By Jeb Wright
Photos by Alex Pavlou
Ian Anderson is back with a new album titled Homo Erraticus that is every bit as much of a Jethro Tull album as any the legendary Prog band ever recorded. Why not call it Tull? Well, Mr. IA never liked the random / ‘temporary’ band name, and he feels just a tad guilty that the world knows the Jethro brand of Prog Rock better than the historical Jethro, who created farming implements in the 1700’s.
Guilty or not, Ian Anderson is on a creative outburst. This recording contains some of the best music Ian has written in years, and a storyline that brings his alter-ego, Gerald Bostock, back into the fold. This time Gerald is not only Ian’s tour manager, he has also discovered some writings that inspire him to write lyrics, something ‘Gerald’ has not done since penning the words to the classic Jethro Tull album Thick as a Brick as a mere child back in the…gasp…1970s!
In the interview that follows, Mr. Anderson discusses his creative process, as well as working with Gerald Bostock again. We also talk about album covers, record royalties and even the Doggerlands. This is one long, yet very cool interview with one of the most intelligent, creative and unique men in the history of rock and roll. Oh, but don’t ask him to agree to an authorized biography. The answer will be a resounding, “No.” Ian won’t even write one himself, as he claims his life is too boring (unlike Keith Richards, who Ian describes as a cranky, weird and a little old wrinkly man). Ian... Boring? Not in a million years!
Jeb: Your latest press release says you are both legendary and that you are a Prog god. You have been lifted up to god-status.
Ian: It is about supporting print media in these times of stress. There are a lot of magazines going out of business, even major newspapers in Europe, going out of business as print media declines around the world. There are magazines that devote themselves to a relative minority like Prog Magazine in the UK. They deserve the support of the artist. They have an annual award ceremony, and, not to diminish the good time that is had by all and the importance to the readership for these sorts of things, it is obviously sort of a set-up.
We, I say we, people like me dutifully go along and are treated to a meal and some drinks for being available to Press for interviews, and for being a presence which is useful to keeping those magazines going on. Prog is but one of them, as there is a few others.
If they had offered me the Blues god, or another award, I would have been obliged to accept them as well. Kept in perspective, it is a bit of fun and it will be a bit of fun next year for whomever they select, assuming they will be able to afford to do another award ceremony. Who will pick up the baton for such grandeur, we shall have to wait and see…
Jeb: There are some fans who are confused. Thick as a Brick 2 and this album, Homo Erraticus, are Ian Anderson solo albums, yet they sound an awful lot like Jethro Tull albums. Why are these not Tull records?
Ian: I think everybody that I have spoken with has pretty much said, straight off from the first piece of music from the new album, that you know immediately you’re listening to Jethro Tull. They say that without stopping to think what they are saying. That’s okay.
Jethro Tull is really two things to me. It is that vast body of work which, but for all but a few tiny little places, is music that I’ve written, produced, often engineered, sung on, played on and mastered and managed, in the sense of being the manager of the band since 1974 or 1975.
When you look at the big picture, it is not very surprising that it should sound like Jethro Tull. The main parts are vocals and flute, which are things that people will recognize and there is that continuity. Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull, to most people I think it doesn’t make a busting amount of difference if you’re trying to identify it from the music… with all respect to the 28 other members of Jethro Tull… because that is the other thing that Jethro Tull means to me, a large extended family of musicians over the years.
I think there have been five, or six, bass players…maybe it is seven. I can’t remember without sitting down and working it out. With all respect from those guys, aside from the sonic quality of recording, most of them played a Fender bass. I am trying to think of one that didn’t, actually. I think they all played Fender bass. If you play the Fender bass and you use your fingers, or if you pluck them with a plectrum, then there might be a slight difference in the attack of the note, but it would be awfully hard to tell.
If I told you Dave Pegg played on the new album, I don’t think you could say, “That sounded like him.” If you’re a bass player, or a guitar player, the nuances are there, but it’s not as obvious as it is with a singer. We recognize human voices easier than we do individual guitar players.
