Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull (INTERVIEW)

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Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull (INTERVIEW)

Posted on: July 7th, 2014 by tommyj

Click here to view original web page at www.glidemagazine.com


When Ian Anderson called to talk with Glide about his latest solo album, he was in the middle of playing, as he called it, “little tour events” in the UK. A few days off and then he’d be back performing in Romania and Switzerland. Although our conversation was brief, we kept the primary focus on his latest opus, Homo Erraticus, while leaving the Jethro Tull history lesson for me to fill in. So for those who think “Aqualung” is the only pearl of Ian Anderson’s oyster, it’s really only the tip of a nice plump iceberg. Anderson’s band The Blades eventually turned into Jethro Tull in late 1967. Their first album came out in 1968. Tony Iommi, who would eventually become the iconic guitar player for Black Sabbath, was in Tull for a nano-second. Tull played the Rolling Stones’ Rock & Roll Circus and the Isle Of Wight Festival. Songs such as “Thick As A Brick” and “Locomotive Breath” became classics. And they won the first Grammy award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance in 1988. If all that tweaks your interest, then by all means dig into their older albums and deeper cuts where the music can be insanely more interesting.

But for today, it’s all about Anderson and Homo Erraticus. His latest music and words are spot on the pulse of the world. Check out “Cold Dead Reckoning,” which ends this three-part journey through history: “We placed our trust in sad self-doubting leaders who have led, led us through the dark to slip amongst the ranks and files of walking dead.” The “Puer Ferox Adventus” chorus repeats: “There’s a wild child coming. There’s an angry man. There’s a new age dawning here, to an old age plan.” And in “Enter The Uninvited,” he gives a sly nod to his son-in-law Andrew Lincoln’s heroic AMC character: “Officer Rick will turn the trick and banish zombies – from our heads.” It is typical Anderson in so many ways: the exploration of humans, the idiosyncrasies of nature and how one small action can change the perspective of mankind, all inflected with an ingenious sense of dry humor. Anderson calls this particular adventure a story of migration and he has been playing the majority of it on special dates.

Homo Erraticus seems to be past-present-future. Was that the concept you started with or did it come with the birth of a song?

The concept behind it is very simple. It’s about migration. It’s the migration of our species since the end of the last ice age and focusing specifically, I suppose, on the waves of people from different periods that came into what became the British Isles after the last ice age and left their mark; the invading forces of Angles and Saxons and Danes and Normans and even the Germans and the Spanish had a couple of tries. And then we had to wait until the late forties/early fifties before our next invasion, which was that of America. But America invaded us after it’s enormous life-saving help in the second World War and invaded us with it’s culture, with it’s movies, with it’s TV programs. Since then, the Brits and the Americans have been unsurpassable in world history. It’s invading of other countries around the world with our arts and entertainment. We’re not very good at sending men with boots and guns to invade other countries, as recent events will testify, but we certainly do a good job with our entertainment and our music. So I talk about the invasion of not only the physical movement of people but the invasion of the movements and the migration of culture and of ideas, of engineering, of commerce, of industry, of scientific inventions, of spirituality, religion. So all of these things feature past-present and even into the future a little bit in this album. But that’s what you get if you’re a follower of Prog Rock. You’ve got to expect big ideas.


Do you see it basically as a story of hope?

I try and present all of these notions with a little cynical humor because you can’t lecture people in history unless you do so with a smile on your face. So I try to present the big stories and you’ve really got to do it in an upbeat way, I think, if you’re going to have an audience who want to listen. So I try and keep smiling and try and be positive about it and, yes, I think there’s an element of hope but we’ve had a lot of rocky rides in the past and I’m sure we will again in the future.

Do you think this story best sums up how you see the world today?

Well, the world today is a world of change, of imminent change, and geopolitical boundaries. Climate change will force it’s effects on people around the world who are less fortunate perhaps than we are in northwestern Europe and they will have to seek survival by moving. That’s already happening and has happened in the past. But I think we’ll see that’s becoming ever more the story of the future. People need to leave their place of birth and try their luck somewhere else, which is the continuing story of us hunter-gatherers. We are in some ways still the Mesolithic hunter-gatherers that we were 8000 years ago.


Are you still performing the whole album in its entirety?

That depends on where we are. Where I’m going this week, we’re just performing our Best Of Jethro Tull set. But we will be in the USA, for example, playing the whole theatrical video production of Homo Erraticus followed by the 60% of the show in running time, which is actually the Best Of Jethro Tull and it has something there I would hope for everyone, for old fans and new fans. But of course it keeps us on our toes having to come up with new music and make it entertaining for an audience because when they don’t know the music you’ve got to make it extra entertaining at first listening and first watching. You’ve got to keep them enthralled so that’s what we have to do.

