The Iconic voice of YES, Jon Anderson, Rock superstar going solo

By Dr. Alan Carlos Hernandez on April 18, 2011

HOLLYWOOD (Herald de Paris) – Jon Anderson, the lead singer of Yes and historically one of the most successful rock acts for over 40 years, is going solo once again. He is out on an acoustic tour of the US in support of his forthcoming CD release, “An Acoustic Evening with Jon Anderson.”

Anderson’s signature vocals identify and define the legendary Yes music songbook. Yes had many worldwide chart topping songs: “I’ve Seen All Good People,” “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” and “Long Distance Runaround.” Jon Anderson was the band’s lyricist and musical architect.

In 1962 Anderson joined The Warriors where he and his brother Tony shared the role of lead vocalist. He quit this band in 1967, released two solo singles in 1968 under the pseudonym Hans Christian Anderson, and then briefly sang for the bands The Gun and The Open Mind. One of Anderson’s first producers at EMI was songwriter Paul Korda.

In March 1968 Anderson met bassist Chris Squire and joined him in a group called Mabel Greer’s Toyshop which had previously included guitarist Peter Banks. Anderson fronted this band but ended up leaving again before the summer was over.

Anderson, Squire and Banks went on to form Yes with drummer Bill Bruford and keyboardist Tony Kaye. Their debut album was released in 1969. He stayed with the group until 1980. This is known as the classic period of Yes. Jon was a major creative force and band leader throughout this period. He has described himself as the ‘team captain’ and his bandmates called him “Napoleon” for his diminutive stature and leadership of the band. He is also recognized as the main instigator of a series of epic works produced by Yes at the time. He played an indispensable role in creating such complex pieces as “Close to the Edge,” “Awaken,” and especially “The Gates of Delirium.” All this was created in spite of his limited instrumental abilities.

Anderson was fond of experimenting within the band and, in so doing, contributed to occasionally conflicted relationships within the band and with management. He originally wanted to record the album Tales from Topographic Oceans in the middle of the woods. Instead he decided to put hay and animal cut-outs all over the recording studio. In another incident Anderson had tiles installed in the studio to simulate the echo effect of vocals in a bathroom.

Anderson last performed with Yes in 2004. The band has since announced tours without him and he has been replaced by Benoît David, a singer from a Yes tribute act called Close to the Edge.

Jon describes his style of music: “It is a style within itself based on structure, musical ideas, and forms but not limited by time. There are no boundaries as to how the music is developed. And the lyrical content has always been very positive. It’s a combination of those things. I think it’s a style unto its own that grew out of those formative years of the early ’70’s. It doesn’t get followed by many other bands but you can hear our influence in a few bands. When we started, we were influenced by The Beatles, The (Rolling) Stones, Jimi Hendrix and the like. Then we sort of moved into creating our own musical territory. Bands listen and glean ideas from other bands.”

Herald de Paris Deputy Managing Editor Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez had an exclusive opportunity to talk to Jon, thanks to global music industry insider Billy James of Glass Onyon PR (www.ant-bee.com/glassonyonpr.htm):

AC: When you started in music, then Yes took shape, was it your goal to form a legendary super group?

JA: We were hoping to last a few years, but had no idea that the impact of our music would sustain us over the years. 1968 was the start of so many bands . . . we were in a very exciting world musically.

AC: If you knew then what you know now, would you have done anything differently?

JA: Too many things to mention; trusting the right people and so on. We were lucky to get the breaks and to create such lasting music. I wouldn’t have done many things differently with regard to the music – it took us to so many wonderful places. I’m just so thankful for a lifetime of creating wonderful and interesting music.

AC: If you were not a musician, would you have been a painter? Tell us your experience with Chagall? How did that experience change the way you viewed music as an art form?

JA: Seeing Chagall and learning about his life changed so many things in my mind. He was one of the last great artists. He was funny and was still working at 90 years old and beyond, still creating amazing art. He told me so many stories of his life. My hope is that when I’m 90 I’m still creating music. What a great man.

AC: Who were some of the artists you started out with? Were The Beatles and The Rolling Stones role models as well as fans of your writing and the overall, almost symphonic, direction of work?

JA: I wanted to be a Beatle, like most singers in the sixties. I dug the Stones, but the Beatles had this amazing vision. I remember hearing ‘Eleanor Rigby’ for the first time, and standing there in shock. And of course ‘Revolver’ and ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ – these albums blew me away like it did to millions of other fans around the world. I would like to think that they enjoyed Yes’s music.

