News Update: January 2007

Well, as the old year has drawn to a close, I can reflect on a busy 12 months of travel, challenging and exciting new musical relationships and the opportunities to visit and revisit old and new friends across the planet.

In a year when the climate change message really started to kick in – especially via the good offices of  Schwarzenegger and Gore – the personal guilt and questioning regarding professional our air travel and other carbon hoof-prints of a fairly giant sort are cause for concern amongst us musicians. Oh, yes – I have planted many thousands of trees – mostly English Oak – in the last few years here, in middle England and they are growing rather better, it would appear, than that young Coldplay’s attempts at eco-afforestation. Now, they say, thousands of trees equals thousands of tons of CO2 absorption whereas I have contributed only about 800 tons of aircraft travel-related CO2 over all the years I have been a professional musician. Now while you might figure that gives me the right to make another few lifetimes of flights, it is not much of an argument. Reducing the mess-making in the first place is preferable to attempting to clear up afterwards…..  Don’t you think.

Check out http://www.climatecare.org to calculate your carbon emissions and to contribute to an off-set scheme, for yourself or on behalf of friends and families.

So, guilt cap in hand, I made my first bus trip with the band and crew a few weeks ago through Holland, Germany, Denmark and Sweden to see if I could function as a lesser-carbon footprint, decent, hygienic and sociable bus-person after 39 years of going it alone on the worlds polluting airplanes, and slightly less-polluting trains and automobiles.

The precisely-steering and bump-avoiding Yorkie, Tull bus-driver for many a long year, made the journey more comfortable than I had hoped, but 3 hours sleep is not really enough for me. Maybe you get used to it. And maybe, speaking as a very light sleeper, you don’t.

It’s all right for that Ann Marie. She drops off at the turn of a bible page and the crew guys power down into the land of the nodders in less time than it takes them to log off Windows.

Yes, I know we are going off to work rather than goofing off on some unnecessary vacation but I guess we are all going to have bite bullets in the years to come. No point in blaming the Chinese and the Indians. We all have to swallow the nasty medicine stuff if we want to leave a tolerable planet for our great-grandchildren. So, it’s the long-life light bulbs, switching off electrical appliances at the wall, getting a new eco-friendly Toyota Prius, Honda hybrid or a bicycle. Shona and I are off to the nearest Toyota showroom next week.

On her bicycle.

When I wrote about climate change in the song Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of  The New Day back in 1974, the scientists of the day turned out to have got it wrong. The planet has warmed, not cooled, as a result of CO2 emissions. But none of my generation can claim innocence in regard to our individual and collective greed of the last 30 years, or so.  Did it really take gas-guzzling Arnie to wake up California?  The mild-mannered Al to shake up the rest of America? (An Inconvenient Truth is now available as a DVD in Europe as from this week. My copy arrived in the post this morning.)

My hope and belief is that when the great American public get motivated and demand of their political leaders the opportunity to make the necessary personal and industrial changes, that America will show the way to the rest of the world. The traditional Detroit auto industry, so long in the doldrums and lagging behind Asia, can rebuild, retool and reinvent the personal transport of tomorrow if it chooses the right way now. The resources are there. The workforce is there. The management is there. All it takes is the realisation that combating climate change is not some form of Federal Government-imposed industrial and economic punishment but the chance to stimulate the national and world economies with new thought and direction. At the Detroit Motor Show this month, a new prototype by General Motors, the Chevrolet Volt, was unveiled. Designed to produce 120 miles per hour, 150 staggering miles to the gallon, and 0 – 60 in 8 seconds, this would provide sports car performance from an electric car. A hybrid only in the sense that it has an on-board petrol-fueled generator to charge the batteries. If this is to be believed, it seems to show that the car industry can change and maybe the aviation industry too, in time.

Alternative energy investment and the transport industries re-thinking their futures, both technologically and commercially – even morally – have to be high on the agenda for America as well as the rest of the world. Like a fine wine, complex and slow to start but with a great finish, the USA can really influence the world if it wants to. The chance is there now to impact internationally and in infinitely more productive ways than the by some other results of US and UK foreign policy over the last years. Don’t get me started.

Instead, think kindly of me, sleepless near Seattle, on the bus from Hell.

After so many solo and orchestral shows in the last three or four years, it’s time to redress the balance with more concerts under the Tull banner. So what’s the difference, you might cry? Well, Martin Barre for one. Off to his Winter retreat in the Canadian Rockies for three months, MB will then join us for the Acoustic Tull tour in the UK in March/April. Martin actually enjoys playing the acoustic guitar and our few recent acoustic shows in the Netherlands and Scandinavia brought out a new and equally forceful dimension to his playing. Accompanied by our fiddler of the last few months, Anne Marie Calhoun, we kicked bottom, so to speak. (AMC doesn’t like cuss words and calls me “potty-mouth”.  A lot.)

Martin and the regular IA solo band guys, David Goodier, John O’Hara and James Duncan are the team to head up the next tours with Anna Phoebe coming in as special guest violinist, on and off during the year. Fans of Chinese Bluegrass need not despair: AMC will return for shows as able and depending on whether she decides to continue to teach Conceptual Physics full-time at a college in Virginia. Check out AMC’s dates with Arab-Appalachian hybrid band Kantara at http://www.kantaramusic.com/ and read AMC’s interview at http://www.dmme.net/interviews/calhoun.htm  An MP3 sample of the music of Kantara is available for listening at the “On The Air” section on the left-hand side, Home Page of this site.

