Now this should be a fun interview to read for fans of Yes. A young Jon Anderson speculating on what the future holds for the band, some musical discussion and a little bit of spirituality and environmental worry.
This is why I like to share these articles with you all.
Jon Anderson in the talk-in
Interview by Penny Valentine
With the release of their new album “Close To The Edge” this week, Yes have come to a real highpoint in their careers. The album has been greeted with critical acclaim as the band`s finest recorded work to date. On Saturday Yes previewed the album for the first time at Crystal Palace. Three days before, Jon Anderson, a week back from the band`s first US tour with new drummer Alan White, talked about the album, its motivation and the whole future of Yes.
“Close To The Edge”, appears to be a concept album in a sense – was there something you deliberately set out to say through it?
Well it`s very difficult getting hold of a theme to work on unless you`re in the heavy league – Pete Townshend with “Tommy”, “Sgt. Pepper”, there hasn`t been too many. It`s been one of the things we discussed. We`ve always been searching for say a little theme to develop round and it`s never gone “ping” in my head or anybody`s head of a certain aspect.
Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, did it with “Tarkus” – the idea of the monster. And you can run round in circles looking for a theme. The only thing that`s developed slowly but surely in Yes is that it`s developed through the songs – like on “Time In A Word”, there was a feeling of a search.
Herman Hess (the author) makes you realise there is the reality of life and there is another journey. Now once you start thinking about the journey, spiritual journey, a religion that hits you and that you can accept then you can start working on it. But it`s very difficult for modern day teenagers to accept any of the religions, most of them – Catholics, Protestants – it all seems to be a power crazed idea. The fact that they won`t join together and become a whole – because they`re all after the same trip so why don`t they become a whole with the Jewish religion, Buddhism, and develop it into something complete and strong, something that anybody can look up to.
I don`t think anyone can look up to the religions we`ve got at the moment unless they`re very deeply involved and brought up to accept and not question it. Through the development of the “Yes” album and “Fragile”, certain songs like “You`re move”, for me writing all the lyrics, I was questioning myself most of the time – what am I searching for? Because you can either write about love, moon and June, and so on. Or you can question the political status of the planet we`re on – which is very easy to do, but very hard to come up with any realistic answers.
I was listening to the answers last night and the way it left me was with a feeling that like a lot of people I`m still dreaming.
The idea with “Close To The Edge”, was to start with the river – something very, very natural – and then the river to become electronic and develop into some music and go through a few dreams that I`ve had… it`s very difficult to explain.
Would you say then that the album was very much a reflection of yourself and your own way of thinking?
Well yes. It`s the first thing I`ve written that I`ve related to anything that happened in MY life – the rest of it has been vague dreams of what I wish. At that time when I was singing “Time In A Word”, I was really on top of it. I was really feeling I`d grabbed hold of something deep inside and started a journey.
I couldn`t put it into any category of a set religion – just a feeling that through music and travelling, the only good thing you can do in life is give as many good vibrations out as is possible. Even to people who are not willing to give them back – just trying to find a code of life I suppose, a good pattern to work to, how you treat yourself, how strict you are with yourself.
It`s very difficult under certain circumstances to be strict with yourself. We were talking last time about drinking – I used to drink a lot and it`s very difficult to just turn round and say “no more”. Everyone`s got two voices knocking around in them and you have to accept which voice is the best of the two – one`s the Devil and one`s God in blatent terms. And once you accept there are two voices inside you and you`re willing to listen to the good one you`ve started the journey.
You can only reap from things that you see around you, the people you meet – you just learn from other people more than anything as you know. I have a feeling I`m being very vague about this.
If this album is the strongest reflection of your state of mind – wasn`t it a problem to transfer what was happening to you to the rest of the band, so the whole album turned out the way it did?
Not really. Because I think any band that stays together a long term starts searching for the eutopia of musicianship. Which is not having to say so much, and so much having to come out of five individuals, and nobody questioning each others acts – just accepting they`re good enough musicians to know what they`re doing, they`re not idiots. Consequently, if Rick comes up and says he`d like to try something he can damn well try it.
I think it`s having great respect for each other so that nobody questions anyone`s ideas and consequently the whole finished product is five heads together making music rather than say one person pushing a band and the rest falling in happily and accepting a leader.
At the moment we haven`t got a leader as far as the music`s concerned. When it comes to any heavy trips I possibly put my foot down sometimes – that`s possibly because I`m older than the rest. But that`s only on a logical personal level. I`d never question them on a musical level, because I`m nowhere near their kind of musicianship.
