Benoît David on His Rocky Tenure as Yes‘ Frontman: ’It Still Hurts’
Rolling Stone‘s interview series King for a Day features long-form conversations between senior writer Andy Greene and singers who had the difficult job of fronting major rock bands after the departure of an iconic vocalist. Some of them stayed in their bands for years, while others lasted just a few months. In the end, however, they all found out that replacement singers can themselves be replaced. This edition features former Yes singer Benoît David.
In the fall of 2008, Yes stunned their fans when they announced that founding vocalist Jon Anderson was stepping away from the group due to an ongoing respiratory illness. In his place, they were bringing in French Canadian Yes tribute band singer Benoît David as an “understudy.” “I think it’s all going to work out fine,” bassist Chris Squire told the Associated Press. “Of course, realistically, there’s an element of risk, but there always is.”
There was a little more than a “element of risk” to this endeavor, considering their sole Anderson-free tour at that point had been their disastrous 1980 Drama run with Trevor Horn of the Buggles singing lead, but David was an inspired choice for the difficult job. He had a soaring voice that could easily replicate Anderson’s distinct alto-tenor parts, and he knew the catalog cold after years of fronting the Montreal-based Close to the Edge. He walked into each show feeling little fear. “I never felt like Cinderella,” he tells Rolling Stone from his home in Montreal. “I felt like I belonged there in a certain way, that I could handle the job.”
David stayed with Yes for the next four years, including the creation of their 2011 LP Fly From Here, but he departed after suffering severe vocal problems due to the strain of their heavy tour schedule. He’s stayed very quiet over the past decade and now works far from the music industry. He doesn’t miss it one bit.
“I miss the music,” he says. “I don’t miss the music industry. I hated the music industry. Talent becomes produce. It’s like harvesting love, for God’s sake. It’s terrible. The music industry is terrible! At least when you sing for fans, you’re singing for people that care and enjoy the music. But these people…you feel like a fuckin’ ATM with them.”
David grew up in the Montreal suburb of Brossard. He spoke French in his house and revered French Canadian musical acts like the Sixties rockers Les Classels. He slowly learned English from customers on his paper route as a kid, and started listening to “The Lady in Red” singer Chris de Burgh and Styx. “Dennis DeYoung and Chris de Burgh made a singer out of me,” he says. “Their voices made me want to sing.”
He first performed in public during middle school lunch breaks, impressing his classmates with his range and ability to mimic other vocalists. “Kids started asking me to sing in their bands,” he says. “We played songs by Black Sabbath and Rush. I was quite gifted. We’re talking about early Rush songs like ‘The Temples of Syrinx.’ That thing was sky-high. And when we went out and did karaoke, I’d sing songs by women like ‘Gloria’ by Laura Branigan. It was never hard for me. At first I thought that everyone could do that. I didn’t realize it was special.”
He found work as a courier after high school, lugging boxes and envelopes to businesses all around Montreal, while still singing in various cover bands during his free time. When he was 28, he was approached about the possibility of fronting a Yes cover act. It set him down a path that eventually landed him in the real band.
When did you first hear Yes’ music?
They used to play them all the time on the radio here, the big hits. But I was like pretty much anybody else. It’s when “Owner of a Lonely Heart” came out that I really started listening. Songs like “Roundabout” and “Long Distance Runaround” were a little bit abstract for me, but I would hear the more elaborate ones every now and then.
Why do you think prog rock is so big in Montreal? I know bands like Genesis have huge followings there.
I don’t know the reason, but we’re different here. There’s a French community here. We’re very different than our surroundings, our culture. That is expressed in different matters. One of them is we enjoy music in a different way than our neighbors.
When did somebody first tell you that you could sing like Jon Anderson?
That was a bass player. He was a big Yes fan, and he was a great bass player. Since I used to sing a lot of those high-pitch songs, and sometimes woman’s songs, he was always telling me, “You should sing Yes songs.” I was like, “Yes? It’s incomprehensible music, man. I don’t enjoy it. It’s awkward.”
