Prog rock lives!

The band Yes is back -- in a soundtrack for the hit video game Homeworld.

Published October 25, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

For at least the last couple of years, video-game soundtracks have joined movie soundtracks as a lucrative sideline for pop musicians looking for a career boost. Trent Reznor's work on Quake probably has the highest profile, but now, even aging progressive rockers Yes are getting into the act -- with the title song for the new PC strategy game Homeworld.

"We've always been interested in the modern, the avant-garde," Yes front man Jon Anderson reminds us. "We were the first band to use lasers onstage."

Those far-out stage shows, combined with the band's sci-fi themes and Heavy Metal-esque album art appealed to the Dungeons & Dragons crowd of the '70s. Now, Anderson and company are trying to inspire a whole new generation of geeks with lyrics like:

Ancient ones/They watch and listen/Carry our wishes/Took upon themselves to guide us/Through the endless skies.

Anderson says he's long been attracted to video games. "I've thought about them for 10 years, ever since I met Jaron [Lanier, the virtual reality guru] in 1989," he notes. "They can be one of those immersive sound/color/perfume experiences -- real healing things that touch our chakras."

Looks like it'll touch Yes' wallet, too -- the group's affiliation with the game is more than just a single tune on a soundtrack. It's full-on, multimedia, you-scratch-mine-and-I'll-scratch-yours synergy. The video game theme, "Homeworld (The Ladder)," is the title track on Yes' recently released album "The Ladder." Game graphics blaze while the band rocks live. Tour merchandise features Homeworld art. And a limited edition CD will feature both Yes tunes and a version of the game.

Like Age of Empires, Starcraft and Command & Conquer before it, Homeworld is a real-time strategy game: The goal is to harness resources, develop technologies and then smear your enemy. The game has been well received: says, "Homeworld is the sort of game that can inspire unbridled hyperbole in game reviewers" -- because of its stunning 3-D graphics and carefully crafted story line.

The game's internal narrative world opens with the discovery of ancient starship technology that the descendants of the original star farers use to return to their original "Homeworld." Yes may be hoping that the new video-game generation similarly discovers the band's ancient recordings. Anderson says that originally, "I wanted to do the whole new album as a video game -- even started doing work on the sketches and design. But nobody was interested."

But maybe Anderson's finally about to get his chance. He's now collaborating with Sierra Studios, Homeworld's publisher, on a "visual game experience" of his own.

By Noah Shachtman

Noah Shachtman writes about technology, politics, and pop culture for The New York Times, New York Post, and Wired News.

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