recent release ELEMENTS is his most eclectic in years. Running the
gamut of musical styles which has been a trademark of Steve's over his
long career, it introduces a band concept, Remedy. Under that moniker
Steve recently toured Europe with a band that included his sons Virgil
and Dylan, performing selections from many of his solo releases, most
never before performed live. A possible American tour may occur later
conversation on Yes in
NFTE #285 we
discussed the album at length. This issue features the conclusion of
that conversation. Playing the album as you read Steve's comments is highly
MOT: Let's move onto a very exciting portion of this
conversation, and that is to talk about your excellent new album,
ELEMENTS by Remedy. Let's set the record straight here.
MOT: How does this Remedy concept differ from a Steve Howe
SH: (Laughs) Well, I guess it's not so
much in the way that it's constructed as much as it's the way that it
ends up being. The way this record ends up being is I do what it says
on it, I play the guitar basically, and besides the vocals and what
guitar means to me is a whole lot of guitars, which it is as well; but
in the most part, I'm presenting more of a straight-ahead front of
either being a guitarist, or singer/guitarist on three tracks. So
although there's little stabs at this during the solo albums before, a
lot of the time certainly in recent years, I've done a great deal more
myself and presented that as a finished product. Feeling that I wanted
to go on stage was an inevitable thing I've just got to do with my
music, my solo music with a band, then making the album and not
inviting people in, not getting them involved would be a lost
opportunity. As I started thinking more about having lots of people
play on the album and alleviating me of multi-responsibilities other
than the guitar, and that really excited me, so I figured that maybe
it was justifiable to call it a band name like Remedy, I mean it's
only we're having a go at it and see how it runs, and I hope that it's
going to be able to prove, maybe in the next couple of years, the
opportunities to do that as a touring band that we can sort of build
MOT: To reiterate, it's not a matter of you just have these
songs, you just bring these other people into play on them. It's just
you were a unit of the same people played on all of those songs and
you work on it together as you would have a band.
SH: Well, that's an exaggeration to say
that, because as I started out by saying, I said to you that this is
Remedy. This is a band, not so much in the way it was constructed, but
more in the way that it ended up being, in that my role is the
guitarist. I did map out a lot of things, and then we invited people
to play, and it kind of changed, so I don't know. I used the key way
of my writing method in this record; I've used that way that I record
stuff, and then the way that what's different is the way that I
elaborated it, not so much myself, but by bringing in and forming
around me a semi, quasi-fantasy virtual band, you know what I mean
(laughs). It's a bit of everything; it's a kind of idea, if you like,
as much as anything else, and it doesn't necessarily have to be a
five-piece or a ten-piece or it could be a three-piece. In my mind, I
would be helping to build that idea of me and other people who've got
interesting things to do, but my music is the main carrier, if you
MOT: As I think I said to you earlier, it's a very eclectic
album, and is in some ways harkens back to THE STEVE HOWE ALBUM.
SH: Right. That's interesting. I hadn't
really thought about it like that. What, because it's got minimal
songs, and it's got like I suppose THE STEVE HOWE ALBUM had, if you
can call it country "Cactus Boogie", a sort of ragtime sort of thing,
I suppose you can, then there is a quite a mix on that album. Yeah,
but there is orchestra. I mean, and there is Spanish guitar, so I
MOT: Different styles.
SH: THE STEVE HOWE ALBUM's got much
broader strokes, and I'm trying to lessen that breadth on records that
I make. That's partly why I did PORTRAITS OF BOB DYLAN, because I had
to really tight constraint to work within...
MOT: Dylan and Virgil definitely excel throughout the album.
SH: Good, thank you.
MOT: And their own playing is as individualistic as your own
guitar playing is. What is it, is it just in the genes? (laughs)
SH: (Laughs) Well, it's obviously nice
that you say that. Yeah, there is a certain flair, and intensity. I'll
give you one example: I saw Virgil on stage playing drums, and I've
seen him many times, but one of the last times I saw him he really
did get carried away and he was like drumming, and his head went down
on the side, and then he started singing. I've might have taken years
to be anything like somebody who could introduce me, but he also talks
very relaxed. So he's come out of his shell, but I think Dylan's the
same. When he's drumming he steps away
from the normal world, and Virgil does the same thing too, so I think
we all do that, and that is maybe something in our genes that's passed
on (laughs). I think my dad was a brilliant cook, and maybe it comes
from that, I don't know (laughs).
MOT: When I think about Dylan's drumming on your album
it's his own background which is jazz drumming, and comparing that to
your work with Bill Bruford to where you have a jazz drummer basically
bringing his own sensibilities to a rock setting...
SH: Yes, yes.
MOT: ... and I see Dylan doing that a lot on this album.
SH: I think you're right. I think it's a
healthy thing, I mean when you talking about Rush the other day, I
mean that drummer's really respected as an all-around drummer, isn't
MOT: Neil Peart.
SH: But like when it comes to it, it's
what he does... well, he might have a jazz influence, because Dylan
has loved all those drummers like Bruford, and the other guys that
he's met. Not only the people that he's met through me of course, but
the people that he's met outside of that, and I guess he wants to
learn as much as he can, but his roots are very excitedly in jazz, and
he can't get that out of his system (laughs). He doesn't want to; it
is his system, if you like. But of course he is versatile that he
plays any kind of drums, but he more and more wants what his heart
tells him, and hopefully through his record and his own shows that
he's been doing, he's shown a lot more courage and bravery to really
kick it in and make it work.
MOT: Not to denigrate the other musicians, including Virgil, but I think
Dylan's contributions to ELEMENTS really help make it as good as it
is, even better than it could have been. You could have gone with
stock drumming in various parts, but he's very
That's right. The adventurousness that I think early Yes had, and yet
we used to play more rock than we did after the '70s...but we were playing
really good rock stuff that had the twists, had the what was called
later progressive twists, but we had a jazzy-thinking drummer, and
that was Bill. Dylan has got the same kind of intent going on in his
mind, as you've pointed out, what where he's got those kind of roots
that that's his main thing, and it's not going to change. It's a
wonderful thing, and on this album as you've said he does really
stand out. I think it's become more natural that for this album
he does stand out, and that's why he's got like some short drum break
things in the first track to show that Dylan isn't just present [as
if] he's popped in to play with me. He's contributing a bigger sound
and a more thinking-man's drumming, really, really interesting stuff
all the way down the line.
MOT: Can you talk a little bit about working with Andrew
Jackman on this album and his contribution?
