You’re in italy to play live your latest album “Piano Portraits”. It is the first piano solo album that reached the Uk top ten. Can you tell us more about this project?
It started after David Bowie died and I recorded life on mars as an instrumental single for charity. It was a number hit and that led to my being asked to make an album of piano music in my particular style. The concerts I am doing in Italy are not the Piano Portraits show. I start the Piano Portraits tour in the Uk at the end of May. The show I am playing in Italy does include some pieces from the album but also many other pieces of mine and other people that i have been involved with over the years.
In this album you play Led Zeppelin, Beatles and Bowie songs, but also music from Debussy or Tchaikovsky. How do you manage to balance styles and moods that are so different?
The most important thing was melody.....with a strong melody you can make interesting and varied variations on the music so the simple rule was... make good melody.
You’ve a great fanbase in Italy. What’s your relationship with it and with our country? and what do you think about italian pop-rock music?
I always loved coming to Italy. I first came with strawbs in 1970 and then with Yes in 1982 and those early years were really interesting as there was a lot of problems with audiences breaking down fences and doors to get in... totally chaotic!... we just loved the Italian people and at every opportunity came back to play... and I still do.
Is it true that you’re very interested in football and you’re a Naples fan?
I am... for a few reasons... i love napoli very much and also their team plays in the same colours as Manchester City who are the Premiership side I support.
You also played music for some Tories parties. What do you think about the actual political situation in Uk and about Brexit?
Yes I was in favour of Brexit... of course I want free trade with all countries but I do not want Uk laws made in Brussels.. There have been a lot of laws thrust on Britain which has have not been good and angered a lot of people which is why the majority of pele voted to leave. Those who were angry at Britain leaving said uninploymant would rise dramatically and finances would suffer but what has actually happened is that the Footsie 100 index is actually at its highest level, for, any years and unemployment is at its lowest level since 1974. I fee that if the european was a common market as was originally llanbedr then all would have been okay, but what a country really is happy with their laws being made by another country?
Your career began after your played with Strawbs from 1969 to 1971, before joining Yes. What do you remember about those years? How much have they affected your next career?
I was actually only officially in strawbs from April 1970 until August 1971. But they were great times. I love Dave Cousin’s songs and lyrics and we had a lot of fun playing everywhere from folk clubs to universities and small theatres. a memorable part of my apprenticeship course in music!
You had a major role to form the typical Yes-sound that we can hear in fantastic albums such as "Fragile" and "Close To The Edge". These masterpieces came from a perfect mix between you, Howe, Bruford, Anderson and Squire, or do you think of them as the result of your individual technical skills?
That played a part. But what made it work at the time was that we were all very different as to our musical upbringings and how we played. Mix that together and you have a recipe for Yes.
During those years, progressive rock fans were divided into two “factions”: with you or with Keith Emerson...
Keith and I alwasy felt this was stupid. We were such different players. It was like comparing a goalkeeper with a striker.
And a year ago, Emerson committed suicide, which upset you enormously. How do you remember him? Has he influenced your style someway or do you think you were so different as many of the prog fans believed?
I am sure i did not influence Keith and he did not influence me either. I loved what he did and I know he liked a lot of what i did. We were good friends.
The 70’s were the Yes years for you. But many people don’t know that you've worked with Black Sabbath too ("Sabbath Bloody Sabbath", 1973). How was this strange partnership born?
We were great friends and still are. My son Adam has played with them for 15 years now too. They asked if I would do some synth on the album and I was delighted to. I also did the "Ozzmosis" album with Ozzy which I love.
Is it true that you never appeared in the official Sabbath line-up because Ozzy Osbourne was worried about their fans reactions?
At that time metal bands were 100% guitar orientated and that was right at the time. Times have changed as the last judas priest album has proven being a concept album. and also Ozzy’s solo albums have some great keyboard stuff on them. Music progresses and Ozzy is a forward thinking guy and is always progressing.
Your solo career begins very early, during your work with Yes. One of your most famous solo albums is the powerful 1973 "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII". Why did you start publishing albums alone? Was there something you could not express with Yes or Black Sabbath?
Not everything you write musically will work for the band you are part of, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have relevance or meaning. my solo career enabled me to perform and record music that was solely how i felt musically and very important to me.
You also worked with David Bowie, another great musician who died recently. What did you feel when you knew about his disappearance?
Nothing ever surprised me with David but his death hit me hard. I am just thankful he left so much wonderful music, art, fashion and memories for us all.
You composed a lot of soundtracks, about twenty. Why do you feel so close to this genre?
It’s a great discipline working with pictures. And you write music you wouldn’t normally write.
Congratulations for your 50 years of music… your entire career is deeply connected to progressive rock. What do you think this kind of music can offer to the young people, nowadays?
Quite simply: freedom. Progressive rock has encouraged musicians all over the world to be their own person and make music from both the mind and heart and long may that continue.