Friday, August 29, 2014

An EXCLUSIVE interview with Power Pop icon PAUL COLLINS!

The Beat Goes On:

An EXCLUSIVE interview 

By Stephen SPAZ Schnee

     In the midst of the Punk and New Wave movements of the late ‘70s, Power Pop looked like it was going to take over the world. The guitar-fueled bands that made up the Power Pop scene took their musical cues from The Beatles, The Who, The Kinks, Badfinger, The Raspberries and many other melodically-inclined bands of the ‘60s and early ‘70s. The songs were short and sweet – usually three minutes and under – and were filled with hooks and harmonies that seemed to come directly from heaven. When The Knack scored major hits with “My Sharona” and their debut album Get The Knack, the gates opened up and all the labels started signing Power Pop bands in the hopes they would become “the next big thing” (or at least “the next big Knack”). Bands like 20/20, The Plimsouls, The Beat and many others were snapped up by these labels, and each of them released some astounding music as the ‘70s came to a close. Like Punk and New Wave only with better songs, Power Pop appealed to longtime music fans who had been searching for the “lost chord” since the mid ‘60s. Even young fans who were frightened by Punk, but not entirely enamored by Synthpop, fell for Power Pop. However, within a year or two, the public’s attention had moved on and Power Pop never achieved massive world domination like it should have. Thankfully, the Power Pop movement didn’t die – it merely went underground where it resides today. There are still new Power Pop bands arriving on the scene every year, much to the excitement of longtime fans who never stopped supporting the scene. Even some of the original Power Pop pioneers are still releasing new music and playing to adoring crowds everywhere they go. Paul Collins, who formerly led The Beat, is one of those artists.
     Paul Collins first came to prominence in an L.A.-based trio called The Nerves. This talented trio – Collins, Jack Lee and Peter Case – released an indie seven inch EP that helped kick start the Power Pop movement. One of the EP’s tracks, “Hanging On The Telephone” (written by Lee), was covered by Blondie on their breakthrough album Parallel Lines. By the time Blondie fans figured out who had performed the original version, The Nerves had split up – Lee went solo (then AWOL), Case formed The Plimsouls and Collins put together The Beat. When The Beat’s self-titled debut hit the streets, it was discovered that there was a British band of the same name. Instead of spending years suing each other, the UK band became The English Beat outside of the British Isles, and Paul’s band became known as Paul Collins’ Beat. After two major label albums, Paul took his Beat the independent route and released more records in the U.S., UK, Spain and beyond. Eventually, he retired the Beat name and continued as a solo artist. Still waving the Power Pop flag, Paul has just released one of his finest albums to date with Feel The Noise. The album’s opening title track may be a little crunchier than Collins is known for, but the remainder of the album brings his hook-laden songs back down to earth in an energetic, almost primal way. The album’s melodies leap out on the first listen and are stuck inside your head by the third. There’s just enough reverb and compression to keep the classic Power Pop fans happy and more than enough youthful energy to remind us why he mattered in the first place. The album’s cover features a younger Paul from 30+ years ago, which works just fine since the songs on the album sound like they could have come from those golden years – they are truly timeless. Feel The Noise more than justifies his place in Power Pop history.
     Stephen SPAZ Schnee, a self-confessed Power Pop geek, was able to chat with Paul Collins about the new album, his career and music in general…

STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE:  How are you feeling about this particular record and have you had any reaction to it so far?
PAUL COLLINS:  Basically the only song that we’ve been sending out or that I can play for people is “I Need My Rock N’ Roll,” the song we made the video of, which I’m very happy about. So far, people are saying, “Oh wow, it sounds like it could’ve been on your first album,” which of course for me is a huge compliment. It doesn’t get much better than that.

