I was freaking out as I was going to be very late to my meeting with Trevor Rabin. Trevor had graciously consented to a conversation for Notes, and we had arranged to talk at his home.
However I had mistakenly thought he was located somewhere in the San Fernando Valley when he was actually closer to the Hollywood Hills. I was driving from Orange County and realized too late that I was taking the long way around. When I finally arrived nearly an hour late there were workmen bustling about outside his house, which was in the process of being heavily renovated.
With my wife Cindy in tow I rushed from the car to get to Trevor's house. As we approached, dodging workmen and building materials, I was startled to suddenly hear a voice say, "Can I help you?" It was Trevor, who seemed to appear out of nowhere. We had previously spoken infrequently over the years [most recently at the Hollywood Bowl for the YesSymphonic tour], so I thought he hadn't recognized me; but the grin that crossed his face indicated that he knew exactly who I was and was having a bit of fun.
Trevor then took us on a tour of his home to see the changes he was making, including the new studio that would replace the space where TALK had been recorded. It didn't seem much bigger than what would accommodate Alan's drum kit. Due to the reconstruction he was temporarily using his living room for his studio, which included a rack of guitars (including his trademark Fender Strat), keyboard, and various video and sound equipment on which he would work on his film scores.
We settled in for what would be a long conversation, only broken up by workmen needing answers and the arrival of Trevor's wife, Shelley. The result is an intimate conversation that will span two issues. In this first installment Trevor discusses his time with Yes.
MIKE TIANO: I wanted to start with TALK, because that was your last album with Yes. I wanted to get your thoughts on that album from an artistic and commercial standpoint.
TREVOR RABIN: From a commercial standpoint, I think we were all a little disappointed. I think Phil Carson [Victory Records President] said it quite eloquently, that it just came at such a time that certain things were happening that it was the right album at the wrong time. But I think it was definitely the right place for Yes to have progressed to or gone to. So I think commercially, the album wasn't done as a contrived method to enhance the sales of the band. Obviously, that's what we hoped for, that there would be increased sales or at least sustain, proportionately-speaking, a decent kind of success from a sales point of view, based of previous albums.
But essentially from my point of view, and I think from Jon's point of view, it was an important album because it was really the first time we really got together and wrote together in a real way. Up until then, I'd written and then he'd come on top of it, even though there were collaborations; I think it was a good step from that point of view, but the most important aspect to me was that I think it was Yes was developing a new kind of thing that was moving away from what 90125 was, and also from what the classic era was. I think it was a combination of a lot of different things, and it became its own thing.
I think if TALK had commercially worked, I think it would have been very accepted by the fans. People accept TALK, people I run into, and I don't know demographically or statistically if this is an accurate assessment of what the fans feel, but people who talk about Yes product that I've been involved with, talk about TALK very favorably, so I'm happy about that, and I think artistically it was one of the highlights for me, certainly writing "Endless Dream" was a highlight, and a lot of the stuff on there, pushing the envelope as far as technology goes. In a lot of ways, I was very happy with it.
MOT: Do you think artistically it pushed you more so than the other Yes albums you did?
TR: Well, definitely as a producer, obviously it was like a ball I had to constantly be juggling; I just loved doing TALK. Every time I listen to it, I'm proud; I'm extremely happy with it. There's very few albums where I listen to the whole album, and I'm not unhappy with anything. I'm not ecstatic about everything, but on 90125 there are little moments where I go (sighs). On BIG GENERATOR, I think more could have been done, and then UNION I don't even like talking about because I think it's a dreadful record, but I think all of the band thinks that way. I think it was done for the wrong reasons, etc, but...
MOT: Without going down that path too far, it's my opinion that what you and what was termed YesWest contributed to UNION fared a hell of a lot better than what happened with Jonathan Elias and ABWH.
TR: Well, I've never said this, but I will go as far as saying that I think the tracks that I'm proud of on that album are "Miracle of Life" and "Lift Me Up". I think the rest of the album's not worth listening to. "Saving My Heart" I think was an idea that went wrong; it's kind of looked upon I think as a kind of cheap man's "Owner of a Lonely Heart" or "Sorrow", from my solo album, and it really wasn't. The intention of that song was just not where it landed up; it just didn't really gel-it was just a song I was playing and Jon came in and loved it and said, "Oh, let's do that," so it was kind of about that.
"Lift Me Up" was something I felt very strongly about, and "Miracle of Life" I felt very strongly about, particularly the content of the lyric. So yeah, I think those are by far the two best songs, and songs I'm proud of. Because I'd nothing to do with the Jonathan Elias thing. I don't know him; I've never met him, but I don't know. I know he had a hard time, and I know the band had a hard time. I think both are probably to blame, but I just don't think there's anything that I'd like to listen to on UNION, other than those two songs, and it's sounds kind of biased because they're the two songs I kind of came up with, but if there was one that I thought was... oh, actually there was the song that Billy Sherwood wrote with Chris.
MOT: "The More We Live, Let Go".
TR: I think that's a lovely song too.
MOT: That's a great song.
