Notes From the Edge
Conversation with
nfte #301

It was an uncharacteristically cold day in the Northern Los Angeles area as I sat in Billy Sherwood's back yard, shooting the breeze with Billy and his CIRCA: band mates Jimmy Haun and Tony Kaye (drummer Alan White wasn't present as he was attending to responsibilities at the NAMM show in Anaheim). The band had been eager for me to hear the music they had created, and I was looking forward to be given the opportunity to listen to the album in its entirety.

After sharing a delicious lunch prepared by Billy's wife, Michi, we moved to Billy's studio, where he sat me in front of his studio speakers so I would be in a prime space to hear the fruits of their labor. I felt I had to give the members the caveat that if the music was as dense as they had indicated then I could respond to the immediacy of a first listen, but that as with even some of my favorite Yes albums it would take multiple spins to really appreciate what they had done. The members present seemed almost relived to hear this, considering that is the type of music that drives their beings.

I was not disappointed. As song after song flowed it was evident that the song structures and exemplary musicianship that I had come to expect from these gentlemen were as strong as ever, and I caught onto some engaging melodies that I knew would keep me coming back to these tunes. (Jimmy was hearing some of these mixes for the first time as well.)

Once the preview was over it was time to chat with the three CIRCA: dudes present. The previous day I had met with Tony, Billy, and Alan to discuss this new project (as presented in NFTE #300), but Jimmy was unable to attend. On this day I wanted to capture what Jimmy had to say about the music he was instrumental in bringing to life. I had decided to pose the same questions from the day before, and as Billy and Tony were again present I encouraged them to chime in again as I thought they might have different insights.

Another reason for the repeated agenda was because I had intended to merge the two conversations into one, with full disclosure of this fact to our readership. But when it came time to put the two transcriptions together I found I had two big problems with this tact. The first was that as I prefer to present the conversational flavor the combined responses seemed to go on interminably. The second was that I felt it a bit dishonest as they really weren't present together. Therefore I decided to present the two sessions in separate issues, even at the risk of repeated answers.

Through this day's talk I got to know Jimmy and his thoughts about CIRCA:, and in turn introduce fans of Yes and brethren to this talented yet modest guitarist.


MIKE TIANO: OK, first I'll ask why CIRCA:? What's your take on the band's name?

JIMMY HAUN: I think that it encompasses a lot of things. I really like the sound of the name, like the first album we're thinking "about 2007", and it's like ex-members of Yes and everything. It's kind of what's going on now I think, and we're saying Circa: 2007, which is pretty bold thing to say; it's what's going on now with that form of music, so... plus it's kind of like a circle... circa. I don't know; I think it has a good ring to it, and...

TONY KAYE: And it's impossible to find a name.

JH: And that too.

MOT: [laughs] I bet, what with names like System of a Down, some of these names...

TK: It all sounds so trite.

MOT: I asked these dudes yesterday about the chicken or the egg thing: did the band develop and drive the songs, or were the songs already there and the band came in to serve the songs.

JH: I think Billy and Tony had the basic structure of everything, and then you get another conception or another variation of those flavors, so I used a lot of Billy's ideas, and then I sort of went a little further with that, and they asked me into the band, which was amazing. I've always loved everything Billy has done, and of course Tony, so as far as my contribution, I think it's just my perception of... their songs in a way, and I had some production ideas and stuff like that, but really the crux of it I think is Tony and Billy's collaboration.

BILLY SHERWOOD: It changes as the material starts changing with overdubs... a song is kind of out there. It isn't like we're just doing these regular songs, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, so it kept changing and reshaping along the way.

JH: Right, and I thought you guys would be like, "Oh my God, what were you thinking?" At first I had to prep them, so be prepared, because this is a bit different.

BS: Yeah, this might be different, but it's all really, really good stuff, because he has his own studio at home, just by taking tapes that don't have guitars, and then coming back with all these guitars, it's a changed thing... we started these things, but by the time they ended up with Alan and Jim's stamp on there...

JH: We became more of a band, which is I think how things happen. You look at Roger Waters and David Gilmour, and if they didn't have the input from the other guys, it might have been a whole other thing.

