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#1151699 12/11/03 07:33 AM
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I had a wonderful experience today. I got to interview one of my musical idols: Trevor Rabin. After about 10 minutes of interview about TASCAM equipment, we had what we needed. The camera guy went off to film other stuff, and the guys I came with went off to talk to tech guys. So now it’s just me and the guy who wrote my favorite album of all time, Yes’ 90125. I got to speak to him for 30 minutes about his experiences with Yes, and it was one of the highlights of my professional career.

For the interview, we drove to his house in the Hollywood Hills. It has a beautiful hillside view of LA and it’s very close to the Hollywood sign – easily within sight from his front yard. Trevor was very approachable and pleasant when we met. He took us back to his impressive home studio, set off from the house. He has a control room with five racks of equipment in the control room, each one topped with an 02R. His writing desk is a Korg Triton topped with an Apple Studio display. He had a GigaStudio screen off to the side, and several rackmount synths and a TC M3000 controller around the desk. He had a Roland JP8080, a Nord rackmount synth, and two others. And of course many others in the racks (no analog, though.) He has a live room with guitar amps (Ampeg) and a baby grand piano, and a machine room with racks of computers and samplers. It is a very cool setup.

We set up the interview and asked him a bunch of dry product questions. After we’re done and the camera is off, he joked, “This stuff is boring, ask me about being on the road.” The camera guy was off filming cutaways (platinum records, guitars, etc.) and the guys I came with are meeting with other people in his studio. So it was just me and him, and I seized the opportunity to ask him about his years with Yes.

I asked about working with Trevor Horn, one of my favorite producers. He told me that he was wonderful to work with, a genius at what he does. I was always worried that he was an ugly slavedriver in the studio, but it sounds like he’s just a perfectionist. Trevor told me that 80% of recording 90125 was the two of them in the studio, Rabin playing guitar and keyboard parts and Horn smoking and opining on the progress.

He also told me that Horn, at the time, was far from a technical master. Today he’s comfortable working on Pro Tools and big consoles, but back then it was not the case. That isn’t to say that his success is entirely due to his engineers – if you listen to Horn’s albums from the time they all have a “sound”, and are all consistently very good quality. But apparently back then he wasn’t the one running the Fairlight and Synclavier, I suppose that was JJ Jeksalik, who later went on to form the Art Of Noise with Horn.

Rabin told another interesting story about Horn. One day Rabin was in the break room of the studio watching TV. Some very odd band from Manchester was on TV (or maybe it was a tape sent to the studio.) The band was Frankie Goes to Hollywood and the song was “Relax”. They performed it with this weird S&M troupe, girls with strap-on devices and such, but Rabin thought the song was great and showed it to Horn. Of course, FGTH was one of the big Horn-produced hits of the 80’s. He’s still friends with Horn, recording parts for “Crazy” on the first Seal album and something on a Tina Turner album a few years ago.

He mentioned that he misses the fine-tuning that you can do in music studios versus what’s possible for a film score. For example, when he mixed “Shoot High, Aim Low”, he did an effect on the fade where the compression goes up as the song fades out. By the time the song is almost faded out, it’s compressed as much as possible. He said this was something that was lost on 999 thousand out of a million listeners, but something that was fun to do. (I’ve never noticed that effect, now I need to go back and listen for it.) He also said that was an example of something he could never do in one of his scores, that type of detail is completely lost in a film mix and there’s no time for it. Even subtle filter sweeps he does on parts get lost in the final mix, and there’s no use recording a real analog synth because of the drift from day to day and you won’t hear the difference in the end result anyway.

He had some differences with Horn at first, because he had very specific ideas of how he wanted things to sound. He definitely didn’t want a big “Def Leppard Mushroom Snare Drum,” he wanted a little snare drum with a long reverb after it. But once he started working with Horn for a while he figured out that the guy knew what he was doing. Horn wasn’t well known outside of London at the time, 90125 was his big break.

