15th April 2021

Lifesigns and crowd-funding


Q: You recorded this album through lockdown…


JY: Yes. it was a kind of perfect storm in a way - in that everyone in Lifesigns works with major artists and last year we had plans to travel all over the world. I was going to be out with Bonnie Tyler for eight months of the year; Steve (Rispin) was out with Yes, Jon (Poole) was doing Dr Hook, Dave (Bainbridge) was doing The Strawbs and loads of other things and when the pandemic came along, all of a sudden it was ‘Oh we can make the album then!’ What that did was give me and Steve time to concentrate on getting it done. We crowd-fund everything as well, which worked really well.  We also arranged for some donations and subscriptions to provide a very small furlough for the band . Not very much, just enough to pay for shopping and petrol and a few bits and pieces every month.

Q: That’s a lovely thing to do John.

JY: We work in a different way. We came up with a new quote yesterday actually “We are in the business of music, not in the music business”. (laughs) Renegades since 2013.


Q: Well Lifesigns is pretty much a pioneer in that although many bands crowd-fund you have done it right from the start.


JY: Yes and it’s quite funny because a lot of people are coming to us now picking our brains and asking how we do it but we are the same as anybody, we started off playing in pubs to 30 people and I used to do solo gigs to nobody!  I do think to an extent everything is the wrong way round: Mainstream Radio for example, we cannot get near it. They will not take a call, they will not answer an E-mail, they will not listen to anything.  We hired some pluggers to hit the radio scene and we were massive on hospital radio (laughs).  There were a couple of stations like Radio Woking and Radio Felixstowe where we were record of the week! You know a major record company invited me for lunch and I said to them ‘I don’t really know why you’re doing this’ and they said ‘We love your music we think it’s great’ and I said ‘but you’re not going to sign it’ and they said ‘No of course not.  We just wanted to tell you it was good.’ ‘So what do you sign?’  ‘Anything that appeals to a four to six year olds…’  It’s nursery rhymes Glenn.  This is how much we have dumbed down everything.


Q: It is that descending spiral isn’t it?  If you are the head of EMI you need to sell records and if it’s the four to six year olds who guarantee those sales, then that is what you have to sign.  A lot of people celebrated the death of the major companies when it happened but I didn’t because I could see where it was going.  The fact that there are no more A and R guys any more means that there is no one to tell you that your music isn’t good enough and that you need to practice and come back with something better.


JY: Yes nobody has knowledge of this. The great A&R guys from the sixties and seventies have gone sadly.


Q: That’s right so you are left with the guys at the top who are only looking at  numbers and not talent.


JY: Yes and even if you get a record deal, there are no advances anymore.  In the UK Lifesigns are probably in the top 10 new prog rock bands and we have worked hard to get there.  We have kept everything to ourselves and we have had offers from record companies but they wanted to change everything so we stayed away.  We decided we had our own independence we could do everything to our own level and with this new album I certainly think we have done that, but I really think that what is left of the record companies are really missing a major chance.  Let’s take a look at it from the outside for a minute.  When we sell records we often sell to successful people – not all of them but many of them.  People who have nice houses, good income, have worked well so for us to put the price of our CD’s up by £5 note is no difference whatsoever to the sales.  Now the thing is what we have noticed is that somebody will come in from the middle of Utah, they are seeing the trailer on Facebook, they bought the album and the next day they buy everything else.  They will buy £100 pounds worth of stuff because there is so little accessible music and they need feeding. These people are all over the world, there are hundreds of thousands of them to me it’s a huge market with disposable income that is being ignored.   I think if the record companies tapped into this they would do very well,  but they are too busy looking the other way.




Q: John, this album is a work of art mate.


JY: Thank you.


Q: I talked about the sonics in my review but what I didn’t talk about is the mix.  The title track which runs at 15 minutes, there must have been the hardest mix you have ever been involved in.


JY: Steve and I have a kind of mindset.  We have worked together for years doing a lot of gigs together both solo and the band and we’ve worked for other bands, John Wetton, all the Asia guys, Steve works for Yes, so we know each other inside out.  One of the things that we decided from the way we work is that you should be able to listen to any instrument on the album all the way through the album.  We do that mercilessly with everything, the vocals, the diction so that you can hear every word, and everything has to blend perfectly but we are fastidious and we nearly kill each other  in the process! (laughs).  We spend months mixing and start mixing from the moment the first tracks arrive mixing as we go.  We got to the point where we were doing the first masters we had got it all but neither of us were as enthused with it as we had been.  We took it to be mastered and the people there thought it was brilliant and they made a master which Steve and I took back to the studio, played, and thought ‘Nah!’.  We looked at each other and I said ‘We are going to have to start again’ and Steve looked at me and said ‘I know’.  So we went right back to the start, the first tracks we had, took of them all apart, put them back together, made another master, that we weren’t sure of . Finally  we ended up working with Robbie Bronnimann who worked in a very similar way to us things went back and forth between us until it was finished to everyone’s satisfaction.


