‘We’ll just have to work around that’: Jon Davison’s tenure in Yes complicates things for Glass Hammer

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As Yes enters the final weeks of a U.S. tour featuring a trio of its 1970s recordings, the question of where that leaves frontman Jon Davison’s other group Glass Hammer looms large.

Davison has been working in tandem with both bands since 2012. As Yes’ world tour featuring Close to the Edge, The Yes Album and Going for the One continues into Europe next year, Glass Hammer is left to determine what path to take in following up its well-received 2012 release Perilous.

After all, in addition to Yes’ tour, Davison is also expected to take part in a promised new studio album with Chris Squire and Co. To reality is that Davison, though a valuable part of Glass Hammer’s creative process, is increasingly occupied elsewhere.

“There’s no certainty how it’s all going to play out,” bassist/multi-instrumentalist Steve Babb tells us in this exclusive SER Sitdown, alongside fellow Glass Hammer co-founder Fred Schendel. “We’ll just have to see.”

Meanwhile, when both bands were scheduled to play at last year’s Cruise to the Edge, Glass Hammer was forced by contract to look elsewhere for a lead singer. They turned to Carl Groves, who sang with Glass Hammer previous to Davison’s arrival in 2009. Babb says that renewed collaboration with Groves will likely continue, whatever level of participation Davison ultimately has as they move forward …

NICK DERISO: You found Jon Davison in a happenstance way, when you were looking for someone to rework a track during the ‘If’ sessions. What told you that he could mesh with Glass Hammer?
STEVE BABB: I go back just a little bit further than If. We had just finished Three Cheers, and Susie (Bogdanowicz) happened to move with her family. That just made things difficult. Carl (Groves) was caught up in the production of, I think, a Salem Hill album. We were working on these remixes for The Inconsolable Secret and we thought about Jon Anderson. We actually wanted him to come sing one of these songs, but we thought: “He’s probably not going to want to write lyrics that I wrote. He’s going to rewrite things.” So, we thought: “Let’s see if we can find somebody that’s got that kind of pitch, and that kind of tone” — because that’s the kind of voice we want to hear on this remix. So we found Jon Davison, and he worked with us on the remixes. Those were the first things he ever recorded for us. We found him to be such a nice guy, and became friends with him in the process. So, we thought: “Why shouldn’t we commit, and have him front the group?” And that’s how it happened. We’ve all seemed to be on the same page for three albums now.

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Co-founding members Steve Babb and Fred Schendel go in depth on Glass Hammer’s intriguing musical journey toward its 2013 ‘Perilous’ release.]

NICK DERISO: Cruise to the Edge saw you reuniting with Carl Groves, while Jon was working with Yes. Do you see yourself continuing forward with both vocalists, or was that more of a one-off event?
STEVE BABB: I think we will definitely continue on working with both guys. We talked about that while we were on the cruise. I got to introduce Carl to Jon. We’re tossing around a lot of ideas right now. We certainly want to keep Carl in the group. Susie might make a reappearance someday. And Jon, of course, is going to work with us, too.

NICK DERISO: Is Jon bringing in new ideas now, after having been away participating in all of this legacy stuff with Yes? Do you expect that to change Glass Hammer?
STEVE BABB: He contributed creatively a good deal, and I think some important things, on If. Not in terms of overall volume, but some very important melodic ideas, and some lyric ideas, too. Cor Cordium, the second one with Jon, featured more of his creativity.
FRED SCHENDEL: We reworked and rearranged a couple of songs that he actually had written probably since the 1990s. We took those demos, and he wrote some new sections, and kind of collaborated and updated those. That provided a pretty good chunk of Cor Cordium.
STEVE BABB: With Perilous, he was really pretty much caught up in the beginnings of his relationship with Yes — and completely overwhelmed. He asked that we have mercy on him, and basically give him the ideas and let him adapt them. Creatively, I think it was more of a Fred, Steve and (guitarist) Alan (Shikoh) album — with Jon trying to interpret what we’d come up with.

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Steve Howe talks about Jon Davison’s impact on Yes, playing classic albums and how a renewed focus on solo work led him away from Asia.]

NICK DERISO: It sounds like it’s making it more difficult for you to collaborate with him. Will it get easier, as he acclimates to the role in Yes?
STEVE BABB: I don’t know. That’s probably more of a question for him. What he’s got is a job. A lot of musicians have jobs, and Yes is a time-consuming job. I’m sure it’s an enjoyable one, too. I’m not sure how that’s going to effect things. He’s welcome to contribute, and if he has song ideas, we’re always ready to work with him. Bringing Carl back in, there may be a chance for him to contribute. We’re right now beginning to compose music for a new album. It remains to be seen how much each person will play a part.

NICK DERISO: Are you intending to go back on the road, once Jon finishes his commitments with Yes?
STEVE BABB: None of us can predict the future, as far as they goes. It is our great desire, and we’ve discussed it with him and even with Carl, to go out one day and perform If — even if we didn’t get to do the other material — with Jon fronting the group. If that opportunity comes up, we will do so. In the meantime, we can’t just sit idly by. We’ll have to fill our time the best way we see fit.
FRED SCHENDEL: The door is open, and we’re certainly looking forward to doing it. While Jon is in the middle of a heavy touring and recording schedule with Yes, we’ll just have to work around that. I’m sure there will come a point, when time is available, that we can embark upon these projects — and do some material live that we haven’t had a chance to do yet.
STEVE BABB: Because of Cruise to the Edge, we had to find a working, live drummer, and we found him. We got lucky and found a guy who lives near us, and can come rehearse. That’s going to change how we do the next album more than anybody else’s participation, I think, because we’re going actually get in the rehearsal room with a drummer and write out parts like a band. Usually, it’s Fred and I working together, or with Alan, in a vacuum. We kind of put it all together in the studio. This time around, we’re looking at something different.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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