Every week a member of YES takes your questions from Facebook and Twitter.
This week, it’s the turn of founder member and bassist extraordinaire, Chris Squire.
How did you get the flanged bass sound on the intro to ‘Survival‘? Until the archive video appeared recently on YouTube, I thought it was Peter Banks’ lead (playing some of the lower strings high up the fret board)! I think this was one of the first times in rock history when the high strings on a bass were used on an intro riff! Ever the pioneer! : )
I honestly can’t remember exactly what effect I was using, but I think it was a Cry Baby Wah-Wah pedal, so it was more of a wah effect than a flange effect.
Dear Chris. You mentioned on interviews about ‘Roundabout‘ bass line being doubled by yourself playing a guitar. It seems to me that you might have applied the same technique previously on ‘All Good People‘. Can you confirm this? Thank you.
No, the bass guitar on ‘All Good People’ was not doubled, as far as I can remember; I think that’s purely just a bass guitar. But you are indeed correct that ‘Roundabout’ was me doubling the bass line with a big Gibson electric guitar that belonged to Steve Howe.
Chris, I noticed on songs like ‘Siberian Khatru‘ you are alternating between 8 & 7 beats. What are you guys doing on ‘Awaken‘ after the vocal intro when you start playing your triple neck bass? I can’t seem to figure out the time signature.
The Awaken first section is, in fact, in 11/4, and it should work out if you count to 11.
This question goes way back in time: Bill Bruford the original drummer had a very unique style in that he often departed from holding the foundational beat for many songs. Although this provided a rich texture to many of the early Yes songs, did this put special pressure on you to hold the beat line in your own head in order to keep a song together as the bass player (who normally has the secondarily role of holding the foundational beat line)? Was Bill’s unusual style something that you encouraged or tolerated or were frustrated by as a bass player?
I used to enjoy playing with Bill Bruford a lot, and the combination of his style and my style was very important in the formulation of YES’ early music. I had no pressure dealing with the way Bill played; I used to enjoy his playing a lot, and we really just got on with it together and didn’t think too much about it. We just followed our own instincts and worked it out together.
Was it very difficult for you and did you have to alter the way you play to make the transition from Bill Bruford to Alan White as they are completely different drummers in every way possible?
It’s true, it was a very strange change when Alan White replaced Bill Bruford in YES, but I think the point was that we were looking for a different kind of drumming, even though it was not immediately easy for Alan to translate his style into playing music that Bill Bruford had originally written and played on with YES. So yes, it was a large change, but for me, of course, it was very rewarding because for me I didn’t feel I’d changed anything about the way that I played, but it was definitely a challenge to adapt to playing with Alan, who, as you can say, is more of a rock drummer, and Bill Bruford is more of a jazz drummer.
Hi Chris- thank you for all the music and inspiration! Here’s an odd question that goes back in time a bit… In 1973 you, Alan, and Tony Kaye, along with several other well-known British musicians, played on jazz saxophonist Eddie Harris’ album ‘E.H. in the U.K.‘ I have always wondered what the story was behind this album. Do you remember anything from the sessions or anything about how that project came together? Thanks!
YES were recording ‘Tales From Topographic Oceans‘ at the time in Morgan Studios in Willesden, which is a suburb of North West London. The producer of the Eddie Harris album, knowing this, booked another studio in Morgan Studios so it was relatively easy for Alan and myself to go over and play on this Eddie Harris album. It was done very quickly, from what I can remember, and it’s true, there were some great players on that session, one of them being Steve Winwood, who was very quietly sitting in a corner playing a Rhodes piano. And yes, I think you’re right that Tony Kaye was also involved. Of course, by that time, Rick Wakeman had replaced Tony in YES. As I said, it was a very quickly done thing, and the producer anchored as a conductor more or less, in the middle of the room, I remember, pointing at various people when he wanted to feature them on the tracks. So it was very high up there on the jamming scale. But it did turn out fine and everyone seemed to like it.
Cheers Chris, you were the first bass player I ever heard that used the bass guitar as a ‘lead’ instrument, (for example, as is evident on the opening of ‘Sound Chaser‘). Was this a conscious choice decided by you or was this simply a natural progression of your playing style? And also, did you enjoy playing with and do you still stay in touch Patrick Moraz? I thought ‘Relayer‘ was one of the best Yes albums ever. Thank you Chris.
