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.
I’ve always thought you played the bass as a ‘lead’ instrument, setting you apart from many others. What inspired you to play in this way?
When I was a teenager I think I used to be a big fan of The Who, and I would go and watch them as often as I could, and in many ways I liked listening to John Entwistle’s bass playing and I learned a lot from that, but I used to really enjoy watching Pete Townshend’s performance as a guitarist, so maybe somehow in an odd way the two melded together into my own character for wanting to be a musician with both styles, both attributes.
Luis Eduardo Galindo
Hi Chris, how did you master to sing over so complicated bass lines? What do you set in mind to do so? Any exercises you can recommend? Thanks!!
Well, as with anything, it’s just practice and more practice that allows anyone to achieve doing more than one thing at a time. Of course the classic example is if you’re a drummer, and you’re simultaneously doing four different things with each of your limbs. The only exercise I can best recommend is to just decide what it is you want to achieve and then just keep on practicing it until you get it right.
I recently discovered that playing bass pedals and bass at the same time is not as easy as it looks. To think that you sometimes add vocals over that is amazing. When did you decide to add the bass pedals to your arsenal and how long did it take you to get proficient? Do you have a practice regimen that incorporates the bass pedals, as well?
It really is just a matter of practicing coordination and being able to do one thing with your foot and another thing with your hand and being able to sing at the same time, especially some of the Yes lyrics that I had to remember that sometimes didn’t make sense! For certain, it was all achieved by constant, constant practice.
Here’s a question for you. Given your experience back when singing in choirs, would you say this influenced your style on the bass? What I always found impressive were the nice contrapuntal lines you put down on Yes compositions, especially on songs like Yours is No Disgrace, Siberian Khatru and Parallels, but they were certainly noticeable (and pretty dang cool) even before that during the Peter Banks era. It’s one of the aspects that really drew me into Yes’s music. I’d be interested to hear your response, especially whether/how a choral musical background influenced your playing. Thanks in advance.
Yeah, I’m sure it did. Of course I learned a lot growing up with church music about the relationship with the bass – vocal parts and its relation to the top line soprano or treble parts, so I’m sure I carried that knowledge with me when I started to get into rock and roll in my teenage years. I’m definitely sure it had an influence on some of my ideas when it came to rock and roll bass playing.
Hello Mr. Squire. I wanted to ask if you fashioned your unique bass playing style and technique around Bach’s Bass Configuration Theory for four voices? I read your early studies included interest in church hymns that often used that theory. BTW You’ve been an influence and inspiration to myself and so many other bass players. Thank you. Look forward to seeing you in Phoenix.
Although I’m not actually familiar with the textbook on Bach that you’re referring to, I did grow up with a lot of knowledge of Bach’s music, and performed it a lot in my church days, so I think it just became ingrained into my psyche that there were certain ways of doing things – though you do have a point that it was an influence on me.
Dan Nowman Niswander
What was it that specifically inspired you to write the lyrics as well as the music of Parallels from Going For the One?
Parallels was a song that was part of a group of songs I had written for my 1975 solo album Fish Out of Water, but it was the one track that it turned out that, back in the days of vinyl ,there was not enough space for on the album – we were limited to 20 minutes per side of the vinyl long player – so when Yes went to Switzerland in 1976 to start recording Going for the One, I put the song forward as a suggestion that Yes should record it, and everyone liked the idea. I think the lyrics are just generally the kind of lyrics that I write – they usually have a message of hope in them. We are currently playing it on our three album tour, and it’s becoming better than we’ve ever played it before, so I’m very happy with that.
Chris, I had the pleasure of meeting you and the band in Omaha back in March. Thank you for the opportunity! My question is, out of all the songs you’ve performed live over the years, which is the trickiest and why? My money is on Tempus Fugit–a tricky vocal on top of a VERY tricky bassline!
You have a point; you may be right about that. Definitely whenever we’ve come to revive playing Tempus Fugit when Yes toured, it took a while to re-assimilate the bass line and the vocals. It’s quite a tricky thing, but as in previous questions in this group that I’ve answered today, it really just all seems to magically come together at a certain point just when the familiarity of being able to perform it kicks in.
Which recording of the Firebird do you open to? (Which orchestra and conductor?)
Now, I should know this, and I’ve got a feeling it’s conducted by the Japanese conductor Ozawa, and I can’t remember exactly which symphony orchestra it was that performed it, but maybe in my next month’s group of questions I’ll answer that for you.
Michael C Kennedy
What the heck are you guys singing during the last few verses of To Be Over? Bugging me for over 35 years!
(laughs) Yes, that’s also a good question. I don’t have a copy right in front of me to quickly put it on to listen, but it’s very possible there were just vocal sounds that Jon Anderson was very used to coming out with – nonsensical words and sounds that sounded good. Once again, I’ll try and dig deeper into this and answer it next month.
Why do you think Yes connected with American audiences (esp. Philadelphia) early in the band’s career?
I think when we had definitely a very big fan base in Philadelphia, and I think initially it was just the fact that a Philadelphia DJ called Michael Tearson was an early fan of Yes and used to play us a lot, and then of course that charge was also taken up by the well-known Philadelphia disc jockey Ed Sharkey. Both of those guys used to play a lot of Yes to Philadelphia audiences and turned us into the Beatles for a while in Philadelphia – we became so popular, so we owe a lot to those early DJs, and we’re really looking forward to returning to Philadelphia for the YESTIVAL concert in August.
Read previous #askYES Q&As here.
Next week… Jon Davison.