Anna Phoebe, who I actually met before I began work with the very Christian Anne Marie, is a different kettle of loaves and fishes. No bible-basher she I would guess. Although I have not seen her perform, I imagine she will be a darker and sterner stage presence, equally at home with the Classical, Folk, Middle-eastern and Asian influences present in my music for many years. Like AMC, she can improvise and move around on stage with confidence and, hopefully, can help Martin shrug off a few of his 60 years with an enticing, if slightly shredded bow. (They do get so easily carried away, these girlie fiddle-scrapers.)

Check out the sample Anna Phoebe title track from her new CD, Gypsy at the Home Page “On The Air” section.

OK: so why the fixation with violinists as of late, and do they all have to be young and attractive?  Well, my relationship with the violin family goes back to 1968 when I recorded A Christmas Song with a string quartet. Throughout the 70’s chamber orchestras decorated and enforced many of my songs on record. In 1974, a string quartet accompanied us on European and US tours while the solo violin as a guest instrument sneaked into Tull and Ian Anderson pieces. Darryl Way, ex-Curved Air violinist performed on the recordings of Heavy Horses and Acres Wild in 1977, Eddie Jobson fiddled fast and furiously on the A album and tour in 1981, Ric Sanders appeared  on the Crest Of A Knave album in 1987 and other graduate of the Fairport Convention College for Young Gentlemen, Chris Leslie joined me for the Divinities tours in 1995.

Now while Darryl was kinda pretty in a boys’ school, lads-together-in-the-shower sort of way, the others violinists were not. Sorry, chaps. So, it’s only reasonable that I redress the situation a bit now, isn’t it?

Lucia M, AMC and AP are ladies of the night. Fresh off the tour bus at 12 noon, bunk hair disheviled, jim-jam tops tucked into jogging pants, sans make-up and with toothbrush in mouth, only a gallant few observers might pay special attention. But the almost miraculous transformation (easy for AMC – she has friends in high places) which takes place at the bewitching hour ‘tween backstage dinner (what’s it called today?) and SHOWTIME! turns these hausfrau gentlepersons into vipers and sirens all. Scares the bejasus out of this poor flute-player, I can reveal.

But, if you have to stand professionally and emotionally naked on stage, lock eyes and ears and search out the deepest, remote and intimate corners of the inner soul of another fellow musician, I would prefer that it’s not Darryl – OK?   Martin Barre on a good night, maybe, but……

Editor’s note: Mr Way, as far as Rock history recounts, was, in fact, a moderately rampant heterosexual with only the most conservative, traditional and typical Zeppelin-esque Rock-star urges.

But, truth be known, I have always admired and loved that other of singing instrumental voices, the violin. Like the flute, it operates in a tenor register and plays usually single notes which have to be lovingly caressed and shaped as to tone and pitch. It is a natural instrument to complement the flute, in tight harmony, or as a trading or solo instrument. If there was one instrument that I wished I could play really well, the fiddle would be it. Maybe even more than the flute. And it looks really good when you wave the bow around. 

The last couple of shows in 2006 have been in the context of the Christian Church. My contribution to the annual Christmas concert on Christmas Eve, hosted by Horst Kohler, President of Germany, was a grand affair involving three days of rehearsal and 12 minutes of gig time. Old pal (young pal, actually) Florian Opahle played guitar and AMC fiddled furiously. Then back to St Brides Church, Fleet Street, London, where the Curate, the Rev. George Pitcher, had invited me to do a Christmas concert for local London Charity, St Mungos, in aid of the homeless of that great and sprawling city. John O, James D and David Goodier rounded out the band. My thanks, and the thanks of those at St Brides and St Mungos, go to them for their hard work and support. Also to Chris Archer, stage manager and sound tech for me and Tull.

http://www.stbrides.com    and   http://www.mungos.org await your attention.

I wrote this for the St Brides concert programme:

We recently re-recorded the Aqualung album in the States, with all the proceeds going to charities for the homeless, which seems appropriate given that the title track has helped to sell for us a good few records over the years. Proceeds from this St Bride’s gig have gone the same way, to St Mungo’s, which serves London’s homeless community. It’s nice to support good causes from time to time, especially at Christmas.

But, no, this doesn’t mean I’ve undergone some Damascene conversion. I’m afraid I’m still as jaundiced and sceptical of some aspects of organised religion as I ever was. Bu, I am, I fancy, a rather spiritual person who is proud to have grown up and been morally educated in a country historically Christian in terms of predominant national faith. 

In essence, I am somewhere between Deist and Pantheist (Google those terms in case you think this makes me heathen or worse) but feel no sharp practical divide or contradiction between my broad views and the main tenets of Christianity. So I’m always more than happy to perform in a church, or any place of worship if that place is happy to have me. 

As I now deliberate over Christmas concert possibilities in 2007, I wonder if I should attempt at some point to explain my religious views better. Some folks think of me as a very irreligious person. Or even assume that it is Atheism which drives me from their recollections of the Aqualung album in 1971.  Not so. Not so.

Ian Anderson

January 2007