Most Yes fans may not have heard of Jimmy Haun, but they probably have heard him play—because Haun plays much of the guitar on Union. Where and why it is Haun, not Howe, on so much of the album is answered below, but Haun's involvement with the Yes men goes beyond that album. He's worked on and off with Billy Sherwood over the last two decades, beginning with Lodgic at the beginning of the eighties. Haun has also worked in the Chris Squire Experiment and on albums with Jon Anderson.
Since this interview was conducted, Haun has continued to work with Jonathan Elias (including on American River) and has now joined Circa:, a new band with Sherwood, Alan White and Tony Kaye.
This interview was conducted by e-mail at the end of 2000 and beginning of 2001. Many thanks to Jimmy for his help.
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Jimmy Haun: My father was a quite famous opera singer [Jimmy's father, Rouvaun, live on Ed Sullivan] and I remember sitting up late with him at four years old and he would play various jazz, classical, movie themes... he loved Mancini. So it was always in my bones. My first rock album was Meet the Beatles. Then we moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, 'cause my dad got a big gig at the Dunes. And that's where I met Michael Sherwood in 3rd Grade. His dad was also in the biz so we became best friends. Michael had this big room set-up with a drum set and an electric guitar (a Gibson 175!) and we used to pretend we were different groups, the Monkees, the Beatles... and Billy Sherwood was still in diapers.
Well, I got my first guitar at age 11 and learned how to play some Grand Funk songs ('cause they were the easiest to learn!) and put a band together with Tom and Mark Fletcher. I remember hearing "Roundabout" on the radio once and it changed my whole perspective on music. So I bought the record and listened over and over. Next I bought Close to the Edge and of course learned "And You and I". But the real pivot point for me as a guitarist was locking myself in my room for one month and learning Yes's version of "America" note for note. My friends say that changed my playing. So I got my hands on anything challenging, John McLaughlin, Jeff Beck. We even rented out a rehearsal room and recorded "Close to the Edge" with me on vocals. Anyway, we became quite good and started playing parties and in Vegas you could get a generator and throw huge multiband parties in the middle of the desert. Out of all this, Lodgic was formed and we did pretty progressive music for the time. Then a manager (Barry Morgan) from LA heard our band at a local club and gave us money to move to LA. Billy Sherwood was a drummer back then and he was getting a lot of flak from the neighbors so I told him why don't you just play bass—you can always use the headphones! So he traded his beautiful midnight blue Tama set for a lesser value Kramer Bass, but within two years he was good enough to join the band! Well, some time and gigs later the guys from Toto (David Paich, Steve Porcaro) got us signed to A&M and they also produced the album Nomadic Sands.
HP: And is there any chance that Nomadic Sands will be re-released on CD?
JH: I doubt it. There would have to be a lot more interest and all that. Maybe one day-yea-no.
HP: And then what happened after Lodgic? Where did your career take you next? Billy Sherwood and Guy Allison continued together to form World Trade—was there an option of joining them?
JH: Actually, Billy and I started a group right away and started rehearsing and recorded some songs. He was also helping Bruce Gowdy on the side with another project to become World Trade. I was also doing studio stuff and working with other bands like Michael Ruff, Ronnie Laws. Around this time I met Sheryl Crow: she had heard a demo I did for Rob Lowe and asked who the guitar player was so I joined her group—Greg Philiangaines on keys, Jerry Watts on bass, Armand Grimaldi on drums. We did some gigs, even Chris Squire came down to see us along with Eric Clapton.
HP: How did you get involved on Union?
JH: Well, I got a call one day from my friend Steve Porcaro (who knew of my love of Yes) and he said they (Arista) were looking for a guitar player who could sound like Steve Howe. They asked Steve Porcaro if Steve Lukather would do it but Steve P. said he had the guy. So I went to A&M studios in Hollywood to meet Jon Elias and he played me the rough tracks for the new ABWH album. Basically he told me Arista felt Steve's guitar parts were unacceptable and that he had just soloed over all the songs. Now this was partially true. What they wanted was a blend of the old classic Steve Howe sound mixed with Trevor Rabin! I guess they felt it would sell more records. So Jonathan gave me a mix of three songs with no guitar on them ("Without Hope", "Dangerous" and "Silent Talking"), told me to do what Howe/Rabin would do. So in my home studio I recorded wall to wall guitar parts and mailed Jonathan the tape to New York. There was also two other name guitar players (I wish I could tell you who) who had done the same thing but they liked my tape the best, so I flew to New York for approximately three months and recorded guitar for my favorite band (a dream come true!). Meanwhile Billy [Sherwood] had hooked up separately with Chris and Alan through a whole other channel.
