. I work with Logic (Apple's recording software). The new album, I mixed it six months ago and I haven't listened to it since, and I listened to it last week and it's mesmerizing, just the whole emotion of listening to that album, how it came together … it's a wonderful experience.
Are you doing some songs from it in your solo shows? Yeah, I do three songs from it acoustically, because I'm just playing my gee-tar. When it's number one (on the charts), I'll go out with the band.
Here's hoping that comes to be. Hey, why not? Think positive!
Yes Reunite With 'Owner Of A Lonely Heart' Producer Trevor Horn
Bassist Chris Squire also explains why Jon Anderson is no longer fronting the band
By ANDY GREENE
MARCH 25, 2011
rog-rock giants Yes have re-teamed with Trevor Horn – the producer behind their massive 1983 hit "Owner Of A Lonely Heart" – to cut Fly From Here, the band's first album of original material in 10 years. "In my opinion, Trevor is the best producer in the world," Yes bassist Chris Squire tells Rolling Stone. "We're really happy with the music so far. Being back with Trevor sort of felt like going back in time, but it's also really in the present. We've all grown a lot over the years." The band is going to wrap up recording in late April and they hope to get the LP on shelves sometime this summer.
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The disc is anchored by the 20-minute title track "Fly From Here," which dates back to the sessions to their 1980 LP Drama. "We played it live on the 1980 tour when it was just five minutes long," says Squire. "Now it's an extravaganza!"
There are four other songs on the album, which Squire says are around six minutes apiece. "Those are brand new and the writing was very collaborative," says Squire. "The sound is somewhat indicative of our 1980s work." Geoff Downes, who played keyboards with Yes during the Drama period, returned to play on Fly From Here.
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This is Yes' first album since original frontman Jon Anderson was replaced by Benoit David, who used to sing in a Canadian Yes tribute band. "I was initially kind of nervous that Trevor Horn might see fault with Benoit," says Squire. "It's all gone very smoothly though. Yes has always been a shifting person kind of thing. I don't stress too much about it myself."
When Yes announced that they were carrying on with a new singer in 2008 Anderson did stress about it. "I feel very disrespected, having spent most of this year creating songs and constant ideas for the band," he said in a message he briefly posted on his official website. "I wish the guys all the best in their 'solo' work, but I just wish this could have been done in a more gentlemanly fashion. After all Yes is a precious musical band. This is not Yes on tour."
Squire stresses the fact that following the band's 2004 tour they were kept off the road for three years while Anderson recovered from health problems. "We were going to tour with Jon in 2008," says Squire. "Then his health got bad again. At a certain point we just had to say, 'Well, we want to go and play to people.' Benoit is a good stand-in for Jon. Nobody can replace Jon. He's one of the greatest singers of all time."
Anderson has recovered to the point that he's played numerous solo concerts over the past few years. He also toured Europe with former Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman. "Those were all fairly lightweight, acoustic kind of shows," Squire says. "Singing for Yes is a very taxing position and I don't know Jon's abilities to do a heavy rock & roll tour."
Despite what seems like evidence to the contrary, Squire insists that there is no bad blood between Anderson and the rest of Yes. "We exchange Christmas cards," he says. "I'd be happy to work with him in the future. I'm proud of the fact that we started this thing together. If there's a way in the future that we could work together, and it's something that's comfortable for him and everyone else involved, I'm certainly open to looking at it."
Yes have toured consistently over the past three years with Benoit David and Oliver Wakeman (son of Rick) on keyboards. This summer they are sharing the bill with Styx on a summer ampitheater tour.
Who is going to headline? "Basically, we are, but I guess, in Oklahoma and Indianapolis or something, they are," laughs Squire. "We're trying to figure this out at the moment. It's a weird thing to tour with a band. I mean, let's face it, Styx have a reputation and a career that's noteworthy. But then agents start sitting down and saying, 'Well, the last time so-and-so played in this district they sold nine more tickets than you did.' Our manager Trudy Green is pretty good at figuring this stuff out."
