Inspired by Hank Marvin & the Shadows, Peter Banks began his career playing with the Shadows-influenced Nighthawks in 1963. Shortly thereafter he joined the Syn, a popular R&B-turned-psychedelic group founded by bassist Chris Squire, who he also worked with in the group Mabel Greer’s Toyshop, which included vocalist Jon Anderson. In 1968, Banks, Squire, and Anderson teamed with keyboardist Tony Kaye and drummer Bill Bruford to form the seminal progressive rock band Yes.
Banks’ jazz-inflected yet edgy tone was an integral part of Yes’ sound—as documented on its eponymous debut in 1969, and the following year’s Time and a Word—but Banks departed the group in 1970 due to personal and musical reasons. The guitarist played briefly with Blodwyn Pig, and then formed Flash, a group that enjoyed modest success and released three albums before disbanding in 1973. That same year, Banks released his first solo album, Both Sides of Peter Banks.
Banks performed and recorded with various artists throughout the remainder of the ’70s, including Empire, “a group with a female singer that made two albums which weren’t released at the time, played no gigs, and then disappeared,” he relates—a situation that Banks found disillusioning, leading to a 13-year hiatus.
When did you return to making music?
I did a string of three solo albums in the ’90s that were literally handmade in my home studio on a 4-track cassette recorder, with me playing all of the parts. The final album, Can I Play You Something, was a compilation of things that I’d done or played on before the dim distant Yes days.
Have you ever considered reforming Flash?
There were stirrings of a Flash reunion a few years ago, but we ended up not being able to agree on where to get together to talk about where to get together for rehearsals! There was also a revival of the Syn—including the recording of a new album for which I co-wrote, produced, and played on three tracks—though from my perspective it was a very regrettable experience that ultimately went nowhere.
What gear did you use in Yes and Flash?
In Yes, I played a Rickenbacker model 1997 through a Marshall stack, and I had a Vox CryBaby, a Gem volume pedal, a Marshall fuzz, and a Binson echo unit. I also had the distinction of having the first pedalboard ever made, built by Michael Tate. While in Flash I played a Gibson ES-335 through Hiwatts, had more pedals, and used a WEM Copicat echo.
What gear do you use currently?
I play an Ibanez Gem with a Floyd Rose tremolo and replacement Tom Anderson pickups and active electronics, as well as an old Casio guitar synth with built-in electronics. I play through a Line 6 PODxt with the foot controller, and loop with a Boss RC20-XL.
What are your most recent musical involvements?
My latest project is Harmony In Diversity, an improvisational duo with drummer Andrew Booker that will be releasing a new album soon called What is This? I also recently played on a cover of “Eclipse” for Billy Sherwood’s Dark Side of the Moon tribute, I may be doing something with former King Crimson violinist David Cross, and there are two potential projects involving former Yes personnel that I’m sworn to secrecy about for now.
How do you feel about neo-prog?
With all due respect, I don’t get it.