When it comes to the pioneers of progressive rock, a handful of bands stand above all others – among them King Crimson and Yes. Jon Anderson, founding vocalist of Yes (who will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this week), tells Yahoo Music that if it weren’t for King Crimson, Yes might never have discovered there was more to music than hooks and a good beat.
“We heard they were playing their first show in a club called the Speak Easy,” recalls Jon Anderson. “So me and [bassist] Chris [Squire] went down to check them out, and I couldn’t breathe. It was amazing how great this band was. They were ridiculously good, and they played their whole first album, In the Court of the Crimson King. Chris looked at me and said, ‘Come on, we gotta practice harder. Because this is too good.’”
So Yes upped the bar considerably and soon become a rhythmically complex, musically adept concept rock band. Starting with their third record, 1971’s The Yes Album, the London-based group deftly merged challenging arrangements, unconventional meters, and meandering passages with vibrant, spiritual, and instantly identifiable vocals. It was a transformation that no one saw coming, and it foreshadowed future evolutions that kept them creatively inspired.
“I’ve never wanted to get trapped into doing just one thing,” Anderson says. “Being a musician is all about going on an adventure and taking risks. If you’re going to become successful for something and then you spend the rest of your career doing that same thing, what’s the point? To me that’s not being a musician. It’s more like being a machine.”
The effort to constantly evolve led to an eclectic catalog that surprised fans, management, and sometimes even the members of the band. Yes followed their breakthrough album Fragile with the more orchestral and expansive Close to the Edge. And just when it seemed like they had stretched their boundaries and made a powerful creative statement, they released the double concept album Tales From Topographic Oceans. The opus featured just four songs that were loosely based on four Hindu texts called the Shastras.
“We were heavily criticized for doing Tales From Topographic Oceans,” Anderson recalls. “People were like, ‘Why the hell did you do that?’ But in your life, you’ve got to learn to get over criticism. I started saying, ‘I don’t make music for critics. I make music for the people out there that come and buy the tickets and they know what we’re going through.’”
A decade later, Yes pulled an even more abrupt left turn. Following one of many rifts in the band, Anderson, drummer Bill Bruford, keyboardist Rick Wakeman, and guitarist Steve Howe were gone, so Squire recruited a new lineup that included songwriter and guitarist Trevor Rabin, who came into the band with a brand-new vision. Yes invited Anderson back into the band, and he rejoined in time to record the band’s most popular record, the poppy, keyboard-and-sample-laden 90125, which featured the hits “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” “Changes,” “It Can Happen” and “Leave It,” and sold more than 3 million copies in the U.S.
But the pressure of success led to another split, and over the next 11 years the members of Yes grappled with determining how blatantly commercial their songs should be versus how much they could experiment. Members came and went — sometimes playing with one another, sometimes embarking on completely new projects. Rabin scored films, Squire struggled to keep Yes going in one form or another, and everyone recorded solo albums. In 1991, two different lineups recorded songs for the Union album and eight members attempted to unite for the tour, which only emphasized the differences between teams.
“Management-wise, things were a mess,” Anderson says. “It was as though there was no musical glue to keep us together, so we all fell apart.”
The fragmentation that took place over the next decade led to strained relationships between the bandmates, and while Yes struggled to stay together, working with Howe again, starting with 1996’s Keys to Ascension, the band never regained the type of cohesion it enjoyed during album cycles for Fragile and 90125.
For the last Yes album, 2015’s Heaven & Earth, only Squire and Howe remained from the powerhouse lineup. Anderson, Rabin, and Wakeman formed their own band, ARW, in 2010, started writing new music in 2011, and after Squire died in 2015 they staged the An Evening of Yes Music and More Tour, playing 49 shows between 2016 and 2017 that did nothing to endear them to the current members of Yes. This might explain why both Steve Howe and Anderson have stated that although they’re looking forward to performing at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony on April 7 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, neither anticipates a full reunion for the band’s 50th anniversary next year.
“I would say, it’s not foreseeable,” Howe said in a Facebook interview. “I think there’s ways that we can celebrate Yes’s 50th year and most probably they want to as well.”