But this guy referred me to somebody who used to work in a sound equipment rental place. He said that people were trying to put together a Yes cover band. He goes, “That’s your singer. That’s the guy you want.” I was contacted by those people. At that time, I had done a lot of the Top 40 thing. I was ready for something a bit more elaborate. I felt I could learn a lot from singing those songs. And I did.
This was Close to the Edge?
We were calling it Gaia back then, like Mother Earth. We used a lot of projections and put a lot of time and effort into the show.
Before the first shows, did you take a crash course in Yes and learn the whole catalog?
Yeah. Pretty much. It was quite intense for a while there. We put together a good set.
Were you playing mainly the Seventies songs?
Definitely the Seventies. We played Close to the Edge straight through. Of course, there’s only three songs. We played something from Relayer, a couple of songs from the earlier albums as well. We didn’t play anything from 90125 or anything like that.
How big are the crowds you’re drawing?
Here in Montreal, I don’t think we ever went over 700, at the most.
This isn’t long after the Musical Box started doing their Genesis shows. They’re from Montreal, too.
They’d been on the map for a little while. There’s the other guy, Martin Levac, who was playing Genesis and Phil Collins. He was quite good.
The Musical Box would painstakingly recreate Genesis shows with costumes and the same lighting and everything, down to small details, even the haircuts. How was your approach different in Close to the Edge?
I didn’t care much for those things. Also, our music wasn’t drawing that much attention. Genesis is a lot more popular in Montreal than Yes, to be honest. To do something way bigger…it didn’t feel like it was drawing enough attention to warrant that. I don’t know the percentage of the population that listens to Yes, but it’s not a lot.
Right. And in 1994, even the real Yes were struggling to sell tickets. It was a real low point for them.
Yes. It’s always easier to sell your shows when your latest album is in the Top Ten. I would tell people about Yes and they wouldn’t even know what it was or who they are. It’s old stuff. It’s not the Rolling Stones or the other big, big bands.
How did you wind up joining Mystery, your other band?
Michel St-Père from Mystery contacted me at one point. He saw a Close to the Edge show back in the day. He told me he was looking for a singer. I listened to some of his music and thought it was fantastic. I thought it was less performance-based and more melodic. I really liked it. So we started working together. We recorded the songs that Michel would write and perform.
When did this happen?
It started on the slow side. We met somewhere around 2005 possibly. The album [Beneath the Veil of Winter’s Face] came out in 2007.
In the late Nineties and into the 2000s, are you working day jobs to pay the bills?
Oh yes. I was working hard. I had a family. Kids. I was selling appliances in a Sears store for a living. I was making a living.
Was Sears your main job? Did you have other jobs?
I had to work during the weekends at Sears, and I hated that. And so I started selling used cars across the street at Toyota. That freed up the weekends, which I spent with my kids.
How did you hear that Yes were looking for a new singer?
Yes was supposed to be playing this big festival in Quebec City, Summer Festival. It was a big thing. Everybody was telling me about it. I also heard when they had to cancel because Jon was sick. I wasn’t thinking much about it. I didn’t plan to go to see them anyway. People started teasing me. “Watch out, they’re going to call. They need a singer for Yes.”
It was quite funny. But I was on a pontoon fixing seats on a bright, sunny afternoon. The phone rings and it’s Chris Squire. He says, “I’m sure you heard the news that our singer got sick. Would you like to do the job?” That’s how it happened. I didn’t see that one coming.
Was that the first time you had any sort of contact with a member of Yes?
Well, Richard Lanthier, the bass player and manager of Close to the Edge, had purchased a special edition of [Chis Squire’s 1975 solo LP] Fish Out of Water from Chris and they had exchanged words. Richard had told Chris that we had this band. Chris called back Richard and said, “Listen, I watched those videos and you’re great. Feel free to say that Yes are behind you. You’re great.”
Obviously, knowing that, when Yes needed somebody, Chris called Richard back and said, “Would you mind if I rang up your singer? We need somebody here.” So he did. The call to me wasn’t a complete surprise since Richard called me two minutes earlier and said, “I just spoke with Chris Squire. He’s going to be calling you.”
Whose pontoon were you fixing at that time?
