The Ian Anderson Interview
By Shawn Perry
The last time I spoke with Ian Anderson, he was in the midst of a Jethro Tull tour. He was also preparing to embark on his very first solo tour — a show he called Rubbing Elbows, which was set up like a musical talk show where Anderson — between low-key versions of Tull and solo numbers — co-mingled with local radio DJs, special guest musicians, and members of the audience. Witnessing one such performance firsthand, I half expected Anderson to snag a slot on FOX to begin rubbing elbows with the masses. But, alas, it was not to be.
Instead, he carried on with Jethro Tull, as he has for almost 40 years. He also started sitting in with orchestras on the side. This particular gig became more predominant in Anderson’s musical life and suddenly took on a life of its own. In 2005, he released the Ian Anderson Plays the Orchestral Jethro Tull CD and DVD set. Taken from a December 2004 concert in Mannheim, Germany, the famed and flamboyant flautist is delicately backed by the Frankfurt Philharmonic, as well as his Rubbing Elbows band — performing solo, classical and Tull material. And while Jethro Tull is still his primary bread and butter, Anderson is now returning to America this summer and fall to play with various orchestras around the country. In the process, he’s hoping to introduce a bit of high-collar culture to his Jethro Tull brethren.
The following interview took place a couple of weeks before Anderson's tour. We spoke at length on many subjects — his work with orchestras; the differences in playing with orchestras and Jethro Tull; digital downloading; DVDs; and U.K. copyright laws. We touched on everyone from Pink Floyd to Britney Spears, eventually settling upon his own rich and prolific legacy. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to ask him about the use of “Thick As A Brick” in the Hyundai commercial. That would have segued perfectly into my suggestion of selling “Calliandra Shade,” a song about the joys of coffee from Anderson’s 2003 solo outing, Rupi’s Dance, to Starbucks. I’m sure if he’s reading this, he’ll send me my share of the profits.
You’re coming to America this summer and fall for your second solo tour backed by what I’m assuming are regional orchestras. What can audiences expect to see?
Essentially, there’s my core band of people who have played with me for the last two or three years. They’re not the Jethro Tull guys — they’re acoustic, jazz, and folk musicians who are accustomed to playing in a more acoustic ensemble, which, of course, is what an orchestra is. This is not an attempt to bolt on to a rock band, judged by the efforts of some others during the last 40 years — virtually in audible with the visual spectacle of bows going up and down, but you couldn’t hear what they were playing and if you could, it was probably pretty boring anyway. We’ve tried to come up with some good arrangements, which could be played in a lightly amplified, acoustic context. We’re essentially a large group of acoustic musicians on the stage, hopefully creating powerful music without making your ears bleed. And if we do, it’s just a little.
I spoke with the Moody Blues’ Justin Hayward a while back about rock bands and orchestras. He said it doesn’t always work despite the fact that the Moody Blues and orchestras seem to mesh pretty well together. I got the feeling from reading the liner notes on the Ian Anderson Plays The Orchestral Jethro Tull set that you’re not a big fan of “rock bands with orchestras.” Could you elaborate on that a bit?
I actually called Justin Hayward before I embarked upon any orchestral concerts to seek his thoughts and experiences of doing it. What came across to me was that the way that the Moody Blues, for example, work with an orchestra — and I think they’ve probably done so more successfully than most — is by keeping very simple orchestral arrangements that can be easily sight read by different orchestras without much in the way of rehearsal. The rehearsals were done, according to Justin, by their musical director and conductor, who would go down in the afternoon before each concert and rehearse with the orchestra to a show tape of concerts without orchestras. In other words, they had the band on tape and they would conduct the orchestra to the tape playing the music, which is, I suppose, a way of doing it.
