Addicted To Vinyl Musical thoughts from the open road, with headphones on

26Oct/104

Pop Quiz Q&A: Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull

Say the name Ian Anderson and you’re likely to get a huge eyeroll from some rock fans. Indeed, this is the guy with the metal codpiece playing flute while standing on one leg who fronts the band Jethro Tull.

Yeah, the same band that bested Metallica for a “Best Metal Performance” Grammy.

And yeah, that that’s the band responsible for the ubiquitous classic rock tracks “Aqualung,” “Bungle in the Jungle” and “Locomotive Breath.”

To most casual listeners, Anderson is Tull. But ask any proggies or long-in-the-tooth classic rockers and they’ll set you straight.

Or perhaps you could just take in the wild-eyed minstrel when returns to Cleveland to perform at Playhouse Square Center this Thursday, October 28.

For this “An Evening With Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson” show, the 63-year-old performs sans Tull, but delivers acoustic and electric versions of Tull songs along with Ian Anderson solo music.

He gave Addicted to Vinyl a buzz to chat about the show, the future of Tull, digital music and commerce.


Q: Thanks for the time. Tell us what makes an Ian Anderson concert unlike a Jethro Tull gig.

A: This is a little opportunity to stretch out in terms of variety—just to go a little deeper into catalog and get into some new songs. Experiment without necessarily entertaining people in the broader concept of what a Jethro Tull gig might be, which usually leans more to the rock side. When I switch from Tull to Anderson, I’m moving into a slightly broader esoteric, eclectic world which I’ve come to enjoy. I think a lot of fans like to see another side of things. Seeing as I’m the guy in the front, it’s not that a huge difference, just different in terms of breadth and depth. (laughs)

Q: What can fans expect musically during the show? The set lists from last year’s solo tour looked pretty interesting.

A: It’s a mixture of three different things: it’s half acoustic, half electric and it features four or five pieces of music that people won’t have heard before. That’s part of the fun—coming along and not just getting the predictable. Of course, there is acoustic Jethro Tull repertoire and we play a combination of well- and lesser known tunes from the catalog. Some of them are faithful to the original versions and others are stripped back to their roots. So there’s something new for longtime fans who have heard the old stuff, and a good mix for newer fans. We like to think of it as being fairly balanced.

Q: You have mentioned new material in a number of interviews during the past couple years. It’s been a long time since Rupi’s Dance… is there a new solo album in the works?

A: It’s in the works, in as much as there have been new songs recorded and others in the pipeline. I guess it’s going to happen someday; it’s merely having the time to spend off the road dedicated to the studio in a meaningful way. At my age, touring seems more appealing than sitting in a room with no windows for three months. (laughs) I have to be realistic about these things because I’m not sure how much longer I have with good health and energy and ability to perform live. It could be one year or 10.

I am conscious of that and grasp at opportunities to perform when I have them. Some of the places I get to we have been before as Tull; others are new. This year is no exception.

Q: What about a new Jethro Tull album? Will that happen, or have you taken a page from the Mark Knopfler playbook and decided to sideline the name?

A: I wouldn’t rule it out; it’s just not an easy thing to do logistically. [Drummer] Doane Perry has not enjoyed the greatest health in the last four or five years, so anything to intense would be a big strain for him and his wife. Same with [guitarist] Martin [Barre]. The reality of spending months on another album that won’t sell a busting load of copies doesn’t make a lot of sense. Sales figures across the board are a pale imitation of those from 10-15 years ago.

Hard to see any economic sense in that, really. And bringing everyone together is big undertaking, one I don’t think I have the stomach for. We may tour as Tull again at some point. We’ll see.

