This year marks your 45th year as a member of YES. What were your thoughts back then when you first joined the group?
WHITE: You’re making me feel old [Laughs]. It’ll be 45 years in July to be exact that I’ve been playing with the same band. Can somebody call the Guinness Book of World Records?
I was actually asked to join the band right before a major tour in America in 1972. I had to learn the entire catalog in three days. It was a really thrilling sort of trial by fire, so to speak. I’m happy I made it out. I was excited and nervous all at once. I’m out on the road and thrown into this incredible world that would become my life forever.
In the almost 50 years since YES formed, the styles and genres of music have constantly changed. Yet the influence of YES’ music is still present and has impacted both established and emerging artists. Can you talk a little about what that means to you?
WHITE: The band established a style of music that really changed the direction of an entire genre. Because of that, it resonated with a lot of younger musicians. It still does to this day. That’s an amazing feeling. There’s no endorsement like that of another artist. They’re carrying the torch. I’ll often listen to music and hear a little bit of what we did here and there. It’s really touching and quite impressive to hear how the next generation re-interprets and re-shapes that blueprint.
Since 2013, YES has been performing albums in full on tour, including The Yes Album, Close to the Edge, Going For the One, Fragile, Drama and Tales From Topographic Oceans, which illustrates that YES has been a true album band. How artistically satisfying has it been for you to perform albums in full?
WHITE: Artistically, it’s very satisfying to revisit the albums on stage. They can be quite challenging. The very exercise itself keeps us all on our toes. Quite recently, we did a pretty extreme set in Japan where we played Drama in its entirety and side one and side four of Tales from Topographic Oceans. It was unbelievable to see the Japanese crowds singing along to every word. That passionate and enthusiastic response really fuels you when you’re up there playing. You feel it.
Sure, it’s a lot of music, but I enjoy performing records from top-to-bottom. It becomes more of an immersive experience. I’d liken it to a symphony.