Crowned with the title of Prog God at this years’ Progressive Music Awards in London, Jon Anderson is truly deserving of the accolade. As co-founder of progressive rock pioneers Yes, the multi-instrumentalist front man has also collaborated with the likes of Vangelis, and a host of others to become one of the most respected musicians in the genre. About to revive his Yes tenure with ARW, which features fellow Yes alumni Rick Wakeman and Trevor Rabin, we caught up with Jon at the Awards to discuss the tour, and the making of monster album ‘90125’. Change changing places: Eamon O’Neill
How are you this evening Jon?
Very good; I’m tired. It’s been a long night, but worth it in the end - I couldn’t believe it.
Worth is because of what you’re clutching in your hand – the ‘Prog God’ award.
Yes, my lovely, lovely, lovely award.
How does it feel to be this years’ ‘Prog God’.
I said; “it’s about bloody time!” I was saying that to Rick [Wakeman] when he told me that he was going to be Prog God [in 2012], and I said; “yeah, what about me, Rick, come on?!”
Yeah, what has Jon Anderson ever done for progressive music?!
You and Yes have had such a long and varied career: how does it feel looking back over it?
Well, it’s a bit like life; it’s ups and downs. I always remember my mum saying; “life is like the ocean; it goes up and down – you could be high one minute, and down the next minute”, and so on, and the Yes career, musically it’s been the same thing; we were very, very famous at certain times, not famous, and then very famous, and then not famous. Now here we go again, me, Rick and Trevor, taking Yes music again on the road.
ARW is another new variation of Yes, in a way, isn’t it?
Yeah, it should be, because that’s life, you know? Life shouldn’t stand still, and you want to go out there and do great shows, and Rick and Trevor are fabulous to be around; they’re lovely people.
Trevor of course was the guitarist on ‘90125’, which is quite a divisive album in Yes history, isn’t it?
It’s brilliant. It was something. I was working on a musical down in the south of France, and I came back for a weekend and I met Chris [Squire, Yes bassist and fonder member], who said he had this music produced by Trevor Horn. And I had listened to Trevor Horn’s production of ‘Duck Rock’ by Malcolm McLaren, and I loved the production; the sound of it, and all that. So when they played me the album without vocals here and there, I said; “well, this is bloody amazing!” He said; “we’d like you to sing on it”, and I said; “well, obviously if I sing on it, it’s going to become Yes”, and Chris said; “that’s what I want”. So for the next two weeks, I stayed in London and did all my vocals.
So it only took you two weeks to record your parts for ‘90125’?
Yeah. Well, the music was already created, and I was in heaven, you know? I loved it. Yeah, I wrote some lyrics for this song, a chorus for that song, and so on.
It was clearly a whole different Yes, wasn’t it?
Totally. I just knew that true Yes followers will still come and see the band and we’d reach a bigger audience, obviously, with this album. And the idea was; all the people who came to see us with the ‘90125’ album all over the world, might start delving into the seventies’ Yes, and actually understand who we are collectively, and then start to love the progression element [of the earlier material].
You re-recorded ‘Owner Of A Lonely Heart’ last year with Jean Luc Ponty; it was quite a different interpretation.
I wanted to evolve the piece; it’s a great song, but just to do it straightforward like the record doesn’t work for me. So Jean Luc is very generous to come in and start doing some fiddle, beautiful violin rhythms and things throughout the song, and it just elevated the song again, and that was the joy of doing it.
You must be looking forward to restoring the original rock version on the forthcoming ARW tour.
Oh yeah, but Trevor’s going to really enjoy it! But we’re still talking about evolving the piece as well.
Is there room for two versions of Yes, because, obviously Yes are still touring?
Well, there are a lot of Yes bands. You know, Steve [Howe, Yes guitarist] said it the other day, and I talked about it last year; there’s about a dozen bands that I know of; Yessongs in Brazil, there’s a Yessongs in Italy, and these are good bands playing Yes music so well. There’s one in Chile, and you know, there’s bands everywhere playing Yes music, and that’s good for the legacy.
Do you ever foresee, like there was in the 1990s, a ‘Union’ that brings all you guys together again?
You never know, you never know. There’s the idea, if we get into the [Rock And Roll] Hall Of Fame on our 50th year, which is 2018, we might be welcomed into the Hall Of Fame, and that’s when we’ll all get together – there’ll be about twenty of us on stage. It would be cool!
But for now you have the forthcoming ARW tour to look forward to.
It’s going to be great. We know we’ve got to prove a lot; we just can’t go on and just play it through.
It has been a few years since you’ve been out there as that Yes front man.
Yeah, and I can’t wait! I really want to do it. As I said at the end of the show tonight; when we go onstage, it’s how we play – not how the audience react, and we want to play great, and then the audience will get it, and that’s one of the reasons why I do it.
So a lot of preparations for these shows coming up, then.
Well, we’ve done two weeks rehearsal in L.A., and we’re going to have two weeks in Orlando, and then we do our first show in Orlando in the beginning of October.
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ARW's 'An Evening Of Yes Music And More' tour kicks off in Florida on 4th October, with European dates beginning in Cardiff on 12th March 2017. For a full list of dates visit the band's official web site.