“I don’t really have any interest in doing that,” Anderson tells Yahoo. “It would be kind of a miracle if it happened. But you know, it’s one of those things where you never say never.”
YAHOO MUSIC: You’ve been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice before. Did you expect to be inducted sooner?
JON ANDERSON: Chris is laughing about it now in heaven, because everybody was waiting to go in 15 years ago. Management at that time was saying, “Oh, we’re going to get in the Hall of Fame.” And I said to myself, “It will happen when it happens. I’m not going to hold my breath.” Basically, things take time. You hope that you’re welcomed into the Hall of Fame eventually. It’s not something that was high on the bucket list, but it’s happening and I’m excited more for the fans than anything.
How did you find out you were inducted?
ANDERSON: I’d gone to my local stores and shopping. And all these people were giving me the thumbs up. I didn’t realize they knew who I was that much, and I wasn’t sure what they were doing at first. Then a friend of mine who lives in New York and works with CNN emailed me and said, “Hey, finally you’re in the Hall of Fame.” And then management rang and my kids called to congratulate me. That was great, but then you say, “OK, that’s great. Now I’ve got to get on with more work.” I’m just a workaholic when it comes to music. I’ve got a dozen albums ready to go at the moment, but they’re not really finished.” I’ve got ideas for multiple albums going at the same time.
TREVOR RABIN: I was in Los Angeles and I saw it on the Internet, which was a great surprise. I knew we’d been nominated, of course, but it was just funny to find out we got in when I was online.
What do you look forward to playing at the induction ceremony?
RABIN: The good news is, we’re going to be fresh off the next tour so we should be in pretty good shape for pretty much anything. It’s just going to be fun doing it with the three of us. And our bass player, [Jeff Lynne], is the bassist for ELO [who are also being inducted this year], so that’s going to be quite interesting.
You, Trevor, and Rick are currently playing in Anderson, Rabin & Wakeman (ARW), while Yes continues with drummer Alan White, guitarist Steve Howe, keyboardist Geoff Downes and singer Jon Davison. Chris Squire was with them until he passed away in 2015. Why are they continuing as Yes when Steve is the only longtime member?
ANDERSON: That’s a tough one to answer, but we think we’re Yes, anyway. ARW equals Yes. It’s mind-boggling in a way to think I started the band and there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to utilize the name, because it’s part of my life And me, Rick, and Trevor are preforming an evening of Yes music because that’s who we are. We can’t deny who we are.
Drummer Bill Bruford is being inducted, but isn’t expected to play. Will Steve Howe be joining you onstage?
RABIN: I think he is. I haven’t spoken to him. But I’m sure he will be involved and Alan White is going to do it. I think that’s going to be the lineup.
Trevor, you and Steve Howe are both guitarists. Did you two ever bond over music?
RABIN: We’re cordial. We didn’t develop any kind of creative camaraderie on Union. We played together and I think everything’s fine with us on a professional level. But there’s no kind of desire to do an album together or anything.
Were you shocked when Chris Squire died in 2015?
ANDERSON: Actually, I just knew that he wasn’t very well for a long time. He just wasn’t a well person. He wasn’t happy person. I was able to make contact with him a couple of months before he passed away. But we really reconciled. I emailed him and said, “Without you I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing, so I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart.” And that’s very, very true. I love the guy. He’s a brother, a musical brother. He had his life to live the way he wanted. I live my life the way I want. But we did something great, and that was Yes.
Do you feel Chris’s absence?
RABIN: He was such a big presence in the band. I don’t think you can not miss that. And I miss him. He was an extremely dear and close friend to me. I think I was the last non-family person to speak to Chris before he passed away. It was very sad, because he clearly didn’t believe he was going. The last thing he said to me was, “I can’t wait to fight this annoying thing and get back on the road.” His presence is definitely missed, but we have a great bass player now. He’s not trying to do Chris or clone Chris. He’s his own man.
Jon, when you and Chris co-formed Yes in 1968, were you frustrated by how simple and chart-oriented a lot of British pop seemed to be?
