Back in the late 1980s, circa 1987, before many artists even had a
CD out, singer-songwriter Nikki Squire released the first album
with her band Esquire. Featuring Nikkis songs and lead
vocals, the self-titled Esquire album also featured supporting
roles by her then husband, YES cofounder, the late Chris Squire, drummer
Alan White and Nikkis long time musical collaborator, multi-instrumentalist
Nigel McLaren. Years flew by and Nikki and Chris parted yet
Nikki and Nigel kept at it and released a second Esquire album, Coming
Home in 1997. Now, almost 20 years after Coming Home, Nikki
and Nigel are back in the spotlight with the long awaited third Esquire
album called No Spare Planet. The good news is
the nine-track album is a bona fide masterpiece of inventive and meticulously
recorded progressive rock music brimming with fresh original tracks
written and played by Nikki and Nigel. The bad news is that Nigel
unexpectedly passed away in June 2015, just after the album was recorded
but not mixed. How tragic is it that Chris Squire also died that month.
So in 2015, Nikki lost both her original muse and her co-creator in
Esquire. As Nikki says in the following mwe3.com interview, recorded
on November 27, 2016, Nikki completed No Spare Planet as a
music tribute to her best friend, the late Nigel McLaren. Although
underrated for 30 years, Nikki Squire always had one of the great
voices and, as this 2016 Esquire
proves, her song writing is also still in peak form. Prog-rock fans
and YES fans will bask in the glow of No Spare Planet. www.facebook.com/esquiretheband
presents an interview with
Nikki Squire of ESQUIRE
the No Spare Planet interview
No Spare Planet blew me away with how great it is. I was not
expecting this. I remember speaking with you in 1997 and writing the
review of the '97 Esquire album Coming Home. I just can't believe
it's nearly twenty years now. But how great it is to hear this album,
even twenty years on.
Nikki Squire: Thank you, thats very nice. Yeah, listen,
life takes a hold of you sometimes. Like what you told me earlier,
and you get sidetracked. I understand completely. Why wouldnt
I? And then my whole life changed. I had young girls to bring up.
Nigel waited for me. He waited and waited and we got these songs done
and sadly he didnt wait just that bit longer really. Because
I also took off to Ibiza, where I live quite a lot of the time. My
family comes here. Its a family home. Yeah, time goes. And we
were due to start again with these mixes and do everything and instead,
Ive been doing it with Mark Wallis due to the fact that from
one day to the next, Nigel was gone, which was horrendous.
mwe3: I did not know No Spare Planet was coming. What
blows my mind is that Chris and Nigel died within two or three weeks
of each other.
Nikki Squire: It was a huge, massive, massive shock. Yeah,
I mean Chris and I spoke just before, when he was having treatment
but I wasnt aware that it was gonna be a finalized thing. In
short, I wasnt aware he could die. And Nigel, the night before
we were due to speak, Id been out and he sent me a text, he
said Im waiting for you, and I thought Id
call in the morning. And the call I got in the morning is he was gone.
And it was like, that was that and I didnt even have time to
tell Chris because when Chris called me and he was quite ill, I didnt
want to tell him. So Nigel didnt know
and we all knew
each other really well. It was all quite surreal and it took that
whole year for me to even absorb it, really. I dont know what
happened that year. And I spent a lot of time with my girls, clearly,
its their dad. It was pretty major. And it was quite sudden
too. Its quite sudden. It was in a short space. Nigels
was overnight. He had a stroke. I mean Chris was quite a short illness
that he had. It wasnt like hed been ill for years or anything.
So nobody was actually expecting it.
mwe3: So the music that came out on the album, No Spare
Planet, was it finished already?
Squire: What happened was, after I came to, after that first year,
Id been talking to Mark Wallis who worked on the first Esquire
album. He and Chris Squire mixed the first album and they produced
the mixes. So it was kind of the same thing. We had these demos, Nigel
and I, and we had to get to all the hard drives. It had taken a year
to get to that and go, Im gonna do this, and Im
gonna do it alone, if it comes to it. And Mark, I mean, he was
the perfect man for the job. Hes a great engineer, hes
a really wonderful producer. Hes a sensitive, musical guy. Patient,
because it took a lot of patience. Nigel had the stuff recorded on
various hard drives because wed worked here in Ibiza and wed
worked at his studio. There was a lot to piece together and it took
a whole year. So I didnt really talk about it. It took about
four months to get it all into shape and then properly start mixing.
