Why Steve Howe Held Yes Back From Making New Albums
Steve Howe said he tried to prevent Yes from making new albums over the past decade because he wasn’t convinced they had what it took.
But with the success of 2021’s The Quest and the upcoming 23rd LP, Mirror to the Sky, the guitarist noted that he and his bandmates were pleased with the current lineup’s energy and work ethic.
“It’s a bit like a gauntlet that gets handed on to the next collective … to get their heads around not only playing retrospective Yes music impeccably well but also … relevant new music,” Howe told The Strange Brew in a recent interview. “I wasn’t fully convinced of that before the latter 2010s. I wasn’t sure. I was always holding Yes back, saying, ‘Well, look, until we’ve got the songs, it’s no good really making a record because what you need is songs.’
“If anybody says, ‘Oh, why don’t you do a 20-minute piece?’ I just say, ‘Look, can you just not say that? When we get a 20-minute piece, we’ll have one.’ But we’re not trying to get that. What we’re trying to do is to work on our songs individually as really beautiful things that we can create together and get everybody involved.”
He added that Yes' latest lineup is “carrying on a flag of a band. So, in lots of ways, we are still working with everybody who’s ever been in Yes in one respect or another, in different degrees, with different arms out from different eras. … We are, in a way, an incarnation of what Yes needs to be and can be. And that’s the thing. ‘Need’ is one word but … this is the Yes that can exist and we’re very pleased.”
Looking back at the band’s multiple personnel changes over the decades, Howe said, “Yes is a kind of bulldozer [when] you look at the ’70s and how often we’d change members, and then we look at the ‘80s and how different that was … the way that we’ve managed to cope over the years.
“When I wasn’t there, they still found ways of getting over the next hurdle. … Yes get over problems. We continue because there is a sort of inner flame of Yes that nobody holds. … There has to be something going on even if I’m not there, even if so-and-so’s not there.”
Mirror to the Sky will be released on May 19. The band was forced to abandon a European and U.K. tour due to problems with acquiring insurance but plans to return to the road in 2024.