Neil Forker @noforker
Is there a chance that Yes may record “Go Through This” for the next album?
I think the short answer is that you’ll have to wait and see. We’re not sure if we’re going to record any past songs that have been worked on and released in any form at all. That’s what Fly From here was about; revisiting some of that retro material. We’ll just have to see where it goes when we get into the studio.
Dear Steve, I read the book written by your daughter-in-law and was surprised that you had (or still have?) the Sex Pistols’ album on your LP shelf in the late 70s. do you still listen to any recent bands’ music and if so who’s your favourite? Xxx
There was an interesting rise in the mid 2000s— you know: 2005;2006—of bands with a lot of energy, and it was very straight ahead rock and roll, and it was very influenced by punk, and that was The Libertines. I like The Libertines because they were a true kind of rock band, and they both had their songs and they both had their attitude, and then Pete Doherty went on and formed Babyshambles, which I also liked what they did, especially the first album—I thought that was terrific—he had this incessant style of rock. And then the other guy from The Libertines, Carl Barât, formed a band called Dirty Pretty Things, and I got their album Waterloo to Anywhere, and that was pretty damn good, too. I saw Pete Doherty play one of his songs on acoustic guitar and I think that’s when I realized that he was pretty talented. One can only keep ones fingers crossed that he can get back on the straight and narrow … every now and again the producer will kind of pull him ‘round and get him back into shape and back into the studio … but of course his destiny lays within himself; he is a very talented writer as are the other band members in The Libertines, so I wish them luck.
I think a lot of people would like to know, who are your influences? And what made you want to play music?
Originally it was records by Les Paul and Mary Ford as well as the other 78s in my parents collection—also Tennessee Ernie Ford; he had two spectacular guitarists, Jimmy Bryant and Speedy West. Then about a year later, when I was thirteen, I discovered Chet Atkins—he’s my biggest influence. And of course, I saw Wes Montgomery and lots of great classical, jazz and folk guitarists. Then I discovered Steve Morse as the Dixie Dregs were getting started, and then I ran into Martin Taylor, the great Scottish jazz guitarist. Since then I’ve run into Flavio Sala, the Italian classical guitarist. I’m also influenced by Merle Travis and Albert Lee. I enjoy so many guitarists, but not just guitarists as I’ve got pretty broad musical tastes
If you could spend a day with any musician, living or deceased, who would it be and why?
I guess I don’t think on that level. Even if you wanted to work with someone who’s maybe out of your reach, mentioning that you want to do that is taboo. There are some people that I’ve touched base with that maybe something will happen, but I don’t want to give that away. I guess one of my big influences has always been Big Bill Broonzy, the great blues guitarist and singer, and he encapsulates a lot of what I feel is great about music—the spontaneity, the structure—and so I can’t really think that I can imagine the fantasy of Big Bill coming back and popping ‘round my house and saying hi because I don’t really think along those lines.
Steve, Nowadays if a beginning guitarist wants to learn a song from another artist, he has the internet, guitar tabs, Youtube, instructional videos, etc. But when you were learning guitar, all you had were records, a keen ear and an insatiable desire to learn and expand your style. When I listen to some of the guitarists who you have said influenced you, I am amazed that you were able to both learn their styles and assimilate their techniques into your own style. Did you spend endless hours playing a record lick over and over to pick up on those techniques, or did it all come easier and more naturally to you? I also wanted to end by thanking you for giving us so many years of your songwriting and playing, both on albums and in live concerts. You’re always a joy to watch and listen to!
I slowed a lot of records down and learned the notes, and then later moved them an octave higher, and that was the great thing about having a 45 and putting it at 33, and we even had a record player with 16 on it, so you could put the 33 to 16 and you could actually learn that way. There was a song called “Chuckles” and I learned this note for note that way. I think it did me a lot of good, but you can’t learn everything that way. I did try to copy records but that’s when I started to write my own music thinking it was more what I should be doing rather than copying other people’s, but I certainly took a lot and did learn as much as I could. And then The Beatles came along and we suddenly had much more interesting chords than you had before. So as music developed and became more complicated you had to spend more time learning it.
John Wedge Wardlaw
Hi Steve. I wanted to say that while I have an extremely wide variety of music in my collection, Going For the One and Drama are easily both in my top 10 favorites. Awaken still being my favorite piece of music of all time. I noticed during the 2009 tour that you were using some Line 6 gear. I was wondering what it was about line 6 that you liked and how you were using it and if you had been working with Line 6 on any products or patches at that time?
For the record, it was 2006 when Line 6 approached me and said “we’ve got something you’d like” and I plugged it in and I really liked it—I think it was the Variax 600 model; the basic model. So I called them later and said I was going to go out on the road and I want to use this kind of guitar, and they sent me a guitar and I loved it, and before I knew it I was using the Vetta II amp, and that amp was programmable. And that was the first time, in 2006, that I went onstage with song titles onboard. I just through Heat of the Moment, Only Time Will Tell, and the others with sounds that I’d selected and arranged at my house with a programmer called Steve Burnett. Basically, I won’t go back. That was my main setup—the Veta II amp and the pedal board that came with it, and the Variax was my guitar on the stand, which it still is, and it comes in for the sitar guitar and the 12 strings, acoustics and anything else that I want to do. But then not long ago I changed equipment; I changed my amp to a Line 6 designed by Reinhold Bogner, and also the HD500 pedal board. The other new piece of equipment is a custom one-of-a-kind 335-style Variax guitar. Line 6 has come to the party big-time, and I’ve promoted their 700 model for a while and we do have some discussions about doing some future things. They’re a great company; like Gibson; like Martin.
