off with a driving overtureinterweaving several album themesFly
From Here, the first YES album in ten years, is at once a rebirth
and a point of departure for the ever popular prog-rock super group.
There was doubt, trepidation and even loathing following the then
near death experiences of YES co-founder Jon Andersonwho
despite having returned as a solo recording artist in 2010 had to
leave YES in late 2008 for the second time in 30 years. In Jons
place in the 2011 YES is singer Benoit David (of the Canadian
group Mystery) whoappearing on a YES studio album for the first
time as the groups lead singerturns in quite a remarkable
performance in his own right on lead vocals. In spite of the fact
that a little over two and a half years ago, when everyone was still
in shock, in 2011 the YES triumvirate of Steve Howe, Alan
White and Chris Squire reappears in stellar form, driving
onwards, with one eye in the rear view mirror, perhaps as if theyre
looking back and seeing the shadow of Jon Anderson looking on. Also
in play are the Buggles singer-songwriter and Fly From Here
producer Trevor Horn and his comrade, keyboardist Geoff
Downes. Also in the group Asia, Downes fills in the missing
links following what could be the final departures of Rick Wakeman,
and his son Oliver Wakeman, although Oliver actually appears
here on additional keyboards on Fly From Here pt. 1 & 5
and Hour Of Need. Also on the CD is Luís Jardim
on percussion. Although not part of the touring YES lineup, Fly
From Here producer Trevor Horn appears on additional backing vocals
& keyboards. That Buggles meets YES sound that still reverberates
throughout early '80s YES albums like Drama and 90125 gets
a second wind on Fly From Here. Recorded in London and L.A.,
the album Fly From Here kicks off with the five part Fly
From Here suite, composed by Horn, Downes and Squire before
returning to a more user friendly classic YES sound with further key
song writing contributions from Squire, in fine form here on The
Man You Always Wanted Me To Be, a track co-written with ex-Syn
keyboardist Gerard Johnson and someone with the last name Sessler.
Proving his perpetual ability to musically multitask, Steve Howe also
turns in an insightful folk-rock winner with Hour Of Needa
Dylan / Harrison inspired neo folk-prog track that finds Steve sharing
lead vocals with Benoit David. A couple of Howe instrumentals kick
things into overdrive while the CD closes out with a brilliant, and
certain to be future YES classic, the very Squire-esque sounding Into
The Stormwith that tracks song writing credits spread
evenly among the 2011 YES association of Squire, Wakeman, Howe, Horn,
David & White. www.yesworld.com
mwe3.com presents an interview with
The following interview with Alan White took place
on June 8, 2011
Alan, long time no speak!
ALAN WHITE: Hey, how are you doing Robert?
mwe3: Im hanging in... Its a hundred degrees in New York
AW: I saw that on TV this morning. Its certainly not a hundred
degrees here in Seattle thats for sure. (laughter) Its
actually not too bad today. Its going to be about sixty.
mwe3: I wanted to compliment you on the new YES album. Its a
AW: Good...youve heard it. Fantastic. We had a lot of fun making
that. It was a lot of hard work but I think we achieved the right
thing at the end through the help of Trevor Horn.
time I spoke to you was at the YES show on Long Island on November
22nd, 2008. Seems like the whole world has changed...
AW: (laughter) Well, I think it has to some degree but yknow,
we still keep on doing what were doing.
mwe3: I think the people in the various YES camps are going to be
pleasantly surprised with Fly From Here because after Jon Anderson
left there was a lot of disenchantment. How did you guys cope with
AW: Yeah, youre bound to get that to a degree and obviously
you have to deal with it but like I said, we all just keep pushing
on. We couldnt sit around waiting forever. And Jon...he had
a bad spell. He wasnt feeling well for quite a while and then
he wanted to do a kind of solo career kind of thing by himself, doing
one man shows and stuff like that. We couldnt sit around forever,
so we started looking at each other, Steve, Chris and myself and went,
where do we go from here then? (laughter) And we were
in that position before when we met The Buggles and we got the album
Drama out of it.
mwe3: Do you consider Fly From Here to be like a real YES album?
Was it a challenge to kind of rebuild the band with Benoit as the
front person or did you kind of craft the music around him?
AW: We kind of crafted the music together with Trevor Horn and Benoit...he
became the singer in the band and he got into performing what he does.
He sings just fine. He got into it and kind of helped everything along
and just performed as what was needed. We just knew wed come
up with some kind of thing because Benoit sounds kind of like Jon
so we have the YES sound there. Yknow every YES album sounds
completely different in a lot of ways. (laughter) So, this is yet
another album I think, its just another thing, but it still
sounds like YES in the current era of whats going on.
its real current sounding. Well Trevor Horn, in my estimation,
what ever he touches, kind of like turns to gold sound wise. The title
track Fly From Here is almost like a suite, like what
you guys used to do on full sided albums.
