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Interviews of Prog


Jon Anderson
Jon Anderson
(YES, solo)

Jon Anderson: “My best music is coming soon”

OP - Hållo!

JA- Hållo-î-î!

OP - I am happy to hear you, Jon! First of all let me congratulate you and Rick Wakeman on "The Living Tree" album release – it’s the best gift in way of a "Christmas tree” for every prog and Yes fan!

JA- Thank you! I always love to work with Rick. It’s very funny, he is a good man and – do you know? – an excellent musician.

OP - Great musician indeed!

JA- Yes! While on tour we decided that we would like to make an album with keyboards and vocals only. Drums and orchestration keyboards would be very nice too, so we started to work. When we were thinking about this album I was on tour and Rick was sending music to me and I sent my ideas back to him. So I was singing the songs in hotels and sent them to Rick in London! That’s how we made the new album.

OP - Making whole the album via the Internet?

JA- Yes – yes, it’s crazy but it’s appeared, you know....And when we are on tour we are able to sing classical Yes music and new music, it’s so good because they sounded...I don’t know, very new, very fresh!

OP - Jon, we are impressed by your current activity. What inspires you now?

JA- Oh, I like to live in a good mood, to live a colorful life, to live in nature – it’s so beautiful! I am very happy being in love, so all of this inspires me! This morning I was singing a new song – every day I compose new songs!

OP - Really – every day?

JA- Yes, exactly. I just enjoy singing, enjoy creating lyrics! I work with musicians around the world via the Internet, so that’s a big inspiration too. Very talented musicians – and the Internet enables musicians to be creative from the heart – and not only because of the money. For the last 20-30 years it was only “business – business – money – money – pop – pop.” But there were always musicians who wanted to try a different approach, making great music that lasts forever, creating music that has a heart and soul. And there always have to be musicians who try to do this! It’s like to do adventures of life, adventures of music, it just happened and these musicians were ready to put up with music by the Internet rather than record companies. They have their own outlook and it’s good. About the Interne....What I am doing this month on my site – it’s the scrapbook, “FanZoom”. People will send thoughts about when they first heard my singing, what song it was – was it a Yes song or my solo or my work with Vangelis....People will write what they were thinking about and maybe include a picture of where they were that time....

OP - Will you be personally involved in this project? I am sure that it will be an “avalanche” of information!

JA- I think it will be fantastic, because all the people can see it, read it and be a part of the experience. I’m going to look at that project and each year I can put out a book like a publisher.

OP - Jon, it’s a really great idea. I remember what I felt when I first encountered your music, it was “The Friends of Mr. Cairo” album!

JA- Oh, really? Nice, very nice!

OP - A lot of good memories! And, Jon, do you know that in the Soviet Union we didn't have the opportunity to buy Yes’ albums, all of these beautiful releases on vinyl with beautiful pictures and lyrics were unavailable. We would listen to them on cassettes and tried to ‘catch’ and translate Yes lyrics “by ear”.

JA- It’s not easy I suppose – I create lyrics about how I feel at that time and sing it as it is, it’s “from the heart”, you know? I would use them to create music and sometimes it didn’t have to be perfect - making songs this way....I hope other people enjoy them and so I don’t think too hard about everything, I just let it come very naturally.

OP - Did the music of Yes also appear in such a natural manner or were these compositions more in the line of hard work to create a “complete" and detailed musical picture? Sometimes all the movements seems so different, each of them has their own bright and “separate" theme, yet all of them blend so well together to maintain flow and momentum.

JA- The way we would work? Good, I would be in a middle and I was like a conductor. I would be like the director and I would say: “OK! I have the song, but don’t play the chords I play, Steve – play your own chords!” Or: “Don’t play that chord now but play that motif!” And then to Chris, you know: “Oh, don’t always play the same base chords – try to play a melody with Rick here!” And to Bill Bruford or Alan White: “Don’t do this in standard rock approach! I like it but not all of the time (laughing)!” Then we would work on the verse and I would already be ready for the chorus, so - “Ok! We are in the chorus: Live that chord we have, let everybody play these chords! And just play what you would like to play - you don’t always have to be playing in harmony”. We were like an open music book to each other....And then I would say: “This is really good, now we‘ve recorded this version!” and Howe: “Sounds great but perhaps we should learn what we’ve just played!” (laughing) And we would play it that way every time, like an orchestration, structured. So when Yes would perform “Long Distance Runaround” or “Awaken” or “Close to the Edge”, “Roundabout” - we played the same solo every time, like it’s a short piece of classical music.

OP - So you wouldn't re-arrange Yes songs for another tour, for instance?

JA- Not really! Because you should follow the same arrangements for each song because then it becomes a style! It isn’t simply “do it just if you want,” like it can be in jazz music. It’s another style of music, a way to create something very special....You know, a song like “And You and I,” you have to play it like that ‘cos it’s very important to do it “bigger” and beautiful. If you let everybody just play what they want to play (singing) – “And it gets confuuuusing!” (laughing). And I was always in the middle being the director - the songs' melodies and the words, of course....I just dreamt watching musicians that had so much experience, like Rick Wakeman, Steve Howe, Alan White, Chris Squire....And they would join and were very happy to listen to me and to follow my dream!

OP - And what makes music “the music of Yes”, what features are required, in your opinion?

JA- Hmm, I don’t know, I have no answer to this question! Maybe it’s a style of music - structures like symphonic structures, and....What is your favorite Yes piece?

OP - Right now beginning of the “Tales From Topographic Ocean” sounds in my mind – these chords and keys after your recitative.

JA- Oh yes, really? (Singing "Dawn of light lying between a silence and sold sources, chased amid fusions of wonder, in moments hardly seen forgotten....") Just watch, we could play this music 25, 35 years later and it is still good music!

