Exclusive Interview with Ian Anderson (2000)

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Exclusive Interview with Ian Anderson (2000)

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Exclusive Interview with Ian Anderson

On february 10, 2000, during his short visit to germany to promote "The Secret Language Of Birds", I had the pleasure to do an exclusive interview with Ian Anderson for the german Fan-Club "Beggar's Farm" and for "Laufi's Jethro Tull World". Big thanks all the guys to Roadrunner Records germany for the support!

The press activities took place at a small hotel near Cologne central station, there was also an acoustic showcase planned for the evening, but this was cancelled shortly.

I was the first interviewer that day and I arrived at the hotel some 15 minutes early. Roman from Roadrunner told me that the man wasn't "in the best mood", I had a whole hour, so I was really excited.

A personal album?
Laufi: Hello Ian. First of all, congratulations to your new solo album, I think it's what Jethro Tull fans have been waiting for since the nineteenseventies.
Ian: Yes, since the "Aqualung" album there always has been these little pieces of acoustic music by me and people always expected a whole album of this stuff.
Laufi: As a german person that doesn't talk and speak english that good -in the sense of getting into lyrics- I've got the impression that SLOB is kind of a personal album, is that right?
Ian: I think all the lyrics that I write are in someway a personal reflection, in this case they're perhaps a little bit more intimate, a little bit more sharing some thoughts that might otherwise be private. So it's a little more intimate, it's an album for the girls and I think it's one that reveals some sensitivity and romantic and gentle side of what I do. But in Jethro Tull, if you're on stage with a bunch of guys who have a lot of body hair and need a shower, it's diffcult to work in those musical terms. It's easy for me to step from the shower into my recording studio and go straight to work and be sensitive and gentle and smell nice, that's what I do.

From recording to the release
There has been a long period between recording the album or even thinking about it and releasing it. I may be wrong, but I think you started with the plans in 1996, could that be?
The recording started in 1998 and then we were on tour in spain, it was finished around september. I made it really between Jethro Tull tours, it was done over a period of time. Hm, there's at least one song I can remember I recorded in 1997, so, yes some of it did go back as far as then. But it was finished in 1998 and then we were going on start work on a Jethro Tull album, we were starting the first rehearsals in december 1998. The record was finished in april 1999 and because we knew that we would be changing our relationship with EMI records we decided that it would be a good idea to make a deal for both of these records at the same time. The two new record companies and we decided that we should release the Jethro Tull album first and go with the solo album later. One reason for that was that they didn't want to release it at the same time, which is what I wanted to do, they didn't like that idea. In 1995, when I released a solo album in april and a Jethro Tull album in september, it didn't work too well, because I did so much promotion for the solo album "Divinities" and when I wanted to promote the Jethro Tull album, a lot of people didn't really want to do more promotion with Ian Anderson, they didn't make the seperation between Ian Anderson solo and Ian Anderson with Jethro Tull, so it was a lot harder to promote that Jethro Tull album. So we thought this time we should go with the Jethro Tull album first and at least the best of the promotion opportunities we would use then. And then go with the solo album in the early part of the year 2000. this is a psychological change, 1999 to 2000, it certainly feels like a new year, so I just had to wait a long time. I only started listening to the solo album music again a very few weeks ago and I haven't really listen to it for over a year, so it was like making an appointement with an old friend again. I'm looking forward to play some of that music on stage during the next Jethro Tull tours and the next month I have some promotion to do in the USA and in europe. Yes, it has been a long time waiting for, now it is here and we'll see how it goes and beside there will be another album in september this year, which might be an acoustic album, I don't know.
Laufi: A Jethro Tull album?
Ian: Sort of, I mean, I've been asked to re-record some of the Jethro Tull acoustic songs. I might do that, but I might not, I don't know. I'll think about it between now and september.
Laufi: A fine idea!

The setlist 2000
Laufi: You mentioned something that leads me into another question I prepared. At the Jethro Tull concerts in europe in april, will there be a big change in the setlist compared to the shows we saw here last year?
Ian: Not to begin with, but by the time we finished that tour there will be changes and then when we go to the USA to tour in june, there will be a lot of changes.
Laufi: Will there be a big spot on the solo album in the Tull set?
Ian: I wouldn't say a "big spot", but we probably play three or four songs from the solo album, we will probably rehearse five or six, but maybe just always play the same songs every night. If the other guys are happy to do that. They might not want to do that, I don't know, I have to ask them.
We won't be doing a lot of rehearsal until the tour in the USA. We did a tour in the USA last year and many of the places we will be playing again this year, so we will change 80% of the songs.

