The F. A. Q. Section
This page is devoted to answering some "frequently asked questions" - more anticipated than actual. It's also a convenient way of relaying information that doesn't quite "fit" onto the other pages of this site. If more questions are raised along these lines, then I'll include them here as well - together with whatever answers I can provide.
Q. What exactly is YESFANZ? A festival? A party? A promotional drive?
A. We are/were just a group of people who are literally Yes fans (in Australia and New Zealand) and are, like the www.yesfanz.com site says, celebrating the tour by holding pre-concert functions in Sydney and Melbourne. Through our various connections - and by a combination of necessity and enthusiasm - we branched out to undertake other functions: regular get-togethers, promotional work, getting Roger Dean and some of his artworks out here, etc.
Q. This seems to have been an expensive enterprise. How much money did YESFANZ make (or risk) out of this events and the tour?
A. Nothing - it's
a non-profit organisation. Any surplus that we made was to be paid
into charity - and this is the ONLY reason that we were allowed
clearance to use the "Yes" and "Roger Dean"
logos, references, etc. Balanced against the price of the
festival tickets and promotional T-shirts were the actual costs
associated with the festival - catering, security,
transportation, etc. Happily, promoter Michael Chugg supplied the venues (and
covered public liability insurance - which could have been crippling), while
many other people
supplied merchandise for the door prizes and bag
The Roger Dean exhibition was financed separately - and, without going into details, we were very lucky that it could be achieved.
Q. How much did you/YESFANZ/the band know that not you weren't telling us? And could you have let us know much ahead of the official announcements?
A. The members of YESFANZ were privy to certain information ahead of time, because we had to plan events and help publicise the tour. But we couldn't jeopardise the tour - and our relations with the many organisations responsible for it - just for the sake of big-noting ourselves.
Q. YESFANZ seemed to be an internet-based group. How would fans without internet access have heard about the festival and tour?
A. YESFANZ didn't have the money and resources to conduct postal mailing lists - it also had to hold meetings at short notice and conduct overseas business - so it HAD to run through email & the internet. Other fans could, hopefully, find out about the tour through the usual channels - and their YESFANZ friends. I think that the actual success of the tour had a lot to do with this "groundwork". Certainly the "real" publicity for the tour left something to be desired.
Q. Aren't YESFANZ - and Yes fans generally - simply just a bunch of old men fantasising about their "rock and roll" youth?
A. No, though - for a while - being the youngest member of the YESFANZ committee (there's an average five year age-gap between me and most others) occasionally brought echoes of the "South Park" episode where Cartman joins NAMBLA . Things are more balanced, nowadays (thankfully).
Yes do attract a proportion of young and/or female fans - but it's difficult for this to happen other than by "word of mouth", in the absence of radio air-play and television coverage. There is a growing movement of young fans - eager to get together and share their experiences with Yes music - an after-concert meeting was scheduled (at least in Sydney) with this in mind.
Q. Do you know any "juicy gossip" to put on-site - about the band's personal lives and their ongoing relationships with each other?
A. Sure - I know a heck of a lot (from my excursions on the internet, plus various people's meetings and dealings with the band, its management and Roger Dean) - but, after all, the music is what really matters. Bringing-up existing tensions - or past incidents - between them would only destabilise the band, and its ongoing relationship to the general public. As for speculation about these things - a colossal waste of time, if ever there was one - you can easily have your fill on alt.music.yes, if you want.
Q. The members of Yes must be getting really on. Aren't they "too old to rock and roll"?
A. Well, the band's average age is approaching 60, but otherwise - not really. The surprising thing about so many of today's "older" rock stars - Paul McCartney, Plant & Page, The Rolling Stones, etc. - is their level of energy. Yes music is, however, very demanding - some of the longest and most complex pieces of music outside of a classical symphony - and while a few tempos have not always been as fast as they originally were, the fans generally seem as delighted as they've always been.
Happily, I can state that having Rick back in the band has improved them no end - and modern equipment actually makes them sound better then they used to in the "old" days. But I won't hold my breath waiting for another studio album.
Q. I don't mind Yes' music - some of it, at least - but the lyrics often don't make any sense at all. What are they supposed to mean?
A. This is something of a point of contention, even amongst band-members. Nowadays the lyrics are fairly straightforward, but back in the 1970's words were chosen for their sound rather than meaning - particularly those words with open-vowels. In effect, the voice was just another instrument. Whether it all made sense with or without the help of certain substances is another matter.
Q. Is Yes a religious band? It often seems to be.
A. Yes is definitely a secular band, in the "classical-rock" tradition. I personally can't stomach the sort of smug, preaching music that so many Christian-oriented bands put out. But there are many messages in Yes music (the songs have to be about something, after all) and some of these can be used for personal guidance. There's wisdom to be found in Yes lyrics, if you are looking for it - perhaps more than in those of most bands.
Of the individual members, only Rick is an avowed Christian. Jon, from what I can gather, belongs to a 'sacred mother' type following based in Hawaii. None of the others have expressed any sort of religious or philosophical embracement. Everyone but Rick is a vegetarian to some degree. Rick doesn't drink alcohol (in deference to his wild past) - Chris is apparently still "learning" about this path.
Q. The band seems to be concentrating on their 70's music in concert. Why don't they play more of their 1980's (and more recent) songs?
A. Most people in Australia and New Zealand - not having seen the band for 30 years - had little to complain about: this was the music that we wanted to hear. But to those jaded (and lucky) people elsewhere - who can see the band regularly - this is another point of contention. I know a lot of people wanted to 90125-era music, and some even wanted Keys To Ascension songs, but we knew we weren't going to hear it.
Personally I think that, now that Rick Wakeman is back in the band, it can go on this way for another year or two at best. After that it will either have to come up with some seriously good new music, or else openly delve into its largely neglected back-catalogue.
Q. Could the band members have done individual (solo) tours, clinics (one-off demonstrations with question-and-answer sessions), record-signings, and/or other public appearances etc. in Australia/New Zealand - either on this tour or at other times?
A. Anything that was possible has now been covered on this site. We were hoping for more - in particular, any opportunity to show the band-members around - but, in hindsight, the tour was a richly rewarding experience.
Q. What videos and DVDs of the band are available - and which ones do you recommend?
A. There is a link to the available videos/DVDs from www.yesworld.com - and, in a nutshell, here are MY opinions:
(1972) is a
classic performance movie, though the songs sound forced and the
sound is muddy;
- "Live at the Q.P.R. 1975" (2 DVDs) is a great "Relayer"-era performance with some sound-mixing problems;
- "Live in Philadelphia 1979" is very short with poor mono sound (I haven't heard anything positive about it);
- "9012Live" (1983) is available on import - but it's much too short, with cheesy, 1980s-style visual effects;
- "AWBH: An Evening Of Yes Music Plus" (1989) is immensely enjoyable, if not actually (or wholly) "Yes";
- the "Union" tour (1991) is currently only available on import - it is excellent, if a little "cluttered" onstage;
- the Yes "Greatest Video Hits" (1991) is somewhat superficial. It avoids the early years (and post-1991);
- the "YesYears" (1991) documentary is OK, but it only goes up to 1991 - "YesSpeak" makes up for this;
- "Keys To Ascension" (1996) has good playing, but awful new-age visuals and sound/vision mismatching;
- "House of Yes - Yes Live at The House of Blues" (1999) is a great Khoroshev-era concert (but too short);
- "Yes Symphonic" (2001) has superlative playing, sound and picture - song-tempos are a little slow, though;
- "YesSpeak" (2004) is an "interview" DVD with a few concert clips and a 2003 concert in audio-only; while
- "Yes Acoustic" (2004) is a very short (about 45 minute) acoustic studio performance for a live/internet audience.
Unfortunately, there just isn't a single, representative live DVD commercially available of the band as they currently are. For the moment, the closest thing is a pirated broadcast from "Estival Jazz Lugano 2004" - quite brilliant, but it lacks the Roger Dean stage and acoustic mini-set. For collectors of "vintage" Yes, there are hours of 'home movies' shot during the recording of the "Going For The One" album in 1977 - some brilliant rehearsals, jams, chat and general fooling-around - but (like the Beatles "Let It Be" sessions) it needs some serious editing before it can be watched as a single package. Meanwhile there is a great selection of video-clips (mostly in QuickTime format) at http://yesmuseum.org/video/.