SH: Yeah, really important that sometime
back when I was planning this, and when I wanted some arranging,
Andrew was a natural choice, and I called him. He said "Oh yeah, just
get in touch with me when you need it done," and then it started to
come closer, and he said, "I'm really, really going to do this." He
wanted to play the arrangement, and so he selected the musicians-the
seven brass players on the album. I made him special mixes of both
tracks that he was going to do, and I'll always keep them because
they're quite sentimental now, but they have a variety of different
ways of looking at the same two tracks: four mixes on the each one,
some have like no guitar, some have guitar with no brass, and some
have brass with no guitar, and it's kind of this quasi-mix, so he
could sift through and work out things. Basically what's happened on
"Westwinds", I'd already constructed quite a good arrangement, in fact
it's more or less what's there now, of saxophones and trumpet sounds
on a synthesizer, on a keyboard, and I quite liked them. When I played
them to him, he said, "That is good, that is a pretty damn good
arrangement. Great, I'll score that; I'll write it up, so a real band
can play it." And then the other track ["Pacific Haze"] I said, "Look,
here's a free hand," because I've played this track in a very, very
So I recorded the track, got it really good, but I wanted it like
"Westwinds" to be orchestrated, but I hadn't written the
orchestrations; so I said I'll give him a free hand and we'll
do an arrangement on that piece. So he left it quite sparse at the
beginning, then it gradually builds up towards the end. Also
on that track Gilad Atzmon played some
solo sax on it, and it's quite incredible what he
does at the end... but "Pacific Haze" is a very special track,
not only because Andrew scored it and certainly he left us, but it was
a strange twist of destiny that this track turned out so incredibly
good, and had so many contributions from people that I liked. Dylan of
course had introduced Gilad to me, and Gilad's got his own band, and
we should do a little bit of promo for him, but not that he needs it
much. He won best album of the year, best jazz album of the year in
a certain important poll, and he was very pleased about that, so
he's done loads of stuff with Dylan on I think on all sorts of other
But sadly Andrew's fate was never--besides the production of the
recordings--never to hear the finished mix if you like. I was about to
send them to him when he sadly passed away, and that was a very big
lump in my throat, and I thought well that's a shame, because they
turned out so brilliantly. The only reason I hadn't sent it to
him [was] because I didn't have the version with his name on it, but of
course maybe in hindsight I'll never wait to send something to
somebody if you got that feeling. But even at the session, he was
quite remarkable because he conducted the brass ensemble, and he did
that with a certain vigor. "Westwinds" was always really under
control, because we kind of knew what it was. There was a lot of
things to do, but when we did "Pacific Haze" and it was his
arrangement, I remembered his feet start to leave the ground; he was
kind of conducting them, and he was getting so into it. He had a
marvelous way with musicians, because they respected him. He was
amicable; he had good social skills. He could communicate his musical
ideas, not offend anybody. If he had to be critical, he'd do it very
lightly, and say, "Oh please don't do that there," and fascinating
things would happen, like at the end of "Westwinds", he had them
cutting off very quick (sings part of song), so he did it, and I said
"Oh no, ok. I'd love you to hold that last note, because I think... ,"
and it really did fulfill the track so much when right at the end
(sings part of the song), and they hold that chord; just seeing how
quickly things can happen, and everybody feels they're right, just
goes ahead. I said, "Oh, give that note a four-bar sustain."
Working with Andrew was never difficult. It was always creative...I think when we opened in Japan, I
played "Double Rondo" on electric guitar and said that I played it for
Andrew, and "Double Rondo" was really an amazing thing that we did
together. I'll always love seeing ideas just grow to colossal
MOT: On THE STEVE HOWE ALBUM.
SH: Yeah, very fond of that, and of course
he was on the list in my book for doing MAGNIFICATION as well, because
I think he would have done a wonderful job of that as well.
MOT: Why didn't he, then?
SH: The decision was made [to go with]
Larry Groupè because the project was based in California, he was in
MOT: You know what I'd like to do is briefly go through each
one of the songs.
"Across The Cobblestones": What is it about that
music that evokes home to you?
SH: Well, I'll try to put it in a
nutshell. I guess the lyrics had a staying power with me, because I
wrote them many, many years ago, and maybe not in that form. They were
written more in a long song form where there was lots of words and
there was lots of this and lots of that. I kept thinking, you know the
things I like about this song is this line, that line, and that line,
and I always highlighted them and thought the rest was just really
waffle. And then the other thing happened and I'd stop thinking about
it as that song, and in fact that didn't have the same melody or
structure or anything like that, so there was just some lyrics lying
there. Then I had this (sings opening riff)-I had that maybe four
years ago or something, and I must have played it to Yes once or twice
and said what do you think, and they passed on it basically, so I had
this kind of steel guitar group. It was actually a guitar and steel
playing the same things, and I thought it was sort of a "Going for the
One" sort of sound, it had a sort of rocky feel and all that,
but I coupled it with this slightly more melodic piece that I play on
the old GTR sort of synth-the one we used on there called the GR-700.
I like that sound because it's a nice retro sound, and it's one of the
settings that I like.
It seemed to be a great vehicle for the band, i.e. that Dylan
gets some drum shots at the end, and it had this structure where it
kind of went somewhere and rocked out for a little bit, and nothing
much really happens, but everybody just kind of cooked, and in a way,
that's why it kind of assimilated as the first track because, (sings)
"This has always been our home... " had a sort of slightly pleasant tone
to it, and yet there was something aggressive under the feeling of
"Cobblestones"-that there was a better place. It starts with one two-minute segment of an afternoon I recorded
in the garden at Langley, and surprisingly there's so much going on.
It's ridiculous. I mean, there's all those creatures and birds and
woodpeckers, and they're all happening at once, and there's bees
flying by the microphone, if you listen on headphones, it actually
starts with a bee going bzzzzzz, and it's all natural. There's no
gimmicks; you know I didn't pan anything. I didn't add any reverb.
There's nothing there but just the sounds, and my idea there is to
just go from this tranquil place into a song that kind of couples the
journey between those two places like the city/country dilemma, that I
guess I have in my life where the city's energy fueled me for so many
years, but now it seems the country's energy fuels me for another 25
years, so I guess that's strange. Sometimes I look into it; I question
it, but I enjoy it. Those words "I've seen the innocence of dawn," I
know you asked me earlier, "Is that what you say," and I guess that's
almost a reference to psychedelic eras when I first went to the
country and felt I don't own the country, but I belonged in the country
or I related to the country, and I did see that innocence of dawn. I
saw things I'd passed by before. I'd not noticed them; I wasn't
focused on what was going on. It's very fulfilling when tracks like
that and particularly "The Chariot of Gold", which is a song I've also
been kicking around for three or four years that I'd always believed
in. I wanted to get it off the ground.
MOT: How about
SH: Well, "Bee Stings" and "Smoke Silver"
are the tracks that really helped to explain how I made the album,
because I was working with Roland, and I was listening to what was
coming out of my VG-88 and thinking some of this is good and
I don't need all of those patches, but that's a good patch. I had sat
down and recorded a couple of tracks just using the system, which is
basically all that's on those tracks is me playing different, very
selective settings of the VG-88, and I mocked it up with a drum
machine and things like that, and then it
was after I gave it to Roland and they put it on their website and
you could listen to this like mini-version of those songs for three months or something, and then that's when I suddenly
thought, "You know what, I think I should start an album." Those two
tracks, they're kind of different. So I felt that although there was a
simple groove in "Bee Stings" (sings part of song), sort of this
almost Rolling Stone-ish sort of simplicity, I just wanted to go
there, and that's where I want to be. It's the kind of place I want to
be, and too much airy-fairing around kind of gets me restless for some
head-down playing, so there's a bit more of that idea that I've got
this really high theme that's only really a few notes (sings part of
song), but that's the kind of wailing kind of experience to play; and
that's what I'm discovering the guitar sounds in there, in the VG-88,
and having a structure that I'm more or less invented in the best way,
it's always good sometimes to invent a structure you really like, and
then just work out what you're going to play on top, and that's how I
did "Bee Stings".