HP: When you came in to do the guitar parts, who were you working with in the studio?
JH: I would track from 5pm till usually 5am. I did this for a straight month and a half with no days off. Basically, they made a 24-track slave tape with a rough mix of the song with Jon's vocal and I would lay ideas on the remaining 20 or so tracks. It was usually Buzz (the engineer) and I working together and occasionally Jon Elias or Alex Lasarenko would stop in and offer some ideas. After each session Jonathan [Elias] would play it for Jon Anderson and I would get feedback that way. When the album was finally mixed, they synced up three 24-track machines. It was Jon Anderson, Jon Elias and one other person (whom I've been asked not to mention) who made the final decision what part would go on the album.
HP: So tell us about the details of Union...
JH: Arista really wanted classic Steve Howe and I guess they felt they weren't getting it with the existing parts. So I did my best and I think a lot of it worked (I even fooled some band members). Arista was originally not going to credit me at all, so I was lucky to get what credit I got. So for posterity here's what was Steve and what was me. (If you listen to Union live bootlegs you can get an idea of what I came up with and Steve's original parts.)
Track 1: "I Would Have Waited Forever". The opening riff is me (Arista wanted this sort of a "Starship Trooper" thing), then Steve really just played the recurring single thread line at 0:24 to 0:49 and the end solo. I played all the other guitars (electrics, acoustic, some effect overdubs).
Track 2: "Shock to the System". Must have been a shock to Steve's system—there is simply no Steve Howe on that at all! Steve had, of course, written the opening riff (which I ended up replacing for sonic reasons). I think this was my favorite track because I got to write most of the riffs and there was this new section we came up with and tacked on at 4:10 and the riff is very reminiscent of "Gates of Delirium". And I had to replace some of the bass! (Tony Levin left his bass at the studio so we got his exact sound and added the sections.) I guess Steve refused to play this section live. (This is the track that Rabin played for Steve on the plane during the Union tour and Steve's mouth dropped.)
Track 5: "Without Hope You Cannot Start the Day". Once again there is no Steve Howe on this at all (I don't think Steve ever even heard this song). Jon and Jonathan wrote this one.
Track 8: "Silent Talking". I replaced the main riff because there were timing discrepancies and I tried to get as close to Steve Howe's sound as I could. There are a couple of riffs that were kept of Steve's, where you can hear his tone is a little different, like at 0:46 to 1:03.
Track 11: "Dangerous". No Steve here. Not one of my favorites on the album but the one I guess I was "featured" on, oh well.
Track 12: "Holding On". Steve just played the first main riff at 0:31 to 0:47 and that's it folks. There is a lot of riffing on this especially toward the end, but it is all me and I think it's a pretty good likeness of Steve.
Track 14: "Take the Water to the Mountain". No Steve here either. Lots of Howe likenesses though.
Track 15: "Give and Take". It starts out Steve on the main melody and I did harmonics over that. I played all of the verses as well as the chorus. Steve's sound is basically the distorted thinner sound that never changes tone. It was that way on all his tracks and I think the powers that be felt there needed to be more colors from the guitars, hence my involvement.
HP: Looking back, how do you view Union now? What did you think of the mostly negative reaction among Yes fans to the album, and what do you think of it yourself these days?
JH: I think that the record is very palatable and has a lot to offer musically. I do understand the fan reaction and I think a lot of it has little to do with the musical aspect, but rather the political and the fact that there isn't much Yes there. And if I was Steve Howe, I would have been ticked off if someone came in and replaced my parts too. But I did try to be sensitive to his sound and style like using a Gibson ES-175 and stuff.
HP: And how do you feel when somebody says, "I liked Steve Howe's guitar work on that track," when you know that was actually you?
JH: Well, flattered because I fooled them into thinking it was Steve and frustrated because of the lack of credit, but that's OK.
