Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Ian Anderson: A Conversation With the Scottish Gent We Attest as Jethro Tull

By Ray Shasho

Throughout the progressive rock ages, Ian Anderson had been notably recognized as Jethro Tull. Even the occasional aficionado may refer to the charismatic, swashbuckling, one –legged flautist as simply “Tull.” Ian Anderson not only gave the world awe-inspiring lyric and melody, but also an everlasting and irrepressible personification. So it’s no wonder that Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull are synonymous.

Since it’s origination in 1968, the band has had numerous personnel changes, but Anderson’s ingenuity and fastidious songwriting has preserved the Jethro Tull trademark for almost a half a century. Deep-rooted lead guitarist Martin Barre should also receive accolade for infusing the heaviest of hard rock riffs.
The Jethro Tull band name was derived from an eighteenth century English agriculturalist who invented the seed drill, but Ian Anderson transformed the assigned appellative into a progressive rock protagonist. Even today, Anderson’s proficiency and style remain unchallenged.  His onstage persona mesmerized us, as we all wondered how cool it would be to be “Tull.”

Ian Anderson embarks on a worldwide tour beginning April 14th in the United Kingdom. Anderson will be performing the 1972 concept album, “Thick as a Brick” in its entirety as well as  the new release, “Thick as a Brick 2” -Whatever Happened to Gerald Bostock? .... forty years later. “TAAB2” the sequel was officially released on April 2nd and available at 

Florida dates are confirmed for the upcoming tour. September 18th at The Fillmore in Miami Beach, September 19th at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach, September 21st at the Amphitheatre in St Augustine, and September 22nd at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre in Orlando.

I had the rare opportunity to speak with Ian Anderson recently about some uncommon topics. I wanted the interview to be different than the usual laundry list of Jethro Tull inquisitions. Mr. Anderson was quick-witted, fascinating, and profound. I quickly became mesmerized by other aspects of his life including entrepreneurship.

Here’s my chat with legendary multi-instrumentalist/singer/songwriter/prog-rock pioneer/Jethro Tull founder/ feline advocate/ entrepreneur/ IAN ANDERSON.
Ray Shasho: Ian, thank for being on the call today … are you calling from Scotland?
Ian Anderson: “I’m actually calling from the South West of England.”
Ray Shasho: You conducted a Self- interview which appeared on You Tube video recently about the upcoming release of “Thick as a Brick 2.” It was so good; I’m a bit worried you won’t need us journalist anymore.
Ian Anderson: “The way things are these days, we use every opportunity we can to tell a story and keep the fans amused, and keep myself amused as we get old and jaded.”
Ray Shasho: Just about every piece of information regarding Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull has been collected and available on your website, it’s getting to be very challenging to ask you anything that hasn’t already been answered on the site.    
Ian Anderson: “I’m so glad to hear you say that because that’s exactly why I do it, to try and make your job easier. You can just cut and paste and have a fun time with that without spending too much money on transatlantic phone calls.”
Ray Shasho: I spoke with Greg Lake several weeks ago; we talked about the Salisbury Cathedral charity show you did together. Greg said it was a funny experience, standing in a Cathedral playing rock and roll. He also mentioned there were dead bodies in the Cathedral while you played?
Ian Anderson: “I didn’t think we were that bad. (All laughing) Well that’s what Cathedrals usually have in them. They have crypts and all sorts of ancestors and people lie within, so we hope they remembered to take their sleeping pills.”
Ray Shasho: I’m guessing the acoustics were pretty good?
Ian Anderson: “Extremely long reverberation times and you have to be very careful how you gently amplify and redistribute the sound otherwise it will become a cacophony and will certainly awake the dead.”
Ray Shasho: I’m trying very hard to not be one of those reporters who will ask the same questions of you, and I’m usually known for asking unconventional questions to solicit new material. You have an incredibly informative page on your website called, “Your new kitten: Advice for new parents.” Why the fascination with cats?
Ian Anderson: “When I was a young boy I preferred cats to dogs. From the age of seven or eight onwards I just felt more comfortable with cats. And I felt more comfortable with girls, I didn’t really like hanging out with guys. When I was about ten or eleven, I was friendlier with the girls in my school than with the guys. And later on in my school years I really didn’t enjoy the company of men and the beer drinking experiences of teenagers… so I wasn’t a manly schoolboy. I preferred arts and more gentle pursuits than sports, so I was more of an academic really and kind of cats fit the bill. Cats fit that kind of personality better than dogs. I’m a bit of a girlie guy who liked growing up with cats.”
Ray Shasho: I sent you an email several years ago regarding the Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida and recently found out that you’re already kind of connected with them.
Ian Anderson: “Well that’s right; I’ve been there and have done a couple of things for them in terms of press and promo or what have you, and we know who each other are.”
Ray Shasho: Do you have any of the larger cats on your farm?
Ian Anderson: “No, I think the proper place for those animals are in there natural habit and not in zoos or private collections of wild animals, I don’t really like that kind of thing very much. That’s like taking me out of my environment and putting me in jail for the rest of my life.”
Ray Shasho: I know your were a successful salmon farmer for many years, do you continue to be in that line of work?
Ian Anderson: “No, I was a salmon farmer for about twenty years and there were a lot of issues like environmental concerns and the principals of taking animals into intensive farming. Perhaps in the case of salmon you have this absurd reality of taking more and more out of the oceans to manufacture the feed for salmon. It takes roughly speaking … maybe ten kilos of capelin, sand eels and herring and various wild fish and shell fish species to produce one kilo of fresh farmed salmon. So it’s a very inefficient way of converting fish protein further down the food chain into fish protein higher up the food chain where we think we want to eat it. I think salmon farming has its place in the world … a few hundred thousand tons of salmon production in the world is probably a good thing, but to the level at which it’s gone now where it’s such a mass produced commodity in many parts of the world.”

“Usually farming Atlantic salmon because they’re faster growing and better oil content and just a much nicer fish altogether than the pacific species but as you probably know they farm down in the pacific too ... in Chile and elsewhere, west coast of the U.S. and Canada. That’s something we wouldn’t allow to happen in our part of the world, that is farming of nonindigenous species and an insecure context like cages and Open Ocean is something that we don’t think should be allowed to happen. But again, commercial enterprise being what it is people have decided that they’re going to do that anyway and have managed to persuade the governmental authorities to let them do it. But I’m very much opposed to that so I decided I really didn’t want to be involved with farming salmon anymore. The negatives outweighed the positives for me and I decided to gently remove myself from that world.”

“When I first started it was all shiny and new and there were only a few tens of thousands of tons of salmon being produced when I started and most of it in Norway. When we began it was a pretty low key effort usually involving people from local communities and the west coast of Scotland who otherwise found it difficult to find work, so for the first ten-fifteen years or so it felt like the right thing to do. But I became less enamored of it primarily because of environmental and conservation reasons.”     
Ray Shasho: Ian, I was a commercial banker in another life, and was the guy lending money for start-up enterprises. So I’m extremely impressed by the way you began an entirely new business venture, turned it into a success, and operated and maintained it for twenty years.   
Ian Anderson: “I’m all in favor of banks that play their part in community endeavors, private individuals looking for loans, people who want to start up a little business, and that’s what banks are for. Once we get into investment banking there is no ring fence between the investment arms of banks and the service sector of banking… I don’t like the idea of fat-cat bankers looking for their big-big bonuses, spinning the roulette wheel and using as their stake the money loaned to them used by private individuals whose life savings are wrapped up into what’s proved to be an extremely risky and unpleasant side of that industry. So that’s one of the things I’m singing about on the new album … is my end. Obviously I share this with a majority of the people. We feel cheated by virtue of the fact that people used our money to cover themselves in glory and huge bonuses. In the case of Fred Goodwin of the Royal Bank of Scotland, a knighthood, which he so surely deserved to have stripped from him as indeed it was a couple of weeks ago.”

“But it was the Royal Bank of Scotland who was the villains and the rest of the international banks are not blameless in any of this. They essentially operate in the same way and got themselves caught up in the prime mortgage business which was one of the things that toppled the house of cards primarily due to the arrogance and naivety of a couple of Icelander banks.”
Ray Shasho: I was actually one of those banking soldiers on the front lines that got axed in 2008 when turmoil hit the financial markets. I was loyal and a top producer but apparently that meant nothing to them.  
Ian Anderson: “I don’t think anybody objects in our capitalist western society about the idea of somebody getting paid for results. But disparity between those getting really quite obscene levels of bonus and those who are the foot soldiers of industry seem to have gotten completely out of balance and it doesn’t seem right that there should be a ratio of twenty … fifty… or one hundred to one between high paid people and the average low paid person. It just seems too big of a differential. You can understand if people got five or ten times as much money if they produce results, but things have just gotten out of control and that’s part of the degree to which our moral values have continued to change with capitalism becoming so incredibly powerful. But like everything else, there’s good capitalism and there’s bad capitalism. And you’ve got some of the good guys who later on realize they’ve been so very-very fortunate to have done what they’ve done so the Warren Buffets and the Bill Gates get to a point in their lives where they realize true values are what you can do for other people than rather do for yourself.”
Ray Shasho: Then there are the monopolies … where does capitalism fit in that equation?
Ian Anderson: “Nowhere is that more obvious than the record industry, where we have the purchase accepted of EMI by Universal and now down to three major record companies. They have essentially doubled between the small record companies and the tiny independents that are left. Most of them would have the goal of selling out at some point to honor one of the three majors and getting their retirement fund. In the live concert sector you have Live Nation and AEG which compose far and away the greater part of the total live concert industry around the world. And that can’t be right either, it’s just become too much of a megalithic concern where the vast majority of concert tours everywhere in the world are being carried out essentially by two multi-national and huge companies that essentially bought out all the other individual promoters, and did so obviously with borrowed money and are struggling to stay solvent.”