I worked very hard on the structure when I was creating it, and all I
was going on was an instinct that, well, if I got this structure like
it really went here-that's just the bass and drums, so I was
writing the bass and drum parts on those two songs for long time, so
that I could actually imagine it was a great platform for me just to
go crazy. I didn't even know what I was going to play, so those tracks
were improvised in another sort of rotation of what improvisation is.
When you've got a structure that's solid obviously you can have
so much fun then, because you can play something and go, "No, one
back, no that's not good. Hmm, that's good; hmm I should play that
here," and start kind of constructing your music, but there's not many
tracks on the album like that. So those two tracks were done like
that, and they started me thinking I've got an album if I look for
material that somehow is like this, sort of a bit progressive but
mainly rock, and so therefore maybe I'll pull out "Westwinds", which
is the next track you're going to ask about, and "Westwinds" and
"Pacific Haze" were just like dying to go somewhere. I just wanted
these tracks to be out to show what I'd been up to, and I didn't want
them to sit there any longer.
I'd spoke about "Westwinds" a bit, but before Andrew got involved, I
constructed it more or less as you hear it, with the keyboards. Adding
the bass was fantastic and Dylan playing the drums... I mean, I conceived that and invented it around
the structures that I had.
MOT: I really heard a Chet influence on your playing there.
SH: Yeah? The way he jazzes it up a bit
and the way I do, in "Westwinds"?
SH: Yeah, well, that's great. I guess when
I saw Chet this afternoon on there [TV], especially that very early
stuff when he's playing electric, I'm in heaven. This guy just
indicates the value of having followed him for so many years, because
to see how he did it live is really the most interesting thing.
"Where I Belong" has a pretty funky solo. What guitar are
you playing in that one?
SH: Well, there's a Dobro solo, then
there's a Broadcaster I think it is... "Where I Belong" is track 4, isn't it?
SH: Yeah, it's a Telecaster. Yeah, that
Telecaster really is quite a favorite of mine. It's a kind of song that makes me smile. I like things that give me a twist on
myself. I've been hammering down loads of songs, and I had written
this song a couple of years ago in a whole period I wrote twelve
songs, and I thought, they were all together, and now I've
seen that they're actually a nice bed for me to pull from, so I pulled
one of them out, and it was that song because it was the most an R &
B and country pickin' mixture I had--basically kind of a blues song,
but a bit along the lines, because all blues songs have to start off
with some sort of epitome of sadness in some way, and to say that
you're down on your luck is a classic blues twist, if you like.
I improvised that line one day, (sings) "I've been down on my luck for
a while, hardly able to raise a smile." I thought that's alright; I
like that. So I grew to like it and molded the song really to keep it
pretty simple, and not to give away what it's really about. It's one of those songs that I think hides a little of what
it's intended to mean, but more in playfulness; it's not funny just to
go out and say what you mean. In fact, there used to be a bit where
I went "Dreaming... " and I said a little bit more, and that's where I
went "No, I mustn't say that." What happens with the "dreaming" section
is that the first time it's just (sings) "Dreaming, it could be like
this", and the next time it's (sings) "Dreaming, da da da... ", you get
another line, so I kind of build the place for that part of the song
so it grows, because too much of that at the beginning seemed to give
it all away. But the way the guitar happens with that, what I think of
is sort of Albert Lee-ish-he's one of my big idols, I've talked
about him a lot recently, because he really did affect me. It's not
that I can hear enough of this guy or I've got like ten CDs with him
on; he's actually under-released or something-brilliant, but his
influence has stayed with me right from the word go... it's a bit like
the tune on QUANTUM GUITAR, I think it's called "Country Viper" (sings
opening riff of the song). That's me; I'm a sort of dichotomy of my
own tastes. The taste I have for music can go in like the poles of the
Earth; I can go south and go into, say country music and really go
there big time and believe that I've really got to stop all this
messing around with Yes (laughs), I've got to go and play some really
good country, so I get these pulls towards different polarities in
music, and I love it. I just love being tempted, or allowing myself to
feel that I'm going to do things, and they're usually very good
stepping stones for things that I do in the future, otherwise what
would I do next as a solo input guy, but I also want to create some
continuity. I'm not going to be seen with the cowboy hat on one minute
and then a Spanish guitar the next. I think there's a way of doing
this gracefully, where my projects keep having central themes, but
also like merge left and right as well.
"Whiskey Hill": that is a really rollicking tune, rocks
kind of like "Going for the One" does.
SH: It's all pulsed by one guitar that was
played really when I was very, very excited by what I hear. You see, I
think I respond to the sound. If I'm making a good sound, I'll play
loads of good stuff... so I'm standing
in the studio going (sings part of a guitar track), just on one guitar
with all these delays on it (sings more) (laughs), thinking "Wow!"
(sings more), and what's keeping me in time of course is all these
delays, I'm playing more or less in the tempo of the delays, so it
just started life as a really crazy piece of guitar that just stood on
its own, and then I invented the idea that to take it off the ground,
to introduce it as a guitar, and the band then treat it almost like a
Chuck Berry song. One of the guitars I really like on it is a really
awful sounding guitar. I mean I try and make beautiful sounds all the
time on the guitar, but every now and again you just got to have
something that's really nasty (laughs), and there's a wonderful, nasty
sound on there that goes (mimics part of guitar sound). It's kind of
grinding away in the back, and I think that's what rock music is
partly fueled by is distortion, and there's none on SKYLINE, and
there's none on NATURAL TIMBRE, but there's some distortion on this
record (laughs), and I like those bits that I can dovetail. What I've
been doing for years is sort of like dovetailing guitar playing. I've
got a guitar that I like, and then I see a space for something else,
and I create a new line, I can then see that as a part. So in a way
it's strangely orchestral, a piece like "Whiskey Hill". There's a sort
of orchestral spacing of the way things happen in it, but the
orchestra's made up of (sings nasty guitar part) on a Dobro guitar,
and that Fender Strat that's tuned to A, so you get all these
different kinds of intonation--
MOT: "Tuned to A"?
SH: I think that is... let me just check if
that's right. We're talking about "Whiskey Hill", right?
MOT: Yeah, yes we are.
that's right. What I do is tune the whole guitar, instead of E, it's A
below it, so it's actually a long way down. All the strings are all
flopping about all over the place...
MOT: You mean the high and low strings are As?
