Questions asked by Jon Wilde, added to Rock Realms 17th May 2012.
Legends of rock Asia are celebrating 30 years since their debut self-titled album. What better way to mark the achievement than by releasing a brand new album? Well, apparently by making the album damned good...if early listens are anything to go by.
I had the, what can only be described as honour of catching up with founder (and longest serving) member Geoff Downes to find out what keeps this Iconic British band ticking.
Hi Geoff, thanks for taking a moment to answer these questions. To the outside world Asia has a real cult status, so is there awareness as a member of the band that you are part of the continuity of that great legacy?
Geoff: That’s probably not quite how we look at it. I think we are all conscious of what we achieved back in 1982-83, which had a significant impact on rock music at the time. The early successes of the band are well documented. But we are also aware, that in order to expand this legacy, we need to further our boundaries with new music, and continue playing to support this.
Do you feel restricted by fan expectation when approaching the creation of new music, or do you allow yourself total creative freedom?
Geoff: I think it would be a mistake to try to mimic ourselves or force the process in any way in an attempt to appease people. The creation of new music enables us to embrace new directions, but undeniably it will always sound like the 4 original members who started the band. It was this chemistry that attracted our fans in the first place. I don’t think any of us feel any restrictions – it’s always been a natural evolution.
How do you go about writing an Asia song? Is there a formula or is every track different? Give us an example of how you might take a track from initial thoughts to the finished article...
Geoff: The songs have always started as small germs of ideas, which are tossed about until they develop into bigger ideas. Generally, when I am writing with John (Wetton), we usually combine 2 elements that we have come up with, namely verse, chorus or instrumental ideas, and then toss these around until we get a solid form. From then on, it’s as good as we can make it!
How does your approach to song craft in 2012 compare to, for instance, the early 1980s? What difference has the digital world made?
Geoff: I don’t believe that the art of songwriting has evolved as a result of the digital age. A song is about melody, harmony & lyrics. Sure, certain types of music are very ‘rhythm’ driven, so maybe these works can be assisted by digital means – having said that, I’m a firm believer that if you can’t sit down and play a song with an acoustic piano and/or acoustic guitar in it’s most basic form – then it’s probably more of a production than a song.
New record “XXX” looks set to be one of your finest releases since the very beginning. Did the record feel special as you were writing and recording it? What if anything discernible gives it that edge?
Geoff: We were very conscious that we wanted to raise the bar and bring out something special for the XXX Anniversary. The first album had a variety of elements that I think made it so appealing to the general public. Not saying we tried to re-create that necessarily, but we were conscious that we wanted to thank our fans, and give them something to remember for following us for 30 years!
What are your favourite moments on the album? Is your answer due to the quality of the song or the memories the track invokes?
Geoff: I think John came up with some spectacular lyrics on the album, and that helped set the different moods for each of the songs. As an album, I think it stands up well, and therefore find it difficult to pick out individual titles as favourite. However, I do feel that ‘Bury Me In Willow’ has a deep and meaningful sentiment that gives me shivers when I listen to it.
Why the title? A simple reference to 30 years in the business or something far deeper?
Geoff: XXX is not something you can use often! I think when we reformed the original band back in 2006-7, we used the XXV idea as representing the 25 years since the first album. It’s now 30, so I guess we kind of followed on from that idea. I’m hoping we’ll all still be around to see in the XXXV album and beyond!
Was there ever a master plan behind the band’s existence, or have you always existed for today rather than tomorrow?
Geoff: One of the reason bands like us were successful, was because there was NO plan! I think people mistakenly believe that a lot of great music is all thought out. The attraction of a lot of the historic British bands, I would say, is the fact that it’s randomness makes for creativity and hence creates a certain uniqueness. Of course, you think about the long term, but creativity is all about now. ‘I’ll go whichever way the wind blows” to quote a lyric from the album!
The band is now in possibly its longest period of line-up stability since inception. Is that due to you all being a lot more relaxed these days, or something else?
Geoff: Much water has passed under the bridge in 30 years. Yes, I think we’re in a much less pressure position than we were back then. It’s great that we can actually sit back and enjoy it all now, rather than sit in the goldfish bowl like we used to.
You have plenty of tour dates lined up later in the year. Anything you are particularly looking forward to?
Geoff: It’s always great fun to play around the world, so nowhere in particular. Our fan-base obviously varies in many of the countries, but it’s great to know we have a core following of all different creeds and races who appreciate our music. Also great to see some young faces in the audiences
Anything else you would like to mention?
Geoff: Many thanks to all our fans for the continued support over the years. It means a lot to us.
ASIA release their new album “XXX” on July 2nd courtesy of Frontier Records.
The band embarks on their 30th Anniversary UK Tour on December 15th at Tavistock The Wharf.
ASIA 30th Anniversary UK Tour Dates:
Tavistock The Wharf (Dec 15)
Holmfirth Picturedrome (Dec 16)
Edinburgh Queen’s Hall (Dec 17)
Salisbury City Hall (Dec 19)
Birmingham Town Hall (Dec 20)
Manchester Royal Northern College of Music (Dec 21)
London o2 Shepherds Bush Empire (Dec 22)