An Interview With A Legend

Read the original transcript from Vinny Cecolini's interview with the late John Wetton, vocalist and bassist with ASIA.




INTERVIEWER: [13:52:47:15] So uh, although you haven’t performed, there’s been a promotion of performing on…

JOHN WETTON:  It feels like we have. [LAUGHS]

INTERVIEWER:  [13:53:01:22] So what’s it like….


INTERVIEWER:  [13;53;09;07] So uh, how’s the reunion been so far for you?

JOHN WETTON:  It’s been great, you know, we, um, our first meeting, first time we stood in the same room uh, with the four of us for about 23 years was on January the 5th of this year. [13:53:25:10] And really, it didn’t need anymore any introduction than that, if you know, the fact that we could stand in the same room, shake hands and say, “You want to play?” [13;53;33;06] And that was enough, really, we could have just taken it forward at that point, which we did. After that it got down to logistics and who’s available and where we’re gonna do this and where we’re gonna do that. And is a tour viable? [13:53:46:12] So you know, it all, it all came together fairly organically, very naturally. [13:53:51:00] And um, uh, nobody had to be um, kind of prized out of any situation, we just had to arrange stuff around existing uh commitments. And so, yeah, everyone’s available to, we were all very enthusiastic to do it. You know, it feels good.

INTERVIEWER:  [13;54;10;00] First time you got in the room to actually play the old songs?

JOHN WETTON:  Yeah we sounded like a bar band, and uh, it got better. [LAUGHS] So you know, we had two, two weeks solid rehearsal. Uh, first of all we had to decide what we were gonna play. [13;54;25;14] And uh, we settled on the fact that it, the simplest way to put this out would be to just play the first album, or else there wouldn’t be enough material and we’ve got more than that. So, uh, we thought it would be nice to do an acoustic section in the middle of the set which we’d then do pieces from the second album and a couple of other little special things. [13:54:48:22] Like um, a B-side from Heat of the Moment which is very, very popular with [UNCLEAR] and it’s like the Holy Grail for an Asia nut. You know, of which there are a few, you know. Um, we agreed to do one song each from our pasts which um, that so there’ll be an ELP song, a Yes song, a King Crimson song and a Buggles song in the set. [13:55:14:27] So you get a fair variety plus you get, the focus changes when we do the acoustic set. Uh so I think it’ll be, it’s, it’s a ticket I would buy, put it that way and I don’t buy many. I mean I don’t, that doesn’t mean I get complimentary tickets, that means I don’t like go out to see many shows these days. [13;55;31;00] I don’t go out much at all really.

INTERVIEWER:  What was the King Crimson song you chose?

JOHN WETTON:  We’re doing in the call of the Crimson King. Yeah, which was actually before my time but then I, I’ve sung it on stage so many times, it’s kind of at the right now. [13:55:45:24] We had a choice with, with um, with each of the um, retrospected song, uh but of course that gives us a choice in the future as well if we want to change those, we can. Um, if we want to change the King Crimson with the start list, then we can. And there are plenty of Yes songs to choose from and the ELP songs. [13:56:06:09] Um, but we decided to go with the, probably the most obvious, for obvious reasons.

INTERVIEWER:  [13;56;14;26] Um, what’s it about Asia, talking about all these great bands but, but we’re talking about the, the Asia fanatics that [UNCLEAR], what is it about Asia’s music especially that first album that, that makes it so timeless?

JOHN WETTON:  [13;56;27;04] Um, I, I don’t think it’s dated as badly as, as most of the music that came out of that time. Um, there are, there are a few bands that, that produced music of that time which is also I think stood up to the test of time. [13:56:39:16] But there are other bands that, that didn’t. Um, we were just watching something in the dressing room which was, we just looked at them and 80s, it’s 80s hair, it’s 80s remember movements, or 80s and, it’s um, uh, Asia didn’t do that. [13:56:58:10] Uh, I think you could say that The Police didn’t do it, Def Lepperd didn’t do it. It, it, the accent was very much on the music rather than how we’re gonna look. What we did with video was we just, we just did what we did and let Gottlieb and Cream [PH] do all the special effects. And do their, their take on us, we didn’t actually change to be in the video. Well I didn’t anyway. [13;57;20;25] I think in Don’t Cry some of the guys got talked into doing some acting cameos. But um, there were, basically what happened was the director would just shoot us and then do what he did rather than making us the stars of the film. [13:57:38:14] Um, I think there’s a subtle difference there because if we had been like a lot of other bands of that time, the stars of the film, that, that dates it because we’re not really actors you know, we’re musicians.

INTERVIEWER:  But one thing, you know, given who the members of Asia are and everything, I mean how bands you’ve been a part of alone, um, people seem to forget that the pioneers of music video were responsible for, for Don’t Cry.

JOHN WETTON:  [13;58;04;18] Yeah.

INTERVIEWER:  Um, Gottlieb and Cream, what was it like to work with them? Did you have any idea of their role….

