Whatever your reservations, progressive rock seems
to be enjoying a bit of good PR, thanks to the current
crop of prog-influenced British bands.
Mansun made an called 'Six', talked deliriously
of lanterns for a while, Radiohead came out with
the helplessly proggy and gargantuan, 'OK Computer',
Elbow is earning significant theatrical kudos
with 'Asleep In The Back', and now baroque epicureans,
Muse are patently at it again.
But it's not only in Britain - but Amercia too. One
of the most engaging and durable albums of recent years,
Soft Bulletin by The Flaming Lips steals
heaps of surprising seventies prog articles: the crashing
drums, the sweeping strings, the difficult but universal
'concept' , the tricksy bass runs, the stops and starts
and the unassuming, choric falsetto vocal. It's an absolute
prog-fest of cosmo-sonic ingestibles. So what's the
It's a story of excess and indulgence. It's a story
that begins with YES.
YES are back. The first ever band to use lasers
on stage and engage in cold war combat with interstellar
arpeggios and topographic guitar solos have a new album
out on Eagle: the hugely 'orchestral' and voluminous,
A re-formed and re-manicured line up of original YES-presarios:
Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Steve Howe
and Alan White sees the band take up what they
left off 30 years ago: a 360 piece symphony orchestra.
So just how prog can you go? Crud caught up with YES
front man, Jon Anderson to find out:
CRUD: How did the idea come about to work with
a symphony orchestra on MAGNIFICATION?
Jon Anderson: Well, basically, we had talked
about the project on and off for about 5 or 6 years.
I think Steve came up with it and said, "Let's go for
the orchestral this time." It's interesting to me that
Chris and Alan said, "yes", because before that they'd
always been more into the rock, heavy sort of style
of the band. It was very interesting that they sort
of leant towards it this time.
CRUD: How do you think it's worked?
Jon Anderson: I love it. I really do. I think
it's part of the history of the band. It's a nice place
to before the next two or three years. We're just going
to tour this project for a couple of years and then
have a break because we've been steadily working on
this band no, on and off, for about seven or eight years
without a break. So, we talked about, OK, we'll do that
album. We'll bring in the right kind of arranger, Larry
Groupe, who's this guy we found - who has a really good
sort of cinematic orchestration style. And, the over
all picture of the album turned out great for us. So
we said, OK, let's tour it for a couple of years and
then have a break. It's a nice place to stop for a while.
CRUD: With this being an extended tour, will
you get back to the states?
Jon Anderson: We hope so, next spring or next
summer. We're talking about doing a tour next summer,
probably doing more the new album. Just this last tour
we only did a couple of songs, because it isn't released
yet. It comes out in a month or so - December the 4th
it comes out in America. So, the general idea was that
next spring - late spring/early summer - we could do
another tour just concentrating on the new album.
CRUD: How is it feeling on stage? You seemed
a little crowded up there.
Jon Anderson: Where did you see us?
Jon Anderson: Oh yeah, it wasn't a great gig.
It was weird. We'd just sounded great in Quebec, and
we had a great run of a week and when we did Toronto
for some reason it just didn't feel like a great show
for us. I know we talked about it afterwards that we
didn't feel uncomfortable, - the stage is a good stage
-it just sounded very boomy in that place for some reason.
We just thought it was OK. We're very critical of what
we do so we remember that show. The orchestra generally
- you know we picked up orchestras ever night because
the conductor was so good with them. He worked with
them in the afternoon. Then we just got on with the
show in the evening. Like anything, you can have a rough
night. You can be the best football team in the world
and you'll still get beaten one day. It's the same with
baseball. It's the same with musicians. Some nights
it's just not happening for some reason. For some reason
it didn't sound as good as we thought it would because
we like that place very much, but it didn't sound clear
to us. Whereas the night before in Quebec - and it was
bizarre because it's a very big hall in Quebec - it
sounded fantastic. That can happen. The sound guy gets
it right six or seven nights, then one night he won't
quite get it right.
CRUD: How has this compared with your previous
attempts at working with orchestral instruments?
