Prog-rock giants Yes have re-teamed with Trevor Horn – the producer behind their massive 1983 hit “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” – to cut Fly From Here, the band’s first album of original material in 10 years. “In my opinion, Trevor is the best producer in the world,” Yes bassist Chris Squire tells Rolling Stone. “We’re really happy with the music so far. Being back with Trevor sort of felt like going back in time, but it’s also really in the present. We’ve all grown a lot over the years.” The band is going to wrap up recording in late April and they hope to get the LP on shelves sometime this summer.
The disc is anchored by the 20-minute title track “Fly From Here,” which dates back to the sessions to their 1980 LP Drama. “We played it live on the 1980 tour when it was just five minutes long,” says Squire. “Now it’s an extravaganza!”
There are four other songs on the album, which Squire says are around six minutes apiece. “Those are brand new and the writing was very collaborative,” says Squire. “The sound is somewhat indicative of our 1980s work.” Geoff Downes, who played keyboards with Yes during the Drama period, returned to play on Fly From Here.
This is Yes’ first album since original frontman Jon Anderson was replaced by Benoit David, who used to sing in a Canadian Yes tribute band. “I was initially kind of nervous that Trevor Horn might see fault with Benoit,” says Squire. “It’s all gone very smoothly though. Yes has always been a shifting person kind of thing. I don’t stress too much about it myself.”
When Yes announced that they were carrying on with a new singer in 2008 Anderson did stress about it. “I feel very disrespected, having spent most of this year creating songs and constant ideas for the band,” he said in a message he briefly posted on his official website. “I wish the guys all the best in their ‘solo’ work, but I just wish this could have been done in a more gentlemanly fashion. After all Yes is a precious musical band. This is not Yes on tour.”
Squire stresses the fact that following the band’s 2004 tour they were kept off the road for three years while Anderson recovered from health problems. “We were going to tour with Jon in 2008,” says Squire. “Then his health got bad again. At a certain point we just had to say, ‘Well, we want to go and play to people.’ Benoit is a good stand-in for Jon. Nobody can replace Jon. He’s one of the greatest singers of all time.”
Anderson has recovered to the point that he’s played numerous solo concerts over the past few years. He also toured Europe with former Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman. “Those were all fairly lightweight, acoustic kind of shows,” Squire says. “Singing for Yes is a very taxing position and I don’t know Jon’s abilities to do a heavy rock & roll tour.”
Despite what seems like evidence to the contrary, Squire insists that there is no bad blood between Anderson and the rest of Yes. “We exchange Christmas cards,” he says. “I’d be happy to work with him in the future. I’m proud of the fact that we started this thing together. If there’s a way in the future that we could work together, and it’s something that’s comfortable for him and everyone else involved, I’m certainly open to looking at it.”
Yes have toured consistently over the past three years with Benoit David and Oliver Wakeman (son of Rick) on keyboards. This summer they are sharing the bill with Styx on a summer ampitheater tour.
Who is going to headline? “Basically, we are, but I guess, in Oklahoma and Indianapolis or something, they are,” laughs Squire. “We’re trying to figure this out at the moment. It’s a weird thing to tour with a band. I mean, let’s face it, Styx have a reputation and a career that’s noteworthy. But then agents start sitting down and saying, ‘Well, the last time so-and-so played in this district they sold nine more tickets than you did.’ Our manager Trudy Green is pretty good at figuring this stuff out.”
The band has been eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame since 1994, but they have yet to even appear on the ballot. “Over the years we’ve had many managers and publicists say, ‘Why aren’t you in there? We can fix that!’ But it never happens. Now I find out that people like Leon Russell and Alice Cooper are just being inducted, and I still wonder why The Sex Pistols got in… I don’t have any anger about our exclusion, but it would be a magnificent thing if they would include every member of Yes – I think there’s about 19 or 20 of us.”