ANDERSON: At the time, we weren’t really aware of what else was happening. We just got together and started writing music and performing. We’d put on a good show, then we’d get paid. Then you play more clubs. You build that reputation.
How did you know Chris?
ANDERSON: I was actually working in a bar called Le Chafe Club, and it was above the Marquee club, which was the best club in London. People would come out of that club while I was cleaning up and washing glasses. You never knew who was going to walk in: Pete Townsend was there, Jimi Hendrix came in. So in a way it was like being surrounded by all these wonderful spirits. One afternoon I went in to get ready for the evening, and the man who ran the bar knew I was a vocalist and he said, “There’s a guy standing over in the corner over there named Chris Squire [from the band Mabel Greer’s Toyshop] and he’s looking for a singer.” And then we started chatting and we realized we liked each other and we believed in each other’s ideas about music.
Did you click in Mabel Greer’s Toyshop from the start?
ANDERSON: It’s funny, because I went to see them rehearse and the drummer had left to go to Paris with another band. So we didn’t have a rehearsal that day, so I didn’t see them. But we messed around with a couple song ideas that Chris had written. “Beyond & Before” [which appeared on Yes’s self-titled 1969 debut], was a song that we did that day. Me and Chris had written that a couple days before. We started rehearsing. Then we looked in Melody Maker, which was a famous magazine in London, looking for a drummer. And there was an advert from a guy that said, “I’ve got a van, I’ve got a Ludwig kit.” So we called him up and said, “You must be good if you’ve got a Ludwig kit.” And it was Bill Bruford. That’s how quick it all started.
You and Chris wrote the song “Sweetness” the first time you got together, and that also would show up on your first album…
ANDERSON: Yeah, we also wrote “Yesterday and Today.” We hung out at his apartment and started writing very simple songs. The most important thing was to rehearse the band and play shows. We needed a keyboard player and the guitarist left. People kept leaving the band. We hadn’t even started the band. We got Tony Kaye [on keyboards], who I’d met a couple times in his other band in Birmingham, and Peter Banks [who had been in and out of Mabel Greer’s Toyshop]. About three weeks later, we were a band formed with me, Chris, Tony, Bill, and [guitarist] Peter Banks. And that was the band that became Yes.
Do you remember your first show and what it was like?
Oh yes, because we only had about half an hour of songs. I started doing a really simple riff on guitar. Then I said, “Let’s just do [Wilson Pickett’s ‘In the Midnight Hour’] for an hour, OK?” So we did it for an hour! It was a college gig and everybody was drunk and they didn’t care. But the band was great.
For your 1971’s The Yes Album, guitarist Steve Howe replaced Peter Banks and you suddenly sounded like a different band. Did Steve bring in a new motivation that allowed you to create songs like “Yours Is No Disgrace,” “I’ve Seen All Good People,” and “Starship Trooper?”
ANDERSON: Steve was a really talented guitarist. With him playing these funky acoustic guitars, me and him wrote a lot of songs. The most important thing was that each person in the band knew what they wanted to play. There weren’t any arguments in the beginning. It was just, “Let’s not sound like anybody else.”
Did you work differently as a band on that album?
ANDERSON: We went to Devon and we found a farmhouse and stayed there for months together and worked like a group. Before, you’d be in London. You’d be in your own environment and then you’d meet up to rehearse for four hours a day. But when you’re in an enclosed situation, you wake up, you have breakfast, and you work for 10 hours. Being together like a family was a unique experience. It’s very important to live together as a group because you really form a tighter bond. And every band’s the same. It’s the band against the world.
Less than a year after The Yes Album, you put out Fragile, which was arguably your most successful album until 90125.
ANDERSON: We had Rick Wakeman in the band by then, so we really figured out who we were. And that’s about the time I realized my gig in the band was helping with arrangements, orchestrations, and things that were different. If we were going to do a song like “Long Distance Runaround,” I said, “Let’s not just strum the chords. These are the chords that I thought of. Let’s play them in an unconventional way.” And they picked up on it, especially Chris and Bill.