BS: Perhaps next time we do this, now that we've done one, we'll get together in a room all four of us and play around with ideas, because that's now what we know what we are, but it sort was created as we were building it, and we started figuring out what it is and tweaking it from there.

JH: It's like why don't we do this.

TK: I have a chronological order on Digital Performer right from the beginning.

BS: How it took shape.

TK: I did that, and kept updating it tape by tape.

MOT: Really?

TK: Stereo track by stereo track... Yeah, it's kind of interesting, how the arrangements changed.

MOT: I'll go ahead and ask some of these questions because you [Jimmy] weren't there for the answers, even though they aren't too relevant to you. My question--why this lineup? Were other Yes members approached?

JH: You're asking me?

MOT: I'm asking in general.

BS: By the time I was discussing the idea of coming together with Jim and doing things, it had shifted from that first initial idea of post-WALL, DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, maybe I can pull in Bruford and Wakeman, let's see what we can do, blah blah blah... there was some music being formed, and then when that concept went onto the table, it's kind of when I called Jim and said look, I'd love to work with you again. We've always had fun doing this stuff, and I'd like to shape this into more of a band thing than a project with different members--come over and take a look at what we've got on the table so far, and at that point is when the germs started flowing and getting the ideas back and forth, and that's really when he came in, before I knew that kind of stuff went down, or after, sorry.

TK: The idea of a permanent band at that point...

BS: You can kind of think of it as in the process of a year, which was when I looked at Tony and said what do you think of let's get together and make some music, the first quarter was kind of spent messing around, getting musical idea together, and this kind of idea floating around of 'what if', this was that kind of project, and as the music started progressing, the sound of the thing was evolving into that sound, and it kind of didn't make sense to keep pursuing that, and the idea was let's put together a band, so that we can actually create this sound, represent this sound live, and continue doing the sound, as opposed to it being a collective record of just various artists, so it was kind of at that point, like I said, when I called Jimmy and said look, there's something going on here that's kind of serious, and if you want to come into this thing and get involved, I'd love to have you.

JH: I was really psyched.

BS: And Alan was into it from the word go and Tony, so it made sense to do that.

MOT: There have been so many members in Yes, that it seemed almost seemed possible, if not inevitable that a separate Yes band would evolve, and since you have that Yes affiliation, that you were the erstatz Steve Howe [laughs]... this could kind of qualify as one of those bands.

BS: Spinoff.

JH: I guess so. Can we say our original idea of the name?

BS: Well, we were discussing the Family thing, and how that was out there, and we knew there was another band Family of Wetton and what not, but the idea was it started as a concept. I said to Tony "What about taking the Yes family tree and making a record?"

JH: Right. I guess that was the whole concept, yeah.

BS: And then it kind of shrunk down to we'll call it Family and invite everybody, then it turned into, well know we're getting kind of precious about this material, maybe we want to do it a different way, and then it evolved into this music, and recently we've decided ok, we really kind of have to think of a new name... there's no reason to run into that same problem every time we talk about a project, which is, "Did you already know there was a band called Family?" [laughs]

TK: Which, incidentally, were from my hometown, I knew all of them, and actually lived with them.

JH: That is a trip.

MOT: But knowing this, you still wanted to call this project Family?

BS: It was a lot easier than thinking of a new name [laughs].

TK: It was a sort of ethereal concept, really; it wasn't like, "Ah, the Family is great name", because that I know all of the guys, Jeff Kregan, and all those guys are still friends of mine.

BS: It was really the handle on the idea.

TK: It was the handle on the idea; it was the fact that actually it was a family.

JH: And all my dealings with Tony and with Alan and with Billy have all been on different levels.

TK: It felt like a family, and sometimes Yes never felt like a family in a lot of respects, but certainly from my point of view, because my history going back 40 years, they actually are. I've known them for such a long time. I was going to marry Chris' daughter (everybody laughs).

JH: That's right.

MOT: But the notion of having Chris as a father-in-law was just too much for you?