Q: I love the sequencing of the album.  One of the things I’ve always loved about Emerson, Lake and Palmer was their sequencing as the different styles they played take you on the different journeys as you play the album.  You have done a similar thing here.


JY: More by luck than judgement.  When we put the first tracklist down we actually put them in that order and Steve said to me ‘What order are we going to do these in?’ and I said ‘I think it’s perfect Steve’ to which he said ‘I think you’re right’.  We just felt it worked and the funny thing is a few people have said ‘Why is this reprise thing at the end?’ to which I reply that is there to make you want to listen to it again.


Q: You have a background in aviation, the album is called Altitude, what was the catalyst for this album and what were you thinking of when you wrote the title track?


JY: Not what it is now.  It was purely about the joy of being in the air.  It wasn’t even about flying it was about almost as if he were spiritually flying through the air, how beautiful the earth is, what a wonderful place it is.  I started writing very differently at the beginning of this century.  One of the tracks on the album is Ivory Tower which is one of the older tracks and as I was in the studio writing the start of that track with my right hand and my left hand was playing the melody and I wasn’t concentrating on my left hand.  I looked at my left hand and thought ‘Would you mind giving that to the right hand?’ which it did. When I started to look into it I  realised that what I was doing was channelling and the more I left myself open to receiving the music, the better it would be.  Then I started writing music which was X amount of pay grades above where I had been and eventually this led me to Lifesigns . The problem became how to turn the tap off because it arrives all at once, the music and the lyrics and you have to make sense of it.  Now I am not religious in any way but I love the way this works.  The music has a massive spiritual element and we get mail from people who say they have been sick but our music pulled them through.  Someone is going through a terrible divorce another is getting over a car crash…  It’s just the music heals so there is a reason for it.  The one thing it does tell me is that I am on the right track.


Q: One track I really love on the album is Gregarious.  The descending chorus the dropping chords and then how it suddenly pops back up.


JY: I’ve got to say going back to when we were kids* I did learn a lot from John Wetton about how to put a song together and make it work.  One of the things with Prog – (and we are kind of Prog/Pop/Jazz Fusion) is that  when a band has  a time change or a key change, it’s like ‘here comes the key change!’ and stop!  And away they go into the next bit…  What we try to do is to make it flow so that you don’t even notice it.  A good example would be in Altitude after the cello solo, the next section is in 57/64 but you don’t really notice.


Q: What? John you’re talking to an ex-roadie mate…


JY: (laughs)


Q: Peter Knight from Steeleye Span did the violin solo and Juliet Wolff did the cello solo, did you give them free rein to do anything?


JY: We did with Peter but with Juliet I wrote the cello solo.  You find with a lot of classical musicians they don’t like to improvise and so it’s better to write something for them .  There is a lovely fragility with Peter’s solo and Juliet is really accomplished. I think both work really well.


Q: A couple of tracks from your past…


JY: Yes. Last One Home was on my 1st solo album and then John Wetton decided to do it with Qango, and with  Ivory Tower Steve really wanted to do that song. You know what it’s like, guys like me work for all these people but they are never interested in what we do.  When John Wetton released Arkangel in 1997, I knew the record company that were releasing it so I went to see them with my solo album, Significance and I was prepared for a fight but we sat there and the guy at the record company listened to the whole album and said ‘That’s the best thing that’s come in here in two years…I can’t help you.’ That is where we sit.  So, I think to an extent so much of what we have done before is completely unknown to 99.9 percent so we might as well record some old songs.


Q: I couldn’t agree more John.  A pleasure to talk to you again John let’s hope we can meet up in person in Japan in the very near future.


JY: Good to see you mate, take care.



*John Young was the keyboard player in Asia when I was John Wetton’s roadie





JY: うん。最悪の状況だったね。ライフサインズのメンバーはみんなメジャーなアーティストとの共演経験があって、昨年は世界中をツアーして回る予定だったんだ。僕はボニー・タイラーと8ヶ月間ツアーしたし、スティーヴ(・リスピン)はイエスと、ジョン(・プール)はドクター・フックと、デイヴ(・ベインブリッジ)はストローブスとやったり、いろいろやってたんだけど、そんな時にパンデミックが起こった。突然のことだったけど、「オー、それならアルバムを作ろうぜ!」ってことになった。それが僕にできることだったし、スティーヴもこれに集中できる時間を作った。そしてクラウドファウンディングを始め、バンドの各メンバーに僅かながらの金額を提供するために、寄付金や購読料を手配して、全員一時帰宅したんだ。あまり多くはないけど、毎月の買い物やガソリン代、ちょっとした小物を買うには十分な額だよ。



