AZ CENTRAL-Interview: Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull Sept 18, 2014 11:43:55 GMT
Post by Gerrald Bostock on Sept 18, 2014 11:43:55 GMT
Interview: Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull
Ed Masley, The Republic | azcentral.com 3:45 p.m. MST September 16, 2014
Ian Anderson explains the appeal of reusing the character of Gerald Bostock from "Thick as a Brick."
Anderson neither believes nor disbelieves in the idea of past lives, a theme on his new album.
The "Homo Erraticus" album, in part, tells the story of our migratory urges and the costs thereof.
Anderson says his recent burst of creativity is ruled in part by the idea that his time is running out.
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull is touring in support of an album called "Homo Erraticus," his second solo effort in three years to feature Gerald Bostock, a character whose first appearance on a record was Tull's 1972 classic, "Thick as a Brick."
That does not mean this album is part of a trilogy, says Anderson, whose Mesa Arts Center performance this weekend will feature one set devoted to "Homo Erraticus" and a second set of old Tull favorites.
Question: What is it about the Gerald Bostock character that keeps you coming back to him?
Answer: Well, it's a bit of fun. It's creating a back story and giving points of reference for the dedicated fans. It's creating a link. But it's a tenuous link and should not be seen as part three of a trilogy. It's just that as a music writer, I use the devices any writer would — bringing back characters, perhaps in a little cameo role or in some context that gives continuity. People like continuity in their lives. At least some do.
I'm also aware that for a lot of folks, it gets too complicated. They like their rock and roll delivered in traditional, generic terms and anything that seems a bit more complex is a bit too much for them. Perhaps some of our fans are just beyond the challenge. But I like to feel that I'm not there to talk down to people and give them cheesy fodder. I'm there to challenge my abilities as a writer and musician and I hope, to some extent, I can take most of the audience with me.
Q: There's a lot of talk of past and future lives on this new album. Is that something you believe in?
A: I don't disbelieve in the idea of there being some sort of metamorphosis through different lives. It plays a part in a number of world religions and beliefs, this idea of coming back to try again. I'm naturally a skeptic in regard to most things but I don't rule them out. I'm not a Christian but I support the Christian religion because, from a pragmatic point of view, it's a relatively, these days, trouble-free, benign religion — until, of course, you fall into the clutches of evangelists. Then it's all hellfire and damnation, xenophobia and a hatred of anybody else who chooses to worship a deity in a different way. But luckily, those are a small minority and mostly, I'm afraid, for you folks, confined to parts of the U.S.A. Generally, Christianity is a fairly benign religion. It fulfills a great spiritual function in people's lives. It's also responsible for building some beautiful cathedrals and churches back in Europe. So I'm a supporter of Christianity. That doesn't make me a Christian.
Q: How much research went into the historical details on these latest records?
A: Well, it was all based on stuff I knew. Or thought I knew. I'm not going back to the origin of our species but I am going back to the last Ice Age and taking little snapshots of the story of our migratory urges from then until now. As a species, we have a tremendous capacity for going where the grass is greener, and anybody who happens to be standing in our way, well, they'd better get out of it, like the North America Indians or a few nations that had to get out of the way of the Brits in the nation-building stampede of the Empire. We're all responsible for bad stuff.
But on balance, we've also left a lot of positive things. The Romans left a great deal when they invaded the British Isles 2,000 years ago. The Normans brought a huge amount of culture and art in their invasionary period. Even the aboriginal Indian tribes of North America, at least you've given them casinos.
Q: Do you find that having a back story makes it easier or harder to create an album?
A: It gives me a sense of completing something. You've got to somehow wrap it up in a parcel, tie it with a nice pink ribbon. I think I've always had that view since I first started writing and recording some 46 years ago. "Aqualung" was an early attempt not to create a concept album but to wrap up a group of quite disparate songs into a cohesive whole. And it seemed to capture people's attention when it did that, although they wrongly described it as a concept album at the time.
Q: But you do consider these most recent efforts concept albums?
A: Oh yeah. Very much so. Concept albums in the style of what we used to call progressive rock.
