3. Do you find cover art important? Please elaborate.
Well the short answer is yes! Music is after all an art form & the whole experience of buying an album should I think encompass the 'presentation' of the material. The album cover artwork is an opportunity to draw people in, an opportunity for the artist to express themselves or their ideas in such a way to encapsulate the music, or perhaps even to be abstract from it. There are some classic album covers out there & many which have achieved iconic status. You can, as a listener, see a cover from an album you adore & get excited just by the image - as you know what an excellent album that is. The covers of Moon Madness, Close to the Edge, and obviously Dark Side of the Moon are great examples of albums that demonstrate that imo.
Personally, I have bought albums before on the strength of the cover art without ever having heard the music! – Folly perhaps, but I reason that if the cover draws me that much, the music has to be good. I'll give you some examples – I was drawn to the cover of the self titled album Greenslade – purely because I saw the Roger Dean cover and I was a major Yes fan and I thought - never having heard of Greenslade - that if it had a Roger Dean cover, it had to be good! – I was right – great album. Another was Bo Hansson's 'Lord of the Rings'. There are several versions of this cover and the one I saw and bought on impulse features a winged Nazgul & an Orc – great pic – I had to have it. Another classic album.
More recently, this year in fact, I was in a market that was selling vinyl and up on the wall an album caught my eye. I was drawn to it immediately. It featured a knight, and a ghost like lady, a few Geese in armour! and an idyllic rural English scene behind. I never heard of Anthony Phillips' 'the Geese and the Ghost' but the cover sold it to me. I bought it and then read the details of the musicians on the back - and what do you know, it's half of Genesis and other class musicians I recognise the names of – sold just on the artwork. ...perhaps I have been lucky... so far
4. Which comes first in your process of composing/creating music, the lyrics or the music? I realise that you are instrumental, so you can skip this question if you like!
Well like you say, so far the music of YAK has been instrumental – although there are vocals in the new version of 'Aragorn' which was just released on a compilation album dedicated to the memory of Tolkien called 'The First Ring'. However you will need to listen carefully to hear them as they are hidden in the mix and come via the mysterious goings on inside a vocoder.
In this case the vocals came after the music was written. ... or was it the other way round? I can't quite recall... ;0)
5. Which bands/artists/genre would you name as your inspirational source? Please elaborate and individual perspectives would be great.
I draw inspiration from many places, but the key bands and artists I listened to when I was growing up in my teens and 20's were Camel, Yes and the solo albums of Rick Wakeman.
I was leant a copy of 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth' and that got me hooked into Rick Wakemen and I managed to acquire a number of his albums – King Arthur, VI Wives, No Earthly Connection etc and I learned a lot from them. In fact it was playing along with the synth lines in 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth' that unknowingly taught me the blues scale! As a classically trained pianist I was familiar with major and minor scales but my teacher never mentioned the blues scale....
Also about this time I was leant a copy of Camel's 'The Snow Goose' – the music on this moved me greatly and still does – again, I acquired as many Camel albums as I could & listened to them to repeatedly.
A friend mentioned to me that Wakeman played for a band called 'YES' and so on my next trip to HMV – I looked up 'YES' – never heard of them at that point. The album that drew me the most (based on the cover art!) was Close to the Edge – what a brilliant cover and inside sleeve picture – I had to have it! Got it home, put it on the turntable and got a real shock. At first I thought I had wasted my money as Side 1 'appeared' to be all over the place and whilst side 2 was more accessible, it was still unlike anything I had heard to date. However I persisted with it listening to it about 4 or 5 times and it grew on me, stronger and stronger – as the best albums tend to do – to the point that I fell in love with it. It is, I think, their best work and I was lucky enough to hear them play most of it a few years ago at Wembley - fantastic stuff!
Later on I discovered the music of Eddie Jobson through the 'Danger Money' album which I thought was a masterpiece – all three UK albums I think are excellent and I really admire the playing style, composition and talent of Mr Jobson – I just wish UK had made more albums in the same or similiar vein.