No John Payne, No Asia Gain

12 Aug
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A couple of weeks ago, I saw John Payne who used to play in THE ORIGINAL BAND Asia for a while until his notable contributions came to a crashing halt when original singer and bassist John Wetton got back together with original keyboardist Geoff Downes to resuscitate THE ORIGINAL BAND Asia to give it a second chance at life.
However it looked as if John Payne hadn’t recognized me when the few times we used to hang out fifteen or so year sago through the auspices of out mutual friend Christina Holtz, who used to published crapload of interviews with progressive rock dignitaries before internet and social media became the all around chic thing in a newsletter called the Music News Network.
When Wetton and the company went their separate ways after the disappointment in sales for the band’s third album, Payne was recruited by Downes before he could join Electric Light Orchestra to forge the band ahead for the next five studio albums (plus two albums of unreleased demos that were originally thought destroyed in a studio flood, a soundtrack for an interactive game, and a multitude of bootlegged live shows) in entirely new creative uncommercial direction that somewhat rubbed off on Wetton both socially and politically when the original guys got back together to record four albums from 2007 to 2014 on such songs as “Parallel Worlds”, “Holy War”, “Bury Me in Willow”&  “Nyctophobia” to sort up follow-up the somewhat political direction that Payne’s such as the 2004 title track to “Silent Nation” and “Free” from 2001’s previous album, Aura.

Payne brought a lot to the table to Asia on five fantastic albums, Aqua, Aria, Arena, Aura, and Silent Nation – the latter having broken the pattern of titles that begin and end with the letter A. On Aria, John Payne dedicated a song to his father called “Military Man” who served in the Royal Army. The above video is my personal favorite from the Aura album “Wherever You Are“. Payne and I once had a few drinks after a show they did at The Whisky a-Go-Go in West Hollywood and he confided in me that they lyrics were particularly tough for him to write because he was going through a lot of personal stuff and fending off demons. Former AC/DC drummer Chris Slade joined Asia for their last two major US tours and you can see him in the video.
After his long stint in Asia, Payne teamed up with guitarist Guthrie Govan (formerly of Asia too) and drummer Jay Schellen (Circa) to form GPS. They recorded one album called Window to the Soul with Spock’s Beard Ryo Okumoto guest starring on keyboards. If any of the material from the album was performed, it was performed on any one of John’s John Payne’s Asia Featuring John Payne summer tours with Rocket Scientist keyboard wizard Erik Norlander. GPS’s label, InsideOut Music claims that GPS was contracted to deliver three albums, but the band was shortly dissolved after the release of it’s only single album. Last I heard, John Payne moved to Las Vegas to help produce a rock and rock styled rock musical called “Raiding the Rock Vault with a revolving door of a who’s who of rock and progressive rock legendary dignitaries (even Yes’ Jon Anderson stopped by for a stint) formerly at the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel. But after that show closed, he’s built a private studio in the Las Vegas area where he works on projects for him and close friends.
You can catch John touring as part of the Rockpack tour for the remainder of the summer along with former Foreigner lead singer Lou Gramm and former Journey singer Steve Augeri, and former Toto lead singer Bobby Kimball. They’ll all be under the stars in Sandy Utah this upcoming August 18th.
A bonus treat: Here’s a review of two Border storre appearances in the Los Angeles area bakc in the fall of 2004.
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Hanging out with John Payne at a Spock’s Beard show somewhere in West Hollywood 2006.
ASIA AT THE BORDERS
 

By Cary Coatney

One of my favorite all time closet bands (the kind of band you don’t dare admit to liking past the age of forty due to the retaliation of mullet haircuts and parachute pants jokes) embarked on a two week tour of Border’s Books and Music stores all across the US that was both intimate and unique. I was fortunate enough to catch a couple of the shows due to that they were within a reasonable travel distance from my place of residence. Earlier this year, Yes did a familiar type of event at a Tower Records that was within a two block walking distance from my house, but there were some unforeseen circumstances that made that event a little bit too much of a media blitzkrieg with all the waiting on line to get a wristband, the mandatory cash or credit plunk down for a new CD and DVD, and wind up with nothing but perhaps a fifteen second chat with each member- but alas, with John Payne and Geoff Downes of Asia, you could have a sit down and chat about the weather, Quiznos oven baked sandwiches, or who they think is going to win the November US presidential election until they got bored with you and sent you away.

