Chris Squire of Yes INTERVIEW – Three Classic Albums In Their Entirety Tour

If you were a music follower in the early 70’s and happened to come across this new and stimulating sound, it’s almost guaranteed that you sat there transfixed for a few minutes just trying to comprehend it all. Chord progressions swirled around in vibrant colors while high-octave literature-worthy lyrics created a vibrant illusion of a world. And this was only the beginning, turning cosmically into the heyday of progressive rock featuring Yes as its crown prince. It was head music for the British intelligentsia that spread across the globe.

Formed in the UK in 1968, Yes has released twenty albums over its career yet surprisingly have scored only a single number one American hit, “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” from the 1983 album 90125. Although the band went through several changes in line-up throughout their history, bass player Chris Squire has been a solid mainstay, holding steadily in his position as keeper of the franchise and making sure the Yes name was never relegated to either a footnote or a joke within the music historical timeline.

With a new tour recently kicking off in the States, Squire, guitarist Steve Howe, drummer Alan White, keyboardist Geoff Downes and vocalist Jon Davison are bringing to life three of their most important albums of the seventies, playing them live in their entirety for the first time: The Yes Album, Close To The Edge and Going For The One.

Glide had the privilege to talk with the legendary bassist just prior to the tour’s kickoff on March 1st.

( note…in sad news, it was reported on this interview’s publishing date that original Yes guitarist Peter Banks has died at age 65).

Yes has a new tour but it’s not a typical set for you. What makes this tour different than previous ones?

Well, we’re doing a tour with the three albums back-to-back: The Yes Album, Close To The Edge and Going For The One. We decided to do those three albums because they each mark a sort of a landmark in Yes’ career. The Yes Album, which was released in 1970, was the first album that really brought us to the attention of the general public back then. That sort of broke the band in the early days. Then Close To The Edge is an album that has the first time we attempted to do a long twenty-minute piece of music. It took up one side of the vinyl albums we had back in those days. So that was a new thing for a rock artist to attempt to do. Then in 1977, we did the Going For The One album, which was also a new thing for us. It was the first time we had recorded a record outside of England, where we all lived at the time. We made that in Switzerland in a place called Montreux, which is on Lake Geneva. So that was an interesting time for us. The memories of those three records are pretty strong in Yes’ past.

Do you have a particular song that you’re looking forward to playing live?

Well, not one in particular. I’m looking forward to the concept of playing the albums in sequence, which we’ve never done that before. So that in itself is an exciting idea.

What do you remember most about recording the first Yes album?

It was an exciting time for us. We were all pretty much in our early 20’s at the time and it was an exciting time for us because we were getting to be noticed by the general public, picking up fans over the previous couple of years. So we really wanted to make a good impression with that album and we succeeded. It really broke us world-wide.
You’re the only member of Yes to remain in the band and play on every album. How did you hang in there through the good, the bad and the ugly?

(laughs) I just guess by default, really, rather than design. Other people that were in the band would leave to go and pursue solo projects and different ventures and I was just kind of left; with Alan White, of course, who has been the drummer with Yes since 1972. So he pretty much was there the whole time apart from the first few albums.

When “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” hit big in the mid-80’s, it had that Yes sound but it also had a pop flavor to it. How did you feel about the band going in that direction?

I thought that was real exciting because in the 70’s we’d done more of the clever musicianship-type playing. Then when we came to do the album with “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” on it, we wanted to try something different for us and of course we had a very good producer that worked with us on the album, Trevor Horn. He was an old friend of the band anyway. So that was an exciting album to do and that was our first and only number one single that we ever had in the States.

Jon Davison is your fairly new singer. How did you find him and what has he brought to the band?

Jon Davison was a guy who for years people I’ve known have recommended him if I ever did need to get a replacement for the original vocalist Jon Anderson. Friends of mine in the music business always said to me, “Oh, there’s this guy, Jon Davison, who will definitely be a good replacement should you ever need someone for Jon.” Unfortunately, Jon got a little sick a few years ago and we were looking around then and Taylor Hawkins, my friend from the Foo Fighters, he said to me then, “You should try that Jon Davison guy.” I had already found Benoit David, who came in at that time in 2008. So then when Benoit David decided he didn’t really want to do the job anymore, we got in touch with Jon and it’s been a great meeting. He’s a really great singer and fits in with Yes’ music real well.

You’ve talked about John Entwistle being such an influence on you as a bass player. What was it about his sound that you admired so much?