SLOB songs live
Laufi: Could all of the songs on the SLOB album be played live? Are there any difficulties?
Ian: Yes, because I play most of the instruments, so I can't play them all live and a lot of the songs feature instruments that nobody else plays. When it comes to Bouzoukis, for example, there's nobody to play Bouzouki, except me. I bought Martin Barre a Bouzouki a couple of years ago, hoping that he might like it and learn to play, but I don't think he ever tried. The problem is, a lot of the songs won't sound the same if you try to play them on guitar. Some of the songs we do, but Martin's style of guitar playing is not like mine, so he has to play it his way and that won't necessarilly sound just like the record, so we just have to see. He has to try some of the songs and see how it works for him. I mean, we could play all the songs, we would just have to change the arrangements a little bit to suite the other musicians. Particularly there's a lot of percussion on there, I play most of the percussion and Andy Giddings plays some of it as well. Doane Perry doesn't play that way and as a drummer he plays a lot louder. Doane is not a great percussion player, that's not what he does, he's a rock drummer, so it's not really his thing either. So some of the songs we have to change the arrangements to suite the individuals, but that's the problem that everybody who makes records alone or plays a lot of instruments faces. You have to give the musical parts to someone elso to play and they will play them differently.
Laufi: This could lead into new exciting arrangements.
Ian: Yes, I mean, I don't think the arrangements would change at a great deal, but the arrangemets would change a little bit to suite the musicians. The guys in Jethro Tull probably will play the music as well as any other musicians. When I started to write songs for this solo album, I auditioned a number of musicians, guitarists, mandoline players, bouzouki players. I hoped that I would find three or four musicians that I could play with on this album. I didn't find people that I thought were very good, you know, they didn't understand my songs. I didn't think they would play them very well, so I ended up just playing things myself, which was quicker and easier for me to do. I mean, I don't really play those instruments very well either, but what I can play I can play and I understand the music, so it's just a question of learning it. It was easier for me to do it myself, but the problems comes when you play four or five instruments on one song and when you come to play it live, you have to chose only one instrument to play and that usually for me is gonna be the flute, because that's the thing I do that nobody else does. So I must find another guitar player or change the Bouzouki part into guitar part and let Martin play.
Laufi: Is it true that you thought about asking Chris Leslie from Fairport Convention to help out on the album?
Ian: No, it isn't and I saw Chris Leslie just a few days ago.
Laufi: Eh, sorry, I meant Ric Sanders!
Ian: Ah, Ric Sanders. Yes, I did think about Ric Sanders, but at the time we were going to use some string instruments, it was so close to the time we had to finish the album, we just had a few days left and I think Ric Sanders was on tour with Fairport, so he wouldn't be available and we found someone else to play violin.
Chris Leslie is interesting, because I didn't know that Chris Leslie plays mandoli and bouzouki. Well, he didn't play Bouzouki then, actually, he's only started playing Bouzouki with Fairport in the last year, but I saw him a few nights ago, when I went to see Fairport Convention in England and, well, I called Chris Leslie to ask his advice if he knew any good mandolin players and he gave me someones name and I followed that up and I decided not to use him, but Chris didn't tell me that he could play mandolin, otherwise I would have asked Chris to play on the record!
Laufi: I think Chris does a lot of understatement in the case of what instruments he can play. I think he's a wonderful musician.
Ian: Yes, he's also a great singer! I heard him singing with Fairport, he has a really good voice. He's a big asset to Fairport Convention and he's a very nice guy, I mean he's one of the nicest people that you could meet, who is a musician, because he doesn't have any problems. At least, no one knows of any problems, he seems to be just a really nice guy with a very simple way of life. No difficulties and very easy to work with, completely the opposite personality to the man he replaced, Maartin Allcock, who is a crazy person, a dangerous person!

Club gigs and Caracas
Laufi: In the press release I read about some club gigs and about a concert with the Caracas Symphony Orchestra. Is that true and when and where will this be happening?
Ian: Well, I'm supposed to be going to play two concerts in Caracas in Venezuela with a symphony orchestra at the end of march and I've been asked to play, although it's not confirmed, a concert with a symphony orchestra in october, which will be recorded for television. The transmission day will be just before christmas. But that's not confirmed, they asked me "would I do it?" and I said "I think so", so we're talking about it. (note from Laufi: it seems that this is not gonna happen)
Laufi: Whatabout these club shows that were mentioned in the press release?
Ian: There are no Ian Anderson concerts, I have no musicians to do shows.
Laufi: So it will be shows like this evening when you will be playing with pre-recorded tracks?
Ian: Well, I don't know what's happening this evening, they just said "would you play a couple of songs?" The only way to play is to play to the backing tracks of me playing the guitar and the other things. I will do that, but that's not a concert, it's just, I guess for some media people or record retailers or whatever. It's not a concert, I mean, 10 minutes and I'll be out of there and go elsewhere and have my diner.

