Ian Anderson is the creative wizard behind the long lasting musical institution of Jethro Tull and I was granted the opportunity to chat with him recently on his current tour through Florida. A very welcoming soul with an unending source of intelligence and openness to discuss almost any topic available, it made for a great morning.
Ian picked up the flute rather early in school, around the age of seven or eight and all though some have mentioned to me that it is not an easy instrument to learn, there was no difficulty presented to Mr. Anderson and his famed instrument of choice. He did suggest though that any young musician determined to embark upon a path in music to write down five notes on a piece of paper, then make them their own–as opposed to spending time reading music others have already written. Also, he mentioned the piano as a good starting point. Learning notes and to read music and grow from there.
He noted where the difficulty may come in for those finding the flute a challenge lies within the huge gap between the artist and the flute, where emotion is concerned. He noted that not being able to bring the emotion through the instrument itself could be where the ‘difficulty’ may come into play, whereas for him this emotional expression was never an issue.
This detail oriented artist pays attention to such aspects as the type of microphone may be required for any performance, while also taking into account concepts of humidity levels and also altitude to maximize the enhancement of the sound of his flute.
Mr, Anderson initially played guitar in his band and in other interviews he stated that he realized way back that his guitar knowledge would not compare to the ‘masters’ of that day. He felt that his guitar talent would never match that of Eric Clapton or Jimmy Page, so he opted to enhance his talent where it truly lives and that was with the flute.
Being an artist, finding you niche is crucial to the level of success one can achieve and obviously, Ian Anderson found his or he would not still be thriving in the music industry and touring successfully for forty-four years. In asking him what he personally attributes his long lasting success or relevance in an ever-changing industry, he pointed to the fact that the music of Jethro Tull became part of people’s lives, in that they were a part of many folks ‘growing up years’–a bit of nostalgia, if you will (as is true for this fan). Also the direct perseverance on the part of his band. More recently he notes a younger audience coming to his shows and imagines this to be from the curiosity of this younger generation wanting to know hat their parent’s may have listened to.
I would have to attribute some of this staying power to the fact that if you listen to any Jethro Tull recordings, you will notice that there was never any changing or ‘wavering’ from their original style of sound. This man and his band discovered what worked for them and their fans and simply remained true to that successful equation for almost 50 years, even though this industry changes so quickly and erratically anymore. Yes, some tunes are a harder rocking rendition; however, you do know it is Jethro Tull within a few notes.
Another testament on ‘staying power’, all though on a more personal level is the fact that Mr. Anderson has also shared his life with the same partner successfully for 36 years and that would be his wife, Shona, who shares in the directing of their numerous businesses with Ian. They have two chidren, James and Gael, as well as two grandchildren. They live on a farm in southwestern England where there is a full recording and rehearsing studio on their premises.
I asked him if he had ever had any theatrical training, as I knew he did attend art school prior to venturing into music as his career path. He said he has never received and theatrical training and that only more recently, his son-in-law Andrew Lincoln, accompanies him on tour. Andrew is an actor and is shooting episodes for the acclaimed zombie thriller, The Walking Dead, for TV broadcast this year and next. This attributes to the natural talent Mr. Anderson possesses and anyone that has ever taken in a live Tull show will attest to this, as he has the capacity to grab his audience’s attention and fascination; as well as hold it for the entire length of a show. His imagination and ability to tell a story come through full force in his live performances.
Mr. Anderson compares his dedication to music and performing to that of a professional sportsman, he compared it to preparing for a tennis match and making sure you will hit that ball harder and better than your competitor. Also he mentioned the attention to detail that say a Formula One Racer needs to emit in order to not only remain successful, or at the top of their game but also safe in what they do. Attesting to the same mental requirements of preparation and focus on his craft and given the stature of Jethro Tull to music he has obviously mastered his focus and determination or he would probably hang up his hat and flute. Do not fret, Tull fans, as Ian plans to continue to play, record and tour as long as his health allows.
I was rather curious to know just how this musical wizard would describe the unique sound of Jethro Tull, as it is extremely distinctive from the first chord being struck. He hit the nail on the head with one word choice and it was ‘eclectic’, as it is a challenge to describe this man’s creations in one word. He notes his main influences to be black American blues, jazz and classical music. His favorite piece of music ever created is the 9th Symphony from Beethoven. The classical notes can be noted in his live performance or just his simple reverance for the classical flavor of music simply through his style and notable respect for the music he plays.