Patrick Moraz, who you mentioned, we all saw recently at our recent show in Tampa, Florida. It was definitely fun playing with him for the period of time he was in YES, and he also plays on my solo album from 1975, Fish Out of Water on a couple of the tracks, and does some fantastic Hammond organ playing. As far as ‘Sound Chaser’ is concerned, every member of YES was always trying to better themselves as a musician and performer, and if there was a chance to go for some clever play, we all used to take those chances. Thank you for your compliment.
Tell me about ‘Fish Out of Water‘. What made you jump into a solo album?
I didn’t jump into a solo album; it was agreed at that particular time that each member of YES was going to do a solo album, which is indeed what happened. And that included Patrick Moraz, who was in the band at the time. So Jon Anderson recorded Olias of Sunhillow, Steve Howe had an album called Beginnings, Patrick Moraz had an album called ‘The Story Of I‘, Alan White had an album called ‘Ramshackled‘, and my contribution was Fish out of Water. We recorded them all in the same period of time, and they were released pretty much in the same time period as well. So that was the YES plan, and that’s what we did.
Julie Rupp Oakes
Hello Chris! I have a question about songwriting (especially pertaining to Fish Out of Water, but Yes songs as well). You’re such a melodic bass player. Is your music ever written around your basslines…or do you come up with chord progressions first and then add bass? And if you come up w/ chord progressions first, do you play them on keys or guitar while you are creating a song?
Usually I work with keyboards in my songwriting initially, but I’ve also come up with ideas using an acoustic guitar and also I have come up with bass guitar riffs which have been the root of an idea and songs have developed from that. So there is no one way that I work, but if I recall, most of the songwriting on Fish Out of Water was keyboard-based initially, then I recorded the bass lines after the keyboard demo was put down.
During the 1976 tour (with the “Crab Nebula” stage), I was at a Cobo Arena concert in Detroit which was being filmed. What happened to that concert film and will it ever be released? Thanks!
I’m very upset to tell you that the film from the Cobo Hall, which I believe there were three or four nights of material seem to have evaporated. Although over the years I have tried on many occasions to locate that footage, so far I’ve never had any luck. So if you hear anything about it, please let me know.
Craig S. Thom
Since the current lineup is four-fifths of the one that recorded ‘Drama‘, would you consider playing some of those songs on the next U.S. tour?
We had been playing songs from Drama at the beginning of last year 2012—on our Australian and Far East tour that we did last spring, so we were playing ‘Machine Messiah‘ and ‘Tempus Fugit’; two songs from the Drama album. So it’s very possible that we could pull those out again at some point.
Chris during the ABWH era why didn’t you join with that lineup? In my mind that was my and many other fans dream lineup. I assume there were problems with the band, but I always looked at your position as being the one to fix things. You in my opinion are the backbone of YES. If you could shed some light for all the Yes fans we would appreciate it. On a happier note, Fish out of Water was the best solo album of all.
Thank you for the Fish Out of Water compliment. There’s a very simple answer to the ABWH question—no one ever asked me to join. [laughs] So I was never in a position to help them in any way until eventually that band and the YES West band, as it was known, which was Alan White, Trevor Rabin, Tony Kaye and myself, came together and worked on the ‘Union‘ album together. And at that point, as you know, we went around the world playing as an eight-piece band and that was an exciting time for YES because it was almost like a mini YES orchestra. The recording from that tour can be purchased and it well worth listening to.
Are you still using the same Taurus bass pedals? Were they ever modified? Does your wife complain about rattling the windows when you play them at home?
[laughs] I don’t play them at home, so no problems there. The original bass pedals that I started off with were actually made by a company called Dewtron, which was an Italian company, and I believe they were made in the sixties. And then later on, Moog came out with the Taurus pedals and I also acquired a set of those, and I used to combine the sounds from both pedals through a special switching box I had made. However, in time, once I settled on a sound I really liked, which was a combination of both units, I ended up sampling the desired sound, and to this day, I trigger the sampled sound when YES play live shows.
Hi Chris! Nashville loves ya, man. My question: Has the circuitry in your Rick bass ever been modified or replaced, or is it all original?
I’ve always been very precious about not changing the components although I believe I’ve had to change some of the volume pots over the years, but I believe the rest of the circuitry is original. It’s almost as though it was never a perfect sound in the first place and it gives that guitar it’s personal character.
