What is YAK? A band or a solo project?
Yak was a band between 1982 and 1984 - however, since 1984, the original music has been developed and more has been created by me as a ‘solo project’ - with the long term aspiration that ‘Yak’ will again once more play together as a band.
What happened to other YAK members? Do you think you will ever manage to reunite the band?
It wasn't so much that the band folded in 1984, it was more a case that the individuals migrated to different parts of the country - Robin to Northampton, John to Nottingham and Sy to London. I stayed in Essex, but moved a few inches to the right (on the map) to Asheldham - thus it was difficult to get together to play - actually we lost contact with John altogether for about 15 years before finding him again by chance in a pub!
However, this is a timely question as after a break a mere 20 years, we are on the verge of a Yak rehearsal scheduled for 21/22 May (‘05). Sy Snell (bass) failed in his attempt to negotiate a ‘weekend pass’ from the Mrs, so we will be joined by a friend of John’s - Max - on bass.
We plan to play through a few old Yak numbers and also work on some new material - the weekend will be recorded and I am confident that we will create some worthwhile material to work on as a result of getting together. We are also planning to record a Yak version of "Siberian Khatru"!
Why did you choose to record the album all alone instead recruiting any musicians? Just a matter of budget or a precise choice?
This is really an issue of time and of course money! I work in an office and when at home most of my time is spent helping my partner Fiona (who incidentally has just been selected to run the marathon for Great Britain!) look after all our rescued animals - of which there are about 250 - see www.towerhillstables.com for all the details - consequently my time for music is limited to just a few minutes each evening before collapsing into bed!
Although I have a small studio set up at home, I have no facilities to record drums and so a trip to a studio would be the only way to do this. Given my time limitation I decided that the only way I was going to be able to realistically get something finished and out the door was to do it all myself quickly using the internal sequence on my Kurzweil K2600x.
What kind of difficulties did you experience in the making of the album? How did you manage to face the lack of other musicians? What kind of technical expedients and skills did you use?
Motivation can be a problem when doing something on your own - particularly when I have so much work to do at the Sanctuary - plus getting the right sounds. I am no engineer and also not much of a programmer of sounds, so I tend to rely on the sound sets that came with the Kurzweil with a few tweaks, plus a few additional sounds I have purchased for it. For a lot of the tracks I was trying to re-create (only this time in quality) what I had previously recorded using my old memorymoog synthesiser and earlier analogue synths. However getting their exact sounds is just not possible without sampling them! and as my Memorymoog won’t tune up anymore that’s not going to happen!
Are you satisfied of the final result? If you could, what would you wish for your music that you haven't been able to obtain?
Overall, I have to say I am pleased with the CD - I know I am biased of course, but it is nice to have such great feedback from those who listened to it so far - I was very pleased with the quality I managed to get as a home produced CD and I also think that the tracks - albeit the 100% electronic version of them - came out pretty much as intended.
Clearly it would be a lot better to record with a real band and particularly with real drums! However I did spend a lot of time programming the drums and I think they sound about as good as I could get without using a real drummer!
However, in a ‘band’ situation it is always better to play around with ideas and get input from others as this often produces results that are more creative than what you would have come up with by yourself (well, by myself anyway…) and to that extent I very much missed having the band around.
Is "Dark Side of the Duck" a concept album?
Well, I decided to sub title the CD ‘An instrumental album of concepts by Yak’ - essentially because the album is not a concept album in itself, however each of the tracks does have a kind of associated ‘Yak tale’ attached the details of which I will endeavour to publish on the website at some point.
Listening to your album I can't do but thinking to "The Snow Goose" by Camel: is it a thing you actually wanted or is it just a chance?
Camel were certainly a major influence on me during my teenage years and they remain one of my favourite bands. Some reviewers of the CD say they can hear a Camel influence, others do not. I do love Andy Ward’s drumming and I am therefore probably guilty of programming what I would call an ‘Andy Ward’ feel to some of the drum parts - but certainly not all. Some reviewers have compared my playing style to Pete Bardens, others to Tony Banks - hey, I'm not gonna complain!! The chap who introduced me to 'UK', did so after hearing me messing about on my memorymoog, saying he thought UK & Eddie Jobson would be right up my street - he was right.
Musically speaking I certainly did not set out to create a ‘Camel’ sound, all of the music has evolved into what I call the ‘Yak sound’, principally this being music which is instrumental, has plenty of odd time signatures, is melodic and often has quite a lot of things going on at the same time!
Do you ever think to re-record the album with a real band?
It would be great to have a go at this and certainly one of my longer term aims would be to do this and also record the material that has yet to be released with the band. We will see where we are after the May rehearsal in terms of planning when and where this might come together.
Are you already planning a new album? Would you like talking about it?
Yes absolutely, I am working at the moment on the next CD which is called ‘Journey of the Yak’. Time is of course the issue, but progress is being made, albeit a bit on the slow side. One of the difficulties I am facing is that several of the pieces planned for this album are ideas that I have been tinkering with now for the past 20 years!! and now I need to actually get them down onto CD it is quite hard to decide what the definitive version of any idea should actually be. For instance there is a piece that has the working name of ‘Avalon’ which I have previously recorded so many improvised versions of - I am really struggling to decide which version to ‘go for’ on the CD. Perhaps I’ll just have to record a set of variations!
I am hoping to publish this one towards the end of this year.
As with ‘Dark Side of the Duck’, the CD will be issued free to any interested party subject to a minimum donation of £8 to Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary.