It was just over 2 weeks ago that I was rushing around my house desperately packing up everything in preparation for our move the next day to our new home. I had left all my studio and office stuff until the last minute so I could make sure I was able to work up until the last second before our internet got switched off and the keyboards had to be packed away.
I needed some music on to help relieve the monotony of making up boxes and for some strange reason I chose to listen to 'Live from Lyon' - the triple live album I performed on with Yes during our time together.
It was an album I was very proud to have been on but due to the nature of my departure from the band I had decided not to listen to Yes music any more. But for some reason I had an overwhelming urge to listen to it and relive some of the happy times we had during those tours. Moving home - an ending and a beginning together. I wondered whether that was behind my decision to play the record...
I decided to stop for a bit and have a quick cup of coffee. I had my laptop set up on the dining room table and as the kettle was boiling I decided to check my email. A message flashed up from Paul Silveira the Yes tour manager. 'That's odd' I thought as the sound of Astral Traveller drifted down the stairs from my music room above.
I opened the email and was shocked to read that Chris had lost his battle with Leukemia.
I had had little contact with Chris since I left the band, just a single email with his honest feeling about how he had never thought I would be out of the band for which I was grateful.
4 years came and went and I read the news that Chris was battling leukemia and I decided to drop him a quick email to wish him a speedy recovery. Chris replied with his thanks and his hopes that all was going well for me and my family. That was on the 19th May. Little did I know that a little under 6 weeks later he would no longer be with us.
I said to my wife that I couldn't believe Chris had passed away and made my way back up to my music room where Astral Traveller had moved into Yours is no Disgrace. I turned off the record, sat quietly for a while and then had to carry on the task of packing everything away for the move the next day.
The last two weeks have been a blur - I have been sorting out the new house, getting kids settled into new schools, finding our where the supermarkets are and all the other necessary things you forget about when moving.
So here I am this evening in my new music room listening to the second half of the 'Live from Lyon' album which I had stopped 2 weeks ago and I realised that it was finally beginning to sink in about what had happened. I decided I wanted to write something about my time with the band and with Chris in particular.
If you have ever visited my website you may be aware that I write tour stories after every tour and there are a few there about the tours with Yes so I will not be repeating stories from those write ups but will pick some specific instances which I hold particularly dear and I hope will go someway to sharing some of my experiences with Chris.
Many people will have thoughts that when I was young the Yes guys were always round our house drinking fruit juice, herbal tea, whisky and beer (decide who would be drinking what yourselves...) and coming up with great music. That may well be true but unfortunately I wasn't born when Fragile came out. (I am mentioned in the booklet though - referred to 'one future offspring').
Close to the Edge - I was 6 months - Tales - probably 2 years. By the time Dad had left and rejoined for Going for the One my mum and Dad had separated and I was 5. So my memories of Chris from that period are non-existent. I met Chris fleetingly during the 35 anniversary tour but only to say hi to.
I had always had a good relationship with Steve Howe after getting reaquainted with him during the ABWH years. After I was invited to join the band in early 2008 (and subsequently for the Jon-less version in late 2008) Steve invited me to meet up with Chris in a bar in London.
I headed off and after meeting up with Steve - headed to the restaurant. Chris walked in - he had arrived in a mini which I found quite amusing - particularly when you realise how tall Chris was. He came in and said hi and I remember thinking was a distinctive voice he had.
We sat down and started chatting about the upcoming tour, about unusual pieces that could go into the set and surprise people. I remember I had an early smart phone - pre-iphone - some slide out qwerty keyboard thing with a stylus. Chris had the same phone and we started chatting about it and phone technology in general whilst Steve had gone to the bar. I'm pretty good at working out whether I'll get on with someone and was confident that I would get on well with Chris.
2 months later and I was arriving at a Canadian airport to be met by Paul Silveira. I was slightly apprehensive. I had had one week of rehearsal on my own working out the parts for the tour and we now had 2 weeks to get battle ready - I had a new keyboard tech and a completely new keyboard set up which I had yet to see. Yep, apprehensive would be a good word. So would understatement!
Anyway I asked Paul if we were heading off to the hotel and he replied that we were waiting for Chris and Scotty - who I was yet to meet. Anyway Scotty and Chris shortly arrived and Chris said hi, introduced Scotty who was pregnant and very nice.
We started rehearsals and over the next few weeks I spent a lot of time with 'The Squires' and often ate out with them. Chris and I would often chat about the music and I was amazed at how good his memory was.
A great example was I remember we were rehearsing Siberian Khatru and after we finished he asked if he could have a word about a part that I wasn't playing.
He explained that it was a minor version of the main riff that came later in the piece as a reprise of the original riff. I said that I didn't know what part he was referring to and asked him to point it out on the original. We got to the point and Chris said 'there'. I listened and couldn't hear any keyboard part. And so we replayed it and again Chris went 'there!'. Again I couldn't hear it.
I said to Chris that I couldn't hear it to which he agreed that it wasn't on the record after all. However he said that he remembered the part being worked out in the studio but obviously hadn't made it to the final mix and would I mind recreating it. I thought that was a great challenge - recreate a part no-one had ever heard except Chris in his memory banks!
I did have a go however and was very proud when I played Chris what I thought it should be and he said 'That's it! Can you put that in to the song at next rehearsal please?'
The tour was a blast - I really felt that I was getting comfortable by show 5 at the Mohegan Sun in the US and by this time I had started to get a reputation as a shopper for clothes and gifts for my family. I don't really drink and so I would spend my free time looking for things I thought my son and wife would like. I missed them terrible but this helped keep them close to me in an odd way. I spent a lot of time with Scotty choosing clothes and toys and I think this was noted by Chris as when ever we had a tv spot of video recording he'd bring a shirt up to me and ask my opinion as to how it would look on screen. One particularly colourful version was chosen for the 3D shoot for Machine Messiah - the link for which can be found on my twitter feed.
