Where are they now? - Asia
and related projects

This page last updated: 18 May 2024
 
YES and projects with several Yesmen
Jon
Anderson
Steve
Howe

Geoff
Downes
Chris Squire
Alan White
Billy
Sherwood

Jon
Davison

Rick
Wakeman

Patrick
Moraz

Trevor
Rabin

Trevor
Horn

Tony
Kaye

Oliver Wakeman
Jay Schellen
Igor
Khoroshev

Bill
Bruford

Peter Banks
Benoît David
Asia
Arc of Life
CIRCA:
Yes ft. Anderson Rabin Wakeman
Others associated with the band

Asia Official website; MySpace page; Twitter; Facebook; Official Google Group; authorised fan club
Asia return with the Heat of the Moment 2024 US tour, with 21 US East Coast dates 3-31 Jul 2024. The band has a new line-up of Geoff Downes (Yes; keys), Harry Whitley (Facebook; vocals, bass), John Mitchell (It Bites, Arena, Frost*, ex-Icon, worked with John Wetton, worked with Oliver Wakeman; guitar) and Virgil Donati (ex-Planet X, ex-UK; drums). Downes, Whitley and Mitchell played together at the 2023 John Wetton memorial show and Downes explained to Prog magazine (#150, Jun 2024) that, "People seemed so impressed by what we were doing [at the memorial show] [...] that kickstarted an idea: I decided it would be great to take Asia back out on the road". The tour has support from Focus (Thijs van Leer, Pierre Van Der Linden, Menno Gootjes, Udo Pannekeet), Martin Turner (with Danny Willson, Misha Nikolic, Sonny Flint) and Curved Air (an acoustic trio version of the band: Sonja Kristina, vocals; Kirby Gregory, guitars; Grzegorz Gadziomski, violin), who all, like Asia, are managed by QEDG. The tour will be MC'd by Roger Dean, who will also be displaying art. Again to Prog magazine, Downes said, "We'll be playing quite a lot from [SPOILERS—highlight to read] the first album [...] But we'll also be looking across all the albums".

In response to some criticism of the new line-up, Lisa Wetton (John's widow) posted a message, shared to ProgressiveEars.com on 29 Apr 2024:
When my beloved husband John Wetton realised that he was coming to the end of his life, he revealed in earnest, the wish for his musical legacy to be upheld by those who were closest to him. Consequently, and with great passion Geoff Downes has been at the forefront of keeping that wish alive by touring the music of Asia throughout the past 7 years.

Last August, Geoff brought together an amazing group of musicians to present the best of Asia at the John Wetton Tribute concert in England. The show was the moving final set of a five hour evening, and it was the first time the outside world would hear the phenomenal Harry Whitley on lead vocals.
Most everyone, including myself, was stunned by Harry’s evocative voice which shares an eerily similar tonal quality to that of John Wetton. Geoff introduced Whitley to a wider audience and we all knew this would be the start of something very special - a new chapter for Asia. At least that is what many of us who saw the tribute had hoped.

Fast forward 9 months, and the musical legacy continues as Geoff Downes, along with Harry Whitley on lead vocals and bass, John Mitchell (The John Wetton Band, Wetton Downes’ Icon, It Bites, Lonely Robot, Kino, Frost, Arena) on guitar and Virgil Donati (Planet X, Ring of Fire) on drums takes Asia music to the US East coast [...]

It would be easy for me to dismiss Asia without its other band members, proclaiming that it’s not really the band so there’s no point in them going on. There’s a problem with this statement. John Wetton himself would have endorsed this tour as he wanted the music to live on. He would have wanted the name to remain, as long as Geoff leads the way. Changing the name would go against John’s wishes. This is still Asia, and the current group have worked closely with Geoff Downes to respect the integrity of the music. I have seen it and feel comfortable with this current lineup. Everyone you will see on the stage (aside from Harry) has worked with John in different projects (John Mitchell was a member of the John Wetton Band and Icon and was also a close friend. Virgil performed on different occasions as the touring drummer in UK).

The current lineup gives the music a fresh energy which I haven’t experienced since John was alive.
I am personally thrilled to get behind this tour, and I know you will be thrilled too. Please support the legacy by coming to a show near you.

~ Lisa Wetton.

