What recording would be your choice of your greatest or favorite drumming performance?
I have numerous favorite pieces from different eras of the YES catalog, but certainly Cinema would be one, and Sound Chaser, of course. Sound Chaser was YES trying to sound like a manual shift car, constantly changing gears and speeds; that was our inspiration for that piece.
I’ve always been curious about how you went about forming/picking drum parts for cinema, in particular the hi-hat accents. what informed your choices? and was it yours or the band’s thought to have that tune be so drum-centric.
I love the words “drum-centric”. The rhythms became something I was interested in working out as the song was being developed. Trevor [Rabin] picked up on it, and built a front end to it, and off we went. The reason that the hi-hats are where they are is because I was experimenting with playing different things with different hands on the drum kit, and where most people would put a regular drum break, I would do the drum break on the hit-hat as part of the drum break. Thanks for your question!
Dear Alan, do you remember the first thing you wrote for YES? Is there anything on Topographic, like a melody, a chord sequence or anything else that would give you credit as a composer? If not, which is the first part of any song that has your mark on it?
The first thing that I wrote for YES was a series of chord changes and other passages that connected various parts of the Topographic album. Chris [Squire] and I contributed that way quite a bit, especially on side three, The Ancient, probably more than on some of the other parts, and of course we came up with all of the rhythmic elements in Ritual. Jon [Anderson] wrote all of the lyrics, and he and Steve [Howe] came up with a lot of the main musical themes. If you listen to side three, you can hear that a lot of the melodies are based off of what the rhythms are doing.
Christoph Martin Labaj
Which snare drum models have you mainly used throughout the years?
I’ve been playing Ludwig snares pretty much from day one, even before I joined YES or played with John Lennon. I find that Ludwig snares fit with my style of playing and they suit my needs very well. Right now I am using a Bronze six and a half inch snare with die-cast hoops and 48 strand snare, which has a brilliant sound. I also like smaller drums, and I have four Black Beauties that sound absolutely amazing in the studio.
Hello Alan! I was wondering if you are going to work on another “White” album. Loved the first one!
Obviously my time commitments with YES are pretty strong right now between touring and preparations for going into the studio, but I meet with the White band and we’ve been rehearsing for an upcoming show at Newcastle Days here in Seattle this September. We’ve written and recorded some new music in demo form, and hopefully we can find time to record it properly later this year or early next year. I’m glad you enjoyed the first album though. Thanks!
Hey Alan, I was wondering if you could shed some light on your experience with Ginger Baker’s Airforce in the late 60s. What are some things you learned from Ginger Baker and his approach to drums and music in general? Was it a positive experience for you or was it just kind of a “by the seat of your pants” type of experience for yourself? I’ve been a big fan of your drumming with Yes and the many other artists you’ve had the wonderful chance to play with. When I saw that you had a stint with Ginger Baker’s Airforce, I always thought that would be a pivotal moment in anyone’s career. I would assume that the latter part of “Ritual” was very much inspired by your time spent in Ginger Baker’s Airforce.
I absolutely loved Ginger; he was such a great guy to be around. It was quite a learning experience for me. Like a lot of other really good rock drummers Ginger had a bit of a jazz background, and his kit was setup very flat and level, like a lot of jazz drummers like it, which I don’t think would work for me at all. In that band, I was also playing with Phil Seaman, who had played with a lot of big bands and did a lot of session work in London. On stage I played four or five numbers on the kit alongside Ginger, and since there were four drummers in the band—Ginger, Phil, Remi Kabaka and myself–sometimes I’d play an African drum on one song, then piano on two or three songs, and then tubular bells one another. I was basically all over the stage in the middle of this ten piece band. Some of the stages we were on were so small that I’d have to crawl between amps and other gear to get to my instrument for the next song. It was a pretty strange but wonderful experience.
Eddie K Lee
Aloha Alan, Yes has numerous videos (DVDs) since the very beginning, I don’t think any single band has more videos compare to Yes. How’s come since 2008, there hasn’t been one official DVD released by the band? Wish there was one that captured the Fly From Here tour or the current tour! Thanks!!!
Aloha Eddie! I know we’ve been touring a lot and now have plans to work on the next album, so it’s possible there could be a DVD element to that, but I don’t think we’ve made any actual plans for that to happen at this point. I agree that the Fly From Here tour was an excellent tour and it was filmed and released as part of a special Fly From Here CD/DVD package, so you should definitely check that out. We’ve also talked about recording the current three album tour, but I don’t know if there are specific plans to do that or not.
Whats your warm up-up routine before a gig, how do you set yourself up when you have to play every night while on a tour?
Hi Cameron. Usually we do a sound check in the afternoon, and play through three or four numbers, just to work on things that we might want to focus on as a band. Those kinds of warm-ups are usually all we need for the evening performance. Then before the show, I do a lot of stretching in my dressing room, just to get myself warmed up and get the blood flowing. Right now we’re doing a pretty heavy schedule with sometimes three or four shows in a row, which is pretty demanding considering we often have to travel every day as well, so I’ve learned to just pace myself and not overdo it.
My 16-year-old son recently began drum lessons. (He has also played guitar for several years.) Any advice for new drummers?
I get this question a lot when I do workshops and clinics, and what I tell people is that even when I was a very young drummer I always had the ambition to become a better player and to achieve more, and when you feel like you’ve hit a brick wall and want to hang up the sticks, you’ve got to endeavor to carry on, be persistent, and work on getting better and better all the time.
Hi Alan, im a huge fan, what are the aims with the next yes album? Will it be an evolution of Fly From Here or something completely different, if so will there be any albums which you aim to draw inspiration from on this next project?
I think that remains to be seen, at this point. Fly From Here was really well received and we have talked about carrying on that theme into the next album, but the new album is really in the baby stages and we’re all just talking about it and trying to get a concept in our heads as to what it should be.
Do you remember The Downbeats Alan, My Father is Kenny Potts, Stepdad Bob Horsman
Hello David, of course I had a great time with your father when we were very young. The Downbeats became pretty successful and we often played seven nights a week plus an afternoon show sometimes, and so I learned a lot from the experience due to the amount of playing that we did. All the guys in the band were great, and your dad attentive to how his music sounded, and Bob was a lot of fun, too. Even though we were driving around in cars that were falling apart, we had a great time on stage and loved what we were doing. We’ll be coming to England next year and I think we’re even playing at Newcastle City Hall, so please get ahold of me through my Facebook page and then we can say hi. Give my regards to everyone!
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Next week… Chris Squire.