JY: これまでとは違ったやり方でやっているんだ。昨日、新しい表現を思いついたんだよ。「僕たちは音楽を仕事にしているのであって、音楽業界人じゃない。」って(笑)。僕たちは2013年からこんな異端児なんだ。









JY: そうだね。たとえレコード契約があったとしても、まったく進歩はないよ。イギリスではライフサインズはたぶんニュープログレバンドでは十指に入るんだろうけど、それ相応の苦労をしてきたんだ。精進して、レコード会社からの契約オファーを受けるに至った。でも彼らは僕たちを変えさせようとしたんだ。だから僕たちは彼らから離れた。僕たちは自分たちの独立心を極めようと決心して、彼女の自主レーベルのためにできる限りのことをした。このニューアルバムもそのための一つだったと思う。でもレコード会社を離れたことで、大きなチャンスを失ったとは思うよ。ちょっと外側から見てみようか。僕たちがレコードを売るとなると、裕福な人たちに売る。すべての裕福な人が買ってくれるわけじゃないけど、多くは買ってくれるだろう。豪邸を持ち、高収入で事業も成功している人たち。僕たちがCDの価格を5ポンド上げても、売れ行きには何の変化もないだろう。そこで僕たちが気づいたのは、ユタ州の真ん中から誰かがやって来て、Facebookで予告編を見て、アルバムを購入し、その翌日には他のすべての商品を購入するんじゃないかということだ。彼らは、何も持っていないから、食べ物も含めて100ポンド分の物を買っていく。こうした人々は世界中にいて、何十万人もの人が膨大な小切手帳を持っている。その数は実際に童謡を聴いている人よりもはるかに多く、そういう人は目の前に物を置けば何でも買ってくれるんだ。これらがすべて僕たちが開拓しようとしている市場なんだよ。僕たちは、セールスやマーケティングなど、あらゆることに長けていて、それなりの収入を得ている。レコード会社がこれを利用すれば大儲けできると思うんだけど、彼らは他のことで手一杯なんだ。














JY:何となくというわけではなかった。純粋に空に浮かんでいることの喜びを表現したんだ。実際に飛んでいるというよりも、まるで精神的に空を飛んでいるかのような感じ。なんて地球って美しいんだろう、とか何てここは素晴らしい場所なんだろう、ってね。今世紀に入ってから、僕は全く違った曲の書き方をするようになったんだ。アルバムには「Ivory Tower」というのがあるんだけど、かなり古い曲で、これをスタジオで書いている時、右手で書きながら左手でメロディを弾いていたんだ。左手だけに意識を集中しないようにしてね。左手を見ながら、「右手にそれを移してくれよ。」って思いながらね。これをやってみると、僕がやっているのはチャネリングで、音楽を受け取るために自分をオープンにすればするほど、良い結果が得られることが分かったんだ。その後、それまでの給料よりもXランク上の音楽を書くようになり、突然このような作品を書くようになったんだけど、問題は、アイデアが一気に湧いてくるので、どうやって蛇口を閉めるかということだった。音楽と歌詞を見て、それを理解しなければならない。僕は特に信仰している宗教はないけど、このやり方はとても気に入っているんだ。音楽というものは、スピリチュアルな要素をふんだんに盛り込んでいるものだし、僕たちのところには、「病気になったけど、僕たちの音楽で乗り越えられました。」というメールが届く。ある人はひどい離婚を経験し、ある人は交通事故に遭い、ある人は階段から落ちた...。ただの音楽が癒すのだから、それなりの理由があると思う。これでわかるのは、自分が正しい道を歩んでいるということなんだ。


Q:僕がアルバムで大好きな曲は、「Gregarious」なんだ。 下降するコーラス、下降するコード、そして突然立ち上がる感じがね。










JY:ああ。「Last One Home」は僕のファーストソロアルバムの曲で、ジョン・ウェットンがクアンゴで取り上げてくれた。「Ivory Tower」は、スティーヴがどうしてもやりたいって言ってくれてね。僕のような者は、多くの人のために働いているけど、向こうは僕たちの仕事に興味を持ってくれないんだ。ジョン・ウェットンが1997年に『Arkangel』をリリースした時、リリース元のレコード会社を知っていたから、僕のソロアルバム『Significance』を引っ提げて会いに行ったんだ。やり合うつもりでね。膝突き合わせて、レコード会社のスタッフがアルバムを通して聴いて言ったんだ。「ここ2年に聴いた中では最高の作品だと思うよ・・・・でも力にはなれないな。」そんなものさ。僕たちがこれまでにやってきたことの多くは、99.9%の人には全く知られていないことだと思うから、昔の曲を録音してみてもいいかもしれないと思う。







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