How are you doing this segment of your show?

There’s a pretty constant presence of video material behind us. Some of it is more abstract, some of it is more literal, some of it depicts elements of the song, some of it is more visual without necessarily being, you know, just literal representations of lyrics. I try and keep it varied in content. Some of it is quite busy, some of it is a bit more relaxing. But whatever it is there’s usually something to look at as well as the aging faces of me and my musicians.

Are you noticing many younger fans out there?

Well, the answer is not a lot of younger fans out there but there’s certainly a constant replacement factor of people, I suppose, coming to see us for the first time. Some of them definitely are a younger age group than they were and of course the older end of the scale, some of our older fans no longer can be trusted out of their house late at night. And many of them don’t like to go too far from the safety of home and the nearest lavatory. We lose some folks at the older end and we gain a few in the younger end.

It depends on where we’re playing. If we’re outdoors in the summer in some outdoor amphitheatre, then it can be a lot more young people. Yesterday I came back from the Czech Republic, so for a couple of nights on tour there we were being greeted on stage by people predominately in their late teens/early twenties. But there were a few older ones there as well. So very much depends on what time of year it is and whether you are indoors or outdoors and the constraints of the venue. I suppose, generally speaking, we find younger people if we play outdoors. And if it’s a nice cozy theater then probably more older people are conspicuous. I think when we play outdoors in the summer, there’re probably some of the older fans there but they tend to be more towards the back of the venue because that’s usually closer to the portable toilets.

You’ve talked about having a writing room.

That’s right. I have a forty foot indoor swimming pool, a gymnasium, a spa. But that’s just because the sound is kind of nice and echo-y and it makes my flute sound better and the temperature is usually warmer and consistent in terms of humidity. So it’s a comfortable place to sit. It’s also not too far away from the kitchen where the nearest coffee machine is. And only a little further to go to where my office is so it’s convenient whilst not actually being in the center of the house. I mean, it’s private because I don’t get cleaning ladies and gardeners coming in there.

Basically, how long did it take you to put this album together?

I started writing it at 9:00 am on the first of January in 2013 with an empty head. By lunchtime I had the introductory piece of music. By the end of the afternoon, I had a few lyrics and the title. So the next morning I decided, Where am I going to go with this? What’s the next step? Where will this title take me? What’s the organic sort of next move? So I hit upon the idea of it being a continued story of migration, which was the topic of that first song. So I thought I’d explore a few snapshots in history so I started to write down all the key elements that I thought I could cover in song and made a musical roots map. Then over the next few days I embarked upon redefining that in more detail as I did some research and started to flesh out the details a little bit. And I carried on working through that plan, writing another three or four minutes of music every day, and at the end of January, I pretty much had all the album laid out. In March, I made some demos, when I was on holiday with my wife for a week, and sent them back to England to the band members, along with all the chord charts and the lyrics. In the following December, we started recording it, because we were busy all the way through, on tour. Although it was finished really very early in the year, it was the end of the year before we had the time to work and rehearse it and record it. We finished it around the middle of January.

What do you have planned for the rest of the year?

We have two tours in the USA over September and October and November. Then we spend some time in later November and into January doing a European tour, which takes us through Switzerland and Germany and other places. We head off to Australia and New Zealand in December and return home just in time for Christmas. During the summer between now and September, we have a number of concerts in different parts of Europe, most of which are, not all, but most of which are outdoor shows. Some of them are festivals, some of them are concerts taking place outdoors with just us. We visit lots of places. Romania this week and then Switzerland the week after and then we go off to Poland and Spain and briefly into Germany, then Italy, then a couple more German dates, then we go to the Slovak Republic and Hungary and a couple more dates in Switzerland and then it’s America.

Leslie Michele Derrough’s earliest memories of music are of The Beatles, Johnny Rivers and Vanilla Fudge playing on her father’s turntable at four years old. Discovering the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin by age five, Leslie continues to pursue her love of music and the musicians behind it, joining Glide in 2010 doing interviews and covering concerts. Her philosophy is, “Every musician has a great story to tell” and she is known to hop on a plane or drive 10 hours when an opportunity arises. Keith Richards would be her coup de grace interview; but so would Aynsley Dunbar, her favorite drummer. Leslie does the weekly column MY ROOTS and also writes for Hittin’ The Note Magazine. You can find Leslie online at https://www.facebook.com/journalistlesliederrough

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