The death of iconic bassist and Yes co-founder Chris Squire two years ago became the catalyst for Yes alumni Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman to finally stop discussing a musical collaboration and to start making it a reality. The result became a world tour by the vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist under the newly christened name of ARW. It began last fall in the United States and moved on to Europe, Israel and Japan earlier this year.
The threesome represents Yes’ early ‘70s classics and ‘80s commercial peak.
Previously, Rabin joined Anderson and Wakeman for Yes’ 1991 Union album and tour, a forced merger by the record company that brought together members from different eras of the band’s existence.
His contributions on the platinum-selling albums 90125 and Big Generator and tracks such as “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” “Leave It,” “It Can Happen” and “Rhythm of Love” resurrected the band’s stagnant career.
Following four albums and tours, Rabin left the group in 1995. He transitioned to film scoring and has more than 40 film credits including Con Air, Armageddon, National Treasure, Bad Boys II and Remember the Titans.
My conversation with him takes place shortly before Anderson and Wakeman along with bassist Lee Pomeroy and drummer Louis Molino III rehearse for another set of concert dates.
It also occurs after two major events in the ARW camp. Last April, Yes was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Then, several days after the ceremony a press release announced that the group would officially be known as Yes featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, Rick Wakeman. And yes, there is still another Yes with Steve Howe, Alan White and Geoff Downes that has been touring for years under that moniker.
First thing I have to ask: I was a little confused and surprised when I saw the press release saying that ARW changed its name to Yes featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, Rick Wakeman because the other Yes is still around and touring, too. Is everything fine as long as everyone gets an audience or will this end up in court in the future?
Jon started this band with Chris Squire in 1968. Since then, there have been a number of significant lineups. The main thing is Jon is very passionate about the fact that, as far as the name, he should be part of it.
I really don’t care about the name. I was happy calling it ARW. I just enjoyed getting out there again. After more than 16 years scoring movies, I wanted to be a part of this.
I was so removed from the rock ‘n’ roll stuff. Obviously, I got involved with songs on the films but mostly it was just the score. I love orchestrating, conducting and arranging. I had no intention of coming back to this but Rick, Jon and I had talked about doing something together. It was kind of like where people say, “Let’s do lunch.” The catalyst was when Chris died. We got a little bit more serious about it.
Then, from my selfish point of view I wanted to take a slight break from films for awhile and that led to this. I’m still doing films but I haven’t since we started this because I’ve been so busy. But, I will be doing film again. We got on the road and, really, it’s been a lot of fun, a tremendous amount of passion onstage. So, I’m enjoying it.
As far as the name goes, to be quite honest…I had the simple thought in my mind to get onstage and just get back playing. I never contemplated all these stupid problems with names. Every time the problem comes up I just cast my mind to Spinal Tap. It’s so ridiculous.
Well, as I said, when I originally saw that I didn’t know if the other version was stopping or what was going on?
One of the points of view from Rick, Jon and I is that no one else deserves the name anymore than we do. I’m happy to talk to you about it. I just don’t think it should be an issue unless someone else wants to talk about it. But, I could care less.
The tour that you did last year with Jon and Rick and what you’re doing now, did you discover anything musically with them this time around that you didn’t have back in 1991?
That’s probably the most relevant question I’ve been asked since I started this thing. They’ve had such an impact on what we’re doing. Once we learned a month into the tour what we were feeling playing together was different to anything we’d experienced before beyond the idea of, “It could be fun, you, me and Rick get a band together and go out on the road.” What we do together, it’s become a different animal. We’re enjoying it so much, and we’re recording and doing all the things a normal band would do as opposed to just getting out and having some time on the road.
I read that you and Rick made it a point not to play the songs exactly as they are on the record. That sounds good to me because I recall seeing either Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe or the Yes Union tour and had a copy of the setlist, which had the times of each number down to the second.
It’s really turned out to be very surprising. As far as the length of the songs, everyone says, “Yes do long songs.” That was never my intention. Then, we get onstage and every song is really long,” I guess it’s just the nature of the beast.
A lot of times when bands tour without a new album to promote there’s some angle such as performing albums in their entirety. So, are you playing deeper cuts or debuting a new song on this tour?
All the stuff we’ve been creating for the future, our new material, there’s a problem with that because it’s not been released yet. Having not completely finished the record, we don’t want to [play any of it] until it’s out. We so want to play it and let the audience hear it but they’re going to have to wait until its release. It’s not there yet.
Obviously, there’s certain songs that you can’t take out and then you’ve selected to take some out because otherwise it would be a three-hour show.
So, are you going to deeper tracks, say “America” or “Time and a Word” or something like that?
It’s funny. Jon suggested “America” and Rick really didn’t want to play it. To be honest I wasn’t for it. I always said to Jon that the version by Simon & Garfunkel is so incredible, leave well enough alone. But, we are doing songs like “It Can Happen” from 90125. There’s a song from “Talk,” the very last Yes album I was involved in, called “I Am Waiting” that we’re going to do. Then, there’s an old Yes song called “South Side of the Sky,” which we’re gonna do. I don’t know what else is going to happen. We start rehearsals in three days. We’ve changed the beginning and the end of the show. It will have a completely different vibe than the last show.