Rhythm of Love… One would be hard pressed to find a Band of any genre that released ten albums over an eleven year period; that’s exactly what progressive rock luminaries YES did. Storming out of the gates in 1969 with their self-titled debut album, they relentlessly dropped albums almost on a yearly basis straight through to the 1980. The last one released within this period was aptly named “Drama.” This would be the first record without founding member and vocalist Jon Anderson and the first of several line-up changes the band would endure.
Rooted in between the aforementioned decade of music, 1971 would see the unprecedented release of “The YES” album in February immediately followed by “Fragile’ in November. That nine month period would set the stage for what would become the embodiment of the progressive rock icons; YES were able to transition the studio complexity of songs such as “Yours is No Disgrace,” “Starship Trooper,” “I’ve Seen All Good People,” “Roundabout” and “Long Distance Runaround” and transcend them onto the live stage through both sight and more importantly, sound.
While that era of the band alone brandishes an impressive enough resume to once again be nominated for the Class of 2017 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame the band was far from finished. In fact if was once again the late great Chris Squire who co-founded the original line-up and music maverick Phil Carson that would be the catalyst to awaken YES by thankfully introducing Trevor Rabin to these music masters.
The composer/guitar virtuoso would help lead YES into its millennial renaissance by bringing the “90125” demos into the YES mix. This eventually helped the band enjoy its first taste of commercial success with the mega hits “Owner of a Lonely Heart”, “It Can Happen,” & “Changes”. That incarnation of the band which would welcome Jon Anderson back into the fold as co-lead vocalist with Rain would enjoy another decade of astonishing success.
BackstageAxxess caught up with Trevor Rabin following the (ARW) Anderson, Rabin & Wakemen show in Boston last week.
Ross CAT: Hello Trevor! It’s great to speak with you; we are thrilled here in Buffalo that you’ll be coming back to town on this long awaited tour. We were fortunate enough to have the 90125 Tour in 1984 & Big Generator tour in 1987 come through Buffalo’s Memorial Auditorium. It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly thirty years.
T.R.: My goodness…. it’s been so many years for me since I’ve been out on road but I remember both those tours very well. I’ve been doing movie scores for the past eighteen years and spent most of that time in the studio. I must say I’ve been having the time of my life playing this music again for our fans and sharing the experience with lifelong friends Jon & Rick.
Ross CAT: Tell us how the first few weeks of the tour have gone particularly from your perspective, as you said it’s been quite some time since you’ve performed live.
T.R.: I think the first few shows we were all about trying to find each other’s rhythm & space. After that I can honestly say that I don’t think I’ve been in a better band then this. It’s really been so much fun and we are truly enjoying each other and the music we are getting to play again.
Ross CAT: Congratulations on the Nomination of YES to the 2017 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Class.
T.R.: Thanks so much! You’re right, the timing is a bit uncanny. We’ve been nominated on a few other occasions so we aren’t really anticipating anything. There’s no really telling what will happen there.
Ross CAT: The ARW Tour & the recent nomination must be somewhat bittersweet with the recent loss of one of rock’s most amazing bass players and founding member of YES in Chris Squire. Tell us about your relationship with Chris as he was instrumental in you joining the band in 1983.
T.R.: For me the loss of Chris is very personal and private, he and I were so very close. As you mentioned, it was Chris and I that formed the band Cinema that ultimately lead to coming together with Jon & the reforming of YES for the “90125” album. Chris & I were very close when I joined the Band and became even closer after I left the band in the mid 90’s. We truly had the deepest friendship and the utmost respect for one another as musicians but more importantly as people. Outside of his wife, I was the last person to speak with Chris before he passed. It was clearly a shock to all of us including himself when his recovery took a turn for the worse. He was so very hopeful about getting healthy again and never anticipated anything else but getting better and back out on the road. It’s still really a loss in my life that I feel on a daily basis, especially now being out and playing the music that we made together. We’d been talking about putting together this band again for years and Chris’ passing was most certainly the impetus that really finally put it all into motion.
Ross CAT: Take us back to how your relationship started with Chris and the band that was initially to be called “Cinema” that then morphed into a new hybrid of YES.
