Interview With Geoff Downes by John Wenlock-Smith

The release of the first new material from Yes since ‘Heaven and Earth’ has been a long time in coming. During that time there have been many changes to the world of Yes, most notably the sad death of Chris Squire in 2016. There has also been the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic that has wreaked havoc with most people’s plans, a situation that Yes have also been affected by. Here’s what Yes keyboardist Geoff Downes had to say about this period.

John Wenlock-Smith (JWS): Good day Geoff, thanks fore making time to talk with me, how have you been keeping during this time?

Geoff Downes (GD): I’ve not been too bad, I’ve managed to keep myself active. We recorded this new album remotely with Alan (White) and Billy (Sherwood) in the US, Jon (Davidson) in the Caribbean and Steve (Howe) and myself here in the UK, it’s a nice way of working I find.

JWS: Results Seem to be positive, you seem to bring out the best in each other somehow?

GD: Yes, I think it does, it also gives you the chance to sit back and look at it all. We’ve had to do that with this Yes album and I think that we’ve learnt quite a lot by doing it that way. It’s a different approach but, at the same time, it can be creative as well.

JWS: It getting interesting reviews (the album), isn’t it?

GD: Yes, obviously the days of the band being in the studio for months locked away doesn’t really exist these days, as they did in the ’70’s. It’s been difficult with having the rhythm section in California, they were sending us files to review on a regular basis. But, of course, we’re not alone in that we were all locked down for months on end and we’ve had to adapt and respond to that as best as we could. Without the benefit of being able to play any live shows it has put people on a different route forward. It meant taking a more flexible approach to things really.

JWS: I spoke to Steve Hackett recently and he was saying a similar thing, he has had to adjust to a new approach to his music, but at least he is able to go out on tour again now.

GD: Yes, I had an email from Steve asking if I wanted to see him in Cardiff tThe nearest place to where I am in Chepstow) but he was saying I can’t see you though, we do the show and move the whole bubble onwards. So I didn’t get to see him this time, but I’ve seen his show many times at various stages. He always puts on a great show. He really puts a lot into his shows, not just him and his band but in the staging and the lighting and the whole experience and performance really. I’m looking forward to catching up with him again when he comes back round.

JWS: Touring will be happening for Yes again soon though?

GD: Well, yes, we’ve got a tour booked for next May and June in the UK and Europe.

JWS: This is the ‘Relayer’ Tour?

GD: Yes, it’s been postponed twice so we’re hoping it’s third time lucky for it to go ahead.

JWS: Well, the album is very interesting, I’ve heard it all, and the bonus tracks, one of which is obviously a tribute to the Beatles. But the whole album is interesting lyrically, you’re not afraid to tackle some important and controversial issues like ecology and conservation?

GD: I’m not involved with the lyrics per se, Jon was stuck in Barbados for 5 months and I think that’s reflected in his lyrics, global warming, obviously, and I think The Ice Bridge reflects those concerns. There’s nothing worse than musicians standing on a soapbox telling people what they should be doing but, by the same token, it’s true that the band are all getting older which brings its own challenges.

JWS: So what’s happening with the Downes Braides Association? I loved the ‘Halcyon Hymns’ album and wrote a glowing review of it, I thought it was excellent!

GD: Well, Chris has moved back here now from LA and I’m hopeful that we can get together and work on the next one more directly, as opposed to being two oceans apart. So we will have to see how that comes about in due course.

JWS: You also had the Asia albums re-released recently (‘The Reunion Albums 2007 to 2012’) on BMG.

GD: The 40th anniversary of the ‘Asia’ album is in 2022, so those albums are being re-promoted again to mark that event. Those first three albums were very significant and its important to mark those events again fully.

I’ve still got unworked material from a session I had with John (Wetton) before he sadly died so there is potential there to craft something new. I feel that Asia has not run its course and that there is still some life left in the band. Again, we’ll have to see what emerges from those sessions.

JWS: What about a new solo album for you? Surely you must be due for another one soon?

GD: Yes, I have been thinking about doing something, although quite what that will be is very open. I think I’d like to do something in a similar vein to ‘The Light Program’ from 1987, a sort of ‘stream of consciousness’ album of its time but worth revisiting again I think.

JWS: I also read recently that you wanted the keyboards on this new album, ‘The Quest’ to be more analogue than digital, more like earlier Yes albums?

GD: When I was growing up, I was hugely influenced by the keyboard sounds that Tony Kaye used on those early Yes albums. He was a monster on the growling Hammond and when we did the ‘Yes 50’ tour, Tony was a guest on some dates. He still commands the Hammond organ and we became good friends, so that was a big factor for me. Plus, I think the music Steve was making on the guitar leant itself to that classic type of sound, so that’s what I did, and I think it worked okay.

JWS: Tony Has a new solo album out, ‘End of Innocence’, have you heard it yet?

GD: No, but I want to hear it, it’s all about the World Trade Centre and 9/11 isn’t it?

