Interview – Steve Howe of YES

A half-century is a long time. To put it into perspective, a child can be born, become a parent, and then become a grandparent in the same span of time. Lives are formed, politics shift, wars are waged, and through it all has always been music. A vital part of who we are, over the past 5 decades of evolution, one of the most consistent contributors has been English Rock band YES.

Initially come together in 1968, through the years, the seeds of musical genius have been nurtured, blossomed, and continue to grow, thus making YES one of Rock-n-Roll’s most treasured possessions. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017, YES now partake in a very special tour to help celebrate their astounding 50th anniversary. Gearing up for it all, longtime YES Guitarist Steve Howe sat down to chat about the years gone by, being a part of YES, plans for new music, plus more. – You have been in Rock-n-Roll for over 5 decades now. From your time with YES to many other collaborations, what has your experience in music been like?

Steve Howe – (Laughs) That is a ginormous question, isn’t it? From listening to Chuck Berry in the 1960s and then developing my style in about 7 years wasn’t too bad – with Tomorrow followed with The Syndicats and a few other bands. I am a guitarist; I still want to be a guitarist and want to play. It is a certain thing in my world that I switch into and focus on a lot. I keep doing it and it keeps working. As long as I am making a good sound and my fingers roll around the fingerboards, I have part of my life sorted out.

Atlantic – It has been a great ride filled with a lot of success. YES, in particular, has always been one of those bands that has done things differently. Many would argue the band revolutionized what we call Progressive Rock. How would you describe the evolution of YES?

Steve Howe – Just as you say, the evolution of YES is not a stagnant thing; it can’t be fixed and it can’t be repeat itself. Basically, it’s about different people having different effects on the band. Different writers saying, “How about this?” and they perpetuate it to the next version if you like. That is the amazing thing that has happened, it has been a long windy road as Paul McCartney said. It’s a journey you take developing a certain kind of music.

When I came back in 1995 on a permanent basis, after the ’70s, I basically dug my heels in and got on with it. Kept trying to do new music, but mainly learn how to play the old music better and bring that to reality. Doing the album series, as we did around 2012, was really good for us. The hope that fans enjoyed it was a different way of presenting a show. So, the evolution is the evolution.

Frontiers – It has been a wonderful evolution. There has been a lot of time to evolve because YES is now celebrating 50 years. A very special anniversary, you are now about to kick off a 30-plus date tour. What can fans expect from this run?

Steve Howe – I try and to not give away the setlist. That is not too clever. Once we have played the first show, anyone who wants to know can look up what we played. Basically, we are selecting from all those years, we jump around, not physically so much. (Laughs) We jump around the years, we bring things forward.

We have become very selective about our setlist over the years, it’s been a challenge for us to keep delving into different things. We are not focusing on resurrecting here, what we are doing is focusing on picking some of the best things YES has done over the years. And not all of them are the most played, but there again, they are from the last 10 years of this lineup of me and Alan White primarily, and, of course, with Chris Squire until he passed away a few years.

Of course, we have guests trying us every night. We have Tony Kaye every night, the original keyboardist of YES, joining us at the end of the show. Also, I believe Trevor Horn will join us here and there if he can. And also Patrick Moraz will play at least one night with us. We’re going to make a nice show and we have been very strong with our presentation in recent years. There are no pigs flying around, but we have a way of presenting that I think is in-sync with the music. – Excellent. It will be an exciting tour and you are playing some venues you have not played before, some you have. Releasing Heaven & Earth in 2014, can we expect a new YES album in the future?

Steve Howe – We are starting to share things and have some plans, but nothing official. There is a lot of interest, but nothing until we internally have that feeling that we are growing the music together. We may put some time aside over the next 6 months to do a little more of that, it could be very productive. It has to be right, it has to feel right. We have to assemble an outer shell that helps us make the record. It could be exciting, but there are no actual plans or a date or anything like that.

YES live at NYCB Theatre at Westbury, NY 7-12-2014. Photo credit: Jonathan Weingarten – That is something to look forward to. Long overdue, YES was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017. How did it feel to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, was there a feeling of vindication?

Steve Howe – It’s a very unique award, in that, you can get more than one of them. It’s an entry into something and a show of respect that people have for us as well as the other acts that are annually included. It’s a great thing and it’s a way people can identify. It wants to be a presentable show in itself, which is why they want to get people back together, and you can’t blame them for trying. Sometimes it works, other times, it is just what it is.

It was an honor in another sense to walk away with my own personal thing that said, “Steve Howe of YES is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” It’s about the member of YES that they selected, but they have control of who they select. It was the Union 1991 lineup they selected for that, and okay, I can get on with that.

Obviously, there were people that gave a lot to it who didn’t get mentioned. Tony Kaye was rightly mentioned, but, unfortunately, he couldn’t appear. Bill Bruford was there, but he didn’t play, because he has retired. Certain things made it a very nice night, other things weren’t so easy. Basically, we have crossed that bridge and made it through to the other side.

Tour Dates:
Tue 6/5 St. Charles, IL Arcada Theatre
Wed 6/6 St. Charles, IL Arcada Theatre
Fri 6/8 New Buffalo, MI Four Winds Casino Ballroom
Sun 6/10 Kansas City, MO Midland Theatre
Mon 6/11 Denver, CO Paramount Theatre
Wed 6/13 Boise, ID CenturyLink Arena
Thu 6/14 Woodinville, WA Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery
Sat 6/16 Bakersfield, CA Spectrum Amphitheater
Sun 6/17 Anaheim, CA City National Grove of Anaheim
Tue 6/19 Los Angeles, CA Ford Theatre
Wed 6/20 San Jose, CA City National Civic
Fri 6/22 Wendover, NV Peppermill Casino Hall
Sat 6/23 Laughlin, NV Edgewater Hotel & Casino
Sun 6/24 Temecula, CA Pechanga Resort & Casino
Thu 6/28 Interlochen, MI Kresge Auditorium
Fri 6/29 Grand Rapids, MI 20 Monroe Live
Sat 6/30 Detroit, MI Fox Theatre
Mon 7/2 Cincinnati, OH PNC Pavilion at Riverbend Music Center
Thu 7/5 Pittsburgh, PA Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall
Fri 7/6 Jim Thorpe, PA Penn’s Peak
Sat 7/7 Montclair, NJ The Wellmont Theater
Tue 7/10 Boston, MA The Wilbur Theatre
Wed 7/11 Hampton Beach, NH Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom
Sat 7/14 Atlantic City, NJ Tropicana Casino
Sun 7/15 Staten Island, NY St. George Theatre
Tue 7/17 Peekskill, NY Paramount Hudson Valley
Wed 7/18 Westbury, NY Theatre at Westbury
Fri 7/20 Philadelphia, PA The Fillmore
Sat 7/21 Philadelphia, PA The Fillmore
Mon 7/23 Washington, DC Warner Theatre
Thu 7/26 Clearwater, FL Capitol Theatre
Fri 7/27 Orlando, FL The Plaza Live
Sat 7/28 Atlanta, GA Atlanta Symphony Hall

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Purchase YES music:

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