I don’t remember. That’s what I do. I fix seats in boats and cars. It was one of the jobs I did.
How did you feel when you answered the phone and it’s Chris?
It was quite something that it was happening. It was quite overwhelming.
Did he tell you that you that you had the job, or did he want you to audition?
Well, Chris was a very practical person, and very straight to the point. I might have asked something like, “That’s it? I’m not going to be auditioning?” He goes, “I just watched your video. You’re perfect. I was just calling to see if you were an asshole. Everything seems fine, so you’ll hear from management and we’ll put this together.”
What happened after that?
I got contacted by the management, and then we started talking about the details and whatnot. Then I met Steve [Howe]. I spent a couple of days in a hotel room with him singing songs. That was really the audition. They wanted to know what kind of personality I had, whether or not I was one of those singers with a big head. They wanted to know what kind of person I was, if I was easy to work with. And I was.
When you sang with Steve in the hotel, were you nervous?
Never. Back in the day, I was confident in my capabilities. My voice was very clear and I had great control. It was the golden days.
What songs did you sing with Steve?
I remember telling Steve how much I liked the song “Soon.” I thought it was so beautiful, and so we did that song. There was a connection that happened there.
After that first meeting with Steve, where did you go to the meet the others?
Shortly after, I flew to California and met with Chris and [drummer Alan White].
How did that go?
That went well. Not extremely productive. But then the band was partial. We did put some songs together. I was able to remind Chris of some of the notes he was doing wrong [laughs]. It was quite funny.
They were just bringing in Rick Wakeman’s son, Oliver Wakeman, to play keyboards at this point. When did he arrive?
I only met Oliver in Hamilton, here in Canada, a couple of weeks before the tour started to rehearse. That’s the first time I met him.
Did you have any concerns at this point? To many Yes fans, I’m sure the idea of replacing Jon was sacrilegious.
I can’t say I was. I wasn’t worried. I’m only singing the songs. What can happen? I’m not trying to take over something. I’m just singing the songs. I thought if anyone has anything to say about that, it has nothing to do with me.
Jon eventually went public with his unhappiness that the band was carrying on without him. Did that cause any tension?
Well, I’ve been upset with Yes a few times as well. They have a way to make you feel funny about the way things happen. But it doesn’t concern me. I’d like to think that Jon would think nice things about me. Whatever he can say about me, we never met. It’s none of my concern, really. All I was doing was singing the songs. The rest of the band chose me.
The tour kicked off Nov. 4, 2008 in Hamilton, Ontario. What was it like walking onstage and kicking off with “Siberian Khatru?”
[Laughs.] I’m trying to remember. I think probably the second show would be more of a landmark for me, the one we played at Massey Hall in Toronto. The Hamilton gig was the first show, but we had been playing the songs over and over for two weeks. And each time I played a Yes concert, it started with “Siberian Khatru.” I must have sang that song…the only guy to sing that song more than me was Jon Anderson himself. So I was very confident. But there must have been some kind of…a certain emotion to it.
But at Massey Hall, I had some family there. It’s a mythical place. That show lasted for three hours. We played every song you can imagine.
Those early shows were packed with songs the band didn’t normally play, like “Parallels,” “Astral Traveller,” and “Onward.”
Yeah. What happened was when I got the job, everybody was excited to play songs that Jon wouldn’t want to play, like all the Drama stuff, some of the older stuff. They brought back that “Astral Traveller” song from the 1970 [Time and a Word] album. It was quite fun playing that. I enjoyed it…and the Drama songs. The band was excited to play different songs, and I was excited too. I had a few suggestions of my own. We played all those songs. In the beginning, those shows lasted about three hours.
What songs did you ask them to play?
“Onward.” I really liked that song at that time. When the idea of “Astral Traveller” arrived, I was quite happy with that since it was different. And the Drama songs. I think Drama is a great album. Playing “Machine Messiah” and “Tempus Fugit” live was exhilarating. It’s great music.
You played “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” too. That surprised me since I know Steve doesn’t love playing that song.
