Doane Perry interview
August 29, 1999
by John Perry and Steph Perry
We spoke to Doane Perry at the Oakdale on the night of the Jethro Tull performance. This is our second interview with Doane, who’s been with Tull for nearly sixteen years. Doane was looking forward to this, the fourth, show of the US tour. He’s very into the new record, J-Tull Dot Com, and enjoys listening to it for the music, and not just from a technical perspective. Doane’s hoping to spend this Millennium New Year’s Eve with his wife and family at home. He’s pretty sure that Tull will not be performing on New Year’s. Doane said to send him emails through the J-Tull.com website, and although he reads every one, he doesn’t always have time to respond.
You’re only a week into it, but how are the shows going so far?
They’re getting progressively better. Opening night can have it’s tentative moments. Two nights ago was Boston, and that was better, and last night was Albany, at that was better still. We’re changing things, adding, subtracting, editing, every show a little bit. It’s a little different from the European tour. Though we’re not playing a lot of material yet from the new record because people aren’t as familiar with it yet. We’re gonna play at least three pieces tonight from it. As people get to know it better I’m sure we’ll put more in. It’s really fun for us to play the new material.
So, which songs will you play off the new record?
We’re gonna do the title track, “Dot.Com”, and we’re gonna do “AWOL” and “Spiral”. I think “Spiral” is being played on the radio. Then we have some other older material that we haven’t played in a while that will work it’s way into the set as the tour progresses.
How did the recording process go for the new Tull album?
Well, it went fine. It went pretty quickly. We tend to record fairly quickly. Ian comes in with song ideas, and very often within a day we have gotten an arrangement together and the basis for a rhythm track. And then we’ll all take home a rough demo cassette of what we’ve been working on during the day, to listen to it and think about it, and very often we’ll come in the next day and record it. So we’ve got a lot of rhythm tracks. In fact, there’s more finished songs than actually appear on the record. I think there’s at least another three. It’s the same with the Roots To Branches record, there’s some extra material that some day, I hope will surface. It wasn’t that it wasn’t good material, but in the family of songs that were chosen for this particular record, these were the songs that seemed to live together pretty well…I feel very positive about it as a record.
Is it true that you worked with Dweezil Zappa?
Oh, a couple years ago. It was for his album Shampoohorn. He recorded a whole bunch of stuff that didn’t go on there. He said that they would appear on an instrumental album. We did one track that was called, if I’m not mistaken, “Svatba”. I think it was already a composed piece of music for a Romanian women’s choir. He had orchestrated it, all of the women’s vocal parts for guitars. That’s where I met Mike Keneally, who opened once for Tull. He used to be in [Frank] Zappa’s band. Mike was actually playing keyboards with his right hand and playing guitar with his left! Mike is really an amazing musician. I’m not sure what happened to that track, I hope it surfaces.
There was another absolutely bizarre track called “7/11”. It was every permutation that Dweezil could think of, of 7/4 11/4, 7/8 11/8, 7/16 11/16, and then he’d have 11 bars of 7, 7 bars of 11, every permutation of 7 and 11! That was a real mind-bending thing. He didn’t want to use a click for some reason, I had to play in free time. I had this long chart that I wrote out of every permutation that I could think of. And then he was gonna put guitar over it. I haven’t heard the finished part of that, he’s got that some where. I think Dweezil is a real chip off Frank’s block. Dweezil, to my knowledge is all by ear, he’s taught himself completely by ear. I don’t know that he reads music. He doesn’t write the parts out. We were running through something and he wanted me to play exactly the phrase that the guitar player would play. Which is not the kind of thing the drummer would do, because the guitar player would kind of bend notes over the bar and play very legato, where drums are very stoccato, so you have the initial hit and that’s it. So to try to play these things that are in between the notes, if you like, to try to play that like a guitar player, it was very hard and very challenging. But he naturally hears it that way. He’s got a real gift.
What’s the status of the new Thread CD?
I haven’t had a chance to do anything with Vince this year. We’d hoped we’d have another one out by now. We haven’t even been able to get into the studio together simply because of time. He’s been doing things and I’ve been working on Tull. I also filled in on the Kitaro tour, he called me in the middle of the tour he was doing, he had to make a change and asked me to fill in. I love working with Kitaro so I agreed. He faxed me these great big charts and all the markings were in Japanese! His music is all very orchestral and symphonic and I thought, “how can I learn all this in two days?!” But I got through it and it was really fun and I enjoyed it. Then I went off and did the Tull tour. Any free time that I have, I’ve been writing in my studio at home. I’ve been considering doing everything there as an experiment. I’m not sure if it’s going to be the next Thread thing, I hope that we’ll have the chance to do another one.