TK: It was too much for him, that's for sure! [laughs]

BS: Definitely the idea among us is we're treating this like it is a band of brothers, and that's what it is, and it makes it a band, by proxy, there we go. The idea is to kind of get out there and play it live, and show the people that, yeah, that's us. We're playing this stuff, and come along for the ride, have a good time.

MOT: But did you intentionally go in to create an album of Yes-like songs?

BS: No, but it would be hard to write original music and not have it be Yes-like, just because that's always been the thing that we do. I mean, even before I ever knew any of these guys--World Trade, Lodgic... people would say "God, it sounds like you should be in Yes," [laughs] so it's kind of been a natural thing that flows, so naturally it would start sounding that way. Once you get Alan playing, it's really an identifiable sound.

JH: Growing up, I really cut my teeth on Yes. Steve Howe's parts were the first things I learned. I locked myself in a room, and learned all of "America", back in '71 or something like that.

MOT: Oh, really?

JH: Yeah, and I was sort of just... I could kind of play guitar.

MOT: How old are you now?

JH: I'm 47, so when I came out and sort of reapproached the whole band thing, they were like, "What the hell did you do?", because there's a lot of different things in America that, a lot of guitar, deep stuff, that it's good to... it's better than learning Black Sabbath, you know what I mean, at that point? [laughs] I think that launched me into more jazz, country, meaning Chet Atkins kind of stuff.

MOT: Are you saying Yes influenced you to explore the boundaries of--

JH: Of guitar, exactly, rather than just sitting over with a buzz box.

MOT: I think that was Steve Howe's biggest influence, influencing other guitar players to play a whole range of styles. But that held true with all of the members to some extent, because in early Yes years they went the jazz route quite a bit, kind of a hallmark. It influenced somebody like Alex Lifeson to broaden. Not to go off on a tangent, but did you see Rush's R30 tour [on DVD]? It has a bunch of interview clips at the end. One was around 1980, and they asked, "If you wanted to see one band right now, who would that be?" and in a heartbeat they answered Yes; Alex Lifeson said, "We went to see them, we came back and couldn't finish recording the album, and we just could not do it"--stopped cold. That's how big an influence Yes had on them. But I digress here [laughs].

JH: It was pretty obvious. When Rush came out, I was like, ok, Yes copy band, you know even though they did have original stuff, it was hard because man you guys are deriving so much here.

BS: They did evolve into something amazing.

JH: Of their own, yeah, but first it was like, ok, I know what you guys are...

BS: It's funny, because I've known Jimmy since before I can remember knowing him. We grew up together in Vegas--parents were entertainers, and I grew up playing drums and stuff. I joined Lodgic, which was actually my brother and Jim's band I joined, but right before I joined, I was playing drums, and we were living in the band house, everybody's complaining about me playing drums, and Jim says "Man, screw the drums, sell them and start playing bass", and so I bought a bass. What should I do?

TK: [Mock accusing Jimmy] It was your idea!

JH: It was my idea.

MOT: It's your fault! [laughs]

BS: Jim said play to all of the Yes records.

JH: Yes, and you can go into headphones and nobody was going to bug you.

BS: Jim's actually the one that kind of coaxed me into taking a turn, it's kind of funny. There's a long history between us, to be able to do this now.

JH: With the night blue Tama set.

MOT: Did you play as kids?

BS: Well, no the funny thing is Mike, my brother, is five years older, and Mike and Jimmy were really tight friends, and I was the little kid--I was the younger brother, so I wasn't allowed in certain rooms at certain times because there was a gap of age, and it wasn't cool for Mike to hanging with his little brother [laughs], so I used to kind of knock on the door when they were playing "Siberian Khatru", "Let me in, I want to see this". "No man you can't come in here!" [laughs]

JH: Well too, at first, Billy was like, yes, you guys don't know what you're doing, and you were listening to the Ohio Players and stuff like that.

BS: Earth, Wind, and Fire and the Ohio Players.

MOT: When you were how old?

JH: God, you must have been 11 or 12.

MOT: Really, Earth, Wind, and Fire?

BS: It might have been before that.