Well, Steve is a very professional person. He was like, “OK, we have to play this song.” But he’d play it in his own way. The guitar solo wasn’t the same. He played it the way he wanted.
How did your bandmates in Mystery and Close to the Edge feel about this?
Unfortunately for Close to the Edge, I had to give that up. It didn’t feel right for me to be in a cover band when I was in the band. I knew that after being the singer in a band, I wouldn’t go back to being a cover singer. For me, I couldn’t take part in that project anymore. I had to let go of them.
Of course, for Mystery, it was totally different. Mystery drew a lot of attention at that time. I should have purchased stock options. Michel was very much inspired at the time. He wrote and recorded some great music. I was in the zone myself. We spent a lot of time together putting the music together. We worked on it when Yes weren’t touring.
Tell me about getting to know Chris, Alan, and Steve. Who were you closest to?
Hard to say. I think I had my moments with every one of them. Alan was the sweetest person you’ll ever meet. You can’t get in a fight with that guy. Oliver Wakeman was my buddy, though. He’s a great musician and a really nice guy, down to earth. Of course, the other guys, they’re already 20-something years older than me. They’ve been living the rock star life for a while. It’s a different reality. Sometimes they must have thought I was very blunt. I’m a very honest and direct person.
Chris Squire was the most charming person, but man…he could be really annoying. Of course, he’s passed now. I don’t want to say anything negative. It’s not negative. It’s just a person with a personality that wasn’t always easy. He said some very terrible things to me. But he said some of the nicest things too.
What sort of terrible things did he say?
It was a lot of singing. At one point, my voice started getting tired. I missed a note at the end of “Heart of the Sunrise.” That last note cracked. Chris said very nasty things to me, some very ego-centric things. That wasn’t…I didn’t enjoy that. But he was also very warm and present, such a charming person.
Did Steve and Alan get tough on you also?
No. I got along very well with Steve. If I had been more of a musician, we would have had more in common. He’s a very productive person, writing songs and this and that. It would have been better if I had more experience in that field. I could have had a better bond with them.
How did you travel? Were you on separate busses?
We travelled together. Sometimes we were all on a tour bus. Sometimes it was like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.
Did you hang out with them a lot offstage?
Not a lot. A little bit.
It was a lot of traveling. For you, it must have been a very different experience to wake up every morning in a different city and then go sing for three hours straight.
It is. Absolutely.
How quickly did the fun start to wear off and it started seeming like hard work?
It never felt like hard work because there’s no other responsibilities. The only thing you have to do is look after yourself. You sleep in the Ritz Carlton. You just get homesick every now and then, and a little bit lonely, and not really on the same wavelengths with the musicians. They were older and in a different…I tried to take advantage of the traveling since we were in all these different cities. I thought it was a good opportunity, but I had nobody to do that with me, so I spent a lot of time alone.
How was Oliver doing? It had to be psychologically daunting to face hardcore Yes fans every night and play his father’s parts.
I thought Oliver did a great job. I felt he was totally accepted by the fans and welcomed. I never heard anything about him not doing the job or anything like that. I thought Oliver was great. He was very professional, very prepared…soundcheck. Very thorough.
You did a long European run in 2009. What were some of your favorite cities you played there?
You were asking me about being nervous about a gig. The first time I got a bit nervous was the Hammersmith in London. It was the place. I was the Canadian singer with the English band and blah blah blah. That was the one I was nervous about. It went rather well, actually.
The English react differently in a show. They do not interrupt the song to show that they’re happy. They want until the end of the song. All of the reactions I used to get, like in “Siberian Khatru” when I sing “River running right over my head…” A lot of people at other shows would stand up and be like, “This show is going to be great.” But they didn’t do that at the Hammersmith [laughs]. I was like, “Oh God, this is not going well.” But they were just being polite. They were waiting for the end of the song, and then the welcome was very warm.
What cities did I like? It was my first time in Europe. I had never been to Europe before. I was seeing how different it was. It was a very rich experience.
Are you reading reviews of the concerts? Are you going online and seeing the fan reactions to what you’re doing?
