Jon Anderson Formerly of Yes Still Hasn’t Emotionally Left the Band
Bob Zerull, Yahoo! Contributor Network
Yes is arguably the most talented band in rock history. Their songs are so complex that your average music fan can’t comprehend; at the same time it’s so pleasing to the ear that you can’t help but enjoy it. I got the chance to catch up with legendary Yes front man Jon Anderson about his upcoming Australian tour, new music and his current relationship with his musical soul mate Chris Squire.
Q: I noticed you’re heading out to Australia in a month or two, will those be your first shows of 2013?
Jon Anderson: Yeah, I decided this year that I was going concentrate on finishing a lot of work in the studio. My studio is chockablock full of music. I’ve got to sort it all out and here I am writing a new song now, this morning. It’s compounding by constantly creating music, which is amazing, but I’ve got to get it organized. I think this year I won’t do too many shows.
Q: At this point in your career do you get a chance to enjoy the continents, countries and cities you visit? I know that back in the day you probably toured so much you didn’t even know where you were.
JA: It’s part of our idea. Me and my wife Jane we travel with a guitar and she plays the ukulele and the dulcimer. We always have a day off when we get to a new city and the day after the show we have a day off, maybe two just to walk around and feel the energy of the city. It’s worked very well especially when you’re traveling down in Brazil or Argentina. Anywhere we go we really enjoy.
Q: Is there anywhere you really want to play but haven’t gotten the chance to play?
JA: I always wanted to play and sing in China, for many reasons. I was there about 25 years ago. I was going to work with a local musical project there, a lot to do with something I was very interested in. They found a tomb in central China in Hubei province; you may have heard about it, it was full of Terracotta Soldiers, 1000 of them in this tomb. It’s an amazing event in itself that they found this tomb with 1000 soldiers, all different. A few years later they found a tomb of instruments, this is like 2 and a half thousand years ago. The instruments they found were unbelievable. They ranged from harps to guitar style ideas, drums, bells, a full orchestra of musical instruments. I was wondering what kind of music they were creating in those days. I went to China and I was going to work there, but the guy that was financing it smoked too much marijuana I think (laughs).
Q: You mentioned you were working on new music right now. In a recent interview you stated that you’ve been working on a sequel to your first ever-solo album “Olias of Sunhillow.” Is that going to be your next studio album?
JA: I’m not going to make any more albums. I’m just going to create new music, probably through apps. You’ve got your app and you’ve got a couple hours of music. That’s what I’ve got, I’ve got so much music that I want to put it out there, but it has to be put out there in a certain form other than the norm because we’re not living in the norm any more.
Q: You did that on your last song “Open,” it’s great to hear you doing those long form songs again.
JA: Yeah I’m halfway through my second piece on that. I just love the idea of doing them. First of all they’re like a journey for me and second of all they’re exciting to create. When I was doing “Open” there are times when I’d sit back and say, oh this is just too cool, then there were times when I was like, oh this is not right. After I released it I thought I hope people like this.
Q: Is creating new music the most important part of the creative process?
JA: Yeah, music is life. It’s around all the time. Birds are singing everyday. There’s music all the time. Culturally as you grow older you start to learn from indigenous music and some of the classic music and that’s what I do.
Q: I want to go back to that first solo album you did. You played every instrument on that album correct?
JA: Yeah, I locked myself in a garage with a friend and I had all these instruments arranged from guitars, sitars, drums, flutes, woodwinds, altos, bells, everything. I had to learn how to play everything. I didn’t want to go to school, but I thought this was a great way of sending myself through music university by learning to play everything.
Q: Back then was it intimidating coming from a band with arguably the best rock musicians in the world to go out and do your own thing where you played the instruments?
JA: The idea was that solo means by yourself. I didn’t see the point of going out and making an album with a band, I was already in a band and as you said probably one of the best bands musically that were available at that time. I was so thankful to work at that time with Rick (Wakeman), Chris (Squire), Steve (Howe), Alan (White), Bill (Bruford), Peter (Banks). I was a guy who could sing and I was very into directing them musically. To be able to go away from all of that, I had actually met Vangelis around that time. I’d see him creating his music, just one person with 10 keyboards. I’d stand there and just wonder how the hell he’d do that. That inspired me to do “Olias” and be committed to learning all those instruments. That’s why I did the album.
Q: When you mention the band Yes the first thing anybody thinks of is your voice. The other guys can go out and do Asia or whatever else and separate themselves from Yes. Is it frustrating for you that no matter what you do it’s going to be associated with Yes?
JA: No, I think what I did with Yes was very important for me; it touched a lot of people. Yesterday I got an email from someone I hadn’t heard from in 20 years and he emailed to tell me that his son had just listened to “Gates of Delirium” and he just can get over it, thank you for liking such wild and crazy music. I thought that’s like a gift for somebody to tell me something that I was involved with writing almost 30 years ago. I wrote that on piano…it must have sounded terrible, but I had this whole idea of the sections. The band was very gracious and helped me create the piece of music, but the idea that it has survived thirty some odd years later is amazing to me.
Q: A few months ago I talked with Chris Squire and he had told me that he’s never turned down the opportunity to work with you again, but currently your health is too poor to do an extensive tour. How is your health, because I know it got pretty scary there for a while?
JA: Yeah, I nearly died a couple of times. My health is very good. The bizarre thing is I sing more on stage now doing my solo shows than I ever did with Yes. I sing and talk for an hour and three quarters. Chris just wants to own and control the band, that’s his life. I wish he’d have called the band something else, it would have been more real, but bands do it, Journey carried on without their singer. I wish them luck; it’s not my idea of Yes, obviously. My idea of Yes is “Open” and what I’m doing now. Emotionally I haven’t left Yes at all. I still believe in Yes music. I still have a great feeling about the future of my idea of Yes music. I’m still committed to the wonderful Yes music we’ve created over the years. I want to continue to make that kind of Yes music; it’s part of my life.
Q: I think if you were to ask any fan, out of the 20 some odd people that have been in the band, the two guys that represent Yes the most would be you and Chris. So in a way there are two versions of Yes and we’re still getting great music from both of you. Are you open to the idea of an extensive tour with them?
JA: I wanted to tour in 2009 when I got better and they said no. They turned me down. They said maybe next year. That’s kind of bizarre to me that they’d say they already had a singer, six months later that singer, probably a lovely guy, couldn’t handle the touring, because it’s so hard. Now they have another singer, they didn’t call me or ask me if I’d be interested, they just say oh he’s sick, which is a lot of rubbish.
Q: Would you ever work with them again?
JA: Sure, I’d love to. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t bury the hatchet, get together and make some music and do something very special for all the Yes fans around the world. And there are thousands of people who would like us to get together…with Rick (Wakeman) as well. Rick would have to be in the band. There’s no point in just me. We’d probably do some shows or something, some beautiful new music and it would be wonderful, we could make a movie or something like that, just to honor all the fans.
Q: That’s all I had thanks for taking the time and good luck with your new music and your tour in Australia.
JA: Thank you, I wish you well. I just want to say to the guys, Alan, Chris and Steve, they play amazing still and good luck to them.