I asked him how long it took to record 90125, and he said 9 months of rehearsals and 6 months of recording. The real ordeal was Big Generator, which took 18 months to record and cost $2 million dollars. He went on to talk more about Big Generator, how they rented a studio in Italy that was part of a big castle. He actually thought is would cost less to record there, but with the houses they were renting it was more like $5000 a day. Sometimes he used to procrastinate, he said, and in 90125 when they had a bad day he wouldn’t want to come back the next day. On Big Generator they would take two weeks off when they ran into a problem, which is partly what ran up the big bill. “It was mostly my fault,” he said, “but fortunately that album was a big seller so it worked out in the end.”

I asked if he would write out charts on the more ambitious songs like “Hearts” or “I’m Running”. “No one in Yes can read music” was the shocking reply. “Rick Wakeman is classically trained, of course, but none of the other guys can read.” There’s a guitar part in the intro “Miracle of Life” (on Union) that’s a fast major scale going up and repeating in an odd meter. (Non-Yes fans are now rolling their eyes, Yes fans are nodding.) He tried to show this to Steve Howe, who was having some difficulty with the part. Assuming that Steve was a conservatory-trained musician, Rabin offered to write out the part so he could learn it in the hotel room later, Steve replied, “That’s not going to help me.” Chris Squire, Alan White and Jon Anderson can’t read a note of music either, I can’t remember about Tony Kaye. But, he said, Chris Squire is one hell of a bass player, and the fact that he can’t read obviously hasn’t held him back one bit.

Trevor mentioned that his ability to read and write music started to wane while in Yes. He had to write out a string part for the intro of “Love Will Find a Way” (Big Generator) and he said it looked like a kid wrote it. His father was a conductor, and obviously he takes a lot of pride in his musical ability and, apparently, musical penmanship. When he quit Yes to start scoring films, he was having trouble sight-reading pieces that were second nature to him before, just because he was having trouble reading the music.

He asked if I read music, and I told him I did. At this point, I had to mention my experience playing “Love Will Find a Way” in my high school band. I sequenced the intro on my Mirage. There’s a string intro, then the guitar comes in by itself. I had to quickly hit “load” so the Mirage could load the bass and harmonica sounds for the rest of the song, and as the guitar played and the floppy drive went “chunk, chunk. chunk.” I was sweating bullets. He laughed at this, and said he still had an old Akai S612 sitting around somewhere. “Everything you recorded into that thing sounded like Led Zepplin.” Hmmm, I want one. I told him I had the same experience everyone does with their first sampler, recording every piece of junk in your bedroom and finding out it all sounds the same, only with 8-bit distortion.

I told him that this was a wonderful experience, and you never read this kind of stuff in typical interviews. He told me that interviews are funny: he read an interview he never did by a guy he’s never met, saying that the solo in “Owner of a Lonely Heart” was done by meticulously double-tracking the original solo up a fifth. I said I always assumed that the part was played through a Harmonizer, and he told me that was the case. I said that I couldn’t think of another example, before of since, that I’ve heard that effect used on a solo, and he said the only other time he knew of it was when he did it on a Manfred Mann album he produced a few years earlier.

At this point he went into a cabinet at the back of the room and pulled out a pair of CDs for me. One was an import live recording, and the other is called “90124”. It’s a collection of demos recorded for 90125 that “someone talked me into releasing.” In the liner notes, you could tell that he wasn’t sure who would want such a thing, but I guess he figured out that I was the dork who would want to hear it. It’s a fascinating CD and an amazing gift. It should be required listening for anyone who wants to be a producer. Here are the demos, here’s the finished CD, and you can follow the progress from one to the other. Oh, look how he took the verse from A and the chorus from B and put them together. Interesting, chord changes were subtracted, not added. Of course, many of the songs were in the 80’s hair band style of the day, which was all that was selling in the rock world at the time. But it’s a fascinating look into the craft of songwriting and producing that I plan to study.

I eventually pulled myself away from the studio once everyone else was finished. I don’t think I turned into too much of a drooling fanboy, but he did sign my well-worn copy of 90125 and I got a photo. I’m still smiling about the experience. What a great guy to share his time with me like that. He’s about to start work on three film scores next month, so I guess this is the calm before the storm. It was a great experience for any fan to have, and I thought the least I could do would be to share it online with my friends at Musicplayer. I hope some of you get at least 1/100th of the charge out of this that I got.