If you plug a Les Paul guitar into a pretty typical amp…if you strum a chord, and then Martin Barre strums a chord, and you both strummed a G Major on the same guitar, and the same amplifier, I am quite sure I wouldn’t be able to tell you who was playing which chord. If, on the other hand, you were to play a constructed solo, I would take an educated guess and probably get the right answer. If it was an improv section that showed the personality of the person playing, I would probably get it right. Not that I know you’re playing, but by a process of elimination, I would probably guess which part was you.
We can recognize certain elements, but I think the things that jump out at people….for instance, if you hear a flute being played in the context of loud rock music, then the first thought of most people who follow rock music historically on planet earth will say, “That must be that bloke who stands on one leg and plays the flute.” They are not probably not going to come up with Ray Thomas of the Moody Blues, or Chris Wood from Traffic, or Peter Gabriel from early Genesis, who I once saw holding a flute, I am not sure if he actually played it.
Jethro Tull, after all of these years, sits in my mind, and in my heart, in those two different ways. The body of music that, up until a few years ago, was all recorded in the studio, and with a few live albums thrown in, was Jethro Tull. Now you have to put it in the other category, straightaway…which lineup of Jethro Tull are we talking about? There have been many combinations of musicians, which is kind of good, but in some ways from the point of view of fans and supporters, is maybe a little confusing. Your favorite football team over the span of 45 years is unlikely to have the same people playing in it.
Jeb: In America, however, branding is everything when it comes to marketing. Jethro Tull is well-known.
Ian: We like to have things simplified, but in reality, when we think of branding we have to think of the sordid side of taking names. If you’d asked me 30 years ago if there was anything I regretted about my musical career, my answer was, as it still is today, the name of the band.
As I reach the late years of my life, I suppose I feel more embarrassed and guilty about it than I did then. When our agent gave us the name Jethro Tull in February of 1968…he named us after a dead guy that invented the seed drill. It was only a couple of weeks later that I found out, and it was too late, as we had just got our first glimmer of success and recognition from the media, as we became a band who were then being quietly trumpeted as a new exciting band at the Marquee Club in London.
I should be facing a modest prison sentence for identity theft. It is almost as if the original Jethro Tull was a little unguarded, as he stood at the cash machine with his debit card, and I happened to spot his pin number as he punched it in. I snuck his card from his back pocket as he walked away, and punched it in and fleeced his bank account. I feel as if I’ve stolen a guy’s name and made a ton of money after it. In that sense it is identity theft as it is the name of a real person. It is too late to do anything about it, but put it in the sort of overall context, it has never been for me very comfortable. If it was what I had assumed it was, a made up and invented name that our agent had come up with, I would have thought, “Okay…we will probably have a new name next week anyway, because no one likes us and they will change it again.” It happened to be the one that stuck.
Jeb: I am going to guess that you enjoyed making this album. Your creativity is very much alive at this stage of your career.
Ian: It was as fun as it ought to be. If I think of albums that are fun to make, I am inclined to think of bands back in the late ‘60s, or early ‘70s, when bands went off to a villa in the south of France and combined a bit of a holiday while making music. We were told, or rather led to believe, that was fun…to go to Montserrat and make an album next to a volcano. It was supposed to be kind of fun and it was a good place to be. It was something that produced the right upbeat vibes where musicians could do their best in an overly relaxed context.
For me, fun is not that that kind of fun. It has to be laced with a certain amount of tension to deliver your very best within a finite period of time. You sit down to write something, it’s usually with a bit of a deadline ahead of it. Maybe not in the case of having to complete it, but at least knowing that you have three weeks, or something, to really accomplish the big task of getting the body of work, there in front of you, musically and lyrically. You can refine it over the following weeks and months.
As was the case with TAAB 2, Homo Erraticus was begun at the beginning of the year, at 9:00AM on January 1st of 2013. I knew I had a clear space before I had to think about doing any concerts. It was kind of important to have it pretty much locked down. After a few shows that we did I had a vacation in Barbados in March, which is where I made the demos for the guys in the band. I sent it all off to them.