AW: Yeah, well, its kind of turned out like that but our idea
was to do that in the first place. We actually recorded all the pieces
of music separately but then it all became one kind of suite, as Steve
said. I just had a question in the last interview I did. I havent
heard the album, he said is it more poppy or is it kind
of like... And I could only answer him by saying, its
kind of a bit of both really. Because weve got the longer
track and then some shorter songs. Its just YES music. Sometimes
you really cant explain it. Its just the current, 2011
version of it.
mwe3: I cant believe its been ten years since Magnification.
It seems almost like a hundred years yknow?
AW: Yeah I know. (laughter) It seems like that for me too. Seems like
a long time ago but weve been touring and doing things all the
time in between. Its just one of those things moving forward.
mwe3: Im one of these people who followed YES pretty religiously
since I first saw them play in 1971...
AW: So, it's kind of like our concert. We get people whove kind
of grown with the band. Not only a live kind of thing but theyve
been listening to what weve been doing next. But also we get
their kids coming now. (laughter) And in some cases we get like three
generations! (laughter) You know what I mean? So, its pretty
mwe3: People ask what kind of music does YES make now. I look back
at albums like Open Your Eyes and The Ladder and the
stuff you did with Chris on the first Conspiracy album. The Fly
From Here album kind of fits into that Open Your Eyes pop
meets prog kind of sound.
kind of things. Yeah, youre right. Open Your Eyes and
The Ladder period were a little bit like that. Both sides of
mwe3: About five years ago, when things started to change, you and
Chris were with The Syn. That was a kind of interesting period...
AW: That was an interesting project. Chris called me and said, look,
we need a drummer, what are you doing? I said, well, Ill
come and help you out for a while. Thats basically...
Then that went from there. But I remember we played some club in New
mwe3: Yeah, you played Joes Pub. I unfortunately missed that
AW: Yeah, thats right yeah. It was a funny show. (laughter)
A tiny, tiny stage. Its just about Chris and myself on it. Everything
else was like stuffed on there.
mwe3: That Syndestructible album came right in the middle of
the decade and it made a huge impression on YES fans, like me at least,
who were looking for something new and different. Why do you think
the Chris era Syn ended so badly?
AW: Well, the thing actually... it was the singer actually, who was
guy that actually formed that band with Chris years and years ago.
He was a little bit of a dodgy guy basically (laughter). But he called
a million times trying to get us to do it.
Steve Nardelli turned out to be kind of bitter about things...
AW: I know, yeah...but I dont understand that because it was
just some crazy pipe dream I think of his and then he sold it to Chris
and then things developed from there kind of thing. (Steve Nardelli's
reply from July 2011: "Alan's memory is the only thing that's
dodgy, he didn't play on Syndestructible, Jeremy Stacey did; and I
never asked him once to join us, he asked Squire to get him the gig.)
mwe3: Well anyway, I see you and Chris kind of rebounded with Fly
From Here. I know people are still kind of skeptical. Its
been almost like a civil war in Yes land these days.
AW: (laughter) Yeah, do you like this song? And do you like that one?
And all that kind of stuff. The impression I get from the business
people and from interviews Ive been doing, is that everybody
pretty much likes this album a lot.
mwe3: Also going back to the SYN era, Gerard Johnson, the genius keyboardist,
also contributes some co-writing on the Fly From Here album.
AW: Yeah well he wrote that song with Chris. Or he had input to that
song, lets put it that way.
mwe3: So do you still speak to Jon Anderson at all these days?
AW: I still speak to Jon but I havent spoken to Jon for quite
a while. Hes been traveling and Ive been just so busy
traveling. I havent spoken to Jon for quite a few months but
I do still call him and stuff like that. We send e-mails very occasionally.
Hes done things with Rick on and off for quite a while now.
you have any comments on the cover art of the Fly From Here album?
AW: Oh, I like it a lot! Roger came to the studio in London and showed
us all what kind of stuff hed been working on and we all pretty
much liked it and made a couple of amendments. I particularly like
the logo, made out of the snake there.
mwe3: Looks like theres a little bit of blood coming out of
there. It could be the struggle to get to this point.
AW: (laughter) Well there was a lot of hard work that went into it,
thats for sure.
mwe3: And the two birds on the cover. One kind of looks like a turkey
but on closer inspection it could be an eagle.
AW: (laughter) Yeah, somebody else said that. (laughter) Its
mwe3: And also theres a black cat lurking in the foreground
of the cover art, which is even a little scarier yknow?
