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Biff Bam Pop Exclusive: Geoff Downes on Asia’s Gravitas, Yes’ Heaven and Earth and more

Geoff DownesProgressive rock giants Yes are currently touring across Canada with their 3 album tour, playing their classics Close To The Edge, Going For The One and The Yes Album (in that order). Reviews have been stellar, and the band is on fire (you can read my review of last year’s Toronto show here). In the meantime, the group have announced a summer tour of the U.S. along with their new album, Heaven and Earth, the first to feature new vocalist Jon Davison and second in a row to include keyboardist Geoff Downes.

Downes has got to be one of the hardest working men in music today. Along with his commitment to Yes, he and his colleagues in Asia have just release their new album, Gravitas, a memorable collection of songs that once again highlight the special songwriting tandem of Downes and bassist John Wetton. Geoff was kind enough to talk to us via email about Asia, Gravitas, being on the road with Yes and much more.

Andy Burns: Thanks for taking the time to talk to Biff Bam Pop again, Geoff! 2014 is already shaping up to be a big year for you – the new Asia album Gravitas is about to drop, you’re continuing the Yes Three Album tour, and there’s a new Yes album in the pipe. First question – how do you manage your time?

Geoff Downes: This year is particularly hectic, and it’s a credit to the management teams of both Yes & Asia for managing my time in this regard. Despite the tough schedule, it’s really exciting for me to have the two albums coming out, and of course performing on the tours as well. I think I can adapt to each band fairly quickly, but this year will certainly raise a few challenges.

Andy Burns: The new Asia album, Gravitas, is big and bold and confident, which is great considering you have a new, young guitarist in the band. How did you discover Sam Coulson?

Geoff Downes: I think it’s a very strong album, and both John & myself are really pleased with the way our compositions turned out. It’s always something of an unknown area when we start writing an album, but eventually the bits all start to fall into place. Having Sam (who was recommended to us) on board has also helped really bring the project to life.

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Yi Soon Shin: Warrior And Defender – A Compelling, If Bloody, Comic Book Story Entrenched In Real World History

The medium of sequential storytelling, of comic books, is one that lends itself to a multitude of genres including science fiction, horror, noir and comedy. Most of those genres, when published today, find themselves disguised, wrapped in colourful capes and masks, as superheroes lead the comic book sales charts. But there was a time, not so long ago, when straight-laced western-themed comics were at the forefront of the North American consciousness, when war and romance-themed monthlies sold in large numbers.

Those sorts of artistic choices, those kinds of reading experiences are still around today – just not in the same number as they once were. It’s really a pleasure, then, to find a comic book that stands apart from the tried and true super-powered costumed characters that ubiquitously fill the store shelf racks, to enjoy a change of pace from the general, mainstream experience of reading comics.

The compilation hardcover graphic novel Yi Soon Shin: Warrior and Defender (the first book of an expected trilogy) is one of those kinds of comics.
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Exclusive Interview: Geoff Downes Of Prog Rock Legends Yes & Asia Talks To Andy Burns

For over 20 years I’ve been a diehard Yes fan. If you’re a regular reader of Biff Bam Pop, you probably know this, since we’ve featured the band on many occasions. But today marks a first for the site – an interview with Geoff Downes, the bands current keyboardist, who first played on Yes’ fan favourite album Drama back in 1980 and who rejoined the group in 2011 for their most recent studio release, Fly From Here. With a pedigree that includes being a founding member of both The Buggles and Asia, Downes is one of rocks greatest keyboard players. From a completely biased fan standpoint, he also happens to be my second favourite Yes keyboardist of all time, only topped by original member Tony Kaye (I’m sure Downes would agree he’s in great company). This being the case, I’m thrilled that Geoff was able to answer some questions via email for Biff Bam Pop in this exclusive interview. Yes kicks off their summer tour tomorrow with a show at Casino Rama in Rama, Ontario, their first Ontario show in nearly four years, their first since Downes rejoined the band, as well as their first in the area with new singer Jon Davison. I’ll let you know how the show is on Wednesday; in the meantime, enjoy my chat with Geoff Downes about Yes, touring, Asia and more!

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