TR: Yeah, sorry, there are three songs on there that I think could be on any Yes album, and be proud to put them on any album that I'm involved with, I'd be proud those three songs on there. I had nothing to do with Billy's song, but I thought it was a wonderful song that Chris and Billy wrote. But the other stuff, and even "Shock to the System"-I hated playing that every night. I just thought it was a really bad attempt to do "City of Love", to be honest, be frank, and I thought "City of Love" was meant, if you know what I mean. Sometimes music doesn't have to be played, doesn't have to have this dexterity and stuff. Sometimes one note will suffice, as long as it's meant and it's the right note. That's why I think Rick's such a good addition to the band again, because he's real. He's the real deal, so in the same way with the TALK album, at least the UNION album, those three songs I thought were real and meant and could stand up...the rest of it, I just couldn't stand it.
MOT: I have to agree with you to some extent. I want to touch briefly on what you said earlier as far as TALK was the first album where you and Jon actually collaborated on.
TR: From its inception, almost its inception.
MOT: I think it's pretty well-known that 90125, Jon came in late in the game, as far as the album's concerned, but I would have thought that he might have been a little more involved as far as BIG GENERATOR goes, but that wasn't the case?
TR: No... it was a difficult album, because I think Jon was trying to go some way. There's a completely incorrect perception, in my view, that Jon and I were at odds with that album as far as where it should go. I didn't really see it like that; I just think everyone was kind of a little fragmented at the time. I've even seen it in print that Chris said... in this new book ["YES: An Endless Dream of '70s, '80s and '90s Rock Music", by Stuart Chambers] Chris says we went to Italy-"It was Trevor's idea to go to Italy to save money." It was never the intention to save money, although I don't want to waste money. The intention to go to Italy was to get the band together, because some of us were living here, but then Jon was living away, and Alan was in Seattle, I think. It just wasn't together, and I thought if we all go to Italy, like Caramati, this little town in this incredible old castle, and record in this castle. What an amazing thing.
Maybe Chris has just forgotten, because one thing I know about Chris is I don't think a word comes out of his mouth, certainly about me, that's ever malicious. We're really good friends and will be forever, but that's one thing I read, which is incorrect. I never, ever went to Caramati to save money. My idea to go to Caramati was, we've had this big album , and it's something which there's stylistically something happening. We need to keep going forward; I got nervous when the record company said, "Where's the next "Owner?'". I don't want to do that; it's painted. I'm not doing it again; let's do something else. Let's move ahead, and if you get it wrong, so be it, but you can't stagnate in the same creative space, and I thought Caramati would bring something out...
It was also a real drug time, that album, as far as the band went, and we won't talk about who or what, but it was a drug time, and it didn't have the same focus as 90125. There were moments on BIG GENERATOR that I think are easily as strong as anything on any Yes album I've ever been involved with or even heard... "Shoot High Aim Low", I was very proud of, and there was such a focus on that, it was great to do. "Love Will Find a Way" was right for the right reason, as was "Rhythm of Love", and "I'm Running" we had a great time doing; it was a magnificent time for us doing that song.
It was hard, we were learning to live with each other. We lived successfully during 90125 in the rehearsal stage, and we would go to John Henry every day, and NuNu would cook the dinner, and everything would go fine, and it was the Cinema rehearsals, and that really lead to this very cohesive album, and Trevor Horn was just tremendous to work with and has turned out to be one of my really close friends, in spite of the fact that we'd argued but for the right reason. It was really the right thing, that album, and BIG GENERATOR, it was "Well, where do we go next?" It was so new, but it just went "Boom!", so where do you go from there, because it's not like Yes had been continuing and like a little rise. It was [from] nothing to everything, and then the next album it was "Ok, how do we continue?" And I started learning more about who Jon was during the tour, whereas I knew Chris, I knew Alan, and I knew Tony right from the word go...
Even the song "BIG GENERATOR" from a production point of view and a musical point of view I think it's very interesting, but then there are songs like "It's Almost Like Love", which I think shouldn't have gone on the album; "Holy Lamb", the way it was done-and this is just Monday morning quarterbacking-"Holy Lamb" was something Jon really wanted to look at doing, and we did it, but I think in retrospect, personally speaking, I would have like to taken that song, looked at it, and surrounded it with... kind of like, "Soon" is surrounded by something, right?
TR: Surrounded "Holy Lamb" with something, rather just than let it ride the way it did, and I think it could have been better. But I think ultimately I look at BIG GENERATOR as being a good, successful album, creatively. "Final Eyes" I didn't think quite worked...
MOT: Really? I like that song.
TR: No, I like it, but I think it could have gone further. I think more could have been done. I mean, there's a part where I kind of cringe a little bit, because... how do I put this politely, but it starts sounding a bit like Journey, which I mean I've liked a lot of what they've done, but I don't think it's right for Yes to sound like Journey. So there's a bit of that, and arrangement-wise when the chorus comes and the big ballad-y chorus it's like... it was a little yawn, but there were parts of the song I think were extremely interesting from an arrangement point of view. Just that one area where it went to, and it was my fault when it went to that place. We didn't take it to where it could have gone, and when I think of it now, I think, "Oh God, why didn't I do this? Why did we do that? Why didn't I think of doing what I think I can do now?" It's over, but whereas 90125, outside of "Our Song", which is ok, I'm pretty proud of it, but with TALK, getting back to your original question, I listened to it the other night, because there's been a new release, a special edition or something...
MOT: I wanted to ask if you had a role in that.