Your music was quite experimental, which was normal for the early ’70s. In addition to experimenting with music, many musicians were experimenting with hallucinogens or other substances. Did Yes follow that trajectory?
ANDERSON: There have always been drugs in music, ever since I can remember. Jazz musicians did drugs. And it’s not just musicians, it’s artists. It’s a natural, free-flowing type of thinking. And obviously, as soon as Paul McCartney said he’d taken acid, I took acid. I thought, ‘Well, if he can take it and do what he does, I’m going to try this!” That was in ’67. I was in Germany. So you’re a bit adventurous as a musician. In my first band [the Warriors], we were rock ’n’ roll crazy guys. But by the time I got into Yes, I became more interested in studying music. Me and Chris were definitely different. We were the yin and yang of the band. Chris liked to party; I didn’t. And that’s the way life was. Sometimes you work with people just for the music. As a band, we were not that indulgent. We weren’t into getting together and going clubbing. In fact, we were never that social because we spent so much time together recording and touring. When you have a break from touring, you don’t want to go out together and trash a hotel. What for?
Fragile broke open the band on mainstream radio. “Roundabout” was everywhere. Did that song feel special from the start?
ANDERSON: Steve [Howe] started galvanizing the song on tour on the way from Aberdeen to Glasgow. We had one more show to go before we were back in London. I started sketching out lyrics in the back of the van. But by the time we started recording we extended the middle section and worked with it a bit. So it was again very much like what Yes music had become. Don’t be afraid to write a 10-minute opus because we’re still experimenting with it onstage trying to make it sound as good as we can. Then the record company got a big pair of scissors out and cut “Roundabout” in half and made it into a hit song. Thank God. It was important to get to the radio and get to more people. And within about six months we were very, very big in America, and then around the world. It’s one of those things where if you start out looking for a hit record, it can be hard. And all of a sudden there was a hit record. We’ve only been able to do two or three hit records in the history of the band.
Around that time, there was a real connection between Yes and artist Roger Dean, who created so many of your colorful fantasy landscape covers from Fragile on. His imagery became an integral part of your presentation. How did you meet, and what was your relationship like?
ANDERSON: I’d seen an album by a British band called Osibisa and the album cover was so incredible. I showed it to Steve and he said, “Find out who did that.” And we did and found out it was Roger Dean, so we got hold of him. We were just rehearsing Fragile in the studio, Atavision in London. Roger started coming to the studio and we got to like this guy. He started coming up with ideas for the album cover. And we realized he had his own sort of vision, which is amazing. So we started planning the next album cover. And by the time he did Close to the Edge and Tales From Topographic Oceans, we were planning the album covers before we’d even done the music.
After Fragile you could easily have gone in a more commercial direction and probably been extremely successful. Instead, you became more cerebral and musically challenging.
ANDERSON: The idea was, and still is, that music is an adventure. It’s an experience in life, and if you can afford emotionally to create music for the music’s sake, that’s what you should do. I was always very strong about that, and since we had done Fragile the record company and management banged on the door: “You’ve got to make another one like this!” And at that time I was already writing new songs with Steve like “And You and I” and exploring the symphonic side of the music: “Can we bring this into modern rock?” There was so much incredible technology. Keyboards were moving forward and there was more adventurous music around, rather than try to make a 3:33 song that might be a hit and might not be a hit. To spend all your energy trying to become a pop star to me was so dangerous. I just wanted to be part of a team of musicians that wanted to stretch our sound as much as possible, because the audiences reacted to that. You could hear a pin drop when we played “Close to the Edge.” We were doing something different, and that’s the joy of being a musician, is to always be pushing the envelope.
Rick has said his heart wasn’t in Tales From Topographic Oceans and he left after the album…
ANDERSON: We had done Close to the Edge, which I thought was an incredible idea. Emotionally, I was so invested in the energy and I couldn’t wait to perform it. And then Bill said, “I’m leaving to join King Crimson.” My heart was broken. I was like, “We just did an incredible piece of music and you’re leaving the band?” My mind was blown. Then Rick left [to be a solo artist]. He had every right to do what he did. I didn’t feel very happy at that time, but I didn’t feel happy about anything at that time. We were challenging ourselves on a continuing basis, and when Rick left after Tales From Topographic Oceans I felt sad, but I knew it was inevitable he would leave.