Subsequently, I had a meeting to ask if they were all onboard for the next record and tours in 2014. It couldn’t be a foregone conclusion that they would say they were. I called everybody into a room and told everyone in the band and crew that it was a good time to start thinking of 2014, as they may have other people they want to work with, other things they want to do, and other projects they want to do. It would be useful for me to know that if some of you want to jump off at the next port that it would be a good idea to tell the captain you were leaving. None of them did, so we started rehearsing right at the end of November, and we did the first half of the album just before Christmas. We finished it off very early in the New Year.
We had definite deadlines. We knew we could only start rehearsals a couple of days after the last day of the tour. We did ten days of rehearsals, and then we started recording and we had to finish by a certain date, as we had some shows to do before Christmas, and then we had Christmas break for everyone to spend with their family. We, then, had a very strict deadline of finishing up around the tenth, or something like that. We had three, or four, days of final sorting out all of the audio files and tidying up before going into the mixing process.
We completed, kind of, on the day we were supposed to, in terms of the band and the recording of stuff. We ran a little over on the mixing; the man who was doing the mixing could only start two, or three days later than I had hoped. We ran just a day or two beyond the schedule. We were mastered and delivered to the record company in the same week we had agreed to, which was needed to ensure the release date, which was already written in stone before we even started recording the music.
All of these things have to work to a deadline and that does produce some pressure and stress, because if you lose any ground and get behind, then catching up is really a pig to do, because you don’t want to rush things, but, at the same time, you have to get back that goal of achieving four or five minutes of real time recording every day in order to get done. Pressure, I think, is kind of good. Especially if things are going quite well there is a tendency that maybe a little relaxation and optimism sets in too early, because you’ve really got to keep the pace up without slipping back. We did slip back a day, at one point, and then got back again by the skin of our teeth.
It was enjoyable, but enjoyable in the sense of winning a race. It is enjoyable in the sense of finishing on a podium after a grand prix. You’re pretty exhausted and you feel a sense of achievement, but there is also that strange feeling afterwards that is a little empty because you don’t have those things to fill your mind and your days that you did for the previous four weeks. There is that kind of slight feeling of depression at the end where you just have to wind down slowly.
I know it happens to lots of people in all walks of life. They go through that feeling after a day, or two, where, suddenly, the demands and focus of daily life has diminished and you go through a sort of a depression. It is a sort of a post natal depression, I would imagine in a sort of way. It is felt by astronauts…I have spoken to a couple of astronauts and they have gone through that feeling of euphoria to emptiness. Something is gone and if you’re an old astronaut over the age of 50, then you’re not going to fly again. For me, it does not last very long because there is all of the post production work to do, and there is all of the artwork that has to be done, and there is the preparation of the videos. Right up until the time we start rehearsals and start the tour…apart from next week, I have five days off. Apart from that, it is every day flat-out all the way to the start of the tour.
Jeb: The character Gerald Bostock came to be during the first Thick as a Brick album. Then he lay dormant for decades until TAAB 2. Now he is back for this album. As the story goes, Gerald became your tour manager. I have been reading his diaries on the website.
Ian: If you’ve been following the Gerald Bostock letters on Facebook, or on our website, you will see I was preparing for most of that for 2013…the idea of keeping Gerald in the background as a friendly face. It seemed like a good way to keep possibilities opened. It was determined and constructed that way, but I really didn’t know what kind of a role he would play until last year when I thought it was time for Gerald to take up tinkering with music, with the idea of writing some lyrics after 42 years. It is not a trilogy; this is not part three. It is just an old friend dropping in for a cup of tea. You’ve got to be careful, because you don’t want him to stay for lunch and bore the hell out of you.
Jeb: Gerald had a career in politics and I can see where the role of tour manager would be very much like that of a politician.
Ian: It has been suggested by many people that might indeed be the case, but that wasn’t specifically the reason why I decided he had a political career. That was the very first choice when I wrote TAAB 2. The first thing I wrote down was ‘politician’. The reason I didn’t include that in the potential career path of Gerald Bostock through the decades was partly because there was a number of people I might have easily molded him on.
I didn’t want any of the people concerned, or people that know me, and, I suppose, some sort of relationship between me and a couple of people I know in the world of politics…I didn’t want them thinking that I had stolen the personalities and souls of some real life politicians much the same way I took the identity of Jethro Tull. I left that one out, and I left out astronaut. The short list did not include several of the choices. I didn’t want people to say I was writing about so and so, as I didn’t feel that was appropriate.
