Yes' Trevor Rabin on Rock Hall Induction: 'Timing Couldn't Be More Eerie'

Composer and "Owner of a Lonely Heart" songwriter talks chances of a full group reunion, current work with Anderson, Rabin and Wakeman

Yes guitarist Trevor Rabin discusses the thrill of entering the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame shortly after forming Anderson, Rabin and Wakeman. Credit: Michael Putland/Getty

If the only thing guitarist Trevor Rabin did with his life was write "Owner of a Lonely Heart," he'd go down in rock history as the man who brought Yes back from the dead in 1983 and launched a whole new era of their career. But after spending a decade in the group, he switched gears in the mid-1990s and began scoring movies. He never imagined he'd become one of the most successful composers in Hollywood with well over 50 scores to his name, including Con Air, Gone In 60 Seconds, Bad Boys II and Get Smart. Earlier this year he re-teamed with Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman of Yes to form Anderson, Rabin and Wakeman. Not long after their first U.S. tour wrapped, he got the news that he was entering the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

How do you feel?
I feel great. It's funny. It's been two nominations before and it didn't happen, so it was actually a surprise when it did. I thought there was no guarantees. It felt good waking up this morning to this.

Who told you the big news?
I think it was [concert promoter] Larry Magid that mentioned it to me. Then Brian Lane, the manager, and then I spoke to [publicist] Gina [Schulman.] That's about it. I was outside washing the car when my phone rang.

It's definitely long overdue.
It's great to see it happen. I remember about 15 years ago I was writing the score for the film Remember the Titans and I happened to be in Cleveland. I went down to the building and it was pretty awesome. I was kind of browsing around. It's a fun place.

The timing is great for you since you've been on the road all year playing Yes music after all these years.
It's like serendipity or something. I had actually never really considering getting back on the road. I am so much more used to having a baton in my hand than a guitar over the past 18 years and conducting. Suddenly I'm back on the road and this happens. The timing couldn't be more eerie almost.

Lots of rock stars have tried to do what you've done in Hollywood, but few have quite done it on your level. It's pretty amazing.
To be honest, one of the reasons I wanted to get out of the band is that there was never any kind of opportunities to work with orchestration and I'm trained to do that. I thought, "Oh, God, I'm not using any of it." And I love playing guitar more than anything, but I was very lucky. Jerry Bruckheimer got ahold of me and I thought I'd do a film or two and get back on the road. Here we are 50 movies later and over a dozen Bruckheimer movies later. I don't know what it is. Someone mentioned it was over 7 billion dollars in box office. I was like, "Oh, God. That was never my intention." It's been pretty awesome. I would never have guessed this would happen. I thought at this stage of my life, at 62, I might be teaching guitar or maybe orchestration at some college or something. But here I am in these old bones still hitting the road.

The big question: Do you think all members of Yes, past and present, will play the ceremony?
From what I know, and you probably are better versed to tell me, there are eight of us inducted with Chris Squire. I would imagine any of the people inducted would possibly want to do it. I really haven't spoken to anyone yet, not even Jon or Rick.

I just spoke with Steve Howe. He didn't seem totally opposed to a Union-style performance, but it's obviously very, very early.
It's come so far so quick. I'm just trying to digest it at this point. I haven't even thought, "Wow, we've got to get up and play."

Bands usually do three songs and the all-star jam.
I've played before with Neal Schon, and that's always a lot of fun.

It would be cool to see you play with Jeff Lynne.
It's funny because our bass player [Lee Pomeroy] plays with ELO.

"I have no objections to a reunion. Right now, I'm just trying to digest what it all means."

Joan Baez and Tupac …
It's a shame Tupac and Chris will be watching from up above.

You have no objections to a big Union-style jam, right?
I have no objections to anything. Right now, I'm just trying to digest what it all means. What's amazing is it comes just days after we finish our next ARW tour.

How much longer are you committed to taking time away from your day job and doing these tours?
For 15 years Chris Squire was trying to get me back into the band, and he'd say, "Come on, leave your desk job." I said I wasn't up for it. I was always up for the possibility of working with Jon again. He's such an amazing singer. As far as how long the ARW thing goes, right now there hasn't been one minute where it hasn't been fun. As long as that continues, I'm totally up for it.

If you guys all play together at the Hall of Fame, it's going to lead to rumors of another Union tour. Do you think that's at all possible?
Oh, I very much doubt it. It's kind of like, if it's not broke, don't fix it. We've got the ARW thing right now and we're just loving it. That's certainly where we're at right now.

Did you enjoy the Union tour?
I loved it. Consequentially the reason ARW is happening because one of my bucket list items is playing with Rick again since we had such a ball on the Union tour. We kind of committed that at some point in time we have to do it again, and that's what ARW was. So, yeah, I loved the Union tour. I thought it was a lot of fun. My big discovery on the Union tour was how much I enjoyed playing with Rick. I humbly hope he feels the same way. To us, that was the reunion, ARW.

Do you have more movies lined up or is your schedule cleared for ARW?
There's a couple of commitments right now I'm going to have to maneuver and look to do. The movie business doesn't function around your schedule. What's not going to happen is people maneuvering their schedules for me, so I'm going to have to smartly work around it and find a way to do both. But right now the focus is definitely ARW. As I say, I never saw myself doing this again. I was so involved in the film scoring thing and very busily so. I never even thought about going back on the road, so the was a complete left turn.

Are you guys thinking about recording a new album of ARW music?
We're actually about a third of a way through writing new stuff, which we've very excited about. The reason we never play any of the music and just play the old Yes stuff is that it's not quite ready yet. We didn't want to do some new stuff, try it out and the next night see it on YouTube.

Shot by some cell-phone camera where it sounds terrible.
Exactly. But we're very excited about doing it. We're trying to told back on being too excited and talking about it because it's not there until it's there.

Are you playing these new songs at soundchecks? Backstage? Where are you writing them?
Jon has come up quite often to my house, my home studio, and we've done work here. We're sharing files, and the same goes for Rick for quite a while. I'd say we're closing in on half an hour of what we feel is pretty good stuff.

What does the Hall of Fame mean to you on a personal level?
On a personal level, I'm not sure. You'd probably know better than I, but I think I'm the first South African.

No others come to mind at this moment.
I tried to think of who else might be in there, but I think I'm the first. On a personal level, that might be something that's a little different.

What is your dream all-star jam to end the night?
Oh, boy, let me think. ... I guess playing "Helter Skelter" with Neal Schon would be a lot of fun.