It's safe to say that, as a guitarist, Steve Howe is in a class of his own. For over 30 years, the 55-year-old native Londoner has been unreeling his unique twang and trawl with the propensity and dexterity of a true virtuoso. His chartered membership with Yes has given him carte blanche as an explorer of sonic textures, resulting in some wildly ambitious projects that would put many of his peers to shame. Howe made two inspiring solo albums in the 70s that accurately accentuated his mastery of the guitar. When Yes disbanded in 1980, Howe went on to achieve even greater commercial success as a founding member of both Asia and GTR. And even though Yes reunited without him during the 80s and upped the ante as a multiplatinum contender, it was clear that by the end of the decade, both parties yearned for the days of pomp and artistic pretentiousness.
In 1989, Howe teamed up with Jon Anderson, Rick Wakeman and Bill Bruford — all previous members of Yes — and recorded a self-titled album. Two years later, Anderson, Wakeman, Howe and Bruford combined forces with other Yes alumni for a full-blown reunion album and tour appropriately entitled Union. Howe subsequently embarked upon a prolific solo career that has produced over a dozen albums. But that didn't prevent him from migrating back to Yes in the mid 90s, where he's been ever since. And even with Yes occupying much of his time, Howe's solo output continues unabated. Skyline is his latest — a low-key, ambient collection that vividly captures the guitarist in full stride, accompanied by only one other musician, keyboardist/percussionist Paul Sutin.
As an avid follower of progressive rock, I was more than eager to speak to the man who has been such a big part of the Yes sound since 1970 (not to mention a major impact on the guitar in general). The following interview took place in January. Later that very same day I was at the NAMM (National Association for Music Merchants) show in Anaheim, California and happened to bump into Yes bassist Chris Squire. I told him I had just gotten off the phone with Steve. Two Yes guys in one day — what more could a prog lover want.