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Geoff Downes on DBA3 – Skyscraper Souls – 306

DBA3 - Skyscraper Souls
DBA3 – Skyscraper Souls

Produced by Jeffrey Crecelius, Michel Arsenault, Wayne Hall, Preston Frazier and Bill Govier.

We managed to speak to Geoff Downes about his other new release – The Downes Braide Association’s DBA3 – Skyscraper Souls. Mark and I go into a lot of detail about the album and then ask Geoff some questions about its construction and influences.

There’s also time for a rather mischievous Yes and ARW 2 pence so something for everyone, we hope!

  • Is this DBA album a continuation of or a revolution from the last?
  • Did Geoff ever meet any of the contributors?
  • What is the writing process like?
Chris Braide and Geoff Downes
Chris Braide and Geoff Downes

Listen to the episode then let us know what you think!

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Theme music

The music I use is the last movement of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. This has been used as introduction music at many Yes concerts. My theme music is not take from a live concert – I put it together from the following two creative commons sources: thanvannispen and

13 replies on “Geoff Downes on DBA3 – Skyscraper Souls – 306”

So, you two are REALLY optimistic about some forthcoming ARW studio album… I’ll believe it when I see – or hear – it.

…and that’s about all, I guess…

…well, yes, YES should be working on a suitably ‘proggy’ studio album – they are, after all, pretty much the originators of the form. And I will continue to expect them to do just such a thing!

Great episode chaps. Kevin just a small point, you say that you are going only to one Yes gig next year? Can I just add that you really need to go to the Sunday show in London, the fan day…there won’t be another day like it….BE THERE…..just saying ok. More info soon.


A great show again guys. You mentioned the song ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’ as having a Yes connection – produced by Trevor Horn. But it also has a second Yes connection – Steve Howe plays acoustic guitar on it. I’ve always really liked that song, pop with prog elements, and that classic Trevor Horn production at its best. I can’t wait to hear DBA3 after the positive reviews it’s getting. It’s also good to see Geoff getting more good publicity than bad these days!

Oh! I didn’t know Steve was on it!! That makes it even more interesting! DBA3 is definitely worth a go. Thanks Denis!

Thought provoking episode. To my mind it all depends on what we want. Do we want a Prog Yes record, a progressive Yes record or just any old record with familiar names on the cover?

The personal, cultural, social, creative circumstances are so different 50 years on that it is impossible to imagine a Prog record being made today that is actually progressive. The genre is so steeped in nostalgia that escaping the gravity of the great 60s and 70s canon, being truly innovative and still satisfying the people who just want more of what they know is nigh on impossible.

I have more than enough Prog Rock albums (doesn’t stop me buying more though with ever diminishing returns) but I can never have enough progressive rock records because I don’t think the genre is anywhere near spent creatively.

Where I disagree with the direction of your discussion (if I understood you correctly) is the notion that AWR might produce the more artistically credible Prog record. If either band is going to make a record geared 100% for what they think are the demands of the marketplace it is ARW. Their problem is that musicians in their 60s and 70s, who don’t demonstrate a whole lot of interest in contemporary music, are probably not the best judges of what the market wants. A record like that will miss the mark by a million miles. If they would allow someone a little younger and hungrier to produce them and bring in new ideas then it might be possible but who is Trevor Rabin going to cede that kind of power to?

As for a straight up Prog album, Trevor Rabin is not a progressive artist. He does not pretend to be. He is a technically brilliant “kerching” musician, composer and producer. The king of stuff that sounds like top quality library music. Rick Wakeman is a brilliant player too but also highly conservative. The last time Jon Anderson really surprised me was with Change We Must and that’s got to be the best part of 25 years ago. With that track record ARW would have real trouble turning in a record that sounds authentically like main sequence Yes without pushing Rick and the rhythm section to the front of the music and letting them fly. That probably wont happen either.

So this line up suggests to me that it wont be a progressive record and it wont be a Prog Yes record. If they try all out for the market place then it will probably come out sounding like a cross between The Living Tree and the radio friendly end of the Journey / Asia thing. That ship gone sailed. There is no significant commercial platform for new music in that style (especially under the flag of a new band/brand name that is far from established) but it is hard to imagine those three musicians coming up with anything else that is close to Prog in the sense that most people understand it.