Q. How can I make/buy/trade in live bootleg videos and sound recordings?
A. This isn't the best place to ask that question. You can try searching over the internet - I won't try to hide the fact that Yes fans regularly record and trade concert performances (both in audio and video form). I don't regard myself as a "trader", either - though I've collected a lot of things through being a fan, a musician and a member of YESFANZ. And I wouldn't recommend taking any sort of recording equipment into a show - unless you want to risk having it confiscated.
According to www.yesworld.com, Yes are trying to make a number of recorded shows available to people - a retrospective live box-set is due for release sometime soon. But I'd love to see some sort of arrangement like The Who currently has with www.themusic.com - whereby people can order a "soundboard-recording" of the concert/s they attend (or the whole tour) over the internet.
THE 2003 TOUR
Q. Why did you give so little coverage on-site to the 2003 Australian concerts - other than Sydney?
A. Well, no-one gave me anything to post up here. Even someone who put up an excellent site with pictures of the Melbourne concert ignored my request for a cross-link. YESFANZ, itself, did very (very) little to advertise the existence of this site - to the Melbourne group, or elsewhere. There's only so much I can do by myself - and, in the meantime, I've had to fend off requests to work on the YESFANZ site, the Sebastian Hardie site, and others.
Q. How long had the 2003 Australian tour been "on the cards"?
A. Yes had been meaning to come back to Australia for some time - due, in no small part, to the pleading/badgering of local fans (including YESFANZ members) who have travelled overseas to meet them and their representatives. The plans have become more definite with time - though a few "almost made it" type schedules actually came into play: even since before Rick Wakeman rejoined Yes. At one point there was even talk of a 6-piece band/tour - including Rick and Trevor Rabin.
Basically, things were set in motion in late 2001, but only gathered momentum when Michael Chugg agreed to take on the 'risk' of the tour.
Q. It was almost too much to hope for.
A. Well, a postponement certainly did happen - following Jon's accident in late 2002 (in which he sustained hairline fractures to two vertebrae, while hanging Christmas decorations). Luckily, he made a good recovery.
Q. Any merchandise left over?
A. Sure! I, for one, have got plenty of concert posters (for both the March and September gigs), stickers, flyers, you name it. And YESFANZ have some leftover t-shirts - and plenty of calico bags (I think they breed somewhere in the dark).
ALEX VAN STARREX
Q. Alex I can't quite believe all the things about you on your personal page. Are they true, and - if so - how did you manage to do all this?
A. They're all true, but - on the other hand - no major achievement, when looked at in detail. I'm simply mixing together my two main interests - writing and making music - while exploring the power of the internet to reach people.
Q. Alex you seem like quite a Yes fanatic - getting involved in YESFANZ, building a web-site, recording videos and a CD of Yes music. I certainly don't want to get involved with the band to that depth.
A. Well, to be honest, I'm not a fanatic - which may surprise some people (particularly other fans). Yes are probably my favourite band - but only because so many other bands and artists have folded or disappeared over the years while Yes keeps on going. My interest in Yes is as a musician, just as I enjoy and play the music of other bands: for example, my "plays The Beatles" CD appeals to Beatles fans, and a Led Zeppelin-based recording has been planned for some time. I can follow Yes for a couple of hours at most, before I want to "change channels".
I have a multitude of other internet activities running - web-sites, newsgroup participation, web-surfing, etc. - plus my own (part-time) musical career to keep me occupied. And, of course, I also have a normal job and personal life (though I'm still single - which helps with finding the time for all this).
Q. How did you work out so many original solo, fingerstyle song-arrangements - 350? And are tablature files available?
A. Well, most popular songs are built around 3 or 4 main chord-groups. So, really, the songs are more difficult to remember than to play. Very few tablature files of my songs are available, though - maybe half a dozen: check my guitar tablature page: http://homepages.tig.com.au/~avanstar/mustabl,html. I'd prefer that guitarists attempt the songs on their own and submit files to me for correction and addition, rather than ask me to write out the thing for them (for nothing).