TR: I don't think anyone did, I mean I don't know if the rest of the band did. I haven't really spoken to them about that, but I certainly wasn't consulted, but then I wasn't consulted about this new box set, so (laughs)...
MOT: So, you had no input...
TR: No input.
MOT: Would you like to have had some input?
TR: I phoned Chris and I thought the choice of tracks was wrong. Some of it was right, but there's some deletions, which were ridiculous, because "Changes" was clearly the second-most or third-most favorite song on 90125, and not to have that on, I think there were other agendas involved. I have no idea why one would leave that off.
MOT: I would have thought "Hearts" would have gone on.
TR: Absolutely, I mean I have very fond memories of "Hearts". I remember when I first met with Chris talking about I've got this one idea, which was "Hearts", and I didn't have a middle part for it or something... the verse. I had the chorus, and I had the heavy part, the angry part, and I didn't have the verse, and then Tony Kaye at rehearsal started playing (sings opening notes of the verse), and I said "There it is; that's the song," and I think we finished that song really quite quick. It was one that Jon, when he first heard the song, he said after "Owner of a Lonely Heart" that's the one he liked the most.
Yeah so, there's a lot of stuff about that box set... I mean, I'm not happy about it; I'm not happy to have not been consulted, to not have been told, but it's what happened, and I don't know if it's the management or if it's the band. But I did speak to Chris, he called me and he said, "Oh, there's a box set." Chris being Chris was trying to keep me informed; I said, "Look, I don't expect people to call me at every turn with Yes." God knows I probably wouldn't be able to take the call half of the time, because I'd be in the studio, but something like this it would be nice to know about it.
MOT: Do you think "Owner" was a mixed blessing? As you've pointed out, management was saying we want another, so you became perceived as the band hit maker, crank out all these number one hits.
TR: No, because I guess if on balance, I'd much rather have written it than not, and if the perception is that that's what I do, then people haven't listened to all of what I've done, and then that's just not knowing what I've done. I definitely think my best work is in the scores I've done, not on Yes albums or solo albums. That's why I continue to be honest with the scores is because there's a freedom involved. It's very selfish freedom, but it's also an incredibly unselfish idea, because you're writing as a collaboration, and half the time the best pieces of music you're not going to hear because there's a car chase cramming all over it. But the exhilaration every time I go in to the studio, and we go "Boom," and the orchestra hits in like "Deep Blue Sea", it was a ninety-piece orchestra and an eighty-piece choir plus/minus, and when that goes into the big moments or even the small moments, it's as least exhilarating as the most enjoyable stage experience that I've had.
MOT: As far as Tony Kaye goes, can you clear up his involvement? I was wondering how much Tony did actually contribute to the three albums.
TR: Well, there's actually a really good answer for that, and I don't think it's ever been mentioned. A lot of the songs, for example on 90125, I'd written before ever meeting the guys. But when we got together and started rehearsing the stuff, and then there was stuff of Chris', and Chris and Alan's, and Tony... we have to remember that I think Jon's favorite verse to sing from the 90125 album is "Hearts", which Tony Kaye wrote. There's "Cinema", Tony had a lot to do with putting together in rehearsals. Now it just so happened that when we recorded 90125, Trevor Horn and him didn't see eye-to-eye creatively and there was basically a split. Trevor Horn came to me and said, "You've played all [the keyboards] on the demos," and he'd spoken to Chris, "Are you comfortable doing the keyboards?" At that point, due to loyalty to Tony, I said "Well, what about Tony?" as did Chris, and we realized it just wasn't going to work with [Tony[ and Trevor Horn. So basically I did the keyboards, but there were bits and pieces that had been there from the back tracks we had done, not a lot.
But I still think there's a certain amount of Tony's spirit on the album, and I'm not trying to be overly complementary or kind to Tony, but I really do believe there's something there that if Tony hadn't had been in those rehearsals, it might have been a slightly different thing. The thing is, as far as "Owner of a Lonely Heart" goes, I don't think it really mattered, because we only really rehearsed that after rehearsals. It was amazing that song, because we never rehearsed it. Trevor Horn heard it and said "That's a hit," immediately, and I said, "I know it's a hit." It was amazing our focus... Trevor's focus for ages was "I don't care about the rest of the album, until we get that song right." He had an amazing instinct for that song, and he saw exactly what I had written. He saw it in the demo.
MOT: How about Tony's involvement on BIG GENERATOR?
TR: He had more to do on BIG GENERATOR. There was still a conflict between him and Trevor Horn, and he ended up doing most of the keyboards in another [studio]... still in the kind of complex we were in, but with an engineer he would just work alone, and then we'd integrate it in. I still did a lot of keyboards on BIG GENERATOR, but Tony did more on that then he did on 90125.
MOT: He was credited on TALK with just organ, so you played all the keyboards.
TR: Yeah, he played the Hammond.
MOT: Why wasn't he more involved on the keyboards there?
TR: That's another weird thing... Tony's support on TALK was almost as a kind of co-producer. He was so involved in supporting that album, because while everyone else was into the album, and Jon was certainly into the album, I don't think Chris came to the album with the same energy that he did on 90125, and it must have been frustrating for the band because it was this whole new format where everything you looked at, ear-wise as well, was through this little screen, which was a whole new ballgame. This is some time ago, and although albums had been done [this way], I think the Beach Boys did an album on a Mac. This was fully non-linear, Macintosh-based [system].
