MWE3 Feature Story
conducted by Robert Silverstein for presents
an interview with

Jethro Tull's


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Do you believe in the day?
THICK AS A BRICK 40 years later... presents an interview with

In a deliberate endeavor to revisit sacred terrain from the early rock era of Thick As A Brick, Jethro Tull founder Ian Anderson released a solo album called Thick As A Brick 2 in March 2012. Celebrating the original album Thick As A Brick, released in March 1972, Thick As A Brick 2 examines some interesting what-ifs surrounding the original Thick As A Brick said lyricist Gerald Bostock. Funny thing was, when the original Thick As A Brick came out, the lyrics were actually the last thing on anybody’s mind. On Thick As A Brick, it seemed like Anderson’s lyrics were more useful as a delivery mechanism for his completely unique sounding voice and even more influential melodic gift—featuring Ian crafting rock tracks the way Beethoven or Mozart would write classical orchestrations. With lyrics that seemed to create a cosmic, universal type experience rather than offering a direct message, 1972’s Thick As A Brick was groundbreaking more for the sound Tull achieved in the recording studio and for its treasure of rare melodic passages and orchestral rock music structures. The original Thick As A Brick was also trendsetting in the way the original black vinyl Lp was packaged—its huge labyrinth of newspaper like album packaging appeared to be a spoof and some kind of cosmic joke, especially for anyone expecting Aqualung 2! While, musically, there’s some affinity with the original Thick As A Brick album, for the most part—with its bleak portraits of homelessness, religion, military men, ordinary people and greedy bankers—Thick As A Brick 2 doesn’t exactly paint a pretty picture of the various futures it seems Ian's prodigy Bostock might have lived to achieve, whilst encompassing a wide range of unsavory type personalities. Thick As A Brick 2 isn’t a Tull album—it’s an Ian Anderson solo album and long time fans will note that Martin Barre is not here. Even so, Martin’s guitar sound is replicated brilliantly by German guitarist Florian Opahle, while on drums here is Scott Hammond instead of current Tull thumper Doane Perry. As many music fans who lived through that original late ‘60s / early ‘70s era will tell you, there will never be another album quite as brilliant or mesmerizing as the original Thick As A Brick album. That said, Ian goes to great lengths, both melodically and lyrically to come up with a 21st century inspired kind of Thick As A Brick album—one that will no doubt make Gerald Bostock proud of his musical, (though still thoroughly fictitious) heritage. On March 23, 2012, Ian Anderson spoke to founder Robert Silverstein for a few minutes about the timeless, yet still historically significant Thick As A Brick and its 2012 sequel.

IAN ANDERSON: Hello is that Robert Silverstein?

mwe3: Yes sir, Ian Anderson!

IAN ANDERSON: Yes, this is Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull.

mwe3: It’s always an incredible honor to either see you play live or talk to you on the phone.

IAN ANDERSON: Great, nice to talk to you too. Fire away.

mwe3: How’s Martin Barre doing?

IAN ANDERSON: Well, he’s like me, busy preparing for various concert tours and new projects he’s doing this year, so I guess he’s pretty much in the same position I am of trying to make all the things come together for a busy year.

mwe3: How did it work out with Martin not appearing on the newly released Thick As A Brick 2 album? You have a new guitarist with you called Florian?

IAN ANDERSON: Well Florian is not exactly a new guitar player. He’s been playing with me for ten years. He’s done lots of shows with me in all different places over the years, and indeed played guitar as guitarist with Jethro Tull on a few occasions when Martin was ill or didn’t want to do some tours. So yeah, Florian’s an old hand.

mwe3: Why did you release Thick As A Brick 2 as an Ian Anderson solo album and not a Jethro Tull album?

