Q&A with Mike Tiano, his artistic endeavors, including his musical projects and his articles on music, movies, & TV

"In this context music provides anthems as rallying cries, windows into what is driving the anger and fears of those who are trying to get through the day, and how right and wrong are not interchangeable words that have no meaning for those who value power over compassion. I want to promote fostering a positive environment instead of being contrarian for its own sake."

Mike Tiano: The Ensō of Creétisvan

Mike Tiano's artistic endeavors, including his musical projects and his articles on music, movies, & TV. Mike Tiano is known for his bringing Yes into the Internet age. After helming one of the first online fanzines Notes From the Edge, Mike created their official site YesWorld, and for well over a decade was their site manager. Mike is also a musician and songwriter in his own right, now releasing “Creétisvan” which he characterizes as his life’s work and is informally calling the album his “audiobiography”. What is evident is Mike’s being inspired by the likes of the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Rush, and of course Yes. Mike’s influences are apparent throughout the album, including the Zeppelin-esque “Automaton”; the Yes-like “Triad”; the Beatles-inspired “(Because) You Win”; the surprising Buffalo Springfield vibe of “A Natural”; and Mike’s prog influences in general on the epic “Emerge Triumphant”, which features a live orchestra. Every track was written and arranged by Mike, who is lead vocalist and handles the lion’s share of the guitar work. While he also produced ten of the twelve tracks the remaining two were handled by Yes member Billy Sherwood on “Different Drummer” while the instrumental “Dance of the Little Guys” is the work of bassist Randy George. Both musicians perform on those respective songs. Other accomplished musicians gracing “Creétisvan” include David Sancious; keyboard and orchestrator Jonathan Sindelman; guitarist Steve McKnight; keyboardist Rick Daugherty; vocalist Joanne Perica; and a host of notable Seattle-area talents. Mike attributes the album’s “exquisite mix” to Grammy winner Steve Smith.                         (Mike Tiano / Photo by Chris Schanz)

After living in L.A. for most of his life Mike moved to the Seattle area in the late 1980s to pursue a career in technology, and to begin recording his songs in earnest. Mike would join Microsoft where he remained for nearly twenty years in various roles, including primary Test Engineer for two brand-new features in Windows 95: the Taskbar and the Start Menu. In 1993 Mike became editor for Notes From the Edge, publishing innumerous interviews with Yes members. After convincing Yes to launch their official site Mike created its original schema, and as Site Manager oversaw the official band and various member sites. Mike provided the liner notes for four of the Yes remasters from Rhino, and is currently a contributor to the online media journal Something Else!

Interview by Michael Limnios         Special Thanks: Billy James (Glass Onyon PR)

How has the Rock n' Roll Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

It’s influenced me to the extent it became ingrained in me. I was coming of age during the 1960s when rock music was the constant in my life and for those of my peers, many of them young musicians themselves. It helped that I lived in Southern California, an entertainment mecca where pop culture permeated my brain. Creative paths I have pursued have been spawned by my musical-related experiences, occasionally along with accompanying upheavals. Fortunately for the most part my musical heroes communicated love, cooperation, respect, tolerance, and fun; those are traits that are just some of the guiding principles I strive to convey and exemplify personally and professionally.

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

Those items in your first question stem from my journey through the history of rock music starting from the early 1960s. Regardless of a song’s length what it does is that it unfolds, and its success depends on whether it holds the listener from start to finish. There has to be something to grab onto (e.g., a memorable vocal line, a guitar riff, instrumental hooks, etc.) and that has to be inherent throughout the song. It’s not enough for one to write songs, record them, and release them—they must be effective in presenting a musical landscape that weaves melodic vocals, creative instrumentation, and well considered recapitulation of themes and passages, all in service of pulling in the listener where he/she is tantalized and craving to revisit the number. I would also list one hallmark of my music, what one engineer I worked with defined as “a moment”, where something significantly dynamic occurs during the narrative in the song.

WRT where the drive comes from there is no one source, like “It comes from needing to pay the bills!” Inspiration can strike from reacting to a situation, to having a feeling that there is the need to convey. The muse visits when it wants to, but when it does it’s something I see through to its conclusion.

"Focusing on the music, what Yes created consistently throughout the 1970s and occasionally thereafter provided a unique musical experience for those who are driven to experience time and again what Yes has to offer. And Yes has a vast catalog where there is much to explore." (Mike Tiano / Photo by Chris Schanz)

What moment changed your life the most? What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far?

I was age ten when the Beatles fist conquered American shores. But with the spectacle of Beatlemania and the avalanche of the accompanying British invasion it wasn’t until I saw “A Hard Day’s Night” that I became a devoted believer, specifically during “If I Fell”—I can’t articulate why, it just happened. But that was the moment I became a fan: the moment that planted the seeds of artistic creation was at the screening of the Beatles’ second film “Help!” Impacted by the romanticized and fun depiction of their recording “You’re Going to Lose That Girl” while being mesmerized by the soaring arc of the song itself I feel provides a direct line to where I am today with "Creétisvan".

Why do you think that Yes music continues to generate such a devoted following?

Focusing on the music, what Yes created consistently throughout the 1970s and occasionally thereafter provided a unique musical experience for those who are driven to experience time and again what Yes has to offer. And Yes has a vast catalog where there is much to explore.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

My default answer to the first question is "Creétisvan", and I’m not being flippant or slipping into promotion mode. The songs on there point to what I miss most, which includes aspects I addressed in an earlier question. No one is creating this tuneful brand of late Beatles/early prog. As to hopes and fears for the future of music in general, whatever happens is out of anyone’s control WRT changes in taste and style, so que sera, sera.

What touched you from the art of cartoons? How does cartoons affect your mood and inspiration?

I guess it was the first striking of that creative spark. I drew cartoons to fulfill a creative urge. I wasn’t touched as much as I was inspired to get better when I was actively drawing back in the day. I don’t watch many cartoons nowadays; when I do they’re mainly animated features, and those viewings are more to be entertained than it is to be inspired.

"It’s influenced me to the extent it became ingrained in me. I was coming of age during the 1960s when rock music was the constant in my life and for those of my peers, many of them young musicians themselves. It helped that I lived in Southern California, an entertainment mecca where pop culture permeated my brain. Creative paths I have pursued have been spawned by my musical-related experiences, occasionally along with accompanying upheavals." (Mike Tiano / Photo by Chris Schanz)

What would you say characterizes Seattle's music scene in comparison to other local US scenes and circuits?

I’m not sure I can answer that authoritatively, but what Seattle shares with other US locales is not being able to perform. With the current pandemic many have lost not only their livelihood but their method of expression: the former is economically devastating and the latter more so to the psyche.

What is the impact of music on the human rights and socio-cultural implications? How do you want to affect people?

In this context music provides anthems as rallying cries, windows into what is driving the anger and fears of those who are trying to get through the day, and how right and wrong are not interchangeable words that have no meaning for those who value power over compassion. I want to promote fostering a positive environment instead of being contrarian for its own sake.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

I’d go visit my 20 year old self and tell him he doesn’t have to buy $10 lids where the pot was full of seeds and stems—then I would bring him back to my present day and spend the day showing him how pot shops are like mini-supermarkets with cannabis available in so many forms. But in retrospect that might not be a great idea as my younger self, seeing and becoming overwhelmed by what is available legally, probably would die from the shock, then I would cease to exist.

Mike Tiano - Home

(Mike Tiano / Photo by Chris Schanz)

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