The industry really is different now than it used to be. Maybe we’ll put something out there as a digital download and then bundle something further down the road in a physical sense. But you have to realize that we’re down to one major record store chain in England and things have changed so dramatically in the last five years… as soon as MP3 format came to be, it was clearly going to result in people listing to music and absorbing it in a whole new way. I knew that right away, because I was avidly assimilating all of that at the time. (laughs) As soon as the iPod appeared, I had one. I’m on my fourth one now and all of my physical music is digitized, or was bought again on iTunes, because it’s cheap at the price.

Q: Because of Tull’s genre-bending style, both you and the group have been lumped into the whole “progressive rock” category. Has this labeling helped or hurt you over the years?

A: I certainly fostered [that definition], suggesting the name with a small “p” back in the days where King Crimson, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Yes and other bands were out there breaking the rules with genre-unidentifiable songs. With the blues boom that was happening, Crimson started to rewrite the book. We called it “prog” with a small “p,” but then the press started calling it “Prog Rock,” and when they did, it took on a rather dark, jerky overtone in as much as [others] felt it was excessive and a bit overblown, and self important—which much of it was! (laughs)
But there was quite an element of internal self deprecating humor about it. All of us could laugh about it the way you can laugh about members of your family—we could all joke about it, but the journalists sort of missed that point. For us, there was all a bit of lightness and fun about it. I can’t imagine that many of the bands took the criticism or the label too seriously, because we certainly had a lot of fun with genre bashing in a slightly more boyish schoolboy way (laughs).

Indeed. I think “prog” fans are down with that assessment as well. We’re all like musical “Trekkies.”

Yes! (laughs) With Thick As a Brick, we were actually making fun of the concept album genre. But of course, by actually doing that we found ourselves in the very category we were making fun of. It was the era of Monty Python and in that sense, we thought Thick As a Brick was a musical parallel to that. Our music has always been much more varied than that. Overall, Tull fits folk more than it does “prog” or jazz or blues or any other appendage-laden terms one can use to describe subgenres. It’s always been a quite eclectic mix of influences.

Therein lays the joy for most of our fans. We all move on doing something different within and without the scope of an album—that doesn’t always suit some people, like people who like The Ramones or Motorhead or someone who likes a more clear cut, identifiable product in the music supermarket. You pick up that package and you know exactly what it tastes like! (laughs). It’s hard to find the Tull supermarket shelf. The ingredients are scattered all over the store.

Q: Last question. I’m from Cleveland, so I suppose this question is inevitable: how come Tull has never been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and do you even care at this point?

A: I’ve been to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. They have items of ours for their exhibits, but as to being inducted…? Erm, I think it is very much an American institution and it should be devoted primarily to American artists—or those from other countries that have been influenced by American music and made it their own. I think for certain bands where the origins have really little to do with the USA, I don’t see it. There are many unsung heroes of the American music scene who belong there long before the ol’ Jethro Tull guy does. Is Captain Beefheart in there?

No, and he should be. That is absolutely eccentric, wonderful Americana—very important and influential to American music, even if it was never terribly successful in a more commercial sense.

“An Evening With Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson” takes place this Thursday, October 28 at 7:30 PM at the Palace Theatre, 1615 Euclid Ave., Cleveland. For tickets, call 216-241-6000, 866-546-1353 or visit www.PlayhouseSquare.org.

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  • http://thesixonefournine.com/ judd6149

    Every night of the week on a few of the “arts” channels on Sky1 here in London they have music programs, docco, interviews, etc. I just saw one with ANderson the other night. He came off cool as he did here. He is in on it all as well…flute, codpiece, some really strange performance habits/quirks. He was endearing even.

    Same with Peter Frampton. Saw one on him…history has not been kind. He’s cool and can play.

    I’ve noticed the English musicians are so much more relaxed/themselves on shows here. I guess that makes sense, but it is enjoyable. Clapton was on Jooles Holland and it was completely relaxed and off the cuff. Nice.

    Great interview with Ian here. Thanks.

  • Pingback: Jethro Tull Plan 2011 Tour to Celebrate ‘Aqualung”s 40th Birthday - Ultimate Classic Rock()

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