Ian Anderson Interview
August 29, 1999
by Steph Perry and John Perry
We spoke briefly with Jethro Tull leader Ian Anderson just prior to Tull’s performance at Oakdale. Ian was eager to speak about the internet and the band’s new record.
We noticed that you provide much of the text for the Tull webpage, which is a pleasant change from other band sites. And the fact that [Tull keyboardist] Andy Giddings is the webmaster. Would you care to talk about the site?
Five years ago I was approached by quite a few people about setting up an official Jethro Tull site. Quite well-qualified people who were professionals in the industry. These were folks who’ve got credentials. It was nice of them to ask, but my reply was uniform: “not yet”. I didn’t feel that the internet was yet a tool that I wanted to employ at that stage of the game. My own experiences, five years ago, going on line in the UK, were very far from being satisfactory. Technologically, it was slow, unwieldy, disruptive to the house, it was disruptive to my life, waiting for connections. The whole thing was an absolute pain in the ass. But five years is a long time, it’s a life time in the world wide web. A couple of years ago, I re-equipped myself with more up-to-date technology in terms of computer, etc., and found that things had improved a great deal in the meantime, in terms of modem speeds, in terms of ways in which the web was visited by and populated by an enormous variety and greater depth of information. Tull has a strong representation on the web now with a variety of fan pages. We did not require just another site that said “official” and was merely run and operated by somebody else with perhaps a little bit of input from us in the sense of, okay, here are the tour dates before anybody else gets them. We decided that when we did it, it had to be really a hands-on site. It had to be something special. It had to be, as far as I’m concerned, an extension of my musical personality. I’m interested in using it as an expression of me, in the way that I would come across. It’s a mixture of serious stuff, humor, but it’s personal. It’s me writing it. The time had to be right, and the time really was last year. Andy spent a couple of months learning HTML programming, getting ideas, and around November or December last year worked out the first draft. We had the site operating by February. Andy does the button pushing and I do the bulk of the text material…I have not found another site that is 100% hands-on “the band” from start to finish.
The web really provides a different way to reach your audience. For example, exposing fans to the “work in progress” clips from the new album.
Trying to show listeners the work in progress was a little insight into the scary side of making music, how it comes about.
Do you want to tell us anything about the new album? We heard there was a controversy with the cover?
Two and a half inches of Egyptian steel is all that’s missing there! They bobbed poor Amun. Amun the figure on the front cover is a painting of a statue that sits in my garden that is based on the Egyptian god Amun, a ram-headed, male torsoed figure. The statue, made for my wife and me when we got married, has the male member. In Europe, we don’t think anything about that, female or male nudity in art, you grow up accepting that. I was drawing naked women in night class life drawing when I was seventeen years old, and after the first ten minutes it wasn’t bothering me to sit there and learn how to draw a vagina, you know? Ha, ha. You get over this stuff very easily, it’s not erotic, it’s not about trying to create something that’s rude or in some way meant to incite anything. It just never crossed my mind that it would be a problem. But our record company over here found concern in some retail quarters that this would not be acceptable to some of their customers, that they would find it offensive. I said, “okay, do what you have to do.” So he was bobbed in Photoshop 5. He was background cloned. Anyway, the album was started around December of last year. It’s very much a band album and a rock album. Probably more than most Jethro Tull albums it is one where you’d say that’s a group, and not Ian Anderson with a bunch of other guys. I may write most of the material, in the sense that they’re my songs, but the way they’re realized on the record is down to the guys. So if you think it’s a great record then I’m happy to take the credit, if you don’t like it, blame the other fellows.
By the way, Mike Keneally said to tell you that he heard the new album and that he enjoyed it a great deal.
His guys have a website, I noticed when we played a show with them last year. I thought that was good that they have a cheerful, upbeat, sort of relationship, obviously with a very small fan base, because they are not, sadly, recognized everywhere. We put their name forward as an opening act for us on this tour, but unfortunately the promoters were not really in tune with the idea, so we were not able to make that happen. I like Mike Keneally’s band, they’re very very good, and their drummer helped us out with some demos when Doane was in the hospital just before Christmas. When you speak to him again, tell him I send him my regards and I hope we run into him.