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EntertainmentTell Interviews Legendary Yes Bassist Chris Squire

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Chris Squire of Yes (Photo credit: Rob Shanahan)

Chris Squire of Yes (Photo credit: Rob Shanahan)

If nothing else, Chris Squire deserves a medal for persistence.

The bassist for the iconic progressive rock band Yes is the only member who’s been on every Yes album and played on every Yes tour since the band’s formation in 1968.

Beyond that, he’s unarguably redefined the role of bass guitar in rock music, making the often-overshadowed and under-mixed instrument a prominent and boldly creative lead voice in Yes’ complex classics.

When we spoke to Squire in late March 2014, he was just about to play the last dates of his band’s long-running Classic Albums Tour, which saw them playing three three albums start-to-finish.

In the following interview (conducted exclusively for EntertainmentTell.com), Squire discusses the band’s upcoming studio album; its Summer 2014 tour, which will feature two albums in their entirety (Fragile and Close to the Edge) along with tracks from the new CD and Yes classics; the second Cruise to the Edge; and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which Yes almost got into this year.

 

Howard Whitman: So, on the upcoming summer tour, you’re finally playing Fragile, start to finish?

Chris Squire: Ah … (laughs) We’re aren’t yet! Yeah, there’s a couple of tricky points about doing that, to reproduce it like the original album exactly is a little complicated for myself, and for Geoff Downes as well to do the keyboard piece (“Cans And Brahms”), and for me to reproduce “The Fish” in the same way it appears on the album—although I’ve played “The Fish” solo over the years in a very different form and presentation from the album. The album (version), of course, was a bunch of overdubbed bass guitars. So I’ve got to figure out exactly how that is going to be pulled off. I’m sure we have the technology so it can be possible.

Whitman: Yes, there’s been speculation online that you’re going to use loops or things like that? Have you worked that out yet?

Squire: No, no … I mean, I know where there’s a will, there’s a way (laughs).

Whitman: Absolutely! And also, for Jon Davison to do “We Have Heaven”—that’s a zillion overdubbed voices, correct?

Squire: Yeah, well, strangely enough, that one we had actually done a version of over the years from time to time. We have done “We Have Heaven.” I’ll have to say I’m not quite so sure how close it is to the original, but once again, I’m sure we’ll be able to figure out a way to faithfully reproduce it.

Whitman: Have you ever played “Five Per Cent For Nothing” live onstage before?

Squire: That’s another good point, isn’t it? Yeah, that one is going to be definitely a bit of a challenge so, yes, thanks for reminding me about it.

Whitman: A strange little number, what is it, a minute or less? (Note: It actually clocks in at 35 seconds).

Squire: Yeah, it’s not long. But it’s odd—pretty complicated. But we’ll be able to, once again, figure this stuff out when we get into rehearsals, which probably now looks as though we’ll be doing some of that in June in the middle of our European tour. We’re doing the three-album set in Europe, and we’ll have some time off in the middle of the tour, which we’ll be taking to start rehearsals for the summer tour.

Whitman: So you’re currently still playing the three albums (Close to the EdgeGoing For The One and The Yes Album)?

Squire: In Canada we are, and then I think we’re doing a couple of shows in the states, one in Atlantic City and one in the Philly area, I think, aren’t we, quite soon?

Whitman: I think you’re the doing the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Pa. (on April 5th), yes.

Squire: Yeah, so I’m not quite sure what we’re going to do at either of those shows, but probably the same as the cruise. And actually, so there’s a difference in our sets for the cruise (the Yes-themed Cruise to the Edge) this year, we’re working up a couple of different songs to inject into that. That’s probably what you’ll get at Atlantic City and Bethlehem as well.

Whitman: So kind of an in-between version?

Squire: A hybrid set, yes (laughs).

Whitman: It’s all good, and I’m sure your fans will love it.

Squire: Yeah.

Whitman: You also have a new album coming out in July, Heaven and Earth?

Squire: We do. We’re actually still in the process of making it. We’ve pretty much, just before we left for this tour, finished all of the playing side of it—the chords and arrangements and vocals—so we’ve done all that. The mixing starts next week—next Monday.

Whitman: You’re working with (producer) Roy Thomas Baker on that?

