MICK Burgess chats to Geoff Downes of Yes ahead of their 50th anniversary tour, including a show at The Sage

You're embarking on a 10 date UK tour are you looking forward to it?

I am looking forward to it. It`s been a while since we toured the UK and it`s 50 years since we started as a band so it`s quite a milestone for us and the fact that we`ll be out there and celebrating it on home turf is even better.

The tour is a celebration of 50 years of Yes. In recent tours you`ve played the likes of Close To The Edge and Drama in their entirety. How are you going to top that for this tour?

It's going to be an interesting show. We`ll be doing a potted history of Yes. We'll try to cover as many of the albums as we can and we'll be doing two sides from Tales From Topographic Oceans too so for Yes fans it`s going to be a monumental show.

Yes are renowned for their impressive stage shows. What do you have lined up for this tour?

When they first took Tales out on tour in '74 or '75 the production was as important as the music in many respects. They had the huge Roger Dean mushrooms with fibreglass things popping up everywhere so it was very much a spectacle. I think that we've worked hard on the production to try to recreate that spectacle albeit using modern techniques and technology. I think from the response we've had earlier in the tour from the fans, it really does work.

There's been many members through the ranks of the band over the years. Are you planning on any former members making guest appearances over the course of the tour?

Tony Kaye, the original keyboard player, will be joining us on most of the dates this year. I think Trevor Horn may join us on a few dates and maybe Patrick Moratz, who played on Relayer, might make a few appearances too. It's going to make this 50th anniversary tour something a bit special.

You first joined in 1980. How did you end up joining Yes?

It was a totally unexpected chain of events that lead to me joining. We had the same management as Yes at that time. Their keyboard player and vocalist had moved on and I suppose it was a fortuitous encounter for me and Trevor Horn. Although we both came from a more Pop background in The Buggles we were both musicians at heart and Trevor was a great bass player and The Buggles was very keyboard orientated so to us it wasn't really that weird but at the same time it was awe inspiring to stand on the stage with these guys who I'd been following from day one.

Stepping into the shoes of Rick Wakeman must have been a daunting task. How did you prepare for that?

It was quite daunting as he was a big part of yes, but so was his predecessor Tony Kaye. I thought Tony Kaye was a more gritty down to earth keyboard player but Rick Wakeman was much more ornate and decorous in his style but I think I borrowed a bit from both of them.

You continued your successful collaboration going with Steve Howe and formed Asia. How did Asia end up being put together?

I got together with Steve in Asia and that was a relief after the Yes split. We had a great understanding of how guitar and keyboards worked together. Chris and Alan had gone off to work with Jimmy Page in XYZ and Steve was looking for something at the time and John Wetton was hovering around the management`s office at the time and Steve and John got together and started writing some stuff and Steve brought me into it and then Carl Palmer came along and that was really how Asia got together in the first place. So, from being in Yes the previous year we forged on with a new band.

The debut album was No.1 in America for 9 weeks and was the biggest selling album of the year. Did that success take you by surprise?

It was a very successful time for us. It took us all by surprise really. We knew we had a pretty good album but we didn't know it'd snowball and go off the radar like it did. It was incredible. We were originally booked to play 1500 to 2000 seater venues but a few weeks later we were playing arenas. It moved very, very quickly from being just a bunch of guys working together in a studio in London to being top of the charts in America.

With this year being the 50th anniversary of Yes, is that all you will be focussing on or do you have time to squeeze anything else in?

We'll be spending a lot of time out on the road but we will be fitting in some writing at some point too. We'll be in The States in June and July so after that we'll work on some new Yes material and hopefully will also be able to do something with Asia too in the Autumn.

  •  Yes perform their 50th Anniversary show at The Sage, Gateshead on Sunday, March 18. Ticket office 0191 443 4661 or go to http://www.sagegateshead.com