It’s been more than two decades since guitarist Trevor Rabin stepped on stage as a member of Yes, touring with the legendary progressive rock group in support of their 1994 album Talk
. That album presented what would be the final new music heard from that particular Yes lineup. Featuring singer Jon Anderson, Rabin, bassist Chris Squire, keyboardist Tony Kaye and drummer Alan White, that incarnation was known as the “90125
era” and also sometimes referred to as Yes-West.
Rabin departed from the group at the conclusion of the touring for the album and relatively quickly turned his attention to composing music for film.
“When I left the band, I thought, ‘Well, here’s the perfect kind of vehicle,’” Rabin recalls during a recent phone conversation. “It was for quasi-classically minded people or people who want to go that way, it was a great platform for that. That’s how I got into film scoring and I thought, ’Well, I’m kind of reasonably okay with technical [stuff].’ The Talk
album was the first digital album, so I’m really kind of into all of that nonsense. I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to that. Film scoring was a pretty natural thing for me.”
Looking at his body of post-Yes film scoring work, beginning with the Steven Seagal film The Glimmer Man
in 1996, he made what feels like an almost seamless transition into the world of movies. He formed an important alliance when he worked on his next film, Con Air
, which was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. The collaboration worked particularly well, and Bruckheimer kept Rabin very busy, bringing him back to work on Armageddon
and Enemy of the State
. To date, Rabin has worked on 13 Bruckheimer movies.
“The incredible thing about Bruckheimer, I mean, I know a lot of people in Hollywood looked at him as being the kind of popcorn blockbuster producer,” Rabin says. “He’s the producer, but Jerry would be an incredible director. He’s so talented and he doesn’t get credit for it. Because you know, it’s the guy on the top of the hill who everyone wants to smack down. I think critically, he hasn’t been given the credit he deserves. He’s a brilliant guy and gracious to the extreme and incredibly great to work with. I did 13 films with him and not once can I say….I was often, not frustrated, but my stomach was turning, because I was going, ‘How am I going to get this done in time and he’s asking for the impossible.’ But you know, it was always for the right reason and he’s a very generous and gracious producer.”
One of Rabin’s most memorable experiences with Bruckheimer came when the pair worked on Remember the Titans
with director Boaz Yakin.
“I wrote that theme and came to him….it’s funny, when I first wrote the theme for Titans
, Jerry Bruckheimer listened and said, ‘Uh, I’m not sure about that.’ And I said, ‘Jerry, but it fits what [this is about],’ and I was so devastated,” he recalls. “I said, ‘I don’t know what you want,’ and he said, ‘Oh, you know what to do’ and he walked out! I was like, ‘What is that?’ The funny thing is, four days later, he walked in and I played the new theme and I was ecstatic about it, and I think I did thank him for throwing out the first one, which I’ve used subsequently by the way. [Laughs] And that [theme] was used for Obama’s inauguration and every Olympics, they use Titans
, and it has a lot of legs from that point of view. I was just very happy melodically, and I enjoyed the orchestration. I really enjoyed doing that film.”
As Rabin shares, he wrestled with capturing the now legendary theme for Titans
, recording it twice, which is “not something the studios like.”
“I worked with John Williams’ engineer and he said, ‘Oh, well let me do this,’ and I said, ‘Well, I don’t work that way.’ He said ‘Trust me,’ so I did trust him, and I just let it go and at the end of it, it was like, ‘That’s not doing what I want it to do’ and I actually re-recorded the whole thing. But the great thing about Bruckheimer is that he said, ‘Look, you know what you want, just do it again.’ There was no kind of repercussions or anything, and we did it again. I think the other movie melodically where I thought, ‘Wow, I’m happy with that,’ was with Armageddon
. Bruckheimer’s brief was, ‘Write the world anthem for me. That’s what we’re going to need on this.’ And it was a very specific kind of brief. I understood what he meant. I was quite happy with that.”
That happiness has extended across nearly 20 years and over 40 films. Even though Rabin wasn’t working in a traditional band setting, he found a number of parallels — and the money was really good too.
“I’m going to be a thousand percent honest with you — the scoring world is somewhat more lucrative than the band world — unless you’re Madonna or something,” he says. “Things were going reasonably well and I was doing a lot of Jerry Bruckheimer movies, a lot of which were blockbusters. So I was really kind of settled into the scoring thing and was on a first name basis with every orchestral musician and we’d go for dinner. So that was my band, if you like. I would be doing orchestra [stuff] every other day almost and just really started loving it. Because I thought when I got into it, well, you know, I’ve kind of studied to be a conductor and an orchestrator and stuff and I never use it. Bits and pieces here and there with Yes and other things and when I was producing, I would use it, but never really got to use it much.”
For the first time in over 20 years, he’s back on stage with two of his fellow Yes alumni, vocalist Jon Anderson and keyboardist Rick Wakeman. It’s something that progressive music fans have hoped to see for quite a long time. The trio of musicians has toured together only one time previously, 25 years ago as part of the Union
tour which brought the 90125
era of the group together with the “classic” members of Yes for one extravagant trek that Wakeman has said was always designed to expire at the end of that tour, with the members once again going their separate ways, which they did. Both Rabin and Wakeman always hoped that they would get a chance to work together again and the seeds for the idea that would become the current Anderson, Rabin & Wakeman tour (shortened to ARW) began to develop several years ago.
It was an idea that Rabin was extremely keen to pursue, but he had to work to create the necessary hole in his schedule to make it possible.