But there are new vocals on there. Theres different treatments
to different instruments. Mark calls it a lick of paint
thats a very broad analogy. Mark worked on a lot of things to
bring them into the now.
mwe3: I think Chris would have loved this album. It sounds
more like him than the last couple YES albums. On No Spare Planet
it sounds like youre channeling Chris!
Nikki Squire: Maybe so, maybe so. Hes my measure all
the time and so is Nigel to be fair. And because Mark knows them both
very well, from working together, I think that it was totally the
right thing to do. So I allowed for that measure to develop with Mark.
Wed be like, Cmon Chris what do you reckon?
lol I dont know. We can get all cosmic about it. People run
through your veins sometimes. I think they both do. Nigel was a fantastic
musician and singer. He played so much on this album. All the bass
and all the keyboards are his, except the additional keyboards by
Lisa LaRue on "Stay Low". We worked as a team on it. And
I think, both of us, even when we were writing it, that measure of
Chris would always be with us
to be fair. Whether Chris was
with us at that time, as he was in life, he wasnt in the room...
(lol), but hes always there. If that makes sense.
Did you hear the Syndestructible that came out in 2005?
Nikki Squire: Well, you know, it wasnt for me. None of
it was really for me. I mean, lots of stuff that Chris did, in the
later times, wasnt always my favorite thing. I know an early
Chris. I know Fragile and Topographic Oceans Chris.
The Fish Chris. And Soundchaser Chris. And
all those things. They make that pulse. He used to play Soundchaser
to me. Id say, Cmon, play it!' Hed go up and
down the frets and Id go Yeah! I used to love it!
And you know, all of those days. I liked some of the Conspiracy. Chris
and I worked on Red Light Ahead way before then. We sat
singing it together. So I liked some of that. In the latter times
I wasnt really following Chriss music to be honest. I
was coping with a lot of other things. I dont want to say anything
bad, but I dont want to say anything fake either.
mwe3: It seemed like Chris always gave people a chance, even
the writers like me. I first met him on Long Island on the Topographic
tour in early 1974.
Nikki Squire: Right, in 74 he was an amazing guy. He
was gentle, tall, willowy, kind, a great dad. (lol) I know him well
from that period. We were together for kind of 18 years really. When
things change and people are in different relationships, it gets difficult,
depending on who the other partners are and stuff like that. In 2008,
I was writing this album, with Nigel. I was going to London from Ibiza
and recording in Nigels studio, which was on the far side of
London. And it was really cold. And some of those journeys were quite
hard and considering we came out with some nice music was great. And
then, he would fly here and we would do stuff. Ministry
was half done a long time ago and then we finished the other half,
but also Mark and I worked on it together, because we didnt
the components to make it work. Mark did backwards guitar and twisted
things up on Ministry. I did some new vocals and some
new harmonies. Things like that... we did that all the time. But in
2008, I was kind of deep into writing and trying to re-piece it all
mwe3: You and Chris both have such a fantastic and innate sense
of pop meets prog sensibility. I know youre involved in environmentalism.
Is that how you came up with the title and songs to No Spare Planet?
Nikki Squire: Absolutely, theres so much. Weve
been observing it for years. Its not new but fortunately, youve
got people like DiCaprio bringing out Before The Flood and
things like that and the global warming agreements going on in Paris.
I mean its really, really happening. All of it and, we might
make it to Mars and be able to live there but not just yet, I dont
think. So we dont have a spare planet. And Ministry
is reflective of that. Ministry Of Life is about an environmental
issue, all the while along but it does reflects some hope, down the
line, behind the gates of Eden and into the light. Didnt we
want to live forever, all of us? Didnt we want to have our planet
here, in tact?
I thought the other side of that was the song Stay Low.
I thought that was also about global warming and the polluting of
the Earth right?
Nikki Squire: Because we selected these songs from the ones
that Nigel and I wrote, we tried to be contemporary. Mark really freshened
up the reverbs and compression. That was his lick of paint as it were,
but song wise, I wanted it to be varied. I didnt want to just
write about the environment but it would have been rude not to. So
Stay Low, thats why the young voices are in there.
Its about the future of the children.
mwe3: In an age when so many people are leaving the planet,
it seems that these are songs I will remember, if I live another twenty
Nikki Squire: Lets hope we all do. Were all going
for a bit longer, thats for sure. But Stay Low is
like that and Ministry, but Ministry is a
three part, progressive track. I think Ive said before, its
an honest album so it touches on broken hearts as in Tonight.
But again, positive because you dont see the rain anymore, everything
is changing, its all right. Someones holding on to you.
Its better. Thats Tonight. And Its
Over is just an acknowledgment how people are. Should I hold
on or is it over? But its still a brave word to a moment of
an ending love. Should I hold on but only if you have the love for
me that you'd die for. And do I have that love for you that Id
die for? So were looking at the ultimate faith and love. (lol)
In that song, its acknowledging it but I hope it doesnt
come across as a painful song. Is it over?
Would you say Its Over has some YES references in
Nikki Squire: Ive heard that before but I dont
do that on purpose. These songs are creative from the heart really,
from what I feel, from what I see. Musically, I just do it. Whether
its Chris channeling
(lol) If it is, Im not complaining
mwe3: I did not know about Nigel's passing till this CD came
out but the prog world is still mourning the loss of Chris.
Nikki Squire: Its a big pill to swallow. We all know
people die but you dont really acknowledge it until its
close to home. A family. And Nigel was my best friend. I would speak
to him nearly every day. And his joyfulness. Hed go Nicola!,
hed say I got this song, listen, Im just going to
send this down the wire, just wait, wait, wait! Youre gonna
love this! I can hear your vocal now. He was so up and so open
and so dedicated. I spoke to his mum yesterday, Nigels mom.
Shes very musical, his mom. She was saying how she felt. And
I said, Look, hes here with us. And she loves the
album. And then she said, Nigel, he adored you. Thats
very high for Nicola to sing. He might have played her a demo.
And she said, Do you think she could do it? And he said,
of course she can, Nicola can sing anything! So he was
I dont know what the word is
convinced that I was the one for him in the musical sense. And I think
Chris became really proud of what I could do. Nigels bass playing
was also very good. He was a good bass player.
mwe3: The first Esquire album from 1987 was a huge influence.
I bought the original cassette on Geffen back in the days when many
artists couldnt even make a CD in this country... 30 years ago
Nikki Squire: I know
I put it on vinyl and cassette (laughter).
But I mean, Chris loved that album and, so much so, that he was very
happy to work on the mixes but he didnt write at all. He sang
on it, he did backing vocals but he didnt play on it at all
and he didnt write any of it. Some people think he did, and
thats okay, I dont mind but he didnt. Nigel should
have the credit for all that he did. Those early demos were stupendous
really. What Nigel did in the studio, just the two of us and recording
and learning the desk and learning how to be a producer, me too. Chris
would come home, back to the house, because he wasnt really
living there and hed say, Blimey! Who did that?
and I said, 'we did!' Hed say, who wrote those lyrics?
Id go, 'I did!' (lol) And hed go Whoa! And,
Youre something. And I said, Well you know
that, you knew I could do that. But he loved the album. So having
said about Stay Low and Ministry... Do you
The first few times I played it, it sounded a little dark but then
I realized it was a total three part song, that takes you from despair
to a state of etherealness. Didnt you want to live / learn forever?
Just great lyric writing. Do you think that the music industry has
gotten to the point where its not really the music industry
Nikki Squire: Its both, yeah. You might be right but
the thing is
the music business now is a really bad mistress.
You want to get on and get your music out there. Thats what
people do. They keep doing all these different things. I think people
just try everything. Theres such a lot involved. The dedication
and trying to find your way forward. Im lucky I have a record
label and the promotion has been really excellent. And the team that
Im now involved with, whether its the media manager Simon
Hawes, with Mark as the mix producer, my
Red, and my label manager Daniel Earnshaw... Everybodys been
very supportive and that helps a lot. And its not all about
money. I didnt do this album because it was about money. I did
this as a tribute to Nigel and if I could get out there and perform
it, that would be even more brilliant. Without him, its a bit
strange but Ill go out there for him, if the opportunity arises.
