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sherrynoland View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Topic: ProgRock Legend Peter Banks Talks About Yes, Flash
    Posted: February 24 2010 at 05:26
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Prog-Rock Legend Peter Banks Talks About Yes, Flash And ES-335s

Russell Hall | 01.22.2010

As every prog-rock fan knows, Peter Banks occupies a preeminent place in the genre’s history. The founding guitarist in Yes, Banks helped the group forge its unique style before giving way to Steve Howe.

But it was in Flash, the streamlined band he formed after leaving Yes, that Banks truly established himself as one of rock’s most gifted guitarists. Comprised of Banks, Ray Bennett (bass), Michael Hough (drums) and Colin Carter (vocals), Flash released three brilliant albums in the ’70s that navigated a perfect line between technical virtuosity and mainstream appeal.

In the years hence, Banks has been anything but idle. Artists with whom he’s worked through the years include Phil Collins, fellow guitar maestro Jan Akkerman and the spectacularly gifted (if little-known) singer-songwriter Tonio K. Currently, he heads an off-again on-again project called Harmony in Diversity, a group characterized as a “free-form psychedelic improv three-piece.”

It’s no coincidence that, on all the Flash albums, Banks exclusively played a Gibson ES-335. From his home in London, he spoke with us about Flash’s legacy, current goings-on and why he holds such affection for the Gibson hollow-body.

When you formed Flash, did you have in mind doing something stylistically that was radically different from Yes?

Looking back it would be very easy to say I had a grand plan, but I really didn’t. What I really had was a list of things I wanted to avoid. Even though I was just 22 or 23 when Flash got together, I had been a professional musician since the age of 17. I wanted to put together a true band. I had never had a band of my own before, but I didn’t want Flash to be my band. I wanted it to be a cooperative thing. And that’s basically how it was. I wanted to do something that was very involved, and original, and musical, and entertaining. I wanted to do things that a three-piece band ― with a guitar, bass, drums and a singer ― had never done before. We tried using a keyboard player, but that didn’t really work.

How did not having a keyboardist affect your guitar-playing?

Well, for me, it was a challenge. I wanted to try to fill the spaces. And I think maybe one of the faults with Flash was that I probably tried to fill too many spaces. It’s kind of a strange analogy, but when I first heard the Police ― who also used a guitar, bass and drums format ― I noticed they left spaces in the music, which created a kind of tension. Flash was of course doing a different type of music, but still, I remember thinking, “Damn, we should have done that.”

You played an ES-335 exclusively in Flash. How did the 335 become your go-to guitar?

After leaving Yes I began playing an SG, which Pete Townshend had recommended to me. That guitar was great, but it was also a solid-body, and I had been used to playing a hollow-body [a Rickenbacker]. Just before forming Flash, I did some sessions with a guy called Derek Lawrence, who subsequently produced the first Flash album. Lawrence had worked a lot with Ritchie Blackmore, who in those days played a 335. He kept telling me how great that guitar sounded, so I picked one up. After that, I never considered using any guitar other than the 335. It was like wearing the same suit every day, but a suit that was always clean, neat and pressed ― and always reliable. I knew what that guitar could do, and I never fiddled around with that.

Had you noticed any other guitar players who were playing 335s?

I had seen Alvin Lee, from Ten Years After, playing one at Woodstock. It wasn’t the first time I had ever seen an ES-335, but I do remember thinking, “Hmmm, that’s an interesting guitar.” I noticed that it sounded very good at high volume.

There’s a positive energy in Flash’s music, and in fact nearly all the songs were written in major keys. Is that something you deliberately set out to do?

It wasn’t discussed, but I do think that became a direction for us. A lot of bands at the time were blues-based. Cream is an obvious example, but there were many of them. Flash formed in 1971, and at the time I was feeling negative toward anything that smacked of anywhere near the Mississippi Delta. I found the white blues to be a bit saccharine flavored. I think that positive feel came from avoiding those sorts of minor keys.

Why did Flash split up?

Things got a little crazy. On our final tour, I wasn’t exactly objective about a lot of things going on around me. Now, I realize I was having a nervous breakdown. A lot of stupid things happened, things that I regret. We sort of flew apart for all the wrong reasons — matters of ego, and frustration, and lack of time with regards to rehearsing. Some of those are mistakes all bands can make, and some were mistakes that were of that time. You get a little bit of fame, a bit of kudos, and you start believing it’s all true. It causes you to lose momentum in your playing.

What’s the status of your recent project, Harmony in Diversity?

It’s an improvising situation. There’ve been a variety of incarnations of the group, but it’s always been guitar, bass and drums ... The whole idea behind it is, we have no idea what we’re going to play. We don’t discuss it and there are no rehearsals. There’s a Harmony In Diversity album that came out about two years ago, titled Trying. Lately the group has been [inactive], but I’m still very keen on it. It will definitely resurrect itself.