JH: He used to kind of laugh at us, before he got who Yes was.

BS: They played me CLOSE TO THE EDGE, and I just went "No man, I don't get this at all." Didn't get it at all until about two years later living in Arizona. My parents were playing at Scottsdale, Arizona or wherever that is, Lake Havasu, and I was a little bit older, and my brother had TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS, just got it or whatever, and the album cover looked intriguing. I was like, let me check this out again. I put it on, and from that point forward, it was don't talk to me about anybody else [laughs], you know what I mean? It just became David Koresh devout, seriously devout.

MOT: What are some of your favorite Yes albums?

JH: You know, I have to agree with you with CLOSE TO THE EDGE. I think that that is just an undeniable masterpiece, and then I would have to say... I would have to put RELAYER over TALES, just because of Steve Howe's amazing solo in "To Be Over"--just makes me cry every time I hear it. It's unbelievable, and great production, and of course The Yes Album, which I got into later after... I mean "Roundabout" was great and all that, but I think "Close to the Edge" was really neat coming home as a musician and going wow, there's something so deep going on here.

MOT: Was there a Yes album, maybe not one of those favorites that you named, that holds a special place in your heart?


BS: Yeah I remember actually hearing that at your house on that couch, that big, long gold couch you had.

JH: Right.

BS: And just going, "Wow, what was that?"

JH: "Turn of the Century", man, once again it's Steve Howe just doing those beautiful--

BS: And "Awaken", when they hit those cycle of fifths; it was always (exhales)... man. That's just outstanding.

MOT: Now I have to ask you [Tony] this same question. Post-Yes, let's talk about mainly the '70s output, did you listen to a lot of what they had done after you left the band, and if you did, what did you like or didn't like?

TK: Oh sure, I got together with them. I was living here then [Los Angeles]; I just got off of the Bowie tour, and I had been on the road with Bowie for two years, so I came back here, and then they came to town, and I was hanging out with Chris, went to Vegas with them, I was a part of it, there was not a lot of animosity back then.

MOT: Do you know what tour that was that you were thinking about? You said the Bowie tour, what year was that?


TK: Yeah, well the Bowie tour was STATION TO STATION, yeah. That was '75-'76.

MOT: That was with Patrick Moraz, one of the RELAYER tours?

TK: No, Rick was in the band.

BS: Probably TALES.

TK: I went to see them in '74, or '75 too. I saw them quite a lot.

MOT: But was there any particular album or music that you like that they had done after you left the band?

TK: Oh yeah, well I liked all of them actually. TALES... maybe...

JH: It's always a hard one for people--that one.

TK: But I saw the tour, and I loved the tour, and it went over a lot of people's heads.

JH: Wait, you saw the TALES tour?

TK: Uh huh.


TK: But, I thought it was amazing, and I was a big fan of Eddie's of course. Eddie was doing the sound, and we were friends from way back before Yes, before he came in-the Heads Hands and Feet time actually, Albert Lee and that whole era.

BS: It's definitely a kind of music that there's only one source for that thing, for that kind of music. Other prog rock bands have tried to do their thing, but it never reaches the same area. There's only a few bands like that, that have that: Genesis, Pink Floyd, Yes thing where...

TK: It was on a level on its own, except whatever the tour was with Trevor Horn.


MOT: The DRAMA tour.

TK: The DRAMA tour, yeah. In fact that meeting with Chris on the DRAMA tour was the beginning of 90125. I was actually recording with Badfinger in Miami, and I was living with Badfinger in the house next door to Nikki Squire and Carmen, on Key Bisquane waiting for Chris to come into town, so of course we went to the concert, and that was kind of strange, and I hung out with Chris afterwards, and I said, "That was a little weird," and he goes "Yeah, it's terrible." He said, "This is the end--"

BS: Wow.

TK: "--of this one. How about we get the band back together?" That was the beginning of it, two years later.

MOT: What are the plans to tour as CIRCA:?

JH: I think like Bill was saying, we want to start like sort of a start up band in a way.

BS: Kind of more grass roots than trying to anchor on to a massive tour.