SH: Yeah, imagine if you had a tremolo arm
on that could take your E chord to an A chord below it; that's kind of
where the guitar is pitched, so the guitar that starts--
MOT: So that's the main guitar the part that goes (sings main
solo guitar line
SH: I think the one that
starts it (sings another part)-it's like a country pickin' guitar
(sings small part)-that keeps coming up in the mix every time it's
kind of being featured, and then you get (sings descending
line)-that's the Les Paul Custom doing the kind of interfering guitar
that comes in. Yeah, it's interesting what music allows. Sometimes
what you don't know is best, but that line, the one I'm thinking of
anyway in "Whiskey Hill" comes in about after about 40 seconds, when
the tune's picked up and this quite raunchy sort of heavy guitar comes
in, and actually as I played what I played on there, I noticed that I
kind of expanded the scale a little bit in a particular way. I think,
"Hang on a sec, I'm in that key," and it worked beautifully, you know
what I mean, and it was what I didn't know about that was good, not
what I knew, and that's obviously noteworthy in a strange sort of way.
"Chariot of Gold", that's one song that I thought had a
real QUANTUM type of feel. I was wondering if it was written around
SH: Yeah, I think it was QUANTUM... that
was '96... yeah it was about that time.
It was a troubled piece because what I
said in the song was hard work for me to keep doing it. So I rewrote
it, but I just rewrote it in an even more hard work way (laughs). It
was a very tentatively dynamic song, where it was using images like
"The Chariot of Gold". You didn't really know what "The Chariot of
Gold" was in the song, but you could guess if you like, and this had
actually got on my nerves, so I took all of the melodies that I've got
going as a vocalist, which was one of them in the middle of the song. I just played it on electric mandolins, and I thought
that's what I'm doing; that's what I do sometimes-take the song, throw
the song out and take it as a guitar, and it's great because I can
take that melody and it's almost like I'm singing really, but I'm not.
I'm playing it on the guitar, and it really is good fun. But what's
maybe better in the end to say about it is that because it was a song
that had all this time and thought and different perversions and
different arrangements, different drum kits, endless attempts at doing
it on 24-track with somebody else... when it just comes out and it's all
that clean, it all got cleaned up and it's got the saxophones on it
that I wanted, and Gilad takes that solo at the end that really is
quite steaming so for me; I pulled it off. It's one of those long haul
numbers-really nice. I mean, some numbers that we're going to talk
about some that just happened out of thin air, and then other numbers,
you know it's a balance that take a lot of work, yeah.
"Tremolando", do you have any questions on it?
MOT: Yeah, actually I do. It's funny, because throughout your
career you have pieces of a different facet--"Clap" was your solo
ragtime piece, "Mood for a Day" is your big solo classical piece.
"Sketches of the Sun" is like this electric 16-string piece, or
"Masquerade" is the acoustic 12-string piece, and now you've got "Tremolando",
and I kind of felt that was in that same vein. This is your big
tremolo song (laughs).
SH: Yeah, yeah, right. I guess on Chet Aktins'
FINGER STYLE GUITAR,
there's a piece, I think it's by Scalatti, and there's a little minuet
sort of piece that he does, I think it's called "Minuet in A". I might
have some of the titles wrong there, but it's a very classical piece
and Chet played it. It didn't have tremolo, but it was in A. And how I
recorded a few tracks was that in my studio, I'd have all my effects
rack wired into my studio, so I'm through like any number of things
that I want to be at the same time. The only down side to that is
sometimes, and "Tremolando" is actually an example, I don't actually
know what gadget I used to do the tremolo, but it may be that Daddy-O
brought out a little tremolo that I really liked. It's got very
intense tremolo; it's got two tremolos. One is a on and off, totally
on and off, and the other one is a really good sweeping, slow and then
fast; it may be that pedal, I couldn't remember when I did this, I
literally could not remember.
So basically I was improvising, I was just having a nice time playing,
but what I tend to do when I'm doing that isn't just play endlessly, I
kind of play something, and then I'd think, "Oh, well look... hang on,
this is going somewhere," so I restart it, but the DAT is still running, so
there's a DAT recording the stereo send of any amount of effects,
reverbs I want or none of them, just a pure guitar and a foot pedal.
But it goes down onto tape, so it isn't a multi-track, it's so you can
have solo pieces. So that's really how that came about. I played that
tune, and I was just really impressed that I did it, but I'm just
thinking that it might actually be that I recorded that piece as well
in Vancouver, but I think it was done in Langley. What number track is
SH: Yeah, I think it's the Korg A3 SH
setting; there is a tremolo on there, and I've got there the
Steinberger six-string... so melodically that's just perfect because
there's not much to it. It's funny how people work so hard to work up
tunes with endless bits, and obviously it's a short piece, but at that
tempo with that tremolo... as I was about to say when you first started
talking about it, in the early days it was about the only effect
anybody had-tremolo (laughs). It was like, "Have you got tremolo? Yeah.
Well thank God for that," and you used it occasionally, and Chet used
it brilliantly on a tune called "Take a Message to Mary" and other
times. It comes back with regularity. Back in those days, I think
Duane Eddy always had tremolo on his guitar. So it was seen almost as
part of the sound the guitar made, but of course it actually came from
xylophone technology, didn't it? Vibraphones.
MOT: Yeah, that makes sense.
SH: And some players liked it, and some
players never used it at all... I think Lionel Hampton, or one of them,
never used it at all. Who's the guy that started out with Hank
Garland... anyway, it's just one of those things that has a moment in
time when you've got all the focus. What's nice about guitar solo,
even in the electric world is the nothingness of your space, you have
nothing. You're naked, if you like, and it's quite interesting how
that feels; like when I do "To Be Over" on stage at the moment.
Sometimes that's quite a risk for me, because particularly when we
went to Singapore, I seriously thought about doing two familiar tunes,
but I thought "No, I'll play this."
But it certainly puts me somewhere. You know, there isn't just
strumming along, it puts me in danger (laughs) of hope of keeping that
together and presenting it as an entire piece. But always solos demand
different technique, and in a way that playing "Tremolando" is a
different sort of technique. I guess what helped me was being
interested, generally interested in chords, thinking that they were a
sort of mystery, like a puzzle, like having a crossword... something you
have to kind of complete to find out how you do or make all those
things possible. Chords constantly help me to play as a solo
guitarist, even more than what I do in Yes, which is partly chords and
partly single notes, but like I was telling you about Chet had to
arrange how he could go from solo playing and then have backing and
then that was cleverly done. So "Tremolando's" got quite a confident
footing, because it isn't really going a long way, but it goes a long
way without doing much, which is nice.
MOT: Yeah, it is very effective.
"Pacific Haze"... a rare
foray into jazz.
SH: Yeah, this really is a big track where
it grows, it develops, it kind of winds its way through a lot of
things, but oddly enough there is some very strong structure about
it... that track in particular, as I said was done in an unusual way... all
I know is that when you listen to the track, that's the track that
people take to in a different sort of way, because it isn't very usual
for me to move so far into that, to take a big chunk of work and say
let's have the freedom that I want in this piece but have the
structure too-the brass ensemble.
MOT: One thing that I was wondering was how you communicated
the arrangements--"Pacific Haze" is one Andrew Jackman did, correct?