SPAZ:  You’ve continued to make records over the years, but it seems like only recently you’ve embraced the Power Pop scene wholeheartedly again.
PAUL:  All the records I’ve made are important, and they’re important for different reasons. Making my previous record, King Of Power Pop, was important because I’d been off the scene. I’d been living in Europe. I finally moved back to America. I was starting to tour again and I needed to put out a record that represented the kind of work I was doing. I’d just began working with these young bands again, thanks to bands I met when I played South By Southwest. After not being here for many years, I became really tuned into the fact that there was this whole underground network of young bands that liked this kind of music, that were influenced by it and looked up to it. I saw it was this whole network of bands, clubs and fans. With King Of Power Pop, it was important for me to make a record that solidified that time, the kind of music I was doing, and the kind of crowd that I was playing to. It was basically connecting the dots from my past and getting a record that was a Rock and Roll, up-tempo, fun record. I’m not a ‘sad song’ writer – that’s not my area. I’m very sensitive to the bands that fit into the Power Pop vibe and the bands that don’t. And the vibe is very youth-oriented. It’s very rough and tumble. It’s not singing in the sense of this musical style. It’s all over the place. It can be kind of Punky hardcore-ish, very sweet Power Poppy, but there’s a definite scene. I think because of The Nerves, they all look at me like I’m some kind of Punk Rock grandfather, which is fine. I have no problem with that.

SPAZ:  Was the energy from that scene the inspiration for Feel The Noise?
PAUL:  This record was a challenging record because I’d been touring a lot, I had a lot of stress on my vocals, I was smoking and drinking, and I was not singing properly. So this record was recorded several times, and the first time it was aborted because the vocals were just so rough. I finally came to grips with that. I went to a vocal teacher, quit smoking, quit drinking, and I turned myself around. So, it was a physical challenge. I was really up against the wall because I was afraid that maybe I had blown my voice out and that I wouldn’t be able to sing anymore and that my heyday was over. So, I became a healthy man. Personally, that record is a huge accomplishment strictly from the vocal level. The vocals are clean and pure, which is so important. As a singer, it’s a huge thing. Now granted, people don’t go to my music because they think I’m Elvis Presley. They go to my music because they love my songs, but it sucks if the vocals are completely falling apart. And then the second thing was, I start out saying, “Okay, I’m gonna make this Rock and Roll record. The kids want a rockin’ record. Everybody wants a rockin’ record.” But at the end of the day, you start putting it together and you go, “Geez, I’ve got ten shitty Rock songs! Uh oh…this sucks.” There’s nothing worse than ten bad songs. So, at some point in the process, I go, “Okay, let’s stop fooling around here and let’s focus in and let’s get to the heart of the matter.” You need to put together a body of ten to twelve really good songs. Forget whether they’re rockin’ or not. Just concentrate on writing or putting together good music. And that’s what I feel I have accomplished on this record. Now, I’m at the very agonizing time where the record’s done – it’s been done for a while. When I make a record, I listen to it about four million times and then that’s it. Then I won’t listen to it for years. I just get sick of it. I’m already at that stage, so I’m just like waiting to see what the jury has to say. Are people gonna say that I still have the ability to write and sing and put out good songs… or am I an old has been?

SPAZ:  The thing that I noticed about this record is that it has a more primitive, raw Rock and Roll feel to it. Was that intentional or is it just organic?
PAUL:  Yeah, that’s organic and hopefully the next one will be even more so. I think that’s the most flattering and welcome thing that you said, that it’s getting more primitive because that’s what I’m trying to do. Basically, I think all of us, all of these artists that have been out there for a long time, are all trying to get back to where they started from because that’s when everybody loved them the most.

SPAZ:  Did you have a bunch of songs already written for the album when you headed into the studio?
PAUL:  Two days before I went to Detroit to record, I sat down with my guitar in my house. And this was after having gone over many definite options for songs. I picked up the guitar and I said, “Alright Collins, you know what the fuck you have to do…now do it!” And that’s what I did. And I just sat there with my guitar pretending like I was singing to a beautiful girl. Basically, with the exception of two songs, that’s what I ultimately recorded.

SPAZ:  Today my favorite is “Only Girl.” Yesterday my favorite was “With A Girl Like You.” Two days from now, my favorite will probably be “Little Suzy”…
PAUL:  …which features Paul Collins playing drums! That was hysterical because that was the last song of the album. It was really important to me that before we started anything, Jim Diamond (producer) understood it as I understood it, and that we both agreed we had an album – not just like, “Okay, these three songs are great and the rest of them are just okay.” What I did is I tracked the whole album myself before anything happened. Dave Shettler came in and cut the drums and then Jim cut the bass, and then Jim and Eddie Baranek cut the guitar, and then I cut stuff from the vocals. “Little Suzy” was the last song we put drums to. I said, “Look, let me just show you how I think this should go.” The drums were already set up. And so I’m out there pounding away and Dave comes and says, “Whoa, whoa, whoa… keep going!” So I did it.

SPAZ:  Now, you have this legacy and you know inevitably every record you release is gonna be compared to the first two Beat albums. You really set the bar high with those… Is that frustrating?
PAUL:  I would say especially to the first Beat album. I’m a lucky guy. I did something so good that it can be considered a bar of anything. So, no, it’s not frustrating. It’s healthy.

SPAZ:  How do you feel you fit in with today’s Power Pop scene?
PAUL:  There are so many bands out there that say, “Oh, I wanna make a record, get on a major label, and be Top 10 in Billboard.” I’ve always thought that way, and it’s never happened. But I think I’ve gotten a much better grip on what I can and can’t do, and I focus on what I can do. I found that what I can do is extremely rewarding and it’s a lot of fun. So that’s where I’m at. And for a guy my age, that’s not a bad place to be. I’m surrounded by young people, so I get their energy. I get their infectiousness. They treat me very nicely. So, I’m not the jaded rock star: “I need champagne in the dressing room.” You’re lucky if there is a dressing room. It keeps it very honest and it keeps it very real.

Thanks to Paul Collins

Special thanks to Steve Dixon and Dana House






Wednesday, August 27, 2014

An EXCLUSIVE interview with director/author/journalist SEBASTIAN JUNGER!

Though I Walk Through The Valley…

An EXCLUSIVE interview
with director/journalist 

By Stephen SPAZ Schnee

     War isn’t just about the good guys versus the bad guys – you can watch any Marvel film if you are looking to draw a clear line between what is right and what is wrong. In reality, war is far more complex. In most cases, one man makes a decision to enter his country into war. Once that decision is passed down through the ranks and moved through the proper channels, war becomes reality. A country sends its young to bravely fight for freedom, or for a cause. War has always worked this way and will continue to do so. War is not nice, nor does it pretend to be. One of the highest profile wars in recent memory has been the fight in Afghanistan against the Taliban. Many lives have been lost in this war, while those that survived have spoken of a life-changing experience they will never forget. The young men that fought for our country carry it with them in their minds, their hearts and their souls. Some never want to speak of the things they’ve experienced, while others long to go back to a place where they protected and were protected by their ‘brothers’ – it was a time of their lives when they didn’t feel alone.
     In 2007, director Sebastian Junger and photographer Tim Hetherington worked together and spent a year with one platoon in Korengal Valley, which has been called the deadliest valley in Afghanistan. They were embedded with the platoon at an outpost called Restrepo – named after Pfc. Juan Restrepo, a combat medic who was killed in action. With hundreds of hours of footage, Junger and Hetherington managed to piece together a powerful documentary called Restrepo. The film won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2011. In the midst of all the press for Restrepo, Hetherington was killed by shrapnel during an attack while covering the Libyan civil war in 2011. In the years since Hetherington’s death, Junger – who is also an author best known for writing the books The Perfect Storm and War – stopped covering the war and moved onto other subjects. During this time, Junger realized that there was still a story to tell based on the footage that he and Hetherington had filmed at Restrepo. This time, he wanted to show the effects that war had on the members of the platoon he got to know so well. Going back to the unused footage, Junger was able to create a riveting and powerful documentary entitled Korengal. In this film the viewer revisits the same platoon they met in Restrepo, but it sheds new light on their emotions and their thoughts. Korengal isn’t a political film – it is a personal one. There’s a heartbeat in every soldier and a bond between them that is often stronger than family. Korengal shows a war far more complex than what you see on any nightly news broadcast. The American troops stationed at Restrepo may be the ‘good guys,’ yet the film goes much deeper than that. It is a film that makes you think.
   Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to chat with Sebastian Junger about Korengal, Restrepo and more…

STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE:  Korengal is just about to be released. How are you feeling so far about the reaction to the film?
SEBASTIAN JUNGER:  I’m feeling incredibly good about it. It’s been tremendous, and we’ve had a lot of press, which was great.