T.R.: Truth be told the idea of joining YES never entered my mind. I came to L.A. looking for a record deal for music I had written that would eventually become “90125.” A couple of different options came my way during that process, one of which was to get together with Chris Squire and Alan White, which is where I ultimately and thankfully landed. As you said, the working title of the Band was Chris, Alan and myself had no intentions of calling the Band YES; particularly for me. I had real reservations because to me the music sounded nothing like the Band YES. Once Jon came on board it made a bit more sense to consider using the name YES, but even then I was quite reluctant. That being said it seemed to have worked out the way it was supposed to and obviously worked itself out quite nicely.
Ross CAT: Talk about how Jon Anderson rejoined the band and the challenges of integrating his celestial voice into the complex compositions that you had already written. The original intent obviously was for you and Squire to share vocal duties.
T.R.: Timing dictated all the elements that brought Jon & I together in YES. Jon came into the mix well after we had begun recording “90125.” As a matter a fact, we were quite close to finishing it and I had already laid down a majority of the vocal tracks. Surprisingly, once Jon got a listen to the songs he was actually the advocate that wanted to keep my original vocal tracks. While I was more than happy to step aside and acquiesce to, as you said, the celestial voice of Jon Anderson, thankfully we found the perfect common ground for all three of our voices. Once we worked out the songs together, it gave each song such a different vibe and twist and I was thrilled with Jon’s input both vocally and spiritually. Jon was adamant that the vocals that Chris and I had laid on “Changes” and the Chorus on “Owner of a Lonely Heart” stayed intact. He felt our voices fused quite well together.
Ross CAT: YES fans have been anxiously awaiting a reunion of this line-up and especially the return of Jon Anderson back to his rightful place in the band. Tell us how the response has been on the road thus far?
T.R.: There really has been an incredible response to all the eras of YES music that we’ve been playing the first few weeks of the tour. We are just thrilled. I must say I’m even approaching the YES music that I wasn’t part of that we are playing in the set from a much different place. I’m obviously respecting the important parts that are there but I’m finding my own comfort zone within the parts that Steven laid out. While Chris will always be known as one of the Kings of Prog Rock Bassists on the Planet, he was an animal when we’d all just let loose in rehearsals and in the studio. We all are paying homage to that part of what this band is and was. We are attacking these songs and shows with a sense of urgency and vitality.
Ross CAT: Tell us about putting together the logistics for the ARW tour as far as the stage & set list. Has your approach of a concert changed over the years since you’ve gotten involved in the musical score side of the movie business?
T.R.: I must say that both Jon and Rick really embraced the orchestral side of my career over the past few decades working with directors on movie scores. There are a few sections of the show including the intro to “Cinema” which leads into “Perpetual Change” along with “Awaken” later in the set that we integrate some of the orchestral movements I’ve done in my movie career. If I’m to be perfectly honest Ross, I was quite single minded when it came to playing the older material when I first joined the band. I was in the mindset that we had recorded “90125” and that’s what I wanted to take to the live stage back in the eighties, which Jon & Chris were perfectly fine with. This time around I’m really connecting with the older material and enjoying bringing some new shades and colors to some of the classic YES tunes. There is no point in any of the shows where we feel as if we have to play a certain song or play a song a certain way. It’s really liberating and we all feel very fortunate at this stage of our careers to be able to present this amazing catalog of YES material to fans of all the eras of the band with such a sense of artistic freedom.
Ross CAT: Let’s delve a little deeper into songs that the band are playing live on the current ARW Tour. Will you be targeting the albums from which you recorded with the Band “90125,” “Big Generator” and “Union & Talk?”
T.R.: With things going so well out of the gate on this tour and the band and having such a great time and vibe with the crowd; we’ll be changing things up as we go along. In fact, the first few shows we were performing “Starship Trooper,” which was a crowd pleaser but Rick and I both realized that specific song neither he nor I were involved in the original recording. Jon graciously suggested that maybe we drop that from the set. That’s when we integrated “Lift Me Up” from the Union Record which is going over fantastically well with the fans. Based on our recent rehearsal and sound checks, it seems that “Changes” will be making its way into the set list as well.
Ross CAT: I’ll be the first to say that I hope that makes it into the setlist in time for your visit to the University of Buffalo Center for the Performing Arts on Wednesday, November the 2nd.