MOT: Did he do the arrangements for the horns--
SH: He had completely free arrangements,
MOT: --or did you have any input there?
SH: No, I didn't. I mean, I told him where
I wanted it definitely to be... certain places I said to him, "You got to
be doing something here; at three minutes fifteen I want you to come
in here." I might indicate whether I was like trying to raise the
crescendo or whether I wanted something very smooth; but I gave him
very, very little to go on, mainly just timings of areas where he
definitely ought to be doing something. He didn't have to do anything
everywhere, so he dreamed up his own way of introducing it gradually.
He did that completely on his own, and I didn't even hear it before we
recorded it. I trusted him completely to come up with something, and I
wanted an input, you know I wanted somebody to come up with something,
and I knew he could, and so that's the first time I heard it in the
studio, so that was terrific. I already had Gilad playing on the end,
but I didn't have him on the same tape, so the first time I had got to
Curtis's [engineeer Curtis Schwartz] after that session and put "Pacific Haze"--put all the tapes
together-all Pro Tool files together, and put them with our track and
then I said, "Let's put Gilad off on the end as well" (laughs), so the
track is going to end, and suddenly Gilad comes in, but a little
(laughs) on the top of the brass, and it's just fantastic. I played
that to Andrew, and he thought it was going to work great with his
MOT: That was particularly enchanting, because we really have
a chance to hear you play jazz of that kind. You've alluded to jazz
SH: Yes, It's coming in, slipping in
discreetly I hope into a sort of gaining acceptance through not being
the sort of main body of the music, but in some way it gives me a
chance to show why I've been playing like that, because I also
conceived of writing tunes that are like that... "Sweet Thunder" was one
of my first pieces that was actually, very obviously, in a jazz
direction, and that's a piece that I like a lot. I really want to play
that, because I had a stab at it with PULLING STRINGS, which was quite
fun, and I feel that that piece is a really jumping piece; by
rearranging it, I could use a couple of ideas again in that, and it
will really jump about.
Now, I played bass on that because when I was doing the bass sessions
with Derek, he sat in everything absolutely great, and we came to
"Pacific Haze" and I said, "Well, have you learned this one?," and he
said, "Well, I didn't know where to start really," because the bass
just is flying about all over the place. So I said "Well, let's look
at it." At that time, Andrew was the only person who could have maybe
given me a chord structure to what I had written... [or] maybe I had one,
but I didn't know where it was, but the chord structure changes a
great deal. There's three bars of this chord and four bars of that,
but somehow it seems to flow, and so he said to me "Well, give me a
couple of runs at it," and as soon as he started you could kind of
sense that the bass had become really locked in. So we went with my
bass, which I was quite happy to because I think it shows a little of
my previous solo work where I get my guitars to sort of, I hope,
interact properly. Every note the bass played was designed to be with
that guitar, and I designed it, and in a way, Derek didn't want to
redesign that one (laughs), because it was complex.
MOT: Yeah, it worked extremely well.
"Load Off My Mind" I saw
as having a very Dylanish chorus.
SH: Oh yeah... "Come and take this load off
my mind" (sings). Yeah, I think I was lucky to find that expression,
because it was what I'd wanted; it doesn't quite tell you what the
load is, but it's a load, and I think that's a good thing to go with,
and the song is based on any kind of basic rock song, I mean not a lot
MOT: It almost had like a feverish electric guitar.
SH: Well, I play a lot of tribute to James
Burton on that one, I mean, that's my kind of James Burton parts that
in a way became adopted by so many guitarists in my era. Everybody
knew how to play James Burton's lines, like they knew how to play Hank
Marvin, and other people wanted to learn how to play Chet Atkins.
The fact is that that song is something I quite wanted to sing, and
that's why it's there, it's because it was kind of mean enough, it's
kind of meaty enough to be rock piece of material, and as you said,
that it's slightly Dylanish line about "Load Off My Mind", but yeah,
I'm pleased with that. I'm pleased that settled in to my repertoire.
MOT: "Hecla Lava"
was recorded during the time of THE LADDER?
SH: Yeah, I hadn't given any actual
notification of that on the album exactly where some of these things
were recorded; most of them were recorded in my studio, as everything
we have been talking about was, except the brass. But basically "Hecla
Lava" was recorded directly from a GP 100. That's what it says on my
CD listing, and how I did it was to play the 175 into the GP 100, it
came out two Advent speakers, and I had a stereo mic recording on a
mini-disc. Basically I got a lot of source material like this, by
inventing pieces on these sounds as I worked though the process of
noting which ones I liked. So those pieces became almost a new solo
venture for me to play on electric sounds and move about electric
guitar if you like, with weird and wonderful sounds.
There's only two like this on the album, "Hecla Lava" and the other
one's called "Sand Devil", and they're both recorded in Vancouver at
the time by myself in my hotel, it was kind of an apartment we had. I
just kept the mini-disc and then I took it on to Pro Tools, and then I
coupled a few of these together. Usually the ones that were next to
each other, I'd slightly edit the end of one or change the beginning
of the second one, so I'd mold it into a little suite if you like of
textural sounds that is more about the sound really than the notes.
It's a kind of a guitar soup of a solo, and I like to do different
things; it keeps me thinking.
MOT: Playing in terms of keeping time with what's happening
with the echo of what you just played.
SH: Yes, that's part of it. That's always
been a wonderful place, in fact I'll credit Roger Dean a little bit
for making me realize that many, many years ago, most probably in the
'70s--or it could have been in Asia days, but he came into a rehearsal
room and I was playing on my own, and I didn't know he was there, and
so I just carried on for a while (laughs), so when I eventually
stopped, I said, "Oh, hello Roger, how are you? How long you've been
there?" He said, "I've been here for about 10 minutes," (laughs) I
said, "Oh God, I didn't see you." And he said, "That was great," and
it was a bit like this stuff; it would be just kind of standing there
going (mimics guitar sounds), and it's amazing that I can play for so
[yesterday] we rehearsed "Close to the
Edge" and "Magnification", then I played about 20 minutes on the
acoustic guitar, and then I checked all my guitars again, and then I
played that huge set with Yes last night, and that's a lot of playing
in one day-hours, absolutely hours... three, four hours of playing. I can
get into playing quite a lot, so if I'm recording things, then I get a
great backlog of quite interesting guitar recordings, like "Hecla
Lava", that I can sort of balance this record with, because I didn't
see it as a straight rock record, you know what I mean. I saw it to
have adventurism; it has adventurism with the jazz tracks, and it had
adventurism with these solo versions.
SH: Yeah, I like this. This is one of my
favorite tracks. I don't know why, but there's something really
straight ahead about it... I like having bass riffs like that (sings
opening bass line)-very kind of snappy, so I guess like I said with
"Bee Stings", this is the coupling track where I use VG-88 guitars
exclusively, and I didn't write in the usual constructional way. I
created a structure, and then I invented the guitar lines that go on
it on the tune, so that's just another way of writing, which I think I
like, I like to keep writing in different sorts of ways, but... yeah,
that one molds quite a lot of the guitars I like from VG-88, and I
list the settings on there that I use.
