YES - In search of the 'holy sound grail'

5. October 2021


YES - Auf der Suche nach dem ›heiligen Klanggral‹

Yes, founded in 1968, are one of the longest serving bands in progressive rock, alongside King Crimson and Van der Graaf Generator. It is all the more astonishing that they are not only nostalgically wallowing in old successes, but with "The Quest" after seven years once again have a new work at the start. Together with the current main protagonists Steve Howe and Geoff Downes as well as other musicians from the classic band line-up, we not only discuss the new album, but also take an intensive look back: Exactly fifty years ago, the two albums of 1971 established Yes' progressive pioneering role at the time. We take an in-depth look at "The Yes Album" and "Fragile" and talked about the "Fragile" artwork with Roger Dean, whose cover art became an important identifying feature of the band. Of course, the question about the currently on ice formation Yes featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, Rick Wakeman (Yes feat. ARW) and a possible reunion of both groups was not left out.

Announced and postponed several times, "The Quest", the new album by Yes, will finally be released on October 1. Can the band forget the disgrace of the subterranean predecessor "Heaven & Earth"? In an interview with eclipsed guitarist Steve Howe and keyboarder Geoff Downes not only answered this question. At the beginning of the fourth Corona wave, it was still not fashionable to talk face to face. So there was a separate "interrogation" so to speak: On the basis of an agreed catalogue of questions Michael Lorant talked in detail with Geoff Downes, while Walter Sehrer took care of Steve Howe. This also made it possible to have a different conversation with the consensus-loving Howe than with Downes, who enjoys controversy, when asked the same questions. Accordingly, the following double interview contains some nuanced responses

eclipsed: Before we get to "The Quest": I'm sure you haven't missed the massive negative criticism of "Heaven & Earth" from fans and media. What do you have to say to justify this?

Geoff Downes: I don't have to beat around the bush. The album certainly doesn't end up in any Yes top 10 list, not even mine. But it was like so many times: When you're in the middle of it, you don't look at it objectively or you can't or don't want to counteract it. Even if I don't find everything as off as I read it in reviews or internet comments in some cases, it was unfortunately a slip down.

eclipsed: Were there any differences in your approach on "The Quest" compared to that? This time Steve Howe was the sole producer.

Steve Howe: I've been with Yes for such a long time and I was often involved on the production side. Maybe that's why I could see more clearly where we were going wrong, because I had a lot of experience. It was all about the sound design and the method of recording. Everything was very harmonious and musical this time. Some of our previous producers had pretty much failed in that respect. The producing itself wasn't really difficult. They either accepted my ideas as good or just rejected them as crap. (laughs) The whole arrangements were central, but not making something that sounded like an earlier Yes song if possible. It should sound fresh and lively, but also more mature than the predecessor "Heaven & Earth". Our goal was to create the right Yes atmosphere

Downes: I would like to emphasize that again: Yes have always been unique. And that's what "The Quest" was about for us: It should be a new, but also somehow Yes-typical album.

eclipsed: What do you say to people like me who consider the new work Yes-typical and of course find it better, but in places not new and exciting, but even boring? Wouldn't an experienced producer from outside have been better?

Downes: Good thing Steve can't hear you. (laughs) I'm hoping you're a minority opinion on that. I like a lot of the songs on the album and think they're really good. I also think we acted as a team here and everyone was open and honest with each other

eclipsed: Were there other producer names being discussed?

Howe: No. With Jon Davison, who helped with the 5.1 mix, and especially sound engineer Curtis Schwartz, with whom I've worked for twenty years, there was a solid team.
Downes: Everyone involved felt it was right that Steve was the one who pulled the strings.

eclipsed: Do you have the impression that you have produced an album with "The Quest" that can keep up with your extraordinary back catalogue?

Howe: We didn't want to make a parody of ourselves and repeat ourselves. We are a creative band.

Downes: Unlike Steve and Alan White, I haven't been involved with Yes that long or that often, so I'm both a Yes member and a Yes fan. Honestly, it's easier for me to talk about and judge Yes albums that were made without my involvement than it is for me to judge myself. Let me put it this way: "Drama", my first Yes album, was considered by many to be terrible at the time - and today it's a classic ...

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