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Jon Anderson

Tja… dan ben je al een jaar of zeventien hobbymatig in de rock en metal e-zine wereld bezig en hoopte je in het begin misschien wel eens een held te mogen ontmoeten of interviewen. Ik mag me dan ook gelukkig prijzen dat dit regelmatig gebeurde en tegenwoordig nog steeds gebeurd. Een paar namen lijken echter onmogelijk maar dan ineens komt er toch de kans. Op de dag dat ik zijn oude band Yes in Nijmegen aan het werk zou gaan zien tref ik Jon Anderson in een telefonisch contact tussen Californië en Noord Brabant…

Door: Winston | Archiveer onder prog / sympho metal

band imageHello Jon, how are you doing, just got back from the US tour you did together with Rick (Wakeman) right?
I'm very good thank you. Yeah just got back from the couple of shows we did on the East Coast and Canada and they went very very well. We really hope to bring the show to Holland next year.

And we can't wait for that as the YouTube video's that are out there are really wonderful. I saw you and Rick at the Playhouse in Edinburgh last year, am I right that there are some differences between this years' show and last years'?
Maybe, the first shows last year were sort of going through the motions to feel comfortable and from there we developed things. We did 'Awaken' now and a couple more different songs to make the show a bit smoother and more interesting. A song like 'Awaken' makes us remember the great moments in our music together. ('Awaken' is from the Yes album 'Going For The One' and is Jon Anderson's personal favorite Yes song)

And I found it quite remarkable that you almost did the whole song…
We did it five years ago bit a bit shorter but I have this feeling that 'Awaken' is just important in this time. It's one of the special pieces of music in my life so we perform it with great reference because we were lucky to be in a situation with the guys in the band in that time. We all had the same vision, you create a project hoping it will all come together and sometimes it does perfect and sometimes it doesn't when you don't have that same vision. It's very normal hahaha…

You're all just people and all just musicians…who get along fine and sometimes not…
Yeah exactly, sometimes you have a real good harmony and sometimes need to think of their lives and then the feeling is different than two years ago. You try to do the best you can given the circumstances.

And how is your health these days? You were quite ill a while ago…
Very good, I'm very healthy and happy in love, my life and my wife, haha…Jane (wife) is always travelling with me, tomorrow we go to Mexico to do a concert there and then a few days that we go to Brazil for some shows there. We're just happily going on with making music and going on the road and we hope to make people happy with that.

Do you remember starting your solo show in Holland for the first time as a try out thing?
Oh yeah I do. It's interesting for me as people in Holland were always very receptive to my music and with Vangelis too. It's the way people are, very open to people who try different things and it's a similar thing with people on Quebec Canada. With everybody very open to hear all about the next adventure.
Fingers crossed that Rick and I will make it to your country.

How was the tour for Rick as he has grown to dislike the long distance travelling?
He had a really great time and he's opening up a bit about touring. He wasn't into it very much before and when we agreed to do this last tour I told him to enjoy things more and to not be afraid of it. Enjoying your life makes you young at heart, mentally and physically. Now he wants to tour more and do we're talking about next (this) year so we'll see what happens.

Are there also plans to record a follow up to 'The Living Tree'?
We are starting some new music in January, we already talked about it on the tour. About the kind of music we would like to try and we'll see what happens…

And is that music also meant for the rumored collaboration with Trevor Rabin as well? (Yes guitar player on '90125' / 'Owner Of A Lonely Heart' era)
No this will be just for me and Rick. With Trevor it's all about timing being everything you know. You never know, Trevor always said he wanted to do but right now he's going through some changes in his work, seeing what he wants to do. I am very open to when it happens it happens, always ready to try things like that.

You know Rick and Trevor very well of course, how do you think they will work together?
Well I know they really really respect each other and they have found a real energy for each other. I think Trevor is waiting to jump into that adventure but he's not quite ready yet in his heart. We wait and see and when we will work together I think it will be real spontaneous music. That's what we talked about, making it spontaneous. A bit different than we used to do…

One thing Rick has been mentioning is how you keep on amaze him when you sent him your recorded vocals back for 'The Living Tree', the melodies and harmonies…how does that come to you?
Well It comes from what he sent me, I'm always singing, every day it's my nature.