Yeah, just fun; I mean that's what I had, you see, "Bee Stings" and
"Smoke Silver" were just fun to do, because I didn't really stop to
think what I was doing. I was just having a ball doing this crazy
stuff you know, and I try to carry that through in the way I thought
about the album, that is wasn't all going to be beautifully correct.
Some things would be a little bit strange here and there, and that is
a kind of product, if you like, of the kicks of rock.
MOT: Keep the element of spontaneity.
SH: Yeah, yeah.
"Inside Out Muse", that's one of the longer songs on the
album. That's a very evocative blues song, your playing is very
SH: Well, I've never released a 12-bar
blues, and this one's very similar to a 12-bar blues, and I thought if
I'd do something like this, I want to cover some of the ground that I
like in this style, so what happens is the lead guitar improvising
starts quite clean, introduces a sort of mood, but then kind of
discreetly changes sound and becomes a little bit more angry sounding;
and because of that, I can only think that the '60s and early '70s
were a very exciting time, when I wasn't terribly aware of how well I
was playing, and it was rather nice. And some of the effect of that is
that I have great memories of moments in playing in the '60s and early
'70s, and right before Tomorrow, before the In Crowd, the Syndicats
were a blues group, and of course I used to play a lot like this in
those days. I used to combine the blues approach with jazzy bits that
I got from records or Albert Lee or somebody, that I thought I could
pick up some phrases.
But I was really pleased to see Albert, because he uses that sort of
double-stomping thing that I was using before I saw it, and the
two-string idea--but he was using it in a rock fashion like I do, and
although I don't really do any of that on that, there's a tendency for
me to go just across the 12-bar style, almost as if I'm flying a
Concorde for the first time. It's like "Hey, somebody's letting me do
this." It's kind of myself really, but I almost felt like on this
record I had that much to say in different ways that related to where
I belong, that related to "Load Off My Mind", a kind of the rock-blues
kind of side, so to leave the album without sort of making a statement
in the blues thing I thought would be a shame. And so it stretches
out, and it kind of slowly builds and then Gilad comes in, playing of
all things a clarinet, which was just the right for the moment.
MOT: Oh yeah, very beautiful solo.
SH: Yeah. But we have support saxophone
from him as well, which are playing a slightly, dare I say, a "Night
Train" kind of feel about it, which I like. Gilad hasn't been
mentioned enough, because it's always great when you meet a musician
who on his own instrument far exceeds what you can do on your own
instrument... and we start recording, and we're looking at this, and the
first thing works, yeah, this is good. I start with some clear
recording, something like "Chariot of Gold" where I knew exactly I had
(sings riff from song) on some synth saxes, so he replayed all that
stuff and got it all shaping up great. But through the sessions I had
with him, when we got to "Inside Out Muse", he just said, "I don't
think sax is going to work. Let me try this," and he got it out, and I
said "What are you playing?," because he was in my other room, and I
couldn't see him at the time, and he said "Oh, I'm playing the
clarinet," and the sound was perfect, so it was a nice marriage of
Virgil also plays really nice... he starts the track with a little pling
of a chord that shows his kind of presence, where he's a spacey kind
of electric piano in this one, and that's nice.
MOT: And of course Dylan's jazz drumming elevates it to a
whole other level.
SH: It does! His work on this album is so
MOT: It could have been a stock drum beat, and it would have
been good, but what he does on this song ...
SH: Well, Dylan called me and said, "Well,
I've listened to it. I think this is the best think you've ever done,
but I think it's also the best thing I've ever done," and I was really
pleased to hear him say that. He likes the opportunities we've found
here, and certainly on that track, you know on the multi-track, we
were faced with some options, we sort of thought we had problems but
they didn't exist because when we put it all together, they went away.
It's just like suddenly the whole track kind of went... "Oh, well now we
sorted that bit out and that bit, now... " So we had just a few little
areas to correct, where we felt the guitar wasn't strictly in time
enough here and there, so we corrected those bits and we said, "Well
there aren't any other problems." But the way that Derek plays bass on
this, he's at home with that kind of approach, so everybody was quite
happy, had fun with that, but it's an easy-going thing. I'm glad I've
got a blues that has a style that I like. [Seeing what's next on the
list he sings the opening guitar of
MOT: Canned Heat meets Steve Howe...
SH: Oh, you see it
like Canned Heat? I see a bit like "Whiskey Hill", a kind
of continuation. It's kind of very, very straight ahead. We're not being
too unhappy with just being straight ahead.
MOT: It's like a boogie...
SH: There's a boogie. It's a sort of
holding back tempo boogie until the saxes got to go to double time
(sings sax part), and I think then there's plenty of chaos there when
the steel guitar takes a break and kind of bends the notes around
(sings some more), and then we're off into more saxes. Steels and
rockin' guitar-it's a really straight ahead, down-home sort of track,
"Sand Devil", the other experience solo track, recorded in my
Vancouver place, and basically it's the same agenda if you like,
playing the guitar but we're somewhere else in time, in sound; we've
got a slightly different working of it. Titling instrumental music's
really quite a lot of fun, and I get a chance to use words and
connections with things, and one of my favorites is on SKYLINE, "When
Georgia Moves To Bristol", which we found a really beautiful city, and
she started taking us places in Bristol. One of them was a camera obscura, and I didn't really know that expression, and I didn't even
know what it was, and it was this building you'd walk in, and when you
look down, you see the reflection of everything around you, 360°. I
was thinking about that, and it might seem a bit obscure to suddenly
call it a track, but ok, well I was doing SKYLINE, and Paul [Sutin],
unless he had an idea, would always leave the titling in to me, and if
I had an idea and he liked it, it was bought. He would say, "That's
great. I like that." So we're doing those tracks, finishing up a
couple of tracks within one day, it had some title like Number 7 or
something (laughs), so I kind of said, "Well, I've got an idea. I
think I'm going to call this "Camera Obscura." It is fun.
I was talking about "Sand Devil" because there's things that stand
out. I take pictures, as you know, and I might have a lot of sand
devil pictures somewhere, and those kind of weird phenomena things
going on around that you don't think of are just nice. Obviously a bee
sting isn't very nice, but that's because it tied in with Remedy
beautifully, the Bee String... maybe we don't need to go there, but just
talking about the Remedy side of the album in a way that we haven't
really looked at all, is the suggestion that part of this has (laughs)
any literal sense at all in the fact of having a title like "Sand
Devil", but certainly mentioning "Hecla Lava", which is a homeopathic
remedy, and the first one I ever took, and it was obviously the first
one that worked as well, and it was a remedy, but it comes from
organic dusts. We think about that quite a bit these days. We're in
Hawaii at the moment (laughs). But anyway I like pulling things in and
recording a piece of music. "Joe Had Coffee" might be alright if you
relate to that, but my titles kind of relate to things that I like,
"The Longing", the next track, is really one of the most
surprising tracks I discovered in my recordings ever, because I'd
forgot about this track for almost probably 10 years.
MOT: Oh really?