“It could happen to you, it could happen to me…”

- Jeff Laity

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#1151700 12/11/03 07:36 AM
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Thank you so much for sharing this great story!!!

#1151701 12/11/03 07:52 AM
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very cool!

#1151702 12/11/03 08:32 AM
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Forgot to mention: this was my third interview ever. My first was Alan Parsons, yesterday. All in all, a good week. \:\)

#1151703 12/11/03 08:38 AM
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Well, Jeffrey, I know no one who would have enjoyed that as much as you.

Well told, sounds like a great time.

- Jeff

#1151704 12/11/03 09:49 AM
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Great story. I'm a big fan of his music.
Thanks a lot, Jeff!


I am back.
#1151705 12/11/03 01:49 PM
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I second what Gulliver said. If only I could have snuck into the room, or had a copy of that CD...

I would add, Don't Look Away is a magnificent solo album.


This keyboard solo has obviously been tampered with!
#1151706 12/11/03 02:40 PM
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Quote:
“Rick Wakeman is classically trained, of course, but none of the other guys can read.”
Are you freaking kidding me? Steve Howe doesn't read music? Well, there goes my long held fundimental truth about my favorite rock guitarist.

Great story! I would love to hear "90124/90125".

#1151707 12/11/03 04:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Mark Zeger:
Quote:
“Rick Wakeman is classically trained, of course, but none of the other guys can read.”
Are you freaking kidding me? Steve Howe doesn't read music? Well, there goes my long held fundimental truth about my favorite rock guitarist.

Great story! I would love to hear "90124/90125".
I've heard Steve in interviews say that he records everything he does because he can't read music.


There are no stupid questions but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots!
#1151708 12/11/03 04:35 PM
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Great story. I'm a fan of Rabin and Horn. Dang! this also shattered one long held assumptions about one of my favorite rock bassists Chris Squire. Dang!


RobT

Famous Musical Quotes: "I would rather play Chiquita Banana and have my swimming pool than play Bach and starve" - Xavier Cugat
#1151709 12/11/03 05:04 PM
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What an amazing story!!!

I'm going to copy it over to
Jordan Rudess's forum.

Thank you so much for sharing it!

FL
http://www.franklucas.net


"Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends. We're so glad you could attend. Come inside, come inside."
#1151710 12/11/03 05:13 PM
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Love the story Jeff! I too am a huge Trevor Horn fan and it was nice to hear Trevor Rabin's bits about him. \:\)
Perhaps I missed it but where is TASCAM going to publish these interviews?
- DJDM

#1151711 12/11/03 05:23 PM
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Thanks! I loved the story and was amazed as well about the non-reading Yes men. It's really interesting to me then how they crafted that music. That's very important information.


All the best,

Henry Robinett
#1151712 12/11/03 06:51 PM
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I'm amzed you guys are all so shocked by Yes not being music readers.

A pal of mine used to work with Jon Anderson. The way he "wrote" was by humming themes into a microcassette recorder and having by friend transcribe the hums. Howe's style doesn't sound at all like he was playing a written part, to me anyway.

Yes is just a well-rehearsed band that's also relied a lot on editing over the years. When I was young, I marveled at the way songs like "Heart of the Sunrise" seemed to jump around from theme to theme so easily, until I (later) realized that they were literally splicing sections of music from one session to another and so on. It doesn't make the music any less cool, though!

- Jeff

#1151713 12/11/03 07:00 PM
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Thank you for sharing this wonderful story! Indeed - what a shock that Steve Howe and Chris Squire don't read!!

Sort of reminds me of my personal hero Gene Purling. Gene is generally regarded as the most brilliant jazz vocal arranger of all time - he's the guy that arranged the version of "A Nightingale Sing in Berkley Square" performed by the Manhattan Transfer. Amazingly, he knows NOTHING about music theory!! He just plunks around at the piano until he finds something he likes!!

Kirk


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#1151714 12/11/03 09:45 PM
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VERY cool, Jeff! Thanks for sharing that story with us. \:\)

#1151715 12/11/03 10:33 PM
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Hey, Phait!
You are in a good company. ;\)


I am back.
#1151716 12/11/03 11:12 PM
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Synthetic: Thanks a lot for sharing a great story!