Can you estimate how many songs you have written over the years?
Oh gosh no, haha…I've got 200 to 300 songs over here right now in my studio… I don't do it to make a record, I just do it because it's something natural to me. Yesterday I was singing on a new piece with Jonathan Elias and we're writing some songs. It's just wonderful to go through that motion and getting that lyric, realizing that you're sort of guided along. Like with the song 'Open'…

I was getting to that, you released a 20+ minute song by yourself with a little help from friends…can you compare this to the way you worked with Vangelis back in the day. He taught you that in music anything is possible right?
Yeah…anything is possible…anything. I started the song just me and my guitar and I might be performing parts of it next year on my next tour, I played it yesterday and it sounded really good, the original version, the way I wrote it on guitar. It is a sort of an extension of where I am now. I worked on 'Open' on and off for a couple of years. You do some work and come back to it two months later and then I put it all together in three days as a first shape. Then I asked Stefan Podell to come over and we did a demo. He took that and two months later he had finished the orchestration. I was really really excited about it, that was last year. After that I got a few other people come in, some of the School Of Rock youth band and had them record parts. And after that I still kept busy with it, rearranged certain parts, adding percussion and so on. And then I got to that point to finalize it and that was in September, suddenly I had just two weeks to mix it. It was a lot of hard work to get it finished on time and I knew the piece inside out and you want to make it all sound just right. We went to Jonathan Elias's studio, had it all organized and then I took it back to my studio and finished the vocals there. The last few things were taking time, you know to get it just right…and I got it finished on time to have it released on my birthday and I 'm happy that it has been well received.

band imageVery well received, I've read several reviews and people are all very impressed…there were fears about you coming back to make this kind of music again, with your health issues and such…
Oh no, it's in my DNA to make this kind of music. It was a question of how do I do this without a band. I was able to work with people that I know and create a version of this song. As you know I used to do this with Yes, push the guys up the mountain and drive them crazy but that's what I wanted to do and they were very receptive and helpful. This harmony helped us create songs as 'Close To The Edge', 'Mind Drive' and 'Awaken', all the big piece are very important to me. Hardly anybody tries these things and it's good to work on something that not many people try. And so I'm working on the next one now…and very excited about that. Yesterday I met up with Stefan again and have the idea together by January so he can work on the orchestration in the Springtime and then we'll see how long it takes to formulate it.

That's very good to hear, you continuing these longer pieces of work. Looking back on your 40+years career, what do you consider the most valuable period?
The coming period, haha! Of course, starting a band at the end of the 60's, which was an amazing period of time musically. But also performing at the Cavern in Liverpool with my brother in the early 60's, also amazing…seems like every ten years something happens. When we had our success I always wondered why. So I worked harder and harder to believe in our success and so I discovered the musical potential and we created albums like 'Fragile' and 'Close To The Edge'. The first Yes albums were very…different. I like the idea of structure, pushing the boundaries of music. We didn't do it to make money, we did it for making music you know? When the dominance of money is gone the music will be better. I didn't make 'Open' for money, I was thinking well why not? Just when I developed 'Close To The Edge' with Steve (Howe), for the adventure and the experience. The record company was going crazy “why are you doing this kind of music?”. It was never meant to be played on the radio, it was meant to go out and play it live and that's what made Yes very famous, as a band of musicians who were willing to go on stage to do this music without it being played on the radio. So then you should say thank you, thank you, thank you to the fans who come to see you and stay with band through all the musical adventures. I still thank all the people who helped creating that music, experimenting. And that is the same of life in general, it's always better to experiment than stay in your box…

And Vangelis helped you too with that is what you often say…
Yeah, he helped me to have confidence playing the guitar and keyboards. The guys in Yes wanted me to be 'just' the singer. “Jon, don't play the guitar or the harp” and Vangelis said to me “Play the instruments as a musician because you áre a musician. I see you how you work and help direct the music… so you should play the guitar, the harp or bang drums on stage” and that's what I did. We all should be able to do what we want to do instead of 'being just the singer'. The guys asked me why I would want to play the guitar and I said “well I wrote the song so I might as well play it too!” haha. Why only do lalalala…haha. When I wrote 'Olias' (Olias Of Sunhillow, Anderson's first solo album) Vangelis was the first guy I played the music to, he hugged me, said that I was a true musician now and I felt great.

That album is being recreated by a couple of guys on line as 'Project Moorglade' and I hear you are charmed by that…
Yes that's right, I am in touch with the and I hope to do a few concerts with them some time too, that would be wonderful. I have a friend in France who's helping with the chants and vocal stuff. I'm trying to figure out the best way to do it live. I think I have an idea on how to do it but it's also a question of time, hopefully next year…

There's always next year for you Jon, you have so many things going, like the 'Zamran' thing and other stuff…the Chagall project, the album you made that never was finished…
Oh yeah I know… so many things… too many… haha… for Chagall I am still waiting to make a theater production out of it. For a next project I took a song from that album and played it to someone and he was going “woooow, what amazing this is”. The recordings were stolen from my studio as you know… The Chagall music has so much energy and when I listen to it every two years or so I always have hope to get it out there as it was meant, we'll see what happens…

Good to hear that Jon, thank you for doing this interview, a real honor for me…
No problem Winston, thank you so much.

And so it is said…the world still has a lot of work to expect by Jon Anderson who like to compare himself to Igor Stravinsky who kept on working in his late 80's. The fire is still burning, Anderson's creativity is flowing like never before and the prog rock world can be rest assured.

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