SH: Yeah, I'd hardly know what I did, why
I did it, where I was... I was at Langley, but where I was in my mind,
and why I was making these unusual sounds.
MOT: You know, it's very dramatic.
SH: Yeah, it reminds me of on QUANTUM
GUITAR, there's a piece called "The Great Siege". So titles are
interesting sometimes, but "The Longing" is very electronic, very sort
of '80s Prophets sounding, although it's guitar-driven, using the synth. Now I did have... a Roland keyboard, that I don't know if any
other keyboards sounded like this one. It was only a silly one with
speakers in it, but it had some brilliant sounds in it. I know I've
got the number somewhere; I should get another one. But I got a
feeling that some of it's driven by that, because it had some
sequencer in it, and I like messing around with that stuff.
But the whole placing of the music you is somewhat of a mystery to me,
and for that reason I like it lot. It was always called "The Longing".
I found a tape from like 10 years back-"The Longing". The title had
been on there, because it emphasizes, in my mind, that mood when you
long for things that you don't have, and so that track just made me
happy when I found that some time back and realizing that it was
available, that I had a track like that that fitted with "Sand Devil"
and "Hecla Lava".
MOT: So, this track that's on the album, is it that the original
version? Or did you rerecord it, or take that and extend it?
SH: Actually what I did with it was we
added drums to it. That's what we did; all those basses are actually synth basses, and we just added Dylan on drums. It's all we did; I
mean we remixed it. We took it; we got back to the master and put it
onto Pro Tools, and then added drums.
MOT: And then you end with
"A Drop In The Ocean", and for some
reason that just the feel and the tone reminds me of "The Last Waltz".
It had that kind of liltingness to it.
SH: Yeah, when I found all these parts that I'd recorded, they were all
sitting there, and after I had played virtually what you hear there
over slightly longer time with a few gaps or a few changes, then I
played (sings opening of "Swanee River") and it was almost as if I had
that in my mind, you can almost sing "Swanee River" to it. It would be
a counter melody. But I'm going (sings main melody), and I dearly
love that. When I go out with Yes next time, I hope to be playing
"Tremolando" and "A Drop In The Ocean", and really like making that a
statement, because I think it's very interesting how you can get such
a mood swing, because that is a pretty big mood, "A Drop In The
Ocean". It's a nice place to be. It's full of anticipation. You may
never really get there, but the anticipation is there... I guess what Yes
used to do in the really early days was spot these. Jon used to spot
them and say "Now, that's a good one. Let's have that one (laughs),
let's have that with that song. What song will that go in? Or have you
got something that will go with this?" and the whole exchange of ideas
was done on a pretty special level.
Yeah, "A Drop In the Ocean" is really quite pretty. I guess after some
of the excitement and challenging moments, I felt it was quite nice to
leave the record on a sort of pleasant note really, and hopefully feel
like it's a conclusion to something, because I think it's like the
finale to it.
MOT: It definitely seems like an appropriate closure to the
SH: Well, that's another important thing;
it can be a nightmare, a somewhat almost self-induced almost nightmare
about the running order, and I think I met [with] you when I was
having a nightmare about [the running order for] SKYLINE. Well, what
happens is some records really get to a scary point where it seems
very dramatic about where different tracks sit, and at the end of the
day of course nobody knows you go through that, and it's like it's the
final chance to say "Hang on a second. That doesn't go well from this,
or it's in the same key." Getting the keys to be different and getting
the whole mood of something kind of coming in and then following well,
and then showing some development in the music, that 1%; and sort of
doing all the things like assuring and then kind of challenging and
then satisfying, bringing it all around I guess.
It's quite fun making a record; that's why I mentioned earlier that
the time when you first think, "Oh yeah, I think I've got a record,"
suddenly the tracks get there. I thought that maybe when I
wrote those 12 songs a couple of years ago I had just written my next
record; it's all vocal (laughs), "but maybe I shouldn't do this." So
unfortunately I had other things to do which distracted me from
thinking, "Hmmm, I should try and take this on," but it would have
been far too much. I also really enjoyed arranging music, and you can
do some of that after you've played it as well, which is really good
The things that Eddie [Offord] was doing at the beginning of the '70s, people
were doing in the '60s, were doing tape-phasing and stuff like that,
because there wasn't a phaser and cutting tape to make the performance
as good as possible, and inserting bits, changing arrangements, doing
all that stuff. It was just part of the course; you did it because
needed to, but also it was a great learning curve, and so I can enjoy that, as long as there's something doing with the music, you
should know about something about how to do it. But there again you
don't have to know how to operate all this stuff, I mean you don't
have to learn that. You can just have the ideas, and that's the other
ingredient to the equipment and the person who can operate it is
somebody with an idea. I know that I always relieve people... well, I've
done it to Curtis often when we sat like this talking at the studio,
and I've said, "Well you know that... I've got these tapes here, and I'm
doing that... " and I've described a little, and he sits there thinking,
"Oh yeah, ok, so you're going to do that. You want a copy of that onto
here? You've got to expand that, ok," and he kind of goes "Well, I
hope you know what you want. If you know what you want, we'll be
alright, because it's the right thing." So he would say, "Oh yeah,
well that's fine now, because you knew what you wanted." But I don't
touch that complexity of it, because I'd be so slow. I'd never get
anything done, so expertise is great.
I'd mentioned Curtis before; we do more than it looks like together
really on the record, and he deserves all the thanks he can get. But
he's very modest about his involvement, and he's very undemanding, if
I mentioned credits, it's, "I don't mind, whatever you think, fine." I
don't get a letter from his lawyer saying please say Curtis Schwartz,
courtesy of Curtis Schwartz Productions (laughs)... it's all very laid
back, and he's very ambitious and a very talented
engineer/musician/writer/player all around, so when you work with
somebody who's got all those skills as well as engineering skills. I
don't use him as a constant buffer, but when I'm somewhere where I'm
thinking, I'd say to him "Well what would you go with here? Which way
do you like here? Do you prefer it when we do this or do you like it
when this comes hurtling in?" and he'd give me an objective view, and
he's been my mainstay, really engineer, for all this time, since
HOMEBREW I. That was the first project I did with him for general
MOT: The unsung hero...
SH: That's right. I've been talking about
backroom guitarists, like we talked about James Burton, and because I did an
interview in Singapore it was about guitarists and are they as good.
They said, "Are the superstar guitars really as good, and are there
other people that nobody's ever heard of?" I said "Yeah, there are.
There's a lot of people you've never heard of who are actually
brilliant, and they didn't pull their careers together. They didn't
have a break, maybe didn't write songs or they didn't get their foot
in the door somewhere to be more than they are," but the other thing
is they might be quite satisfied. They've had a real life. Maybe they
live somewhere, and they've got a real, normal life.