IAN ANDERSON: Because I find when it just says Jethro Tull on the ticket it does tend to suggest that maybe it’s just know, the classic repertoire and the greatest hits sort of approach to it. So, usually when we do tours with Jethro Tull it usually features Martin Barre playing the guitar, quite often Doane Perry playing the drums, our L.A. drummer, and it usually is more the...y’know classic best of material. But when I do projects that are much more specific, then I find using my own name, keeps the riffraff at home! The beer drinking buddies who come out to whistle and shout and hoot and holler. (Ian shouts ‘Play “Aqualung”!) They’re going to more likely stay at home, which is the best place for them, (laughter) because I need an audience who's not going to be interrupted, or I am going to be interrupted by those drunken fools. So it’s good that they stay home. Are you one of them? (laughter)

mwe3: I was probably the first people in New York City to buy Thick As A Brick when it came out on album back in early 1972. I remember the day I bought it as an import at Discophile on 8th street in Manhattan. What do you make of this era we’re in right now, if that’s not too heavy? Are you interested in astrology at all?

IAN ANDERSON: It’s not a thing I have any experience, knowledge or frankly much interest in... So no, in a word. I’m not interested in astrology at all really. It’s one of the dark arts that I’ve never really got round to. It’s not so much that I’m against the idea in principle, of finding out about astrology, and learning about astrology. It’s just that in my history, I suppose the people that I’ve met, that have been involved in astrology are not people that I find that that easy to talk to. And so I suppose it’s just the people involved in it, rather than the, I don’t know if you can call it a science but whatever you would call it, it’s not that I’m against the idea of it. It’s just I don’t really feel drawn into the social mix of what it seems astrology is about, when it comes to people who practice it, talk about it or what ever. You’re not one of those, are you? (laughter) Of course you are! I know you are, but don’t worry about it! Let’s move on away from astrology! It’s not my thing.

mwe3: Okay. I know it’s the 40th anniversary but why Thick As Brick 2 now? I was reading Derek Shulman was involved. The original Thick As A Brick album was to me, possibly the greatest progressive rock album of that magical early ‘70s period. Was there some concerted effort to bring back Thick As A Brick now?

IAN ANDERSON: Well the original album was made in a follow up to the Aqualung album, which was deemed by some of the music writers, critics, what ever you want to call them, as being a concept album. And I always said, ‘No, it’s not a concept album. It’s just this collection of songs’ So when it came to Thick As A Brick, a year later, I said ‘Right, let’s give them the mother of all concept albums.’ We’ll do a parody, a spoof of the prog-rock concept album genre, which was riding high at that point with people like Emerson Lake & Palmer, King Crimson and the early Genesis and YES, and we’ll do a parody. We’ll do a little mickey-take, a little spoof, filled with English real humor, a composition written by an 8 year old boy, a child poet who wrote the lyrics. And that’s how that came about and it was a lot of fun. Of course, like any parody, it’s a comic mask for lots of underlying serious stuff. And Thick As A Brick was like that. And when it came to 40 years later, doing a sequel, it was not about what happened next, i.e. ‘72 or ‘73. It was a big leap into the future, into 2012. This is an album that really talks about today and the way things might have turned out for the little Gerald Bostock, forty years later. And so, Gerald Bostock, age 50 today, ‘cause I reinvented his age ‘cause I like zeroes on the end, he’s portrayed in many different possible guises, as he went through life, and made some life-changing positions, as we all do, or did, or will do if we’re younger folks right now. So it’s an album really about 2012 and how different it is from 1972, except perhaps in one thing; which is the futility of war. In 1972, we were a year away from America pulling out of Vietnam and the North Vietnamese troops sweeping down into South Vietnam and installing a Soviet style socialist republic, which endures till this day. And here we are in 2012, about a year away from America drawing down its troops in Afghanistan and the Taliban are waiting in the wings to return and stone Mr. Karzai to death in the village square somewhere and subjugate the women and children to a life based on the extremist views of a religion that seems to have gone a bit wrong. So, that’s an uncanny similarity, and an uncanny echo of the past. One of the examples of how things, sometimes, don’t always change with the passing of years.

mwe3: Being that I was 18 in 1972 and had to register for the draft, I always felt it was the English musicians, specifically John Lennon who was inspiring everybody to try to stop the Vietnam war. In a way, Thick As A Brick echoed that kind of antiwar thinking in a way.

IAN ANDERSON: Well, on the face of it, we had an 8 year old boy who was rather glorifying wars, and military, the rather traditional values of aggression, of family disputes... Actually, in some ways it was rather the opposite through a little boy’s misguided notions. We were looking at the glorifying of war and aggression. In terms of what that album touched upon, in some parts of the lyrics, which are very close to me because I’ve been singing them this afternoon, and as always having to think what lay behind my mental workings when I wrote the music and the words back in 1972, so yeah, I have to reacquaint myself with some of that and try to sing in in character.

mwe3: How do you think the English music press and media is going to respond to the Thick As A Brick 2 CD?

IAN ANDERSON: Well it’s a little early to say. I mean, I’ve been doing lots of press and promotion but a lot of it is advance stuff that probably hasn’t made it into the press and media yet but it is just about now as we’re getting close to the time when the album is released. I don’t know the end result of that but I would guess that it’s going to be probably divided down the middle by people who absolutely hate it and people who think it’s quite good! And I think most Jethro Tull fans, people who consider themselves to be fans of Jethro Tull, it’ll be a bit like that. Half of them will think it’s pretty good and half of them will really hate it but that’s the way it is. I don’t expect huge accolades and I certainly don’t expect enormous economic success but I’m not really doing it for anybody else. I’m doing it for me. Frankly, I don’t give a fuck what anybody else thinks, ‘cause I’m just doing it for me. I’m 64 years old and I have a right to have fun. So, I put a lot of work and effort into it and I really hope people enjoy it, but if they don’t, well they can watch the X-factor and go and toss themselves off in a corner somewhere, I don’t really care. What do you think? Is that a healthy state of mind for me to have? What do you think?

mwe3: Well I’ve played the Thick As A Brick 2 record about ten times and it’s clearly a masterpiece. Obviously it’s different than Thick As Brick. What could touch Thick As A Brick, it's like what could touch Abbey Road...the masterpieces, the iconic rock albums that were made back then? Who would have guessed Ian, 40 years later nobody could top those albums. Did you think back then that no one is going to top this album in our lifetime? When they teach rock music as a history course in 2072, they’ll probably refer back to Thick As A Brick as case in point essential listening. Did you ever think about that?

IAN ANDERSON: Well, I do think about it, because quite often I get people telling me that they’re just completing their Ph.D. thesis in Aqualung or Passion Play or some such thing. It’s extraordinary how people do take it all very seriously and do quite often go into the minutia of detail. It does happen out there but I’m not sure it’s an entirely healthy pursuit. It’s just some people like doing stuff that’s maybe a little off the beaten track. I think there’s a danger that if you take it all so incredibly seriously and elevate it to the status of high art then you may be giving it an importance that perhaps it doesn’t quite deserve. However, I think Thick As A Brick was a good album. It stands as an extreme example of progressive rock as it was in the early 1970s. And I think it stands out because it was a very original and interesting album cover. I think the music was quite good. It was well played. It’s not a bad album at all but I don’t think I would ever be setting out to replicate it, or as you put it, to “top it” because I don’t really feel a need to try to create something that is better, bigger, grander... That’s not the way I think about it. I’m just doing something that has a strong relationship but to me it’s about doing something that’s different... but based on some of the same premises, and based on some of the continuity of some of those earlier ideas. But it's different. I don’t think... if you said to Beethoven, did his 9th Symphony top his 7th or his 3rd? ... I think he’d probably just belt you ‘round the ear and say ‘go away laddie and come back to me when you stop talking in those terms.’ Because it’s not about “topping”, it’s about doing something new, something interesting. Whether Beethoven thought he was improving on his previous symphonies, I rather doubt. I think he was thinking in terms of, ‘hey, I’m just totally passionate about this new work’. And it’s not a question of trying to make it better, it’s a question of making it different. But at the same time using some of those elements that you do hear, reprised, reiterated and developed where he goes back and gives a little nod and a wink to some previous symphonic work. That’s the way we folks do it. We’re supposed to be artists. We’re supposed to be a little bit clever when it comes to writing and arranging music. I’m not saying I’m anywhere near Beethoven’s standard but y’know, you learn from the masters and that’s what I’ve tried to do over the years.