OP - Yes, a whole generation was growing up with this brilliant music! What albums would you recommend for the very first meeting with Yes?

JA- Maybe “Fragile" - it gives the ideas of the “big forms”, then “Close to the Edge” and then to journey…

OP - ...Also the artwork by Roger Dean – I was so impressed by it. The cover art has helped me to understand the music.

JA- Yes, there were many different really beautiful designs, you know: “Close To The Edge,” “Tales from Topographic Ocean,” “Fragile”....

OP - I’ve read that Roger Dean’s cover art for "Fragile" inspired you to create the “Olias of Sunhillow” album?

JA- You know – yes, that picture!

OP - Jon, what can you say about tribute bands – do you like the idea of (others) playing Yes music exactly as it was created?

JA- It’s really good for them to play it ‘cos they can learn the structure, they can learn from how it works.

OP - And then they start to compose their own music…

JA- Yeah, that’s right – and that’s the dream! Young musicians learn and then do their own thing, beautifully!

OP - And what music do you listen now, what do you like?

JA- Sometimes I hear some good music and sometimes it’s pop music like Lady Gaga or Madonna - you always have a radio on around you. But you always have people – musicians - “pushing” their music, now they can simply put it on the Internet, so there's quite lot, you know.

OP - On your Internet page I see information about a collaboration with some musicians you’ve met via “World Net” - Christophe Lebled, who took part on your new album "Survival & Other Stories," Bill Kilpatrick who is involved in the highly interesting project "Violin Stories"*...

JA- What I did there – I love Sibelius, the composer from Finland, and his violin concerto so, so beautiful! So I was listening to it again and again and I would do some arrangements in the studio. Of course I am not pretending to be a violin player, I played all the parts on my keyboards, and composed around ten pieces of music. Then I met Bill Kilpatrick on the Internet – he sent me some wonderful orchestration ideas and I said: “Grrreat!” And then he came to my house, I played a violin player, we arranged the orchestration and even created impulsive stories! Bill does very - very danceable - orchestrations, so this music was created for dancing, which should be really nice! We would like to perform it sometime soon, and - who knows? - it might happen next or the following year. It’s a beautiful piece of work!

OP - It is a musical story, if I understand correctly?

JA- Yes, it’s about a violin player living on the street and he has no money....He is playing for people, and once he’s looking in a garbage bin for food and he finds a suitcase, and inside is a silver violin case with a crystal violin!

OP - Sounds like a fairy tale...

JA- Yes, it’s a fairy tale! He plays that violin and it’s like a magic carpet that takes him to Australia, Romania, Siberia, the USA...around the world.

OP - A mythical musical journey?

JA- Yes! A flack magic carpet of music!

OP - Which reminds me of Yes' song “Wondrous Stories”…

JA- Yes, very much the same!

OP - Another intriguing project is named “Zamran”. Jon, can you reveal some secrets about this?

JA- It is a very, very big project! The Zamran experience will be a library of information: musical, visual, it’s so exciting! Zamran is the son of Olias so he is dreaming how the Earth works, a beautiful mystical magical Earth! And Zamran is trying to understand this... These are realms I have been working on over the past 10 years (and I have already created four hours of music for this). I am very fortunate to work on this with many musicians around the world via the Internet – Thank God for the Internet!

OP - I’ve seen your painting named “Zamran”, so does the “visual information” include artwork?

JA- Yes, artwork also, it will be interesting - my Polish and American friends doing artwork, and my paintings too.

OP - Jon, I would like to ask you about the possibility for a collaboration with the California Guitar Trio – we have seen some of their concert videos where you make a guest appearance on YouTube.

JA- Yeah! We started that five years ago and at concerts we would perform “Heart of the Sunrise”. We should tour with some shows together so, yes, we’re talking about doing some shows together this year or next year. Now I like and I enjoy touring better then ever! It’s me, my wife Jane, guitars and it’s... so simple!

OP - Jon, this version of “Turn of the Century” with the California Guitar Trio is very beautiful, I love this song and I was always thinking that it’s a story based on the Pygmalion and Galatea myth.

JA- It’s not that tragedy but Edvard Grieg's story, Peer Gynt, you know. I like to sing this; it’s going to be a very, very special song for me! I was singing it with Rick Wakeman on tour in 2010 and I will sing it in my shows this year, of course. I love “Awaken’, “The Gates Of Delirium”, all of this Yes music from when we were more famous and it was so funny when we played this great music... “The Ladder” and “Magnification” albums have some beautiful music as well, so it’s a lot of different things. And I continue working with music. I dream that my best music will be coming soon!

OP - Jon, our fans wish that this dream will come true for you!

JA- Oh, thanks – but I have to go, time's up already....

OP - Thank you very much for your time. Know that we love all that you do. Bye!

…I put my phone down still smiling. What a warm, light, clear and REAL conversation, without any difficulties and worries! And I can’t truly convey how pleasant it was to hear all of these Yes “dream” and “forever” words from Jon Anderson personally - they are so close to the heart of a “true” Yes fan!

Unfortunately I didn't have time for questions about the AWR – Anderson, Wakeman, Rabin project, but at his official site Rick Wakeman writes: “I received some music from Jon for the Trevor, Jon and Rick project, and it’s tremendous. I’ve also sent some stuff to both guys as well, so unless there really is something I don’t know, then all is progressing really well”.

OP=Olga Potekhina: June 2, 2011

* Violin Stories- Jon Anderson and Bill Kilpatrick: Orchestral Ballet about a magical crystal violin.

Special thanks to the InRock magazine, Mack Maloney and Dmitri Gurtovoi. The Russian version of the interview is published in the InRock magazine.

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