Interview with Geoff Downes of YES

Published in The Santa Barbara Sentinel

It didn’t hit til post-interview: Geoff Downes may be one of the most legitimate working musicians of the past three decades.

Currently playing for three bands (YES, Asia, and the Buggles) and co-writing for all, Geoff and the rest of YES are offering the 1980 album Drama performed in its entirety – for the first time ever – and sides one and four of 1973’s double album Tales From Topographic Oceans, as well as a handful of their greatest hits when they stop by the Arlington Theatre on Sunday, August 28th.

Who is YES?

Steve Howe on guitar, Jon Davison on vocals, Alan White on drums, Billy Sherwood on bass and our boy Geoff Downes on the keyboard.

Geoff is about as chill as they come with a soothing British accent to boot.

I read you joined YES in 1980, is that correct?

Originally, yeah. Then I rejoined them in 2011 so I’m on my second tenure with the band.

Awesome! Well currently, I’m wearing a “YES: Tour of the Americas ‘79” shirt. While they were on this tour, what were you up to?

Well, I was making a record with my co-writer and bandmate at the time in a band called the Buggles.

We made a record called “Video Killed The Radio Star” in 1979.

Of which, I should probably note, was the first video on MTV.

So that’s what I was doing.

We had the same management as YES and that is how we got to bump into the guys.

Hell yeah! First video on MTV. We all know it. So cool. You’re currently in YES and the band, Asia?

Yes, we’re writing another Asia album at the moment so that will be coming out hopefully next year.

Creatively, is it a challenge to play in two different bands?

I still do stuff with the Buggles, so that’s three bands I’m in.

It can be a bit tricky sometimes but as far as the Buggles and Asia go, I’m the only keyboard player that’s been in either band so it’s kind of in my DNA.

I wrote the majority of that music.

As far as YES, we are playing the Drama album at this time which I did with the band.

We’ve also been doing a lot of their previous albums and it’s quite a challenge because I’m not playing myself, I’m playing other keyboard players parts.

Are you able to be creative within that or do you like to maintain a certain sound?

I think it’s important to try and maintain the signature sounds of the records.

There are areas where you can stretch out and the other guys are good about that.

They say, “don’t’ stick to the original too closely. Just play yourself!”

How wonderful and supportive! Well, we can’t wait to see you and have you guys in SB…

Yes, we’re looking forward to it. Thanks for calling, love. Bye!

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