Jon Anderson A True Yes Man

By Jeb Wright

Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman… together again after a quarter of a century break, performing in the new band called ARW (Anderson, Rabin and Wakeman).  It’s about time!   The world needs musical excitement with a positive vibe performed by virtuoso musicians… it really does not get any better than this!

In the press release for the band’s formation, Anderson stated, “To be able to sing and perform with Rick and Trevor at this time in my life is a treasure beyond words. I’m so excited to create new music and revisit some of the classic work we created many years ago; it’s going to be a musical adventure on so many new levels.”

Wakeman also feels similar excitement, “Trevor and I have wanted to play Yes music together since the Union Tour.  And as for so many of us, there is no Yes music without Jon. The ‘Holy Trinity of Yes’ is for me, very much a dream come true.”

This lineup bridges the gap between the ‘progressive Yes’ that forever changed the world with albums like Fragile, Close to the Edge and Tales From Topographic Oceans and the ‘1980s pop’ success of 90125 and Big Generator.  The concert possibilities are endless!  But wait… there’s more!  ARW is a band that is also creating new music and plan to release it soon! 

Read on to discover how the band came to be, what they are doing now and what is coming in 2017! 

Jeb:  I am a huge Yes fan but I also am a huge 90125 fan.  I am thrilled to hear about this band and that you are playing with Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman in this group.  I am excited to talk to you about all of this… How did this situation come up in the first place?

Jon: I’ve been working with Rick on and off for the last few years and I did a couple of tours with him.  We’ve been talking about getting Trevor out of the studio as he has been doing film work for the past fifteen years.  He said he wanted to take a break from making movie scores and stuff.  We just thought this was the year for us to get going.

Jeb:  You speak openly on spiritual matters and you live in the spirit of the moment.  Was this part of that?

Jon: Oh yeah.  One of the great things about Rick and Trevor together is that they are both comedians, for one thing.  They love to really have fun and tell jokes and be silly and crazy.  I am in the middle trying to hold them together saying, “Come on guys… let’s go and rehearse.”  They are like, “No… hey do you remember the one about…”  I am like, “No… let’s rehearse guys!”  We got rehearsing and the magic came out.  These guys are great people.  They are very, very magical and musical people. 

Jeb: Are you pleased with the response to this project from Yes fans?

Jon: I think the concerts that we’ve been doing… the energy of the audience are like we’ve come home at last.  A lot of people have been waiting for us to get together and make Yes music.  Generally, we are celebrating Yes music on this tour. That is what we are doing. 

Jeb: I have looked at the set list on-line and I am drooling to come see this ensemble.  You have every era of Yes covered. 

Jon: We have a great drummer in Louis Molino III.  The bass player, Lee Pomeroy, knows every note Chris Squire ever played.  He loves being in a band with Yes-style music.  The band is really locking in and we’re now in the pocket, as we call it.  It took about a week for us to get going.  By the time we hit New York, we were really rocking and we are just sailing away and having fun. 

Jeb: “You and I” is getting a ton of praise on this tour.

Jon: “You and I” is just classic Yes from the early ‘70s that has survived and still sounds great all of these years later.  The audience just loves it in every gig we play. 

Jeb: You’re one of the few guys that can compare and contrast Steve Howe and Trevor Rabin. 

Jon: I think in some ways they are very different musicians, for one thing.  They adapt… Trevor adapts and plays some of the classic music that Steve put together in Yes.  The band evolves it and makes it sound very 21st century Yes to me. 

Jeb: I remember Trevor on the 90125 tour.  It was the first time I had heard of him but found out he was already quite successful in South Africa.

Jon: He started playing piano when he was five years old.  He has never had a real job as he’s been a musician all of his life. 

Jeb: I am glad you’re back making music, Jon. 

Jon: My life is all about making music and making it an adventure.  I’m very grateful for being a musician in this life.  I just have a new album out called Invention of Knowledge that I love very much.  It is very classic Yes in style and has very long pieces of music.  It has very little to do with the pop world or the radio but I just love doing it.  I am very grateful and thankful that I can do that. 

Jeb: Wakeman was not on the material with Trevor back in the day.  Was Rick a fan of that era of Yes?

Jon: Rick is a consummate musician.  Every time we got to a song of Trevor’s from the Big Generator album, or whatever, he just jumped on it like a racehorse.  He is just a fantastic keyboard player.  

Jeb:  Rick and you are the Yes troublemakers so how are you getting along together?

Jon: The three of us are totally out of control.  We are dangerous when we get to airports.  It is very Spinal Tap at times [laughter].  We just look at each other on stage and say, “Thank God we are still alive and that we are still playing great music with a great audience that wants to hear it.” 

Jeb: You have had some health issues in the past.  Are you okay?

Jon: I think almost everybody goes through tough times, health wise, in this life… it is very normal.  It is how you come back that matters.  I was lucky with my wife Jane who looked after me so well when I was very seriously ill.  The rest is just having that inner spirit that you’re very grateful for what you do.  You still want to perform better than ever and you still want to do great things.  I am in the middle of my career is how I think. 

Jeb:  The set list is great.  AWBH, classic Yes, 90125 Yes… how did you narrow it down?

Jon: We just kept trying different songs and if it was not working we would get onto the next one.  Someone would go, “Let’s do ‘Rhythm of Love’” and we would go into that.  Obviously some were going to be easy to do as they had to be in the set, like “Heart of the Sunrise” and “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and “Changes.”  It was pretty obvious what we wanted to try.  In rehearsal we would see how they were all working. 

Jeb:  Will there be an album?

Jon: We’ve written about an hours’ worth of music already.  Unfortunately, this last summer Trevor got pneumonia when he went to South Africa for his son’s wedding.  He was pretty sick for a while.  Rick was finishing some projects as well.  We couldn’t get into the recording studio.  We recorded some demos before we started rehearsing… this was about September and they sounded really great.  We didn’t want to take them on the road until we finished them properly. We will do that in January and February. 

Jeb:  This is a real band.

Jon: This is for the next three years.  We want to do something that we can look back on and say that we are glad that we did this.  The audiences are loving this and that is the main thing. 

Jeb: Any hint on the new music?  Is it a mixing of the Rabin/Anderson/Wakeman worlds?

Jon: Very much.  Trevor is a very powerful writer of music.  I come in with some interesting lyrics and melodies.  You bring Rick in on top and you’ve got a totally new sounding idea and a new sounding band.  It is very exciting.  I can’t wait to get into the studio in January and get these songs together.  We will probably do two or three songs every three or four months.  We will work it that way rather than do a complete album.  I think the idea is to continue to celebrate the Yes music that we love and really develop this part of it slowly. 

Jeb: What about a live album?

Jon: That is always in the works.  We actually record every show now.  We have an incredible show in New York and a really good show in Boston.  The show last night in Chicago was really great.  There were about two or three songs we played better than ever.  We will take all of the best ones and put it out.  I think people really enjoy live albums.  There is something about that live energy and why not do it? 

Jeb: I agree.  You are a very positive person.  In this day and age there is a lot of darkness.  Is part of your mission to shed some light on the world?

Jon: What we see and hear is only a very small amount of what is really going on in the world.  The media is very concentrated.  The war-like energy is very concentrated to certain parts of the world.  The rest of the world is just getting on with life. 

When you go on tour and you go to small cities by the beaches and things and people are there just having good lives.  You travel to Europe and you see people in Italy and Spain just getting on with life.  In America… this is an incredible country and we are lucky to travel it and see so many happy people just getting on with life.  The media has got this sort of dark doom and gloom about them.  Terrible things are happening around the world, of course they are.  On a larger level the world is still a beautiful and magical place.  We are not really in charge of any of it as we are only here for a while.  We need to just enjoy it while we can. 

Jeb: We are just renting some space while we are here.

Jon: The human experience is beautiful, wonderful, magical and mystical.  That is how I think about it. 

Jeb: I want to go back and learn more about how this band formed.  Were you the instigator?

Jon: It happened that Rick Wakeman’s manager is an old friend of ours named Brian Lang.  He used to manage Yes.  He came around this last Christmas and got in touch with Trevor and me.  He said, “Why don’t you guys get in touch with Rick about some music.”  Trevor said, “I don’t want to do another film score. I want to go on the road and play some rock ‘n’ roll.”  So… that is what we are doing. 

Jeb: Do you recall the first time you ever met Trevor?

Jon: I do, because I was in South of France and I was working on a project about the wonderful artist Marc Chagall.  I met him on his 90th birthday.  I was down there living and I met him.  I started working on songs about his life.  Chris called me up and I went to see him and had me listen to the music for 90125.  He asked if I would be interested in singing some songs and adding some lyrics and adding some choruses here and there.  I went to the studio the following day and there was this Trevor Rabin guy.  They were playing me “Owner of a Lonely Heart” which needed verses.  It had a great chorus.  Trevor and I sat down and we started writing the first verse.  The first verse started sounding really good and Trevor said, “I’m going to let you get on with this as I am off.”  Off he went.  I went along writing the rest of the song and I worked with Trevor Horn, the producer.  Trevor Rabin was very happy to work with me.  He was a sweet guy.  From that moment onwards we’ve had the most wild and wonderful hit records… which was kind of bizarre. 

Jeb: Those two albums are very important to me.  I also love Talk.  No one talks about Talk

Jon: I love Talk.  We were going to do “I am Waiting” and “Endless Dream” but by the time we got the show going we didn’t have any room.  We will do them next year.  We will do two songs from Talk next spring.  Trevor and I bonded on that album as I stayed at his house and wrote a lot of the songs with him for that album over two weeks.  That was a great experience for me.  Trevor and I really bonded musically and friendship came on strong.  That is where we are now.  That is why we are here together. 

Jeb: Does this band help you with what is going on with Yes today?  Is this necessary for you?

Jon: It is hard to explain…Yes music is still surviving on many levels.  There are some great Yes tribute bands around the world.  There is one in Brazil and one in Chili that I know of.  You can come to a Yes show or you can come to one of my solo shows as well.  The band that calls themselves Yes now only has Steve Howe from the old band now.  They are kind of good and they are continuing the music but Rick, Trevor and myself… we are the real Yes.  We feel that, and the audience feels it, too. 

Jeb: Last one:  I asked you about the first time you met Trevor… do you remember the first time you met Rick Wakeman?

Jon: Well, yeah… he was in the band called The Strawbs and they opened up for us.  All of the guys in the band, Steve, Chris and me, looked at Rick Wakeman playing and we were like, “He is good.”  We met him after the show.  We went on to America and when we were on our way back from America Chris and Steve looked at me onboard the plane and said, “Look… we want to get Rick into the band.”  I said, “Let’s call him up and see what he thinks.”  The rest is history. 

Jeb: Should we, as fans, give it up that Yes will reunite or should we just say you never know what’s going to happen in this universe? 

Jon: You never know.  There is the Hall of Fame… we could get in by next year or the year after, which is our 50th year.  Who knows what’s going to happen.