What have you been doing lately?
What’s the deal with you and the band Asia?
Trying to get my next album done. Things
keep getting in the way, which is nice. In
this economic climate, being too busy is not
a problem anybody should be complaining
about. My policy at the moment is to say
“yes” to everything—do as much work as
possible now, and when I think I can feed
myself for a few months, start saying “no”
to everything. I’ll just lock myself in a room,
draw the curtains, and then try to do the
album in one go. I want to go from the initial
writing stage to, “Okay, now it’s ready to put
live drums on it.” I just want to do it all in one
period. The next album should be a snapshot
of where I was in my life.
It’s an interesting and long story. There were
some problems when Geoff Downes, the
keyboard player, found it irresistible to do a
reunion tour with all the original members:
Steve Howe, John Wetton and Carl Palmer.
They wanted to celebrate the 25th anniver-
sary of that huge first album. It created an
awkward situation whereby the original guys
obviously wanted to go out and be billed as
Asia, because they are. The band who had
been playing all the Asia stuff for the previ-
week out of my life and a world of jet lag, and
another week of feeling ill once I got home. I
just couldn’t justify doing it. It was killing me. I
loved the guys to death. I really enjoyed play-
ing with them, but in the end I had to say, “You
should get an American guy who will appreci-
ate this gig, rather than the guy who is doing
it out of love or whatever.” Those guys have
been working with Mitch Perry, so I think that’s
going to be a good thing.
Have you done any tracking for the new
Not really. I have enough material to make a
new album, but I don’t want to do it that way.
What’s getting in the way?
I’ve been keeping busy doing sample replays.
The dance music guys will make a demo
and take four bars of a James Brown loop or
something like that. A lot of it is old disco
stuff or The Red Hot Chili Peppers. When
it’s time to release the record they realize
that they can’t use the actual loop from the
original record for legal reasons or financial
reasons. There are companies who recreate
those loops and get other musicians to try
and get the same tones. They basically try to
come up with a facsimile of that loop.
So they bring you in to replicate the
Yeah, I’ve done a lot of guitar and a bit
of bass. It’s been good for my disco bass
playing. [Laughing] I pretend to be a bass
player. I’ve inadvertently found myself playing on Dizzee Rascal’s latest album in a
sample replay capacity. He’s the foremost
rapper in the UK. He was approached by the
BBC. They did a thing called The Electric
Proms, where they take popular artists and
try to put them in an unusual context. The
year before they had Oasis playing with an
orchestra. For this they wanted Dizzee the
rapper to play with a rock band and a choir.
So I ended up in this band for a televised
gig with a twenty-piece string section. There
were horns, a male voice choir, and then me
just shredding and playing acoustic! I played
about five minutes of every musical style
known to man. It was a really fun gig. I think
Dizzee liked it as well and saw real potential
in doing the rap thing a little bit differently.
So, I’ve been gigging a lot with him lately.
It’s like missionary work. [laughing]
You want to do it all in one big shot.
ous ten or fifteen years, which was pretty
much the band that I was in, was kind of
Asia. They were clearly Asia, but we did it.
It split into two factions, and the band I was
playing with was renamed Asia Featuring
John Payne, which kind of works because he
had huge creative input into everything the
band had done in more recent years. If you’re
called Asia Featuring John Payne, and there’s
another Asia out there, it affects the kind of
gigs that you can get.
Photo by Harmony Gerber
Yeah. I’ve tried one way of doing an album,
which is using some tunes that I wrote nearly
twenty years ago, some tunes I wrote ten
years ago, and a couple that I wrote fairly
recently. It’s this big sprawling conglomeration of things that I’ve done over the years.
I know what it’s like to make an album that
sounds like that. I want to explore doing it
the opposite way so I can learn something
about the whole working process. It’s more
about continuity and just being able to come
up with everything in one period of time. I
find that if you can lock yourself away from
the rest of the world just for a few days,
gradually you start to go mad in all the right
ways. You start to feel more creative and
then you’re surprised at what comes out. So,
rather than planning what kind of album it’s
going to be, the plan is to lock myself away,
go slightly mad and see what comes out.
In your columns you’ve transcribed everyone from Robben Ford to Yngwie. How
does that inform your personal style?
The situation was, everyone else in that band
lived in the LA area and I lived near London,
so we’d get one-off gigs at festivals or casi-
nos. Every time there was a gig, I would have
to fly for eleven hours from London to LA to
rehearse for the gig and get all the gear sort-
ed, then maybe to fly to Philadelphia to do the
gig. Then fly back to LA so I could cash in on
my return ticket to get back to London. It was a
The core of what I do is being a kid and
listening to a lot of Cream-era Clapton,
Hendrix, Alex Harvey Band and stuff like that.
It was working out Beatles chord progres-
sions, Clapton blues licks or whatever. It’s
always been about using my ears. I’ve never
had a guitar lesson in my life.
Not one lesson?
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