The keyboard master discusses the festival, the band's planned set, and a possible surprise appearance from a past member.
By Martin Popoff
Just before heading overseas our way for this two-day festival, I caught up with Geoff Downes for a few comments and an update on Asia. “We've done some extensive writing, here in our studio, which we also run as a business,” answers Geoff when asked about a new Asia studio album. “And we’re going to go in in the new year to start recording stuff. I think we’re returning to more of a rockier direction. The last couple of albums have been quite mellow by comparison to some of Asia's stuff. I think we’re just going to sort of beef it up a bit on this one (laughs). No song titles or anything yet, because they tend to develop lyrically last. We start out with musical ideas, and then the lyrics, after.”
I asked Geoff what we can expect from the Asia set in Jersey this weekend, beginning with a question concerning the recent history with respect to North American exposure. “Well, we did some fairly extensive stuff last summer, not the summer just gone, but summer last year. And I think we’re going to do do some fairly heavy stuff next summer. But this year we really concentrated more on Europe. We're doing the UK again, and we did the UK at the beginning of the year and then we did Europe fairly extensively. So next year we're going to concentrate on North America.”
Any interesting surprises for the festival live set?
“Well, we're negotiating with a couple of previous members of Asia who shall remain nameless. But I think there will be certainly one previous member to come join us to augment the line-up, so that will make a nice change for people to see, a former member of the band. It won't be John Wetton, but I've worked with him a fair bit lately, and did a convention with him last month, and wrote a song with him for his next solo album. But I think the days of him being with Asia are pretty well over. He's going to work on his solo stuff; it won't be John. Another interesting thing is that we've been working on a pretty long set for the last year or so and I think it's a question of refining and presenting it in its full entirety. We very rarely actually get a chance to perform the whole set. Because when you're doing festivals or you know, the package tour situation, you're cut to quite a small amount of time. So from our standpoint, it's nice that we’re able to do the full set in its entirety.”
Finally, I asked Geoff how he views the various “phases” the band has gone through since that monstrous multi-platinum debut back in ’82. “Obviously, I've been a fixture throughout, so it's hard to be objective,” reflects Geoff. “But we've definitely gone through some periods. The range of the music has been quite wide from a pop influence to a jazz influence to heavy rock to progressive music. As I see it, rightly or wrongly, we've managed to explore quite a few musical avenues. And I think that, in many ways, is what makes the band what is today, that we are capable of doing that.”