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Asia Biography

1980

Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn (The Buggles) are brought in to replace the departed Rick Wakeman and Jon Anderson in YES. They join forces with Steve Howe, Chris Squire and Alan White. The Drama album results from the coalition, and a world tour follows. It soon becomes apparent that the Yes-Faithful will not accept Trevor Horn as a replacement for Jon Anderson. Yes dissolves, with Horn and Downes returning to the studio for work on The Buggles' second release 'Adventures In Modern Recording'.

Coincidentally, another British Prog Band, UK, has dissolved. John Wetton had been searching for a new sound ever since his days with Robert Fripp in King Crimson, and UK had been the logical next step in that search. Originally a quartet with Eddie Jobson (Keyboards), Bill Bruford (Drums), and Alan Holdsworth (Guitar), Bruford and Holdsworth leave UK after the band's debut album. Drummer Terry Bozzio is brought in, and UK continues as a trio. Two more albums, Danger Money and Night After Night result from this line-up before internal difficulties between Wetton & Jobson caused an irreparable split. It is time for John Wetton to reach for the top-40 success he has so longed for. Waiting for a project to come along, he records his first solo album - "Caught In The Crossfire".

On the heels of the Love Beach album, Emerson, Lake & Palmer have taken their final bow. Together with a group of American musicians, Carl Palmer forms a new band - 'PM'. One album results before the band splits.

1981

January, 1981. Steve Howe and John Wetton meet and begin writing and playing with an eye towards doing a project together. Eventually, they decide to form a band. Downes & Palmer round out the quartet and a name - 'ASIA' is chosen (rumoured to have been the suggestion of manager Brian Lane). Recording begins at a furious pace.

1982

ASIA, the debut record, is released. A modest tour begins. However, what happens next is unexpected. The album, along with the first single (Heat of the Moment) rocket to the top of the charts. Nine million copies of the debut album are sold world-wide. The band is unprepared for such acclaim, given they only have 45 minutes of material for a live show.

A successful world tour follows. In order to round out a full show, individual solos and demo versions of songs for their next album are added into the mix. Two official videos - 'Heat of the Moment' and 'Only Time Will Tell' are also released. While on tour to support the album, a video is also shot for 'Sole Survivor'. It is rarely seen (simply a live shot of the band), and soon slips into obscurity. A video for Wildest Dreams is also commissioned, but it is deemed 'too extreme' by the band for it's graphic war footage.

As the tour wears on, some cracks begin to appear in the band's personal chemistry.

1983

In order to avoid the British tax man, the band is advised to spend some time outside of the UK. They turn to Morin Heights, just outside of Montreal, Quebec. It is very cold, and isolated from the outside world. Production begins once again with Mike Stone. Immediately, Downes & Wetton emerge as the 'writing team' for the album. Steve Howe, with five writing credits on the debut record, is completely shut out. Tensions begin to mount between Howe and Wetton.

Alpha is finally released. Two more official videos are produced - 'Don't Cry' and 'The Smile Has Left Your Eyes'. More touring continues. On September 10th, John Wetton unknowingly plays his last date with the band (for now) at the Pine Knob in Detroit, Michigan.

Behind the scenes, Geffen and Asia's management are outraged that 'Alpha' is failing to meet the expectations set by the first record. Pressure is exerted for a major change, and John Wetton is removed from the band. Greg Lake (ex of ELP) is brought in to replace Wetton for the band's ASIA IN ASIA show for MTV in December.

1984

Lake departs when it becomes clear that his voice does not suit the band's material. Geffen and Asia's management realize Wetton's commercial value as lead singer, and lure him back into the fold. Unable to make things work with Wetton, Steve Howe leaves the band while writing for the third album. Mandy Meyer (ex of Krokus) comes in on guitar. Seemingly endless studio work continues.

1985

Third album, Astra, finally released. One more video - 'Go' is produced. Astra fails to live up to expectations commercially, and all tour plans are cancelled. For all intents and purposes, ASIA is finished as a band.

Never to play with Asia in concert, Mandy Meyer goes on to form Katmandu in 1990, along with former Fastway singer Dave King, Mike Alonso on drums, and Caine Carruthers on bass.

1986

An EP, 'Aurora' is released in Japan. It is a limited release with only 20,000 copies allegedly produced. It contains the song 'Too Late' from Astra, and three single b-sides - 'Ride Easy', 'Lying To Yourself' and 'Daylight'.

Following the collapse of Asia, Geoff Downes returns to the studio to begin recording his first solo album.

Steve Howe (with Geoff Downes producing) forms GTR with Steve Hackett (ex of Genesis) and Max Bacon. A world tour follows with mild success on the basis of a single - "When The Heart Rules The Mind".

Through GTR's bass player - Phil Spalding, Downes is introduced to bassist/vocalist John Payne.