JWS: Yes, it’s a good album.

GD: Does he play lots of Hammond on it?

JWS: Yes, throughout.

GD: I’ll have to ask management to get me a copy then.

JWS: You won’t regret it Geoff, it’s a fine piece of work, very worthwhile. Anyway, my time has gone, I’m afraid, thanks for talking to me.

GD: No problem John, thanks for interesting questions and for knowing your stuff, I’ve enjoyed talking to you, thank you!

‘The Quest’ by Yes is released on 1st October, 2021 and you can order a copy here:

The Quest (lnk.to)

Review – Tony Kaye – End Of Innocence – by John Wenlock-Smith

Significant events in history are often remembered by thinking about where we were at the time. For instance, I was with a friend when I heard the sad news that Princess Diana had died in a car crash in Paris on the 31st August 1999.

The events of 9/11 were very memorable for me in that I was working in Liverpool at the time and some of our people were en-route to new York at the time and we didn’t know what flights they were on or whether or not they had got caught up in the whole sequence of events. It turned out that they hadn’t and were diverted to Canada as US airspace was closed down because of the attacks.

This meant that I had the news on my computer and kept it on all afternoon and watched the tragedy unfold in real time, via live feeds. I saw the second plane hit and saw the folks jumping to their deaths and watching with horror when the towers finally gave way.

I was appalled, shocked,horrified and angry at this senseless barbaric act. Especially as I had long wanted to visit New York and see the World Trade Center for myself. Now that was no longer possible thanks to these terrorists, well I had flown over the towers in 1989 on my way to Florida so I had at least seen them standing proud as a beacon of America before this tragedy happened. or have been conceived of by Osama and his merry madmen.

Tony Kaye was similarly moved by the dreadful events of that fateful day. So much so that he took his keyboards out of storage in his garage and began composing much that reflected his feelings about that day. Now his first solo album from emerges just shy of the 20th anniversary of those events, the album being largely instrumental in nature apart from the opening track and track 10 which features his wife.

Tony Kaye was the original Yes keyboard man who has been with the band on several different occasions, initially in their early days and prior to ‘Close to the Edge’, for which he was replaced by Rick Wakeman. When Tony left Yes he spent time in Flash with Peter Banks and thereafter with Badger who supported Yes at The Rainbow in 1972. They recorded the set and subsequently released it as the excellent ‘One Live Badger’ album, produced by Jon Anderson.

After this, he played with Badfinger and then joined Chris Squire and Alan White in the Cinema project that morphed into a new version of Yes along with Trevor Rabin. This, of course, yielded the mega hit Owner of a Lonely Heart and the ‘90125’ album and subsequent World Tour. Following on came ‘Big Generator’ and then somewhat unusual ‘Union’ project which merged a Trevor Rabin version of Yes with Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe in an 8 man conglomerate of Yes members with mixed results and a confused touring scenario.

After the ‘Union’ tour Tony had decided to retire as he was approaching 70 years of age. He slipped quietly into the background until the events of September 11th stirred the desire to remember the dreadful events in the only way he knew, i.e. musically. This album is a requiem and memorial to the near three thousand people who died that day as it explores the events as they unfolded.

It is possibly best heard in one sitting as Tony intended, the music will take you on a strange journey into those events and, yes, it may fill you with strong emotions as you listen. However, I would urge you to persevere with this as it is a remarkable journey, highly emotional and yet somehow triumphant. It works as a testament to the bravery shown on that day by the people of New York and its Police and Firefighters, many of whom are included in that death toll of 2997 people. It is also a reflection of the resilience of the American nation as they weathered this storm together in sorrow..

The album is really just all by Tony alone, although his wife Dani Torchia appears on track 10 – Sweetest Dreams – while fellow Yes man Jay Schellan also appears on Track 8 – Flight 11 – on which he plays a drum solo. The album doesn’t actually show any musicians credited other than Tony and Dani.

This is a hugely atmospheric album whose quiet dignity contains both malice and beauty. It certainly is very moving and obviously a labour of love and a dignified memorial to all of those affected by the events of that day. The artwork is by long time Yes collaborator Roger Dean who, instead of spatial visions, offers a rather more sombre view, invoking a vision of ungodly destruction and storm clouds that matches the remarkable sounding and fascinating music.

Whilst the events were dreadful and shocking, this album at least offers a degree of hope and optimism that they that the aims were totally in vain and that good things have emerged from those dark days. This is a musical experience that will require your patience to unravel and appreciate but it is a most worthy piece of work and highly impressive. The use of actual recordings from the day add great insight as to how the events unfolded and add much realism to the music. It makes for a very impressive album, highly recommended on a bold and wide screen, and is dignified and complete.

Released 10th September, 2021

Order the album here:

Tony Kaye: End Of Innocence – Cherry Red Records

Tony Kaye – End of Innocence – Out 10th September

20th July 2021: Keyboard legend Tony Kaye announces the release of his debut solo album End Of Innocence, on 10th September 2021 on Spirit Of Unicorn Music (distributed via Cherry Red Records) to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11. 