Never. I never had much interest in that. Of course, I needed to know if I did something wrong. But I had my sources for that. I didn’t have to read the reviews.
Tell me about making Fly From Here. Did you enjoy that experience?
I did. Yes. It actually started different. It was originally From a Page. That’s the four-song album that was released a couple of years back that Oliver produced. That was supposed to be the new Yes back in 2010. That music was being written for that album before Trevor Horn stepped in. That’s how it started. It became Fly From Here in the middle of a winter session in 2010. We worked a couple of months on the album with Oliver at Neptune Studio, putting stuff together. It was coming along.
When we came back in February 2011 to continue, Oliver wasn’t there anymore. It was Trevor Horn. He booted him out and got [Drama-era Yes keyboardist/Horn’s Buggles bandmate] Geoff Downs to come in and do the Fly From Here album as you know it. Trevor had me sing beautifully along with his voice. He wrote a lot of the music, so the album is a lot of Trevor. I heard that he re-recorded it with his own voice. Good for him. That’s what he wanted me to do, sing along with his voice, anyway [laughs].
Why was Oliver kicked out?
I wasn’t in the room, but I guess Trevor didn’t like what Oliver was doing. Chris used to call Oliver “The Catalyst.” When we were working on the album, he was putting the band together and working. He was really, really active. I guess he was probably too much “hands-on” for Trevor to work with him. I think Trevor needed more direction. That’s the impression I got.
I get why Trevor wanted Geoff on the album instead of Oliver. They obviously go way, way back. But why did Oliver leave the touring band also?
I don’t know. If that would have been the case, Oliver being a composer, it would have been hard for him to accept touring an album he didn’t record on. But he wasn’t offered. He wasn’t the one to choose. I don’t know.
Did you hope to play a role in the songwriting process on Fly From Here?
Well, I’m going to be frank with you. I’ve never found a need for that talent in songwriting. It’s not something…singing came without thinking. But writing wasn’t that for me. I wrote a couple of things for the album. I remember Chris telling me to smoke hash and write lyrics. But I could have played a much bigger role in that group if I had that talent of songwriting, which I never found inside of me.
You’re credited as one of the writers on the track “Into the Storm.”
Absolutely. I actually wrote the bridge part in 7/8. Oliver and Alan were working on that. Oliver mentioned to me, “I don’t see how we could put a singing part in that bit because of the rhythm.” I said, “Are you kidding me? How about this?” Then I sang a line. It stayed. Then I wrote lyrics for it. It became the “armies of angels are starting to fall” thing.
On the tour, you played a lot of Fly From Here in the early shows. How did that go over?
It wasn’t a problem. I thought that in the studio you have to be careful with what you allow yourself to sing. Trevor was like, “Do it this way.” It wasn’t my exact way of singing. It was a bit harder for me to sing in that manner he had me sing with that album.
But was uncomfortable for me, and so unfortunately I didn’t enjoy them that much even though I felt they were great songs. It was hard for me. It probably had a lot to do with my voice not holding up in the end there.
You said you were a Styx fan as a kid. What was it like to meet them and play with them on the Styx/Yes tour in 2011?
That band is a hell of a band, I tell you. They’re tight. Way tighter than Yes was at that time. I shouldn’t say stuff like that. Can somebody sue me for this this shit? [Laughs.]
You can’t be sued for giving your opinion about how a band sounded.
Yeah. OK. But Styx were great. That [Lawrence] Gowan guy, that Canadian…they were a really good band. They didn’t care much for me, though [laughs]. I wasn’t part of the major band. I was like a hired hand. That’s unfortunate, so I didn’t get to spend much time with them. But hey, what a band!
You said they were tighter than Yes. Did you find that Yes were playing a bit loose some nights?
That’s a way of saying it. I mean, we’re talking in degrees here, tiny points of percentages, but yeah…Styx were performing a lot better than Yes were. Sometimes, things happen. The guys were older too.
I spoke with Rick Wakeman a few years back. He seemed to imply some members were drinking on the road on his last tour in 2004 and it was impacting the show. Did you sense that?