Squire: We are, yeah.

Whitman: How has it been working with him as your producer?

Squire: Well, actually, so far, it’s been fine. You may not know that we had an album (that) we started with Roy in the 70s …

Whitman: That was the stuff right before Drama, right?

Squire: It was before Drama, yeah, and unfortunately (drummer) Alan White broke his ankle and we had to abandon the recording, because obviously he couldn’t play. So then it was good to get back together with Roy, and he’s definitely a character, and a pleasure to work with. And in the studio, it’s all been very pleasurable, actually. That vibe, I’m sure will be injected into the album, the way it feels. And like I said, it starts mixing on Monday and we’ll see how he does with that. I’m sure he knows what he’s doing.

Whitman: I think he does! The last album, Fly From Here, incorporated some of the stuff that Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes had originally come to you with prior to joining Yes for the Drama album in 1980.

Squire: Yeah, it did, it had the original “Fly From Here” song.

Whitman: I understand the new album is all new material, all stuff that’s been created recently, is that true?

Squire: That’s correct. It’s all brand new material. And of course it’s the first album where Jon Davison is making an appearance not only as a singer but also as a writer musically and a lyricist. So you’re getting another twist in the story of Yes, with yet another injection, a new injection of talent from Jon Davison, which I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised with, because he’s very good at the writing side of things.

Whitman: What kind of feeling, influence would you say Jon Davison is bringing to the music as a writer and vocalist?

Squire: It’s hard to talk about it. It’s going to be obvious when the album comes out. People can hear what he does, but I’m very happy with his contribution and we’ve all worked together with Jon on the writing of this album, and I’m pretty happy with the results, I have to say.

Whitman: I can’t wait to hear it. You actually had more lead vocal presence on Fly From Here. Are you going to be doing some of that on this one?

Squire: I’ve not particularly done that. There are some ideas of mine, there’s a little bit of it, but not much. The main focus is in bringing Jon into the band as the new singer and presenting him as such. That’s pretty much how we’ve approached this record.

Whitman: Any long pieces on this record? Any epics?

Squire: There are some very Yes stylistic longer-form pieces. Nothing that’s more than 10 minutes, I have to say. About three tracks are long-form, classic Yes-style arrangements, as well as some shorter songs. I want to say the emphasis has been on the quality of the actual songs on this album, and we seem to have pulled that off quite well.

Whitman: I’m sure you have. Now, with the touring, it seems like your current pattern is to be doing albums in their entirety, from start to finish, which your fans are loving, myself included. Do you foresee doing different albums down the road, maybe even touching upon Drama or Tales From Topographic Oceans, something very ambitious like that?

Squire: Ah, I don’t think Topographic Oceans, because I think there are about three people who would actually be coming to the show.

Whitman: Well, some of your fans really like that album … there are many who consider it a favorite.

Squire: I know. I’m being sarcastic … but it definitely isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, that’s for sure, and of course you’re talking about to do an undertaking like that … we did do it back in the day when we finished the album. But that’s a good hour and a half worth of music there, and to eat it all at once, in one sitting, is a bit of a mouthful. And so we probably won’t be singing that. But there has been talk of doing other albums, and Drama was mentioned as one of them. But as far as I’m concerned, that’s sort of more secondary to presenting the new material this summer. That’s really my main focus, is to be able to do as much of Heaven and Earth as possible on the tour. And we’re all looking towards that as a goal, I think.

Whitman: Great! So how much of the new album do you think you’re going to be doing?

Squire: As much as possible. We’re still working out our show and the amount of time we’re going to be playing. As much as possible is the best answer I can give you right now.

Whitman: I think your fans are open to new material, and hearing something fresh, right?

Squire: Yeah, I think so. It definitely keeps it more interesting for us, to have new challenges and pull off new music, so I’m pretty sure that carries through to the audience as well.

Whitman: Absolutely. I was at the 2013 Yestival at the Susquehanna Center. It was a fantastic day. It seemed like a success—a packed house, and very well-received. At the time you mentioned that you were considering doing that as a touring model. Is there any chance of that happening?