Of course they could just let Yes be Yes and for ARW to stick to what Rabin does best, tour complete performances of 90125* with other Rabin-era material and maybe Roundabout tacked on the end. That will sell a lot tickets in America and it would be artistically honest too.

As for Yes, I thought Fly From Here was a very progressive record to the extent that although it had nostalgic elements, I didn’t feel I had heard more or less the same thing done better in the past. I go back to that record a lot as it still reveals new things on each listen.

Heaven and Earth sounds like a record made on the run out of whatever was lying around. If they had wanted to make a cynical for-the-market album that could get Yes ticket buyers to buy a new album then it wouldn’t have sounded anything like that. It would probably have to sound like Starcastle and I can’t see Steve Howe wasting valuable time and creative energy on anything of that nature.

They do not really need an album to keep touring but I think there are at least three people in this line-up with something to prove and with significant chunks of their careers still ahead of them. I reckon the existence of ARW will push them to come up with something that can at very least stand up next to the better parts of The Ladder and Magnification and maybe even some of the 70s music.

* 90125 has forward thinking elements but those had little or nothing to do with the band. Those aspects had more in common with the Frankie, Art of Noise and Grace Jones records that came out of the same house. Slave To The Rhythm is actually really progressive album, it has a concept running it through it and even has some Prog elements in the exact same way that Moroder fused Neu! and Tangerine Dream with soul to produce I Feel Love.

Nice read Ian, but can the youngsters get Steve to want this? Billy answers questions about a new album like he is clueless as to the prospect. And Steve says they cannot do another CTTE. ( But that’s like saying Beethoven should’ve stopped at the third symphony. ) Maybe we should kidnap them in Steve’s house until they send the new album out.

At first I agreed with Kevin and Mark’s answers to the 2 pence questions. But then I thought the answers should be the opposite! Q1 was something like “should Yes and ARW attempt to do a prog record?” You both said “Yes.” But I think not, as in no they should not *attempt* to make one, they should make one! Of course, that leaves the thornier issue of whether they can do it or not. Like Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try.” Q2 similarly asked if the fans should stop expecting prog albums from Yes and ARW. You both said “no.” But, I think the fans should stop expecting them to make prog albums and instead expect them to make the best albums they can and let the prog fall where it may!

As for the DBA segment, what stuck me was that Geoff Downes’ comments on most of his tracks was that he didn’t know what Chris B. would be able to do with it: it was a Buggles song, it was a solo piano piece, it was too poppy. Yet the songs turned out fine. Sounds like Geoff was just sending Chris B. whatever he had at hand to see what could be done with it. Rather lazy on Geoff’s part. I think it’s fine to begin by trading files online, but after they are worked on a bit, get together and work the songs in person. That was also the problem with Invention of Knowledge, even though it came out well in the end.

Interesting episode more or less.

Firstly, Progressive Rock is not about a linear progression from one album to the next. It is all about the musical form where a rock piece progress in itself to more free forms a la jazz.
The two questions you posed were: Should Yes make prog rock? In my opinion they should just make the music they compose. Que sera sera. I’d not want them to be forced to produce music by numbers. That’s why the Howe variant hasn’t done anything worth much other than “Awaken” since Relayer. Drama was really good but it’s not Prog. They tried too hard to recreate something when the chemistry had gone. The Ladder and Keys are just pastiche. 90125 was a game changer, and Talk etc followed that new direction.
Yes fans should not expect another CTTE or Tales. That would need Jon Chris and Steve to get back together and be at their best. Great musicians/ composers move on. For better or worse. For the latter listen to Bruckner, the former, Beethoven, Mahler and Schoenberg.
As regards the new Geoff Downes album, your reviews were interesting. I was put off by most of the comments. Poetry readings? 18 min pop songs? Above all any inclusion of the awful whining of tone-deaf warbling of Mark Almond. But hey Kevin, you like Queen and compared it to them, so no surprise there. Sounds like a car crash of an album, especially compounded by Downes’ lack lustre explanation of the process. Not even in the studio together. Downes spoke of The Buggles as if it was a band but it was a studio thing. Trevor Horn was the genius and creator.

Should Yes do this, that, or the other? How arrogant to think we can tell the members of Yes/ARW what they should do!

