Asia Featuring John Payne are now Dukes Of The Orient. Erik Norlander, the protagonist of the new old band along with Payne, has been working with the bass player for a long time on a first album under a new banner. Musically, much has remained the same: AOR on the threshold to Melodic Prog, and everything at the highest level. And since they no longer use the expectant name Asia, listeners can get involved in this journey with the Orientexpress without being burdened.
The music of Dukes Of The Orient is not a lazy compromise. Even if it seems so at first glance, since Californian Erik Norlander loves British prog and Englishman John Payne loves the AOR sound of US-American coinage. After Geoff Downes had decided in 2006 to get back together with the original members of Asia, the rest of the Asia at that time around John Payne was quite dumbfounded.
The result: Suddenly there were two Asia formations. Asia Featuring John Payne brought in Erik Norlander to succeed Downes. But it should not come to a complete album, instead Payne released an album under the name GPS with similar personnel. Asia Featuring John Payne also act as a live band with a setlist playing both old John Wetton Asia and Asia material that Payne sang for.
eclipsed: Did you really have to add another name to your list, isn't the confusion with Asia, Asia Featuring John Payne and GPS already big enough?
Erik Norlander: For me music is decisive. And what's on the album bears the signature of John and me.
John Payne: After fifteen years recording and touring with Geoff Downes as Asia albums, I have the right to continue as Asia. Geoff didn't really question that either. However, there was never a longplayer in the line-up with Erik. Only last year it became clear that we had an album together. With a ten-year run-up, so to speak.
eclipsed: But why not under the name Asia?
Payne: Out of respect for John Wetton. After his death, we did not want to capitalize on the name with which he would always remain connected. It just feels wrong at the moment to release an album under the name Asia. I have always loved John Wetton's singing, bass playing and his songs and hopefully I will play them live for a long time to come. But now it was time to give the child a different name. Even if the content is the same and we have bet on good acquaintances. Besides me and Erik, guitarist Guthrie Govan and drummer Jay Schellen can be heard on the album. Also the guitarists Jeff Kollman, Bruce Bouillet and Moni Scaria.
eclipsed: But Asia under Geoff Downes' leadership have already done concerts with Yes bassist Billy Sherwood as singer.
Norlander: Legally, that's probably impeccable.
Payne: Billy is a great guy. He was friends with John Wetton and produced albums with him. But I find it a pity that it is often only used as a kind of all-purpose weapon. We'll see if Geoff and Carl Palmer can keep Asia alive. Erik and I decided differently, at least as far as new music is concerned.