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Progressive Rock Interviews

Steve Howe

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview With Steve Howe from 2002


MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2002 Year Book Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

EDITOR'S NOTE: At Music Street Journal, we pride ourselves in accurate interview transcripts. Unfortunately I had a catastrophic problem with my cassette recorder in conducting this interview. Therefore, the interview is PARAPHRASED from memory rather than the usual transcription from tape. I apologize both to Mr. Howe and to my readers for this, but rest assured the interview is accurate, only the wording is somewhat inaccurate. --- Gary Hill
MSJ: Your new solo album, Skyline, seems to be a bit of a change from the majority of your catalog. It shares most with your work with Paul Sutin, being restful and nearly, shall we say "new ageish". What served as the inspiration for this direction?
Howe answered that although it is a bit of a change, it does definitely share similarities with his previous work with Sutin. He also stated that although Sutin was not featured on the entire album, the overall tone was in a similar vein. He was also quick to point out that he felt that, although in many aspects the album was quite different from Yes music that he thought that there was common thread running throughout. He also explained that he feels a responsibility to break new ground on his albums. He thinks that he cannot just keep putting out the same music and expect his fans to buy it. He doesn't consider that to be fair to himself or his audience. He said that he intends to keep trying different things in his solo work.

MSJ: The cover and packaging includes photographs that you took. Is photography something that you have been pursuing for a while?
He told me that he had enjoyed taking pictures for years. He said that the opportunity to travel around, most of the time not driving, allowed him the chance to capture a good deal of images. He made it clear, though, that he does not consider himself to be a professional photographer. He said that many times nature calls out to him, "look how beautiful I am. Take my picture." He said that his photography has been included previously on one of his other solo albums. He said that when he began to consider what the new cover should be he thought about using another Roger Dean, or perhaps having the Gottlieb brothers do a new one. Then he approached the label (InsideOut) about possibly using some of his photographs. He said that they like the idea and asked him to send some pictures. He also added that the label has been very supportive of him. He sent in a large number of shots for them to choose from, then contacted them to see if they wanted any more. They said, "no don't send anymore, we have what we need."

MSJ: I was wondering what city the picture on the cover was taken in.
He said that it was Vancouver, British Columbia. He explained that while Yes was there working with Bruce Fairbairn, that there had been a storm. After that storm he looked out the window and saw an incredible double rainbow and had to capture it. He said that much of his photographic work is similar in that something incredible will appear to him and he feels the need to preserve it. He said that living where he does in England he has a large amount of wild life that comes onto his property, and he shoots it with his camera. He brought up the fact that this is in contrast to people like Ted Nugent who feel obliged to shoot it with a gun. He brought up a particular moment when a family of deer wandered into his yard, and he looked at them and wondered how anyone could possibly feel the desire to kill them. He said that he simply could not understand anyone feeling the need to kill. He went on to further explain that he does not understand violence of any kind and doesn't even watch violent shows. He finds it appalling.

MSJ: How did it happen that Rick Wakeman wound up back in Yes, and how have things been since his return?
Mr. Howe told me that the band had stayed in touch with Wakeman throughout the time he was out of the group. There had always been a desire to have him in Yes, but that Wakeman had not been able to commit to the rigorous touring that Yes had intended to do. He made it clear that neither Wakeman or the rest of the band will tell you who ultimately contacted whom, but that Rick was ready to make a long-term, ongoing commitment to the band, so he came back on board. Howe also said that, although there are those who feel that Rick Wakeman's return means that all is right with the group, he feels that it is one more piece in place. He thinks that for the next album they should work once more in England. He said that although there are those in the band who have been very pleased with the last three albums (Open Your Eyes, The Ladder and Magnification), that he feels they could have been better. He says that since they are a British band that working in the conditions in England, rather than California, will help to bring them back to the right place musically.

He also said that the live show is back on track and that that is definitely part of the picture. He feels that now they again have the interplay between guitar and keyboards that had been lacking for some time.

MSJ: The show that I saw on this tour was the first that I can remember when I didn't hear Roundabout. How did that come about?
Howe stated that during some shows the band was doing Roundabout. He said, though, that although the band truly love that song, they feel that over the years they have really massacred it live. They many times will shorten it to just a brief rendition which he said they feel really does not do it justice. He also said that they thought that it would be a nice change of pace. He added that currently they make the decision of what encore to play when the leave the stage after the main section of the show. He said that the choices are the short version of Roundabout, the full version, or Starship Trooper. He also said that the first night they left the stage without playing it that he felt very good - the whole band did. They really enjoyed the freedom of not "having" to play the song. He also mentioned that several fans he has spoken with had made similar comments. He said that it is good to give it a break.
MSJ: So, there are definitely plans for a new studio album with this lineup?
Howe said that that was definitely in the works most likely this time next year (fall 2003). He said that they have touring commitments until then. He also said that the band will be going places they have never toured before. He added that this will be the first time that Europeans have gotten to see Rick in the band in years. He explained that the last time was the Union tour. He also explained that he was not that happy with that tour. He said the he, Wakeman and Bruford had envisioned a very different kind of tour than what transpired. He said that their original understanding of what that tour was to be was more a retrospective of the various eras of the band rather than the 8-piece ensemble situation that actually happened.
MSJ: Do you think you will find any time to do any solo touring?
He said that he hoped that the schedule would permit him to do a few weeks of touring next summer. He went on to say that he prefers to do a full extended period of solo activity as opposed to short stints like that. He also stated that, although he enjoys doing the one-man solo shows he would really like to go out with a band. He said that one of the benefits the acoustic scenario affords him is that he can play places where the sound would be bad for a full band. He added that having a band perform his material is a different type of experience that he enjoys as well.
MSJ: Are there any musicians with whom you would like to work?
He explained that he feels it is a bit presumptuous to name people without having spoken with them about it first. He remembered reading an interview with another person who answered a similar question by saying "John McLaughlin". Howe said that for someone who had never met McLaughlin to make that comment was a bit absurd. He explained that the person had no way of knowing if the two would get along, or if McLaughlin would have any interest in working with this person. Then he said that even if that worked out there was no guarantee that there would be any musical chemistry between the two musicians. He did share the fact that there are a couple of projects that he has already talked with the people about. One of them was Steve Morse. He said that he would really enjoy working with Morse again.

MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
Howe said that it is really not possible to pick a single moment - that every day has some Spinal Tap in it. He also stated that he thought that it was great that that movie had been made to create a term to describe those type situations. He added that probably eighth of everything Yes does is Spinal Tap. He cited a situation a few days earlier. He said that, although they seldom talk to one another on stage, that one evening during their show Jon Anderson had come up to him and said, "this is Spinal Tap".
 
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