JH: Right, we don't want to come out with lasers.

BS: Be better to get down there and just play the music, down and dirty at a 1,000-seater place and have it filled with friends and family

JH: Because we're all... yeah, we can pull this off, and we don't need to be this huge production yet, I think.

TK: Maybe even the drums on the floor.

JH: There you go, like old times.

BS: Yeah, like old-school Zeppelin.

TK: Yeah, I remember going to see Led Zeppelin, and after the big show that Yes put on, and I saw them and I went, "Fantastic".

JH: Drums on the floor.

TK: Drums on the floor, what a great idea.

MOT: As opposed to on a riser?

TK: Yeah, and they were just like this perfect little unit, just totally into themselves, great rock band. So maybe?

BS: You never know. Definitely getting it up and running I would say from this point forward it's going to take use a while to get it up and running. It's not going to happen overnight, but I'd say we'd be ready for some sort of gig within three months from now.

MOT: So, are you excited about going out and playing stuff live?

JH: Are you kidding? We've been chomping at the bit. It's been...

BS: It's fun.

JH: ... 10-12 years since I've done that.

BS: It's fun to look at this configuration, because I've played with him [Jimmy] plenty of times live, but never played with him and him [Tony] together, played with Tony plenty of times, Alan in different configurations, so this configuration is going to be...

TK: But we're kind of already playing together, in a way.

BS: It's going to be very cool.

MOT: You've jammed together in certain respects already; you have history with TALK.

JH: Yeah, I'm very excited about playing live.

MOT: I didn't actually ask this next question last night, because it was kind of answered in our conversation, but I'll ask it here. How do you see this music as being Yes-like... when I think of Yes, I think of stellar vocals and arrangements, and I think of recurring melodies and themes. Do you think your music has all of those hallmarks?

BS: I think so. I mean in terms of just saying those words they do, in terms of the elements of the music, I think so, yeah, and I think it's the kind of record that people are going to want to listen to again and again to start picking up the subtleties that are going on along the way. There's a lot of themes that are happening here, there, and everywhere that you start connecting the dots once you know the music a little bit better, which was always one of the cool things for me about getting into a deep Pink Floyd record or real deep Genesis thing or Yes thing, is that you started picking up subtleties. Like we were talking about, I can still listen to a Gabriel record now and find things that I never heard before, so it's layered in that way, but I think it boils down to some pretty common themes lyrically. It's not reaching into the moon and trying to be futuristic in its lyrical content; it's very down to earth lyrically, and I think melodically there's some real simple, straight-ahead melodies to latch on to and some themes.

JH: I think Billy and I too, growing up listening to Yes and... to where he said it became almost a religion for us, and this is music that we've always wanted to make on our own, so it just happens to come out as this Yes thing, because I think we've always held them higher...

BS: Strong influence.

JH: Yeah, than any other thing. It's not like we got together and said, "How are we going to do a Yes thing?"

MOT: It wasn't contrived.

JH: It wasn't. It was honest music, not trying to be anything.

BS: I mean it's a weird path that I've had from going from being 13 and in my headphones jamming in my bedroom to "Close to the Edge" to going into the band and being part of it and that whole path, there's a weird, twisted fate in there somewhere. That's why I embrace the sound of the music that I make. I don't shun from it anymore, where before I knew you guys and everything, and I was trying to get deals. It was getting to be, well I know it sounds like Yes, but is it a bad thing? I would be defending that thing. World Trade, as we were signing this huge deal, it sounds a lot like Yes. Who cares already! [laughs] That's a good thing, so to be able to be a part of it, join it, legitimize that fact, step back from it, and make music without thinking about what we're doing, and it ends up that way. You just can't change stripes off of a zebra, you know what I mean?

TK: It makes us happy to play it too; that's what we do. You gotta be happy playing the music that you're playing... that's the history.

MOT: I think that really had an impact on Starcastle, and at the core was really a bunch of guys just trying to create that type of music. They weren't trying to pretend they were Yes; they were just trying that type of music, and as I recall, I bought their first album, because there was a void between RELAYER and GOING FOR THE ONE. But if memory serves, all their subsequent albums, the ones that followed, were not progressive at all. They basically tried to...