Why did you leave the band in 1980?
ANDERSON: Drugs got in the way and it got a little messy in there. Management wanted to hire a really silly producer who would have screwed everything up. And I was exhausted by the end of the ’70s. I was already working with [Greek composer] Vangelis doing albums that I thought were very interesting and very adventurous, and I knew that Yes wasn’t my only musical experience. So for that period of time I cooled down my dreams of Yes, until 90125 came along.
Trevor, were you a Yes fan growing up?
RABIN: They were around and I knew people who were listening to them a lot, but at the time classical music was a big part of my life. I was still learning and studying piano and conducting orchestrations. So when I heard Yes, I liked them, but the first time I actually went out and got a record involving them was Rick’s 1973 solo album The Six Wives of Henry XIII. I would say I was a fan of Rick’s before even really knowing much about Yes! The problem I have with progressive music is a lot of it tries to include classical sensibilities. But if you said to me, “You can listen to a progressive rock band or a great symphony by Arnold Schoenberg” or someone, I’m definitely going to choose the latter.
Producer Mutt Lange played a big role in introducing you to the world of Yes. How did that come about?
RABIN: Mutt has always been very helpful. From many years ago, I did tons of sessions for him when we were both living in in South Africa. And as a producer, I did just about all of his guitar work. A lot of people don’t know this, but he’s a phenomenal bass player and an incredible singer. And, in fact, all those backing vocals you hear on AC/DC, Def Leppard, or Shania Twain, that’s Mutt. When he moved to London he kept saying to me, “You’ve gotta get over here.” And he had a lot to do with getting me motivated.
By then you had already demoed some of the material went onto 90125 but you had trouble finding a home for it. Apparently, Clive Davis called it “unmarketable.”
RABIN: Yeah, I actually had a development deal on Geffen Records. After six months it wasn’t working out from David Geffen’s point of view, and he dropped me. I had written all this material, so I started getting it together to send to record companies to secure another record deal, because I was intent on doing a solo album. What’s ironic is one of the reasons things didn’t work out with Geffen is he was very, very intent on me taking what I do and surrounding me with a band of noted people. And I really wasn’t into that. I just wanted to record and do what I do and not have any restrictions or attachments. So he dropped me. And when I went out looking for a deal, one of the people I got a call back from specifically about “Owner of a Lonely Heart” was Arista Records. And Clive Davis sent me a letter that said, “We feel your voice has top-quality appeal, but we feel your music is too left field and too complex for today’s marketplace.”
Was the song different on your demo than how it ended up on the album?
RABIN: I was singing on the demo, not Jon, so [Jon’s vocal] was a huge improvement. But the song was basically exactly as I intended it, which was great for me. Doing a song on your own, you can dictate what happens. But doing it in a band, it’s a collaboration, so there’s going to be input from everyone, which there was. But there wasn’t this desire to change the song from the basic nature of what it was from the demo.
The production of 90125 was very forward-thinking at the time, and the abundant use of samples were experimental for rock radio. It totally overhauled the sound of the band and took them to this new plateau.
RABIN: I did the demo in 1979 before there were such things as samplers. So I got sounds from other records and I recorded those on top of “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and then struggled to get them to sync up. I put a delay unit on what I’d recorded to get it in time until it was exactly the way I wanted it. It was a laborious, time-consuming thing to do. But it’s funny — many years ago I did a film called Deep Blue Sea, and L.L Cool J was in it. I produced one of the songs, so I had time to talk to him. And he said, “Well, from what you tell me, it sounds like you did the first sample.” And I said, “Yeah, without a sampler.” Isn’t that amazing?
Was everyone in the band on board with the more modern, commercial element you brought to the band?