Well…um…yeah. Whatever it is. Sometimes it’s drinking. Sometimes it’s different things. Sometimes it’s not being in shape much for that lifestyle, one show after another, travel, this and that. Some of those people are not the hardest-working people I know. They’ve been playing the same songs for years and years, they don’t feel lot of urge to rehearse when they’re not on tour.
Are we talking about Alan and Chris here?
I don’t want to name people. I want to be careful since I don’t want people hating me. I was up close and personal, so of course I saw things. But are they things that people want to hear about? That’s what I’m talking about.
You did 72 concerts in 2011. That’s a pretty brutal schedule. Did your voice start to suffer on that tour as a result?
Yes. My voice definitely started…something happened on the tour with Styx. That’s when I started feeling it.
Is this when Chris chastised you?
Yes. That was the breaking point.
It must have been really stressful going onstage every night knowing you can’t rely on your voice like you did in the past.
One of the hardest things to feel in life is inadequate. I didn’t like that. Plus, I didn’t feel much empathy for my difficulties or what I was going through. It was just, “Fix it! Fix it!” That is never a very good approach for me.
When they say “fix it,” they’re talking about your voice. It’s not like you can swap out your vocal cords like guitar strings.
Yes. Chris actually said to me one night at the end of “Heart of the Sunrise”… I missed that high-pitched note at the end. My voice cracked. The rest of the song went fine though. The next song is “I’ve Seen All Good People,” where we do a little bit of solo from each musician. They go from one to another and they play a little bar. Chris looked me in the eye and he did this ugly sound with his bass. He messed it up purposely. He looked me in the eye, saying, “Well, I’m going to do like you.” That hurt. It still hurts.
I really went crazy. I gave him shit like crazy. I’ve never done that with anybody. I haven’t done it to anybody since. He was saying, “Put yourself together, man. You’re going to ruin my career!” I started to understand how things were working. Something broke inside of me.
Where was that show?
It was on a double bill with Styx, which was perfect. They played first. We were playing after. We drove from New York City. It was a summer place on the beach…Jones Beach. It was a great outside theater on the water.
After that night, did you and Chris talk it out and make peace or was there just lingering tension after that?
The tension lasted a little while. But Chris had a really powerful, warm presence. He was the kind of person that gets away with that kind of stuff. But he probably realized a couple of things. I don’t remember there being tension for a long time. I think it went rather smoothly. Plus, when the less thorough person tells you you’re not thorough, it doesn’t have the same impact than the best guy telling you that. You can ask everybody to be perfect just as soon as you’re able to set the example [laughs].
Your last show was Dec. 9 of that same year in Stockholm. What are your memories of that last show?
That’s a not a very nice memory. I didn’t sing well. I didn’t know why. I didn’t understand what was happening. It was taking me a lot of effort to perform. I was always telling the guys it was too loud onstage. The conditions were hard and they never did anything about that. That night, they really did try to fix the situation. I was very self conscious because of that. That’s why I decided to pull the plug at the end of that show.
The next few gigs were cancelled.
Exactly. I didn’t want to ruin anyone’s career.
Did you quit the band?
Well…yeah. I quit the band. I couldn’t sing. I went to see a doctor over there. He said, “There’s something wrong. We need to look more into this. You cannot continue to sing or it’s going to cause more problems.” So we decided to quit the tour.
How did you tell the guys that you were done?
Well, I just got everyone together and told them that singing was harder and harder for me, and it would be best for me to preserve the band’s reputation. That’s how I mentioned it.
Do you think maybe if the band took six months off, you could have rested and came back?
I wanted it to end at that time. And I’ll be honest with you. We’re talking about music here, but I had a 14-year-old that was giving his mother a hard time. I needed to go back there and handle it. I had two teenagers at the time. They needed me. I think I needed them as well.
Did you ever speak with Chris, Alan, or Steve again?
No. I could have called. We have each other’s phone numbers. If I had anything pertinent to discuss, I would have no problem picking up the phone and calling any of them. I’ve had a few contacts with Oliver though. He’s my buddy. We had a warmer relationship.
How did you feel when Chris died and when Alan died?