The band has been eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame since 1994, but they have yet to even appear on the ballot. "Over the years we've had many managers and publicists say, 'Why aren't you in there? We can fix that!' But it never happens. Now I find out that people like Leon Russell and Alice Cooper are just being inducted, and I still wonder why The Sex Pistols got in... I don't have any anger about our exclusion, but it would be a magnificent thing if they would include every member of Yes – I think there's about 19 or 20 of us."
Ex-Yes Frontman Jon Anderson Opens Up About Getting Fired
As the band gets ready to release a new album and go on tour, Anderson is still bitter about how he was treated
By ANDY GREENE
JULY 6, 2011
When Rolling Stone posted the new Yes song "We Can Fly" last month it didn't just provide fans of the legendary prog band the first glimpse into the band's new album – it also allowed former lead singer Jon Anderson to check out what his band has done in his absence. "I wasn't really convinced," he tells Rolling Stone. "The new singer is singing good, but it sounded a bit dated to me. Also, the production wasn't as good as I expected. They've got a great producer with Trevor Horn, so what the hell are you doing?"
Anderson has reason to be bitter. He co-founded the band in 1968 with bassist Chris Squire, and with the exception of 1980's Drama he sang on every album. In 2008 – after illness kept him off the road for four years – Yes replaced him with Benoit David, an Anderson sound-alike who previously fronted the Yes tribute band Close to the Edge.
Nobody in the band called Anderson to tell him the news – he had to hear it from a friend. "They didn't tell me anything," he says. "They were just off and running. But what can you do? I was pissed off in the beginning, but then you say, 'Oh well, the boys want to go on tour and be rock & rollers. Let them to do it.' Now people come see me and I'm suddenly 30 years younger!"
Even before getting unceremoniously replaced, Anderson had grown disillusioned with Yes. The group toured relentlessly in the early 2000s, even as Anderson's health declined. "I was coughing so much that the only time I wasn't coughing was onstage," he says. "I just needed a break, but the guys were upset about that."
Anderson travelled on a bus with keyboardist Rick Wakeman, while the other three Yes members (Chris Squire, Alan White and Steve Howe) travelled on another one. "We had the happy car," says Anderson. "They were in the grumpy car."
Those two buses now travel on separate tours. Anderson now tours with Wakeman as an acoustic duo, playing a set heavy on Yes classics. Yes originally replaced the elder Wakeman with his son Oliver – but he recently got replaced by ASIA's Geoff Downes. "People get into that place where they don't care about people," says Anderson. "To them, it's just business."
So far, Anderson/Wakeman have just toured Europe – but in the fall they're finally headed to America. "We're bringing it to the East Coast around the middle of October through the middle of November," he says. "We'll do Yes songs, but we'll concentrate more on the new album. I sing more doing these shows than I ever did with Yes. I don't have to say, 'Turn down the bass, Chris!'"
Anderson keeps a much lighter tour schedule than Yes, who often do five or six shows a week. "I would never do that kind of tour," says Anderson. "It's stupid. Some people haven't got a life I suppose. They want to be on the road all the time." Guitarist Steve Howe performs with ASIA when Yes are off, which means maintaining a punishing schedule. "He hasn't got a home," says Anderson. "He's a journeyman, like Willie Nelson."
Despite all the turmoil, Anderson doesn't completely rule performing with Yes again someday. "If we ever get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame we'll all get together," he says. "We'll give each other a hug and let bygones be bygones." How about a reunion tour? "You never know," he says. "It would have to be two or three shows a week, though."
In the meantime, Anderson remains focused on his solo career. Last year he released Survival & Other Stories. In a unique twist, it features contributions from online fans. "There's so many talented people out there," he says. "Using the Internet as as vehicle to work with people is fascinating. It's sort of a Pandora's box of energy for me."
The process begins with fans simply sending Anderson MP3s. "Over the last few years I've written indigenous music songs, symphonies, musicals . . . all sorts of things," he says. "I'm working on my next project right now. Music is beautiful. Yes music is great. My music's great. My new album's great. Life is good."