Well, when I was in my teens and I used to go and watch The Who, they were like my favorite band when I was a teenager, just a lot of the influence of what John did and the other members of The Who also had a big influence on my career. That’s really where I kind of got a lot of my ideas from and obviously changed them once Yes started going along. But, yeah, that whole band was a big influence on me.

It must have been exciting going to see those bands in clubs like the infamous Marquee Club in England?

It was great. As I said, I was probably 15, or 16 or17 years old, around that age; of course, everything was exciting when you’re that old and you’re experiencing new things (laughs).

Who excites you in music now?

I like a lot of the bands that are around now. I’m a big fan of the Foo Fighters and I’ve always liked No Doubt and they’ve made a bit of a comeback recently. I think they’re a great band. And even though they’re not that new anymore, I’m a big fan of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

What are your thoughts on the progressive rock scene today?

The progressive music nowadays is a little different from what we knew back then. But I guess it means any band that plays more than three chords could be considered progressive (laughs). But there’re different styles and it’s just changed over the years basically.

Yes always seemed ahead of its time. What do you think about the new technology of recording an album?

Well, we’ve pretty much been there the whole time that the new digital age came to the recording studio. We grew up, really, along with the changes and techniques and the new digital equipment came in; of course computers are being used a lot more now than they were. There are quite a few people that have actually gone back to the old school way of doing things because they prefer it but I’ve never had a problem with technology and progress. I’m happy to work with whatever is available.

Has there ever been a Yes song that has been hard to transfer to the live stage?

Some were more difficult than others but generally it works out ok. We go into rehearsals and obviously the trickier ones take a little longer to get right for the live shows. In fact, the song “Turn Of The Century” that we’ll be doing on the upcoming tour from the Going For The One album is quite a tricky piece to play live. But we’ll get there. And of course there’s a great pleasure that can be achieved once you’ve learned to play the trickier things. We’re looking forward to the challenge, really.

Any more solo CDs? I really like “Lucky Seven.”

Oh yeah, that’s from the Fish Out Of Water album. You know, I made that in 1975 but I keep promising myself I’m going to do another one but then when I write new music, it keeps getting waylaid into Yes projects. And I just did an album with Steve Hackett, the guitar player from Genesis. That was called Squackett and that’s available too and I’m really proud of that album. But one day I will get around to doing a follow-up solo, I’m sure.

What is 2013 looking like for Yes?

We’ll be touring through the spring, March and April, and following that we’ll be headed down to South America to do shows down there. Then I think in the summer we’ll probably be doing some more U.S. shows. That’s pretty much our upcoming plans for the moment.

You’ve been playing the same bass for a very long time. What is so special about this one bass?

I just grew up with that particular bass. I bought it when I was 16 years old in 1964 and I’ve played it ever since. It’s been my girl all those years (laughs)

Do you have anything left to learn?

Oh yeah, always. And I enjoy it, the challenges and the new ideas and new things to get into. That keeps me interested and excited about being in music.

The Spring Yes Tour has just kicked off, a list of upcoming tour dates are below

03/14     Omaha, NE    Holland Performing Arts Center
03/16     Hammond, IN    The Venue at Horseshoe Casino
03/17     Louisville, KY    Palace Theatre
03/18     Kansas City, MO    The Midland by AMC
03/20     Austin, TX    ACL Live at the Moody Theater
03/21     Grand Prairie, TX    Verizon Theatre
03/22     Biloxi, MS    Hard Rock Live – Biloxi
03/24     Hollywood, FL    Seminole Hard Rock Live Arena
03/25     Ft. Lauderdale, FL    MSC Poesia
03/30     Melbourne, FL    Maxwell C. King Center for the Perf. Arts
04/02     Clearwater, FL    Ruck Eckerd Hall
04/03     Jacksonville, FL    Florida Theatre
04/05     Mashantucket, CT    MGM Grand at Foxwoods
04/06     Hampton, NH    Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom
04/07     Bethlehem, PA    Sands Bethlehem Event Center
04/09     New York, NY    Beacon Theatre
04/11     Toronto, ON    Massey Hall
04/12     Detroit, MI    Fox Theatre
05/24     São Paulo, Brazil    HSBC Arena
05/25     Rio de Janeiro, Brazil    Vivo Rio
05/26     Porto Alegre, Brazil    Teatro Bourbon
05/28     Santiago, Chile    Teatro Caupolican
05/30     Buenos Aires, Argentina    Luna Park

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