Jon Anderson: Well, I did an album called "Change
We Must" in '91 or '92, and I really enjoyed working
with the orchestra so much and I understood the quality
of an orchestra it it's done correctly. All you need
is a good arranger. There's no point in hiring 50 people
to play in the background. It's bizarre that this year
there have been some great recordings that have been
sort of hit records along the way with full orchestra.
So, this year was very big on bringing out the orchestral
music, if you like. It's one of those things. A lot
of people start thinking the same thing at the same
time. We just had to make sure we had a good arranger.
Because if you listen to the album it has this sort
of ebb and flow - one moment it's sort of pretty heavy,
then beautiful music, then a poignant song, then a very
simple sort of 17th century kind of feel about some
songs. I like the album very much.
CRUD: How would you compare this experience to
the situation of using strings way back on 'Time and
Jon Anderson: Well, it was a lot easier to do
simply because 30 years ago the musicians that we worked
with were very, very ", rock and roll", but most of
the people we've worked with on this tour - they love
Yes. They started listening to Yes before they became
musicians. We got a lot of orchestral players who are
fans. They stand backstage and wait for us to come off,
shake hands and autographs. It's a lot like a little
lovefest every night. It's bizarre.
CRUD: How do you see this album in comparison
to the last couple of releases?
Jon Anderson: I always thought we had a lovely
turning point when we did The Ladder because I wasn't
in the creative world with Chris and Billy when they
wrote songs for Open Your Eyes. So, it was a question
of keeping it going - keeping the band going. Management
thought it was going to be a big record, but it never
happened. I was so happy when we got to The Ladder.
That was a bit of fresh air for me. It's not classic
Yes music in the sense, but in the same vicinity, shall
we say. The bizarre thing is. I was listening to a song
yesterday, which I really like. It is Elton John's new
single. It's just beautiful if you listen to it. The
more you hear it, the more you get into it, shall we
say. And that's the same with most music. I remember
listening to Dave Matthews' "Space Between". I thought
it was OK, and now I've heard it 50 times -it's everywhere,
you know. I started to get into it. I think that's what
music does. If it's played enough people definitely
get into it. That's been the biggest problem with our
music is that we don't have a forum to play it because
people don't want to play our music on regular radio.
What happened with Igor?
Jon Anderson: Well, he wasn't really fitting
in. Eventually the guys said, "do we need another keyboard
player?" He was getting too frisky in his work - a bit
of a superstar. We thought it was just part of his makeup,
but eventually it just became the dominant part. You
can't work all the time with people like that. We had
a similar thing - I can't tell you who it was - down
the line we had a guy in for about a year. He just became
such a superstar because he was in Yes. That freaks
us out because we don't believe we're superstars. We
don't believe we're legends. We believe we're musicians
trying to make it work, trying to get it right. Trying
to do good shows and trying to survive the business.
It's one of those things. The first period of time when
you work with anybody you're going to hoping it's going
to be great. You start sounding great, then it eventually
it goes downhill very fast.
CRUD: What about the man you have on keys right
now, Tom Brislin?
Jon Anderson: Tom is great simply because he
knows he's part of the team. He's not in the band, but
he loves Yes music. He was so quick in rehearsal. He
knew all the parts. He was very quick to get on with
everybody. Half the battle is making everybody appreciate
who you are, what you do and what you add to the group.
So, we can always rely on him coming in and working
with us. I don't know how long he wants to stay or if
we want this to happen maybe another year. Then, as
I say, we might have a break for a while. I like him.
He's a good guy.
CRUD: Do you have any side projects in the works?
Jon Anderson: I'm working on my own project at
the moment. I've been working on this piece of music
for a year now, and it will be ready next summer, I
believe. I'm very excited about it. I did an album years
and years ago called "Olias of Sunhillow" where I performed
all the music, and I'm getting back to that place again.
CRUD: Will this be a sequel?