RABIN: Musically, we got along really well as players and there was a mutual respect there. So when it came to the music, I was the principle writer and everybody was really into it. It was just a very creative time and we worked hard and ultimately came up with what we did. The one thing, though, was I very much wanted to have a different look for the record. I didn’t want it to have this incredible painting on the cover by Roger Dean, which is pretty much what Yes were known for. People ask me, “Well, did you not like Roger Dean?”… On the contrary, as far as an artist goes I think Roger’s phenomenal, but as far as the look for the band went, it was time to change. And certainly for the music it would have been almost unnatural for it to not change.
Jon, what brought you back for that album?
ANDERSON: I was living in the South of France and I went to London to see my kids coming out of school for Easter. We spent some time together. Then Chris phoned me up. I hadn’t spoken to him for three years. He’d been on tour with the Buggles. But he played me some music in his car and I loved it so much. This incredible door opened. It was very refreshing. 90125 was amazing from the onset because the production was already done. And all I had to do was come in and sing some choruses, write some choruses, write some lyrics, and put my stamp on it. Everybody was very excited and happy.
When did you first hear “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” and what did you think?
ANDERSON: They played it for me and I thought it was a hit record. I said, “Do you want me to sing on it?” And Chris said yes. I said, “Well, if I sing on it, it will be Yes.” And Chris said, “Exactly. That’s what we want.”
Were you concerned that old-school Yes fans would feel betrayed?
RABIN: I was pretty convinced of that — and I was correct. It took quite some time. Even at shows I’d get people cursing at me, and that went on for about a month. They’d comment about my clothing. I liked wearing leather jackets, and had almost a metal look, although I was definitely not a metal musician. But what was most frustrating were the fans that said, “Oh, he’s just a pop artist.”
ANDERSON: The record company and Chris and everybody knew that if it came out as Yes, a lot of fans would want to know what the heck this was. But that worked in our favor, because a lot of them went out and got the album. And we got a lot of new fans who loved “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” It changed the concept of what Yes was.
You had several big songs from 90125: “It Can Happen, “Leave It,” “Changes.” Any good stories behind the creation or execution of any of these songs?
RABIN: I wrote “Changes” around the same time I wrote “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” The funny thing with that one was when Jon finally joined the band, I had already done a lot of the vocals on the record. And it was Jon who suggested we leave my vocals on “Changes,” and he would just sing the chorus. The same thing happened on “Leave It.” So I sang a lot more on the record than I originally thought I would, and it was really Jon’s fault! He thought it was a nice contrast to have my voice there alongside his — a nice change. And we continued that kind of idea. We wanted this to be an innovative record that didn’t sound like anything else.
ANDERSON: We achieved what we had set out to do and I really like the record, but I have to say that while I was working on touring with 90125 I was dreaming of pushing them back into long-form music, which never happened until me and Trevor got together and we did an album called Talk.
You followed up 90125 with Big Generator, which was poppy but less cohesive and didn’t meet with the same type of commercial success.
RABIN: A problem arose on Big Generator because Jon had not been involved on 90125 until the end, which turned out to be great. His creative input, let alone his singing, was such a significant element to what happened with 90125 creatively. But when we did Big Generator it was a little confusing, because now it was the five of us trying to create something. And of course there was the expected record company attitude, which was, “Oh, we need another ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart.’” It’s always doing something which has been, rather than do something new, and that was very frustrating. But more importantly, the creative process really hadn’t been defined. It was as if now we had a new band. We had a fantastic tour for 90125 so that was on our side, but it was quite hard putting Big Generator together. We went through a number of producers, and at the end I wound up producing it and it took two years to finish. There are songs on the album that we’re all not too keen on, but there are four or five songs on the record that are really strong. We still do “Rhythm of Love” on tour. And we had “Shoot High, Aim Low,” which Chris had mentioned to me was his favorite ever Yes song.
ANDERSON: Big Generator was OK. I wasn’t thrilled with it. And that’s why I left the band when we did Anderson Bruford Wakeman & Howe, because I wanted to do some Yes music. So I had to get Steve and Bill and Rick back together and we went on tour and did a great album. That felt great.