BS: Starcastle you mean?

MOT: Yeah. They tried to appeal to a demographic, as opposed to make the music they wanted to create.

BS: The thing I didn't get about them that I didn't like, is that it was real clear that when they were in the studio, they were referring to the exact bass frequencies of Chris, and you've got to use the Rickenbacker to get that sound, and you've got to use the same Minimoog patch in it. It became very much like a template; ok, put the template over there. That's the part that irked me about it; I couldn't get behind. I leaned into more Brand X, UK, Crimson, where they were pushing those same boundaries that Yes pushed, but in their own way. I don't know about you, but for me outside of Yes UK, those are my heroes.

MOT: When I think of UK, I think of the original lineup for UK, with Bruford and Holdsworth.

BS: I do too, which I really, really love, but something about DANGER MONEY with Terry Bozzio for me, and those violin solos and just the time signatures, it's the Holy Grail

MOT: No denying Eddie Jobson is very talented, and of course John Wetton was on there too.

BS: But all those guys, what I'm saying is, they pushed their own sounds around, and they didn't follow the sounds of others, and that's what I always dug about them, is that they were trying that. On this record it's the same kind of deal, where I wasn't chasing around that sound or this sound. It's just the instruments that were working at the time.

MOT: Problem with UK I think they were probably just maybe five years too late, you know. If they had come out with that album in like 1975--

JH: They would have been more like Rush or something.

MOT: --they would have been probably a superband, but they were too late, at the end of the '70s, the end of the prog-rock era. Punk was rendering prog-rock obsolete, ineffectual, and overblown, and it's interesting Rolling Stone and all these other publications went from actually being real supporters of progressive rock to just totally dumping all over them.

BS: Well, they're going with the current trends and stuff, but I think in a way the kind of music we're making right now, it's very artistic. There's no disputing it's artsy, and in a world of everyone's sampling music and then rapping over it or be simplistic projects, it's kind of refreshing to be able to go see "Laurence of Arabia" [laughs]--75 camels, you know what I mean? It's an over-the-top thing, and it's played by hand, more importantly.

MOT: Given that when you thought about producing this music, were you mainly thinking about Yes fans? Or did you think, "Well, you know maybe we should tone it down, have just a bottom only to placate the people who want a hit"?

BS: No, can't really make music like that, because the thought process isn't quite like that. You're going with an emotional thing, and if I played Tony an idea that I thought, you know, we could build on this, it was because the chords kind of moved me in a way to where I thought this is an emotional feeling thing, and if we get the right kind of lilting melody over the top. It's coming from a different place, rather than it's not really coming from a place of let's write something to please someone, let's write something that moves us.

JH: "Let's make a pop album," or something like that, it's the complete opposite of that.

MOT: Jimmy, what's your take on that?

JH: Yeah, I think that it's all in that genre of ELP, and what these guys were all trying to do. They weren't trying to make pop albums, and I think that's what everybody's pretty much doing now, and so we just came into it not scared of is this going to sell on the pop market or anything like that.

TK: We never had that question in those days anyway.

JH: I guess not.

TK: Because what had gone before. Certainly we were influenced by stuff before SGT. PEPPER, but then we heard SGT. PEPPER and we kind of went "OK... ".

JH: This is a good thing.

MOT: Back then you were blazing new trails. In retrospect it's kind of like, oh, it's just old hat or whatever the hell they're doing, but at that time what you were doing was really cutting edge.

TK: It really was, yeah. I mean, we used to have the Beatles come down to see us, to Blazies.

MOT: Oh, really?

TK: Yeah, McCartney and George Harrison.

MOT: There was a rumor that McCartney was going to produce the Yes at one point for Apple.

TK: Yes, he was very impressed in the envelope that we were pushing.

MOT: Why didn't that come to happen then?

TK: [Sighs] I have no idea.

MOT: Don't remember?

TK: No, no.

MOT: Because I would think something like that would have been fairly prestigious for the band or something you would have aggressively pursued.