Also, I don't know whether people would be able to play all of my arrangements. My hands are a little unusual - they're quite rounded so I don't have a normal "reach" (piano-playing and typing are a real chore). My fingers are also double-jointed - and, of course, I'm left-handed - so I always think 'outside the square' when playing.
Ultimately it's not a question of what songs I play and can make available to people - this stuff is all personal to me. it's comes down to what music other guitarists like and can arrange on their own. I don't mind helping-out in this process, though.
Q. Why do you try to play all those complicated Yes pieces - like "The Gates Of Delirium" - on solo-guitar?
A. My technical abilities aren't really tested by playing short, simple 'pop' songs. And I have no interest in the standard repertoire of the classical guitar. Transcribing, arranging and playing Yes songs (and other long, complicated pieces of music) fulfills my creative needs in a unique way.
Working on the songs is a constant source of discovery for me. And each recorded 'album' of my performances becomes a benchmark against which I can judge the results. But the process is never "complete" - I could easily spend the next 20 years doing this - so it's also a sort of open-ended discipline at the same time.
In due course, I expect other guitar-players to follow in my footsteps - this is when what I'm doing will start to make more sense to people. Not that what I'm doing is original, either - look at players like Larry Coryell, for instance. I'm just taking what he's done down to a "street level", in order to expand the repertoire of all guitarists.
Q. What MP3s of yours would you recommend for Yes fans?
There are currently 42 MP3s on my mp3 site. I play all instruments - guitar, keyboards, bass and (programmed) percussion. Of these songs, the following sound vaguely Yes-like (the "years" indicate the first actual tape, MIDI or digital recording):
01. "Blossoms" (from the "First Acoustic Guitar
influenced by Steve Howe;
02. "Night Of Stars" ("First Electric Guitar Album" 1980-1) has Rick Wakeman-like synth-parts;
03. "Infinity" ("Extreme Guitar" 1987) has harmonised guitar - like the "Owner Of A Lonely Heart";
04. "Getting Complicated" ("Bop '92" 1992) sounds like an "America" type Squire and Howe jam;
05. "Marijuana" ("Virtuality-A" 1993) has a calypso feel - like Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe;
06. "Touch" ("Virtual Guitar" 1993) sounds like an jam from the end of "Turn Of The Century";
07. "Night" ("Ambience" 1993) sounds something from the end of Jon's "Olias of Sunhillow" CD;
08. "Trouble" ("Guitar '97" 1997) has tricky time-changes, akin to early "Close To The Edge";
09. "Ditto" ("From Nostalgia To Obscurity" 1998) is a Wakeman-inspired keyboard performance;
10. "Fingerstyle Variations" ("Axeology" 2001) is what is says - so it's vaguely Steve Howe-like;
11. "All For Nothing" ("Digital Frenzy" 2001) has trebly, out-of-time playing like "Gates Of Delirium";
12. "I've Seen All Good People", "Mood For A Day" & "And You And I" ("Yes Tales" 2002) obviously.
These MP3s represent only one aspect of my playing - my solo-work. I'm compiling other selections of my jams and early (1981-1983) band recordings. This being said, most of my original music is just "jamming over chord-sequences" - and the "home studio" production/sound, as a whole, is not great. The guitar on the Yes-CD (as with all of my "classical" work from 1999-2003) sounds "tiny", because it is (a Yamaha APXT1N 'travelling' size electro-acoustic) - I've since moved on to a larger nylon-string Ibanez and a Cort steel-string (I now alternate between these two guitars when performing).
A variety of RealVideos - of me playing acoustic, electric and bass guitars & keyboards - can also be found on THE ALEX VAN STARREX WEBSITE.
Q. How many copies of your "100+" CDs do you sell?
A. None - above all else, this is what keeps my ego in check! Actually I've sold a few, but usually just give copies away (or swap), if anyone wants them - provided I don't just ignore the request to sell stuff (which I do all too often). I've got a real "hippie outlook" when it comes to music - I've never performed (either personally, or in a band) for a fee, or placed my music on the internet where people have to pay to listen to it. Then again, none of my recordings have ever been professionally made either - which makes it hard for me to insist on payment from others just to listen to them.
