Steve Howe’s departure from Asia, which had been working with its original lineup again since 2006, has turned into something of a blessing, according to frontman John Wetton.
Howe had been working both in Yes and in Asia, a band he co-founded during an early-1980s hiatus from Chris Squire and Co., for a number of years when the guitarist finally decided to whittle things down earlier this year.
Asia subsequently hired the young gun Sam Coulson, and has since been touring through Europe sharpening its new sound. The group recently filmed a concert for possible future DVD release at a Roman theater in Bulgaria with the Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra.
Though Howe helped shape the group’s sound, he has spent less time in Asia than most casual fans might remember.
In fact, Howe was only with the band over its first three years, returning from 1991-93 and then again in 2006. In between those years, Asia’s guitar chair has been something of a merry-go-round, featuring Mandy Meyer (1984-86), Pat Thrall (1990-91), Al Pitrelli (1991-94), Aziz Ibrahim (1994-98) and Guthrie Govan (2000-06), among others.
As with those times, Asia’s sound has evolved with the addition of Coulson.
“What he’s done was,” Wetton says of Howe in a talk with Radio Tangre, “he’s done us a favor — because the band is sounding much stronger now. It’s a different kind of edge to the band with the guitar that Sam brings in to the group. … He’s giving the band quite a different energy. It’s really good.”