SPAZ:  The film is at times harrowing, at other times humorous, but ultimately it’s a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Were you trying to convey that in the film – offering the viewer sort of this up and down ride?
SEBASTIAN:  Yeah. The film is about the emotional consequences of combat. Both the positive and the negative, and there are both. Obviously, I wanted it to be in their words. I mean, it’s about them, so I truly tried to find the discussions that we had about the emotions surrounding all of this. You know, in our interviews I really tried to find the parts of those discussions that were really powerful and illuminating, and used those in the film.

SPAZ:  Now, all this footage was shot at the same time as Restrepo?
SEBASTIAN:  Yes. It’s all the same mass of material. The bulk of the footage was shot in ’07, ’08 and then the studio interviews were done after their deployment in ’08.

SPAZ:  What inspired you to go back and continue the story of these men?
SEBASTIAN:  I think that there was more value. We shot a couple hundred hours and we only used ninety minutes of it in Restrepo. I felt there was a lot more value in there and also, we’re at a different point. You know, the wars are ending and now what we’re facing is three million people who have been deeply affected by their experience in combat. I thought I could make a film that spoke to that a little bit.

SPAZ:  Do you feel that this movie gives a face to something that most of us just think of as “war”?
SEBASTIAN:  Yeah. I think people often think about war in very political terms, and they sort of forget that it’s actually fought by young people – and they’re young people just like them or just like their children, you know? This isn’t some other species. It’s us. Soldiers are us, and they have all the reactions that you or I would have in that situation. I think people kind of forget that, and they also forget that the war doesn’t belong to the soldiers. It belongs to all of us across the nation and to the civilians who elect the governments that go to war. It really belongs to all of us. The war doesn’t belong to just the nineteen-year-old soldiers. They’re doing the job that we asked them to do, and that’s it. People really forget that. I just thought, if you make the right kind of film, it will somehow elevate the conversation a little bit about how war affects the mostly young men we send there.

SPAZ:  You were filming there for a year?
SEBASTIAN:  Off and on for a year.

SPAZ:  So you were basically experiencing the same emotional highs and lows that the soldiers were?
SEBASTIAN:  It’s sort of equivalent highs and lows. I mean, it’s not quite the same. You know, we weren’t engaged in the protection of the group. We weren’t carrying weapons. We didn’t have to really worry about inadvertently causing someone else’s death. It really wasn’t our job to protect the group, which meant that we weren’t ultimately as close to those guys as they were together, either. They’re all completely interdependent on each other, and they were not interdependent on us. They liked us a lot because they got to know us, but they weren’t interdependent on us for their safety. We helped when we could. We did stuff, but they weren’t depending on us for their lives. And that’s a crucial difference.

SPAZ:  When editing the film, did you struggle sometimes with what you were going to show and what you weren’t going to show?
SEBASTIAN:  No. Nothing. I mean some of it is very intense, but there was nothing that I thought, “No, that’s too much, a viewer can’t take it.” What we wanted to do was show war. What’s the point of showing a watered down version of war? If it’s too intense to show, it should be too intense to do. And we’re doing war, so if you’re doing something you can’t show, then you shouldn’t be doing it. No, there is nothing I would have left out of there for that reason.