Carl Palmer announced on 15 Apr that, "I recently became aware that my friend and bandmate Geoff Downes will be touring the US this summer in a new line-up of ASIA of which he will be the only original member participating. As many of you know, I have also announced a tour for the RETURN OF EMERSON LAKE & PALMER project [...] My commitments to the ELP project have made it impossible for me to be part of this ASIA tour. I wish Geoff the best of luck with his forthcoming tour and I plan to eventually embrace the music of ASIA again at some point in the future." There were aborted plans for touring 2022 and 2023 with a prior line-up of Downes, Palmer, Billy Sherwood (bass) and Marc Bonilla (ex-Keith Emerson Band; guitar, vocals). In a Jun 2023 interview, Downes said of the band, "I think we're in a position where it's parked, but we're not ever going to say that that's finished. If the right planets align at any given point, we'll be up and running again. Carl and myself are very keen to go out and so more Asia". In a Jul 2023 interview for Goldmine, Downes said it was "a case of "If the situation arises, we can do something." Both Carl and myself particularly, and Billy [Sherwood] and Marc Bonilla, would be happy to go out there and do something. It's just a case really of people putting something together and putting it on the table [...] if it adds up, then we would definitely go out again." In an Apr 2023 interview, Downes said, "Hopefully, we'll get some Asia material out at some point again."

Asked about Asia in a Jan 2024 interview, Sherwood said, "Asia is still a thing. We were supposed to tour last year [2023], but we got a little bit sidetracked because Alan Parsons, who we were going to tour with, had some medical issues. So the tour got canceled, unfortunately. But I know Geoff's into it, and I'm into it, so we'll just have to see where things go." Asia had announced plans for a 40th anniversary tour starting Aug 2022 with a new line-up of Downes, Sherwood, Palmer and Bonilla, but this was then postponed and Bonilla has yet to play live with the band. The tour was to be with the Alan Parsons Projects, but Parsons required a medical procedure, causing a delay. Plans moved to a tour of 20+ dates beginning mid-Feb 2023, with a focus on the 40th anniversary of Alpha, as well as on the debut album, and with a display of Roger Dean art. However, Parsons had continued health problems and those dates didn't happen. Palmer explained in a Feb 2023 interview:
We’re not doing anything with Asia right now. We were supposed to be touring this year [2023], starting the back end of February. It was a double header tour, going out with Alan Parsons, but Alan’s had an operation as he has a bad problem with his back, so the tour got cancelled, and we hadn’t put anything else in as the promoter wanted to buy a package, and by the time we heard from Alan it was too late to do anything. So, at the moment, Asia has nothing on the table concerning recording or touring. This isn’t to say something won’t happen, but everyone is starting to get booked up for the rest of the year, so I can’t see anything happening in 2023 as things stand.
"Bumblefoot" Thal, who was the guitarist and vocalist in Asia in 2019, said on social media about the original 2022 tour plans: "Sadly I'll be unable to join @OriginalAsia on this wonderful tour - @SonsOfApollo1 rescheduled its Jan2022 tour to Aug, to my dismay it's right when Asia's tour was scheduled for. Will miss my Asia mates, they have all my love & support, I hope to see them when they hit NJ!" Palmer said to Doug Curran in Oct 2021 that there were talks about a Yes/Asia/Carl Palmer's ELP Legacy tour for 2022 for Asia's 40th anniversary, but that did not happen.

Asia joined Yes, Carl Palmer's ELP Legacy with Arthur Brown, and John Lodge on a joint tour summer 2019 North American tour entitled the Royal Affair tour. The line-up was Downes, Palmer, Sherwood and and Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal (Sons of Apollo, ex-Guns N' Roses; guitar, lead vocals), but with Steve Howe guesting for a portion of the set. Asia's set on the opening night of the tour was "Go", "Don't Cry", "Video Killed the Radio Star" (originally by The Buggles), "The Smile has Left Your Eyes", "Lucky Man" (originally by ELP), "Bolero" ("Cutting It Fine" extract, Downes keys solo), "Wildest Dreams" (with Howe on guitar and Thal just on lead vocals until end of set), "Sole Survivor", "Only Time will Tell", "Heat of the Moment". Asia have been planning to release a live album from the 2019 tour: it was expected in 2021, but has yet to appear. Roger Dean has been doing a cover (as he did for Yes's live album from the tour). Asked in a Jul 2021 interview with TotalRock whether he might guest again with Asia as he did in 2019, Howe said, "Maybe there's a formula there that we could repeat, but I don't know."