Record sales and the charts
Laufi: Do you care about album sales and chart postions these days? Is this important for you?
Ian: I've been partly responsible for selling 50 million records in my musical life. I don't think the numbers are important, but, I mean for instance with the "Divinities" album, which was not really a commercial project and selling 100.000 records was pretty good and made me quite pleased. It was no #1 in the Billboard Classical Crossover Charts, so the approval was high, but the total sales were not so high. But that's ok, that was still sucessful for me. I enjoy making a record and I enjoy playing some of the music, that's the kind of sucess that I enjoy. But if it would have sold a million records, then I guess I would have been more happy, but I never expected it to do that. I think numbers are not so important, but the people who do buy the record, it's important to me that they enjoy. I wouldn't like people to buy something because it has my name or the Jethro Tull name on it and then take the record home and be disappointed, then I would feel in a sense of failure.
Laufi: I thought about the Dot Com album that hit the charts at #15 in germany, which made me -as a fan- very happy, as every record store had to store hit between Britney Spears and all the other stuff!
Ian: Good, beautiful!

New Record Companies
Laufi: Are you happy with the new record companies, Roadrunner and Fuel 2000?
Ian: Well, we signed to Papilion in the UK, which is part of the Chrysalis group of companies, so we're kind of back were we started with Chrysalis, but not the Chrysalis records that EMI bought, that's different, doesn't really exist, it's not even EMI records, it's EMI-AOL-Warner. We went back to the Chrysalis people, they had a new record company called Echoes, a pop label. They started a new record label named Papilion Records. The idea of that label was to represent artists who had already a long career and were still working and performing and so we were the first act to sign with Papilion Records, the second was Cliff Richard, who then had a number one single with them. We're with Papilion and they are with Roadrunner, who are the licensees in the main european countries.

Singles and outtakes
Laufi: Are there any plany to release a single from SLOB? Are there any outtakes or more songs that aren't released yet?
Ian: No, I think there are no completed outtakes. I know, in the USA, they're going with the song "Postcard Day" as a radio single. I have no idea about here or anywhere else, I think it's too early, people will hear the album now and we have to wait for the reactions. But the american version of the album has a couple of extra tracks from a television show that we did in Holland last year, so there will be some Jethro Tull acoustic songs as hidden tracks. But the guys over here have no idea about this, because I mentioned it this morning and they didn't know that the american record company put on two extra tracks.
Laufi: I attended this show in the studio in Hilversum!
Ian: Alright, yeah!
Laufi: It was very impressive, I also watched it on TV, great!
Ian: I have never seen it, I must ask them to send me a video.
Laufi: The really caught it for television like it was in the studio, it's kind of playing in the living room.
Ian: Well, it's interesting, when you work that way, with no amplification, no P.A., no monitors, just as loud as I'm talking to you now. For me that's a nice way to make music, because everything is just at a natural level, but it's very hard for people who play instruments that they would normally be playing very very loudly and they find it a little scary to play quitely. For me it's much better, because I can hear what I'm playing! When I'm on stage, it's very hard to hear the flute, I wear in-ear monitors now, trying to hear a little bit more of what I'm playing. Playing violin or flute, any instruments that are quite, you really got to hear to shape the note. That's very difficult in a rockband! So I like to play in that very quite way and when possible, that's the way I like to record things I'm doing in a radio station or for TV. But it limits what you can play, you can't use drums and really electric instruments.
Laufi: I think that's what made the "2 Meter Sessies" so special.

The internet
Laufi: How important is the internet for you? I mention this, because there was a webcast of an american concert yesterday and there will a webchat later today, in a few hours.
Ian: Oh, good, I don't know! You know, the internet is important to me, because I use it in my work. I use the internet to find out about hotels, flights, the weather. I use the internet if I'm planning tours, I use it for research and for some communication. When I'm working on an album cover or tour program, then I can be writing some content and send it to the person who's doing the graphics and the layout as an attached e-mail file. When I'm providing photographs and artwork than I can scan this stuff into my computer and send it to somebody else. It's a tool, but it's not something that I particularly, ... you know, I don't like it, it just a part of the job. I don't enjoy computer technology, I don't sit at home thinking "I've got an hour, what should I do? I go and play at my computer". When I've got an hour off, I'm gonna get as far away from my computer as possible! I use it, but I don't like it. The internet and our website is there as a service, it's there to offer something to people who are interested in the band and they can find out some information about it. It's there for journalists as well, to help in terms of promotion.
Laufi: The section for journalists is very well done, I think.
Ian: Since you're from the "Beggar's Farm" people, I noticed the other day that there was still not the full german translation of the media length Jethro Tull biography. It's in italian and in spanish, but the german one, ... well we paid to have a translation done last year, I think they sent it, but they sent it in Apple Mac language and Andy Giddings couldn't get it into the PC format. So maybe somebody of the fanclub could help out and translate the Jethro Tull biography?
Laufi: No problem, I'll ask someone who is keen on translating and will send it to Andy by e-mail.
Ian: That would be great, thank you! That's what fanclubs are for! (laughs)
Laufi: Do you read the fanpages that exist?
Ian: I read a lot of them two years ago, I don't read them so often now, but I sometimes do.
Laufi: Do you care about what people are writing?
Ian: Oh yes, but I think it's a little dangerous to get too involved with people's independent websites, because they do it as a hobby, they do it because they enjoy writing about it. They should do it in a way they want to do, I wouldn't want people to feel like I'm looking what they are writing and beeing disapproving. I don't read it too much, there's many Jethro Tull sites that I could find two years ago and I spent a lot of time learning about the internet, being aware of what was out there and who was doing what, but I don't spend too much time, because it's a lot of them! It would take many hours every week to keep going back to everybody's Jethro Tull website and see what they've written in the last month. I don't have time to do that, but once in a while I look into the newsgroup and what people are saying about the tour or the record. A little bit of feedback, but not too much, it would be dangerous to believe everything. It would be dangerous for me, I just take a little bit of it, not too much.