When you take your knowledge of someone who is either in public life, or is known widely to others, then I just wouldn’t want people to think I was in a sense using the identity of someone to model a character on. Of course, that is what I do, but it is more likely a compendium of many people, not specifically one person, or one or two people, and they are usually not people in public life, so no one is going to know about it but me.
When I create a character it is based on a loose combination of stereotypes and chance encounters and visualizations and a degree of pure imagination as well. It is always carefully crafted and honed from careful analysis. Some of it is flights of fancy, and you build people out of the ether and there is no substance behind it at all.
Jeb: Gerald discovers Earnest T. Parrot’s writings. Writing with Gerald and having him do the lyrics…how is that different than you writing the lyrics? How do you get yourself into that third person?
Ian: The tool, the device, is a writer’s device…it’s a way of creating an alter ego who can voice sentiments and express beliefs and thoughts that are not necessarily mine. Gerald Bostock can say things that I can’t say. He can voice sentiments which are not mine. He can have a different ideology than me. When I have to step into singing those songs, then I have to step into a character and think about what I am doing as I do it. I always feel that on stage. I feel I must never ever go onstage and just perform the song and sing the lyrics without putting myself into that position. I try to create the pictures in my head that go with the song. Part of my brain is always doing that, or at least it should always be doing that, because I think that is how you portray something with conviction and authority.
I remember reading that Sting said in an interview that he didn’t think about his lyrics when he sings them on stage. He just sings them on autopilot. He does not think about what the words mean. I find that very strange. Was it carelessness? Could he not be bothered? Is it a defense mechanism? If he thought about the deep passion and importance of his words, perhaps he would break down on stage and collapse in a pool of tears and become a blob of jelly in front of thousands of adoring fans. Maybe he meant he couldn’t handle the emotion. Perhaps that is what he meant, but he didn’t say that. The way he said it sounded a bit cavalier, really.
I really do try to think about what I am singing when I sing it. Once in a while, I have to tell myself to focus, as I have slipped and mouthed something without thinking about it. When I catch myself doing that, I get a little angry at my sloppiness.
Jeb: In this story you have one individual and his issues that he had, and you have his undiscovered manuscripts. Was this a creative burst of energy to come up with this story?
Ian: On day one, starting at 9:00AM on January 1st , I had to have an empty head. I promised myself I would go into my writing room without anything in my head at all. I wanted no preconceived notion and no backup piece of music. It seemed terribly important to set myself the task to set off some creative juices at that particular time. It had to be something completely fresh and new and something I had not done before.
I went in with my flute and my little guitar and my laptop computer and just started to doodle around, initially on the flute. I came up with this passage of music and I thought, “That is the beginning of the album.” By, I suppose lunch time, I had that kind of worked out. I had developed that little instrumental piece that appears a few times on the album. I worked out the basic chords on the guitar and worked out the basic harmonies. I had that on one side, and then after lunch, I went back in and fooled around on the guitar in that tempo and that feel and where would I go in terms of lyrics. For some reason the word ‘Doggerland’ popped up. I had not written a song about the Doggerland before, and it is interesting because it is the name of the low lying lands that joins the British Isles to Mainland Europe at the time of the last ice age.
If the ice retreated, you could walk across from France, Belgium and Holland and you could walk across this marshy boggy land and find yourself in what is now southern England. As the ice retreated, the sea levels rose and what was once the Doggerland now became the Dogger Bank, which is a fishing ground in the North Sea, a relatively shallow water that is thick in terms of fishing a hundred to two hundred years ago. The Dogger Bank had once been above water, and it came to be known as the Doggerland…it was the land bridge. It is the same thing that allowed early man to cross over the Bering Strait land bridge into the Americas. We’ve been doing that for a while. The last ice age, roughly speaking, being eight thousand years ago, I thought it would be interesting as a starting point we talk about the Doggerland and we talk about the people who became the first Brits to stay there.
There had been, prior to that, other ice ages, and our very early ancestors had been there before, even as long ago as 750,000 there were humanoids living in central and northern England, but with each ice age they were driven back into southern Europe. It had happened before. We have these historical realities.
What I liked about the idea, and what I embarked about on day two, or day three, was then to take that idea and expand it into the whole album. It was to be about migration, and it was to be about the movement of people across planet earth. Not from the earliest out of Africa moment, but from my part of the world, which is northwestern Europe.
Migration, or as we on the receiving end of it being immigration, is a very hot political potato. Four or five years ago, politicians didn’t even like to discuss this. It is more openly discussed these days, and in a frank and sometimes disturbing way, but, nonetheless, I think people are getting used to airing these views. I encourage that we talk about the fact that nothing is really permanent.
We are all hunter/gatherers. We all go where the grass is greener and the woolly mammoth is more plentiful. If we can find the mammoth somewhere else, and it is going to feed our women and children, then we are going to go there. If someone is there before us, then we stamp on their heads and steal it from them if we can, because we are a pretty aggressive hunter/gatherer species.
We continue to do pretty much the same thing, both in the physical sense of moving when we think we can get something better, and, of course, that applies to people coming to the British Isles from other places, who become part of our economy and part of our culture. It is a benefit to society if they are good folks, and they work hard, and they don’t smell bad, then we are happy to have them. Or, at least, we have been happy to have them. We are getting to be a little tense about it because there are soon to be 70 million of us on this rather overcrowded little island, which is the most overcrowded part of Europe, which is called Britain. Some folks are getting a little nervous that maybe our resources are too stretched and perhaps we should be doing a better job of educating those who are already here better to do the good jobs, rather than importing new labor from elsewhere.
People have very different views. Like everyone else here, I am from somewhere else. My ancestors did not emerge from the gaseous swamp. They came here, at least on my father’s side, with the Viking hordes that swept in a thousand years ago and plundered and pillaged, and some of who stayed. My mother’s side was probably Celtic people, who came from northwestern France. For sure, my ancestors are from somewhere else.
Before that, they were from somewhere else yet again, and probably emerged through the Tigris and Euphrates through the early civilized areas of Mesopotamia, as they moved onwards and outwards to the north and to the west, as they moved on in search of something better. I am not just talking on the album of the physical parts of human migration; I am talking about the spiritual and the creative and artistic side of migration, too.
We Brits and you Americans are not very good at expanding our empires and taking over other countries by sending in men with boots and guns. We’ve got a pretty poor track record of it as of late. In that sense, we are not really terribly effective, or successful. However, we have taken over most of the world through our culture, our arts, and our entertainment. The Walking Dead is sold in 139 countries across the world. People watch that on television as an example of well-made and well-presented American TV drama. It doesn’t get more American than The Walking Dead.
There is the history of Hollywood movies and the history of British and American music. We have dominated the world. We have done what men with guns and boots cannot do. We have won the hearts and minds, which was the British army’s motto going into Iraq and Afghanistan; we wanted to win the hearts and minds instead of winning land and oil fields. We’ve done that, but we’ve done it in a different way.
It is part of the drive to succeed. You have to impose yourself, your emotions, and your creativity on other people because they are your audience. The woolly mammoth isn’t always just the literal. The woolly mammoth of the Queens coin in the days of the British Empire was a part of that huge drive towards an economic woolly mammoth.
I suppose you could say the woolly mammoth was in Detroit, Philadelphia and New York City. He was there in 1969 when Led Zeppelin got off the airplane. We all have our different goals and our different reasons to succeed. Sometimes it involves a physical moment across the Doggerland, or on a TWA flight to Detroit city for Led Zeppelin. The woolly mammoth has changed its shape and form over the years, but it’s the story of all of us. With that very loose idea, it seemed like a fun thing to encapsulate 8,040 years into 52 and a half minutes of music. Only Prog Rock can do that for you.
Jeb: I like the album cover. Is there a story behind it?
Ian: The cover was presented as a brief, in a reasonable degree of detail, to a graphic artist who embarked upon the front and back cover artwork. He was on the right track at first, but after about a week he was getting father away from it and not getting closer to it in spite of trying to slightly redefine and be more specific. He got further away with his subsequent rough presentations. We had to pay him off and ask him to go away.
We were running out of time so we decided it would have to be photographic. We got in touch with Carl Glover, who had done some covers for various other bands in that sort of general genre of contemporary Prog Metal, or what have you. He came out for a photo session that we set up in the way that the original brief was.
He has a vast assemblage of stock material, some of which are photographs has taken on his journeys around the world, and some of which are old photographs he’s purchased; photographs going back fifty, sixty and even a hundred years. Some of those he, in fact, used on the album cover and some of them he didn’t because I told him that they didn’t work. They were nice pictures, but some were irrelevant. We had to whittle it down to the ones that work, especially for the 64-page deluxe version which is the limited edition grand box-set sort of thing. I have yet to see it, because in manufacturing terms, the first one will roll off the presses in a couple of weeks’ time. I have got the other packages and he seemed to do the job. It was a fairly tightly defined thing, and as always when you work with a photographer, you try to give him what you are looking for.
You can’t just give people exactly what it is they have to do, so that all they physically do is fulfill your requirements. You have to give them the opportunity to be creative to give them the enjoyment of participation. They feel they are part of a worthwhile project. That is what makes things work with certain musicians in bands, for example. You can give them a clear cut idea like a demo, but it is not usually the case that you have to sit down and give them every note that you want them to play. There are some musicians and that was the modus operandi; it was the way that we had to do that. Other musicians you can give a much looser remit and know fairly confidently they are going to come up with something that will join the dots together. They will come up with a bass line, or some passing notes between chords, or a choral inversion, that adds to the music.
If people don’t have any ideas, they just have to look blank for a little bit and I will immediately have an idea, but I don’t go in firing-off all of my ideas, because I think it is important to give people a chance to do their bit. Sometimes, they do maybe more than asked for, and that happened a couple of times in the past.
I have been looking through some royalty paperwork this afternoon, as I am in the process of sorting out things. I am looking through to see that on certain songs people are paid. I actually have it here. Carefully handwritten here is the fact that on the album Bursting Out Live that Martin Barre gets 1/47th. On the song “Minstrel in the Gallery” Martin gets 1/50th of the songwriting royalty, because in that particular song he came up with the introductory music. He gets, on a timed basis, a tenth of the songwriting royalty on that song. Because there are ten tracks on the album, he gets a fiftieth of the whole album. All of this is duly recorded for posterity because when I die, and Marin Barre dies, I am sure his children and my children, as likely inheritors of title, would probably like to have a copy of this to make sure they get paid into the future, seventy-five years after my death they will be entitled to that royalty.
I noticed that John Glasscock on the song “Quiz Kid” on the Too Old to Rock and Roll album gets 1/56th of the album because he came up with a bit of music on that song. These things are duly written down, which is really interesting. I don’t recollect which bit did I not write? With “Minstrel,” it is easy because that is a guitar thing and that was a Martin Barre driving thing that was definitely him and not me. Some pieces I find it difficult, looking at these figures… what was it? What four or eight bar section does someone else have a little stake in? It is important when people make that contribution you recognize it.
It is not just notes they are playing, but rather they are playing a new piece of music that I didn’t originate. When that happens, it is important to write it down at the time so nobody forgets it. I think you have to do this with everybody. You have to give people that opportunity to exercise their creativity, but you have to channel it in the right direction without being too merciless. You need to give them a detailed brief of what you are looking for. You could do it the other way and just say, “Here is a new record I need a cover for. I don’t have music or any ideas just go and do the artwork.” I am sure there are artists who do that and have no idea what they want to see on an album cover at all. Having spent some time studying painting, drawing and photography, I do. I suppose I do have a clearer cut idea of what album covers should and shouldn’t be. Not that they have all been my idea, but most of them I had a fairly tangible idea as to what they are about.
Jeb: The worst album cover you did was Walk Into Light, your solo album.
Ian: I think you’re probably quite right. It wasn’t particularly clever. It may have been done in conjunction with Chrysalis Records art department. A couple of them were. The Under Wraps album was done in conjunction with their people. Thick as a Brick was a good example of it being quite a cleverly worked-out, thought-through realization of something quite conceptual. I couldn’t have done it alone; it was done in conjunction with someone who had been a journalist on a small parochial newspaper, along with a couple of the other guys in the band. It was a collective effort. The vision and the examples, the brief, was mine.
The Stand Up album had nothing to do with me. Our then-manager, Terry Ellis, and a graphic artist did that. Benefit was Terry’s thing as well. The first album, This Was, my idea… Stand Up and Benefit were not. Aqualung was another one of Terry’s. Terry went through a phase where he thought his role was to come up with album covers, as that was sort of marketing and packaging, he felt he could be creative in. He came up with probably the three album covers that I don’t really think…perhaps in their way they are iconic because of the place they fill in the edges of rock music history…but for me they were not very satisfying as pictorial images. Stand Up I particularly dislike for one reason, which is not the artwork. The artwork is kind of fun and it is a good idea. It is the worst album in the world to autograph.
One of my briefs, when coming up with this new album cover, was that I needed an area that was light in tone and relatively free where I can sign. There is nothing more infuriating than not being able to sign across an album. Thick as a Brick is pretty bad, but if you’ve got a good new Sharpie then you can go over on the newsprint and you can get away with it. No, unfortunately the very dark heavy complex on Stand Up makes it a pig to sign. You can only sign on the back which defeats the purpose for many people.
Jeb: Do you see a future with Gerald or is this his Swan Song?
Ian: It is difficult to tell. If I am doing something which is a bit serious and is filled with a variety of topics and emotions, then Gerald Bostock is a useful writer’s tool to put a little bit of whimsy and an upbeat spin on it. He’s a way of keeping us all smiling through things that might be quite dark and serious. He is useful in a certain context.
It would depend on the type of project, and if I thought Gerald could be part of a back story or in some way a character that can make another appearance. If he can do that, then sure, let’s have him along. Like I said, it’s good to have him over for tea and let him drop in every couple of years. I don’t want him to stick around, or overstay his welcome. It’s too early to say.
Some ideas started going through my head the other day about a new project, and I immediately banished them for the simple reason it is too early to be doing that now. It will be a project that would sit two years in the making. I am trying not to embark on anything too elaborate or demanding during the course of this year. On the other hand, because of my age, and the feeling of sands running through the hourglass at an alarmingly increasing rate, I might just slip into writing something sooner than I intend to. It would be a little early now, as the new one is not even released. It would be a little premature. I started with a tune and a few words and said, “Stop it! Stop it. Don’t be silly.” I banished them from my thoughts.
Jeb: Last one: Why not write a biography about Gerald Bostock?
Ian: There could be, in the same way that there could be an autobiographical outpouring from me, or an authorized biography, which I get asked about quite a lot. The problem is, you see, I don’t have that kind of rock and roll lifestyle credibility. I can’t be Keith Richards. I don’t have the drugs, the sex, and the rock and roll. My life is just incredibly boring. It is totally not like most people would want to believe.
I could probably write about me and do a few bits and make you smile, make you laugh and make you think a bit. But I don’t think I am going to write it as a sequential thing, where I say, “I was born in 1947 in the market town of…” I would not want to pepper it with ancient family photographs. It would be too dreary for words.
If I was going to write it, I would start in the middle and work outwards. I would have to find a way to construct it where I could make lots of references. I could go into the corners. I would not want to write it as a normal sort of biography. For anyone else to write about me, they would run up against a brick wall very soon as either I wouldn’t want to talk about people in my life in terms of giving them information for research, or they would find that people in my life wouldn’t want to talk about me for the same reason which is a mutual respect.
If you’re going to do what Keith Richards does, which he does in a fun and not too dreadful way, because it is an entertaining book to read. He knew it would really get up Mick Jagger’s nose, and he does it in a joyful and playful way. He is teasing his bandmate with whom there is a longstanding love/hate relationship. Keith Richards can do that. Keith Richards is believable. He is cranky, weird and a little old wrinkly man in the final years of his life. We like Keith. He can’t really hurt anybody. He could embark upon all of that stuff because really he is telling you about himself and his own shortcomings and his scrapes and his near falls into the abyss. We go along with him along that route.