OK, that’s a bit tongue in cheek – I guess what we really mean is do we thing we would like the result IF Yes attempted another prog album.

But I think everyone (with the exception of Jeremy North above) has missed the point. Yes should make whatever music they want to make – indeed they should ignore what their fans want or expect. The whole point about those albums which have made Yes the “greatest progressive rock band in the world” is that they were going in previously unexplored directions. And the development is far from linear. Relayer was not progression from TFTO, it was a progression in a different direction from CTTE. Similarly GFTO (to me) goes in another direction yet again.
I doesn’t always work – and more often than not albums which are now hailed as great were often dismissed at the time (TFTO was overblown and overindulgent, Drama – well it had the Buggles for goodness sake, 90125 is absolutely not what Yes fans expected or wanted.)

I posit that Yes’s most influential and artistically successful works have been produced in spite of fans’ and critics’ expectations rather than because of them.

Whilst I’d love them to produce new material of the quality (of composition) of earlier eras, I think that is highly unlikely. Virtually all rock bands produce their best stuff when young, idealistic, and hungry (for food, if not fame). The same goes for many classical composers – the really innovative stuff is produced early on in life. I suspect we will not get anything truly new and inspirational from Yes unless they skip the 40 somethings and start replacing them with 20 somethings.

Thanks Tim for rounding out my point. I’d meant to mention that Yes has always moved on. Look at the rapid progression from their eponymous first album to TYA only a couple of years later …
I don’t concur with your comment on Classical composers though. I can’t think of any who produced their best works while they were young. I think that is the nature of the genre. Maturity brings depth. Beethoven’s late works, the string quartets, Missa Solemnis and Ninth symphony are sublime, way beyond his early compositions. The same can be said of all of the great composers.
However not to detract from your main idea that the energy and risk taking of young rock musicians is something they rarely if ever sustain into their later work.
My disappointment with Yes is that they’ve not produced anything sublime, interesting or profound which their maturity should bring with it.
They are too concerned with their egos, band politics and the route to easy money.

Interesting thread.

The difference for me between classical composers and pop / rock people is that they would be far less aware of their body of work being of a-piece.

The greats of the classical canon also didn’t for the most part write symphony number 6 thinking “5 was a big hit on the Late Romantic charts so maybe I should do more of that and throw in a something that will be good for the French market”.

Mahler was as good as unrecognised in his lifetime (except as a conductor). I suspect his output might have been a lot different if he was taking a large number of people with him from symphony to symphony. He would at very least have self-plagarised a hell of a lot less! As it was it seems he sat down with a clean slate most summers and tried to summon up a big new idea from nothing. No real sense of there being a continuous project yet if he isn’t the most performed symphonic composer in the world today then he must be in the top three. It’s the equivalent of Zeppelin self releasing most of their albums on cassette, playing some short tours to general indifference and only one or two of their records getting much of a hearing until they have all passed away.

Also the likes of Schoenberg didn’t stop being Schoenberg because they got some terrible reviews. If anything it emboldened them to fight conservative artistic instincts. Rock people rarely ignore critics and the public and still manage to summon up long careers. Or any career at all.

We’ve yet to discover a rock artist of major importance with a catalogue the size of Mahler’s that has gone more or less entirely unrecognised in their life time. You could throw Nick Drake into the equation but two albums is not a body of work. Drake’s status as a major icon reminds me of Stewart Lee’s complaint about the enduring sainthood of Bill Hicks. The gist being that it is easy to have a brilliant and unflawed creative history if you are only being judged on a couple of hours of material and you never get old.

In terms of Rock musicians who have tried to keep moving forward creatively into their 60s and 70s and continued to put out consistent work that isn’t just crowd-pleasing nostalgia then I would maybe throw Peter Hammill into the conversation. Struggling for too many other examples though. Leonard Cohen achieved that artistic renaissance and built a far bigger touring business in his old age than he enjoyed at a younger ago. Even if he was inspired initially more by having most of is money stolen than by art!

Coming up a band who have managed to do this might be impossible. I have only got one in mind. King Crimson.

OK. I’ll retract my attempt to draw parallels with the classical composers. I was working on the basis many died young anyway – and I’ve never appreciated Beethoven 9 as much as the other symphonies (including the less acclaimed even numbered ones)

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