The first show in Westwood or the West Los Angeles area which took place on a Friday night, was surprisingly sparsely attended by as few as twenty-five fans (but they had a nice little stage to perform on) with a few lookee-loos here and there peeking over the coffee bar to ascertain who was responsible for all the racket as opposed to the smaller and more crowded coffee bar area that followed on the next night in my hometown of Sherman Oaks, Ca ( approximately more than sixty heads were counted). If I owned some wheels, I would probably would have followed them up the coast to Santa Barbera for the next afternoon show.

From what Geoff Downes sermon to the audience at some point during the performance, he stated that the purpose of this chummy little cozy get-together was not only to promote or make aware of the newly released Silent Nation album (on that fabulous Insideout Music label), but to sort of demonstrate or ruminate to attendees of what goes into a songwriting process. If one can follow along with the bare bone essentials of how all the ingredients fall in place into what goes into a song, the better in the appreciation of listening to it- at least that’s what I tried to rationalize from what Geoff was trying to say after they finished playing Wildest Dreams on nothing but a Korg Triton keyboard and a Spanish guitar before launching into the current single, ‘What About Love’ off the new album.

John Payne revealed a few secrets of what inspired him to write the new material. The lyrics to the new single, Long Way From Home reflected on John’s feelings on traveling abroad to record the new album from all the way from Wales to Burbank, California and the origin behind the title track from the new album dealt with a Howard Stern rant on the eroding of America’s civil liberties by evidence of the FCC crackdown of radio shock jocks across the nation that John just happened to be tuned into whilst between tour stops during the last time they were toured America (Janet Jackson’s much talked about wardrobe malfunction during last year’s Super Bowl halftime didn’t help matters either).

The little bits of monologue in between numbers wasn’t all that adroitly somber. Both Downes and Payne had some lighthearted moments as if they were channeling the spirits of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore (or was it the Smother Brothers?) , especially when it came to telling amusing jokes & stories about Steve Howe since John Payne was fortunate enough to tour with the guitar legend when he first joined the band for the Aqua album. I never did quite get the punchline to the ‘how many Steve Howes does it take to screw in a guitar string? – are you sure you even want to be in the same room with them?’ John P also pondered on whether John Wetton was actually thinking of Steve Howe when he wrote the line in Wildest Dreams, ‘they recommended euthanasia for non-conformers everywhere.’ And the mystery still remains unsolved to this very day- did the hair band, Europe actually swipe Geoff Downes’ opening synth motif for ‘Only Time Will Tell’ for their hit single, “the Final Countdown’? Even Jon Anderson wasn’t immune from their schick- they made a playful jab on maestro Anderson’s Alzheimer antics based on accounts heard from their collaborator, Billy Sherwood on a couple of tracks of the new album about how Jon would keep getting his name confused with Bobby Sherman – leading to the dedication to him in ‘Ghost in the Mirror’, one of my favorite tracks off the new album.

For those crowd pleaser seeking late seventies retribution got their wish when Geoff did took off on his little medley of ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ from which I understand that Geoff will be performing with his one time Buggles partner Trevor Horn for a benefit in his honor sometime in England next month. The new material was just as well received as the old stalwart hits judging from the audience reaction. Hearing the striped down versions of ‘Wildest Dreams’ and ‘The Heat Goes On’ had my mind floating in orbit back to those nostalgic times of innocence of rigorous pain-in-the-ass piano instructors or heated moments when I would hide with my Asia and Alpha sheet music in between recitals of Bach or Mozart or transcription assignments for Music Theory classes back in high school just for a little dose of sanity – so it was fun to hear these ‘low carb’ versions over the course of the two nights and from what I could see from over Geoff’s shoulder, the visualization of seeing him displaying his chops up close and personal- there is indeed a lot of argumentative thought that goes into the execution of these simple ‘pop’ songs.

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It was a shame that drummer Chris Slade hasn’t mastered the skill of figuring out a map of the Los Angeles area yet- otherwise, I would’ve gotten three autographs on the new album for the price of two. I’ll be anxious for Geoff and John to be bringing the full band back for a ‘real’ album tour sometime in April of next year.

Setlist: (both nights, October 14 and 15, 2004)

Wildest Dreams
What About Love?
Long Way From Home
Heat Goes On
Silent Nation
Only Time Will Tell
Ghost in the Mirror
Video Killed the Radio Star
Heat of the Moment

 

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