I just don’t have those tales to tell, and if I was to start talking about other people, whether in an ingratiatingly nice way, which I would feel obliged to do because that’s the kind of people I have known in my life…they are all very nice people… that would get rather dull after a while. If I was to tell you some of the people that I don’t think are nice, or some of the people I’ve had a problem with, then I don’t really feel that is appropriate, because if they were alive they would have their own views on it.
I am just not the type of guy who wants to tell you about my relationships with people…men, women, boys, girls, animals…whatever it is. There is a lot of stuff in there that I think has to remain private out of respect to people. That is not to suggest there is anything that really needs covering up. Sadly, the reverse is true. They are just people. I just don’t feel it is right to invade other people’s privacy by talking about them behind their back and then putting it in print. I really, really detest when people do that. They think that is what you have to do because you’re writing your biography. I read one or two recently, and it was rather unpleasant to read about it. It is just creating scandal and dwelling on the negatives in order to make a book that will sell a few more copies. I don’t like it.
I am not about to write my autobiography, but in a weird way I might tell you all about me, but I wouldn’t do it in just the form of it being a biography in the time honored sense. I think it would have to have another starting point that would make it more interesting, where you got to know me and my story as a byproduct of something else. I don’t know what that is. I haven’t felt the compulsion yet to try to write something down. I have often felt the compulsion to have to tell people, “No, you can’t write an authorized biography of me because I am not going to authorize it.” In other words, I am not going to help you make money about me and other people that I don’t want to talk to you about, anyway.
I actually do believe that most of the people in my life wouldn’t want to talk about me, as they know the way I feel about it. It is the same with my family, they are very private. There is a very quiet degree in which you extend your orbit into other people’s life. It is a very kind and gentle thing. You can have an impact on people. I am always weary that you can have too much impact on people because perhaps they value the relationship more than you do. Maybe that has happened to me once or twice in my years, and I am reluctant to, in any way, invade other people’s memories of something that they didn’t feel particularly good about. Or maybe they felt about it one way then, and they don’t feel about it the same way now. Who knows?
I don’t really keep in touch with many people other than the guys in the band, I suppose. I don’t have any contact amongst any of the people I went to school with, or art school with, or grammar school, or primary school. They faded away and I faded away from them. That is rather sad, as at any given time there were probably twenty or thirty classmates around me at school that I talked to everyday at school. I knew them on first name terms, and I knew a bit about them. We worked together and we played together and we hit balls around on the rugby field or the tennis courts. You just part company and you never see them again. That is very sad.
Jeb: That is why Gerald is fair game.
Ian: Gerald is my sort of pretend friend. I suppose I could go sit alone in a restaurant and when they say, “Are you eating alone sir?” I could say, “No I am waiting for my friend Gerald. Give me the menu and I will order for me anyway.” That’s a good idea. I will try that the next time I am eating alone, which I do a lot. I don’t like to eat in company. I’m the guy who finds the empty restaurant with absolutely nobody in it, with no music playing. I sit in the corner, facing the door, so I can see the bad guy when he walks into the saloon with guns a-blazing. I sit alone and I read my Kindle book on my iPhone. I have the font size set quite small and I wear my extra powerful reading glasses and I think I am reading a big book. It works. It’s a perfect solution.
Jeb: I look forward to the release of the album.
Ian: Have you heard the music yet?
Jeb: I have a stream online. I do not have a physical copy.
Ian: I know the advance copies are being sent out. Some people over here have received some watermarked CDs. In a lot of promo interviews I am doing here, they have been given a pre-release white label copy. I guess they are considered trustworthy.
They are people with a long lead time. “It is going to take me six weeks to get this into print, so I need to hear it now.” You have a better chance of getting your white label copy if you say you’re writing for a gardening magazine. You can say it has a two month lead time; that is my suggestion. If you want a listening copy, don’t be working for a website. That’s the kiss of death. Tell them you write for Horticulture Monthly. Say, “We have an eight week deadline so I need my copy now.” That is my hot tip to you.
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