Geoff Downes of YES talks Yestival 2017, Philly, and How He Defines Success

Photography by Glenn Gottlieb, courtesy of MSOPR

After newly being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this past April, progressive rock legends Yes are returning to Philly tonight for their Yestival tour at the equally historic Tower Theatre. The band has seen it all, from their start in the late sixties to now–at least twenty talented musicians have contributed to the sound and success of Yes, making it the probably the most diverse and evolved sounding bands in the history of rock. A man that needs no introduction Geoff Downes, a current member of Yes, as well as founding member of Asia, the Buggles, and many others, was kind enough to sit down with Rock On Philly ahead of their show tonight.

Rock On Philly: First things first, CONGRATS on Yes’s induction into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame! How has this experience impacted you individually and a band as a whole?

Geoff Downes: It’s been a long time [coming]. It’s made a big impact on the perception on the outside of the band, but it hasn’t changed [the band] on the inside. It’s more like earning your stripes, really.

ROP: That’s great! The band has been around for a hell of a lot long than I have been on this earth. What do you contribute as being a significant or lasting in your experience as a band that makes you guys have lasted almost 50 years?

GD: I do think the contributing factor is that the band spans all different genres and is very mixed, constantly evolving to how many people–talented people–have contributed to the success of the band, and the 20+ that have contributed over the years to the band as a whole.

ROP: Now, you guys are coming back to Philly. What can new fans and old fans expect from your live show this time around?

GD: Philly has always been  a strong area for Yes. Even from the very beginning a lot of support comes from the area. For the older fans, I think this will be a trip down memory lane, and for the younger fans, an introduction into the history of Yes. We will be playing songs across 10-15 albums and like I said, the older yes crowd will be a trip down memory lane and the younger get the history of Yes.

ROP: Do you have a favorite place that you like to come to?

GD: I like America and I particularly like the West Coast. East Coast cities like Philadelphia, New York, and, of course, Boston, are also very interesting. I think it’s very interesting that America has so many different regions, and I don’t think a lot people around the world realize just how diverse and different America is, with different views on things–not all of America is the same.


ROP: You yourself have been around the block, from being in Asia with John Wetton (RIP), your own band New Dance Orchestra, and even being in the first music video played on MTV with the Buggles. What do you contribute to your own success as an artist? How do you define success?

GD: I think it’s a lot if you have  musical talent. I have been lucky to be have been around the most talented and professional people, and consider it a privilege to  work with these people. And when you are working towards something, the same common goal, it comes out better.  I always tell people, especially young artists, that you must always be willing to give 100 percent. When you put in effort in you get something out of it. You just got to keep working at it and pushing yourself to the limit to be the best [that you can be]. I don’t think that music and what you do is much different. You put in the extra shift and give a lot and you get a lot of out it, and it shows. I think a lot of this generation is that they think getting on TV is the ultimate goal, instead of putting in the work to get there. Fame is the target, rather the outcome [of working hard].

ROP: Since you’ve probably been asked every question under the sun, what question have you not ever been asked?

GD: Probably, I think a lot of people don’t ask about how the band works inside. There have been a lot of different personalities that work with Yes and that’s the beauty of how it evolves and [keeps] working. I think we are all different – Chris [Squire] was the founding member of Yes and we all felt that his personality was a part of Yes. He had been through every single up and down, through the thick of it and all the good moments. He was very interesting and always been with Yes, and the stories and everything. A great guy go out with and be around, and of course a talented a musician most of all.

What do YOU like most about Yes? Tell us in comments below!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *