'I don’t really understand why he would continue': Geoff Downes on John Payne's tandem version of Asia

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Despite the many permutations that Asia ultimately took, Geoff Downes says has always felt the original quartet would reunite one day. There simply was too much chemistry between them, Downes says in a new talk with Geeks of Doom.

The supergroup formed in 1981 featuring former members of King Crimson and UK (bassist John Wetton), Yes (guitarist Steve Howe and Downes) and Emerson Lake and Palmer (drummer Carl Palmer). Downes, who had also been in the Buggles, would became the only member to appear on every Asia studio effort.

In fact, the initial group only lasted through the fall of 1983 — despite the fact that Asia’s debut spent nine weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard album charts, selling more than 10 million copies and spawning two Top 20 singles in No. 17 “Only Time Will Tell” and No. 4 “Heat of the Moment.”

[ONE TRACK MIND: Geoff Downes breaks down key songs from Asia’s ‘XXX,’ Yes’ ‘Drama’ and ‘Fly From Here’ – and, of course, the Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star.”]

Wetton was on board for the ’83 follow up Alpha, which included the Top 10 single “Don’t Cry,” but was briefly replaced on tour by Greg Lake, formerly of King Crimson and Emerson Lake and Palmer. Wetton would return for 1985’s Astra, but by then Howe had left — replaced by Krokus alum Mandy Meyer, as Asia’s “Go” struggled to No. 46 on the singles chart.

Asia toured through a few different personnel changes in the late 1980s, then returned to studio work in the 1990s and early 2000s with John Payne taking over vocals and bass duties from Wetton. Howe and Palmer guested on 1992’s Aqua, but it wouldn’t be until 2006 that Downes and the rest of the original quartet reunited. They’ve issued three albums since, including this year’s XXX, while Payne has continued to tour with an offshoot band called “Asia featuring John Payne.”

Downes’ Asia begins its own new fall concert series in October 2012; upcoming dates are below.

That’s obviously put the groups at odds, though Downes tells Geeks of Doom that he always felt Asia’s initial spark could one day be rekindled: “I think that we did a lot of work together in the early period before we even started the first album,” Downes says. “We were in the rehearsal room for nearly a year before we started the first album so we did build up a kind of musical bond I suppose that wasn’t going to go away. But I think that when we did have that opportunity to get back together again everyone was up for it.”

As for Payne’s tandem project, which includes concert performances with songs from both during and before his tenure in Asia, Downes is more circumspect: “I think it’s a very different band really in hindsight. Obviously I was involved in it, when we worked together during the ’90s. I don’t really understand why he would continue using that name but that’s something that’s up to him really. I think he could have done something else, but that’s just my opinion.”

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Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Asia and Geoff Downes. Click through the titles for complete reviews …

SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: GEOFF DOWNES OF ASIA, THE BUGGLES AND YES: Keyboardist Geoff Downes has never been busier, working by turns with each of the three bands he’s been associated with off and on since the turn of the 1980s — Yes, the Buggles and Asia. Just a few months after helping craft a terrific comeback recording with Yes (for whom he earlier played keyboards during the Drama era), and in between a few one-off reunions with Trevor Horn in the Buggles (who crafted an era-defining early-MTV hit in “Video Killed the Radio Star”), Downes has also played a key role in what’s perhaps the best Asia album since their three-decades-old debut — appropriately titled XXX. Downes stopped by to talk about Asia’s resurgence since a reunion six years ago with the original lineup — an amalgam that seemed to arrive and then disappear with a similar suddenness in the early 1980s.

ASIA – XXX (2012): he original superstar lineup of Asia continues a far more productive reunion era with its third album since 2006, one more than they achieved back in their hitmaking days. Musically, XXX builds on the arena-pop successes of the platinum 1982 debut by bassist/vocalist John Wetton (King Crimson, UK, Roxy Music, Uriah Heep, Wishbone Ash), guitarist Steve Howe (Yes, GTR), keyboardist Geoff Downes (The Buggles, Yes) and drummer Carl Palmer (The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Emerson Lake and Palmer) — even as they add a few new prog-rock flourishes.

SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: JOHN WETTON OF ASIA, KING CRIMSON AND UK: John Wetton has an over-stuffed briefcase of appointments this year. Coming off a well-received sixth solo project, he’ll reunite with the trio-era members of UK for a tour, then with his blockbuster 1980s prog-pop band Asia for an album and tour in the fall. The well-traveled Brit rose to early fame collaborating with childhood friend Robert Fripp in King Crimson between 1972-74, before co-founding UK in 1978 and then Asia in 1982; he has also worked as a sideman with Roxy Music, Wishbone Ash and Uriah Heep over the years. As he gets set to retake American and Canadian stages with Eddie Jobson and Terry Bozzio as UK for the first time in three decades, the singer-songwriting bassist stopped by for the latest SER Sitdown. We discussed reuniting with the progressive-rock era’s last supergroup, the enduring joys of collaborating with Geoff Downes and how turning away from alcoholism changed everything.

ONE TRACK MIND: GEOFF DOWNES ON ASIA, YES AND ‘VIDEO KILLED THE RADIO STAR’: Geoff Downes, who’ll finish the year touring with both Asia and Yes, joins us for a special edition of One Track Mind to talk about key moments with both bands — including songs from Asia’s just-released XXX, featuring the rest of the original lineup of Steve Howe, Carl Palmer and John Wetton. Downes also delves into tracks from the two Yes projects on which he’s served as keyboardist, 1980?s Drama and 2011?s Fly From Here. And, of course, no talk with Downes would be complete without mention of the Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star,” the Trevor Horn collaboration that launched MTV …

Upcoming dates and venues for Asia’s 2012 tour …

Oct 11: Le Caberet du Capitole, Quebec, Canada
Oct 12: Corona, Montreal, Canada
Oct 13: Seneca Bears Den, Niagara Falls, NY
Oct 14: Ulster Performing Arts Center, Kingston, NY
Oct 17: Count Basie Theatre, Red Bank, NJ
Oct 18: Wilbur Theatre, Boston, MA
Oct 19: NYCB Theatre at Westbury, Westbury, NY
Oct 20: Keswick Theatre, Glenside, PA
Oct 21: Grand Opera House-DE, Wilmington, DE
Oct 23: Turning Stone Resort & Casino Showroom, Verona, NY
Oct 25: Ridgefield Playhouse, Ridgefield, CT
Oct 26: Mohegan Sun, Uncasville, CT
Oct 27: Best Buy Theater, New York, NY
Oct 28: Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center, York, PA
Oct 30: Rams Head On Stage, Annapolis, MD
Oct 31: Carnegie Library Music Hall of Homestead, Homestead, PA

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