But that’s not the way I do it. I attend each and every rehearsal and I play every note. It’s like doing three concerts back-to-back for me — it’s very arduous during rehearsal. But it has to be done and I try to instill in all my musicians, as well as the orchestras, that the rehearsal is not some tedious chore to be undertaken; it’s something that’s part of the whole experience of playing music. It’s an opportunity for everyone to get to know each other, to find little nuances of how they play, and sometimes for making little adjustments to the written music. Sometimes, we will change a note or two here or there in the parts that the orchestra has to play. Sometimes, that remains a permanent change and sometimes it’s just something we try out or maybe to facilitate rehearsal somewhat we will make a little change.
Nonetheless, rehearsals are very daunting — working with different orchestras every day — or every two days since you can’t actually do six hours of rehearsal after a two-hour show with intermission. You can’t fit that into one day. We usually travel in the morning, rehearse in the afternoon and evening, and then begin the following day with a small rehearsal before the show. It’s quite demanding. Really, after a couple of weeks, you are shanked out — you’re really knackered because you haven’t had a day off. You can’t really go on doing that for too many concerts — travel, rehearsal, and then another rehearsal and a show the following day. It’s just too much with a break. So after a couple of weeks, your head is spinning.
That’s what we have. We’re essentially two and half weeks away from the summer tour in the USA. When I come back again toward the end of September and into October, I’ll be then playing with the same orchestra every night. We’ll be playing five or six shows, then have a day off, then another five or six shows, and then another day off, so it’s, in a way, a little easier. More shows, but only one big rehearsal in the beginning and then hopefully thereafter, working with the same guys every night. You have for the orchestra, half an hour to 45 minutes of sound check every day before the show as per normal. It just makes it a lot easier.
Have you ever considered playing one show with Jethro Tull and an orchestra?
I tried playing a show with Jethro Tull and the Boston Pops orchestra. Because of time constraints, we couldn’t do the whole orchestral show plus the guys in Jethro Tull were not familiar with all the music. We did about half of each set with the orchestra. It was not for me at all successful partly because I think there’s just a big cultural difference between being a rock band and settling into the very different job of working with an orchestra where you have to play at levels that are just way, way quieter than anything you’ve ever done, outside your own living room. It’s quite difficult when you’re used to playing hard and loud; it’s difficult to hear yourself. It wasn’t easy.
Because it was billed as a Jethro Tull concert, the audience was loud, noisy, whistling, hooting, hollering, shouting out in the middle of quiet places — it was a pain in the fucking ass and nothing I would like to repeat. It was really quite horrid and boorish, that was actually at Tanglewood in Massachusetts, the home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. It’s a venue where rock concerts are not permitted. It was actually quite a shock on those hallowed grounds of what is really a classical music venue to have an audience that was whistling and hooting and hollering like it was Metallica with orchestra. I didn’t find it all an agreeable experience.
I’m slightly nervous about coming to do orchestral concerts in America because I don’t think it’s quite in the culture of American audiences to immediately adjust to the idea of an acoustic concert on that scale and to be reverential, to be totally quiet during passages of music that demand total concentration from the orchestra and me and everybody. They have to switch their cell phones off and I’m not sure they gonna get it. It’s a little worrying. I can be fairly confident that 90 percent of the people will get it, but it only takes two, let alone 100 people, to screw things up. If you get a couple of drunks in there, whistling and hooting and hollering and shouting out for “Smoke On The Water” or something, it can ruin the moment for everybody. I’m hopeful that they’ll understand the difference.
I never had any problem when I was doing the Rubbing Elbows tour in the USA. That was a different phenomenon — one that Americans found easier to cope with because it was a familiar format. It was like David Letterman, but with a bit more music. So they instinctively understood how to really listen. There was a force of personality plus the fact there wasn’t a big cultural adjustment for the audience to make — it was a format they immediately recognized. But I’m just not sure if they’ll understand (this). There will be those who don’t understand.
Orchestral musicians actually require real silence and concentration to follow their cues, to read the music properly, to be able to catch all the nuances. When someone’s playing a line and then somebody whistles…it’s just…call me old fashion, but to me that’s insulting. I take it as a slap in the face. It’s never happened to me anywhere else in the world. I’ve always had total concentration. The only bad orchestral concert I ever did was as Jethro Tull with the Boston Pops.