I felt sad, of course. There’s something magical about them. When someone passes away, it’s only the good stuff that stays, that you remember. At first, it was Chris. He was such a warm presence. He left a very strong impression on people. I was sad there for a little while. It’s sad for Yes, too. It always felt like Yes was built around Chris. He was central person. That was my impression anyway.
Alan was one of the the nicest, sweetest people I’ve ever met. It’s only good. This guy will help anyone who asks him. He was a very, very good soul.
Do you hope to speak with Steve again one day?
That could happen if we have anything to say to each other. I’m certainly very comfortable in contacting him. He’s always been easy to approach, easy to speak with.
When Yes come to Montreal, are you ever tempted to see them in concert?
They only came once. I was away on vacation. But absolutely. If they were to come back, I’d certainly go backstage and shake their hands.
Have you heard their new singer, Jon Davison?
I have. I think he’s perfect. Of course, I haven’t heard that much, but I heard some. I think he’s doing a great job. No wonder when I wasn’t able to do the job anymore, he was right there and ready to go. He was obviously the right guy for the job.
What happened to your career after you left the band and came back home?
I started working in that business I had started before touring. I slowly quit my musical ventures over the next couple of years to rest my voice and just take a bit of time and come back to myself.
You work at a place called Vinyle Pro now. Tell me about that.
I go into marinas and garages and places like that and I fix leather and vinyls and fabrics and cigarette burns and all kinds of stuff, little accidents that can happen inside vehicles. I do repairs like that.
If you’re driving around now and “Roundabout” or “I’ve Seen All Good People” come on the radio, do you listen or do you change the channel?
I’ve been changing the channel for a while. But now I listen to it, and I enjoy it. It’s great music. I’m happy I got to learn so much music by it. Now I understand the intricacies.
How is your voice doing? Did it recover from the strain of all that touring?
To a certain extent. It’s just enough to go back and sing with my friends in the choir and play some music with friends. It’s pretty much the way it was before. I’m quite happy with it. I sing in a choir now. It’s a fun bunch of people singing really nice songs. Our director wrote some great arrangements, including a Lady Gaga song. We have a lot of fun with great harmonies and rhythms.
How often does your choir play?
We rehearse once a week. We have a performance or a party every now and then. It keeps me quite busy, actually.
As you said, they took your vocals off from Fly From Here and added Trevor Horn’s vocals to it. Are you bothered that they erased your work?
Well, I mean, “they” is Trevor Horn. He wanted me to sing with his voice. He rode me like a mule or something [laughs]. He had me sing the songs the way he wanted to hear them. I’m not surprised he wasn’t 100 percent happy with the way it sounded. It felt like he wanted to do it in that fashion.
I’m not surprised. That’s the music business. That’s this guy. He wanted his songs on the album. He wanted it to sound his way. He’s the producer. He’s the guy with the big picture. That’s his personality. That’s how he is. But, of course, he thinks a lot of good of himself. He did so much good stuff over the years with all those albums that he produced and all that music he played. He’s an exceptional guy.
It’s a shame though. If you go on Spotify, the only version of Fly From Here is the one where he’s singing. It would be nice to offer both of them to fans.
Well, that’s the music business for you. Why didn’t Oliver’s songs make Fly From Here, but Trevor’s songs made it? It’s all the same thing. Trevor has more to gain with him singing than somebody else. That’s the way it goes. Nobody should be surprised with that. It’s unfortunate.
Do you think you’ll ever sing a Yes song onstage again?
I don’t think so. It’s been over 11 years now that I haven’t been with Yes. Very, very, very often I meet people that want to talk to me about that. When we jam with friends, there is always somebody doing a little bit of a riff of a Yes song. I never catch up to it. I never do it. I don’t want to be…I’m myself. My name is Benoît David. This is who I am. I want to be recognized for my talents and my personality and what I have to give. I’m not trying to imitate anybody, nor should anyone try to imitate me.
That sums it up. Thanks for talking, and thanks for being so honest.
That’s the story. You got it right there. You asked the right questions, and you got the right story. Hopefully nobody gets hurt or anything, but that’s just the way it was.
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