“Like everybody else we’re force to do business with Live Nation at least some of the time because they have control over many venues and cities and have the monopoly to work there. We have to grit our teeth and work with those guys too, there’s nothing wrong with the individuals that work for those companies, mostly nice people that we’ve worked with for many years, but they sold their souls to the devil … of corporate enormity, but it’s up to us to change the things we don’t like.”
Ray Shasho: When I interviewed Eric Burdon he said to call it a “music industry” is a stretch.
Ian Anderson: “Eric Burdon is a venerable old gent who’s been around for many years and when I was a lad fresh out of school, Eric Burdon was one of the guys that got me infused about trying to play music and trying to become a professional musician. All those years down the line, I think Eric Burdon has been one of those who is lucky enough to still have his job, get’s out there plays a good concert and plays a bunch of songs that he feels a rightfully degree of ownership about. That’s a good position to be in if you’ve been around as long as Eric Burdon, and made it your life, career, and the thing you love. It’s great that he can do it, but economically it’s not that easy for Eric Burdon, he’s not quite big enough around the world in terms of commanding quite enough to give himself a comfortable level of profitable percentage doing concerts. He’s probably quite close to the point where he’ll be doing okay and not great financially. He’s kind of in the low to middle range economically …it’s not easy but he’ll do okay as long as he’s careful.”
Ray Shasho: I’ve always blamed commercial radio stations for the debacle of the music industry … laziness to seek out and play new music, repetitive mindless commercials taking over the airwaves and the absence of the music radio jock. After chatting with Greg Lake … he blamed the invention of the Sony Walkman for self isolation, and not sharing the music experience with your friends anymore. What do you think changed the music industry?
Ian Anderson: “That for me was the beginning of the beginning because I’m not a social type of guy. I don’t like to sit around and listen to music with other people. The original Sony Walkman … which I think still have, was quite well made, interesting, a small practical cassette machine that allowed you to plug into it and listen to music in that convenient isolation. That privacy was great to have if you were traveling around the world and maybe had the opportunity to close your eyes and listen to some music. So to me it was a great step forward. I’m eternally grateful for the Sony Walkman and all of its successes to the introduction of the MP3 players. I think I’ve owned all the models of IPods so far. And these days between my iPod, iPhone and my personal laptop computer, I’m someone who is very-very grateful for all the ways to listen to music and completely switch off from people around me and listen to the music in detail, which is very hard to do if you’re in a room with other people.”

“We do hear perhaps too many accolades generally aimed at people like Steve Jobs. We have to remember that there are other classic things in life that we undervalue and take them for granted. If you think of the classic lines of the modern jet aircraft, it’s really been there since early World War II. I mean the first passenger jets that flew… they don’t look so different. The Boeing 737… its generations apart from a few engine changes but essentially remains the same thing that it was around forty years ago since that airplane first flew commercially.”
Ray Shasho: I know we need to wrap this up … You’re touring the “Thick as a Brick 2” tour as Ian Anderson. Will there be a future tour billed as Jethro Tull?
Ian Anderson: “The band is essentially the same, maybe one different member of the band; it’s just essentially the way I choose to describe what I do in different context. I like to work with musicians who I feel are the right people. Sometimes one or two people will change as I’m doing a certain Ian Anderson concert. If I’m doing an acoustic tour with just a stripped down show than obviously I would choose musicians who would fit that bill. If I was playing all Jethro Tull repertoire and material than I would just call it Jethro Tull, but when it’s other projects that represent my impersonal input, than I tend to use my own name rather than simply call it Jethro Tull. I think given the fact that I’m the guy that writes the music and does more of the organizational and management side of what goes on … and sometimes I think I should be forgiven for having a Roger Waters moment and claiming something is my own.”
Ray Shasho: Well, in our eyes … you are TULL!
Ian Anderson: “That’s what people have been saying for many-many long years but I always try and point out that it is “The band” or whoever that band is… the people that play the music, and we have to remember that were something like twenty eight members in Jethro Tull over the years and people who have taken part in a major tour or in recording. So it’s a big extended family … I’m the expedition leader and they trust me to take them where we go.”
Ray Shasho: Ian, thank you so much for spending time with me today, but more importantly for all the fantastic music throughout the years. We look forward to the release of “Thick as a Brick 2” (TAAB2) on April 2nd and your upcoming concert tour.
Ian Anderson: “Ray I enjoyed talking with you, we’ll see you in the states … bye-bye!”

“Thick as a Brick 2” (TAAB2) is available to purchase at
Jethro Tull official website
Ian Anderson’s world tour begins April 14th in the United Kingdom. Anderson will be performing the 1972 concept album, “Thick as a Brick” in its entirety as well as the new release, “Thick as a Brick 2” 

Florida dates are confirmed for the upcoming tour. September 18th at The Fillmore in Miami Beach, September 19th at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach, September 21st at the Amphitheatre in St Augustine, September 22nd at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre in Orlando, September 25th at Sunrise Theatre in Fort Pierce.
Just Announced! Barbara B Mann Performing Arts Hall in Ft Myers on September 24th and Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater on September 23rd. Tickets go on sale April 28.
Very special thanks to Anne Leighton of Leighton Media for arranging this interview -Official website

Contact Ray Shasho at

Download author/columnist Ray Shasho’s fascinating memoir ‘Check the Gs’ The True Story of an Eclectic American Family and Their Wacky Family Business Available on Kindle at and Nook at for Only .99 Cents.

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