It was a nightmare, because you could only use four tracks at a time at this point on that kind of software, so in order to do it, I linked up four Macintoshes. All had to run at the same time; it was a bit of a technical headache, but I think Chris got somewhat frustrated, although I think he played some of his best playing on that album. I think some of his playings are tremendous on that album; and Alan, and I think Jon's magnificent on that album. I listen to that album, and I just hear this voice soaring over it, and I think it's just fantastic.
But not to get away from your point, Tony was so instrumental in helping getting that done, and I think he looked upon it with very mature kind of point of view. He just didn't care that I was doing [the keyboards], he's beyond ego when it comes to that. And he knew that a lot of the keyboards had to knit in with what I doing guitar-wise, why not just play it instead of saying, "Can you do this," kind of thing. Plus I was sitting there with my rig, and it wasn't his rig so it would have been very difficult for him. But I think his input, and I really mean this-I'm not trying to be diplomatic, his input was a lot more than Hammond organ. Did he play literally more than Hammond organ? No, but his input on the album from a support standpoint was pretty substantial, because there were times in the band were frustrated and said, "I'm sick of this digital crap."
MOT: Was it a pioneering album in terms of recording techniques? Were you doing things that nobody had done up to that point?
TR: Part of me wants to say yes, and part of me that wants to say no. It's a bit "who cares" if it was a pioneering job or not. I think absolutely it was; absolutely no one had done it like this before.
MOT: Being recorded to hard disk?
TR: Well, in this way as well, recording to hard disk with a Macintosh-based system, which wasn't ready to be recorded on. It was a nightmare; we had technicians from the software company sitting, watching me record, taking notes of things that were going wrong, going in, rewriting software, bringing it out-it was amazing. It was just amazing how... I listen to the album and I think "I cannot believe we actually got through it," because it was a technological breakthrough-and nightmare.
MOT: So let's move on the TALK tour. How was that for you?
TR: Well... mixed. The first part was disappointment that the album wasn't received better, whereas UNION, it's funny, it's almost the opposite to UNION. I didn't care about how well the album was received, but I was disappointed that good songs were wasted on an album like that, some of which I had something to do with. But the tour was great, and I had a great time [but] It wasn't a real band, as far as the TALK band was a real band.
The TALK band was certainly in my view the best the YesWest ever played. I think there were nights where we just soared. I remember playing in Chile, in Santiago, it was just phenomenal the feeling that came off the stage and the power, but I was disappointed with the sales of the record, but people came to the show. There's some shows that didn't sell too well, but I think the band was still living in the kind of multiple arena show-mode, and I think if we played places like maybe a night at the Greek or Universal [in L.A.], we would have had a great tour. When you play at places that are half-full or three-quarters full, it's not as enjoyable as a smaller place which is jam-packed. So relating it to the UNION tour, I had a wonderful time on the UNION tour largely because of Rick. I just had such a great time playing with him, but the TALK tour, as a band, I thought we were really cohesive.
MOT: Did the tour somehow set the stage for your exit from Yes?
TR: It's a funny thing, Mike, because what we were doing onstage had nothing to do with me leaving. As I said, I thought the band was just playing great on that tour. But I just felt that there was a kind of disillusionment, the disappointment of, "God, this took so much energy to do this record, and now what?" In every band there's pulling and pushing politically, and emotionally, and it was just one of those albums where it was so intense, that you either go somewhere... where do you go next?
If I thought the album had been a bad album, if it was the UNION album, quality-wise-I feel bad always trashing the UNION album, but it's just a point of reference-so if it was the UNION album, I think there might have been, "OK, we've got to do a good album now. The album didn't sell; the tour was fun, but now we've got to go in and do a great album." I think the band would have maybe stayed [together]... I would have probably been urged or [decided] by myself to stick it out. But my wife also saw the energy I put into TALK, and when I said I'm leaving, she wasn't unhappy. She thought it was time for me move on as well and try and do something else. I had been with the band for fourteen years; it's a long time.
MOT: There are still Yes fans who feel like you were replaced.
TR: I know that there was friction between all the wives. There were wives that weren't getting on on the tour, and that's the truth, and that's never a healthy thing. People were starting to be uncomfortable with each other... one of the things that happened was that there was a real push to change management. Jon was incredibly disappointed with the management. And I don't feel that the failure of TALK to sell tons of albums and for the tour to sell out like 90125 did, I don't think it was management's fault, and I felt they deserved more loyalty and I stuck to that, so there was a definite difference of opinion there between Jon and I, and Tony Kaye and I. Tony Kaye and I went through a really rough time on TALK. We are now good friends, and brothers fight.
My attitude was if I was to stay, it would be very difficult to creatively kind of function anymore. I've seen things and read things where I was a control-freak and all this kind of stuff. Well, so is Chris, and so is Jon. That's what musicians do; they want to put their picture forward. With TALK I was allowed to do it with incredible encouragement from Jon, and Chris was always unbelievably supportive in every way. He would say "Go! Feel free; you got to go. I want you to go," because he thought it was in his interests, but I didn't think there was a healthy place at that point to go [from TALK]-as Jon felt after BIG GENERATOR. Jon certainly wasn't pushed out, but there was certainly a feeling that where is this thing going now, and Jon moved aside. Maybe my kind of lethargicness after the Japanese tour, led to people thinking that there is going to be a change, and I am going to be replaced if I leave (laughs), but no, unless there's something I don't know.
