Latch On to the Affirmative
Yes co-founder Chris Squire forecasts the band’s future — even 100 years from now
They’re back! Yes’ performance next week at The Florida Theatre marks the first time in the band’s 45-year career that it has performed twice in Northeast Florida in less than a year.
The Grammy-winning progressive rock band presents a triple-header concert, performing all the songs from three landmark albums: “The Yes Album," “Close to the Edge” and “Going for the One.” This tour marks the first time since 1973 that Yes ― which has sold nearly 50 million albums worldwide ― has performed three entire albums onstage in sequential song order.
Founded in England in 1968 by former lead vocalist Jon Anderson and bassist Chris Squire, Yes achieved worldwide success with its innovative, “symphonic” compositions as well as chart-busting hits like “Owner of Lonely Heart.”
Yes is known for its superior musicianship, intricately composed songs, mystical lyrics, elaborate album art (mostly vis-à-vis Roger Dean) and ornate stage sets. On this tour, veteran Yes members Squire, Steve Howe, Alan White and Geoff Downes, along with new vocalist Jon Davison, perform some of the band’s most popular songs, including “Yours Is No Disgrace,” “Starship Trooper,” “Close to the Edge,” “Siberian Khatru,” “Turn of the Century” and “Awaken.”
An ever-revolving roster of 18 musicians has been part of the band’s lineup, not to mention a concurrent one-time recording/touring project, Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe. At Yes’ core is the band’s co-founder and the only member to appear on all of its albums and tours, celebrated bass player Chris Squire.
Folio Weekly: You’ve commented that “Turn of Century” is one of the more difficult songs to execute on this tour.
Chris Squire: Quite simply, it’s almost like an orchestra performing. And an orchestra would have a conductor regarding tempo, phrasing, dynamics and those sorts of things. There aren’t any drums in this song until the very end. So the tricky part is keeping all the interweaving parts, particularly the keyboard and bass lines, on track — especially when the keyboard comes to the fore in the middle of the song. But by the time we get to Jacksonville, I’m certain we’ll have it spot on. [Laughs.]
F.W.: I had the honor of interviewing [former Yes drummer] Bill Bruford for Downbeat magazine when he announced he was retiring a few years ago. Do you envision retiring one day?
C.S.: Well, no, I never really understood that. I didn’t think musicians had to retire. I always thought his decision was a bit odd. I always thought you couldn’t stop <> a musician. It’s still very enjoyable for me to play and record, [and] I get a lot out of it in my life. And actually my current wife and children travel with me most of the time anyway, so they share in the experience as well. I guess I work it differently than the way Bill did.
F.W.: What are some of the challenges of having a band whose members are dispersed across two continents? You and Alan live in the U.S., and I believe everyone else is in the U.K., correct? How do you make things work?
C.S.: Most of us have ideas that we start off individually and when we get together to produce a new album, people bring them to the studio. Some motifs and sections evolve into full songs and other ideas we may have a brainstorming session to try combining different parts to see if they’re complementary or if we can develop something entirely new around an idea, if we like it. There’s no one way we make Yes music; there’s a variety of methodologies we’ll try out in the studio.
F.W.: Yes excelled in doing imaginative cover tunes, especially your highly inventive arrangement of “America.” Might the group approach doing another well-crafted cover?
C.S.: We haven’t done any for a long time, because we’ve mostly been focusing on our own music, obviously. But I wouldn’t say it could never happen again. It might be something we’d look at again in the future.
F.W.: What goals do you have for Yes moving forward?
C.S.: Yes has certainly stood the test of time. We’ll see what happens down the line. It’s possible there might be a Yes band 100 or 200 years from now, much in the same way cities have symphony orchestras that have been around. Barring some unforeseen medical breakthrough, I probably won’t be in it. [Laughs.] But the name could be kept and you could have new musicians come in. I could see that as a possibility. Yes isn’t necessarily contingent upon my presence. By now, people know what my contribution to the band has been, both in songwriting and playing. Of course, I can be emulated and my style can be borrowed from for any future bassist or secondary vocalist for the band. I’ve thought about it a lot, and this could be a possibility looking toward the future.