I may jump around a bit now as my memories come back to me and so the chronological order may go a bit haywire but that's how memories work so apologies in advance.
When we were on tour around Europe we toured on a bus which was a lot of fun. Especially as Chris bought the whole family on it. Scotty, Scotty's mum and their daughter Xilan who would fly up and down the aisle in her wheeled walker. We would do shows and there would be the aftershow ice barrel full of bear and wine and you would always see a baby's bottle of milk in amongst it which I remember taking a photo of as I thought it was quite amusing! Chris and I would stay up late on the bus talking about doing a new record and re-booting the band in a brand new way.
I also remember I played a part on Astral Traveller and which Chris mirrored my line with a bass part. One day shortly before we recorded Live From Lyon we were chatting about this part and how it never quite went together as well as it should.
We were talking after the show and Chris said 'I don't know why it doesn't sound right, it's just a run down from C'. 'No' - I replied - 'it's a run from B'. 'It's C' he countered - 'I remember doing it in the studio'. I knew better than to argue with the famous memory but we agreed to have another listen to the original recording which we slowed down in Pro-tools.
And Chris was right. He did start on C.
But Tony Kaye started on B!
We were both right! So we agreed to sync the two parts to make it gel a little better in the live show.
I remember picking up Chris and Scotty on a trip they made down to Devon to Steve Howe's house where we discussed all the plans for the new album we wanted to write (it didn't happen in it's intended form - the album eventually become the Fly From Here album).
Anyway - another piece we were working on was a Yes reworking of a classical piece - I forget which now - but it was a great idea and would have been a lot of fun. We also listened to a few of Chris' pieces which I really enjoyed and spent quite a bit of time working on arrangements with him. We were all sat in Steve's kitchen and I was listening to the two of the reminisce about the writing sessions for The Yes Album. A day to remember.
We had lots of great material which never saw the light of day - some of which I have here with Chris's parts on. One particular track we co-wrote which I was very proud of is called Gift of Love and I've just found it in my library and it's currently playing. I'd forgotten about how good that one was - and I've just found a completely different arrangement of The Man You See in Me which we recorded in Pheonix during the writing sessions and a few of the other demo sessions we recorded which were never used.
It's always amazed me how music can take you right back to a time and place. I am currently in the rental house we all lived in in Pheonix in the US for 3 weeks to record the demos.
That's just reminded me of the evening after recording this version of The Man You See In Me, Chris and I went with Benoit to see Muse perform and Benoit getting a speeding ticket on the way back to the rental house we were writing in. I don't know if he ever paid the fine though, I'll have to drop him (or the authorities) a line and find out.
Fast forward a year or so and we were all Oklahoma when our stage was wrecked by a tornado and all of our equipment was seriously damaged or written off. We had a couple of days to repair and source new instruments - I remember seeing one of Chris' basses and asking if it was every going to be repairable and he just looked at me and shrugged. I know it had upset him more that he let on though as it was a special one from his collection.
Three days later and we were at the Greek in LA performing to a sell out crowd. I was busy programming my new rented moog with all my sounds right up until the show start and Chris was busy chatting to Richard, his bass tech, about whether his basses were all going to work ok.
We started the show and I remember feeling a huge sigh of relief as I realised the keyboards I had sourced were all working as expected. I looked across at Chris (we were always on stage next to each other) and he seemed happy. Suddenly one of his pieces of equipment failed and I watched as he maintained his composure in front of the crowd whilst Richard worked feverishly in the background trying to repair the damaged rack unit. I remember that night in particular as that was the night that Trevor Rabin guested with us and I know that Chris really enjoyed playing 'Owner of a Lonely Heart' that night!
Over the years of working with the band Chris nicknamed me the 'facilitator' as I was pretty good at getting agreements from all members of the band and help get everyones opinions heard and taken on board. No easy task in a band like Yes!
One of the nicest things I remember Chris saying to Benoit David (Yes singer at the time) and I was that he was so proud of the line up and how he didn't think there was a Yes song that the band couldn't deliver. High praise indeed and I take great strength from that during those occasional days when as a musician you doubt yourself (I have yet to meet a musician who doesn't go through those feelings!).
One of my last memories which reminds me of that was on my last tour with the band. After I had been replaced I was contracted to finish one last tour, 'The Rites of Spring' tour and I remember the first rehearsal being a bit awkward.
I was stood behind my keyboard rig when the rest of the band walked in. They all looked at me a bit sheepishly and then Chris said 'Right lets start with Parallels, Oliver can you remind me how it goes'. This was a nice touch as Chris and I had spent a long time dissecting the original version to make sure we recreated it as close to the original as possible and it showed how much he appreciated the work we'd put in! It put us all in a more relaxed state and the tour went well.
I could go on for hours with different memories, some which I will keep to myself, others which I may recount at a future date but I will always be proud to have been Chris's band mate and, I hope, friend.
I am still finding it difficult to think of Chris as not being here any more but I was pleased to have been around him during a particularly happy period in his life with Scotty and Xilan and his music will continue to inspire and enthrall people across the world.
Cheers Chris, next time I hear thunder - I'll remember your Rickenbacker and amp stack right next to the keyboards and know you're still playing up there!.
It's been a while sice the site had an update and so we have just updated the albums page to show the last 3 albums Oliver appeared on. Please scroll down to the Other Stuff / Collectables etc... section.
For quick reference the three albums were:- Carrie Martin - What If?, BBC's Songs from the Great War and Hypatia by Telergy.