The first thing I knew is I phoned Chris, we were getting together to rehearse. Jon had organized for us to go to, I think, Boulder, Colorado to rehearse, and I just wasn't into the idea. I thought it's not time for this, and that's when I phoned Chris, and I said, "You know what; I know all these ideas are going on, I think it's time I stepped aside." While there were some vibes which weren't healthy and some differences of opinion between Tony and I, and Jon and I, and Jon and Chris-the only guy who never gets in those squabbles is Alan, because he's far too nice a person to do that.
But I guess what I'm trying to say is if I honestly thought that there was a push to replace me, I promise you I'd be quite happy to say, "Well, yeah that's the case," and I was thrown out and replaced, and I'm very happy. I don't have an ego problem with telling you that I was thrown out, but the truth is it's not what happened.
MOT: Share one or two of your favorite stories of your time with the band.
TR: Well, we played in Hawaii just before going to Japan on the BIG GENERATOR tour. There was disappointment because we couldn't fly the rig because it was on its way to Japan, so we had to use local stuff. I think it was certainly the best gig we had on the 90125 tour, and I just remember two things on that show. We were in the middle of playing near the end of "Hearts", and Jon just looked at me smiled this smile, and as the song ended, Chris came up to me and said "Doesn't get any better than this," and that was kind of cool, because it was just one of those moments that was on fire. It was a light.
Rarely have I felt more alive than that; that's about the most alive you can be when you know it's there, you don't need to communicate about it, but Chris was so enthralled by what just was happening onstage, that he walked up and he kind of stuck his head on my head, like he was going to head-butt me, and his sweat was dripping all over me and he said "Doesn't get any better than this, does it?" and it was like "No, it doesn't," so that was great. That was one of the great musical moments. And it was just how it all happened at once, because like twenty seconds before I was playing a solo and Jon just turned to me, his eyes were closed and he was in heaven, and he turned to me and just gave me this huge smile. It wasn't even meant for me, it was "This is fun," and we were all feeling the same thing, so that was probably a feeling I can't forget or explain.
MOT: How about a humorous story?
TR: Oh boy, I'd have to think hard to think of which one it is, but it definitely would involve Chris. One of the really funny things was on the UNION tour, which really it was a brief thing with Rick. I should I guess really talk about the band that I was with more, but I found Rick to be such an amazing talent, but also so funny. We would be doing "I've Seen All Good People", and Steve played the [Portuguese guitar] part, which when he wasn't in the band I would do on acoustic guitar. But one night I was a little bored because I never did anything other than go (sings backup vocal dit-its), so I thought ok, well I'm going to play something along with him, for fun. There's a song which used to remind me of Alan's roadie NuNu [Whiting], because he looks just like the singer from AC-DC, and so I did this kind of Angus Young guitar part from that, and really for Alan as well as NuNu, which was kind of not really in context with that song.
But it was fun, and I think it was the last show, it was one of the fun gigs; it wasn't really a serious moment in the show, and I got a look from Steve of absolute revulsion. And when I saw that, I thought ok, so if he hadn't at looked at me, it would have probably been the only time I did it, but because he looked at me like that, I did it every night, just as a naughty little prank kind of thing. And I think it was Jon or Chris came and said, "You really should stop doing that," so I said, "Alright, alright, I won't do it anymore," and Rick would come up behind me every night and say, "Come on, do it! Do it!" because he would be standing behind with maracas. So he'd do that, and tell me some silly joke, and I actually remember that because it was in San Francisco, the last gig. I'm supposed to be singing, and Rick's telling me a joke, and I can't sing. I burst out laughing.
So it was great, the funny moments. But the more funny moments I think was Chris in Europe on BIG GENERATOR, because Chris was on a roll on BIG GENERATOR. He was having fun, and we would go to clubs, and I would be in tears with Chris' dry sense of humor. I think that, in a nutshell: the humor of the band. I think Chris just used to crack me up unbelievably, and it's probably fortunate that Chris, me, and Rick weren't in the same band for too long, because I think my stomach muscles would have been devastated because Rick used to make me laugh, and Chris used to make me laugh.
MOT: That's great. Which tracks from all the ones you contributed to the band would you say sparked the fondest memories and why?
TR: "Endless Dream" onstage, and finishing the album. I think "Endless Dream" is probably one of my favorite moments, and when we finished the back track for "City of Love", that was a pretty special moment, because it was live. There's overdubs, but the essence of the song is live. Everything that was overdubbed on the song was vocal or kind of dressing. The guts of the song, the whole thing was live, and when we came into the control room and listened to it and Trevor Horn turned it up-we did it at the Townhouse-we all went "Wow!" You can't not listen. You might not like it, but you can't not listen. That reminded me a bit of that, and then "Shoot High Aim Low" was a real big moment for me, finishing the mix and listening to that.