AW: Yeah, well the reference to that, the black cat and the snake...is
a reference to another couple of albums. The snake kind of relates
to Relayer a little bit and the black cat relates to Drama
a little bit. So theres some of that, kind of in there.
Youve got to read into it a little bit.
Speaking of incredible legacies, I cant believe its been
40 years now since you recorded Imagine with John Lennon.
It seems like that song not only turned out to be his most famous
song but probably the most famous song recorded by any of The Beatles
AW: Yeah well, its kind of like that. It was kind of the song
of the millennium. Its one of those songs that you know was
going to get played way into a hundred years I would think, yknow?
Its just like one of those classical pieces, because the lyrics
say so much and its very current with whats going on today
as well. So it relates all of the time.
mwe3: Its fascinating to see the young kids today hearing that
song for the first time. Its such an overwhelming song. Back
when it came out, you almost didnt want to hear it because it
was so sensitive for that period. But now it seems like its
really taken on a life of its own. Hes still got to be the most
missed person on the planet.
AW: Oh yeah, absolutely.
mwe3: I keep in touch with another alumni from the Imagine album
sessions...my other musical mentor after John was Mike Pinder from
the Moody Blues. He played on Imagine. Do you know Mike?
AW: Yeah, Ive met him quite a few times. Actually, the Moody
Blues just played Seattle last week I think...
mwe3: Yeah, well Mike hasnt made a record with them for thirty
years now. Hes just made two albums with his sons, The Pinder
Brothers. Its also coming up on the fortieth anniversary, next
year, that you joined YES.
tell me... (laughter)
mwe3: As much as I love Bill Bruford, man you were...Topographic
Oceans is still in my opinion, the greatest YES album, the crowning
glory of 20th century music.
AW: Yeah well it was a very deep kind of, whole thing the band was
going in to. A lot of rehearsals and a lot of construction of music
to get it all into one direction.
mwe3: I had an airmail subscription to Melody Maker back then and
I remember when Bill turned in his sticks so to speak. Was it really
true that Chris threatened to throw you out of the window if you didnt
join the band?
AW: (laughter) Yeah, him and Jon. And it was at Eddy Offords
apartment. It was on the third floor. So I kind of said, Okay,
well Ill give you guys three months and you give me three months
and see if we like our music, our style. And Im still
here, nearly forty years later.
mwe3: One more thing about John Lennon. Do you think if you didnt
join YES...that you would have...Im almost sure you would have
stayed with John...
AW: Long story. He moved to New York at that time. But I remember
in the two week period when YES asked me to join, I got asked to join
Jethro Tull and the band America at the same time. (laughter) I think
I made the right choice.
I think so too. So where are you going to fly from here on this.
AW: Well be flying to New York City for one of the first shows
I think were doing. Were working around there for quite
a while so it wont be that long really. I like playing Jones
Beach as well. Its a great gig. A lot of fun.
mwe3: Are you going to be playing some of the new Fly From Here
songs I hope?
AW: Yeah, were going to do some of it but well have to
see how much we work everything in to...cause we dont
have a long set to do. If we were doing a really long set, Im
sure wed do more, but well be doing some of it.
mwe3: That last song on Fly From Here, Into The Storm
is such a masterpiece. Thats the only track that every member
of the current YES is credited to.
AW: Well, it was more of a collaboration of everything. Chris came
up with the lyric and I came up with the drum pattern and I wrote
the odd time section in there with Oliver...and those kind of things.
Theres a kind of combination of people on that one. Otherwise,
it was a more of an individual thing all the way through the album.
mwe3: Also Hour Of Need... Steve Howe wrote that song
AW: Thats right.
that Chris singing with him?
AW: Oh, thats Benoit. Steve and Benoit. Benoits singing
on top of him. Theyre singing note for note. That might make
his voice have a different sound.
mwe3: Well if you speak to Chris send him my best...
AW: Ill be speaking to Chris in the morning. I have to get up
at six oclock to do an hour and a half of interviews. Tomorrow
morning. And its interviews with both of us. (laughter) For
mwe3: Well you gotta tell the young kids about YES history. Theres
a lot of history there.
AW: I know that, yeah.
mwe3: Do you think theres going to be another record with this
band, or a live thing?
AW: Im not sure. Interestingly enough, somebody asked me that
last night. Lets get this one rolling first... (laughter)
Thanks to Alan White @ www.AlanWhite.net
All the above photographs are YES captured live
at Jones Beach on 7/11/11
All photos copyright 2011©Richard Cervone
For more information please contact Richard
Cervone @ firstname.lastname@example.org