John Wetton records a duo album with Phil Manzanera (ex of Roxy Music). Album is simply titled 'Wetton/Manzanera'.

John Wetton gathers a group of friends together at The Marquee Club in London, England. Wetton, Carl Palmer, Phil Manzanera, Robin George and Don Airey play two nights, June 4th & 5th. A wide variety of music is performed, including "Don't Cry", "Keep On Loving Yourself" and a few standards.

1987

Wetton records 'Gypsy Soul' under the name Asia for the soundtrack of 'Over The Top' (Sylvester Stallone). Joining Wetton are Giorgio Moroder (programming and keyboards) and Dann Huff (guitar).

As a favour to a friend, John Wetton joins in on the Phenomena II: Dream Runner project. There he sings lead vocals on one track - 'Did It All For Love' which in turn becomes the album's hit song. A video for the song is produced. During the recording, Wetton meets Scott Gorham and Michael Sturgis (both of 21 Guns).

Geoff Downes' first solo album, The New Dance Orchestra - The Light Program, is released on Geffen Records.

Wetton & Downes, together with Gorham and Sturgis practice and record for a possible ASIA reunion. A record deal in Japan is arranged, but there is trouble getting a world-wide deal. Wetton pulls out when a global deal fails to materialize. Some tracks eventually surface on other projects - 'Summer Can't Last Too Long' (Then & Now) and 'Kari-Anne' - (Live in Moscow).

In search of a partner, Downes drops by to see a concert by John Payne's band - The Passion in September. Featured in the band's set that evening is a demo version of the song 'Love Like The Video'.

Late 1987 and 1988 finds Downes at work on the RAIN project. Nothing firm (re: vocals) is decided upon. John Payne and Max Bacon (ex: GTR) sing on various tracks at different times. Bacon eventually leaves. Payne and Downes solidify a working relationship, and continue to work together. Much of the material from this period will eventually appear on the 'Archiva' albums in 1996.

1988

Carl Palmer teams up once again with Keith Emerson for a new group, Three, with California-based singer/bassist Robert Berry. Their debut album sparks little interest, with Emerson departing shortly thereafter.

John Wetton compiles his greatest (non-Asia) hits in a package - "King's Road" for EG records.

After completing extensive session work with John Payne, Downes begins working with Greg Lake on a possible project.

1989

Responding to an invitation to play a series of stadium dates in Europe with the Beach Boys and It Bites, Wetton quickly bands together Palmer, keyboardist John Young and guitarist Alan Darby. Geoff Downes is temporarily out of action writing and recording with Greg Lake (on the 'Ride The Tiger' project).

As the mini-tour progresses, Wetton and Palmer quickly realize that there is an audience for Asia's music. Another tour is arranged for the autumn, primarily in Germany, for some smaller venues. Darby is gone, and replaced by German guitarist Holger Larish.

Rejuvenated by their success, Wetton and Palmer manage to coax Downes into re-joining them. John Young departs the band. Holger Larish is also unceremoniously dropped from Asia.

John Payne is invited to work with Electric Light Orchestra in New York, following the departure of Jeff Lynne. The project (not yet titled ELO II) is in shambles. Payne later departs, never to record with the band.

1990

Pat Thrall (ex of Hughes/Thrall, and Pat Travers Band) is brought in on guitar for 1990-91. A deal with Geffen (or fulfillment of an old agreement) to release a collection of old and new material results in 'Then And Now'. A video for the minor hit - 'Days Like These' is filmed, but never released.

Hoping to create momentum to lead them to another studio album, Asia tours extensively. More festival dates in Germany are followed by shows in Japan, the UK, Russia, and finally in Brazil. Wetton is becoming disillusioned with the reunion and expresses his plans to depart for a solo career.

As souvenirs, two shows are filmed for distribution (Nottingham & Moscow). The Nottingham show is titled Andromeda in its video release. Wetton leaves, and Carl Palmer jumps to the reforming ELP.

Pat Thrall goes on to several projects, including studio work and touring with Meat Loaf. In addition, he also works alongside his old Hughes-Thrall team-mate, bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes, on Hughes' own 1995 solo release, "FEEL".

1991

Without a firm project to call his own, Geoff returns to producing, this time for the band If Only for the album No Bed of Roses. Led by guitarist/vocalist Greg Hart (who later collaborates with Geoff on Aqua tracks), Geoff produces and lays down a few keyboards. The album is released on Jimco/Czar in 1992.

Downes then decides to raise the Asia-phoenix once again, and proceeds to rebuild the band with John Payne on bass and vocals. Sessions begin on Asia's first studio album in 7 years with assistance from Carl Palmer and Steve Howe. American axe-man Al Pitrelli joins in on the festivities to lay down the majority of the guitar tracks. Session drummer Michael Sturgis adds some additional drum tracks.

