2024 is the Year Of The Dragon

In 1982 John Wetton, Geoff Downes, Carl Palmer and Steve Howe became the founding fathers of super group Asia, responsible for a string of multi-million selling albums and chart topping hits across the globe. Asia’s self-titled1982 debut album was the biggest selling album in the world. The band dominated the airwaves and for many “Heat Of The Moment”, “Only Time Will Tell” and “Sole Survivor”, amongst others, were the soundtrack to their youth.

Another multi-million seller, “Alpha” followed in 1983 and in 1986 “Astra” competed the trio of MTV era hits.  Greg Lake briefly joined the band for a Japanese tour where Asia’s show from the fabled Budokan was the first inter-continental simulcast.  In 2006, the founder members reformed and released several new albums before John Wetton’s untimely passing in 2017.  Since John’s passing, Geoff and Carl have toured with Sam Coulson, Billy Sherwood, Ron Bumblefoot Thal and Steve Howe guesting, and had a tour planned with Marc Bonilla on vocal duties that did not materialize due to Covid.

In the Summer of 2023, Geoff Downes spear-headed a memorial concert to remember and celebrate the life of his late, much-loved friend and Asia co-founder member, the great John Wetton.  At the concert, he invited rock n roll veteran John Mitchell – who had played with both Wetton and Downes in Icon and in Wetton’s own band – to join him on stage, taking on lead guitar duties.  The duo were joined by new-comer Harry Whitley, who Downes had discovered and whose vocal talents so closely resembled that of Wetton’s it was nothing short of spine-tingling.  Together they played a number of Asia’s chart-topping hits.  The reception was uproarious and It became clear that something magical was happening.  Perhaps, thought Downes, it was time to bring the songs of Asia to a whole new audience? The dragon began to stir once more.

Busy touring the globe, the great Carl Palmer is immersed in a project very dear to his heart, the Return Of Emerson Lake & Palmer.  The legendary Steve Howe remains at the helm of progressive rock legends, Yes.   So it was that Geoff made the decision to take a fresh, new-look Asia back out on the road, recruiting Mitchell and Whitley as new members and bringing in the drumming excellence of the incomparable Virgil Donati, who had played with Wetton in UK.

Asia has entertained and delighted a multitude of audiences and millions of people over the last 40 years.  Some of the world’s greatest musicians have taken up the Asia baton during that time.  However Geoff Downes believes that the time is right to bring a fresh, new-look Asia out into the light.

The Year of the Dragon foretells good fortune, abundance and prosperity.  The Dragon blessed 1982, the year Asia was first unleashed into the world – and here we are again.  The journey has come full-circle.  Time for the dragon to take flight once more.

Geoff Downes

Geoff Downes is a writer, producer, keyboard player and all round icon of the music industry.

Geoff is originally best known as a member of The Buggles, with whom he co-wrote the international smash hit Video Killed The Radio Star – which was the first video ever played on MTV.  He was a founder member of supergroup Asia, with whom  he had the biggest selling album in the world in 1982 as well as a string of chart-topping hits all over the globe. Asia’s original line up reformed in 2006 and has gone on to undertake several hugely successful world tours and record three new studio albums.

Downes is also currently a member of YES, who he rejoined in 2011 (after a brief stint in the early 80’s).  He co-wrote much of their album Fly From Here as well as significant writing contributions to their more recent albums.  

Geoff is also a member of Downes Braide Association, with esteemed  award-winning writer and producer Chris Braide.  The duo have released a number of critically acclaimed albums.

Geoff’s career in music spans more that 5 decades and as such he has attained the deserving status of legend.   He has worked with some of the greatest musicians of our time, including Trevor Horn, John Wetton, Steve Howe, Carl Palmer, Hanz Zimmer, Tony Iommi, Ian Gillan, Kate Bush, Agnetha Fältskog, Mike Oldfield, Greg Lake, Steve Hackett, Bill Bruford, Rick Wakeman, Jon Anderson, Chris Braide and many, many more.

Virgil Donati

Virgil Donati has been at the leading edge of drumming for many decades and is widely regarded as one of the most technically advanced drummers of all time.  

At the age of 16, Virgil turned pro to enable him to focus entirely on music – he has since devoted his entire life to his art.  His motivation is the endless and relentless pursuit to express himself through his playing.