I can always question their logic because sometimes I feel I know a slight bit more of what the band could be doing in the future. I always look to the future faster than they do – probably because they`ve got so much to think about NOW, technically and musically. They have to perfect their playing whereas I`ve only got my voice to contend with, which just comes out after a while.
I presume you`re very interested in Yes` longevity, it`s lasting quality over a long period of time?
Yeah, well it`s got to the stage now where we`re following in the tracks of Jethro – the stage where you`re readily accepted in America. You forfeit a lot of British dates to do America because it`s such a big place. It`s not a question of going there to make more money, it`s just a fact that there are an awful lot more people there, and having played so many times around England you only want to play here when you`ve got something really heavy to show them.
That`s why, instead of rehearsing with Alan and doing an English tour we went over to America before we came to England. Because it was more important for us to do a good show at Crystal Palace. As far as management and record companies are concerned America is the best one. But as far as we`re concerned it`s not a question of that – we`d rather go through the rehearsal feel of getting the show together in America where you`re playing a similar concert area every night and can really involve yourself in your music.
I think certain bands per year get to a certain stage and they stay there – never getting any higher as far as public acceptance is concerned. The only way you can do it is to develop your music. You`ve got all the facilities because you`ve reached this point with financial security if you like, knowing you can play where you want to. And once you`ve got over those barriers the only other barrier is your musical ones.
When we finished “Close To The Edge”, a month later you look back at it you wish you`d have done this here and that there, and know you`ll do it on the next album. Actually we wanted to do the next album straight away when we got back from the American tour.
We`ve all got so much music anyway, knocking about and we were all excited about Alan becoming such a very strong part of the band within a couple of weeks and talked so much of what we could get into the next time we recorded, that we all wanted to record as soon as we got back.
In fact we got ourselves to a bit of a fever pitch about it. So there`s no question of “Edge” being an ultimate in any sense, it`s just a good stride forward in terms of keeping 20 minutes going.
I was listening to it last night and I feel it really builds to that last verse which is a very strange last verse! Because everything drops out and it`s like standing on a hillside somewhere – it`s all very ethereal suddenly. I tend to think that maybe some people will start putting it down thinking we`re trying to be too God-like or something.
In that respect then do you feel you`re having to hold yourselves back?
The only times you question yourself as a musician is when you`re not really sure if it`s right. And I think if you`re not sure it`s right, don`t give it to the public. Because you`re just fooling yourself – just pretending, being pretentious. That`s the way it works it`s very easy to lose contact.
When we`d finished “Edge”, it just didn`t feel wrong. It felt perfectly right for us to do this long piece of music. While we were making it we didn`t know what we were doing,, we were just hoping it would turn into something worthwhile to listen to. We weren`t thinking in terms of making a heavy piece of music and it`s still quite a way from what we`re capable of getting into.
Maybe the next one I`d like to spend six months recording and try something really mammoth – I don`t know. When you listen to any music with a lasting value you don`t hit it off right away – Sibelius or anything – you have to listen to it and listen to it and then you get it and think “wow that`s what he was on about, that`s amazing how he developed that to get into that.”
Because we haven`t gone through the musical upbringing of heavy classical trained musicians it would probably take a long long time for rock musicians of today`s standard to reach that level. Instead of people who go through five years at a college of music, a rock musicians probably got to go through ten years or more to become as competent as musically intelligent and musically aware.
That`s why generally the good music of today is delivered by older people or people who have studied very quickly at colleges – people that have spent maybe 10-12 years on the road are the ones that come out with the goods at the end of it. People like Jim Webb studied to make music and it comes through his work. I think everyone has it in them to make music, it just depends how they make the approach.
All the things Jim Webb had in his head he could relate to through that training he had, he could put it down and the result was some brilliant music. And if he hadn`t had that he`d still be slogging away around America trying to get his music played. Now the fact that everybody in Yes has been going for over eight years means we`ve had that training and it`s starting to come out.
Getting back to your own spiritual outlook – were you brought up as a very religious person?
Well the first time I went to church seriously was when I decided to go and join the choir and I really thought I was going to find something in this whole church thing. My father wasn`t very well at the time and I went to pray – you know to kneel down with hands together, through these motions praying to something you`re not sure of – and I went home and my dog was dead.
It just didn`t seem right. It was illogical to me. That day I`d really decided to try and reach this thing in this church. Since then although I can accept people enjoying church and enjoying the social aspect of church as a meeting place. But in general I think there can only be five per cent of churches that makes you feel actually elated. I wouldn`t knock it but it certainly isn`t my idea of what the word religion is all about to me.