But it was never about getting famous (lol). Ive kind of been
there just a bit. I suppose its just an honest album and I want
it to be well done, which as I understand from everybody, is thats
what they think. That I want it to be a well accepted album and thats
what Im hoping. That people will love it and Nigel would have
shared this and that would be wonderful to give that to him
where ever it goes. I just hope people get to hear it. Thats
the main issue and then people can decide for themselves, what they
think. But its for Nigel
and for Chris, really for both
mwe3: How about the song Human Rhythm? I was thinking
that song and Tonight would make some interesting remixes.
Nikki Squire: Funny enough, I was thinking it would be great
to do a remix. I think the easiest one... I never thought about Human
Rhythm, but I did think about Tonight. That would
be nice to have a remix on that. Human Rhythm is about
when Nigel and I were sitting at the mixing desk together, recording.
And thats what it is, its about writing a song. Thats
what Human Rhythm is about. I love the bass in that song
as well. When I hear it I just cant stand still in the studio.
I always dance to it in the music. (lol) I mean in the studio rather.
Im getting excited so I might say the wrong word! I cant
hardly speak good English anymore because Ive been in Spain
for so long.
mwe3: As you sing in Stay Low, So long dreaming
as in goodbye to dreams?
Nikki Squire: I like to do those things. Even with Stay
Low, do we stay low and stay below the parapet or do we stay
low in our emotions? So its a double entendre. I like to make
it a double thing. Have all the battles been won? Like
you win them or are the battles one, as in just one battle? That little
jiggle around with words is fantastic, so I like to do that. So Stay
Low does it.
Also in Stay Low you sing this is the air we breathe
so how can we stay low when we're poisoning the air, the water. Our
emotions are so intertwined with these thoughts.
Nikki Squire: I think youre getting more and more aware
of it but I think even the young people today are because just the
stuff you see and what you hear them say. In their areas theyve
got fracking and its young people that are raising up their
protest. Theyre not all people who are over 60. You can sing
about love songs
but its nice maybe as you say in Tonight
to do a remix, that would be great. I like She Said. Thats
the fantasy song. Thats where you go off for the day with an
angel and she comes in. What would you do, if the world was
everything was really fresh and an angel was looking
in on you? What would you say, on a different day, if you flew her
wings and she took you out to an unknown world and you had a little
excursion? A day off, a little holiday with an angel and her wings.
And she takes you into another space and its a bit unreal. Its
like a sort of sci-fi holiday. She says hi to you but shes also
high, in the air. So she sweeps you up on her wings and you go to
this sci-fi world just for a little excursion. Yeah, a bit of lite
mwe3: Speaking about the final song on No Spare Planet called
Heaven Blessed, was that something Nigel had around for
a while? Its funny, because hes really heaven blessed
now. Its a ironic thing to put on someones foot stone.
Nikki Squire: Well I will say that did play at his funeral.
It was written all by him as youll see from the credits and
it was like the struggle we had. We were signed to ZTT and we waited
a long time at Trevors behest, you know because he had other
things to do. Because he was gonna produce the first Esquire album.
Then we went to Geffen and along the way, it was a struggle. We were
trying so hard to create music and it wasnt always easy. And
he sings, You always smile, along the while, you must be heaven
blessed. He wrote that in the early part. Eventually when we
were signed to Geffen and we had our album all done and things looked
good, even then difficulties came because I was getting divorced and
all that stuff. So its about We saw the fields', we saw
it out there and we held them in our view. And hed always smile
along the while, you must be heaven blessed... That did play out at
mwe3: Its kind of a misty-eyed way to end the album
Squire: It really is a tribute to him so I thought it should end
the album because he wont be back anymore. He wont be
its hard, its really hard. And Mark agreed
with me as well that it is a sad way to end the album. That album
is a tribute to him. So again I come back to that thing that I wanted
it to be honest, in its completeness. And in Friends And Enemies,
I think he sings it really well. Thats really hard to listen
to. The studio was quite tough at times, listening. I know his style
of playing like the back of my hand. Everything. And I could visualize
it all because wed all been there together. The two of us. So
when he sang Heaven Blessed and Friends And Enemies...
