BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER and ADRIAN SILVAS
Ian Anderson, the face of the legendary classic rock band Jethro Tull, sat down with us to discuss his feelings about 55 years on the road in the lead up to the bands upcoming performances in Lincoln, Saratoga and Santa Rosa next weekend as part of The Seven Decades Tour.
The 76 year old Anderson discussed his love for his European homeland, how some cities are much more stimulating than others, and the repetition of “ travel, soundtrack, concert, sleep,” while on the road.
Born in the aftermath of World War II, Anderson professed a great interest in the history of modern Europe, and the culture of so many of its cities. It’s a concept visible in RökFlöte, Tull’s latest standout album with a heavy dose of Norse mythology dating back a thousand years to a poetic edda in old Icelandic. The 12 track album is one of Tull’s best in years, with a number of songs that could easily find a place of any greatest hits package or concert setlist.
Anderson spoke of his enjoyment visiting holy places and other points of interest like art galleries and museums while on the road touring, and always seems to get added enjoyment playing older venues, such as some on the shores of the Mediterranean that were built during Roman times. “There’s something quite emotional about walking on to a stage in a place that’s perhaps not always associated with good history.”
Having released 23 studio albums going back to 1968’s “This Was,” Anderson credits his unending creative urge to his interests in painting, reading and storytelling as a child, with his musical artistry beginning in his teenage years. Starting to write songs as a sixteen year old, he learned that writing lyrics and music were two different things. ”You can write some lyrics that sound interesting but they just don’t sing very well. I think a lot of lyrics to pop and rock music do sound rather simplistic because people sing the things that are easy to sing, whereas I try to combine the elements of music and melody with lyrics that are perhaps not so easy to sing,” adding “I don’t agonize over what I write, I like the idea of spontaneity, and then you can always go back and edit things.”
Asked about playing again with longtime Tull guitarist Martin Barre, who’s been conspicuously absent from the reformed lineup of the band that evolved from the Ian Anderson Band a decade ago, Anderson indicated he’d be “delighted” to do so. “He’s a very busy person, as I am, so I doubt that’s going to come about, but I’d be delighted to play on something if he was recording or if he asked me to get up on stage and play a couple of songs,” adding “That would be great, but that hasn’t happened so far.” Commenting on providing his talents to other musicians recorded work, the British flautist described the task as “hanging the Christmas decorations on the tree after the tree is waiting for a last minute festive touch.”
Turning to his earliest influences, the prodigious singer-songwriter stated “American music is the foundation of Rock ’N’ Roll, it is what it’s about. There are many British bands and British musicians and artists what owe everything to American music, I don’t really feel that’s the case with me. Having been inspired by black American folk music when I was teenager, I really moved away from that in my late teens and early twenties because I realized there was a lot of other stuff out there that was easier for me to associate with. It was more natural for me to look for inspiration amongst forms of European folk music and classical music. I don’t really feel like since the first Jethro Tull album I have a debt to Americana. I enjoy many American artists to this day but it isn’t what I want to do personally.”
The voice of such iconic songs as “Aqualung”, “Locomotive Breath” and “Thick as a Brick” was asked his thoughts on his conspicuous absence from the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame, amicably responding, “ I would feel it a bit of a sham if I was overly acknowledged by the Rock ’N’ Roll Hall of Fame, but I recently heard that they got rid of their head honcho Jann Wenner because he said some unfortunate things and has been removed from the board.” (Wenner has recently been ostracized for comments making it appear he didn’t hold Black and female artists in the same high regard as white male artists, with even Joni Mitchell noting the sexism and misogyny of Rolling Stone.
“He’s (Wenner) a very anti-Jethro Tull guy, he’s someone who has long had a level of disdain for Jethro Tull, so I think as long as he was around there wasn’t much of a likelihood of us being recognized by the Hall of Fame. Now that he’s gone I dread to think that might change (laughing) because there’s no way I’m heading over to Los Angeles or anywhere else for an induction ceremony. I simply will be busy washing my hair that night, I’m too busy doing other stuff. Certainly Rolling Stone generally and the Rock ’N’ Roll Hall of Fame, I’ve heard this from people on the inside that he (Wenner) was someone who never liked Jethro Tull. When the Rock ’N’ Roll Hall of Fame opened up in Cleveland many years ago, they asked me for some contribution and I provided them with a flute and some stage clothing which was on display. When I went to Cleveland a year for two later I saw it in a glass cabinet next to Rod Stewart, a shop window dummy wearing my clothes next to Rod Stewart wearing his clothes. It would been fun if they’d switched costumes, I could’ve been Rod Stewart with a flute.”
Modesty and indifference aside, while it took time for progressive bands like Yes, Rush and the Moody Blues to gain entrance, Tull should’ve been inducted into the Hall years ago. The bands creativity and uniqueness are immediately recognizable when one of their songs airs, and with recent inductees including country and rap artists who have no business being in the ROCK ‘N’ ROLL Hall of Fame, any further delay in righting such a blatant oversight just compounds the injustice.
Though the legacy of Anderson and Jethro Tull is secure, the artist continues to treat their loyal fans to reissued box sets of the bands older work. The most recent release in the series, commemorating the 40th Anniversary of 1982’s The Broadsword and the Beast, is the largest set so far (5 CDs, 3 DVDs) and continues the pattern of including previously unreleased material, such as demos and alternate versions of songs from the original album, recorded over a two year period, in addition to a track by track annotation by Anderson. Also included is a previously unreleased 23-track concert recorded live in Germany during the bands ’82 tour.
Jethro Tull’s current lineup of Anderson on flute and vocals, David Goodier on Bass, John O’Hara on Piano and keyboards, Scott Hammond on Drums, and Joe Parrish-James on Electric and acoustic guitars with a bit of mandolin thrown in will be performing at the Thunder Valley Casino in Lincoln (9-29), Saratoga Mountain Winery (9-30), and Santa Rosa’s Luther Burbank Center (10-1). Tickets to all shows are available here.