Chris Squire is on the phone. The bass-player for Yes, Squire is the only member to appear on every one of the band's albums. It's a business now - a job. It's been that way for some time. And he's very matter-of-fact about it.
This weekend the band will make its first appearance in New Zealand. (See here for details).
"We always said we'd make it and we never have - I don't know why, but it's a long way. We've meant to come over when we've been as far as Australia. But, you know what, finally someone gave us the money - so we're coming. That's the truth". There's a rich chuckle to finish the line off, there's honesty but little in the way of sincerity.
Squire lives in Arizona. The band gets together to tread the boards once in a while.
This version of Yes does not feature lead singer, Jon Anderson.
"Yeah, people are unhappy about that - but you know what, it's still Yes. There's still the rest of us and the band was never about just Anderson. We were about more than just the singer. We think that people are still getting to see as much of the band as they can. Jon left due to ill health. And we were going to wait for him - but it just took too long. We couldn't wait". There's another laugh. It feels awkward.
So there's a new guy. In fact there's a second new guy.
Since 2008 Canadian Benoit David had been the new face/voice of Yes. He had been in a Yes tribute band called Close To The Edge. He was also the sound of the band's first new album in over a decade, Fly From Here. Released last year. But, in a curse that some diehard Yes fans could interpret as karma, David has had to step down - due to illness.
"Yeah, um, Benoit has had to step aside", Squire confirms and yet another awkward chuckle. This time he does sound a bit embarrassed. "So we have Jon Davidson joining us for the tour - and he's very good. He'll do justice to both Benoit and Anderson". He is a C-grade rugby coach putting over the next ringer from the bench.
So where'd they find this guy? Another Yes tribute-band, was it?
"Actually, yes. Jon had been in a Yes tribute-band called Roundabout". A hearty laugh this time.
Squire believes Fly From Here is a real return to the classic Yes sound.
"We are playing a decent amount from it in the show - but we are doing all the old Yes stuff that people will want to hear too. In many ways I think Fly From Here is a return to classic Yes, people seem to have been really enjoying it, integrated into the set along with the old material. One thing that really marks the album as classic Yes is the suite: the title song plays out over nearly half-an-hour. It's a new album but some of these songs we've had for many years, the ideas have been there..."
Squire hopes that after the tour concludes a new album won't take so long.
"It would be good to do another one, sooner rather than later this time, we're all getting on of course".
He tells me that "music is its own reward" and that it is important to "give back".
So would he give Jon Anderson his old job back?
"Well, we're still friends. We still keep in touch - and if he was able to perform with us again then that is something we could look at, sure".
Squire says the current Yes show takes in every stop a fan could expect - including that hit single, Owner Of A Lonely Heart ("well, it went the way it went" says Squire, evidently still surprised that it is the band's biggest success; the graze against the mainstream).
Yes started in 1969 - but it was the third album, 1971's The Yes Album that was the start of the real breakthrough. Followed swiftly by prog classics Fragile (also 1971), Close To The Edge (1972) and Tales From Topographic Oceans (1973). A phenomenal line-up, something Squire says "just seemed to happen. We were young".
The current show is a two-hour tour of career highlights. From the prog-rock of the 1970s to the Trevor Horn productions (Horn returned to work on the new album).
"You never think you're going to be at something like this for 40 years. But then, here I am now".
Squire worked hard to plug the new album and singer. And lip-service to the golden years was swift; somewhat token.
I hope fans get close enough to what they want this weekend. It was deeply uninspiring speaking to this Yes man on the telephone. He seemed detached from any passion that might once have been there.
Will you be going to see this version of Yes?
Were you tempted to go? Or is it not Yes without Anderson - or for that matter Rick Wakeman? And are you a Yes man or woman? What album/s do you like from the band? Or are you like Lester Bangs when it comes to Yes? Do you just say no instead?
Postscript: I'm sorry if you feel cheated by this interview. Imagine how I felt.
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