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Progressive Rock Interviews

Billy Sherwood

Interviewed by Gary Hill

Interview with Billy Sherwood from 2019


I know one thing you and I have in common is that we grew up as Yes fans who also played bass, so that made Chris Squire a particularly important person to our musical development. You also got to work with him and become one of his best friends over the years. So, this new Chris Squire tribute album must have been a particularly special experience for you. Can you talk about that?

It was something I really wanted to do for a fallen comrade. Chris was many things to me -  hero, mentor and close friend. We had a very unique kind of relationship. I started playing bass along to Yes records at an early age and, as fate would have it, I met Chris, and we became great friends over many decades. This record is my way of honoring his playing, song writing, vocals and overall vision of timeless music.
MSJ: To me anyone doing "The Fish" in the same way as Squire did it, essentially copying him, feels a bit "wrong" now for some reason. You took the piece in a very different direction, while still preserving a lot of the spirit of it. My impression was that you essentially built on it, creating more of a modern version of the piece. What was your thinking on that one?
I was thinking, "what would Chris say about it?" (laughter)... Knowing him he would have wanted the iconic melodic moments to be there, but he would have been nudging me to go for it in a slightly different manner with the bass riffs. So i took it to other places with the riffs and the sounds. I threaded a bit of the "Open Your Eyes" bass riff in there for fun.
MSJ: Are there pieces on the disc that standout more for you than others?

"Silent Wings" is something I really enjoyed recording/playing... It's one of my fav Squire bass melodies, and also his sounds in that era were among my favs. Jay Schellen provided the perfect drum vibe to play over. He channeled Alan White, who made the original track groove from tip to tail. Jon Davison sings it with the same kind of passion he brings to the stage when we play live. His voice just soars. Patrick Moraz added great stuff to the track, too... I think Chris would dig it.

MSJ: Personally, I think Squire would have loved the album. Although I had a few interactions with him over the years, you knew him much better than I did. How do you think he'd feel about it?
I agree... It was made with love, care and in the spirit of making a beautiful record. Everyone involved lent their art form so that it could become one wonderful work of musical art and tribute to Chris. It honors Chris in many ways, of course, and reminds people of what an amazing legacy of music Squire was involved with.
MSJ: Turning to other matters, other than the upcoming Yes tour, which I'll ask about later, what is going on in the world of Billy Sherwood? You always seem to have so much going on in terms of projects underway.

I just finished mixing the Yes live 50th tour record. It sounds really cool! The band was firing on all pistons for the entire 50th tour. I'm honored to be a part of it. Billy Sherwood: Citizen In The Next Life will be released in the summer. The first Citizen record was very well received, so now here comes the sequel. I'm also producing the guitarist Sepand, from Days Between Stations. We're making his first ever solo CD.

MSJ: What hints can you give us about the Yes tour?

I've been sworn to secrecy (laughter)

MSJ: Any word on a new album from Yes?

And again... sworn to secrecy

MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
Battlefield 5 actually and listening to explosions (laughter). I tend to work on some much music in a day that the last thing I want to do is listen to music. So I detach from all things musical and play video games, I'm a bit of a gamer in that regard. I do have an extensive library of music in my iPod. I tend to listen to music on planes, trains, automobiles on the road. When I do listen I seem to always turn to the classic stuff I was into years ago... Genesis, Gabriel, Floyd, Gentle Giant, XTC, Weather Report, UK, etcetera.
MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
The manual for the Line 6 HELIX (laughter)
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
ARW at the Greek here in LA.
MSJ: Do you remember the first concert you attended?

Earth Wind and Fire at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas, 1976, if memory serves, I was 11. It was incredible!

MSJ: Have you come across any new gear recently that you love?
I've got a great bass rig which I've had for a while now...Here's a run down for anyone interested:

Spector basses, Roto Sound strings, Tech 21 amps/cabs, Behringer (rack mount X32 console), TC Electronics (Voice Live 2), Dunlop picks 1.0,  IK Multimedia, Moog Taurus 3 bass pedals, Helix Line 6 and Morley pedals

MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?

Thanks for the support for what I do... it's greatly appreciated.

 I wish everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous new year!

MSJ: This interview is available in book (paperback and hardcover) in Music Street Journal: 2019  Volume 1. More information and purchase links can be found at:
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