Ian Anderson

By Lori Smerilson Carson

In the year of 1967, the United Kingdom saw Jeremy Thorpe become the Leader of the Liberal Party, the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association was founded in Belfast, Parliament nationalized ninety percent of the British steel industry, and the progressive, folk, hard rock band Jethro Tull was formed in Blackpool, England. They made a profound impact on the music scene with their debut record THIS WAS and continued to amaze rock fans with albums like Aqualung, WAR CHILD and ROCK ISLAND. Now, this world-renown phenomenal band has just released their 22nd studio album The Zealot Gene.

Catching up with extraordinarily talented Lead Vocalist/Flautist/Guitarist Ian Anderson, he revealed information about the new LP, a couple of the new songs and videos, a bit about himself and what fans can look forward to.

SFL Music: How did the idea for the new album The Zealot Gene come about?
Ian Anderson: The idea came about because I decided to write a collection of songs, each one about a different path or human emotion, and I started off by making a list of strong human emotions. I had stuff like hate, vengeance, jealousy, greed and then nice stuff like love, compassion, companionship, loyalty. And I made my list of about fifteen different words and then it struck me that I remember reading those words quite often in the holy bible. So, on a whim of fancy, I did a search of the bible for examples of those words in biblical text and I copied and pasted some of those and made some of those a reference point for some of those songs which they may well be fenced more a better day real world scenario, but there were parallels sometimes in biblical text that are interesting to build into the songs or the titles. So, I use analogies, simile, metaphor. These little tools of the writer’s trade. I have my tool box and there they are still there after all these years. So, I see them and use them. I don’t feel like I need to be the dumb dad in my writing process or indeed have to explain it, but in discussions with the record companies that I spoke to, they thought a lot of the fans, they really want to know the background, the detail and all that, so I decided to include a lot of that background analysis and preparation as part of the booklets on the more deluxe versions of the product. So, it’s all there for people to examine in its glory detail.

SFL Music: I saw the box set on your You Tube. It looked great! I saw the video for “Sad City Sisters” and “Shoshana Sleeping”. It looks like you incorporated a lot of society type things? A lot of different emotions that are taking place with our world events?

Anderson: Well, “Shoshana Sleeping” is a song of eroticism, but it’s a gentle song. It’s a look but don’t touch song. It’s not a peeping Tom voyeurism song. It’s genuine admiration and a restrained admiration, but you’ll find its parallel in an equally erotic way about it. A more erotic way in passive of the song of Solomon in the Old Testament. So, it’s an approach that I thought was an example of that path of human emotion which is that of I suppose, contained lust might be a way to describe it (he laughed), but without getting your fingers burned or ending up in jail. So, that’s what that one is about, and “Sad City Sisters” is a commentary really on the very real social issues of young people going clubbing on a Friday or Saturday night and getting so out of it on drink and drugs that they don’t remember anything about what they did, and hopefully they do get safely home and you know, “toss their knickers in the bin” as the songs says, but the sad truth is of course, some of them don’t get home or they get home, but in a sadly damaged state physically or mentally.

So, that’s a real-life issue and it’s always been there. People have always over done it and paid the price, but as a father of a daughter grown up and a granddaughter not grown up, I have to reach out and grapple with a difficult subject hopefully not sounding too sanctimonious or too ingratiating, but reality it makes me you know, it gets me a little angry really. I think that people are sometimes so silly and they put themselves and perhaps other people at risk. They do it in the way of a good time, but how can it be a good time if you can’t remember it the next day? I must have had a great time last night because I can’t remember anything (he laughed). That seems to be a contradiction you know, having a good time, and I want to remember it tomorrow, the week after and possibly for the rest of my life. I want to savor the moment. So that’s probably why I don’t tend to get drunk and don’t do what’s popular drugs. I like to savor the moment and really remember it. It’s so important to me to be able to look back on things that have been the really enjoyable moments in my life. I am maybe just made of different stuff. I don’t know.

SFL Music: You had to record the last five songs at home. How much was that process different from prior recordings in the studio?

Anderson: Well, that’s something that I’ve done lots of times. When I do guest performances on other people’s records, I just sit at my office desk and do something and send them an audio file, but in this case, I was sitting with an acoustic guitar and tambourine and a few other instruments and recorded the songs in the same way I did when I made the demos for the band back in the end of February 2017 of the other seven songs. I mean, I just sent them the general idea. I’m just sitting around a microphone and multi tracking in a digital program that is well known to those who do this little thing for a living, and I played, I suppose the greater body of it and three other guys in the band were able to send me some contributions as audio files that I could insert into the final mix. So, it’s not just me. It’s me and one or two other guys on those five songs.

SFL Music: What made you go into music? You play multiple instruments. How did you decide to do this as a career?

Anderson: Well, I thought about it when I was in my later teenage years and it seemed like it was one of the possibilities to become a musician, but you know, I’ve always been a pragmatist. So, I had a plan A and I had a plan B and a plan C, and plan A was to be a policeman. To be a police officer, but they turned me down, and plan B was to be a journalist and I went to the local newspaper offices to volunteer my services and they turned me down. So, I ended up having to go with plan C which was to be an international rock star.

SFL Music: What would you say is the secret to having such successful longevity?

Anderson: Persistence. Well, along the way I think many, many artists will find that they build a loyal following and somewhere along the way that loyal following will either die off or change their affiliations, but they may well be then replaced by other people. Maybe people of a similar demographical vintage, but quite likely by younger people who come along and discover what you’re doing. So, it’s really an ever-shifting set of loyal fans who will at least give you the time of day. Some of them will not be really interested in buying your Jethro Tull album, but they may well still come to a concert, and there may well be those who will buy the record, but they won’t come to a concert especially in those such times as we live in the moment and they don’t feel very safe. I mean, it was out there when I played three concerts in cathedrals in December.

Every year I do some fundraisers for great cathedrals, medieval cathedrals in the U.K., and sometimes churches in Europe, and we had about a twenty-eight percent no shows on average during September and October and November in our concerts. People had bought the tickets, but they didn’t come on the night ‘cause they were concerned about being infected with COVID quite understandably, but in December, even though I warned the cathedrals that we must expect maybe up to twenty-five percent no shows ‘cause Omicron had taken off by then over here, and I walked out there on the first night and every seat was filled. That was the way it was for the other two. The concerts were sold out some time before, but everybody showed up on the night. It was amazing! I think everybody were you know, so desperate to get out and do something and see something or maybe they thought that being in the house of God would give them some built in protection you know, going to a Jethro Tull concert in a grand Medieval cathedral is like going out wearing a full body condom. You should be relatively safe.

SFL Music: Are there any tour dates coming up?

Anderson: Yes. I should have been in Finland last week. I should have been in Sweden next week, but they have already been pushed due to the local infection problems and the local government restrictions, so they’ve been pushed further into the year. Currently, in the beginning of February, we’ll have a tour of Italy which supposedly is going ahead. I’m in the process of booking those flights this evening. And following on a week later, Portugal which again the promoter is definitely wanting to go ahead with, and then we have Spain and Switzerland and a scary one in April which is Ukraine. If you follow the political and scary side of what’s happening right now between Russia and Ukraine, then you’d have to be in doubt, but also in doubt because they have a low vaccination rate in Ukraine and Omicron has not actually hit there yet, so I would think within the next few weeks it’s gonna be. If I was Mr. (Vladimir)Putin, I don’t think I’d want to go and send my troops in because they’d all get COVID. Anyway, on that sublime topic…

SFL Music readers, The Zealot Gene is definitely an album to add to your collection!

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