Interview Jon Anderson

The Living Tree stands for Mother Earth, for nature and what we do with it”

(March 2011, Text by Martien Koolen, edited by Peter Willemsen. pictures by Henri Strik)

The Living Tree (see review) is an album by Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman both previously members of progressive rock band Yes. The album was currently only available at dates on their UK-tour in 2010, but it can now be bought from the Gonzo Multimedia online store and in common music stores of course. When I was asked to have an interview with Jon Anderson I didn't hesitate a single moment for I'm a huge Yes-fan and Jon is one of my favourite singers. So on a Sunday evening I rang up Jon in California and we had the following conversation.

Well, Jon, who came up with the idea for the album called The Living Tree?

Jon Anderson: “Actually we both came up with ideas for a new album and so we created The Living Tree together. It's our first album we made together as a musical duo.”

The Living Tree is a concept album. What is the theme and where did you get your inspiration from?

“Well, actually it's a concept album and the world is my inspiration. The Living Tree stands for Mother Earth, for nature and what we do with it. We should wake up and stop destroying our beautiful planet. As you probably know I have been through near death moments a few years ago and so I became more connected to the Garden. My voice was gone and I couldn't sing for more than six months, so I painted and listened and I watched everything around me. The title track comes from that period of time, the time I was recuperating. We all are Mother Earth, you know; we have to take care of our environment.”

The song 23/24/11 was inspired by the war in Afghanistan, am I right?

“Yes, you are, absolutely. The war in Afghanistan is a very dark one. Our soldiers who come back from that war are all mentally hurt and they can't function in their normal lives anymore. Why do we have US-forces in a country so far away? It's becoming clear that this is going to be an endless war. The iron fist doesn't work with the Taliban; they already destroyed the Russian army, so what's the point? Can we bring democracy to Afghanistan by means of war? It's really difficult. Look what's happening in Egypt; people protesting and demanding better rights and that's good. People in Egypt also have a right to a good life, so the change is good, but not the fighting. What's happening now in the Arab world shows the power of the internet. If it were not for Facebook, MySpace or WikiLeaks these things would not be happening in Tunisia and Egypt. So, WikiLeaks is a good thing although the American government tries everything to remove those WikiLeaks-files from the internet. They even want to accuse the man behind WikiLeaks, so this obviously is important stuff. All those long term leaders in the Arab world are so corrupt and they also abuse religion to reach their goals. I have a new motto lately; it's from Ghandi one of my mentors who said 'God has no religion' and that is what it is.”

The Living Tree is a rather relaxed and quiet album without electric guitars and bombastic musical pieces. Do you think that die-hard Yes-fans will also enjoy this album?

“This album is for all people who love great music and that's not only for Yes-fans, of course. At the moment I'm working on a 23-minute piece of music in the vein of the old Yes-music. I love creating music with Rick, with Vangelis or with the other guys from Yes. I love it all. However, I'm singing for myself and I hope that other people feel the same about the music. This music of The Living Tree is perfect to sing on stage on many levels. Rick and I both feel very blessed to perform this music.”

I heard some rumours about a tour with you Rick and Trevor Rabin. Is that correct?

“As you probably know I loved the albums we did with Trevor like Talk and Big Generator. I really love Trevor and all the work he has done so far. We'll get together to write some new music and thereafter we intend to go on tour with these new songs and of course we will also perform some Yes classics. We'll do a try out of a month and then, if it works, we'll also perform some gigs in Europe and especially in The Netherlands as I really love your country. Dutch people are open, honest and they always loved our music.”

In my opinion your voice sounds better than ever on the Living Tree. Do you agree?

“Thank you very much. Yes, the singing feels good again. My voice is in a very good shape at the moment and I'm really looking forward to be on the road again.”

I think the art work of Mark Wilkinson is simple but great. What's your opinion?

“Yes, I agree on that. I told Mark to search for a real strong looking tree and add beautiful colours so that the tree looks brightly shining red and gold. The tree also looks very much alive and powerful with lots of energy. I really like Mark's design.”

Of course I cannot leave out a question about Yes, so here it is...What is your favourite Yes album?

“It's still Close To The Edge as that particular album broke musical boundaries. The album caused a revolution in music, especially the twenty-minute title track was something that was never done before and many people didn't get it at the time. Of course we went on from there with other slightly experimental albums like Tales From Topographic Oceans and Relayer, but Close To The Edge was the beginning of it all. That's why I still love that album. Some time ago I met a young bass player who thanked me for Tales From Topographic Oceans as he simply adored that album. So you see I think we did something good at the time with those albums.”

However, the press wasn't very impressed with Tales. They regarded it as pompous, over the top and too demanding.

“Yes, I know, but the album sold rather well and now those critics have rather other opinions I think...”

I bought Tales when I was fourteen and I loved it right from the start.

“That's truly amazing, thank you. I hope to see you in The Netherlands when we come and play songs from The Living Tree and some Yes-classics as well.”

I'm looking forward to it. Thank you for your time and for answering my questions

“It was a pleasure, God bless.”

More info about Jon Anderson on the Internet:
       review 'The Living Tree'

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