“When the thing with Rick and Jon came up, it was like, ‘Oh God, I really want to do this.’ But you know, I was in the middle of a movie and then it was like, ‘Well, I’ve got to really think about this on the next one.’ Then, I’d be ready for it and my agent would call, ‘They want you to do Get Smart
, and it’s like, ‘Oh, I really want to do that!’
That kind of thing started happening, so it took a while to kind of have the courage to go to my agents and say, ‘I’m taking a hiatus,’” Rabin admits. “They said, ‘How long?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know! You know, if this is all fun and everybody is enjoying it, forever. I don’t know! I have no idea.’ I clearly want to get back and do film, but while I’m doing this, I’m not going to try and fit in a film in between. It’s a tough thing, because I’m being offered films and the agents are calling saying, ‘So you’re definitely doing the tour? Because so and so wants to do something.’ I’ve now gotten to a point where it’s like, ‘You don’t even have to call anymore. If they call for me, I’m happy to recommend someone to you, but just [say] no on my behalf.’ Adapting to that took a little bit of discipline.”
When the new band was officially announced earlier this year, members also announced that they were planning to release new music. As they began to work on fleshing out plans for the tour, they quickly decided to put the focus on getting ready for the road.
“You know, we’ve been working on new stuff for quite a while. What I don’t want to do is rush getting it done,” Rabin says. “I’m concerned about not getting it done and playing it live because it’s a new day now, so if you play it live, you know that in 24 hours, it’s going to be on YouTube and then releasing it becomes less relevant. So it’s going to be a toss-up whether we do that or hold back on it until we’ve released it. I mean, it’s almost done, but we’re just so busy getting ready for the tour, I don’t know if [the] two [things] can be done at the same time.”
Rabin says that in the years leading up to this current reunion, members spent a lot of time talking about “ideas and concepts,” something which he says has been “invaluable to what this is.”
“[It wasn’t about] getting together and smoking a little joint and going and jamming. It wasn’t that at all. It was really thinking about what we were going to do and also thinking about not letting thinking get in the way of the natural flow of the music,” he explains. “We’ve been thinking about it for a long time. In between films for years, I’ve been writing and Jon’s been hearing the stuff and has been really, really motivated to get moving on collaborating on that and Rick too. Rick recently sent me a piece of music that’s probably 20 minutes long, and it’s just breathtaking. I really do want to get this stuff going. It’s just not ready yet.”
The tour began earlier this month, and only a few days into the touring run, Rabin was clearly enthused, offering a positive update on his Facebook page to make it clear that he was already working on making sure he would be able to carry this project forward after the tour wraps up and fulfill their plans to release new music together.
“I have to thank Jon and Rick for yanking me out of the studio to play live again,” he writes. “It's been so long. I still have some rust, but the audiences on the first two shows were so incredible, they kept me going and I'm really enjoying being out again. The production gets better every night, and I'm looking forward to playing for a while. I am passionate about scoring films, but I did just turn something cool down, as I don't want this to stop. We intend to complete what we've been working on after the tour in order to present new music, which will be all the better from the band getting so tight and together.”
Rabin’s current touring activities are something that would make his former Yes bandmate, Chris Squire, crack a smile. Even though he had moved outside of the Yes circle long ago, Squire, who passed away in June of 2015, always remained friendly with Rabin and tried to lure him back to the road and the Yes organization a number of times.
“You know, it’s quite a funny thing. Because when two guys are in a band or even close friends, if they’re off doing different things at some point and very busy with that, they might stay in contact, but it’s not...you know, they lose a bit of the contact and it becomes a little bit less frequent, if you like. That was never the case with Chris and I,” he says. “We always stayed in contact. I remember I had just finished a movie and then was rushing to finish the TNT basketball NBA theme. I finished it and sent it to Chris and didn’t hear from him.”
Squire didn’t see the email and found himself watching television one evening, and he heard something that sounded familiar as he watched the Suns play the Lakers.
“It was quite funny and I became a basketball fan from then onwards and he was always a basketball fan,” says Rabin. “But [Squire] would just always call and be in touch, and we never stopped talking. On numerous occasions since I’d left the band and was very busy doing film work, he called a number of times and said, ‘You know, I think it’s time for you to get up from your desk job and get back on the street.’ And you know, I was always a bit reluctant about, if the band’s going to be called Yes, for it to not have Jon in it. It seemed a bit strange to me. But the prime reason was that I was just so busy with what I was doing and really enjoying it. Chris put me together with two of the managers that were there during the time, but, besides that, we just remained very good friends.”
They continued to see each other “numerous times” across the years, and Rabin says that he had a flight booked every day during Squire’s last days, hoping that he could go and see his friend one more time. Squire was unable to have visitors due to the risk of infection, but Rabin remained hopeful that he would get a chance to see him — and he says that the colorful bassist was committed to the thought that he would be back on the road very soon.
“Literally, days before he passed away, he was still saying, ‘Yeah, you know, I’m really, really in bad shape, but I just can’t wait for this to pass. It’s going to take a little while, and they’ve got a lot they’re going to have to do. There’s a lot of complications, but it just makes me want to get on the road more. So I can’t wait for this to finish and get back on the road.’ He never ever had any thought that he was leaving us and wasn’t going to be on the road a month later.”
Anderson, Rabin & Wakeman,8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, Goodyear Theatre, 1201 East Market St., Akron, 330-690-2307. Tickets: $55-$500, facebook.com/goodyeartheater