So many of your songs lend themselves to orchestral accompaniment. How do you go about choosing which ones to do?
It’s kind of a mixture of doing the ones that do lend themselves easily and the ones that don’t, because they’re the challenging ones you turn around and try to dress up in a new set of clothes that will give another dimension to the music. Obviously, orchestrations are very time-consuming and very, very costly to do. They involve hours and hours of work, and then you have to pay people a lot of money to work on it.
I guess I have now 21 or 22 orchestrations for material. That’s more than enough material to pick and chose from. I still like to add to that, every so often we do another as time and resources permit. I sent out some CDs just a couple days ago to all the guys, saying, don’t learn this now, don’t panic, but just have this stuff and once in awhile have a listen to it because we’ll probably pick from some of these other 20 songs or whatever I sent. We’ll be working on some of these to bring into the set from time to time. It’s nice to keep developing material which is mostly from the Jethro Tull repertoire, but in the last week alone, I’ve been working on three new pieces. They are potentially for the next record, but things that could also be given orchestrations that would be useful additions to the orchestral show in the future. So, it’s also about bringing in new material.
Would this new material be for your next solo album?
I don’t know. It’s probably a mixture of solo material and Jethro Tull material. I don’t really feel bound any longer in this digital age to even think in terms of albums. I do find it rather strange that it’s still stuck in the minds of a lot record company people. We live in a world where — I suppose the translation of the CD is the slightly longer running version the vinyl album — people seem to expect something that is a collection of 12 or 15 songs.
I had a discussion with one of (the guys in) Pink Floyd probably more than a year ago. Like everybody else, I said, “Do you fancy Pink Floyd getting together and making another album?” And he said, “Well, not really at all. We just don’t have the stomach for it. The idea of spending a year in the studio to tortuously sort of make a new album and then to have to rehearse it all, to have to put all the production together, go on the road for two years, to cover the cost of making the record and to cover the cost of organizing everything. That’s three years of work. None of us have got the energy or desire to do it anymore on that level.”
So I said, "Well why does it have to be on that level? Why do you think in terms of going in and making an album for a start? The chances of you guys, or anybody, having another success like Dark Side Of The Moon or The Wall is pretty, pretty slim. Let’s be realistic here. The challenge is enormous for Pink Floyd to go back and try to create something on the power with the best what’s been done in the best. Some ways, best not to try. Secondly, surely no one wants to go on the road for two years, slugging away at some enormous production. You’ve done all that, been there. The twenty truck tours and all the rest of it. We’ve done that a few times (laughs). Maybe the Rolling Stones enjoy it, but most people don’t.
"You don’t have to do that. You have to go to the studio. You won’t even go together — you didn’t when you made The Wall, so why change the habits of a lifetime. Find a good producer, get the music done, come out with a great eight-minute epic, Pink Floyd track. Put it out as a digital download and it will crash every server in the western world the hour it’s released. It would be a great event. Just one great song, that’s all you need to do. A week in the studio, let’s be generous — two weeks in the studio.
"And then you’d have to go and do the whirlwind tour. The flying pig is surely in cold storage somewhere. You could dig it out and stick some band-aids on the holes, blow the damn thing up, and go out and do a best of Pink Floyd concert, maybe just play Madison Square Garden, play London’s Earl Court, and play some arena in Germany somewhere. Record the shows, pick the best from three shows, and put it out as a DVD (laughs). That’s all you to do. You don’t have to do it the way you did it before."
And he kind of looked sort of furl-browed, didn’t seem entirely convinced. I’ve said the same thing to people at record companies. They don’t seem to be convinced either. It’s stuck in everyone’s mind: we have to do it that way. And I’m not sure you do have to do it that way. Certainly for Pink Floyd, it would be a good idea to do it that way. Imagine Pink Floyd coming out with a new album and it sells only as many the Rolling Stones’ did recently. It would be so humiliating.