I like Friends And Enemies a lot.
mwe3: Friends And Enemies sounds more like a co-write
with you writing the chorus, all good things take time.
Nikki Squire: He would always say that to me. I would say,
look I'll be back Nigel, I will be back in the studio.
Hed say to me, dont worry, all good things take
time. Hed always be sayin it. Id go, yeah,
yeah yeah. (lol) Little did I know
we dont have
him around. He was only 53.
mwe3: So many people are dying younger. It blows my mind.
Nikki Squire: Theres loads of artists in the last couple
of years. David Bowie was a massive shock. I dont think anyone
knew he was really ill like that.
mwe3: With Chris too. Everything is kept so quiet
Nikki Squire: Its amazing really, in todays media,
you cant keep anything quiet. I mean Chris sounded all right
the last time I spoke to him. He was going off to the hospital, and
I never got to talk to him again. It all makes you real. If you cant
deal with it, then youve got a big problem. I guess you just
have to be brave.
mwe3: Also I wanted to talk with you about the No Spare
Planet CD cover art because you and Nigel are dipped in bronze!
Are you like posing as statues of yourselves?
Squire: Thats Nigel and I and the guy did Trompe-l
oeil. He painted our body and the rest of it is gold leaf. And
its all layed on piece by piece on our bodies. If you look closely,
its all overlapping. Its gold leaf, you wouldnt
have anything else, would you? (lol) Hes a very talented man.
I havent seen him for a long time. He does art installations.
But that color here is not my skin, thats all painted. So theres
a tint in here that makes it different. And that is the skin peeling
back to expose a kind of alien body, I guess. So if you want to say
but those pieces, if you look at them
Have you ever seen gold leaf?
mwe3: So the red part
thats painted on too?
Nikki Squire: (lol) My skin isnt that color! (lol) Its
a very chic tint. If you look closely at one part, you can see the
shading there. Its like sponged on. So then the Trompe-l
oeil it makes it look like your skin is peeling off and youre
jumping out of it. So this is the body underneath the skin as it were.
Its like a powdered tint
so I promise you, I dont
have skin that color! You know the word Trompe-l oeil? Its
illusion. Its gold leaf but its done in a stressed way.
So its not one dense color. Theres red in there. Theres
a darker gold.
mwe3: So how are you finally planning to get Esquire III out
there. I guess your record management and label dealings are run by
Daniel Earnshaw. He works with so many great artists.
Nikki Squire: Daniel is a really good guy. I like him a lot.
Hes been very honest with me. I dont know if you know
him very well but he loved the first two albums. He approached me
at a time when we were putting this album together. I didnt
even know where it was gonna go. I just knew I had to do it. And coincidentally,
he talked to me at Chriss memorial. The last thing I expected
was for somebody to talk to me about my album, or my past albums,
at that time, the Esquire album and Coming Home. I thought
he was gonna come up and say how brilliant Chris was. But he said,
I gotta say, the last two albums you made are really brilliant.
And I was like wow thank you. All Chriss family
were there and the kiddies, our daughters and grandchildren were there.
Out of that came a quite a pleasant part of the evening. The memorial
was very nice anyway, for what it is. I know my kids werent
happy but it was a good celebration of his life. I dont want
to sound uncaring for one second. And Daniel spoke about that. And
I said, funny you should mention it
he said if
you ever do another album, I want first option on it. And I
said, were working on one right now. And obviously
were werent going to spend the evening talking about it. We
made an arrangement to meet, not too long later. And then he came
and heard some of the things we were doing, while Mark was mixing
it. And it all kind of evolved but it was funny because we were doing
it and at the same time I was invited to join the label. The record
company thats distributing and that were signed to is
Cherry Red. Daniel is between myself and Cherry Red. The promotions
mwe3: So you were nearly complete with the new album when you
Squire: Yeah. We were mixing, Mark and I were doing it but we
didnt know where... Marks got his own studio. Ive
known Mark since we did the first Esquire album, so thats like
30 years. So while we were all good together, and we were working,
we did some of it in his residential studio there and then weve
been working here as well at the house. Ive got a small studio
here but its been extended by Marks rig. Hes got
everything you could even think of in the pro-tools department.