1992

Downes begins the year playing a series of dates with Trapeze (Glenn Hughes). He later completes work at Advision Studios in Brighton, England on what will be his second solo effort - Vox Humana.

Aqua, Asia's fourth full-length studio album, is released. Steve Howe remains to tour as a 'Special Guest Artist'. A successful world tour follows, with drummer Trevor Thornton and guitarist Vinny Burns along for the ride. Howe is conspicuous by his absence on stage for any tracks from the Astra album.

Geoff Releases his second solo effort, 'Vox Humana', on Jimco Records.

1993

More touring to support Aqua. Prior to the summer, Vinny Burns departs for Ultravox, and is replaced by Keith More (later of the band Arena) . Summer festival dates in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Romania and Estonia complete the Aqua tour. Asia take a well deserved break from touring. Steve Howe leaves to pursue various solo projects.

Unsatisfied with the mix of his second solo effort, Vox Humana, Downes remixes several tracks, and the album is re-released on ALL AT ONCE records.

Downes & Payne begin writing in the late summer, and return to the studio in November to begin recording the follow-up to Aqua. Al Pitrelli returns on guitars, with Michael Sturgis once again on drums.

1994

May '94 sees the release of Aria. Asia's management drops the ball by not actively pursuing a North American deal. The summer is spent performing in festivals, with Japanese and European dates. Michael Sturgis joins the band as their 'permanent' recording and touring drummer. Al Pitrelli joins in for the first part of the tour before departing. Former Simply Red guitarist Aziz Ibrihim replaces Pitrelli for the last leg of the European tour.

1995

Downes & Payne regroup in London by building their own studio. They proceed to sever their relationship with management team Huge and Jolly. A new management structure is put in place and the band takes control of their own affairs. Recording begins on Asia's third album with John Payne.

1996

1996 sees the release of the long-awaited Arena album. A brave departure from previous ASIA recordings, Arena attempts to bring the ASIA sound into the 21st century. Geoff Downes' keyboards take center stage, and John Payne returns with a vocal performance that betters anything on Aqua or Aria. Rounding out the lineup this time are Michael Sturgis, Aziz Ibrihim, Elliot Randall (guitar), Luis Jardim (percussion) and Tomoyasu Hotei (guitar).

The band pays homage to progressive years gone by with a stunning performance on their new classic 'Day Before The War'. It is destined to be a concert staple for many years to come. 'Words' and 'Turn It Around' have the ability to make waves for the band. Arena takes its final bow with a beautiful keyboard solo performance from Geoff Downes. Asia is back!

Through his affiliation with Voiceprint Records in the UK, all three of Geoff's solo recordings (The Light Program, Vox Humana, and Evolution) are re-released on the Blueprint Label. Geoff Downes begins working on the follow-up to his phenomenal Light Program solo album.

Once entrenched in their new studio in Wales, Geoff & John open the vaults. Demo recordings of the band from 1988 to the present are brought together for a double album of unreleased material. Archiva 1 and Archive 2 are released on June 17 on Resurgence Records in the UK. They feature demo tracks from the first Downes/Payne sessions, Aqua, Aria, Arena, and some surprises. Rodney Matthews once again supplies the cover artwork.

1997

Tour plans for the Arena album never materialize, so the band turns their attention to other projects. Four live CD's are released through Voiceprint Records in the UK - "Live In Nottingham - 1990", "Live In Osaka - 1992", "Live In Philadelphia - 1992", and "Live In Koln - 1994".

A greatest hits package - "Anthology: The Best Of Asia", released through DML in Japan, contains several nuggets for Asia collectors. Along with several re-recorded versions of Asia classics (with Payne on vocals), the band included two new tracks, "Different Worlds" and "The Hunter". The collection is later released in Europe on the Snapper label.

With some free studio time, Downes and Payne try their first attempt at soundtrack work. The BBC documentary "Salmon: Against The Tides" features original work by the duo, heavily influenced by Downes' Light Program album. Another project to perform the soundtrack for a Sega video game falls apart due to disagreements with the producers of the game.

In September, Downes and Payne (along with Aziz Ibrahim) perform live (acoustically) for the first time in three years for the German Progressive Rock Festival. The remainder of the year is spent writing new material for their next studio album.

1998

With the dawn of the new year, writing for the new album heads into high gear, with the addition of Saga guitarist Ian Crichton. Chrichton's addition to the band sparks a new direction for their music, into a more progressive vein.

Due to a number of scheduling conflicts, the new Asia album has been delayed until early 1999. At the same time, there is a possibility that some (or all) or the original members of Asia may reunite in the near future.

1999

Despite seemingly endless negotiations, the much-discussed Asia reunion fails to materialize. Downes and Payne return to the studio to finalize three demo tracks. With demos in hand, the band signs with a new labrel, Recognition, and forges ahead with recording sesions for a new album due in May, 2000.

 


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