Final writing sessions with Wetton and possible new studio recording
Wetton had been receiving treatment for colon cancer from May 2015 and he and Downes wrote a new album through 2015-6 before his death in Jan 2017. In a statement about Wetton's passing, Downes said:
We were planning another album, but sadly he was not well enough to complete it. I feel heartbroken about this, as I knew John thought it was to be one of our finest albums to date. I remain as proud as ever of our Wetton/Downes writing partnership. I am hoping one day that I will be able to finish it, and that it will be appreciated by all those who loved his and our music, and most importantly, a legacy he would have been proud of.

Life will not be the same without him. And words are not really enough to describe the loss I feel right now, and the many friends and fans all over the World will also be feeling. It is the end of an era for all of us. But we will soldier on - the music of John Wetton needs to be heard loud and clear from the rooftops.

Discussing the 2024 tour with Prog magazine, Downes said of this body of work, "They weren't really fully developed[.] They were basic ideas, then John's health deteriorated quite rapidly and we never really got the opportunity to get stuck in and take it further. There's quite a bit of material and I'm looking to maybe bring in someone like John Mitchell to collaborate. Hopefully, we can put it together in a way that John [Wetton] would've liked us to."

Downes has previously talked about possibly making a studio album, sometimes in the context of finishing the material written with Wetton, sometimes without mentioning that. In a Jun 2021 interview, asked about recording an album with the 2019 line-up, Downes replied, "I think we've always thought about that. Obviously, Ron's very busy [...] we've not been able to do any live stuff [because of COVID-19]. So, it's really been put [...] in abeyance at the moment, but certainly I think that now things appear to be easing off on that front, we hope that we can get back out and maybe do another album." Asked whether there are any plans for the 2019 line-up to record a studio album, Downes tweeted Jun 2019, "I sincerely hope so. Feels like it might be time..." In a Jul 2019 interview, Downes said, "Hopefully, we'll do something in the future. I think [Thal]'s done a fantastic job. It would be a shame if we didn't continue and make some music together." On tour in Jun 2019, he said to a fan that he hoped to record an album with this line-up in autumn 2019, with a release to come before a new Yes album. Palmer, around Jul 2019, also said he would like to make an album, and Sherwood, in this Jul 2019 interview, affirmed he was open to that as well. At the end of an Aug 2019 interview, asked about his future with Asia, Thal said he would "roll with the flow of it all." He continued: "it raises a lot of thoughts [...] Do people want new music from this line-up or do they just want to come and hear the hits that they love? Uhm... do we do one song, just for the next tour, something like that; do we do a whole album? Honestly, I can go any which way. I'm cool with whatever."

In the Feb 2017 interview, asked if they planned to complete the album they had been working on, Downes replied, "Yes. I think so. He had a lot of material for it. I think we will definitely do something with it because I think John would like me to do that." Downes has reiterated this position subsequently. To the Feb 2018 issue of Prog, Downes said, "I am personally committed to finishing the songs we had started in 2015/2016." Asked on Twitter in Apr 2018 about plans for releasing this material, Downes replied, "Working on it". In a Mar 2021 podcast, Downes said, "I've still got some recordings I did with John Wetton [...] there's still some elements of that that I'd like to do at some point." Asked about the material, he replied:
There's probably about half a dozen, but because John was too sick really to, at the time, to take them any further. [...] deep down, I know probably [...] the direction he would like them to go in. So I've got those, those elements, they're there, and I really hope to get them, y'know, completed one day.

But the last 4 or 5 years have been pretty solid on the road with Yes particularly [...] it's been a lot of roadwork the last 10 years but the way it is at the moment, I think I'm going to have to spend a bit more time fishing around in the studio and see what I can come up with.

In an interview published in the May 2022 issue of The Beat, Downes said, "I [...] want to finish some stuff I had been working on with John Wetton just before he passed away and to put out as a tribute to our writing partnership. It would be great to get some of the artists who worked with Asia to guest on that." In the Jul 2023 Goldmine interview, Downes said, "I still have got some bits and pieces. Unfortunately, John, at the time we were writing, was not well at all. We didn't really get much of a chance to develop it to any kind of complete level, but there are bits and pieces around that eventually I would like to get a bit of time and take a look at and see if we can make something out of it."

