The Downes Braide Association, comprised of Geoff Downes (Yes, Asia) and Chris Braide (singer/songwriter) are releasing their third album, ‘Skyscraper Souls’ this month. I discussed with each of them about the details of their collaboration for the album, on which neither of them were ever together during the recording of it, proving the adeptness of their skill and wonders of modernity!
Geoff Downes: (For more about YES, see the article, ‘Interview With Geoff Downes’)
How did you two decide to come together as a duo?
Well, I met Chris Braide about seven years ago. Chris was apart of some side projects and was a integral part as a producer. He was a huge Buggles fan and it was then that he said he particularly liked my contributions. So, we got to talking and we said we should get together and write some stuff. It was a very natural fashion that we put together our first album. And this new album is a little bit of a departure for us after the previous albums.
Can you tell me the inspiration for the new album out on the 17th November, ‘Skyscraper Souls’?
Well, we had some interesting collaborations with other artists which led to that inspiration, and Chris has worked with a lot of them. He works in a very diverse field. And so, when you get people like Kate Pierson from the B-52’s and Marc Almond for example, we ended up with some very interesting people who were happy to come on board. They all brought some very interesting influences. And, the album started out as something else and transitioned differently but in a great direction.
Are you planning on touring for that album soon?
We have discussed it, it’s not something that has been discounted. Initially, when we only had one album, it would have been a struggle to have a tour but we decided it might be nice potentially now that we have more material. It would take some careful planning because we both have a lot of things going but certainly something we would consider.
I have asked the same of Geoff, but tell me how did you two decide to come together as a duo to create this group? (I understand that you are a big Buggles fan!)
I loved the first Buggles album. I was kind of obsessed with the keyboard sounds on that album when I was a kid such as the Solina string synth. I loved Geoff’s melancholy, minor chord changes too. I’m a big Yes fan too since hearing Going For The One when it was first released. I’d say that Yes are my biggest influence musically. Geoff and I met in London when we played at a charity event together and we just hit it off immediately. I felt like we’d known each other for years. I was about to leave the UK and move to the US the following month and Geoff was going to be touring there so as soon as I arrived in LA and set my new studio up he came over and the first project I worked on was the first DBA album Pictures Of You. Magic really.
Can you tell me the inspiration for the new album out on the 17th November, ‘Skyscraper Souls’ and the title of the album?
I’ve always written from a personal perspective. I’ve never been that great at writing about a subject I know nothing about. It has to mean something to me personally. The main theme of Skyscraper Souls Is about the human soul looking for its home in this mortal world. I liked the image of the mountain climber, searching and reaching and walking into a white blinding sky, yet never giving up. We are all mountain climbers aren’t we? I am a bit of an existentialist and have been that way since I was a young kid. I’m very awake and aware of the fragile nature of things. Writing about this stuff is therapeutic for me and gets me out of the angst I may sometimes find myself immersed in. The title was based on a black and white movie from 1932 which I’d always loved. It seemed to sum up perfectly what I was trying to say.
What sort of music inspires you and the work you both did on this album?
I love music that takes me on a journey. I’m not into daft progressive rock about dungeons and dragons, I love Kate Bush albums like Arial, 50 words for snow. Emotional, grown up music for deep thinkers. I love the way she takes me by the hand and leads me into a kind of wonderland. I love albums with a feeling or a theme. The album as a format doesn’t always just need to be 10 separate songs stuck together. It can have an overall aesthetic of its own and an identity as a whole piece of work. Pink Floyd really were the masters at that craft. I have to be in a certain kind of mood for each of their albums.
How did you find the writing and recording process?
Writing the album happened when Geoff started sending me bits of ideas while he was in tour with Yes last year. I would take his initial idea and flesh it out and work it up to a full length song and write lyrics etc. the title track is the result of many of those initial bits of ideas he sent to me which I then stitched together to make one big long epic adventure. It was great fun hearing it all come together at the studio. Recording is always a case of chipping away until the picture becomes clear. I would get a rough mix together of the track with a drum machine and sample bass and then add our bass player Andy Hodge and Ash Soan’s drums and then Dave Colquhouns sublime guitars which were all recorded in the UK. It was very much an international family affair! I think this album has one of the best Rhythm sections I’ve ever worked with. The way the bass locks in with the drums is beautiful. That was the main difference between this new album and the previous two records which were mainly programmed. And of course we have some absolute legends performing on the new album too such as Andy Partridge from Xtc, Marc Almond, David Longdon from Big Big Train and Kate Pierson from the B52s. I would then mix it all at my studio in LA. It took me absolutely ages to mix the 18-minute title track. I kept going back in the next day and the day after that and so on and tweaking the mix. Weeks and weeks of work on just that one track. Don’t be put off by the length of it though, it really does work beautifully as a whole piece I feel. Just put it on and drift away into another world.
Are you planning on touring for that album soon?
It’s something I get asked a lot because people who saw me live when I was the singer with The Producers loved it and would like to see and hear my voice again, but it’s not as simple as that. In Oder to really make it work we would have to devote a lot of time to it and my schedule and Geoff’s are pretty hectic at the moment. I haven’t taken one week off this year which I’m certainly not complaining about. I love what I do and i put 100 percent into whatever Im producing and that includes making this new album. Having said all that, no one would like to hear the DBA songs played live more than me. I think we’d be good. Who knows? It may happen.
Do you foresee more projects together in the future, given that you seem to work together so well…
I don’t see why not. I loved making all the DBA albums with Geoff but I especially loved making this new album. I think it’s the best thing we’ve done together. We never thought we would get to make a second album together let alone a third so I hope we carry on making great music together. I just live for today and today is a beautiful one. Tomorrow is anyone’s guess.
Order the album on Amazon here!