Billy Sherwood Talks #Yes50, ‘Topographic Drama’ and a Tribute to Chris Squire

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Billy Sherwood joined Preston Frazier for a Something Else! Sitdown as Yes prepares to release Topographic Drama: Live Across America, a document of the band’s full-album concert presentations of 1973’s Tales From Topographic Oceans and 1980’s Drama. They began there, since his new live release marks a departure from Yes’ more recent Like It Is series

PRESTON FRAZIER: Billy, I first sat down with you two years ago. A lot has changed for you and Yes. For instance, Topographic Drama: Live Across America includes the entire concert, encores and all, pulled from 12 different shows. Why the change in the format this time around?
BILLY SHERWOOD: I had a hard drive filled with all the shows. I sifted through a bunch to find the best performances of each song, and decided why not use the best of the best? There are no rules that say one has to use only one particular show. As you mentioned, this is a different approach than Like It Is. It’s even done differently than from the previous live Yes DVD and CDs. Live Across America is different in that way, and becomes unique in its creation.

PRESTON FRAZIER: I had the opportunity to see you guys in Chicago – where we met in the parking lot – and right after the Cruise to the Edge in Atlanta. Both shows were incredibly tight. Jay Schellen sat in on both shows. As that tour progressed, how did it change? Is Alan White included on this recording?
BILLY SHERWOOD: The record is a mixture of Alan and Jay. They play so much alike, the consistency of the drums is such that by the time I was done I had no idea who played what. I know I played bass and sang! [Laughs.]

PRESTON FRAZIER: What was the most challenging moment for you?
BILLY SHERWOOD:Ritual.” It’s a very intensely bass-driven song, and there is also a bass solo within it. My challenge was to retain the notes and emotional content which Chris Squire brought to it while finding my own thing inside it, as well. To that end, I tried my best to remain true to the iconic bass moments that we all know and love, and then expand on it and bring my own dimension to it. I think it worked quite well and represents both Chris and myself in a very nice way. As a Yes fan, it was something important to me to do. “Ritual” is one of my favorite pieces on Tales, and there is a special honor that comes with playing it in Yes. As this is the first-ever Yes record to be released without Chris Squire on it, I took extra care to try to make it the best it could be.

PRESTON FRAZIER: You mixed the Like It Is series of live albums. Did you reprise that role for Topographic Drama: Live Across America?
BILLY SHERWOOD: I mixed the record. The band trusted I knew the Yes sound.

PRESTON FRAZIER: Now that you are a member of the band, did that role create any tension or difficulty?
BILLY SHERWOOD: Safe to say after all these years working with the band, touring, producing, playing etc., I knew the vibe well. Tales is my favorite Yes record, and so my instincts to make it feel like the original – sonically speaking – came easy. Long story short, the band trusts in me to get that Yes sound.

PRESTON FRAZIER: On your tour diary for the YEStival tour, there is a segment where you are recording Yes singer Jon Davison with a remote recording unit. Were those recordings for a new project, or overdubs for Topographic Drama?
BILLY SHERWOOD: Jon and I were working on an entirely different project in that diary clip you mentioned, nothing to do with Yes.

PRESTON FRAZIER: Were any parts of Topographic Drama: Live Across America overdubbed?
BILLY SHERWOOD: No, there were no overdubs. This is why I choose the best overall takes to compile the record. Each track was played and sang as you hear it. All I did was mix it.

PRESTON FRAZIER: Yes seems to have big plans for 2018. Some dates of European tour have been announced for #Yes50. What else can you disclose?
BILLY SHERWOOD: Just a great year celebrating 50 years of my all-time favorite band – a band that somehow fate guided me to and set me within in many different capacities along the way. The most amazing part being that Chris Squire himself asked me to take his spot and keep the ship sailing, along with the other members of Yes. And so it shall be done – for Chris, the fans and quite frankly my undying passion for the band and the music I love do much. Yes means the world to me, and I’m going for it as my dear friend and mentor Chris Squire requested I do.

PRESTON FRAZIER: I got to catch your Baltimore tour stop for the YEStival. The band seemed to be in full stride on that date, even though it was early on. Dylan Howe was an excellent addition to the band, working very well with Alan White. Will Dylan continue to be involved for #Yes50?
BILLY SHERWOOD: Dylan was a joy to have play with us, as was Jay Schellen. Alan’s health has vastly improved now, and I believe it may just be him on the next tour. To be honest, you would have to ask the drum department, with regards to this question.

PRESTON FRAZIER: You have been extremely busy outside of Yes, with the Circa album in 2016 – an album of the year honoree at Something Else! – and then the revival of World Trade in 2017. Tell us about juggling those projects.
BILLY SHERWOOD: [World Trade guitarist] Bruce Gowdy and I set off to writing the Unify record, and about 2 months later we had all the songs. We then spent a few months recording. My memory is a little fuzzy as to exact time lines, but it happened quickly, relatively speaking.

PRESTON FRAZIER: Have you and the members of Yes talked about moving forward with new material? If so do you have a time frame?
BILLY SHERWOOD: Yes moves at its own pace. I’ve no clue as to a new record.

PRESTON FRAZIER: Other than #Yes50, what else do you have in the works for the coming year?
BILLY SHERWOOD: A Chris Squire tribute record is in production, with great guest artists who knew and loved Chris. It’s coming along very nicely.

PRESTON FRAZIER: What is your set up for the #Yes50 tour?
BILLY SHERWOOD: I endorse Spector basses, Tech 21 amps, TC Electronics, Behringer consoles, Rotosound strings – and I’m working on a Starbucks endorsement. [Laughs.]

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Atlanta. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at
Preston Frazier
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