It just doesn`t seem logical that the Protestants and Catholics are killing each other 500 miles from where we are now – it`s illogical that can be called religion and has to do with this strange ultimate being that controls the planet. I have this strange fixation about the rivers, the trees, the mountains, the ocean – the ocean is alive, watching us.
I rather got this on the album – that it came over with an ecological feel…
People are realising the importance of the earth on a “let`s help the planet” kind of trip. But I don`t think it is that. I think if anybody needs help it`s us and the planet that has all the ingredients to help us so it`s not a question of “oh we`ll save our planet” I think the planet earth has all the ingredients to save US and if we look at it in the right perspective we`ll realise a hell of a lot of things.
Until we stop looking down on this planet and say we`ll save this river or this lake because it`s part of the National Trust and all this crap then possibly we`ll realise there`s much more going on than we`re ready to accept. We think we`re destroying earth but really it`s rebounding very quickly back on the human species.
I get very worried that people who read this will think “oh yeah he`s rapping on about something even we don`t know about.” People aren`t willing to accept that this could be the truth just as they`re willing to accept what Edward Heath says or a scientist says is the truth.
Nobody knows what the real truth is about the whole idea of life as a reality but all the things we`ve been brought up to accept people have come to realise are not so – that the English Government is not such a good idea that we spend more on making arms and looking after arms that are useless than we do about looking after spastic children, old people, people that have helped to perpetuate the life style in England.
It`s the same in America and whether the kids are going to vote. This November is very very important. This time in America I was telling them to vote, which I`ve never done before. I only did it on stage once because I don`t want to be heavy and tell people what to do. But every time I went on radio stations I`d say to them to use their vote because if you believe you`ve got something to say in life, for your children or your parents or whatever, you must do it.
It would tear the American political scene wide open if all those kids went out and voted heavily for McGovern or just heavily for something they really believed in. I only wish there was someone who`d come along in English politics and lay out the same trip. But I suppose musicians should stick to their music – it`s going to read like I`m jumping on another bandwagon talking about politics and spiritualism… but it IS all in the music and whether it needs explanation is another thing.
When you said earlier that you were more concerned immediately with the future of Yes than the others – how do you see that future shaping up?
Well you can only dream about what will happen. I didn`t think Bill would be leaving, he did. I didn`t think we get such an incredible replacement as Alan but we did. I hope that next year we can put on some sort of – if you like – extravaganza, more of a show. There`s so many things I talked about with the band two years ago that we`re still not getting into – the ultimate light show, things like that. But you can only dream a few ideas and hope they could develop into reality.
I think Yes are slowly making an imprint on today`s music – only a slight one at the moment because there`s so much good music around – as are Lindisfarne and bands like that, and after all we`re only all a part of the jigsaw, nobody`s the whole musical jigsaw. You have to be thankful to be a part of it and experiment enough so that younger musicians can learn from you and in five years` time they`ll be making music I`ll be gasping at.
Certain musicians keep up there all the time and develop all the time, carrying on making music, and I think we`re a band that as individuals will be doing that for a long time to come. We`ve been lucky we`ve learned from the experiences of others what not to do and what traps not to fall into and be wary of.
I was thinking back on the Beatle thing. Five years ago I just would NEVER have believed Paul McCartney getting done for drugs and turning round and saying “well it`s good publicity”. And I would never readily accept John Lennon preaching a lot of very good, very beautiful things and then turning round and slagging off Paul in the same breath – which is right in the middle of an interview in SOUNDS last week.
God, they`re talking about peace and love and having a dig at Paul. God it must really be a thorn in their backsides. So this kind of eutopia within groups is very difficult to achieve and sustain – because of the financial trip and everything else. As a band we`re very lucky that each addition to the band right from the beginning has always had the same feeling continuing – that we are out to make good music. Simply that. Not better music but as good as we can make. Developing our ideas through what we`ve learnt from older musicians like Stravinsky, Bernstein, Tchaikovsky.
We do tend to attract musicians who flower out with us – like Steve did when he joined which was really the band`s first kick, then Rick and now Alan, I feel we`re very much that kind of a band. When it comes to thinking about what Yes is and why musicians do want to join the band I think it`s because Yes are a school – a musical school to learn from. The vehicle for musicians to work around.
Whether in the next years there will be new musicians in the band God knows, I don`t, it`s hard to say. But because we haven`t restricted our musical tastes at all we really have no barriers and can play anything we want to play within reason. That`s why I feel there`s no question that the next album will be better than “Close To The Edge.”
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: John McLaughlin, Faces, John & Yoko, Eagles, Genesis, Nazareth, JSD Band.
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