You can pre-order the album here: https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/tony-kaye-end-of-innocence/

Having retired from music in 1996, Kaye was moved by the events of 11th September 2001, to commit his thoughts and feelings to a heartfelt personal musical interpretation.

End Of Innocence is a requiem for those who lost their lives and all those touched by the horrific events of 9/11. Primarily orchestral, End Of Innocence is a powerful and emotional suite that is both beautiful and sinister, reflecting the dark forces at work that day. It guides the listener through the day and touches on the response, to reach a hope that peace and calm may prevail.

As did many millions, Kaye watched the horrors of 9/11 unfold on his TV screen. “The next day I unpacked my keyboards for the first time in a long time,” Kaye recalls. “I didn’t know what I was going to do. It was one of those things that happened, inspiration on a musical level.”

The suite begins the night before 9/11 but, as Kaye’s wife Dani Torchia sings an innocent lullaby, menacing storms are gathering. The beautiful 9/11 Overture was the first piece Kaye composed, the following day. “I had no recording equipment, just an 8-track cassette recorder and some of those recordings became what you hear now.”
Kaye continues to create vivid images of New York City life and a vibrancy around The World Trade Centre (285 Fulton Street) before the terror begins and captures the fears of those on the planes, Flight 11 depicting the conversations stewardesses had with the tower. The track includes a powerful drum solo by Kaye’s friend Jay Schellen (CIRCA, YES) reflecting the struggles onboard.

Following the collapse of the towers, Dani Torchia sings her lament Sweetest Dreams and the album looks at the Aftermath and the Heroes before focusing on the response. “I wanted it, musically, to be about that day,” Kaye says, “but I felt compelled to extend it to deal with the repercussions of what happened. Musically, it was quite challenging to do the battle scene and then the Hope And Triumph, a patriotic anthem and the consequences of war. Ground Zero is the hope for the future, the rebuilding.”
The artwork for the album has been created by Roger Dean, known for his work with YES and ASIA, powerful imagery reflecting the journey the music takes.

End Of InnocenceTrack Listing:
1. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star/Twilight Time

2. 911 Overture

3. NYC Blues

4. Battle Cry

5. 285 Fulton Street

6. Let’s Roll

7. Tug of War

8. Flight 11

9. Towers Fall

10. Sweetest Dreams

11. Aftermath

12. Heroes

13. The Battle

14. Hope and Triumph

15. Homecoming

16. Ground Zero

Produced by Tony Kaye

All tracks composed by Tony Kaye except Sweetest Dreams by Dani Torchia.
Tony Kaye, Spirit of Unicorn Music and Cherry Red Records are donating 10% of all profits from End of Innocence to https://www.garysinisefoundation.org/The charity supports veterans, defenders and first responders in times of hardship.

About Tony Kaye
Tony Kaye is best known as the original keyboard player with prog legends YES, his Hammond organ giving their ground breaking The YES Album it’s most distinctive sound within the YES catalogue. Following his departure from YES in 1971 Kaye was involved with a number of other bands including David Bowie, Badger and Badfinger before returning to YES for their greatest commercial success 90125 in 1983. Kaye remained with YES for several albums and tours before retiring from the music business in 1996. 

Following the re-awakening of his musical inspiration in 2001, Kaye accepted an invitation from current YES bassist Billy Sherwood to work on projects which led to the formation of CIRCA, in 2007, and has yielded four albums to date.

Tony Kaye – END OF INNOCENCEReleased on 10th September through Spirit of Unicorn MusicFormats: Standard CD Jewel casePre-order here: https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/tony-kaye-end-of-innocence/

CIRCA: announce new album Valley of the WIndmill – by Progradar

CIRCA_votw_COVER_HI

From Frontiers Music Srl:

“CIRCA: is a Progressive Rock band formed by veteran rockers Tony Kaye (original YES keyboard and organ player) and Billy Sherwood (who took Chris Squire’s place after his untimely passing in 2015), with Ricky Tierney on bass and Scott Connor on drums.

The band was formed in 2007 by Tony Kaye and Billy Sherwood. The debut self-titled CD, “CIRCA:”, features also YES drummer Alan White and Jimmy Haun on guitar. The follow-up, “CIRCA: Live” DVD, archived the band’s first live performance.

In 2009, “CIRCA: HQ” was released with Jay Schellen on drums. CIRCA: “Overflow” is a collection of extra bonus material from the first and second recording sessions, available only as a digital download.

“And So On,” was the third studio CD by the band. A subsequent tour happened in 2011.

“Valley of the Windmill” the new album, includes several extended length songs, and can be described as “super proggy” with influences ranging from classic Yes and Gentle Giant, to Porcupine Tree and Marillion. And absolute must for all Prog Rock fans!”

“Valley of the Windmill” will be released by Frontiers Music Srl on 8th July 2016.