AC: What was the best gig you ever played and what made the date so special? Worse gig? Best song or songs you have ever written?

JA: The concerts we played were always great for me – playing in front of 500,000 people in Rio 1984, wow!!! A lot of people having a wonderful time. Then the concerts when we first played the ‘Close to the Edge’ album were very special. Shows in the ’round’ performing ‘Awaken’ were really very powerful shows. We were pushing the musical boundaries and feeling very in tune with everyone out there on so many levels. The bad shows are long forgotten. Best song I’ve written? I love the song ‘Soon.’

AC: What was the best thing about Yes and the worst thing? Are you still proud of the body of work and is there anything with the band that you wanted to do but were unable to accomplish?

JA: When we toured together and played as ‘one’ – those were the best of times. I’d say about 80% of the time we had fun and performed very well. It became harder when things became toxic sometime. Being too loose on stage and touring too much can do that to any band. There was bad management and over-touring the band happened, but we just kept playing. At times the fun was gone, then after a break it would get better and so would the music. I wish we could have played on the ‘Save the World’ concerts; there just wasn’t room for us we were told.

AC: Since you are part owner of the name Yes, how do you feel about the rest of the band touring without you? With a singer who cannot hit the high notes – does this sort of thing hurt the Yes brand you worked so hard to build?

JA: I’ve said this before. Chris and the guys should have displayed who was in the band on the posters etc. That’s all. Then fans would know who they were going to see. But they decided not to. That was just disrespectful to the fans and the history of YES. But that’s life, as they say. I just keep on moving on with new music and new dreams to fulfill. Oh, to be honest, I was never too happy about YES being thought of as a ‘brand’. A ‘band ‘ of course, but not a “brand.”

AC: You have spent most of your life as a major rock star. Is it as exciting as most people think?

JA: I honestly don’t think of me as a rock star. Seeing ‘Spinal Tap‘ shook me out of that idea. I think of myself as an artist, songwriter and a ‘legend in my own spare time.’

AC: You like to fly under the radar as a public persona. How does arena level fame affect your self image? Some famous artists have a sense of entitlement and this sometimes leads to substance abuse. That, in turn, affects the quality of the music. Did that happen to you?

JA: I was lucky never ever to get wasted on tour or on stage. I had fun, but I had a family to take care of and I never got out of control. I was so thankful for the success of the band that I wanted to work harder everyday to keep learning about music and how I could get better as a songwriter.

AC: What was memorable about your work with Vangekis and Kitaro? Is what they do in juxtaposition to rock and roll?

JA: Vangelis (bless him) was my friend and mentor. He taught me so much about life and music. I met him in Paris and we wrote music like ‘jazz’ – very spontaneous music and the opposite to YES. It was very fulfilling to be around him. His playing could make you so emotional. We only performed a couple of times together on stage, but they were very memorable.

As for Kitaro, he is such a gentle person, and so very easy to spend time with. We toured around the Far East and in the USA. Our shows were very spiritual and his music very trance like. It was very good to be around him.

AC: A few words about your collaborations with Rick Wakeman. Do you plan on doing more things in the future?

JA: Rick Wakeup, my mate, is such a funny guy. We have the best time on stage. He cracks me up. We released ‘The Living Tree’ album this year which was part of building a concert show together. Writing is, again, very easy with Ricky. He has a wonderfully classic approach to writing: very powerful chords and musical ideas. It makes singing and writing so interesting with him and we have too much fun!!

AC: How does it feel to be sampled by Kanye West? How do you view Rap and Hip Hop as musical art forms? Is it legitimate or a knock-off on others’ creativity?

JA: I like it very much and I’m a fan of some of the great Rap musicians like Eminem and so many more. I’d even written a Rap-Opera some 20 years ago. It might come to the stage in a couple of years . . . who knows.

AC: Tell us about how your ‘spirituality’ factors into what you do. How important is it to construct and perform music from an ethereal point of view?

JA: As I like to say: we are all spiritual beings, every single one of us all around the world. I just like singing about it and meditating about the “Sacred Journey of Life” and how we are part of Mother Earth. So if we hurt Mother Earth we ultimately hurt ourselves. It’s a great learning experience.

AC: Tell us about “Survival and Other Stories.” What is your ultimate hope for this project?