One of the fondest musical moments is I remember Jeff Beck came to I think the Madison Square Garden show, and they told me just before going onstage-because I love Jeff Beck-they told me before going onstage that he was there, and I enjoyed playing the solo that night. I was kind of inspired to play as good as I can, so I think I did. It was kind of enjoyable. One other really enjoyable musical moment is when Rick was doing his solo, and he did (plays part "Catharine Parr"), when he did that, I thought "Wow, that's a great piece," and I remember that. Because keep in mind that as far as being a Yes fan, I was first a Rick Wakeman fan; SIX WIVES OF HENRY THE EIGHTH is the first Yes thing I ever heard, "Who is this guy? This guy is amazing," and I loved that album. So when Rick did that in his solo that night, I went into the dressing room and it was impossible to play on guitar, but I thought, I'm going to work out a way of doing this. And I did it. The next day at rehearsal, I walked in and I went (sings same part) and I played it, and he said "You got to do that on my solo," so that was a nice moment that we would get together, and I would join his solo. That was really fun.
MOT: That was one of the highlights of the UNION tour. It really was.
TR: Oh, good, good, because it was for me too. To play that on piano, it's not easy. I mean, for Rick, it's easy; but on guitar, it's a task, and what we did after about the first five shows is he would look at me and smile, because I would start it and then he would join me, and after about five shows, Rick sense of humor started coming in. He'd join me a little faster than I started it, and then he would get faster and faster, and by the end I was going "You bastard!" because he was doing it so fast I could barely keep up. So, that was Rick's sense of humor, but that was one of the highlights for me.
MOT: You and Rick got along really well on that tour. How did you come to contribute to RETURN TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH?
TR: He just called me, and we'd been talking, and... I mean, this is where some of these rumors and things, I don't know when or how they happen, but in the middle of ... I can't remember which movie I was doing, but the band had been going, and I don't know if they'd toured or I think they'd done an album post-TALK, and I was in the middle of a movie, and Chris came to see me and said maybe we should talk about doing something, come back, and I mean there was just no way we could even discuss it, and I think Chris knew that. Unless I was going to do it, there's no point in talking about it, and I really couldn't do it, and obviously my love for Chris and the band and what I'd been through for fourteen years, it was never just dismissed "No'. It was, absolutely, let's talk. But I'm busy for at least six months, and this has led to a lot of interesting ideas and opportunities that I'm going to be looking at, so anyway, it didn't go any further.
I don't remember the timeline, Mike, but sometime after that Rick and I were talking on the phone; he was not going to do the band, and we kind of said to each other, "I will if you will" kind of thing-loosely putting the scenario, but I was keen on working with Rick, and I think he was keen on working with me, and it just didn't work out. But then he did this album, which I think is a great album. Some of the orchestral work on there is excellent. And he said to me "I'd love you to get involved," and I said "By all means," and actually we met in LA and spent some time together, and I worked on it.
MOT: Did you contribute to "Never is a Long, Long Time"?
TR: No, I had nothing to do with any of the writing or lyrics or anything. He'd written the songs, and I just sang one of them, and then I played guitar on it, and it was great-had a great time.
MOT: Considering how you got along on UNION, why didn't Rick play on TALK?
TR: Why didn't he play on TALK? There was such a whole political thing; it was really kind of very weird. It's no secret that Steve and I never really established a relationship like Rick and I did; it just didn't happen. And I don't think it's for any particular reason other than he had his own thing; I had my thing, and it just didn't work-didn't work out to go that way. So when we finished the UNION thing, musically it was like, oh my God, so it was like, look, let's go in and do another 90125 lineup album, and let's really try and do something really substantial and unique, and all the right words. You kind of say that on every album; it doesn't always work out. It was never said on UNION; it was like, let's get some cello tape out and stick this thing together so we can do a tour.
But I don't know. It was a weird thing; there was a Brian Lane element, who was always a divisive kind of element and divisive presence, and I think that was part of it as well-management. Brian had those guys, and Tony [Dimitriades] had these guys, so I think it had much more to do with politics and certainly had nothing to do with me not wanting to work creatively with Rick, couldn't be further from the truth.
MOT: So would you say collaboration is still a possibility?
TR: With Rick?
MOT: Yeah. If the right project came along?
TR: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. No, I think Rick's an unbelievably exciting guy to work with.
MOT: Jumping ahead to MAGNIFICATION, there was as I recall a rumor that you were asked to do the orchestrations [for the album]. Is there any truth in that?
TR: Chris approached me at one point, yeah. I couldn't do it because I was in the middle of doing movies. I offered that Chris could send me the scores, and I could look at them, just to see from like Chris' point of view, and even Steve's point of view, whether the parts really related to what they were doing and made a cohesive entity, as opposed to what usually happens in rock and roll. There's the band, and we're going to stick some strings on top of it, and we're really not going to have anything to do with it. So I said if you send me the scores, I be able to determine that one way or the other, and as schedules sometimes go, I went off doing a movie and got very busy, and they went off doing this and got very busy, and Chris never sent me the score, which was fine, because they got it done, and I think they were happy with it.
MOT: Can you repeat your story about "And You and I" and how you would have taken a radical approach to scoring that for the YesSymphonic tour? [Trevor had told this prior to the start of the recorded conversation.]
