Sitting on a park bench is something with which Ian Anderson is well acquainted. So much so that with his original group members, Jethro Tull, sang those very words when it released “Aqualung” in the early 1970s.
The eclectic nature of Anderson’s songwriting has brought him from the driving, staccato notes from years gone by to the lyrical tunes of his more recent releases.
Born in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland in 1947, Anderson moved with his family to northern England in 1959. After high school, he studied fine art in college prior to exploring a career in music.
Blending two blues-based groups into one, Jethro Tull was born.
I remember seeing Anderson and his group at the Mid South Coliseum in Memphis, Tenn., in the early 1970s. In fact, it was one of my favorite concerts of that era. The one thing that set him apart from other groups of the day was his use of the flute. And, the two melded into one as he energetically moved across the stage. The sweet sound of the instrument, with its punctuated blasts, helped to elevate Anderson and the band into one of Rock’s most memorable acts.
Anderson has been married for 37 years to Shona and they have two children, James and Gael. His son serves as agent and co-manager of his father’s musical interests. His daughter is married to “The Walking Dead” star Andrew Lincoln.
When not producing music, Anderson enjoys growing chili peppers, studying and conservation of wildcats and more.
In 2006 and 2010, he was awarded doctorates in literature from Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, and the Abertay University of Dundee, Dundee, Scotland.
An avid supporter of the Christian church, he has no tolerance for “extremist, manipulative and hate-generating religious views from any quarter.” In fact he said, “Nothing wrong with a good religion. It’s not the gun that kills, but the man behind. Applies both to firearms and that profound religious quest of much of mankind. Respect, tolerance and willing co-existence should drive all religious belief. Not power-crazy, evangelical bilious attacks!”
Anderson has been touring the U.S. and is set to take the stage at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center’s Knight Theatre, 430 S. Tryon St., on Oct. 3 at 8 p.m. and at Durham Performing Arts Center, 123 Vivian St., on Oct. 4 at 8 p.m. Ticket are available online.
qnotes had an opportunity to catch up with Anderson recently and he shared some of his views and reflection son life over the years.
Lainey Millen: I listened to both “Homo Erraticus” and “Thick As A Brick 2,” your most recent albums, and I found one to be more lyrical, almost like a stage production, and one was more of a political statement on today’s world, very different than my previous experience of you had been. Who do you perceive Jethro Tull and Ian Anderson to be based upon your library of song creations? How do you recreate yourself and still retain your artistic integrity?
Ian Anderson: Over the 47 years I’ve been writing songs, I’d like to think it’s very varied, from very simple to direct expressions of my thoughts and emotions. I don’t want to be considered as a one-trick pony. “Homo Erraticus” and “TAAB2” are different in their content, but they are both more weighty albums and with their lyrics. They owe a lot to their progressive rock genre. I’ve taken that to sound more contemporary. “Homo Erraticus” is about one word, migration. It’s about the movement of people especially since the last Ice Age. Homo sapiens adapted through the ages to climate change and survived to tell the tale. As geopolitical boundaries shift, due to resources, crops failing, genocide, these will make people seek a better life elsewhere. You have to be ready for them when they come knocking on your door. We have to be willing to talk about it. You have to take a moral position on migration and I hope we can do that without the fighting and fear of the stranger. It’s a tricky one.
You are part of Rock history. How have you sustained your energy and momentum over the years? Where do you get your reserves to keep going on tours?
It’s what I do. I’m lucky that this profession is not bound by age. I want to do it as long as I can. If I were a pilot, a tennis player, a Formula One race car driver, I’d have had to retire a long time ago. Musicians, actors and writers are able to keep going in the world. Entertainment is not a barrier, as long as you have physical and mental health. We know we have a great job. We know how lucky we are.
We are a paper that caters to the LGBT community. What are your sentiments on gay marriage and other challenging issues?
My much older brother enjoyed a 50-year partnership, outlasting 50 percent of marriages, and then coming to an end when his partner sadly died. I think that’s a testimony to a relationship between two men. It absolutely is valid and as potentially long lasting as any other. I’m in favor of recognizing such a bond between two individuals of their gender, whether or not that should extend to marriage, that’s a church matter. Some are more well disposed than others. Although, a majority of them don’t seem to be comfortable with it, which I’d think would be talking about predominately Christian here, do you follow the teaching of the church or follow your heart and your emotions tell you what you should do? If you are within the Muslim, Hindu or other similar faiths you’ll have a tough time. Marriage between two people of the same gender might be frowned upon, in fact you might be taking your life in your own hands just being gay in some countries, let alone in some way enshrine your relationship with another person in some legal or official form. I’m kinda a pro-gay guy. But as to whether I’m gay, I’m often asked that question and I say deliberately, “I’m not really sure!” in order to show to people to have black or white opinions convinced on your own sexuality is perhaps a bit shortsighted. If we look into ourselves, we can recognize some traits, aspects of personality, some physical attributes that are of the opposite sex. I’m a guy that has nice curly fingers and plays the flute and likes pussy cats. I also like to shoot combat handguns and ride off on a motorcycle. Of course, it might seem like a contradiction. We seem to exhibits shades of gray that make us interesting. Some of those who cling so desperately to their sexuality might have something to cover up. [For me] I don’t think I am [gay], but I have not had the experience to know. I could be.
If you could perform with anyone outside your band, who would it be and why?
I’ll pick two dead ones. I’ll pick the original Jethro Tull, the inventor of the seed drill in the 18th century. He was quite an accomplished church organist. I guess I would think it was appropriate to perform with him since I’ve purloined his name and made a ton of money out of identity theft. The very least I could do would be to grace him with a gentle flute and accompany him on his organ. [The other] For my passion of Beethoven, I would say him. Although it would be more in the improvisational context since I don’t read music.
What is your creative process for writing and where do you draw your inspiration?
I set my clock at 9 in the morning and work through to lunch and then in the afternoon. I believe that inspiration comes when you meet it half way instead of waiting for the muse to come visit. If I am on tour or otherwise engaged, I have to take it in little snatches here and there. I do prefer sitting down in a very deliberate, conscious way and push myself into that make-or-break zone when I really have to do something, concentrate, do my best.
If you had not pursued music, what else would have sparked your interest?
I gave serious consideration in my teens to being a journalist, to joining the police force, even considered being a silviculturist. I was interested in trees. None of those three things captured my heart and soul.
You, Paul McCartney, The Stones, Queen and others were synonymous with the ’60s and ’70s music scene still pack venues like you did when you were fresh onto the scene. Do you think that your timeless music and style transcends the age demographics and why so?
I’m not in that league with Paul McCartney and the Stones. These are the big legends. I am an outsider out there on the rim on the spiral galaxy looking in. I don’t think much about my place in the scheme of things, the demographics of the audience or my musical peers. I just do what I do. I am able to follow my own nose without being being constrained by notions of commerciality, management or influence or record companies telling me what to do. I’m a writer, a record producer and I manage the band. I am a free spirit. : :