JOHN WETTON:  [13:58:10:12] Yeah, yeah, I, I, I know both of them fairly when and I did at the time. And um, it was probably, probably me knowing them that, that got them involved with the, with the project. Um, but what they were doing at the time was quite revolutionary. [13:58:30:28] And to such an extent that uh, some of the people at our record company didn’t really understand what, how things were changing. [UNCLEAR] Video, we don’t understand it, it’s you know, it’s supposed to be just pictures of four guys and it wasn’t. It was a lot more adventurous than that. [13:58:41:13] Um but that’s what would be the key to our teaming up with MTV at the time, that’s why MTV put, gave us a lot of exposure at that time, because it was what kids wanted to see, you know. [13:59:02:26] Um, and it was more interesting than just four guys standing there [CHUCKLES] one camera you know. Um, [CLEARS THROAT] so yeah, but all the ducks were the line for us uh, in, in ’82. [13:59:15:01] All the ducks were in lien and you need that really to, but it doesn’t mean anything unless the music’s there. The music on the first album was very, very solid. It was a great combination of all the kind of progressive elements that we were previously involved with, but it had uh Top 40 staying power, you know. [13:59:34:08] And um, fortunately their songs had legs. Um, that’s why we’re here today, I guess.


INTERVIEWER:  [14:00:11:01] You were talking about the timelessness of Asia’s music, but throughout the 80s there were so many bands you would listen to them and go oh, they’re trying to, to, to do what Asia did.



INTERVIEWER:  [14:00:18:14] How about those bands that you, did you actually pick up records and actually hear Asia’s influence in a lot of bands?

JOHN WETTON:  [14:00:35:14] Yeah. Yeah. Um, there’s one band particularly that, that I thought, well that entrails and very reminiscent of uh, of Only Time Will Tell and they’re named after a continent. [LAUGHS] And, and there’s quite a few, quite a bit of that. Well um, I think there always is, you know, after for, for every um, for every Crosby, Stills and Nash, there’s an America. [14:01:00:28] And for every Jimi Hendrix, there’s a Robin Trower. You know, um, that’s no reflection on Robin Trower, he’s a fantastic guitar player, but [CLEARS THROAT] as soon as one band sort of evaporates then someone else will, will fill the vacuum. [14:01:16:06] You know, uh, yeah, but it also, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery so I don’t mind that at all. And we weren’t there so.

INTERVIEWER:  [14:01:22:12] Talking about the bands you influenced, uh, what were your influences who, who was like those, those, those early influences that said, that, that made you want to become a musician?

JOHN WETTON:  [14:01:29:24] Um, mine are quite diverse. But um, there are a few kind of epiphanies that I can remember One was [CLEARS THROAT] it, it was, at some time in the 60s, I used to listen to the radio, Radio Luxembourg which played the, a lot of American music. [14:01:51:08] Um, I would listen to it under my pillow at night from a little crystal radio. And one night, I heard God Only Knows by the Beach Boys and it was like suddenly it just switched the TV from black and white to color. I went, yeah, ok, alright, now I know what you can do. [14;02;13;13] It just showed me what, what rock and roll was capable of, and up to that point it had been kind of a bit of a dead end. You know, Beatles aright, lovely, that put color into rock music, and harmony and melody and stuff. [14;02;27;23] But Beach Boys suddenly wow, yeah, ok, and using instrumentation that I had never heard before with uh, rock music and it, the placing of the bass notes against the melody, just fantastic. [14:02:39:17] And then uh, other, other acts would come out and well like Procol Harum they would, they would do stuff that melodically just so far, it had light years ahead of what had been going before And at the same time, I was being drawn to artists like Joni Mitchell. [14;02;59;04] Who lyrically were doing stuff that had never been done before, got such kind of um openness and honesty in the lyrical department, it wasn’t for years and years afterwards that that would actually surface with me. [14:03:13:18] But it did on the first Asia album. Suddenly I started singing songs autobiographically which I had never done before. And that is a big step for a writer when you start to use the first person rather than the third person, it suddenly starts to sound very personal. [14;03;28;08] And that’s what it was, for me, the first album of Asia was an excuse to, to do all the stuff that I’d wanted to do, but that I’ve never really had the balls to do before which was to talk in the first person. [14;03;41;24] All of the songs are about personal um, experiences. Until you put those things together, then most of my influences that led me to Asia had come from America really. [14;03;56;14] But the, the big um, the thing that clicked between myself and Geoff Downes who we wrote a lot of the stuff on the first album, was that we come from the same musical background. Melodically we come from Church, English Church music. [14;04;12;19] And, and that’s still true in music today, uh, a lot of the [UNCLEAR] that we use are straight out of a, a hymn you know. And so we, we clicked bigtime musically. But all the of, as I said, the, the main influences from music on a kind of uh, aural sound, I mean a-u-r-a-l sound, come from the US, or Canada let’s Say North America.

INTERVIEWER:  [14;04;40;07] Good, thank you so much, if you’ll just look into the camera and say you know, who you are, why you’re here and you’re watching VH1 Classic.

JOHN WETTON:  [14;04;50;06] Hello I’m John Wetton and, uh, I’ll be on tour with the band Asia in the coming weeks and you’re on VH1 Classic.

INTERVIEWER:  [14:04:53:24] And we’ll do a second for, for [UNCLEAR].


INTERVIEWER:  [14;05;02;02] Just saying John Wetton if you want to say from Asia, from you know, just say, you’re watching VH1 Classic, and then we’ll finish there.

JOHN WETTON:  [14:05:09:00] Hi I’m John Wetton from Asia and you’re watching VH1 Classic.

INTERVIEWER:  Thank you for your time.




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