During his formative years in his homeland of Australia, Donati carved a path in the pop-rock scene, culminating in multi platinum success with his band Southern Sons, whilst at the same time pushing progressive and fusion boundaries with Loose Change and On The Virg.

He has recorded and toured with the likes of Planet X, Steve Vai, Allan Holdsworth, Tony MacAlpine, Steve Walsh, Bunny Brunel, Scott Henderson, Seven The Hardway, Erik Norlander and UK, amongst many others.

Virgil has published several educational videos and books.

John Mitchell

John Mitchell is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer.   

John is a highly versatile musician who predominantly sings and plays guitar.  He is a member of several popular progressive rock bands including Frost*, It Bites, The David Cross Band and Arena.  John releases his solo music under the pseudonym Lonely Robot, and has so far released four solo albums.  

John also masterminded the bands Kino and The Urbane and played bass for alternative rock band A.  John was a founder member of the Wetton Downes side project ICON, touring with them and appearing on the first two studio albums.  For many years he performed as a member of John Wetton’s live band.  He has worked with a large variety of musicians including Martin Barre, Peter Cox, Steve Hogarth, Nik Kershaw and British actor Lee Ingleby.

John is also a renown record producer and sound engineer, running his own studio facility, Outhouse, in Reading, UK.  He has recorded and produced music for a number of mainstream rock artists including Enter Shikari, You Me At Six, Steven Wilson, Don Broco, Lower Than Atlantis, Architects, Funeral For A Friend, McFly and many more.

Harry Whitley

Born in 1995 near Wrexham in North Wales, Harry Whitley is a singer and multi-instrumentalist.

Whitley’s love affair with music began at the tender ago of 5 when he started piano lessons. His prodigious talent soon became clear and he went on to pass all grades of classical and jazz piano with flying colours.  As his love of music grew, he began to master a variety of other instruments, including guitar, bass and drums.

His teenage years saw Whitley gig with a variety of semi-professional bands around his local area and further afield in Wales, culminating in him playing keyboards for a Deep Purple tribute band at the age of just 16!

In the wake of the 2020 pandemic, Whitley establish his own YouTube channel and began uploading his performances as a way of promoting his music.  After receiving a positive response from viewers, he was inspired to launch a foray into a variety of different musical genres.  To do this he leant on the artists who have inspired him since he first stepped up to a keyboard : Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson, Randy Newman, Steve Lukather, Tony Banks and, of course, John Wetton and Geoff Downes.

Whitley was first introduced to the music of Asia and John Wetton by his former tutor and friend, Timothy Jones.  It was love at first listen.  Whitley says “I always enjoyed the dramatic feel of Asia’s music.  To an aspiring musician, Geoff (Downes) was the bees knees – so much energy, so many ideas, so many keyboards!”  He continues “I soon realised just how great the Asia songs were and of course there was that voice.  John Wetton’s voice was like everything I loved about Greg Lake and Phil Collins combined, accompanied by his monstrous, driving bass playing.”

Whitely uploaded a number of Asia covers to his YouTube channel and soon noticed how these videos were performing far better than any others.  It didn’t take long for Harry’s performances to come to the attention of Geoff Downes – and at that moment the die was cast.

When a recent charity tribute concert was planned to celebrate the life of John Wetton,  Downes invited Whitley to step up and take charge of the Asia lead vocals.  Alongside Billy Sherwood (YES) on bass, Jay Schellen (YES) on drums and John Mitchell (It Bites, Frost*) on guitar, Whitely took his place on stage next to Geoff Downes.

Downes commented “Harry Whitley is an extraordinarily talented musician. He is most definitely up there with the the best of the many great artists that Ive had the privilege of working with over the years. A rare jewel in the crown of the music world.”

The wonderful dynamic between the musicians was clear for all to see, each displaying such passion, energy and fun.  The response to their performance has been equally as effusive, with fans across the globe remarking on Whitley’s exceptional performance.  A new-look Asia for the 21st Century has been born.

Of the event, Whitley commented “I am deeply honoured and humbled to have had the incredible opportunity to perform alongside prog-rock royalty as we came together to celebrate the life and legacy of the incomparable John Wetton. Being a part of this event has been an extraordinary experience, and I am grateful for the chance to pay tribute to a musical icon while contributing to a meaningful cause. This is a moment that will forever hold a special place in my heart and my musical career.”

For Whitley, the future looks bright and even at his young age, he would agree with his idol Wetton, this really is an extraordinary life.