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Drummers Centerfold
Drummer to Drummer Interviews
"The Band Is Full Of Life"
Alan White Interview

By: Steven Scott Fyfe
Montreal, May 1998

S.S.F.: So many bands come and go, what would you say made the difference in the success and longevity of "Yes"?

A.W.: We do pay a lot of attention not only musically but also sonically. I would say that basically Yes has always been keen and paid attention to details. I spend many hours in the studio getting exactly the right drum sound for the right song.

S.S.F.: When you think of all the work in recording that you've done, what would you say stands out the most?

A.W.: I think if you look at the band as being a very adventurous and creative rhythm section kind of attitude towards the albums, I think "Topagraphic Oceans" (1973) was a start to being very creative in that area and also "Relayer" (1974) as pretty adventurous too in taking percussion and bass playing to another area within the realms of the music.

S.S.F.: You've laid down some intricate grooves on such recordings as "Relayer" (1974) "Drama" (1980) and "Talk" (1994) to name but a few, how would you define your own approach to playing?

A.W.: At a very early age, even before Yes, playing a lot of sessions around London and doing the John Lennon and George Harrison work, I always used to have my own band interested in odd time signatures and that was the thing that satisfied me mostly because I could go into the studio and play something simple but always have the other thing to return to that gave me knowledge and let me be adventurous. Finding new rhythms and styles, listening to ethnic rhythms and patterns from those days, trying to develop them into something more modern and current, Yes has always been a perfect vehicle for that. So my inspiration and direction, as far as a player was, I would take something that was simple like an R&B groove but tried to make the difference in time signatures and making it swing and at the same time for it to have a meaning so you could tap your feet in 5/4 or 7/8 time.

S.S.F.: You have contributed so much as a drummer/artist to the music world, what Yes album is closest to your heart?

A.W.: (Laughs). We get this question a lot and the band seems to answer this in a similar way. Through Yes' career, there has been an identifiable sound to the band that has carried out through every album but at the same time, I think every one is kind of diverse yet the same thing. We've had a lot of periods in our lives that we've been through where the music was just part of that life. To isolate one is very hard to do because I like them all. But if I can pick one that I didn't think was a good one, it would be "Tormato" (1978) but then when we come to America, this is the most sought out autographed album and this confuses me.

S.S.F.: Can you comment on the "Reunion Tour" and how this came about?

A.W.: We basically called it Yes East and West because Jon was working with Bill Bruford and Rick. Steve, Tony, Trevor, Chris and myself were like the other guys working on our next album. The record company kind of put everything together in that we should do something together and carry this thing on in the future still. It took a couple of weeks to work out who should be playing what, when and how. It was such complex music. Bill and myself had a lot of working out to do to see who took the helm at certain points in the show. I think everyone had a satisfying experience and realized that we could all work together at the same time. It was a great tour and we had a great time.

S.S.F.: Would you say the music industry has changed over the years?

A.W.: I don't think it's changed that much because Yes has a reputation in the industry as being a band that never conforms to what everybody wants as far as making hit singles. However, "Open Your Eyes" (1997) was an attempt at that but the band is like a chameleon that changes colors all the time. If we really feel like doing an album that is more commercial, we will go ahead and do something like that but at the same time we can turn a very sharp left turn and do something completely off the wall and different. I think we have the capability, musician wise, and the standard of playing in the band has been so high for so many years that we can do both things.

S.S.F.: How would you answer to Yes always surpassing itself and still selling-out arenas around the world?

A.W.: I am amazed in one way but not in another because I know everyone in the band and how dedicated they are to the music and furthering the musical sound. We have our 30th year anniversary soon and the band is full of life and looking forward to our next album which we are writing as we travel around.

S.S.F.: You have done what most drummers can only dream about, what have you not yet done musically?

A.W.: (Laughs). I have my second solo album to come up following "Ramshackled" (1976). I have boxes of DAT tapes that I have been writing over the years and have to go through and come out with a theme. Probably for the year 2000 and something new for the next millennium.