SPAZ:  What do you hope the viewer takes away after watching the movie?
SEBASTIAN:  Well, I think I would like the viewer to take away the fact that the emotional reaction to war by young men is very complex. It’s a complex reaction that happens very much apart from the moral and political discussion about war, and it’s a reaction that happens in war after war. I have a letter that someone sent me from a World War I soldier who was writing to his friend about how much he missed combat on the front lines – World War I, imagine. There’s letters from the American Civil War saying the same thing. There’s also an enormous amount of guilt in soldiers that they’ve killed. You know, that they’ve killed people and it still bothers them. This is not an anti-war statement; I’m not anti-war at all. I think there are some wars that need to be fought, so I’m not anti-war in that sense, but I feel like people are not realistic about the emotional consequences of war for young men. They need to be realistic about it. They need to know that combat fulfills an awful lot of really hardwired tendencies in young men, and as a result, they miss it afterwards. Society really needs to understand that, and they also really need to understand that there is enormous moral damage that comes from killing other people, regardless if they’re right or wrong in the war is completely irrelevant. In other words, I feel like society isn’t being very realistic about what war is when they send people out to do it, and that’s – again – not an anti-war statement. It’s just a reality.

SPAZ:  The film focuses on these troops, but it doesn’t state an opinion like “Taliban, bad. U.S., good.” It feels like the film has a very apolitical view. Would that be accurate?
SEBASTIAN:  Yeah, that’s right. I mean my personal opinion is different, but the film itself, yeah. The film is about the soldier’s experience, and they didn’t have experience with the Taliban. They got shot at by them, but they didn’t have any direct experience with the Taliban, so there’s no way to evaluate the Taliban for the soldiers, other than these are people that are trying to kill us so we’re going to kill them.

SPAZ:  As an author and filmmaker, was there ever any time where you just thought, “What on earth am I doing here?” Did it become so intense for you, being there in the midst of it?
SEBASTIAN:  I was amazed that I was allowed to be out there, but no, I never wondered… I’ve been covering war since the early ‘90s. I felt very lucky to be out there.

SPAZ:  Was it difficult to make the project without Tim?
SEBASTIAN:  Yes and no. I mean, his ghost was sort of in the room, but I knew the story I wanted to tell. I worked with the same editor that he and I had worked with before. We all knew the material extremely well. You know, it wasn’t quite paint by numbers, but I mean, it didn’t feel like a stretch.

SPAZ:  What’s next for Sebastian Junger?
SEBASTIAN:  I stopped covering war after Tim was killed, and I’m just doing other stuff. I have another film coming out with HBO called The Last Patrol and that takes place in this country. It’s a documentary. I’m starting in on another book. Yeah, I’m sort of off the war thing.

Thanks to Sebastian Junger
Special thanks to Craig Van Gorp, Dana House and Holly Schnee





Thursday, August 21, 2014

An EXCLUSIVE interview with IAN ANDERSON (Jethro Tull)!


An EXCLUSIVE interview 
Jethro Tull’s 

By Stephen SPAZ Schnee

     As frontman for the legendary British band Jethro Tull, Ian Anderson is one of Rock’s true renaissance men. From Tull’s beginnings as a Blues band in the late ‘60s to their transformation into a Folk/Progressive Rock hybrid in the ‘70s and their constant desire to challenge themselves with each release, Ian has been the band’s driving force and sole constant member. As lead vocalist, songwriter and flautist, Ian and Tull have tackled numerous styles of music and art over the last 40+ years and have remained as creative and inventive as ever. They’ve come face to face with numerous musical trends over the years and have outlived most of them. Tull’s classic material is still played on the radio while their back catalog is being carefully remastered and remixed by Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree/No Man). Showing no signs of slowing down, Anderson continues to create thought-provoking music including the albums Thick As A Brick 2 (2012) and this year’s Homo Erraticus. While his music retains the Prog-Folk flair of Jethro Tull’s finest work, he has chosen to release the albums under his own name rather than rely on the trusted Jethro Tull ‘brand’ and will continue to do so in the future.  But Jethro Tull is far from dead—unless you are talking about the famed agricultural pioneer who the band was named after. In that case, Jethro Tull has been dead for more than 200 years. Long live Ian Anderson!
     Homo Erraticus has been receiving kudos from critics and fans alike, and the tour in support of the album has been generating excitement from fans old and new. Also released this year is the deluxe remixed and remastered four disc edition of the beloved Tull classic A Passion Play. This release features two CDs containing a new stereo mix of the original album as well as a new mix of the aborted early sessions for the album, which are now known as the Château d'Hérouville Sessions. The two DVDs include 5.1 mixes of both the album and the Château sessions, as well as a straight transfer of the album’s original mix and more. All of the new mixes were done by Wilson, who has given the recordings a new sparkle.
     Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to chat with Ian about his latest album, the Tull remasters, his current tour, the REAL Jethro Tull and more…

STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE:   Homo Erraticus is already on the shelves and you’re just about to start your tour in support of the album. How are you feeling about the reaction so far?
IAN ANDERSON:   Well, it’s been a very good reaction to the album. I thought it would do okay, but it’s been very well received and more importantly, it’s the very well-received live performance which is the most gratifying thing. We get to go onstage and perform new music, and clearly the audience is entertained by the way we present it.  Because of course, many of them are not familiar with the music, but we dress it up with a lot of video and theatrical elements that make it entertaining for the audience. Then we return after the intermission to play the very best of Jethro Tull set, and we continue with the video and theater stuff, and give it all a little pizzaz, which I think means the audience goes home at night feeling they’ve been well entertained. That’s good for me and good for them.

SPAZ:   I think that the album is just as timeless as anything that you’ve done in the last 40+ years. Do you think your diverse musical influences have ensured that your music remains timeless?
IAN:   Well, when I’m writing songs, what I try to do is just be moved by the moment and get on and do it. But I’m a great editor of my work, and when I get something down musically or lyrically on paper, then I try and keep up the momentum. I write quickly and I want to get somewhere with it quickly.  But the point is, you then gotta go back and be a little merciless in the way that you fine tune it and edit it. That’s when I’m going to bring in a little more objectivity, because I am a record producer. That’s part of my job.  And I have to think of a way to present this music and give it those sonic qualities that are perhaps going to be—whether it’s in your words “timeless”—or as in my words, just not too anachronistic.  It doesn’t fit uncomfortably in one sort of place and time. I want to make it work in the way that it’s connected to my area of work. I want to see some continuity, but I also want to make sure that it stands alone and it doesn’t just repeat the same qualities and musical values that I’ve, perhaps, done forty years before. So, that’s a bit of careful reworking, careful refocusing of the song and ideas as they take shape. That’s what I’m here for.

SPAZ:   As a writer, when you think of a “concept” for an album, do you write a certain melodic/lyrical theme and base the album around that theme? Or is it something that sort of naturally presents itself over time during your writing?
IAN:   Well, to begin with, conceptually I’m gonna start off probably with something that is more lyrically conceptual—content conceptual rather than musically. The music for me is the easy burden. But I need to have a simple clear-cut concept if there’s going to be a concept album as opposed to just a collection of unassociated songs. And so, in the case of Thick as a Brick 2, the concept was very simple. It was, “Whatever happened to Gerald Bostock?” To look at what might’ve happened to a young boy forty years later. How would he have grown up? What different path might he have taken in life? But it’s simple, kept encapsulated in one simple sentence. With Homo Erraticus it’s one simple word: migration.  Not just the migration of people in search of something better, but migration of what people create in terms of arts and culture, of commerce, industry, science, engineering, and the spiritual world.  So, I had been looking at a lot of snapshots and constructed the bullet points of the album early on. In that case, maybe by the end of the first day, beginning of the second day, I kind of had pretty much the whole album sketched out in terms of just these simple reference points that I could keep returning to, to try and develop each one into a piece of connected music. That’s when the idea of musical themes, which can recur, can be developed, can probably come down to five or six musical themes that will form much of what the album is about musically. So you keep returning to some of those ideas, whether they’re rhythmic ideas, melodic ideas, harmonic ideas. You keep coming back to them and then sometimes reiterating them, maybe quite like you heard them twenty minutes before.  Sometimes you will decide you’re going to take that and push it in a different direction, to take that music or theme and represent it in a different context in a different way.  That’s what writing is about.