Reader Comments
SG Dave :: Monday, January 25, 2010 at 7:46:51 AM
+1
Perhaps the most overlooked and under rated guitarist ever, I remember the first time I ever heard Peter Banks on the first Yes album. I knew instantly that he was completely different from any other guitarist I'd ever heard up to that point. His use of jazz voicings is distinct and unique and his talent for being able to produce true solo work points to his command of melody and harmony. Thank you Peter for your musical output and inspiration.
BC :: Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 11:57:01 AM
If I could only have one guitar, it would be my 335. I love my Les Paul and my Strat (can I say Strat here??) but the 335 can do it all.
JoeG :: Friday, February 19, 2010 at 5:54:27 AM
I have that allbum where Jan Ackermann also appears on it. They play some very cool riffs.


Edited by sherrynoland - February 24 2010 at 05:31
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 24 2010 at 14:17
Hi Sherry, thanks for posting this!!  You beat me to it!  Clap
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 26 2010 at 15:28
When it comes to electric guitar, I am distinctly a Strat man, but the Gibson ES 335 is one I would like to add to my (small) collection - they are great guitars, and Banks is a great player.
The world of sound is certainly capable of infinite variety and, were our sense developed, of infinite extensions. -- George Santayana, "The Sense of Beauty"
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 02 2010 at 21:31
An excellent read is Peter Banks' own book, "Beyond And Before: The Formative Years Of Yes".  I didn't really know that much about Mr. Banks, but my eyes (and ears) were really opened upon reading this fine book.  I purchased all three Flash albums on CD after finishing the book.  Loads of great stories and insight into a truly interesting man.
--Winston TK
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 06 2010 at 15:56
Yes, Pete is definitely 'interesting'....brilliant...but don't believe everything you read. Exclamation
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 08 2010 at 15:18
What is interesting is that ex-members and members of Yes never admit that the real influence (and whole idea) of Yes came from 1-2-3/Clouds. As has been noted, they even used the same songs to re-write, such as Simon & Garfunkel's 'America'. If you listen to the Yes version then the Clouds version, you'll hear direct quotes as well as undoubted influences. When 1-2-3 were doing 're-writes' at the Marquee, Yes weren't even formed (though Syn played the Marquee at the same time and Jon Anderson was in the audience). When Yes did begin to play the Marquee, they played mainly straight Beatles covers, at least till they could get the 1-2-3 thing sorted out.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 08 2010 at 17:17
I asked Ray Bennett about 123/Clouds...sorry, he's never heard them, or of them.  He did toss off a long list of influences from that time, but we've heard of them all - The Beatles, The Yardbirds, Pink Floyd, Traffic, Buffalo Springfield, The Doors, Blood Sweat & Tears, etc.

While we're on the subject of The Marquee Club, here's an interview quote from Ray posted on a Marquee site, and a link to the original very lengthy and personal interview with Ray.  Maybe I'll post that separately.  I think it would be of interest, especially to fellow musicians....



The Marquee Club - A tribute site dedicated to the history of the legendary Marquee club at London's 90 Wardour street.


Recovering the memory of the legendary club in London, the temple of 3 decades of British rock, blues, and jazz.

Ray Bennett of Flash, 2002

Ray   Bennett

"I met Alexis Korner briefly when he came down to check out my blues band. That was in 1968, I was still at art school. I was nervous because it was a critique, but he was kind, with good suggestions. It was remarkably generous for him to take the time to come and see a bunch of unknown kids. Before that I saw posters around South London and the suburbs, in the mid-Sixties, advertising "Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated" before I knew who he was. The name intrigued me. Unusual, I thought it was very hip. Later I found out how many English blues and rock names were associated with him. I also discovered an album of his around 1966 which became a favourite. Some friends and I hung out together a lot that summer and played a handful of records over and over again. The Beatles, Stones, John Mayall, Mingus, Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, and Alexis Korner. I forget now what the album's title was, I don't have that record anymore, but Jack Bruce played on it, also Dick Heckstall-Smith. It had been around for a couple of years already and by '66 those two had been with the Graham Bond band for a while, another of my favourites, so they also drew my attention to Alexis. One thing that impressed me was that he wrote all the tracks overnight and recorded it the next day. That was impressive. I liked the overall loose feel and the memorable compositions. It was one of those records that I didn't get tired of. One track was called "Sappho", and I read in the liner notes that this was named after his daughter. Years later, in the Seventies, I was introduced to her in the Marquee bar in London. I was very happy to be able to tell her that I knew her already from that album. She was very surprised and gave me a great smile.."

Ray Bennett, DMME.net December 2002.
Interview by Dmitry M. Epstein


http://www.themarqueeclub.net/ray-bennett-of-flash-2002 
http://dmme.net/interviews/bennett.html 



Edited by sherrynoland - March 08 2010 at 17:21
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