Jon Anderson: Yeah, I'm trying to figure it out
as we speak. It has a lot to do with the mysticism that
surrounds us. We're going to go through a period now,
because of the Lord of the Rings movie coming out. There
will be a lot of interest in the mysticism of life and
things like that. So, by the time I'm finished, it will
be the right time.
CRUD: You've always been looked upon as a very
spiritual man, and a pacifistic man. What is your take
on the events regarding the terrorist attack on September
Jon Anderson: Well, very simply, we're all spiritual
people. Islamic people are spiritual. Buddhists are
spiritual, Zen. All the rivers meet in the same ocean.
I've always said this because it comes from Gandhi.
It comes from all the great people. I've read it years
ago that Krishna was Christ. Buddha was Christ. Mohammed
was Christ. Jesus was Christ. Why keep differentiating
the difference and say that we're the infidels. Actually
there's been more massacres created out of religion
over the years than as long as your arm, and it's not
a good thing. It's got little to do with reality. I
believe, honestly, I believe that it's sort of raising
the world consciousness for us to realize that we are
all one on this planet, and we've all got to look out
for each other. And, there's got to be a way of distributing
not only the wealth, but idealism.
When you think about how much of the Western world's
food gets thrown away, compared to the other side of
the world that starves. And now we're sending all this
money to feed the Afghans. Why has that not been happening
since Bob Geldoff started the whole ball rolling? I
used to know Bob when he was doing Live Aid, and he
came up against so many brick walls, simply because
there's so much corruption in this world, and, it doesn't
stop over there. There's a lot of corruption over here.
I think that the worst thing that can happen to any
civilization is to start doubting itself. That's why
America has not always been asserting itself. I've got
a flag on my jeep, and I'm not American. I'm only American
because of my lovely wife Jane. We live in America.
I love America. America, and this is the truth, we are
the children of the nations of the world. We're all
here. All the nations of the world came to live here.
This is the eye of the storm. This is where we should
be seen to be healing the world because we have everything
here. Jane and I were in Washington when it happened,
and the first thing that you realize is there's black
area, there's white areas. In every town we go to there's
these regions for different people. You have your Chinese
area. So, it's all separate nations within one nation.
In most terms, everything lives in harmony, but there
are these under currents of definite one-upmanship.
Who's got the money? Who's the richest person? Who's
got control of the money? It's an endless conversation,
I suppose. But it's such a sad time in my life and for
We're going on tour in Europe and I'm thinking, "Gosh,
I'm going to be up there singing Gates of Delirium on
this tour, and it's going to seem different to me now".
"Soon, oh soon the light" - the light is an understanding
- light of realization. I've believed that for years
and sang about it on so many different levels. So, I'm
just still searching and hoping that we come through
- knowing that we do. Like Gandhi said, out of all the
heartaches in life, love will always conquer. Love is
CRUD: This situation is making many people question
Jon Anderson: It's fear. It's fear of the unknown
- fear of what's next. You've got the picture in your
head and millions and millions of people around the
world have that picture in their head. It's bizarre
on the new album I was singing about "can't keep this
picture from out of my mind." It was all about those
little children being escorted across the road in LA
out of the Jewish school where a guy had gone rampant
with a gun. I couldn't get that picture out of my mind,
and the whole song I was getting into other pictures
- about the slave trading going on in West Africa and
the slavery of children into war and stuff. The guys
in the band were saying, "OK, Jon, you're getting a
bit heavy here." I said, "but it's real." They said,
"well, can you cut out the slavery?" So, I rewrote it
because they were saying I was getting too dark. I could
understand that because I was into this whole place
that the spirit is very, very strong within us to survive,
but yet there's so many things out there that need to
be sorted out. We all know it. It's not like we're all
stupid. We all know that the government's got to get
their act together. CIA, FBI - they've seriously got
to get their act together. Everybody thinks the same
way. Isn't it about time that there's no starvation
on this planet? Isn't it about time that we can look
towards Africa and see it as a safe place and growing
community instead of incredible corruption? They learned
it all from the British and Dutch and Belgium. They
learned it from the Europeans
Gary Hill for Crud Magazine© 2001 and Music
Street Journal 2001