‘Perhaps a heavier edge’: New Asia guitarist Sam Coulson says he’ll update Steve Howe sound

In a just-posted web chat, newly installed Asia guitarist Sam Coulson talked about taking over for Steve Howe, and what it’s been like to join the band.

“I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the band on a personal level,” Coulson told fans. “It feels fantastic to be part of a world renowned band and I am grateful for that. Apart from that, my life hasn’t changed a huge amount honestly. I still go about life as usual.”

Band co-founder Howe quit in early January, opening the door for Coulson to become at least the 12th guitarist to appear with Asia.

Howe played on both of Asia’s initial recordings, helping to establish the group’s sound. Other than a few guest appearances, the was then absent from the lineup from the early 1980s through 2006.

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Keyboardist Geoff Downes talks to us about his long history of collaborating with guitarist Steve Howe, both as members of Asia and of Yes.]

“For the most part, I will be playing Steve’s parts — but with my own character,” Coulson said. “Steve Howe has a great classical-style vibrato (vertical to the string) which sounds great! My own method of vibrato has always been the sort of Eric Clapton approach, moving the string more horizontally. I feel that technical changes like this will give the band perhaps a heavier edge.”

Among the other guitarists who have recorded and toured with Asia over the years: Mandy Meyer, Steve Lukather, Dave Kilminster, and Al Pitrelli, among others. Still, Howe remains Asia’a most recognizable contributor on guitar.

Coulson said the group initially approached a few other guitarists, including Paul Gilbert — who had invited Coulson to appear at the Great Guitar Escape in New York State last July. “So, Paul put my name forward to take up guitar duties,” Coulson said, “and, of course, when Paul told me I was over the moon!”

Born in 1987, Coulson had previously appeared on stage with Walter Trout, but was largely unknown before being asked to join a group that still includes legendary original members John Wetton, Geoff Downes and Carl Palmer. Asked about key influences, Coulson said: “I am a big fan of Gary Moore, Walter Trout, Paul Gilbert, Michael Schenker, Guthrie Govan and Eric Johnson, to name a few.”

Asia is already set to tour with Coulson, and has announced a new studio project — tentatively to be titled Valkyrie. Coulson says he realizes he will have to hit the ground running.

“Steve Howe is a fantastic and unique player!” Coulson added. “It’s been a challenge to learn some of his licks. However, the guys are very encouraging when it comes to stretching out with my own ideas in some solo sections, which I am very pleased about. Sure, there is always pressure being the new guy in an established band, but I feel pressure helps me bring my A game so to speak.”

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  • Jasper

    This is Ridiculous, and Funny at the same time! Sam Coulson will play the way Wetton, Downes & Mike Paxman TELL him to, or they’ll hand him his Walking Papers!
    What really makes me Sad is the fact that Wetton & Co. don’t seem to understand…..There Is NO ASIA unless ALL 4 originals are present! A “harder edged sound”? That’s the same Mistake they Always make when trying to replace Steve, and it Always Falls Short!!!!!

  • slamazzar

    “the same Mistake they Always make when trying to replace Steve, and it Always Falls Short”

    ‘Astra’ didn’t sound anywhere worse than the first album despite Howe’s absence, while on ‘Omega’ he somehow chose to hide all his talent (‘Holy War’ excepted). However, on ‘XXX’ the guitar sounds so specially that you know it can’t be anyone else, so it’s quite disappointing he leaves at this point…

    But, as I say, keeping in mind the ‘Astra’ thing, there’s a reason to stay optimistic.