JA: It’s an album of songs I wrote with musicians from around the world via the Internet. I put an ad on my web site six years ago: ‘Musicians wanted.’ I got so many replies from so many great people out there. I am compactly in creation on many levels. In 2008 I was very sick and couldn’t finish the album, but now I’m able to let people hear the new music. This will be one of three albums. This one, ‘Survival,’ is about just that: surviving a near death moment and being saved by my wife Janee, my angel, and how it’s a new world to me. Nature is our salvation and great music is coming on so many levels.

AC: Looking back on your life, any regrets?

JA: Some, “But then again, too few to mention.” Paul Anka wrote that I believe.

AC: You have done so much. What are some out-of-the-box type things you would like to do in the future?

JA: My dreams are still very big. Musicals, symphonies, modern operas, guitar concertos, violin concerts for dance, all these things and more. And lots of new rhythms and songs of course.

AC: What would you like your legacy to be? How do you want the world to remember you?

JA: Not sure on that one. I’ve had an amazing life so far. It’s what dreams are made of.

Visit Jon’s website is www.JonAnderson.com, and plan to see him on tour when he comes to your town.

Edited by Susan Aceves


Comments
Marlon Cherry April 18, 2011

Fantastic interview. As a fan, it’s great to hear Jon’s perspective on the creative process as well as his views of music in general. I’ve heard one song from the new record and it sounds very powerful. Looking forward to hearing the rest and seeing him perform in a couple of weeks.

Jeff Boule April 18, 2011

Such a humble man for someone who has accomplished so much. But reading this interview reminds me of parts of the Bill Bruford biography where he makes mention of his time with Yes. I guess Anderson didn’t want to divulge every thing that went on during those lazy, crazy, hazy days of Yes…

Jon Pomplin April 18, 2011

Outstanding interview, thank you. I am really looking forward to seeing Jon on this solo tour. As a lifelong fan I personally can trace my roots as a professional musician to YES and specifically to Jon and his incredible musical vision. I’ve seen YES (classic) and I’m satisfied because without Jon, it isn’t YES. For me, Jon’s solo work is a brand NEW experience, one I’m thoroughly enjoying.

Gerry ZAccaria April 20, 2011

Jon is a gift to us all. Be Grateful. His humility and mode of living is a model to us all. Live in Graditude and be Humble. Life is a gift. Respect yourself and all that is alive. Be appreciative too. Let music flow from your soul as well. It is the universal language of ALL THAT IS.
I hope to see a new form of YES Emerge SOOOOOOOOON oh Soooon the light.

anthony rogers April 20, 2011

….great interview!!! cant wait to see what he does next

Richard Yniguez April 20, 2011

YES, another great article…it’s nice discovering things about heroes! I thought I was the only one restless and creative!!! I have some learning to do!!!

Nice work Dr. Al and kudos to Herald de Paris once more!!!

Richard Yniguez

matt balasis April 20, 2011

I’d completely forgotten about “Tales from Topographic Oceans” … woh … flashback …

Pascal LAMBERT July 24, 2011

Sorry for my english but i’m French fan of Jon.
I’m very happy to hearing jonagain on new project “Survival and other stories”
Each album’s Jon is different and often strange and curious sometime, but the last “Survival enjoy me at the very first heard.
In his great career, i loved his contribution with Yes and without Jon, Yes is another band and the last album of Yes ” Fly from here” is the second “Drama”
This album is interesting but if Jon had been the singer, this album will be more….magical.
I imagine Jon sing on “Fly from here part 3 -Sad night At the Airfield, and track 8 Life on a film set and track 9 Hour of need, and i’m sure it will be more great tracks with his voice and i think Trevor Horn had sample the voice of Jon on “Hour of need” because i have the sensation, i hear the voice of Jon on this track even the voice of Benoit David is near sometime of Jon; but just sometime!!!
It’s like Drama; it was a good album but without Jon something is not here!!!
Fly from here could be a very good album, because the sound of music is the sound of Yes with Steve Howe’guitar and Chris and Alan.
Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes wrote many tracks of this album and the sound is the sound of yes but without the voice of Jon and i think it’s the reason of tgis album is less interesting.
And now, I listen “Survival” what a pleasure to hear again Jon and I hope his future project will be on sales at soon….and why not in 2012 I hope that
Each and everyday, I think of you Jon and you help me in life,so very thanks for all you give to me!!

peter April 28, 2012

I first heard yes when i was about 11 or 12 what an album FRAGILE i then made my parents buy me YESSONGS for christmas WOW best prezzie ever i have just turned 50 YES are timeless with mr ANDERSONS voice

Rick Nelson June 4, 2012

Jon. wow, a true …. Words fail. Just love his kind spirit and musical talent. A voice from the angels!

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