TR: Yeah, when Chris first came up with that, and he played me some demos... they were recording in Santa Barbara, I think, and they invited me up there, Shelley and I went for a weekend and spent some time with Chris and Alan and the families, and Chris played it to me over a bottle of wine, we listened to some of the early stages of it. It wasn't the final orchestra, so it was really no time to judge good or bad, but idea wise I thought there was some interesting things, and at that point I was listening to the stuff, and thereafter I had this idea which just hit me almost instantaneously of an arrangement for "And You and I"-full orchestral arrangement, but integrating the band into the orchestra, rather than the orchestra playing on top of the existing arrangements, and I can actually remember it. The pulsating bass part Chris would still play it; he wouldn't start with it; it would be a bassoon and a double bass plucking, and that's how it would start, and (sings main guitar part of "And You and I") that was going to be woodwinds to start off with, and I can hear it now. It's really pretty good (laughs), but it's like anything. It's schedules and time; it doesn't work out.
MOT: What were your thoughts on the orchestration on the final album?
TR: Now this is the absolute gospel truth-I never actually heard the whole final album. I never really heard the whole album. I heard a couple of tracks, and someone had the album and played me a couple of tracks. I never really heard the whole album. So it would be unfair to comment, because if I liked those songs and they didn't translate into the whole album being good, or if I didn't like those songs but they made sense with the rest of the album-and I'm really not trying to dodge the issue, but I didn't really hear it enough to know.
As far as the tour goes, I definitely thought the orchestra was kind of superimposed on top of the band. I don't think it was integrated into the band. But what really came for me there is how unbelievably well Chris and Alan, as a team, were just playing phenomenally, but I'd never seen them. I'd never seen Chris and Alan. I had always been there with them, so to see them play, my thought was, "God, I had that behind me?" I got cold shivers thinking about it, and then Jon's voice soaring over the top, it's like "Man, this is beautiful, beautiful." But as far as the integration of the orchestra into it, it worked and people were enjoying it, and so who am I to say, but just from my personal point of view as an orchestrator, I could have seen more integration.
MOT: Did you hear the other two Yes albums, OPEN YOUR EYES or THE LADDER?
TR: Yeah, I heard some of OPEN YOUR EYES, and Billy had a real strong presence in there. I thought there was some good stuff. I know for a lot of Yes fans, it's taken over from me being the villain (laughs), so I'm happy about that, but I don't think it's as bad an album as some people make it out to be. I definitely think it's an album that Chris and Billy wrote, or I know how Billy and Chris collaborated, and I saw a lot of that in the album from what I heard and could take away from it, and I thought there was some good stuff on it .
MOT: How about THE LADDER?
TR: Same thing. I thought there was really good stuff on it, although I didn't think there's much of Billy in there. Was he involved in that? No, that was Bruce Fairburn, right?
TR: No, I thought there was some interesting stuff there too.
MOT: How do you think Yes figures in your life today? I don't mean in terms of interacting with them day-to-day, which of course you don't do, but in the way you approach your work-the lessons you've learned. How does Yes figure in your life today?
TR: You know, when I first started doing film scores, a couple of times people would listen to the demos or some of the orchestral stuff, and they'd say "Yeah, he wrote Owner of a Lonely Heart, and he wrote that and that," so sometimes it made it more attractive, but I think after "Armageddon", which was I think my third or fourth film, that kind of went away, and Yes really has no relevance to the work I do anymore as far as... put it this way, when people say, "I want him to do it because I like his work," it's based on the scores, not on what I've done with Yes, so that's kind of gone away now. Very rarely is Yes mentioned as, "Alright, can you do this like you did with Yes?" It's much more they're relating to an earlier thing I've done. It's much more relating to "Can you do this-that thing you did on 'Jack Frost' or that thing you did on 'Whispers'?" or whatever the case may be. Very rarely is there any mention of "Can you do what you did in Yes?"
MOT: Let's discuss briefly your upcoming releases, because you'd mentioned two. One is the live performance.
TR: Yeah, 1989 at the Roxy I think it was.
MOT: Well, let's talk about that first [LIVE IN LA].
TR: It was a tour I did on the CAN'T LOOK AWAY album, we recorded it, and I mixed it, and about six months ago I listened to it, and I was quite taken by the quality of the sound, forgetting about the performance. I was quite taken by the quality of the sound and how well it had mixed itself, because you can have the best equipment, the best whatever, but if it's not recorded properly, if the band weren't in the moment, it's not going to work, you know? I was surprised at how good the sound was and how in the moment it sounded and how vital it felt to me. And then Alex Scott [former Yes manager], Alex came to me one day and said, "You know, you should release that thing." He said, "Is there any reason you're not?," and I said, "I guess that procrastination, lethargy-I don't know. It's just I'm so involved in this stuff." I think what has definitely suffered from the focus on this is the rock and roll world that I used to live in.
The funny thing is, as far as guitar-playing because I do less of it on the scores, but I actually play more guitar now than I usually do. because I'm constantly playing when I'm not working, and when I'm working I'm sometimes playing, so I think as a guitarist goes, I'm better now that I ever was, but there are other elements to that that have kind of been lost, and this is one of those things which is just kind of left by the wayside. I've got enough material for about half an album at least, that I'd be so happy to put out, and I just haven't got time to get around to it.