In my world, it would be much nicer for the fans to come out with a couple of songs every few months than to come out with an album every five years. It seems to me that will be the way it will move in the next 10 years. I can see 10 years from now where people will abandon this notion of coming out with a set of 10 or 12 songs. I mean, let’s face it, out of those 10 or 12 songs, there might be one or two great songs, five OK songs, and a bunch of shit (laughs). That’s what the critics usually say about so many people’s albums. It may well be that they’re right.
Is that the plan for your new music — to distribute it digitally?
It would be if it were 10 years from now. That’s my belief of where we should be heading — serving the public’s interest as well as having fun making records instead of a commitment to make a whole album. Right now or next year, when I should be working on delivering some music, it’s probably not really practical because distribution at this point is still 95 percent in the physical domain of CDs physically being distributed across the world.
Things are changing in record land — we know that, we see that from the things that are happening. A lot of people are going out of business or closing down their major stores. But that’s not a subject of gloom and despondency. I just think more people will undertake to have their music delivered to them by digital download, or by mail order for that matter as opposed to buying a physical piece of product in the record store. I don’t think records are going to be completely replaced. My gut feeling is that 10, 15 years from now, it will be 50/50— 50 percent digital download, 50 percent physical product. The idea of putting 10 to 15 tracks on an album — I think we should be getting away from that.
As you may know, there are a number of unofficial live CDs and DVDs people are downloading as well. I’ve seen Thick As A Brick and A Passion Play Tour CDs, DVDs from the 70s. Have you ever considered releasing legitimate versions of any of these or other shows?
There aren’t any legitimate versions. The only time that shows that were actually recorded in any kind of technical quality are far few and far between. There are a few, but they’re owned by other people or they’ve been destroyed or broken up. I just was negotiating something with ZDF (a German television network) a couple of months ago. They had a number of Jethro Tull shows where they had recorded one or two songs. There was a DVD’s worth of material lurking in the archives of ZDF. Frankly, I was surprised they had the stuff. This goes back to the 90s, the 80s, the 70s. I was actually surprised at the quality. It was really quite good.
But having said that, it would probably only sell 10,000 copies. Live DVDs sell very badly. There was a point in the DVD revolution, if we call it that, when a lot of people had players, when it came down to some meaningful amount of affordable money, less than $500 or something like that. People were suddenly buying DVD players, but they didn’t have very much to play on them. Music DVDs were a quick and easy way to fulfill that need of a physical product to play on your shiny new DVD player.
I think the Eagles probably had the record for the most copies sold of a DVD when they did a reunion tour and put it on a DVD. They sold more than half-million copies, which is phenomenal. There’s one or two other cases I think of two or three hundred thousand DVDs sold. But for the most part in the USA, if you sell 50,000 DVDs, you’re doing pretty well. Lots of artists — and I won’t mention names, but they’re people in the same league and reputation as Jethro Tull — put out DVDs and sell eight thousand here, nine thousand there. It’s hardly worth it, frankly. The chances of them washing their face after production costs of putting together a DVD, especially if you’re doing it from scratch. If you’re booking a seven camera crew, do rehearsals, book venues, and pay the unions off — you’re talking about a pretty big budget to shoot a live concert with decent technical video and audio quality. By the time you’ve delivered it, you really do have to sell 50,000 copies to cover your costs.
I know I did it at a time three years ago when music DVDs were still selling pretty well. I’ve sold more than a 100,000 DVDs of Living With The Past, and that covered my costs.
How did the Isle Of Wight DVD do?
