North-East-raised Alan White talks to Mick Burgess about mega-band Yes visiting Tyneside
On April 29 you play at Newcastle City Hall. Being a North-East lad, that's almost your home town show. You must've played there a fair few times over the years?
It'll be quite nostalgic for me. We have played there a couple of times recently with Yes, but we played there many times in the 1970s. I've also done a couple of shows with Lindisfarne at Christmas time. I love playing at the City Hall. The atmosphere is great and the whole theatre is wonderful.
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Will you be catching up with any old friends again while you're here?
I was in touch with one of the lads who used to be in The Downbeats with me years ago. He wants to get the band together so we might get together sometime. It should great seeing them again.
You now live in Newcastle, Washington, USA. When did you move there?
I've been living in America for many years now. I've been married to my wife for 34 years in May and I've had a house in the Seattle area since then, so it's been quite a while and I have this nice place overlooking a lake.
What do you miss the most about the North-East?
I used to like Newcastle Exhibition beer, that was my favourite drink but I think it's the people in general that I miss the most. I grew up around Ferryhill and it hasn't really changed that much, but all the pit heaps have gone and have been replaced with grass, but the people are still the same. I still see a couple of people I used to go to school with at Dean Bank School as a young kid. I had a request to come back to the school two or three years ago, where they wanted people who'd gone on to be successful to come and do a talk to the kids. I wasn't able to do it back then, but I think it'd be quite interesting so I might still do that in the future. It'd be a lot of fun to go back and see what it's like now.
As a Northerner you must have a love of football?
My dad was a big fan of Sunderland and I remember going to Roker Park when I was nine or ten years old. I remember being in the stand where there was no seats and I watched the whole match without ever touching the ground. None of the teams up in the North are doing too well at the moment. That's such a shame. The region deserves so much more because the fans are so passionate. I still get to watch matches occasionally on the television, but haven't been to a game in quite some time.
You'll be performing your Drama and Fragile albums in their entirety. Why did you decide to pick these two for the full performance treatment?
We have done Fragile before in the past few years and that was very popular, but we've never actually done Drama. We've all been rehearsing Drama at the moment and we've had a bit of a shock and have been thinking what the hell have we done. There's some pretty dynamic, fast playing on there so it's taken a bit of work to relearn some songs.
What about the rest of the set?
I think Going For The One and Time and a Word could be in there too. We might also do Soon from Relayer and Owner of A Lonely Heart which was a big hit for us.
Since the last time we saw you in Newcastle we have sadly lost Chris Squire.
It was a big shock. It didn't take long at all, it was only about six weeks after he told me and the band that he passed away. He told me on the phone that he’d need six weeks to get over it and he'd be back on the road with the band. I think he was on the verge of beating the leukaemia, but his heart gave out. Chris started the band and he's been there right through every different line-up. He said to us regardless of what happened to him, we had to keep the band going.
Billy Sherwood, who Chris recommended as his replacement, has a long association with the band, did that make the transition as smooth as it could be under the circumstances?
Yes, Billy has been connected with Yes for more than 20 years and I've worked with him on other projects over the years so I've known him quite some time. That's certainly made him coming into the band fairly seamless.
- Yes play Newcastle City Hall on Friday, April 29