Yes guitarist Steve Howe says that more material may be coming from recordings he did with his late son Virgil, who died Sept. 11 at the age of 41, shortly before the release of their collaborative album, Nexus.
“Initially when I said to him, ‘Look, you’ve got all these tracks,’ it was about 20 or so,” Howe tells Billboard. “So since Virgil’s passed away I’ve done an update on what’s around. There’s a fair bit of material there that could be developed into the same sort of area, ’cause I wouldn’t like it to be too radically different (than Nexus). But basically there is sufficient music for another adventure.”
Until that time, however, the gentle and intricate Nexus, a collection of keyboard and guitar duets (with percussion) that came out Nov. 17, has taken on a deeper and more resonant meaning for the elder Howe.
“It’s become a kind of memorial to him, you know, his legacy,” Howe tells Billboard about the instrumental project, which was released Nov. 17. “It’s a great opportunity to pay homage to him. It gives me pleasure. It’s very warm. It’s a record that’s made with great pleasantry and great ambitions and didn’t have an endless amount of problems. Now it’s had a big problem, if you like, in the fact that Virgil can’t be here to see this reaction. But I enjoy it immensely.”
Nexus was devised by Steve Howe after listening to keyboard pieces that had been composed by Virgil, a multi-instrumentalist who had worked in the bands Little Barrie, the Dirty Feel, the Killer Meters, as well as with synyth-pop duo Pet Shop Boys, and with his father and his older brother, Dylan.
“He’d been giving us these tunes over the years,” remembers Howe, who also pays tribute to his son in a video for the track “Leaving Aurora,” which features images of Virgil over the years. “And basically in 2016 I compiled all these, and I said, ‘Well, you’ve got absolutely loads of them. Why don’t I pick the ones I feel I can play on more or less immediately,’ and he said, ‘Yeah, if you’d like to play on them, fantastic!’ So I started to get tracks down and just find ways of bringing another guitar texture or something to them, and he was very happy and loved it. When I told him how much I liked the production that he’d done, he was really flattered. It was a joyful record.”
More videos are being considered for Nexus tracks, as Howe ruminates on the future of the other material the duo worked on. Meanwhile he’s also gearing up for a big year ahead with Yes, which includes the group’s annual Cruise to the Edge and continuing the band’s 50th anniversary celebration with tours in Europe and, during the summer, in North America. The former will be part of Yes’ continuing Album Series shows, playing pieces from 1973’s Tales From Topographic Oceans among others, while the dates across the pond will follow this year’s model of trolling deeper into the Yes catalog.
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And Howe hints that some new music from the current incarnation of Yes, which now includes Dylan as a second drummer, might be at hand as well.
“We’ve got an interim period where we’re going to be fairly secretive about what we’re up to,” he says. “Maybe we’re building up repertoire for a future project, but we can’t say. We’ve got ideas, but I can’t say more than this right now.”