Squire: Well, yeah, I think what we decided was that it requires the correct bill, and we were looking at trying to put that together for this year, but I guess some of the other acts that we wanted to be involved in it had prior commitments so we weren’t really able to put that together. So we decided that this summer was definitely going to be a time to concentrate on promoting the new album and, as you know, the complete albums situation as well. So that’s what we’re really going to be focusing on (for) this upcoming summer tour, but maybe the following year you might see something more spectacular like Yestival in a lot more towns.

Whitman: Great. It would be wonderful to see that again. … And you’re also doing the Cruise to the Edge again?

Squire: Yeah!

Whitman: Do you see the cruise being an annual event? Are you going to try to do that every year?

Squire: We’ve been approached to see if we’re interested in doing it next year. We haven’t really given a definitive answer on it yet. I think we’re probably waiting to see how we feel after this one. The first one was all a bit new to us. It seemed to go well, but I think we’ll have a better idea after this time around.

Whitman: I recently interviewed Graeme Edge from The Moody Blues, and they’re with the same company you’re with for your cruise to do their Moody Blues Cruise. I asked him this question, which I’ll ask you as well: How do you deal with being on a boat with your fans for a week? I’ll tell you that his answer was, “You stay in your room.”

Squire: I think you have to devote one evening to a night at the bar. But probably, I’m sure, just the one. Those cruises, it’s kind of like a free-flowing alcohol event, you’ve got to pace yourself. And of course, there are going to be some people you wish you weren’t directly interacting with sometimes. But generally, I think we’ll probably just keep to ourselves. They have a private area (on the ship) and that’s what we’ll be doing.

Whitman: Fair enough. Now, let’s move on to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. How did it feel to at least be nominated this year? Do you foresee that you will get there eventually?

Squire: Yeah, we’re not losing any sleep over it. I’m sure it will come around again. And I noticed that even though this was the first year we were nominated for it, that a lot of the other people had been nominated on previous occasions, some more than once, so it didn’t particularly surprise me that we weren’t joining that this year.

Whitman: I’m sure you’ve heard about that controversy with Kiss, about how some original members were not invited to perform at their induction. Do you think it will be a more amicable situation when Yes is inducted?

Squire: That was always another thing; I wasn’t quite sure how that was going to be handled, probably because of the fact that Yes has had so many members and these are tricky questions to say which ones get nominated and which ones don’t, because Yes has had two major success periods in the 70s and the 80s with different personnel … and some of the same personnel. There’s Tony Kaye and there’s Rick Wakeman and there’s Trevor Rabin and Geoff is currently in the band and Geoff was with the band in the 80s and Drama. Then of course, if Geoff gets nominated, do you have to include Trevor Horn as well? It’s a bit of a logistic nightmare. I would say just put everyone in, but I don’t know how that’s going to work. Let’s see how the Kiss thing pans out. But there again, I know that other times, when they nominated the Grateful Dead, they put their pets and everyone in there.

Whitman: There have been a lot of guys in that band too. But I think you hold the record—I think there has been 20 people in Yes, is that right?

Squire: I think it’s 20, yeah, it could well be. But I think George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic had more people.

Whitman: They probably did, true. Now, a little while back, you did a wonderful side project with (former Genesis guitarist) Steve Hackett under the name of Squackett. I realize you’re very focused on Yes now with the tour and the new album, but is there any chance we’ll see Squackett II at some point?

Squire: A very good chance. We’d love to do that, I’m sure. We’ve both been real busy—he’s been out there with his Genesis Revisited project and I think he told me he was working on a new solo album as well. And of course, we’ll be seeing him on the cruise. I’ll be talking with him then, and then I’ll be over in England so we’ll probably get together and discuss the possibility of another Squackett project. I’m not quite sure what the window time-wise for that is going to be.

Whitman: Sure. You’re busy men. Also, is there is a possibility you might work with (former Yes member) Billy Sherwood again?

Squire: Billy and I have actually toyed with a couple of things recently and I’ve worked on a couple of things for his projects—he makes albums all the time. And we talked about the possibility of even another Conspiracy thing. It’s just really having the time to be able to fit all this stuff in and still have a family life as well. So I can’t put any dates on anything yet.

 

For further information on Yes, go to www.yesworld.com

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