I hope Cherry Red gets a hit for you.
Nikki Squire: Well I certainly hope so. The thing is. Daniel
has been really supportive. Weve got a very good promotion company
getting us out there. Ive got a great media guy. A web guy whos
building all the platforms and updates them and then I get a lot of
response within that so Im also contributing in that way. Id
like to get a video done, perhaps of Ministry, Im
not sure yet. Were now working on a couple of new songs where
weve got stems for them, Mark and I, weve
been working here. Right now, people are buying it and that can help
us to continue because like I said its not like the days of
Geffen or Atlantic where youve got lots of money up front. Its
all recoupable, its quite nice to get done what you want. So
were just forging ahead with what were doing.
mwe3: Nigel is gone, Chris is gone. How
Nikki Squire: How would I do it? Listen, I know enough players.
I know the bass player I would like but Im not going to name
him. Ive already spoken to him and hes a good player.
I dont need to have famous people I just need to have people
that would play what we would do but I havent gone down that
route entirely because I dont know what will happen. Its
too soon. The albums only been released ten days.
mwe3: Did you hear Chriss album with Squackett?
Nikki Squire: I didnt like that name, no.
mwe3: Maybe he was taking the piss out of it
Nikki Squire: I definitely think that, for gods sake
He said that his current wife thought of the name, so I dont
know if it was tongue in cheek or if it was just because it had both
of their names in it. I wasnt sure. I was hoping it was
what you were saying
taking the mickey. But I wasnt sure
in the end if it was. I dont think Id have gone for it
in any event.
Chris worked so hard during those YES tours around 2010, even after
he got sick and ended up in the Texas hospital... I always thought
that Steve was working him a little too hard.
Nikki Squire: I think as a musician thats probably what
he wanted to keep doing and it was what was happening at the time.
You have to have everybody in agreement. If they were all kind of
wanting different things
but I always got the feeling that the
last part of his life that he was pretty well in control of the band.
He often spoke to me and we thought of it as his band. After Jon wasnt
there, Chris, I think took quite a lot of decisions but because I
wasnt there all the time, it would only be the way I saw it.
I wouldnt have anything confirmed about what they were doing.
Obviously, with Steve Nardelli, he made that decision to do what ever
he did and they joined forces and I dont think anyone forced
him to do that. And maybe the Squackett album
he liked Steve
Hackett and he liked the way he played. I think he wanted to create
all the time. Even when I watched him on stage, just from videos that
I saw, later, he always looked happier on stage and tired off stage.
That was his life so maybe those were his choices at the time. Maybe
he didnt have any other choice. I dont know...
So tell us you are going to make another Esquire album out before
Nikki Squire: I just started being asked to do, at this stage,
a best of. We havent agreed yet but Ive been invited by
Cherry Red to do a best of with three new tracks. Im limited
with what we have but what we do have is audio and midi files that
were working on again. The same thing
piecing it together.
I do new vocals. Theres one song that I really like. I just
have a verse and the choruses. So Ive been writing the verses
this week and last week. And getting around the melody. I want it
to be a certain way. And Marks doing what Nigel would do. Playing
the backing track, over and over again as a demo form and Im
just singing over it for the whole song so that I know that Ive
got it in the pocket. And then well split the whole thing apart
and Ill do the vocal and separate all the stems and sink into
it the vocal and lay on the harmonies or what ever it needs. So were
just starting now really. I dont know where it will go really.
mwe3: But you made this new great album. No Spare Planet
is the best thing you've done, even as great as the first Esquire
Nikki Squire: Thats what Trevor said
His words were, its head and shoulders above anything
youve ever done. Its promotion now really, isnt
it Robert, at this stage. If it gets enough of energy behind it in
promotion and people review it. So far, the reviews I have seen have
been really good. But its a different place now. Maybe it will
be a slow burner
Im in a better position for two reasons
because of my background and weve already had two albums out.
But still it has to stand up. With what youre saying and what
other people are saying it does stand up. Sometimes I think, this
and then other times I think
well I dont
really know just what might happen...