Q: Do you find that taking that approach has reinvigorated your creative energies?
A: Yes. But it is driven by the need to do more things because my time is running out. You have to be aware that once you're approaching that latter few years of your productive life, you can either back off and kind of coast a bit or use the time that's left to tackle bigger challenges that perhaps you hadn't in the past..
Q: Have you thought at all about what you might tackle next?
A: I'm absolutely avoiding thinking about what I'm tackling creatively next because at 9 o'clock on January 1 of 2015, I want to walk into my writing space with an empty head, a blank file on my computer that simply is titled "new project" and a clean flute and some shiny strings on my acoustic guitar. And then I will see what offers come to me from the muse, should she care to visit sometime between the hours of 9 a.m. and 12 noon. And if she's not paid a visit by then, then I may have to shoot myself.
Q: (After much laughing) Sorry. I'm laughing because I'm assuming you're joking.
A: I am. I'm joking about at least 60 percent of what I say. It's part of the charm of being a writer is that you can bring serious subjects a little closer to people by using some humor to perhaps make it easier. It's a sugar coating on the bitter pill. It lures them into your clutches and then they have to swallow the medicine. Humor is a good way of bringing people to you and disarming them. So I've always felt there's a good use for humor. It may be rather dark humor.
Q: You've said "Thick as a Brick 2" allowed you to reflect on "how we Baby Boomers look back on our lives and often feel an occasional 'what if' moment." What do you think of in your "what if" moments?
A: Well, there are really a lot of them. George (W.) Bush had an autobiography titled "Decision Points," which was released shortly after his presidency. And not being a fan of George Bush up to that moment, I felt obliged to give him the time of day. So I downloaded the book and read it. And it was for me quite notable because he was looking back on his professional life as well as his earlier life, before politics, and taking these sort of crucial moments that, for him, were life-changing.
And I thought about lots of my own little experiences like that, these kind of crossroads in your personal journey through life. It's a bit like you're just following your navigation device and you aren't really in control. It says, "Turn left in 100 yards" and so you do, because it's easier just to kind of go with the flow. Sometimes we do that. We let strange and other powers — call it fate if you like — take us in a different direction.
Q: You did an interview with Billboard this year that made it seem as though we'd seen the last of Jethro Tull. Is that the case?
A: Well, no, you haven't, because the Jethro Tull catalog and repertoire is all still available on Amazon.com and iTunes. So it doesn't go away. It's just the fine nuance of my approaching the final years of my life and I would like you, without wishing to sound arrogant, to know my name.
And for a lot of people, maybe some who think of themselves very much as Jethro Tull fans, they think of Jethro Tull, they think of the guy standing on one leg playing the flute. But what it says on my passport, I can assure, is not Jehtro Tull. Jethro Tull's passport belongs to Jethro Tull. Or did. He was an 18th Century agriculturalist who invented the seed drill. So the historical character Jethro Tull is the one whose place in history should be remembered.
And I think my making reference to it has made a difference because a couple years ago, the real owner of the name was not listed in a Top 10 Google search for Jethro Tull. It was all me and the musical entity of Jethro Tull. But during these more recent times when I've been talking more about him, the last time I looked, there were two mentions in the Top 10 of Jethro Tull, the historical character. And I think well, maybe I've had a little to do with that. So it's perhaps a positive way of kind of apologizing for identity theft.
But to perform simply as Jethro Tull, I am reminded by the recent death of Glenn Cornick and the fact that several other ex-band members are not feeling terribly well — there are 28 people who rightfully are part of that great family of music known as Jethro Tull — I came to that point where I just feel I would rather refer to Jethro Tull as being the repertoire as opposed to going out within this rather ever-changing lineup of musicians as the central character.
I kind of put my own name in the mix because it's may be a little bit of vanity but it's also about not exactly retiring the name but sort of putting it into context. It is a body of work rather than specific individuals at any given point in time.
Details: 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 20. Mesa Arts Center, 1 E. Main St.$45-$95. 480-644-6500, mesaartscenter.com.