mwe3: Well in my opinion you’re more important than Beethoven or Mozart because I grew up with your music. Can you imagine the effect of Thick As A Brick on an 18 year old? As a matter of fact, that Thick As A Brick tour was the first time Tull played at Madison Square Garden in 1972? (editor: Actually the first Tull show at Madison Square Garden, before Thick As A Brick was released, was October 18, 1971)

: Well, I’m not sure... It might well have been in that era for sure, but it was around the time of... Well we played two tours in the USA in 1972 and I do remember that it was quite a hard tour compared to relatively easy doing the U.K. and maybe some of the dates in other places. But it was a rough ride in Italy and it was a rough ride in the USA because we really did struggle to get the attention and the appreciation of some of the quieter, acoustic moments. People were tending to shout and whistle and generally made it very difficult for me to concentrate on what I was playing. So I didn’t enjoy doing it, which is one of the reasons I said, ‘I’m never going to do this again.’ And another of the reasons that I wouldn’t go out there and do this today is simply putting on the ticket Jethro Tull. I would hate to invite...make people think they were coming to simply another generic rock concert. It’s not Deep Purple with a flute, it’s Ian Anderson unveiling his new grandson, alongside the old baby, ‘cause I’m the guy that wrote the stuff and I’m kind of passionate about doing it on my terms and letting the audience hear it as opposed to becoming too much of a rock event. I know Roger Waters goes out and does The Wall in big arenas and so on...plugs into his monitors and shuts out a lot of the din and the noise of the audience to just get through the show. But, I’m someone who’s a little more sensitive about...when I have a quiet, emotional moment, I want people to be really quiet and listen to it. I really don’t like it when people whistle and shout. That just really annoys me.

I read a great muli-artist interview you did with Steve Hackett and Ray Shulman for the Classic Rock Presents Prog magazine where you said, ‘In our parents time before the internet, they would been content to grow old in front of the TV set”. You also said, 'our generation now is a lot more active now and we can get a hold of a lot more information then ever before.' Do you see this trend moving forward and how do you see this impacting a whole new generation of potential Jethro Tull fans? All of a sudden some 18 year old guy is discovering Thick As A Brick in 2012.

: Well it’s certainly the case that a lot of younger people who are into progressive rock, and I’ve certainly noticed that being on the increase, particularly in the Latin countries and Italy and Spain, and throughout Latin America. There’s a huge rise in the popularity of progressive rock and it’s partly, I think, because of the interest amongst young people in bands like Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree or Opeth. But it’s also that they’re aware that they inherited the legacy of bands from the ‘70s, that were the original vocal prog-rockers. So they have an interest in that too. There’s certainly a considerable growth, as well as a revival of interest in progressive rock and I think that it’s good that that’s the case! It’s a good balance and the scheme of rock music is a good antidote to the banality of the X-factor and that generation of cheesy pop. So, yeah, it’s good that we have some younger people getting into it and they can find out about it much more easily on the internet than, I guess we could 40 years ago when it was much harder to get information. These days, everything is... it’s out there. And it’s just a couple of clicks away if you go to Mr. Google or Mr. Wiki or Mr. YouTube. They’ll help you out and find you everything you need to know. So when you want to buy some viagra or a new Ian Anderson album, it’s pretty easy to keep yourself young forever. Just use the internet, it’s a click away. Gotta go now ‘cause I’m a bit late for my next interview, amongst the many I have to do tonight but very nice to talk to you. I’ve just been to your web site, it looks really great and keep up the good work.

Thanks to Ian Anderson @





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