HP: We've talked a bit about being a Yes fan yourself: how did you get into the band? What are your favorite Yes songs/albums? And what do you think of the most recent Yes albums, since Union?
JH: I heard "Roundabout" at a party in 1971 and it sounded like heaven or something, so different than anything on the radio. So I bought the single with "Long Distance Runaround" on the back. I ended up buying every Yes album possible and eagerly awaiting the next release. I have to say my favorite album is Close to the Edge, then Relayer—Steve's solo in "To be Over" is a masterpiece. Then Topographic Oceans. To me, Yes became a different animal after 90125, not that I didn't enjoy them, Rabin's work was brilliant, still it seemed to become a pop machine so my interest in the newer started drifting and I kept going back to the Topographic Ocean's and Close to the Edge's. Billy [Sherwood]'s involvement was very important. He did and wanted to do so much for that band, but as Rabin said it's a very tough position.
HP: Around the same time as Union, you and some of the other Lodgic members became involved with Air Supply. How did that come about and what was it like?
JH: I met the guys in Air Supply during my session days and they asked if I'd like do a tour, so I did and it was a lot of fun for about five years. I brought Michael [Sherwood] and Guy [Allison] aboard after a while, then finally Mark T. Williams.
HP: Then came The Key with Billy Sherwood and Mark T. Williams. You recorded an album, Delta Sierra Juliet, which was never released. What's the story behind that and might we ever get to hear it?
JH: We basically wrote this album at Billy's and it was really good. We shopped it to the companies and got signed by Impact Records (MCA), but at the last minute the company folded. Billy and I have been talking of a resurrection. The music is more guitar orientated than World Trade. The song "Dark Sky" (written by Haun, Sherwood, Williams) from World Trade's second album was more the direction of The Key
HP: The Key toured with the Chris Squire Experiment and you played in both bands. What was it like going from working with one side of Yes on Union to the other side with the Chris Squire Experiment?
JH: Well, it was a great experience. I loved the music we played live. It was surreal at times, like playing "I've Seen All Good People" or "Long Distance Runaround". And playing with Steve Porcaro was great, as well as my buddies Billy and Mark. Alan was great and Chris is a great guy. One night him and I stayed up and he told me a story about the early years with Yes, how they played a show with the then unknown Jimi Hendrix. When Yes went on, there were all these big names in the audience, Clapton, Townsend, Entwistle, and Chris thought to himself "Well, we must be making quite a splash to lure these guys." After the last song the audience went wild and Yes was very excited until they figured out it was really for the new sensation Jimi Hendrix.
HP: As you mention Jimi Hendrix... I understand you're also a left-handed guitarist, yes? ... and sometimes called Jimi, with a surname beginning 'H'... You've a few things in common with Hendrix! As a fellow lefty, has he been a special influence on your work?
JH: No doubt and he still is. His approach to playing electric guitar has influenced every electric guitar player since him, even Steve [Howe] (the guitar break in "Yours is No Disgrace"). Also, I used to play left-handed with the strings right-handed till someone pointed out that he reversed them. As for the spelling of the name, I abandoned that with respect for him a while ago.
HP: For yet another Yes connection, you also worked on Kitaro's Dream with Jon Anderson and one track of the Jon & Vangelis album Page of Life. Can you tell me about those albums?
JH: I had just done the Union album in New York and flew back to LA, when I got a call from Jon Anderson to come up to his house to play on a demo. He played me "Change We Must" and said he needed a solo on it. So he liked it and we went into a studio in Hollywood and did a few songs for that album, cuts 1 and 6 [I presume this is with respect to the US version of Page of Life]. Jon is great to work with, very encouraging and supportive. I would do a track, then he would listen back with his eyes closed and afterward comment if he wanted something different.
Kitaro was through Jon Anderson and it was funny because Kitaro doesn't speak English, so when he would tell me his ideas it was through an interpreter. Also, before the session they called me and asked if I had a distortion pedal and [I] said I had a few, but when I got to the session they had rented every pedal and amp head I had ever seen! But overall it was a great experience.
HP: Another artist you've worked with is Cher... What was that for?