T.R.: I’d say there’s a very good chance the fans in Buffalo will be hearing “Changes.” I’m also looking to start rehearsing “Shoot High Aim Low” from the “Big Generator” album as well. The wonderful thing about the talent in this band is that we can be fluent as we go along and organically incorporate songs that we feel fit the purpose. These are some of the reasons why we are finally taking this music back out to the YES fans who’ve waited so patiently.
Ross CAT: I have to say it’s really great to hear how inspired and enthusiastic you are about this long awaited YES tour especially in an era when bands don’t always reunite for the right reasons.
T.R.: Thank You for recognizing that and you’ve pinpointed the exact reason we decided to finally embark on this tour. While I’m extremely fulfilled with my career choices and the success I’ve carved out in the movie industry, every now and then I’ll find myself watching my son’s fantastic Band Grouplove (by the way I’m their biggest groupie (laughs)) and find myself yearning to perform live again in a group setting. After the “Union” album, Rick and I made a promise to each other that we would collaborate again one day. Unfortunately, either he, Jon or I would have to block out six or 8 months for projects and that particular window of time would close. As I said earlier, this is bittersweet in the sense that Chris isn’t with us but his spirit is what made us all just say screw it and we really need to do this thing NOW!
Ross CAT: I have to tell you my agency was recently approached about booking the Steven Seagal Blues Band. In doing my research for our interview, I found it interesting that was how you got your foot in the door for your extremely successful career as a film composer. Tell us about how that came about?
T.R.: It is really a peculiar turn of events in my life and career upon my departure from YES. I thought long and hard about applying my musical acumen into a movie score and was looking forward to the challenge coming out of the band and off the road. I was completely comfortable working with an orchestra understanding musical arrangements and formal analysis- all that nonsense. If I’m not mistaken, I think “Talk” was the first non-linear digital album and was really cutting edge stuff so I was in my comfort zone on that side of the business. The biggest obstacle was I knew virtually nothing about writing movie scores. I didn’t know if you needed an agent or whom you would even call to facilitate a meeting. It was absolutely fortuitous that one evening, my wife and I went to a restaurant called Eclipse. If I’m not mistaken, Steven Seagal was a part owner of the establishment at the time. The Maitre d’ told me that he wanted to meet me and hang out and play guitar sometime. We got together one day and I think I taught him how to play the Hendrix song “Red House.” He thanked me for my time and asked what I was doing since I had left YES. I told him I was thinking about getting into feature film scoring but that I had absolutely no idea how to get started. He very nonchalantly said, “Well, I’ve just done a movie called “Glimmerman” that is going to be a big release in America would you like to do the music score for it”. Without even thinking about it I blurted out “Yes Absolutely!” Even though I was completely green to the process and had no clue what I was doing. Needless to say, I navigated my way through and pulled it off and it was a lot of fun. Steven was great to work with! Unfortunately, I think he got a little annoyed with me when he asked me to score his next few films and I had to decline as I had already started working on “Con Air” & “Armageddon” movies. That being said, I can’t thank Steven enough for opening that door for me. Here I am, over fifty films later and still enjoying it as much as I did on my first film venture.
Ross CAT: I’ve seen in a few interviews with Jon Anderson that this reunion has the creative juices flowing and may lead to some new music, what’s your feelings on that?
T.R.: This all began with Chris, Jon & I getting together and writing and then Rick chimed in and began sending over files. So we’ve been collaborating for quite some time with the intent of making a new record. The unfortunate thing about the digital age of the music industry these days is the lost art of the romanticism of an album, the artwork, the song sequence and the subsequent story that those songs culminate into. The thought is to release whatever new material we have as pieces of a puzzle so that we can still capture the essence of an LP release albeit song by song. I can tell you we will be doing a live album from this tour. We purposely haven’t played any of the new material as we don’t want anything out there on YouTube until we are ready to present it in 5.1 format and mixing it as if I was mixing a movie score. So to answer your question, there will be new music coming very soon. I know it’s an old cliché, but we are all really excited about the new material and loving every second on the road so far.
Ross CAT: Thanks Trevor for taking the time to talk to us and see you in Buffalo soon!
T.R.: Looking forward to it!
We would like to thank Chipster Entertainment for setting up the interview with Trevor. For more information on the tour or the show in Buffalo, please go to: ARW Tour.