This current tour supports the new release from Jethro Tull, which is ‘TAAB2-Whatever Happened to Gerald Bostock’ and it is a continuation upon the original ‘Thick as a Brick’ release from 1972. Ian did not want to embark on this project initially even though it was asked of him for many years, as he mainly did not want to wallow in nostalgia or seek a ‘sequel’ label for the project. The album came about when it pleased no one but Ian Anderson to create it. He wanted to be free to imagine what came about for Gerald Bostock, forty years later, the parallels of the times of war going on during the releases of both volumes all though rather different circumstances. This project was a mechanism to write about the difference in society and today’s world over the last forty years as well as the possibilities of Gerald Bostock’s future.
The 1972 ‘Thick as a Brick’ release was a sort of parody on other’s concept albums of that era and also followed some reviews of ‘Aqualung‘, where that piece was labelled a concept piece, which in Anderson’s creation, it was not. “In the light of the Aqualung reviews I deliberately set out to do a concept album that would in essence be a bit of a parody of other people’s concept albums and grandiose progressive rock adventures. I thought let’s take this slightly arrogant and pompous way of writing and presenting music to an extreme, with the fiction of a then 10-year old boy having written the lyrics. Of course it’s preposterous and really quite silly, but it was the era of Monty Python, when that sort of surreal British humour was quite well embedded in the British psyche.” It went to #1 on the American charts.
In February 2011 Ian spent a couple of days sketching out some ideas. “It was predicated on the idea of what might have befallen Gerald Bostock, this precocious child, where would he have headed in life? And the more I started thinking about that the more I thought that there were so many pivotal moments in my own childhood where, often quite by chance, I might have gone in one direction or in some completely opposite direction. I could have been anything from a soldier or a sailor or an astronaut to a thespian or a silviculturist – although when I left school I actually tried first to join the police force and then to be a journalist on the local newspaper, before music took over while I was at art college.”
From that loose concept emerged TAAB 2. Recorded in November 2011 with Florian Opahle (guitar), John O’Hara (keyboards), David Goodier (bass) and Scott Hammond (drums), musically Ian has very deliberately echoed the feel of the 1972 album by using many of the same instruments. Also echoing the 1972 album, and the St Cleve Chronicle newspaper sleeve, the 2012 album is housed in a mock-up of a local news website www.StCleve.com, which Ian designed himself in a deliberately not-too-professional pastiche of community websites (and which will be accessible online, with an area where fans can add their own spoof local news stories).
There you have the mastermind behind the success of Ian Anderson and his band, Jethro Tull. This man possesses quite the intellect and imagination and you will experience this first hand if you get yourself some tickets to this love performance at the Barbara B. Mann Hall, this coming Monday evening – September 24, 2012.
The Tull fan base reminds me of those that followed another uniquely original band known as the Grateful Dead as both fan bases are made up of the most unique individuals that are the most warm, open minded and accepting people you will ever share an arena with. Attending a Jethro Tull show is like visiting family I have not seen in a long while and it does feel like home.
So if you have been a fan of Jethro Tull over the years, a new fan exposed to this unique sound or possibly seeking something completely different from anything else you will ever experience via a live music performance it is highly recommended that you get tickets to this current tour. This fan has heard the new release in it’s entirity and can attest to the fact that Ian Anderson’s voice is just as strong and clear as it ever was, there honestly is no change in the quality of his voice and undoubtedly in the live performance.
Special thanks to Ian Anderson for making time for this interview and to Anne Leighton for her assistance in making it possible. This was a truly meaningful opportunity on many levels both personally and creatively. Best wishes to your camp, your families and safe travels on this tour. Thank you for the lifetime of entertainment and here’s to nothing but success to continue for you all. I greatly look forward to seeing you in Fort Myers at the Barbara B. Mann Hall.
I was exposed to the music of Jethro Tull by my late brother and talented musician, Tim, who moved onto the next chapter of ‘life’ in 2010. In looking back, I can hear the smooth stylings of Mr. Anderson as far back as I can recall ever hearing music. So I dedicate this opportunity to the memory of my brother and in a note of gratitude for Tim shaping my love of music that still drives me to capture images of live performances and write about music. Tim would have been in complete awe to hear Mr. Anderson’s voice personally, so this was for him; it brought my life’s music experience full circle.
WHO: Jethro Tull
WHAT: TAAB2 – Whatever Happened to Gerald Bostock Tour 2012
WHEN: Monday, September 24, 2012 – 7:30 PM
WHERE: Barbara B. Mann Hall
8099 College Pkwy Fort Myers, FL 33919
I hope to see all of SW Florida’s rock fans at this show, it will be nothing short of amazing!