In advance of Yes celebrating 50 years in the music business in a concert at Tropicana 8 p.m. Saturday, July 14, Director of Entertainment Publications Scott Cronick spoke with drummer Alan White on “Off the Press” on NewsTalk 1400 WOND to learn the secret of the band’s longevity.
Scott: Yes has been part of the Atlantic City scene for maybe not 50 years, but for a very, very long time. They seem to come every year as long as they’re touring. One of my favorite drummers on the planet, Alan White ... can you believe it ... it hasn’t been 50 years with you and the band, but it’s been pretty close. But the band turns 50. It’s hard to believe it’s been that many years. How do you feel about that whole thing?
When I've relayed readers' stories of back-to-back jackpots, they've generally focused on bi…
Alan: It’s been a long time ... Funnily enough, I’ve been in the band 47 of those 50 years. So, it’s been crazy.
Scott: The lineup has gone through a lot of changes over the years and the core is still there, but it doesn’t seem to matter really. Yes seems to overcome that. Yes seems to definitely transcend who’s in the lineup and it’s more about the music. Would you agree?
Alan: Yeah ... good question. Well, it’s our music, it’s really well thought out. It’s precise ... we put a lot of attention to detail on every act and everything that we do and that’s the core of everything. Chris Squire passed away a couple years ago and it was hard to revive the band after that. He was such a dominant force, well not dominant, but powerful force in Yes. And, the two of us played together for 43 years. So one of his dying wishes was ... he said whatever you do, keep this going if something ever happens to me. And I told him that I would. So that’s all I’m doing. I’m keeping the little thing going. And it’s really good talent and it’s well run. Billy Sherwood took Chris’ place and he’s doing a really good job of it. He was a good friend of mine and Chris’. And he studied him for the whole of his life since he’d grown up. So he knows Chris and everything he did, but obviously no one will ever replace Chris.
Scott: Yeah, absolutely. It’s amazing that after all these years, Yes was kind of progressive rock before, there was a term progressive rock. But, the music is so difficult to play, and I have a hard enough time getting out of bed in the morning, never mind playing drums to this music. As you are in your 47th year with this band playing drums, is it kind of old hat to you and you kind of just slide into it?
1 The price is super reasonable. If you are sick of paying high prices for every concert tha…
Alan: No, no, not really. It’s very demanding and you’d have to be right on the spot with pretty much everything, you know. Otherwise, especially as the drummer, if you’re not on the spot the whole thing falls apart. Because the whole band needs the timing and the right feel and the mood, the music jumping ... it’s great big shoes to fill on the stage playing the drums. I’ve been here 47 years and it’s a bit of pressure, occasionally. But, it’s something like riding a bike. I’ve been playing for 47 years, so roundabout I could practically do it with my eyes closed.
Scott: I imagine so. But do you ever tell Steve (Howe), “Hey, I think it’s easier to stand there with a guitar than it is to be behind these drums?” (Laugh)
Alan: Yeah, yeah.
Scott: But, it is an amazing accomplishment. ... Anything that you’re doing on stage or any songs that you’re doing that might be different than in the past few years of tours?
Alan: Yes, much as usual. I mean we have two shows, a long show and a short show, to warm you up on stage.
Scott: Are there any lost gems that you might have rediscovered for the tour at all?
Alan: Well, I don’t think we’d ever leave a gem, you know. The only one that I recall is “Long Distance Runaround.” We’re not doing on this yet, but we’re doing incredible stuff outside of that, like (“Perpetual Change”) and things of that nature, you know? ... (But) we’re really rockin’ like crazy at the moment. The band is really cooking on stage. Everybody in the band is a very, very talented musician. Benoit David’s got a bird’s voice, he sings so well. It’s a focal point. Like I said, everybody is really challenging things in their area of playing, and I think people will have a great show.
Scott: I know how important Chris Squire was to you as a great friend and longtime band member. And from what I understand, each night you kind of do a little reflection or a little pause for him, right?
Alan: Well, we used to literally. But after a while it kind of fades away, unfortunately. You’d rather keep it in people’s memories just by their own memory.
Scott: I do believe Jon Davison, and I hope you agree, that he brings a different kind of life to the band. Something that I think was kind of needed, something that definitely injects a little, a different attitude, a little different energy to the band that you really feel that when Jon performs.
Alan: Yeah, and he’s a bass player, he’s a really good bass player. And he writes really great songs on a couple of albums. So he’s a really valuable asset.
Scott: Two more things. Warner Brothers is releasing “Yes — The Steven Wilson Remixes,” a five-album vinyl set featuring his remixes of five classic Yes studio albums, including the Yes album, “Fragile, Close to the Edge,” which is when I believe you joined the band. And then, “Tales from the Topographic Oceans” as well as “Relayer.” How important is it, when you’re in the studio to have a producer that molds the sound that helps you guide it to the final product?
Alan: Really incredible. And he really grinded everything out and it’s really dynamic, the change. Using modern technology, it’s really good, it’s classic.
Scott: Alan, I’m going to give you the last word, brother.
Alan: Well, I love Atlantic City and we’ve always loved playing there. And we’ll be back, at the good ol’ Tropicana.