See, to be a musician, you have to sacrifice normality. You have to
become an oddity in the society world, and any neighbor of yours will
think you're weird, you know what I mean, just because of what a
musician does. He goes off; he comes back in the middle of the night,
unloads his vehicle at 3 in the morning. There is always coming and
going, and when he shows up, there is all this paraphernalia, and then
he's gone again, and then there's a black limo outside, you know what
I mean? How do you do that without anybody knowing? You can't, so
people around you know you do all this stuff, and your family gets
kind of, "Where's dad today? Oh, he's in Singapore. Oh I see," so
everything's got a certain kind of place, and it doesn't make it
really any easier. So a musician who decides not to give up his whole
life to his music, but actually remain in the background of public
prestige, if he can earn a good living and stay at home with his
family, I says he's done a very clever thing, because he's done what I
want to do, which is play music all my life, but at the same time, he
could offer his family a normal life. I've not been able to do that.
I've offered them the mad life of being married to a musician (laughs)
and having a touring and recording musician as your dad, and although
it might appear to have lots of perks, it also has a lot of down sides
and a lot of struggles and difficulties and separation and periods of
great difficulty, but it is possible to overcome it.
MOT: You certainly seem to have the advantage of the
semblance, at least, of a stable family, considering your vocation, it
seems like your marriage and your fathership has been resilient to say
SH: Well yeah, I mean we've done as best
as we can, and some of it's brought terrific results, and...
MOT: Because as you know, others have going that route and
MOT: It's just a matter of priorities.
SH: Yeah, yeah. Determination, certainly
for me, isn't most of all about money, is that my determination most
of all is about my family and keeping that correct, but of course, we
have a disadvantage by the rules of this game. But there again we try
and utilize as much the control that we do have in our own time to
make our life what we can, and if we choose to do certain things
certain ways, but at least at that time we think it's right, and
that's what a long relationship's really about is change. It's not
about staying the same, but those changes can give clarity to a
relationship, as opposed to having to disassemble it, and then create
weakness for future generations and possibly for yourself as well... we're just thankful for what we've done. Some of it's rewarding, and
some of it continues to be rewarding, so of course they say the family
units not what it was, and certainly in many areas there's a lot of
problems with that, but it also is bad stigma to keep having across
the whole family concept. It's unavoidable because there seems to be
negative pressure to say it's breaking down, and yet for some people
it hasn't. Some people they've got happy children who like their
parents a lot, and the parents love their kids a lot. We can't keep
having the image that it doesn't work rammed down your throat all the
time, because it might be making it not work, be a part of the reason
it's not working.
MOT: It seems like you have it all, Steve...
SH: Well, I must say I'd love to break
that illusion, because I could say I've got everything but the girl,
because my wife has got her place she wants to fulfill for the
children. She doesn't want to flit on an airplane every week to see me
play again. In fact, she's seen Yes play most probably more than
anybody you can think of, and yet she doesn't really need to see the
next Yes show. She knows exactly how good it can be, because she saw
it all the time in the '70s. So she's got great memories, and some of
them are very emotional memories, and I respect Jan completely for her
decision to come and see us whenever she wants to. But she's had so
many opportunities that one wouldn't expect her to want to take all of
them (laughs), but to make up for that, of course our children have
become young people, and they want to come see us at different times
with friends and Virgil might come without friends. They want to see
it and really experience it, so there is a lot of celebration at times
for what I do with Yes, within the family, but other times I'm dad.
I'm Steve to Jan. I'm not a full-time guitarist really to them.
Hopefully that's the worst thing I could be, would be a full-time
guitarist; professionally I am and I do work very hard, but I don't
think, in my mind, that I've been able to do enough for my family,
been there enough for them, but I think that they know that I've
thought about them enough to try and balance that out in my thoughts
and in my aspirations and attempts to do things right for them all,
but it's an on-going thing. It's not a point; we're not at any
particular point at the moment when there's lots of opportunities for
them to do different things; like we're saying about how Dylan's
taking his music on with his band. It's become a big thing with him
now; he's not just a drummer like he's been building up all the time.
He's been building up his reputation, and now he can really justify
playing on his own. And Virgil's actually one solo man, one man gig on
his own on his drums, can you believe this? He did a solo gig on
drums; there are not many people who've done that, and how he did it
was he used a mini-disc that you put on, and out of the mini-disc came
this other music, and he just basically added the drums to it. But you
see he had a long way to go before he can do some of the things Dylan
can do, but he can do an awful lot with this huge momentum he's got,
so when he starts playing the drums everybody's thinking, "Wow, that's
pretty good!," and suddenly he goes (mimics Virgil playing the drums)
and the whole place goes "What?!" It takes your breath away, suddenly
he's really clever. He's really subtle, and the CD went at this point
(mimics the drums again), and then he gave it full-welly, and the
difference was black and white. Full-welly is when you give the
Wellington boot on the bass drum-full-welly is what we call in English
recording terms. So he'd give
it the full-welly, and you'd really hear the whole place would shake,
and he was just experimenting. He had the gall, the self-belief, the
balls to go out and do it, and we were there and we were just knocked
out that he could pull that off.
I can't speak about my daughters in the same light, only because their
musical thing is different. Georgia's actually very brilliant with
music, but she wants to keep it as a hobby, and Stephanie could do
many, many great things, and she might even sing, but she hasn't
decided yet, but they love music. They have a deep love of music, and
so I can kick around talking about the boys in music really (laughs)
unshyly, but... as I say that's a different side of the family, and
because of Georgia's intellectual knowledge and education and the way
she's picked up on education.
MOT: Despite your nomadic lifestyle of sorts, you still seem
to have a solid, tight close-knit family. Other than that, you got a
continuing solo career, and it looks like with the excellent
musicianship, and the real fine production and great performances, and
creative songs of ELEMENTS that you've got a winner there, and of
course there's your whole career with Yes. I mean, it seems like
you're on a creative roll here.
SH: Well I think the best thing is that
either this in turn had been good for my playing, but whether my
playing is good for all this as well, I mean they work together.
Obviously writing is good, but playing on stage demands that you get a
lot of this flowing through your body experience. You're playing music
on a regular basis in front of people, and it's kind of nice. It's an
interesting place to be in, and it doesn't appear to me to be what
people think it is exactly because of what you think about. But
knowing that that's a big part of it, helps my playing in such a way
that I don't think I've ever played better than I'm playing now.
That's not to say that I didn't escape reality more in the '70s and go
off into places that, quite honestly, I don't even know where that is
some nights, or some recordings, how I thought of some of the stuff in
"Yours Is No Disgrace", and particularly the live work in the '72-'73
period. I had a really strong vibe; well it's now 30 years later, and
I think there's been a few revolutions in there that I've pushed along
my playing, and after maybe doing NATURAL TIMBRE and then sort of like
finding SKYLINE, I kind of started to think that I was enjoying this
solo work. I was getting a lot of satisfaction out of doing that, as
opposed to working on Yes recordings, which wasn't so satisfying, but
it all seemed to catapult around me just keep either hoping or
thinking that I'm playing better. That all this is happening because
in fact my dexterity and my looseness on the guitar--it doesn't mean I
think I'm playing everything perfectly, I'm just saying that I can
pull things out and I can push the music in different directions and
deliver a show along with the rest of guys in Yes that's exciting, and
I guess the next stage is doing that with this music, because it will
It may simplify, but it certainly going to come alive.