TK: Yeah, I don't know whether anyone pursued it or not. I don't think so. In hindsight, you can't really put yourself... anything that we talk about now, if you project yourself back 40 years...

BS: It's a different mindset.

TK: Yeah, you know London was really a hotbed. I remember going to the Speakeasy, and King Crimson, who no one had ever heard of, played one of their first gigs, and we went, "Wow!" This is really pushing it, and they were magnificent.

MOT: It must have been amazing to actually see them back then.

TK: Yeah.

MOT: And you were their peers. You were trying to achieve some of the same things they were.

TK: Right, yeah, but it was all new back then. We weren't that influenced by really that much on the outside. The scene in London was what was going on.

MOT: Are you guys seeing this as one-off that may or may not happen again or are you pretty committed to actually driving this and continuing...

JH: I think we are completely committed. Yeah, I mean this is the greatest band I've ever been involved with I think. As far as musicianship and songs and stuff, if you ask me, I'm extremely psyched, and I'm in 100 fold.

BS: Yeah, me too. I think the main thing we talked about last night is that we all dig each other's company, and we're not starting from a place of like histories and baggage that comes with it, it's more about we're about to embark on something really fun, and if we can continue doing it, who wouldn't want to do that, and I think that if the Yes fans support it; that will be enough to hold it up, and if we can increase our audience to other fans of other kinds of genres, the more the merrier, but I think it definitely has a life and we'll survive it.

JH: A lot of work went into this [laughs].

BS: Yeah, a lot of work.

JH: And a lot of love.

BS: It will be very intriguing to watch live, because it's tricky, and it's always cool to watch musicians playing tricky stuff. We don't see enough of that anymore, and nowadays you get one guy running at the front of the stage with a microphone while there's a track playing.

MOT: And dancers. There are always dancers.

JH: We thought about that [laughs].

BS: Whatever happened to watching the interaction and stuff?

JH: They would have to know different timings and stuff.

MOT: I've asked each one of the guys an individual question, and I have one for you [Jimmy]. When you're playing with these guys and coming up with parts and the such, were you thinking in terms of trying to be Yes-like, or just being you and just bringing whatever it is you would bring to the music? Working with guys who worked with the likes of Steve Howe, Trevor Rabin, and Peter Banks, I mean... pretty daunting.

JH: Steve Howe was the guy for me for a long time, and then I got into other guitar players: John McLaughlin, Chet Atkins, and stuff like that, which I have to give Steve credit for. Because I was young at that time, he sort of opened up this whole other window, and I see what he was doing was bringing the Chet Atkins, he was bringing all these other influences into rock, and doing successfully without sounding too contrived, so that's what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to bring all my other influences in, and not any one genre, and what the thing is it was so open back then, which is a spirit that I'm sort of trying to bring into it. It's like open for anything; I'll play a jazz guitar here, or play a lute or something like that, which they're all colors, and they should all be there, and I think a lot of rock music now is just pretty much you got a Strat, then let's do it, and that's kind of what on the UNION album, I had 175s and stuff, and I tried to replicate Steve Howe at that point, but that's not what I'm trying to do right now. I guess maybe the spirit of what was going on.

MOT: It sounds to me like on UNION you knew you were deliberately trying to sound like Steve Howe.

JH: I was.

MOT: Whereas here, you're only deliberation is in evoking your own influences whatever they may be, correct?

JH: Right.

MOT: And if they evoke Steve Howe it's invocation as opposed to an imitation.

JH: It's deep...

BS: I hope you write that down. Do you mind if I say that I said that? [Everyone laughs]

MOT: In closing, is there any question that you're dying to be asked, or get off of your chest or something you want to say? Here's your chance.

BS: Yes, I did play on THE LADDER. [Everyone laughs; Billy was referring to a conversation we had earlier in the day. The following two questions were asked in jest.]

MOT: Billy, did you play on THE LADDER? Are all the rhythm parts you on THE LADDER?

BS: Yeah, we'd have to go through and I could point and click you through it, and you'd go oh, ok that's a lot more than I probably was told. A lot.

