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Interview with Alan White, drummer of progressive rock band Yes

By Amanda Ostuni,
White discusses upcoming festival Cruise to the Edge

There are a variety of different themed cruises for vacationers, from Disney to adventure cruises, from couples cruises to boozy, singles cruises. Concert cruises are another popular type, and Cruise to the Edge is one such example.

Cruise to the Edge is a five-day progressive rock festival aboard the cruise ship MSC Divina. It features the iconic bands Yes and Marillion, along with more than 25 other bands of the genre, which according to allmusic.com, traces elements back to some of Bob Dylan's work and the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

This year's festival, the second annual edition, will begin with an April 7 departure from Miami, Fl. towards destinations in Mexico and Honduras.

Yes, a legendary progressive rock band of 45 years, with 20 studio albums under their belt, returns to Cruise to the Edge after headlining the 2013 event debut. Alan White, a longtime drummer of Yes, talked to TheCelebrityCafe.com about what the upcoming Cruise to the Edge has to offer, and what it's like being a part of it.

TheCelebrityCafe.com: How did you hook up with Cruise to the Edge?

Alan White: We did this last year and it was really favorable among the fans. The fans and the bands had great fun. The promoters said do it again so we said okay. We've done a few types of cruise with different bands and we had great time and the band played really well, all the bands played fantastic.

TCC: What is the purpose of the festival — why a cruise?

AW: The point is kind of like it's a vacation for people. People who are music connoisseurs can just then be on a cruise boat and you get to meet the bands one on one because most of the bands go out there and just hang with the people, and have a great time talking with the fans and just being part of the cruise basically. It was a lot of fun.

TCC: How successful was the festival last year?

AW: It did relatively well for the first time we've done it with progressive rock bands. It wasn't completely sold out, but this one I believe is getting close to kind of selling out. There's not too many cabins left, but there are still cabins available, but it seems as if it might sell out pretty soon and we'll have a full boat.

TCC: How does this festival compare to last year's in terms of participating bands?

AW: There's quite a few different bands playing. Actually UK are playing again and also Steve Hackett is doing the cruise again and they were excellent last time, and I guess Tangerine Dream is playing this time and I believe Patrick Moraz is doing some kind of show, he used to be a keyboard player in Yes in the mid 70s. I don't have the list of all the bands, but it's about 11 bands playing of different natures and I'm really looking forward to hanging out with them and spending time with them and the fans.

TCC: It seems like the festival has grown since last year. Is that true and if so, why do you think that's the case?

AW: I think generally a lot of people had just a great time and the destinations the boat goes to this time are different from last year so obviously everybody makes it a vacation of sorts and also they're seeing some of the best bands that they like. So it's all around a win situation.

TCC: How were the participating bands selected?

AW: We choose the bands with the promoters, see if it works for the bill, it works with us, seeing as we're the kind of headline band. But there's another band that's playing, Marillion that is kind of more like a co-headliner, which is another progressive band that are really good.

TCC: Will you do Cruise to the Edge again next year?

AW: We've already been asked to without doing the one this year so we'll have to work it in to our schedule, hopefully.

TCC: In your own words, can you describe the genre of progressive rock that Yes and Marillion represent?

AW: Describe the genre of progressive rock? That's a big question. Actually I for one, I don't really like to label music. I think progressive rock can be put in a part with a lot of different bands. Each band individually really has their own style within that realm. Yes music has influences from classical, progressive, jazz, all kinds of things, beyond one thing. It's just really Yes music. But I guess the best name as far as you can get is progressive, progressive rock, so I mean, people call us that.

TCC: Who do you think is your biggest audience?

AW: We find nowadays we play to almost three generations. We get teenagers coming to us who obviously have been kind of brainwashed by their parents, who probably were brainwashed by their parents. So quite frankly, I think mostly middle age kind of range people is the most, people from maybe 40 to 55ish kind of thing, and some older ones still watching, reaching the age of 60 or things like that, but we do get teenagers, so it's a wide spectrum of the public that come to see our band.

TCC: What will Yes' schedule be like for Cruise to the Edge?

AW: We play for two nights right in the middle of the cruise. Basically we're the headliners that day and the end of the day finishes up with us doing a show in the main theatre. I believe we do two nights, whether they're one after another I'm not sure of that schedule yet, but we will be playing two full concerts.

TCC: Will you be doing any meet and greets?

AW: Yeah there's meet and greets involved with pretty much all of the bands. And we do interviews, and as you might not know, Roger Dean does a lot of the artwork for Yes and he has a stand on the boat and he sells some of his art and stuff like that. So it's an all around great trip for a Yes fan.

TCC: What will you do when you're not performing?

AW: Out milling with the people, and maybe getting a bit of sun if it's really good weather.

TCC: Can you give some details about the panels?

AW: That's probably the Q and As, because we usually do ours in the theatre and people get to ask questions one on one with different members of the bands.

TCC: What do you think is the highlight or most unique aspect of the festival?

AW: I think it's just the culmination is obviously, this cruise goes to Mexico, it goes to Honduras, so obviously when the boat pulls in, it pulls in in the morning. People spend the day and then you come back on the boat and watch the show at night, it's just done that way. And I think those are the highlights, they get to go and visit these great islands in the Caribbean and watch a show at night while the boat's traveling. It's fun, a lot of fun.

TCC: Will there be a mix of old and new fans?

AW: Probably. There will be the stalwart fans who have been following the band for years, and also some of the younger kind of generation that also have been listening to our music for quite some time.

TCC: What is it like getting to do this kind of thing with Yes, after being together with the band for so long?

AW: It's fun. I've been with Yes, I think it's coming on 41 years or thereabouts. We love mixing with people, we love this kind of thing, and it's new for us to be doing these cruises but last year was just a great experience, everybody loved it.

TCC: What's the schedule, or setup of the cruise organization-wise?

AW: Everybody gets to Miami, we board the boat I believe in the late morning, about lunch time actually. By the time everybody's on board, the boat leaves that evening and it cruises overnight. We spend the next day at sea and then the next day we arrive at one of the islands. People spend the day on the islands and then come back and watch the show in the evening. But there's actually everyday there's bands playing from lunch time all through the day into the evening. And this boat, by the way has been built with these cruises in mind. I believe it has five or six or seven stages on the boat.

TCC: What other plans do you have in the future with Yes?

AW: We've got a pretty busy year this year. We've got four tours to do. This cruise comes at the end of a Canadian tour. And then we take some time off and we go to Europe for about six weeks and then another time off and then an American tour and then time off, and then we do an Asia tour.
TCC: And you said this cruise is almost sold out?

AW: Well I think there are cabins available, there's quite a few available but it's getting to the point where they're going pretty quickly.

TCC: Is there anything else you want to add?

AW: Just it's in April, it will be a lifetime experience and you'll remember it for an awful long time and there's plenty of opportunities to take pictures, have memories of conversations with some of your favorite bands.

Image courtesy of Rob Shanahan

 
 

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