Hi Steve, can you show / describe how you play chords in Flamenco style – which sounds like tremollo, quick arpeggio. Many thanks, your solos have been giving me an energy for more than 20 years now
That’s very nice … Thanks, Dan! I think you’re talking about when I fan the strings like in Mood For a Day, and there are even moments in Beginnings where I do a bit of fanning. I will say that the Spanish guitar is the hardest guitar to play and therefore I feel that my technique is reasonably limited as compared to Flavio Sala or John Williams or others who spend their lives playing that style of guitar. It’s a wonderful instrument and it needs love and gentleness, and when I can, I give it that. Tremolos are not my scene so much, though from time to time, I do use them. I guess what I’m using is more of a lute style where the bass is there, and the melody is there. I do love writing for Spanish guitar, and there is some of that style of playing on my TIME album, so if you haven’t picked that up yet, I play with an orchestra and there are several compositions like Rose and The Explorer that you might enjoy.
What tuning is your lap steel in? i want to play To Be Over but it doesn’t really work for DADGBE
On To Be Over, I’m playing a 10 string pedal steel with the three pedals and the two knee bars, so you won’t be able to play that on a lap steel. My lap steel tuning is an E chord, so its E, B, A flat, E, B, then E. So that’s the basic tuning for the front steel. Then when I am going to do something like Awaken, I tune the front steel like a pedal steel, which is F#, E flat, A flat, E, B and A flat. If you check out an actual pedal steel, the tuning is what’s called Nashville or E9 tuning. You’ve got to have the pedals though to be able to push the tuning around
Do you have any tips on exercises for guitar that could inprove your playing?
I don’t very often do exercises, but if I’ve not played the guitar for five or six days, which is quite unusual, I might warm up by playing some scales. So start somewhere like E, and do the E Minor scale up and then down, then do E Major up and down, and then do F Minor and Major scales up and down, etc. If you haven’t played in a number of days though, start slowly; you’re not in a hurry, you’re just getting your hands warmed up, but then maybe by the time you get up to C or D, you have your speed up so that you’re doing them relatively fast so that you’re exercising not only your fingers but your knowledge of the fingerboard, but that takes time to be able to do that. Going back to the earlier question from Fred “was it easy to learn the guitar?”… the answer is “hell no”. There are some guitarists that I know haven’t been playing that long but sound as though they have been, but they are exceptions to the rule
Christopher Holzmann Accornero
Hi Steve. Could you tell us about the development and evolution of the song “Be the One” from “Keys to Ascension?” Also, wondering if you could elaborate on the idea of being “an atheist while believing in spirituality,” as you once described yourself in an interview. Peace and Best Wishes from the U.S.A.
When we were mixing Keys To Ascension Volume One, we added two songs to that: Be The One, and That, That Is. Be The One was pretty much a Chris thing. Chris Squire had some of that song going on, and it started to grow as Jon and I started arranging, developing, and rehearsing it and figuring out which key in which to play it; and Chris had an unusual approach to this song where he wasn’t playing any low notes, so when we finished it, I said to him that the guitar parts that I’d added didn’t sound right because there wasn’t any bass since—well there was a bass, but it was this sort of high chordal bass. So quite to my surprise, he was prepared to let me play a bass on it, I can’t explain exactly- he said he didn’t want to play another bass track because he had already played one, so he let me add a bass to areas because, as I say, the guitar sounds as though it didn’t have any legs on it, it was just hitting from the waist up, and didn’t have the bass support. So it’s more of a gentle sound; it’s quite kind of moody; it’s very Minor. That was quite a nice experience.
To your second question, I’ll say that these words are open to interpretation—both atheism and spirituality. I see atheism as an idea that I haven’t adopted a common religion; I haven’t praised this particular person; this particular individual or thing; but why I feel at home in saying that spirituality is something different is that you don’t need to decide who you are praising necessarily if you find that choice confusing, as I did. And what I did was non-stop looking at what I could understand spirituality to be, and I think it begins with an altered state of mind. If you can achieve that—and there’s no reason why anyone in the world cannot achieve an altered-state— maybe some people won’t try, and some people will try and think they haven’t succeeded because they’re looking for something that hits them in the head as opposed to something that just stops things from going on. I see that as a different path, and people in India and lots of countries over there might see the
Maharishi as a kind of symbol of a front man to the entrance to an altered state, but that isn’t necessarily raising the Maharishi—not worshiping him—you’re actually coming in tune with the world, and that’s all anybody can do. Some of us think that we’re doing it by going to church, or the synagogue or the mosque—do whatever you like, but I get my somewhat slight salvation by tuning into the energy of the world and just shut down and remain quiet. If you like, mediation is a kind of prayer, but again, it’s not directed at any individual. That’s a big issue in science, it’s a big issue in religion and I don’t want to hassle anybody—whatever you like is fine with me, and I hope that whatever I like is fine with you.
Sayu Awa H
Ello maestro! I love your songs:-) My question… Do you have a plan to publish a book “Steve Howe guitar collection 2”? I am interested in your guitars and stories…
I’ve been thinking about it since the first collection is now out of print, and the whole thing is kind of shut down, so I’ve had some ideas about something more like a Steve Howe catalog of great guitars that I did keep, because since then I’ve traded, given, and sold instruments; a few a year, so that my collection would get smaller. So it’s a tighter collection; it’s more about things that, over the last thirty or forty years, I still value, as oppos ed to when the book was done, I was having a great time; buying shed-loads of guitars, and that doesn’t interest me now. I’m certainly whittling it down to what does still interest me. I have done some preparation, it’s just a matter of when and if I put it into action. So you’ve encouraged me with your question.
Read previous #askYES Q&As here.
Next week… Alan White.