- - Wednesday, April 5, 2017

When Yes was finally announced as an inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on the third attempt, the classic rock community let out a collective “bout damn time.” Since 1968 the progressive rock combo has created some of the most iconic and technically excellent music ever to blast out of a radio. From “Roundabout” to “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and beyond, the music of Yes has defined several generations.

At the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) show in California, drummer Alan White, who has been in the band since the 1970s, and keyboardist Geoff Downes (also of Asia) discussed in the past, present and future of Yes.

Question: What brings you here to NAMM today?

Geoff Downes: I’m looking at some new equipment. Looking at some new gear.

Q: Have you seen anything that excites you?

GD: Obviously I’m most interested in keyboards. There are a lot of regional developments that are really starting to push the boundaries.

Q: Alan, why do you only play drums made by Ludwig?

Alan White: One of the main reasons is that I’ve been playing them since 1966. I have been an endorser of them for years. It will be 42 years this year. They have always been a great company. They make drums for everything that I could possibly want [for] the kind of music I play.

Q: What is it about them that make them the ideal drums for rock?

AW: They hammer great. They are very much a rock ‘n’ roll kit. But you can play them with finesse too. They can be very melodic and very rock ‘n’ roll at the same time.

Q: I know you had some back issues recently. How are you feeling?

AW: My back is steadily getting better. It’s a lot better than it was a couple months ago.

Q: Are you able to get back behind the kit?

AW: Yes. Well I toured with the band in Japan this past November. And Yes is playing on. So I’ve got to be ready.

GD: We are heading out on a minitour of Florida and the Deep South.

Q: Geoff, at this point, how many keyboards do you own?
GD: About 40 or more. I’ve got three identical 12-keyboard rigs. They I’m got another 10 in my studio, and there is probably another 15 around in storage and what not.

Q: Is there such a thing as having too many keyboards?

GD: You know they have this thing called additive synthesis? I have additive synthesizers. I just keep adding more and more.

Q: Technology has made everything so compact. Do you prefer the big keyboards over the minis?

GD: I like a mixture of both. I certainly like the fact that you can use a lot of these emulations and software. But there is nothing like having your hands on a keyboard. Or an acoustic piano. Those are the things you can’t really replace.

Q: Geoff, what is up with your “other” band Asia?

GD: We are carrying on. We’re going to tour with Journey in March and April.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Sadly, Asia singer John Wetton died just one week after this interview.)

Q: How do you feel about the Rock & Roll Hall of fame finally letting Yes in?

AW: It’s great to be recognized for something you’ve done your whole life.

Q: Do you think the band will reunite with former members like Jon Anderson?

AW: I honestly don’t know what will happen. There have been a lot of ideas thrown around. As long as we keep creating — that’s the most important thing.


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