That’s not mine. Eagle Vision wanted to do it. It was already material in the can because of the stuff that Murray Lerner shot back in 1970. All the film material existed. All the post-production costs of taking that 16mm film footage and some very raw eight-track audio and whipping it into shape for the DVD plus all the added interview stuff and all the rest of it — Eagle’s post-production costs was astonishing. I thought they were completely nuts for taking that on. And, they were actually expecting to spend that money. I thought there’s no way they’re going to make that back from the sales of this product. If it cost them more than $50,000, boy, they’re in a deep hole. And they were budgeting $200,000 for post-production to put that together. They would need to seriously sell a lot of DVDs. They’d need to sell 50, 60, 70,000 copies to possibly cover their costs. It’s crazy.
Claude Nobs, my pal in Switzerland, is about to celebrate 40 years of the Montreux Jazz Festival and has a huge archive of film, video, stereo, multi-track, just about every format. During that last few years, even before the rest of the world knew about it, Claude was filming every Montreux Jazz Festival — every concert in 48-track audio and HDTV cameras when they were still just a prototype coming out of Japan. It’s amazing stuff. He has phenomenal archive of everything — from rock bands to folk music, jazz music, pop music. And he struggled to find someone in the last few years to take it off his hands and put some of it out. And he did eventually do a deal with Eagle Vision. But the chances of Claude getting away sort of meaningful income from it is pretty slim. DVDs are just not selling anymore. It would take something like a Pink Floyd reunion to shift 100,000 DVDs in the USA now. And then you’re talking about doubling that worldwide. For most big international bands, the U.S is about 40 to 50 percent of the world market.
With that being said, does that mean we can’t expect any kind DVD or box set to celebrate Tull’s upcoming 40th anniversary.
I’m not an anniversary sort of a guy. I’m not one to take that route. We talked about DVD and archival material, and I pointed out that there’s very little of it. One of the guys at EMI in Australia — I don’t ask me why Australia — is very keen to try and do a deal with the BBC for the Madison Square Garden satellite broadcast from 1978 and I pointed out to him that the material is virtually identical to the Bursting Out album in 1978. The BBC is notorious for charging an arm and a leg for material they own the rights to. Something like that is conceivable, but it’s just really something for the dedicated fans. I wouldn’t do it, but someone might do it — so some of those things might at the back on the notion of the 40th anniversary — someone might take a chance and put stuff like that out, like the German company with the stuff that they have.
Actually a couple of days ago, we talked about doing a compilation — sort of the “Best Of” acoustic Jethro Tull. For quite a few years now, probably one-third of everything I’ve recorded would loosely fit into the category of acoustic music. I just felt that perhaps some of the more mature Jethro Tull fans would like something a little lighter, something less thumpy thumpy in the room or in their ear drums from their iPod. They might appreciate my collection of Jethro Tull acoustic stuff. So I suggested we put out a compilation and then I’ll toss out a couple of new songs to give it a little zip. That’s something we might well put out in the early months of next year.
There’s always stuff coming out from Jethro Tull. But I think a Jethro Tull rock album, as such, is probably not something that for me is a big priority right at the moment. I enjoy lots of different kinds of musical approaches, and being an acoustic musician anyways — I’ve been so all my life — those are the instruments I play. I rather like doing a fair amount of material, which is the opportunity to play with other instruments and other musicians who create that very paletted tone colors of instruments that don’t necessarily plug into a socket in the wall. I don’t have an awful lot against it because I like a bit of rock music like the next man does. Just not for two hours straight.
I was intrigued by your article on the Tull web site about U.K. copyright laws. Are you mounting any type of campaign, maybe with some of your peers, to have the laws changed?
Thousands of British musicians have signed petitions, calling on the government to change the laws. Just as Sonny Bono did in the USA some years ago, and successfully changed it to 95 years of sound recording copyright. We have 50 years here in the U.K., which means for a lot of record companies and artists, many of whom are old men relying on the royalties from the one hit they had 50 years ago to see them through the final years of their life in a nursing home somewhere to pay for the electricity to keep them warm next winter. So, there is a little bit of a sad story for some musicians whose little bit of royalties they are entitled to is coming to an end just at a time in their life when they need it the most.