You are the greatest inspiration and influence on my bass playing. What modifications, if any, where made to your Rickenbacker that makes it different from most others. I have a Rick too but yours has such a clear raw and sometimes growling sound.
Apart from the circuitry, which I just explained, it has not been changed from the beginning. I think the guitar always had a slightly different sound electronically from other standard type 3 models, but also, of course, during the years of me decorating the body of the guitar and then having it then stripped down and cleaned up, which happened a couple of times, the guitar repairer who used to refurbish it for me, over a period of time, did some wood planing and stripped the guitar of some of its weight, I’m sure. So it may be possible that because it’s slightly lighter body than the standard type 3 models, that may also contribute to the difference in tone.
Do you still use the bi-amping technique with Rickenbacker? If yes, do you use guitar amplifier or bass amplifier for the high frequency sounds?
Yes, my stereo circuitry that I’ve used since the since the seventies, has always been purely so I’ve been able to route effects through different pickups. After the effects have been routed—sometimes on the bass pickup, sometimes on the treble pickup, and sometimes for both—the signal is then recombined and is then fed into my two amplification systems—my 100 watt Marshall bass amp, which in actual fact has more high end than most Marshall lead amps, and a standard Ampeg SVT Pro Series amplifier, which I also use.
Chris Do you plan on doing any more ‘Conspiracy‘ albums with Billy Sherwood? The last ones are great. ‘Violet Purple Rose‘!
‘Violet Purple Rose‘ was an exciting song because it also featured Steve Stevens on guitar—famous for his work with Billy Idol, and also Michael Bland, Prince’s drummer, and it’s also one of the most exciting pieces of music I’ve played live. Thanks for that compliment. There is a possibility down the road, I could do another Conspiracy album with Billy but presently I’m very tied up with my work with YES, and possibly another album with Steve Hackett, which could also come down the pipe in the next couple of years.
I have listened to your collaboration with Steve Hackett (‘A Life Within A Day‘) and enjoyed it immensely. How did this project come about, and will there be another “Squackett” project to look forward to?
Both Steve Hackett and I are hoping that we’ll be able to find the time to collaborate on some more Squackett material. The original album came about because I was living in London at the time and I had put together this Christmas album [Chris Squire’s Swiss Choir] that I’d wanted to do for many years of obscure British and European Christmas carols, which I had wanted to do with a choir and with a prog rock—guitar, bass, drums and keyboards—setting. Steve was gracious enough to play the guitar for me, and I owed him big-time for that, so after that project was complete, I said I’d be happy to give him any help with any material that he had been working on. So I started playing on some stuff for him, and the more that carried on, the more we realized at a certain point we were actually making an album together. So we decided to form the Squackett project and we were both very happy with the way it ended up. One of the biggest plusses that album had was that there was no added pressure to get it done from a record company or any other outside factions, so we basically took our time and did it in a very relaxed fashion.
Nicholas Pingo Sjöholm
What’s in the future? Will you guys ever rejoin with Jon Anderson again?
I’ve always said it’s never out of the question that there’s a possibility we could put together something that would involve Jon, and I think Jon would be open to that, as well. At the moment, of course, we’re very busy with our new singer, Jon Davison, and doing a lot of touring work this year and we’re looking at making a new YES album with Jon Davison as the singer towards the end of this year. Going into 2014, there are other possibilities that might open up, but we haven’t detailed them yet.
Hi Chris, I have been a big fan of yours since the mid 1970′s. There have been a lot of rumblings in the fan base’s about a possible new album in 2014. I would love to hear a new album with Jon Davison onboard. Could you let us know about the possibility of a new album? Also, does your amplifier go to 10, or is it one louder?
[laughs] My amplifier can go to twelve, if you want it to, [laughs] but usually it’s about five and a half. Thank you for your excitement about a new YES album with Jon Davison. I’m excited to be working on that also, especially as Jon is, as we all know, not only a good front man-singer, but also he a writer as well, so the combination of bringing some of his ideas into the YES camp are something we’re all looking forward to.
Are there plans for “Fish Out Of Water ” Part 2?
There’s never really been a plan to do that. I don’t think I would ever want to try it and do a followup to that particular album as it stands very much in its own right. However, I can tell you that there is a 5.1 mix of Fish Out of Water which is in the completion stages at the moment and should be available at some point this year.