This may change, though, as I become more successful (or at least better known) - in the meantime, it's a case of "don't give up your day-job". I did set up a Paypal account to handle orders, but don't trust it anymore. I've also got a licensing agreement with Elithic Music for the use of my two songs on "Cyberian Khatru", but haven't seen a royalty payment yet.
Then again, I haven't sold or given away the copyright to any of my stuff. So I have about 2,000 pieces of original music that can be played and recorded anytime.
Q. Alex, I don't like your playing - or your interpretation of Yes music. Why do you insist on telling everyone how great you (think you) are? (Note: no-one has actually said this to me yet).
A. I don't - I just quote established sources and statistics. But I can play and I do know a thing or two about producing innovative web projects - not to mention gaining publicity. Publicity really has a cumulative effect - getting featured somewhere makes it much more likely to be featured somewhere else. It then comes down to identifying fresh opportunities and seeing whether they can be made use of. Little things add up the big things - and the steps get easier as you go along.
So many musicians kill themselves for the opportunity to get music from "somewhere else" - records, sheet music, equipment, effects, etc. - instead of looking within themselves. But by making this music available to the solo musician, I'm still leaving room for interpretation and personal expression. Transcription, or copying, doesn't do this. Playing the music within a band makes it a matter of "support" (the performer has to support others who, in turn, must support him or her) so it becomes a matter of balance and harmony, rather than expression. Or else it becomes a 3-ring circus, where everyone shows off at their allotted time.
Q. What are your plans for the future?
A. Like any self-respecting musician, I want to "tour around the world, sell millions of award-winning albums and retire rich" - but I doubt that'll happen. My main success as a musician, however, is still on the internet. I only managed a few "one-off" live appearances in 2003, and have no plans at the moment for any more (though I'm always open to suggestions and offers to perform).
I've started working in video now ("proper" video - not MPGs and RealVideo) - so that my future solo-albums will be available in both CD and DVD form. Once I get something that is truly "representative" of my playing, I'll start doing some more transcriptions of this music for guitarists.
I'm in two minds about returning to the electric guitar. I'd really love to put a band together with the (planned) 2005 "prog-fest" - but don't want to get caught up again in the whole 'guitar hero' ideology. Being called "the greatest guitarist in the country (Australia)" over 20 years ago actually put me in semi-retirement - even today, I avoid any talk about how I should be regarded. And, of course, I know how truly bad I can play sometimes - there's plenty of recorded evidence for that.
But a solo-musician can only impress so many people - most would rather see a band.
Q. What relationship to you have - or want to have - with Yes? Do you want to play with them or something?
A. What - me and a thousand other musicians? I read somewhere that Rick Wakeman gets about 300 CDs a week from budding keyboard players - I think guitarists have things a little easier (particularly if they interpret Yes music as I do). Of course I'd welcome a chance to meet, play, perform, write or record with any of the band-members. But I've had very few opportunities to get any sort of message through to the band - other than by building this web-site and occasionally supplying CDs (most or all of the band have recordings of mine, now - more by accident than design).
Interestingly though, since doing this a surprising amount of "convergence" has taken place: the band has changed it set-list dramatically, they have taken a keen interest in Australia, they are performing acoustic versions of their music, they have reconnected with Roger Dean for their stage-work and "adopted" the horde of bootleg recordings that have surface over the years (as their current tour catalogue shows - I used to have a large collection of sound-clips here for much the same effect, and still have my "Big Dream" MP3 collection). Finally, Steve Howe has, in interviews, constantly emphasised his need (and joy) in re-interpreting Yes music on the solo-guitar.
This certainly shows that Yes and I are heading in the same direction - by whichever means, and whatever it ultimately leads to. In the meantime (and for posterity), I'm happy to put Yes music into the hands of solo-guitarists everywhere.
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Introduction - Tour & Site News - Who's Who In Yes - The History Of Yes - YESFANZ Inc - Alex van Starrex -
F. A. Q. Section - 2003 Sydney Concert - 2003 Sunday Events - A Roger Dean Lecture - Links & Comments
© Alex van Starrex