Work on this material may go back to Jul 2015. In a late Jan 2016 interview, Downes said he'd "been writing with John Wetton for another Asia album" and, on 11 Feb 2016, both Downes and Wetton tweeted about meeting up to work on a new album. Wetton said: "Looking forward to (yet) more writing today with @asiageoff Mr.Downes. Next ASIA record moves along apace." Downes later said: "Excellent day in Bomo with my old chum @arkangel2605 [Wetton's Twitter account] Very productive - new Asia album on the way!" On 3 Mar 2016, Wetton then travelled to meet Downes in Wales "to formalise new ASIA material", according to a tweet he made. Downes tweeted afterwards: "Excellent day with @arkangel2605 today at my studio. New Asia album en route!" In a Mar 2016 interview (possibly conducted in Feb), Downes said, "I've been working with John on some material since last year [2015] actually. John's been sick for the last year or so now and has been having some fairly extensive medical treatment. In between that we've been putting together some songs that we hope sooner or later we will actually go into the studio and do another Asia album." In an Apr 2016 interview, Downes said: "I have been working with him [Wetton] on some new material and hopefully we will get an album out in the not too distant future." In a later Apr 2016 interview, Downes said: "we are still writing and we [sic] be doing an album with John Wetton towards the end of [2016]." A May 2016 tweet by Wetton showed a CD-R and said, "next ASIA record is on here, now we just have to record it!" In an Oct 2016 interview, Downes said: "Asia, hopefully we'll get that back up and running soon. That's the idea. We've been working on new material, and we have a whole album planned." Wetton described the first song as 7.5 minutes long and as in 17/8. He also mentioned one song title was "Tattoo on Your Soul". Asked about that title by a fan in Jun 2019, Downes implied he called the piece "Indigo".

However, in a Jun 2017 interview, it was reported that Palmer "says it's too early to say if the new lineup, featuring Sherwood, will record together." In another Jun 2017 interview, Palmer talked about events and the future more broadly:
“We thought he’d make the March [2017] period for the tour, but he suddenly took a turn at the very end,” Palmer said. “Those last three weeks, he was very ill and he passed.”

Asia had already committed to opening for Journey, but Palmer wasn’t sure if they could continue or even if Journey [...] still wanted them [...]

But the band’s management said, “They still want you. Please find a bass player.”

As it happened, they had one in mind.

Before Wetton died, Palmer said the band had some difficult discussions about whether Asia would carry on.

The drummer said, “Before he did go, we asked Jo[h]n if we were to carry on, who would you want to take your place?”

Wetton chose Billy Sherwood [...]

Beyond this tour, Palmer doesn’t know what will happen next. He will keep playing music — that much is certain, but whether it’s with just his own band, with Asia or as part of another group, he’s not entirely sure.
Shortly before Wetton's death, in comments in Jan 2017, Palmer said, "I wasn't going to be making the next Asia album anyway because I was a bit concerned about the direction of the band. It was getting a little bit too middle of the road. I didn't realize that John was this ill when I made this announcement to him, so obviously I'll review that. If he can record at all I'll look at the situation again." In comments to a fan on tour in Jun 2019, Palmer implied that Wetton's vocals would not be used on a new album.

In an early Nov 2020 interview, Downes said, "At some point, I am hoping to complete some Asia material that I had begun with John before he sadly passed". In a Jun 2021 interview, Downes said:
I’m still working on those [final songs written with Wetton]. I’ve got some plans for them. It’s been difficult because there’s not a massive amount to deal with but at the same time, there’s enough for an album’s worth of material that will be significant. I’d like to get a lot of the people that worked with John and myself and all the people involved to offer some performances, which would be great. That’s really where I probably would see it going.
Palmer told one fan that Wetton's vocal recordingson these demos were not usable, implying the songs would have to be recorded with a new vocalist or vocalists. In a Sep 2021 interview with Prog Radar, he said, "I've still got unworked material from a session I had with John before he sadly died so there is potential there to craft something new. I feel that Asia has not run its course and that there is still some life left in the band. Again, we'll have to see what emerges from those sessions." The next month, the official John Wetton memorial twitter account announced that Downes "is leading a John Wetton tribute album with special guests, featuring unfinished Wetton/Downes songs." This appears to mean the 2015/6 material, although that has not been confirmed yet.

