YES Featuring ARW – “We’ve Got A Number Of Songs That Are Very, Very, Close To Being Done”
August 30, 2017, a month ago
They once had an album called Drama, and a later one called Talk. But they also had one called Union. In any event, there’s a stir of controversy in the Yes camp(s) at the moment, as two versions of the band fight for the name. But the news of the day is the music itself, as “Yes featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman” hit the road, from the end of August into mid-October, playing the hits and more (the band is rounded out with Lee Pomeroy on bass and Louis Molino III on drums).
“I’m going to be real frank with you,” laughs guitarist Trevor Rabin, asked about the current state of the debate over the name. “I don’t give a shit. I’ve never cared about that. It’s so meaningless in my mind. Obviously, the lawyers will go in and it’s something that Jon’s passionate about, because obviously he started the band. And I think the most important thing, when you say Yes, you equate it to the sound of Jon’s voice more than any other individual aspect. And beyond that, you know, we were called ARW.”
“I’ve got to be quite, as I say, frank,” continues Rabin, drawing a parallel to the past. “When we did 90125, the band was called at that point Cinema. It was due to real heavy pressure from the record company, because once they heard the final thing, they... I remember Ahmet Ertegun was saying, we’ve got a hit here, and this album is gonna be huge and I think it’s fantastic and all that stuff. And followed up by, we have to call this Yes. We can’t let this go. There something in the name Yes that you should be proud of. And I really didn’t want to do that, because it was a new thing, and what comes with that is the baggage of the past. I just wanted it to be a fresh new thing. It doesn’t mean that we couldn’t go on the road and play something from the earlier times. I mean, when we do stuff from the catalogue that I wasn’t involved with, I try to approach it in a completely different way, in my way rather than what the record is. And so I think that’s relevant. You know, right from the start, as I say, from 90125, I didn’t think it was a good idea to call it Yes. And I really think that if the name means that much, then the music’s not that important. And the music should be the prime mover.”
As for the current state of the band, Rabin says one of the advantages of the show right now is that, “We certainly are in a position where we can delve into any of the catalogue, because we have all the parts that someone has been involved with.”
Asked if anything has surprised him about getting back into the role of Yes guitarist and co-vocalist, Trevor figures, “Well, because I’ve been doing film scores, I always play guitar on those film scores. But sometimes it’s extremely challenging and other times not so much. So it wasn’t as demanding as just fully playing orchestra, because 70% of it was writing for orchestra. But, you know, there was a little bit of, for one thing, standing up while you play and singing while you play. That took a week of getting the rust out. But other than that, I think I was okay.”
As for why—or how—both he and Jon can plainly both sing as high and accurate as ever... “From my point of view, I haven’t sung for so long, but I was pleasantly surprised that I can still hit the notes. But with Jon, I mean, he’s literally got better. So I can’t quite understand it. Because, as you rightly say, there’s a lot of singers where it’s been so taxing on their voices, I think, as they grow older. The energy kind of leaves and they can’t do what they used to do. With Jon it’s exactly the opposite. He seems to be getting better every show.”
And Rick? “Rick has a big personality, which comes out in the show. I think both Geoff Downes and Tony Kaye were very, very much massive fans of Rick. It’s pretty undeniable that as far as Yes goes there’s not a keyboard player that compares.”
This version of Yes is where the focus can be put upon records such as 90125, Big Generator and Talk. “I really enjoy playing ‘Changes,’” says Rabin, asked about the highlights for him personally, within the current show. “‘Owner Of A Lonely Heart’ is really fun, because Rick and I do a really kind of outrageous, weird solo thing at the end, and that’s always fun. And this time around we’re going to incorporate a song we did on 90125 called ‘It Can Happen,’ which we’re looking forward to.”
And beyond whether they are in the set or not, in terms of songs Rabin is most proud of, he figures that “The Union album, which was a horrible record and a horrible tour, just turned out to be not a good thing to do. It still turned out to be fun but the reason for it... I would never do it again in hindsight. But there was a song I wrote on that album called ‘Miracle Of Life,’ which I was really proud of. I also wrote a song, ‘Shoot High Aim Low,’ from the Big Generator album. But as the old cliché goes, they’re all my babies. There are a couple I wish we wouldn’t have done, but I can’t think of them now, maybe because I don’t want to (laughs). But I’m pretty much proud of ‘Love Will Find A Way,’ ‘Rhythm Of Love,’ ‘Big Generator,’ obviously ‘Owner Of A Lonely Heart,’ ‘Changes.’ I mean, I’m fond of just about everything we’ve done together.”
I asked Trevor if he could venture a compare and contrast between himself and the other dominant guitarist in the Yes saga, Mr. Steve Howe. “You know, I was very sad when I heard Glen Campbell died,” reflects Rabin. “I came from similar background, you know, kind of session work. I really don’t know much about Steve, what his past was. But one thing, I think, which is significant, is he doesn’t read music. I read music, and that puts a different slant on what you’re doing. But, oh, I think the most important thing is, I was a pianist for many, many years, and I’m a self-taught guitarist; I taught myself from piano books. So I think I approach it slightly differently to people who’ve learned it or have been brought up learning it from a guitar perspective. I come very much from a piano point of view.”
Look for the band—whatever it winds up being called—to continue into the future, likely with more live dates as well as new music. Notes Trevor, “One thing which has happened with Jon, on this new project, is that our friendship has really deepened. We’re very, very close, and so we’re far more intimate as far as conversation and being able to discuss things, which we normally wouldn’t have discussed. It was very much a business arrangement before. Now, we’ve become pretty close friends. He’s extremely funny; he’s got an amazing sense of humour and he’s just a colourful guy.”
And as for that new music, well, changing times require new tactics. “Yes, a little bit of a problem here,” explains Rabin. “We’ve been writing, and, you know, if this was 30 years ago, we’d be playing the new stuff on the road, because it would be very difficult... there might be a cassette here and there that might be loaned out or whatever that would be played. But unfortunately in this day and age, you play a show, within 20 minutes of playing the song, it’s on the Internet, it’s on YouTube. So the problem with that is because nothing is completely completed, we don’t want to let it out as it is. And so consequently we cannot play that stuff until we stick it out. I guess we could, but then if we play it, say, in Toronto or the first show in, it means that it’s out. And then anything subsequent to that is secondary, because anyone who wanted to hear it would have heard it by then.”
(Photo by: Dan Higgins)
But have no fear, the band is indeed gunning toward a new album.
“Yes, we certainly are gunning towards that. We’ve got a number of songs that are very, very close to being done, but not completely. I think that what we are going to do is we’re not going to wait to release an album. We’re going to release things as they finish. And then once we have an album’s worth, then we’ll put it together as an album. Whatever we do, I don’t think it’s going to be a kind of concept album. I mean, we worked very hard at 90125 flowing well, and the lyrics flowing and following each other well, and we’ll do our best to achieve that when the album does get to that point. But in the meantime, once a song’s done, we’ll put it out, and then when the next one’s done, we’ll put that out.”
In the meantime, the tour, as it stands, began on August 26th in Stockton, CA with a closing date of October 14th in Miami, FL. Proceed to YesFeaturingARW.com for additional tour dates and more.
( Top Photos by: Deborah Anderson Creative)