MOT: There's a rumor that's it's you and not Rick Wakeman on FRAGILE, Tony? [Everyone laughs] You know, there was a similar rumor about THE YES ALBUM with Peter--that Peter contributed to THE YES ALBUM, and Steve vehemently denies that. But go ahead [and answer anyway].

TK: Well, I did rehearse FRAGILE before I left. I left in the middle.
[In a follow-up question after the interview Tony said he didn't remember which songs he had rehearsed before his departure.]

MOT: Here's a question you [Jimmy] can answer on or off the record, I'll give you the option: because of what happened with UNION, if you could say anything to Steve Howe today or anything I could convey to him, what would that be?

JH: I respect you; I'm not your enemy, I'm your friend. I was only...

TK: Doing my job.

JH: I was only doing my job, and here's the thing, let me say this. Imitation is the biggest form of flattery, I think, and at that point, and I have to say the pressure was really from Arista at that point, and they thought that Yes should get back to what their sort of roots were, and I have always been very sensitive to what that sound was. Steve's not a real bluesy player; he's kind of like classically influenced, country influenced--a lot of different things... I would say if I had to say to Steve Howe, just look at it as sort of flattery. I always respected him, and I always will. Even though he said some shit about me, which is ok. I understand; I wouldn't want anybody coming in with my band and replacing me, but I was definitely hired at that time to do that. I knew that it would probably piss him off.

TK: Blame Clive Davis.

MOT: The thing that pissed me off, as a fan and consumer, is it doesn't matter who was playing on it. It was like I said earlier, when I buy an album with Steve Howe, I want to hear Steve Howe, and there was no effort to dispel the fact that a lot of this wasn't Steve.

JH: At that time too, late '80s, actually during the '80s a lot of bandmembers were being replaced by studio players.

BS: Left, right, and center.

JH: Yeah, and so it was kind of just...

BS: It was standard operational procedure.

JH: I mean, we could name names, but we won't, there's a lot of that going on.

BS: Major stuff, yeah, major stuff.

TK: And I actually blame the paranoia of the record companies, really. They were seeing something else, not letting the band do what they wanted to do. The pressure of producing... but it should be OK that people in the band actually do play each other's instruments. I don't think Ringo got pissed off when Paul McCartney played the drums.

MOT: Which I don't think was that often, to be honest with you.

TK: It wasn't that often.

MOT: And think of all of the lead parts that Paul played, and George didn't play, like "Taxman". Some incredible solos, which really were Paul.

BS: On so many records, you have no idea.

TK: You shouldn't get uptight about it; it's all music, and this uptightness about I have to be doing what...

MOT: My opinion is still that on UNION the best tracks were the Trevor tracks, and of course "The More You Live". "Miracle of Life" and that song were really the best songs on the album. From an ABWH perspective, I thought the first two were the best, and they started out strong-"I Would Have Waited Forever" and "Shock to the System", but after that, they came up with "Only Love Can Start the Day" or whatever the hell the thing's called, and the stupid little piano part was obviously not Rick.

JH: You should have heard... I did a whole 12-string section against that, and Jon Anderson axed it, and it was gorgeous. I wish I could find it again, but it just was all these meanderings. I have nothing to do with those keyboard parts at all.

MOT: The keyboard parts sucked.

JH: He said this is too much. I think he was worried that it would piss Steve Howe off, because it was what Howe would kind of do, and it was kind of just a lot of different harmonies and stuff against what was going on, but then they ended up with that, and I was like "Shit!" but I found out that at one point there was this one song I think it was "Angkor Wat" or something, and Jon looked at Jon Elias and said "There is not one fucking Yes member right now playing!" [Everyone laughs]


Watch for updates at the CIRCA: web site, which will be opening soon.

Also visit the CIRCA: MySpace site, which features a track from the album.

Notes From the Edge #301

The entire contents of this interview are
Copyright © 2007, Mike Tiano

Special thanks to CIRCA: and Jen Gaudette
This conversation was conducted on January 20, 2007

© 2007 Notes From the Edge