Prog pioneers YES have had their share of lineup changes throughout their 54-year history, not the least of which are their keyboardists. Geoff Downes came through that revolving door in 1979, resulting in the controversial but impressive album “Drama.” After moving on to co-write blockbuster hits for ASIA along with many other collaborations and projects, Downes rejoined YES in 2011 for the “Fly From Here” album and has been a member ever since.
Geoff talked to us on the cusp of releasing the new YES album “Mirror To The Sky” which finds the revitalized band stretching out once again into longer compositions (Find our own review of the album HERE). Scott Medina talks with Geoff about his role on the album, the impact of using a symphonic orchestra in the latest YES recordings, the sad passing of Alan White, and the future of the band. Join us for this 25 minute chat which includes a few unexpected nuggets of information from the ever-affable Geoff Downes, and make sure to follow Sonic Perspectives on Facebook, Flipboard and Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel to be notified about new interviews and contents we publish on a daily basis.
As they were wrapping up “The Quest”, YES found themselves with song sketches, structures, and ideas that were demanding attention. YES received unconditional support from Inside Out boss Thomas Waber, who encouraged them to keep going in the studio, months before “The Quest” would even be released. It was like throwing gasoline on their creative fire.
“When we delivered everything, and they were just getting the vinyl and everything into production for manufacturing, we were still very much in that creative zone,” explains Steve Howe. “That belief that Thomas had in us really meant a lot,” he says.
“We truly get along as people,” says Jon Davison. “I feel like everyone’s focused inward to the greater circle, concentric to the core of highest standards that define YES. It’s a wonderful thing to witness and of which to play a part. I believe this reflects vibrantly in the music and the creative input that each one is willing to apply, not for the benefit of the individual, but for the greater whole that is YES.”
“There was a lot of material floating around because the band hadn’t done anything in the studio for so long. Ideas were just copious,” says bassist Billy Sherwood. “The pace of it was fast. As soon as we were finished with ‘The Quest’, and the mix had come out, we took a couple of little breaks there to catch our breath. But there was still music flowing around in the loop. It was just constantly being looked at and worked on. As we were all home and in that mode, things started progressing quite swiftly. We just went one album into another without really announcing, ‘Hey, we’re working on a second record right now.’ We just continued to work on material. It came about pretty naturally, and then we refined it as the process went on. But the initial bursts — there was a lot of material around!”
Much to everyone’s delight, including that of longtime fan Thomas Waber, YES have pushed into territory they practically invented — the prog rock epic — albeit in a thoroughly new and modern way.
“I always felt that it would be great to have stuff that’s a little bit more epic,” he says, although he resisted the temptation to push for something that would be too formatted and could come off as contrived. He just gave the band space to do what they do and let things develop. “They were so excited by ‘The Quest’ and the momentum they had that they went straight back into the studio. What they were writing, even early on, was obviously headed in that epic direction — what YES music really is to me. It is almost a genre onto itself. It is ‘YES Music.’ ‘Mirror To The Sky’ certainly is YES Music.”
“Mirror To The Sky” features not one, but four tracks clocking in at over eight minutes, with the sweeping and cinematic title track coming in just shy of fourteen minutes. What’s more, the tracks, like YES‘s best, take the listener on a wide dynamically ranging journey of soundscapes which also showcase Steve Howe‘s dazzling guitars, keyboard wizard Geoff Downes‘s impeccable sounds, exquisite melodies and fills, Jon Davison‘s angelic, crystalline vocals, Billy Sherwood‘s deftly dancing bass and Jay Schellen‘s masterfully controlled explosions on drums.
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