I've decided that from now on, I'm going to slow down, not do as many scores and try and try to focus on doing an album, because I'm ready for it. I don't think I was ready for it before, so it's half the excuse of just the procrastination and the workload I had lead to me not doing anything, but now there's a desire, which there wasn't before, to do an album. Because the desire was completely fulfilled by the scoring; 100% creatively fulfilled by that, so I had no creative anxieties or anything, and now I kind of feel ready. I want to sing, and I want to do an album. But with that album, Alex said, "You should release it," and I listened to it again, and I thought, "Wow! We really played well that night." And then this guy was really interested in releasing it, and I said absolutely, so he mastered it, brought me mastered album, and he did a magnificent job mastering it. I'm happier with the live show than I am with the CAN'T LOOK AWAY album. The song "Can't Look Away" I think is better than the album version. The playing is raw and energetic, so I'm really excited about that. I'm kind of happy for that to be coming out.
MOT: The other exciting release is the Cinema demos .
TR: Yeah, it's a little joke, which I'm sure Chris will have a chuckle at, the album's going to be called 90124. It's really quite cute, and going back and hearing the demos, and something I found which I thought I didn't have any longer. Not just the demos... when I wrote "Owner of a Lonely Heart", obviously I hadn't met Jon then, when Jon came into the band, I thought, this melody's going to be completely wrong for him. So I rewrote the verse melody to what I thought would suit Jon, Jon's voice, and I have me singing it, but (sings part of the song) without the lyrics, because Jon came in and wrote the lyrics, but I've got an early version of demo-the original version that Trevor Horn heard-and then I've got an updated version, so you can hear the progress of the song, just before we finished on 90125.
And "City of Love" and "Changes"; it's going to be called 90124, but it encompasses all the demos, not just from 90125, but even "Love Will Find a Way". There's a demo of "Love Will Find... " if I can find that one. I know I've got it somewhere, but with this move... and then I have a demo of "Walls". There's a demo of me and Roger doing it-Roger Hodgson, so that will go on it, so it's going to be really interesting. And then there's something I did, Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, just with guitars and bass and drums, but it's the full arrangement. It's not a variation; it's the absolute full arrangement, and each part I've taken and arranged. Like the oboe part, I've arranged on guitar, changed the guitar sound to be somewhat appropriate and I did that for the movie "Dearly Beloved", which was this thing about Beethoven. [Conductor] George Schulte wanted the Hendrix fans to get into Beethoven, so let's get a guitar thing, and he did the arrangements-George Schulte, and I thought that's pretty good company, so I did this version of the Fifth Symphony. He's my favorite conductor.
So I did that, and that happened during around the UNION album, and at one point I was thinking I should put that on a Yes album. It would be cool, but I don't think it was appropriate to go on the UNION album. It was a very personal kind of thing, and it's one thing doing it in a closely-knit band, as was Chris, me, Alan, Tony, and Jon. It was another thing to say, "I want my solo spot." So I didn't bother, but that I think is appropriate to put on as well, because after it was not used in the movie because they decided against that idea, and it was also personal to me, because my father really liked it. He was a great musician, and he really liked it. So in the beginning of TALK, I was thinking this would go great on there. At one point I thought it would be great to get some tape delays and stuff-get into it with Chris and get into some parts with him and Alan and actually play... start the show with (sings beginning of Fifth Symphony) and start the Yes show with it, because they always started with Firebird Suite; well how about doing our own version of a better composer, Beethoven-Stravinsky's not bad, but he learned a lot from Beethoven. I thought it would be kind of cool to start off with (sings beginning of Fifth Symphony again), but really heavy, so to me that was attached to Yes, so that will probably go on there. The set list is, if you like, is not decided upon, but it is going to be a fun album to put together.
MOT: What do you think your lasting contribution to Yes is?
TR: That I provided them with an endless dream (laughs).
The lasting contribution to Yes? Hopefully at the risk of being immodest, but one of the things that offended a lot of early fans is my desire to... keep in mind when I came to the band, I didn't know I was going to be doing Yes, and so what I was writing wasn't an attempt to change Yes or do anything with Yes, it was written. I think that's why Billy gets a lot of flack, because what he did was for Yes, and it was contrived to work in Yes. Mine never was, and even on TALK, it was never to do it for Yes, it was to do it for the people in Yes, and hopefully it could be proud enough music to live up to the name. I revere the name.
I'm proud to have been in Yes. It means a lot to me, but it's only one aspect of my life. It's not everything, and so in the context of your question, I believe that my unconscious thing of modernizing the sound or taking it a bit forward, so it didn't just become a nostalgic kind of thing, I think was kind of successful, and I think that's, hopefully, what the band will take away. I can tell you, Chris, Jon, Alan, Tony, Rick have rubbed off on me, and Chris has told me I rubbed off on him, and hopefully I've rubbed off on everyone, but I hope the lasting thing is that people remember the music I did as at least not being wimpy, and at least not being complacent-taking a chance, not being a coward, just going for it, and if it's not liked, tough. I didn't go in and try and do "Owner of a Lonely Heart II"; I never did that, or III, and I despise that kind of thinking.
So just the idea of being a catalyst-and not just me, but the band being a catalyst. Hopefully I revitalized that in the band, because that was certainly there when they did CLOSE TO THE EDGE and FRAGILE, and I think it went away in later years, and hopefully I brought it back. Certainly while I was there hopefully I was part of bringing it back.
Next installment: Trevor on writing film scores.