Trevor, were you upset when Jon left the band after Big Generator?
RABIN: It was really a strange time for me, because I left to do a solo album and I didn’t even know Jon had left the band or had decided to do something else. And then there was a court case with Chris. Anderson Bruford Wakeman & Howe had come out with a record and there was some dispute about them using the name [Yes] or referring to the name on tour. I refused to be involved with it. So I really took a sabbatical at that point.
Jon, you and Trevor are playing together now, so obviously you’re on good terms, but did you get along with him when he was taking Yes away from its more progressive roots?
ANDERSON: There was a time we went on tour with Trevor for Big Generator, and then when we did the Talk album, everything was such a mess. Trevor went off and became a very, very successful musician doing film scores for 15 years. He did some remarkable work and we became very close friends over the last 10 or so years, because I was very interested in what he was doing and I admired him for being a real musician and not just try to make a hit record.
Jon, in 1995, after you did Talk, you took some time off and worked on some solo material.
ANDERSON: Everything was fragmented for a while. I had fallen in love with Jane, my lovely wife. We’ve been together for 24 years. Her sister was living in San Luis Obispo in Central California. I went up to see her and meet the family and I fell in love with the area. I’ve been living here ever since. So I suggested to Chris and Steve, “Why don’t you come to San Luis Obispo? The bank here was empty. And I said I’ll put my studio in the bank and we’ll rehearse and record.” Rick came over and he enjoyed it, and that became the Keys to Ascension album. As it so happened, when I got back together with Chris and Steve, there was this remembrance of who we were nearly 20 years earlier. So we got together and did [the live/studio hybrid albums] Keys to Ascension [in 1996] and [Keys to Ascension 2 in 1997], as well as a couple other albums, The Ladder in 1999 and Magnification in .
Was it satisfying to be doing progressive music again with Yes?
ANDERSON: I got very sick on tour in 2004. At that time I was very disappointed in our management. The band was good, but we were being messed around by people outside of the band and we were very unhappy. Me and Rick got on famously well. And Chris and Alan did their thing. But Steve was hardly around. We were very, very splintered. But we did some good shows. We carried on the flag of Yes and we had a great time doing songs again from 25 years earlier. It was like a re-education on what we thought was important — doing songs from our old albums. And no matter where we went we played great. Then I got sick.
Can you elaborate?
ANDERSON: I spent three years trying to survive. I started doing solo shows, which I enjoyed very much. It was interesting that I had to get really sick to realize that I can actually get up with a guitar and entertain people in a club and have fun. So I started doing that, traveling around the world with my wife and a guitar. The next thing we did was interesting. We were going to get together for a tour and we were trying to negotiate with management. It was all very confusing, and then in 2008 I had a terrible asthma attack and I nearly died.
That attack led to respiratory failure and you were in an intensive care unit for three days. You also underwent operations that year for pancreatitis.
ANDERSON: My wife saved my life, and in that moment I realized that health is everything. If you’re not healthy, you’re not happy. From then on, it was a question of what’s next? Chris and Steve and Alan kept saying they needed to make money, so they went on tour with another singer as Yes. And I felt like, “Well, I’ll just get on with my life. I have other things I want to do. I have other dreams I want to fulfill.” And that’s what I’m doing now.
Trevor, what prompted you to work with Jon and Rick on ARW?
RABIN: We’d been talking about it for three or four years, and it just became more and more of an exciting idea. I think the catalyst was when Chris passed away we all said, “Hey, you know what? If we don’t do it now, we never will.”
How close are you to completing a record?
RABIN: We’re about a fifth of the way there. I can’t really describe the music, but hopefully it’s fresh and innovative. And what we are going to do, rather than do an album and then present it, is we’ll do a song or two and put it out and keep putting out songs as we finish them. So there’s not going to be some large picture as far as a concept album or anything. Once all the material is done, then we’ll encompass it and sequence it into an album, but in the meantime we’re going to be releasing all of it into individual songs.
ANDERSON: I’m certainly excited about that, but at the same time, there’s more music to make and more tours to do.