(Roman from Roadrunner comes in and says that the next interview would be in 20 minutes)

Unreleased material
Laufi: Well, I've got a final question and then I'm off! How about releasing some unreleased material, not only studio material, but live material from the seventies, for example the BBC Sight & Sound show or the concert from Madison Square Gardens in 1978. There were always rumours about releasing this material, also that there might be a new live collection.
Ian: I'm sure that there will be. I have to have a meeting with the EMI folks to talk about live recordings, because we have some previously recorded live material which is released and it may be that we decide to delete some of the old live records and come out with a new double CD best of Jethro Tull live record that includes some material that's not been heard before. Live music falls into two different categories: music that has been recorded by somebody else, like the BBC, in which case they own the recordings, they belong to the BBC. So for us, to get that music, we have to pay the BBC or pay the royalties, basically. Then there's music that we have recorded, that we paid to record, to put machinery there, to put an engineer in there to record it, in which case that's music that's all previously recorded, it probably belongs to EMI records, because they bought the rights of that music from Chrysalis. The only music where the copyright rests with me or Jethro Tull is music usually just recorded from the house mixer. Until the late eighties, that music is only on cassette, so it's not an acceptable quality. Since then it's on DAT or MiniDisc and the audio quality is ok, but it's not great balanced, because the sound engineer sitting out there balancing music does this for a live show. Just take away the audience and listen to the signal, you'll find out that the balance is not sounding so good anymore, the drums are way too loud or the vocals are too loud or things are just not right in the mix. In a live content you really have to push things forward sometimes to make them stand out in a big venue. Sometimes they nearly sound great balanced and they're just two-tracked, there's no multi-track to go back to. I have two collections of multi-track recordings, one is from Madison Square Gardens (1978), which I believe the BBC owns the rights to, if they don't, then Chrysalis does, in which case EMI does, but anyway, they're not my copyright. The other one is from 1981, which was in the Los Angeles Sports Arena and that, I'm pretty sure, was paid for by Chrysalis, so I can't put it out with Papilion or Fuel2000, I can only use this music legaly with EMI. The Madison Square Gardens set is pretty much the same music that was on the "Bursting Out" album, so people heard it already, it's the same songs, recorded in the same year, the same tour probably. Actually, it's not the same tour, but it's the same collection of songs and I don't think that would be such a good live album, because most of the music has been heard before, just a different performance, a different night. It would only be worth while it would be done perhaps as a video recording, or if we have the live video and the audio, it is a DVD. From that point of view it might be worth it or it might not. It's one of those things I will talk to EMI about and we will have to find out if the BBC, who certainly own the video and very probably the audio as well, I don't know for sure, but I think either EMI or BBC own the audio and they would have to make the deal. And then it means I have to take probably two weeks of my life to sit and remix a multi-track tape and see if we can find the video. Maybe the BBC destroyed them, I don't know if that video material still exists in an archive form. 1978, I guess it was probably tape, but ... I even don't have a copy of that tape!
Laufi: Ok, I think it's more important to write and hear new music! Thanks a lot! I think you made it easy for me in my second interview.
Ian: So who was the first?
Laufi: It was Buddy, the singer of a heavy metal band named "Psychiotic Waltz", he plays the flute and I was asked to interview him about his influences on flute, which was you!
Ian, Well, that's two interviews done, now you're a professional!
Laufi: (laughs) Thanks a lot!
Ian: Ok, nice to meet you!

(from http://www.laufi.de website around 2003)
"Du hast wohl nen nassen Helm auf!"