I don’t expect people to feel terribly sorry for musicians, whether they’re rich or poor. Certainly in the case of Paul McCartney, Elton John, Sting, and a few others, no one is going to frankly give a shit if they suddenly have their rock royalty stream cut off progressively when the years come that their music comes out of copyright and goes into the public domain. The real issue to me is the question of the cultural asset value to the nation being lost. Britain and America are really responsible — let’s face it we’re not just in Iraq together — we’re in the world of music together where happily I think I can be a bit more confident and optimistic that we’ve achieved something positive in the world as a result of it. It’s more than just a coincidence that big America and little, tiny Britain — we produce the world’s great international music. I would say it’s evenly divided between the USA and the U.K. over the years. When you think about some of the truly enormous selling acts, they’ve been British. Of course, some of the greatest repertoires that we might relate to — obviously from people like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, some stuff that has been incredibly successful internationally. To me, it’s the loss of a national treasure.
Sgt. Pepper is not just a piece of recording, it’s not something you can out and remanufacture — you can’t just go out and recreate it. There are Beatles tribute bands who can go out and play Sgt. Pepper back and front and do a reasonable job of it, but it’s not the real thing. Anymore than you could sit down and copy the Mona Lisa. If you went out and got yourself a set of oil paints and practiced a bit, you could do a reasonable copy of the Mona Lisa. But, frankly, it’s a piece of shit. No one’s going to be interested in buying that from you. Just as no one’s going to be interested in recreating Sgt. Pepper, even if it was with the surviving members of the Beatles. They still wouldn’t pay much attention to it.
These are national treasures, just as fine as any piece of Michelangelo sculpture, a Cezanne painting, or an original manuscript by Shakespeare. These have tremendous cultural value. The fact that they should be in the public domain — squandered and perhaps made available very cheaply, but in poor quality without any need to pay anybody, and therefore, an enormous loss to our tax authorities. A little fly-by-night company is going to print 500 here and a thousand there, selling in a market stall in a small town in the middle of England or in the middle of the Czech Republic for that matter — frankly, are they going to bother paying any tax? Are they going to bother paying mechanical royalties? Probably not. They’re going to pocket the cash and disappear into the night. Once it goes into the public domain, I fear that we will see an enormous and progressive loss in taxable revenue. That, of course, is going to impact, in a major way, on the big record companies whose ownership or license of that copyright will cease to exist.
My records don’t start coming up for copyright for probably another 15 years yet. I obviously have a long career of making music, so it won’t really affect me like it affects other musicians who may have enjoyed one little minute of glory 50 years ago. It doesn’t bother me on a personal level; it bothers me on a more philosophical level as well as a pragmatic level, thinking the loss of all this money to the revenue can only mean that ultimately with sources drying up progressively over the next 20 or 30 years, we’ll expect to see higher income taxes in other forms to make up for what they were collecting from the music industry.
Recently, people like David Gilmour and Jon Bon Jovi have been saying the Stones are, to paraphrase a familiar saying from the 70s, too old to rock and roll. So Ian, as the man who coined this infamous phrase, I have to ask: when are you too old to rock and roll?
I personally wouldn’t be drawn to a Rolling Stones concert because, frankly, I don’t enjoy the pageantry and spectacle and a bunch of wrinkly old men wearing clothes that look really silly on them in my opinion. But on a musical basis, what little bits of live Rolling Stones music I’ve heard recently, I think the Stones are a much better band and much better entertainers than ever they were before. I think they’re at the peak of their game in a musical sense. It’s just the compulsively huge mega-tours, the crazy money, and the enormous costs and enormous pomp and pageantry — that bit I find disagreeable. But if the Stones were playing the Oxford Apollo Theatre, the Birmingham Symphony Hall, or some place that seats 2,000 people and if they were just going to turn up with themselves and a couple of roadies and just play a gig, I’d be there.