Other news
There have been multiple archival, live, digital-only releases from the band. Live at the Teatro Colegiales, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2011 came on 17 Nov 2023. Before that was Live at the Carling Academy, Glasgow, UK, 30 November 2006, out 3 Nov 2023. Live at the Stanley Theatre, Pittsburgh, PA, USA, 25 April 1982 came out 23 Oct 2023. The first two are soundboard recordings, both of which had limited releases before I think, while Live at the Stanley Theatre is from an audience recording.

Tributes and memorials to John Wetton, including a book and concert, are discussed on the main page.

4 Asia tracks ("Heat of the Moment", "Wildest Dreams", "Time Again", "Tomorrow the World") are included on Carl Palmer's Fanfare for the Common Man box set (BMG Rights Management, BMGCAT791DBOX), out 2024.

Asia Featuring John Payne Website
In early 2006, Asia had consisted of Geoff Downes (keys), John Payne (bass, vocals, guitars), Guthrie Govan (guitars) and Jay Schellen (drums, backing vocals), when Downes left for the reunion of the original band. Payne/Govan/Schellen then formed GPS. The Asia Featuring John Payne name was contractually agreed with the reunion band on 9 May 2006, but Payne did not assemble a band until later, after GPS had failed to take off commercially. In May 2007, Payne/Govan/Schellen announced the formation of Asia Featuring John Payne, with Erik Norlander later announced on keys. Since then, AFJP have toured with some regularity, nearly entirely in the US, with a set covering both the Payne and Wetton eras of Asia. The line-up has changed considerably, with Payne the only constant.

Asia Featuring John Payne toured the US in 2022 with a line-up of Payne (lead vocals, bass), Johnny Fedevich (drums), Jamie Hosmer (keys, backing vocals), Moni Scaria (guitar, backing vocals) and possibly (reports vary) Alex Garcia (guitar, backing vocals). In a Feb 2022 interview, Payne described the situation of there being two Asia line-ups touring as "not ideal", but that it was OK "as long as it's clear which version of the band" is playing. The band toured further in 2023. They are touring in 2024 in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Aria. Overall, there are 18 North American dates from 18 May-7 Dec 2024, plus they play the W Festival in Belgium in Aug 2024. More dates are expected to be announced, including in Mexico. Some of the dates are just AFJP, but some see Payne and the same band also working as the backing band for various classic rock singers, including Lou Gramm (ex-Foreigner), or just with Gramm. Thus 2024 touring covers various formats: as AFJP, AFJP with Lou Gramm, as 80's Rock Tour, or as Voices of Classic Rock. There was a 6 Apr 2024 show under the name The 80's Rock Tour featuring vocals from Gramm, Payne, Steve Augeri (ex-Journey) and Fran Cosmo (ex-Boston). There is a 9 Nov 2024 show in California of Gramm with Asia Featuring John Payne, which I think means Gramm supported by the AFJP band and AFJP also playing as the opening act. Advertising for that promises a set including "Heat of the Moment", "Only Time will Tell", "Don't Cry" and "Sole Survivor".

In a Jul 2020 interview, Payne said he was working on a new AFJP album. He also spoke of plans to re-release his Asia back catalogue. In the Feb 2022 interview, he announced the album will be called Aviana and that Rodney Matthews (worked with Oliver Wakeman) has done a cover. It may be out in 2024.

Prior plans for an album under the AFJP name were re-directed into becoming the eponymous debut by Dukes of the Orient. They are Payne (vocals, bass, additional lead and rhythm guitar) and Norlander (keys), with their first album also involving Kollman, Govan, Schellen and others. A second Dukes of the Orient album, Freakshow was released Aug 2020 on Frontiers. In the Feb 2022 interview, Payne said they are talking about a third album and would like to tour, but it has not proven financially viable to do so.


On to CIRCA: and related projects news
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YES and projects with several Yesmen
Jon
Anderson
Steve
Howe

Geoff
Downes
Chris Squire
Alan White
Billy
Sherwood

Jon
Davison

Rick
Wakeman

Patrick
Moraz

Trevor
Rabin

Trevor
Horn

Tony
Kaye

Oliver Wakeman
Jay Schellen
Igor
Khoroshev

Bill
Bruford

Peter Banks
Benoît David
Asia
Arc of Life
CIRCA:
Yes ft. Anderson Rabin Wakeman
Others associated with the band

Any news, additions or corrections, please e-mail Henry Potts. Thanks.