Talking With:

Jethro Tull

In 29 years Jethro Tull has played more than 2500 concerts world wide and released 35 albums that have sold more than 60 million copies. Since its inception in 1966, Tull has produced an innovative, provocative sound that still pioneers. With flute-wielding Ian Anderson at the helm the band continues to chase a music that has inspired nearly three generations of rock, folk, classical, and blues. It's no piece of cake towing a 30-year history in the music arena, but in a recent interview with Doan Perry and Jonathon Noyce of Tull, they do it pretty well.

OV: I imagine your following is still enormous. Do you find it as large in the States as it is back in Europe?

Jon: Yeah, all over. Our fan base is incredibly loyal. There's a chap, a friend of the band who has just been to his 118th show or something which is quite something, when you consider we've been travelling all over the world, but that's the kind of caliber of dedication that we have. I think across the board, our fans are dedicated, 'cause it's the kind of band that you either love or you hate. It's such an enormous cross-section of meaning you know, hybrid songs, new songs, I mean we've got 35 albums, every album changes and our fans keep listening...

OV: And you're still writing and performing new music?

Jon: Yeah man, yeah. Our first album was blues as was the second one up through Aqualung. Whereas now, without being stuck in the influence of say, classical, many things, like the last album you can see jazz, all kinds of directions, even kind of funky.

OV: So is Ian the primary song writer?

Jon: Yeah, yeah, pretty much so. I mean, there's very much credit where credit is due, but if something comes up like an idea or maybe a new section then we all work from there. Of course Ian writes the lyrics.

OV: So how do all the other band members bring their various influences together?

Jon: Well it's something that's pretty organic. I mean, with Ian it's kind of a constant process. Ian and Andy work almost all the time. When they're not playing together they're working on demos and such. They do constant work in progress. And we're just about to start working on a new album in the new year. It's not like we get to the studio and there we go, it's a skeleton if you like. We all sort of put the flesh and meat on it. It's a very organic process and each of us sort of grows in a different way.

OV: So does Tull still get loaded?

Doan: No, no, Tull is a non-drug band and I think it's probably the only reason that we're still together today and have been goin' for almost 30 years. That was one of the obvious roadtracks that Tull never fell into and I think that people assume that because of the on-stage behavior of the band that everybody, and particularly Ian, must just get loaded to the gills every night you know, as much as their blood sugar can handle. But you know, Ian's never done drugs, it's not a drug band. I think English bands were a little less prone to that than American bands because English culture always centered more on drinking. I mean, no one's an excessive drinker in the band, but we all have a little drink after the gig.

Jon: Where are we drinkin' tonight by the way?

Doan: Probably right in this room, but these here are the after-gig drinks. 6 beers, I bought a bottle of champagne which I contributed and then there's some milk, orange juice and Gatorade.

You know, I don't think you could play this music night after night in any other condition than being straight. It's hard music, it's very challenging and it's very demanding and everybody in the band has their own set of standards.

OV: How does that demand translate into the studio?

Doan: When we're recording we're starting work by maybe 10:00 or no later than 11:00. Which are not very rock and roll hours but we will go 'til, generally, 7 or 8 at night, and then the next day the same thing. It's very much a day routine. You know, we put in a full day.

OV: So are you in the midst of recording a new album currently?

Doan: Well Ian's just writing stuff right now. He's writing stuff for his next solo album which is gonna be probably similar to Divinities if you're familiar with that, but it's gonna be a little more acoustically based. He's also writing materials for the next tour but I don't think he's sorted out what materials are gonna be for which project.

OV: Tull has quite a reputation for its stage dynamics. What's the crux of your on-stage performance style?

Doan: Well the funny thing about Tull is that there is a real groove that the band hits, because everyone has a good feel and good time sense in the band. There is a real groove to the music. It's not groove music like you're listening to Tina Turner, it's not that kind of groove. But there is a real emphasis in the band on feel and that's something that's very much thought about. You know there's nothing that sounds worse, whether it's smarty-pants progressive rock music, or smarty-pants jazz music where it's just this endless noodling, as fast as you can play and this horrible mish-mash of things going on.

OV: So, what does the future hold for Tull?

Doan: Well, there's no guarantee about what the future holds and I think we all want to continue as long as everybody enjoys it and there's an audience for it. But I think being a musician is a journey. You don't really know where it's gonna go, it's hard to say there's a master plan to it all 'cause there isn't really.

You work day to day at it and I know I'll be a musician for the rest of my life. You know, the band's played Aqualung a thousand times, but the reason we do it isn't the money. We're lucky enough to be doing what we want to do and as long as there's a market for it and we love to do it, we're gonna do it, but it's for the love. I mean you can't get up on-stage and perform, and try to smile when you're not smiling inside. It's for love.