I don’t know if they’re too old to rock and roll — I think, for me, rock and roll is too old to rock and roll once it gets into this ridiculous sort of notion that it has to be done on this big showy level. I just find that to me that’s not really the spirit of music. Of course, one has to question — I know Dave Gilmour is playing some small venues, but he’s also doing quite a few big ones. Bon Jovi certainly will be playing the biggest places they can possibly manage to fill to make as much money as they possibly can for the biggest, fist-waving rock show they can muster because that’s what they do. And I’m sure they do it very well. And I’m sure they have great time doing it and most people enjoy it. I think I’d much rather go and see the Stones than see Bon Jovi. And David Gilmour is one of the world’s greatest guitar players — he communicates via his fingers and he communicates with the notes that he plays — but frankly, he’s pretty fucking boring on stage as Pink Floyd were (laughs).
My money would still be on the Stones. But you see, my money would still be on Michael Jackson as he had the good sense to try and mount a bit of some kind of a comeback by just showing up with three musicians and playing in a theater somewhere and rehabilitating himself with the public by showing what a talent he is — without all doing all the pageantry and silly stuff, the children on stage, and all this Christ-like, manic perversion that seems to be inherent in the way he sees his role in music. The guy doesn’t need that.
Personally speaking, I got very tired of the clichéd big production rock and roll stuff. When I see music, I want to see people that have genuine talent, genuine expression, that will genuinely entertain me by the way they perform and play without necessarily relying on very expensive and overwhelming boxes of tricks. That glosses over the talent or lack of it. There’s no need for the Rolling Stones to do something like Madonna does need to do or, God help us, Britney Spears, as soon as she loses enough pounds to get back onto stage again. There are people who need all that, who can’t perform without it. The Rolling Stones don’t need that. They’re essentially just a slightly sloppy, rowdy blues band — collectively they’ve managed to become a great piece of musical history.
Led Zeppelin didn’t have a very long career and I was fortunate enough to be an opening act for them back in 1969 and know what it’s like to be on tour with them. Night after night, you had four guys who got on the stage with a modest amount of amplification and a two-man road crew and were the greatest rock and roll band in the world without any bullshit whatsoever. The greatest rock and roll band in the world ever, but they didn’t need any of that showbiz claptrap.
Jethro Tull went on to use a lot of production stuff for a while. Frankly, I don’t regret it, but I am slightly embarrassed about doing it. It did become too theatrical, too showbiz. I do think it detracts from the music. I feel it detracted from the reputation that Jethro Tull enjoys in part today. I think we would have been a more revered band if we hadn’t kind of done the slightly tongue-in-cheek rock and roll excess kind of productions. I thought it was OK because it was tongue-in-cheek and I thought people understood we were partly just having a little fun with what was happening elsewhere. In a way, I think Alice Cooper also had fun with it. It wasn’t too serious. But when you get bands like U2 doing big production tours and taking themselves awfully seriously, I find it to be the antithesis of what rock music is about in my way of thinking.
As a big fan of Jethro Tull, I think it is criminal you have yet to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. After all, you’re at the top of the heap as far as rock flute players with virtually no imitators. What are your thoughts about that?
The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame is an American institution that’s set up to primarily celebrate American music and the derivative spin-offs of American music. In that regard, while I can see there’s a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for a lot British acts that are truly kind of rock and roll in the sense that their music is deriving very strongly from the tradition of blues and rock music — I think Jethro Tull, or for that matter, Emerson, Lake And Palmer or perhaps Yes or some other band — we’re seen as being a little too peculiarly European or British.
I was recently given an Ivor Novello Award for International Achievement. I’m told by my peers and the world of the British music industry that it’s the highest honor for a songwriter to be given this award, that it’s not sleazy and tacky like the Brit Awards or as showbizzy as the Grammy Awards. It’s a nice thing if you’re going to hand out an award. It’s nice to have. You’re happy to get it. I was very pleased to be awarded a Grammy, even under some slightly suspect and controversial circumstances. I’m happy to receive anything, whether it’s a free drink in the bar or a bus pass (laughs).