It’s a good time to be a Yes fan, as long as you aren’t getting hung up on the absence of singer Jon Anderson in the band’s current incarnation. That aside, they’re about to release The Studio Albums 1969-1987, a 13 CD box set containing all of their studio albums on Atlantic Records, from their self titled debut to Big Generator. Over the summer, they headlined their first “Yestival,” and they recently announced their second “Cruise To The Edge” (which will also feature Steve Hackett of Genesis, Queensryche and Marillion, among other prog-rockers). And of course, they were included on the ballot for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the first time this year.
There’s only one guy who has been on every Yes album: their “keeper of the flame” is founding bassist and boss Chris Squire. Radio.com called him up to talk about their Rock Hall nomination, the box set, the band’s future as well as some of his non-Yes projects.
Congratulations on the nomination to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Are you excited?
Well, obviously it’s really a nice thing, and I guess we’ll find out in a couple of weeks if we are voted in, so I’m not too excited until then, really. But it’s nice of them to recognize us.
If you get in, who would you want to do the speech?
I haven’t given it much thought, maybe those Rush guys who got in last year! I’m pretty good friends with Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins (of the Foo Fighters) and they did a great speech for Rush… so probably not them, since they just did one. But if you know Geddy (Lee), let him know that that would be fine by me. I don’t know how these things work, though, I don’t know how much control we have, how much control the voting committee has, and of course we’re still kind of wondering how many members of Yes would be inducted.
Do you have a favorite album from your years on Atlantic Records?
Yes is now in its 45th year, and we’ve obviously done a lot of work over that period of time. They’re all like children really. I don’t really favor one over the other, they’ve all got little gems of musicality and lyrics, it’s hard to single out any particular one.
A lot of Yes members have come and gone over the years. Is there anyone you miss?
Yeah, well, not really. Yes’s whole career was never really planned in any sort of way. It’s always sad when a member leaves, but it’s exciting when someone new comes in, and that regenerates the freshness of the band. Now, we have a new singer, Jon Davison (who joined in 2012), and we’re at the beginning of putting together ideas for a new studio album that we’re going to work on in January and February of next year. And so that’s exciting to have someone with fresh ideas and Jon is a writer as well, so I’m looking forward to that.
This will be Jon Davison’s first album as singer. You’re saying that he’ll get to co-write songs with you guys?
It’s not a question of allowing him into it, it’s part of the way the cog turns, when you get new input from new members, in a way, that’s what keeps Yes fresh. Not that I’ve ever planned that there would be so many comings and goings, but it’s just worked out that way!
Of course, you guys reinvented yourselves in a big way when Trevor Rabin became a member of the band in the ’80s for 90125.
That’s a prime example of Yes changing and in fact, after, the long pieces and clever musicality in a lot of our ’70s productions, it was refreshing to be more of a rock band on 90125. And who knew that “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” would be #1 hit? It was an exciting time.
You don’t play a lot of songs from that album in concert these days.
Only because of the character of the music, and the character of the guitar player as well. Trevor doeesn’t do a bad job of imitating (guitarist) Steve (Howe), but it doesn’t work as well the other way around. I wouldn’t really push the issue. Maybe at some point in the future we’ll try and do another expanded Yes as we did in 1991, and maybe that will give us some opportunity to do some more of that music. The great thing about that band was that it was almost like a “Yes orchestra.” It was defintely a good thing to do, and not out of the question that we might do it again at some point. But right now we’re forging on with the new project.
Well, unlike the guitarists, keyboardists and drummers, you didn’t have to contend with another bassist!
(laughs) Thats right, it was very cool for me!
One former member not included on that tour was keyboardist Pat Moraz (who was in the band from 1974-1976, for the Relayer album). I noticed that he’s on the bill for Cruise To The Edge.
Pat lives in Tampa, and when we play there he comes to the shows, we see him now and again, he seems like he’s in good form, same guy he ever was. And I think Pat shold be inducted into the Hall of Fame as well, if we’re inducted.
Steve Hackett from Genesis is on the Cruise To The Edge bill also. You and he recently did a project together called Squackett. Are you guys going to do something on the cruise?
I spoke to him a few weeks back, the problem is, we made an album together but we’ve never actually played or rehersed with a drummer. We just made an album. If I go to England and get together with him and his band, which I guess would be the band we would use… I think it’s unlikely that we’d do anything yet. But in regards to that project I was really happy with the way that album came out. Of course we talked about doing live performances down the line, but I think it might make sense to do a second album before we think about doing a live thing. We might jam (on the cruise), we did talk about that, but it’s all about getting the rehearsal time.
Yes’s last album, 2011’s Fly From Here, was produced by another former member of Yes, Trevor Horn. Will you work with him again?
It’s not looking likely. We’re trrying to do something different this time. But we haven’t decided about producers yet. I can’t tell you anything yet. Although I would work with Trevor Horn any day of the week. I have a great relationship with him. We all agree on that, really, but maybe we should try somebody different for the next album.
OK, let me ask you about another former Yes singer. If you guys are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, obviously Jon Anderson will be included. Will you perform with him?
Yes, that’s not a problem. In fact, Jon and I had quite a long phone conversation a couple of months back. I know he’s excited about the nomination and of course he’ll be there. We’ll see, we’ll probably try to do an expanded Yes thing there, if we’re inducted.
He’s cool with you guys going on with another singer?
Yeah, the chips have sort of fallen where they lay now. It seems like we can have a good conversation, and some of that bodes well for that being a good performance (if we’re inducted).
Are you seriously considering doing another expanded Yes tour with former members?
It could happnen again, but the focus right now is to do this new album with Jon Davison, and then down the line maybe we’ll be looking at that expanded thing again.
Let me ask you about XYZ, the project that you and (Yes drummer) Alan White did with Jimmy Page in the ’80s, between Yes’ breakup and re-activation with 90125. Last year in an interview, he said that he wants to finally release those tapes. Has he spoken to you about that?
No! I’ve heard him say that in interviews, or people have told me for quite a few years, but as of this point we haven’t gotten in touch about it.
You and Alan would have to sign off on it if he was going to put it out though, right?
Oh yeah, if it was gonna happen (we would have to sign off). And you have to remember that that stuff would have to be finished off a bit more, because what we did together was really demo-ish with rough edges. I think it would need a bit more actual work.
I’d heard that a piece of one of the songs from those sessions ended up on one of Jimmy Page’s albums with the Firm.
One of the tracks ended up being called “Fortune Hunter” (on the band’s second album, 1986’s Mean Business) and that was a riff that Jimmy brought into the mix anyway. Part of our song “Mind Drive” (from 1997’s Keys To Ascension 2) was also from those sessions as well.
Is the album all instrumental?
It’s me singing actually. Most of the songs were mine. I’m the only vocalist on it.
So do you think you and Alan would be amicable to the idea of actually releasing that?
Sure! I’m sure we would. Saying that, he (Page) hasn’t called me yet.
— Brian Ives, Radio.com