JH: I used to do demos for her and Celine Dion with her writers all the time (Diane Warren and Guy Roche) and got to work with her on an album track that Diane wrote that never made it to the album.
HP: Union was the first time you met Jonathan Elias, but it was the beginning of many more collaborations. What is it like working with Jonathan, and how did you choose to join Elias Associates [who produce music for films, commercials &c.]?
JH: Jonathan and I clicked right away. We found our styles of composing and producing were very similar yet very complementary to each other, he's also my closest friend. He used to live in New York and, after I worked on the Union album, he flew me out to work on various album projects. He asked me if I would move out there and we could work all the time together, but I chose to stay for my daughter. Eventually he moved to LA and we started working immediately. When Jon Anderson lived here, we used to hang a lot with him. Jon A. actually wrote a commercial for Ford with Elias that did very well. All in all Jonathan, is a very generous caring person and I think Mike and Billy would agree.
HP: Writing music for commercials seems a very different path to being in a rock band. Do you see the two as complementary?
JH: Actually, yes. With commercials you have to be a chameleon with sounds and styles and it gives way to many ideas that translate themselves in a band situation. I still play out quite a bit with several singers. My daughter is another singer who Jon [Elias] and I work with. She is a serious actress/singer/songwriter. She's done a ton of movies and she also hosts a monthly show on the Disney channel called Movie Surfers. She has a band named Vital and some fan of hers made a website for her [Lindsey Haun website]. You've got to check it out! I'm so proud of her.
HP: How does your work at Elias Associates compare to being in your own band, or playing sessions?
JH: They are two different worlds. You've no doubt heard being in a band is like a marriage, it's got its pluses and minuses, and doing sessions can be pretty challenging 'cause you're always trying to please someone else. I don't really like being told what to play—it can be sort of anti-creative.
HP: How do you think of your work on commercials? Is it something that has an independent artistic value, or is it more of a technical challenge?
JH: Both, I have learned just about every style of music there is. One day I'll write a 17th century Baroque piece then change to a trip-hop piece on the same day. You also reach a huge audience that rivals any rock band. It's a great living.
HP: What about film scores?
JH: Film scores are a lot more subtle and drawn out. Basically, you find a theme that reintroduces itself throughout the movie in various forms. You have to think slower and not so literally in scoring. You don't want to accent every move or it starts feeling like a 70's cop show or something.
HP: And do you have a favourite commercial? I know a number have won awards.
JH: It's pretty hard to choose but the Budwieser Lobster spot is up there: huge orchestra playing dramatically over the top, tightly scored. Audi Lives, I'm most proud of. It won the AICP award and is now in the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. There is also a Coors commercial that stars Les Paul and they didn't feel they had the right sound or take from Les, so I ended up replacing the guitars and I had to watch his hands and make it look like he was playing it. It turned out great and I talked with Les afterward and he loved it, so that was pretty cool. I also just worked and played with the great BB King on a recent project to be announced and that was an amazing experience. What a great and humble soul.
HP: Billy Sherwood's forthcoming solo album No Comment includes your recorded vocal debut: how did that come about?
JH: That's a funny story. Billy was going through some vocal samples in his library and found this vocal pass I did years ago and it fit in perfectly. I won't say what it is yet, but I think you'll be quite surprised. Billy's got a great album here and it will be released very soon. [Haun's vocal was not used on the album in the end.]
HP: Billy has announced the formation of a new band, The Unknown, including many Lodgic/World Trade/Elias Associates names. Can you tell me more about the project and when we might hear a debut album? Is it mainly yours and Billy's project, or a wider collaboration?
JH: Right now it's just Billy, Jay [Schellen] and I, but we are bringing Jonathan [Elias] and Michael [Sherwood] in very soon. The album is turning out very progressive and I'm using a lot of the 175s on it. I recently acquired another lefty 1959 Gibson 175 that may rival Steve [Howe]'s main! Anyway, the album is going great, but it's a very involved project that's getting lots of TLC.
HP: What other plans do you have for the future? Any particular ambitions: your own band, more film soundtracks?
JH: Other than The Unknown, Jonathan and myself are producing a record with this singer named Noella Hutton. She's from Ireland and was in Lilith Fair, you can see her in the movie about it coming out in the summer. This girl is an awesome find. I'm very excited.