BTW - Tony Kaye was classically trained, even thinking about becoming a concert pianist at one time. So I guess he can read music.

#1151717 12/11/03 11:57 PM
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Thanks a lot, great article!

And now I can honestly say that I read better than Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Alan White and Jon Anderson ! (Note to self: include in CV ;\) )

/Mats



What do we want? Procrastination!
When do we want it? Later!
#1151718 12/12/03 12:30 AM
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Great story. Thanks for sharing it with us.
Although I'm suprised Steve Howe doesn't read, I'm not shocked about it.

I think if you asked the same question from the guys in Genesis, & other prog rockers, you'd get the same answer (I'm assuming Tony Banks reads, but maybe he doesn't)
What difference does it make?

I read music, but can't remember the last time I learned a tune from sheet music.


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#1151719 12/12/03 04:58 AM
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Thanks all. \:\) I need to find a tiny frame for my signed CD copy. Meeting Trevor was a big kick in the pants to get writing again. He asked about me a few times, "Do you play?" "Can you read music?" So now I'm inspired to record 90126. \:\) Gotta hang the CD somewhere I can see it, so I stop dorking around with synth programming and record some actual music.

DJDM- the interview is for a video at NAMM. We might put parts of it on the web site. But it will all be "boring product stuff", all of the Yes talk was off-camera.

Basil- I agree, Don't Look Away is a great album. I even like Talk and Union. It sounds like he wants to record another solo album, but keeps getting more film scoring gigs. I guess they're tough to turn down.

Over The Edge- I'm actually a little worried that this story would get passed around and I'd get sued for saying something I shouldn't have. By all means, show it to anyone who would be interested. I edited out anything I thought I shouldn't print. But if this post ever goes away, that's why.

#1151720 12/12/03 02:26 PM
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Awesome, dude! Thatnks for sharing! \:\) \:\)


Check out my band's site at:
The Key Components!
#1151721 12/12/03 07:51 PM
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What's cool is they were able to perform it live. \:\)

Quote:
Originally posted by Jeff Da Weasel:
Yes is just a well-rehearsed band that's also relied a lot on editing over the years. When I was young, I marveled at the way songs like "Heart of the Sunrise" seemed to jump around from theme to theme so easily, until I (later) realized that they were literally splicing sections of music from one session to another and so on. It doesn't make the music any less cool, though!
- Jeff
Synthetic, thanks for sharing!


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#1151722 12/12/03 10:10 PM
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Synthetic, Thanks a million.

We are so fortunate to hang here


Take Care,

George Hamilton
Yamaha US
#1151723 12/12/03 10:10 PM
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I hate it when I hit the back button twice

Errrrgh


Take Care,

George Hamilton
Yamaha US
#1151724 12/13/03 04:09 AM
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I prefer Yes with Trevor Rabin.
90125, Big Generator and Talk are pretty cool.
Without him: Fragile.

The latest Yes albums are pretty boring. I buy every release, but just very few song are worth.


Eng. Al
#1151725 12/13/03 04:31 AM
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The comment about not reading reminds me of a joke told me by a friend that I play with regularly (a well-known ex-Nashville Christian artist).

How do you get a session player to turn down?

Ans: Put sheet music in front of him.


Casio PX-5S, Korg Kronos 61, Omnisphere 2, Ableton Live, LaunchKey 25, 2M cables
#1151726 12/13/03 10:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Alécio Costa - Brazil:
I prefer Yes with Trevor Rabin.
90125, Big Generator and Talk are pretty cool.
Without him: Fragile.

The latest Yes albums are pretty boring. I buy every release, but just very few song are worth.
Sorry Alecio, "without him", in addition to Fragile, cool albums are: Close To The Edge, Relayer, Going For The One, Drama... Oh, and how about TFTTO? ;\)


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#1151727 12/13/03 12:05 PM
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Jeff, thanks for sharing. It sounds like you had a great time! \:\)

Best,

Geoff


My Blue Someday appears on Apple Music | Spotify | YouTube | Amazon
#1151728 12/13/03 08:03 PM
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If anyone's interested, I just noticed that 90124, the live CD and a few other CDs are on Amazon.com.

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