SPAZ:   I’ve noticed that over the years there’s been a lot of humor in your lyrics, and I think that a lot of the critics either miss or forget that. Do you feel that to be true?
IAN:   Well, what critics say, I don’t really take too much to heart unless it’s a pissy, withering comment. In which case I can applaud the journalist’s sarcastic wit and maybe their viciousness.  But if it’s something that delves more into the artistic side of things, I usually feel it’s a little bit embarrassing, and I tend not to really want to read it when it starts to get too scholarly. So when it comes to trying to deal with the bigger topics of morals, of ethics, of society, of culture, you know, that’s kind of what I do. But I don’t really want to have to think about it and talk about it after I’ve finished a record so reading people commenting on those sort of things, I’m sort of disquieted by it in a way.  I feel a little self-conscious.  But, there comes a point really when you’ve got to leave the more intellectual argument behind and concentrate on the performing of that music as a performer—as an actor, if you like—because you’re taking on characters and personalities and bringing it to life on stage. So you have to leave the more kind of intellectual analysis behind at that point and start to think really much more about the passion and what comes from the heart without trying to make it too clever. But, being clever is part of the writing…that’s for sure. (laughs) There’s just a point when you’ve got to leave that behind. 

SPAZ:  Do you feel that there is less pressure releasing a new record under your own name rather than the Jethro Tull brand? There may not be the constant comparison…
 IAN:   Well, I haven’t in any way left the name Jethro Tull behind. Jethro Tull is still the repertoire that I play. It’s the twenty eight different musicians I’ve played with over the years, but I can’t possibly step onto the stage with all twenty eight of them for a number of different reasons. Jethro Tull goes with me everywhere. It’s on all my paperwork and documentation and my insurance policies. I’m joined at the hip to Jethro Tull, but I have to remember it really is somebody else’s name. It’s the name of a historical character that our agent named us after back in 1968; I have really felt increasingly awkward about it. To put it in a nutshell, there was a time when if you googled Jethro Tull, the top ten Google hits were only about me and Jethro Tull the band. It didn’t mention Jethro Tull the agricultural inventor. I think he found himself maybe with one hit in Google in the top ten returns for Jethro Tull. I’ve actually got him up to number two now. I think it’s because I really have talked so much about him and really tried to direct people to the origin of the name and who and what he is about. He’s sort of, arguably, a much more important person than I am. He is the father of modern agriculture. And I feel a little bit awkward about it, and I’m not trying to ditch the name or go it alone, so much as just trying to remind people that Jethro Tull in the musical sense is still with me, still with us. But I prefer not to just simplify it to making out that somehow I am Jethro Tull. I am not.  Jethro Tull is a dead guy. Or it’s the name of a band. Unfortunately, some of them are no longer with us and some of them are not feeling terribly well right at this moment as we speak so…I guess there are many reasons I feel probably it’s time to semi-retire that name, in the sense of it just trying to be the active unit of musicians that weren’t with me or originally played as members of Jethro Tull, when it was simply being called Jethro Tull. So yes, I am indeed joined at the hip to Jethro Tull, the name for all that music and all those records and concerts and musicians who’ve been part of my big extended family. I’m not about to leave it behind, but I’ve just tried to put it in a little bit of a perspective.

SPAZ:   The expanded four disc version of Passion Play has also just been released.  Are you amazed at what Steven Wilson does with these mixes? What specific qualities does he bring to the remix/remaster work? He really seems to understand the music. 
IAN:   He grew up with a strong awareness of the bands that had begun that journey into more progressive rock music.  He’s obviously a bit younger than I am, but he came to my attention at a time when EMI were looking to remix and remaster some of the old things in 5.1 surround and so on. I read about Steven Wilson doing some work with Robert Fripp remastering some King Crimson stuff, so I thought, “well, obviously this guy knows what he’s doing.” So I directed EMI to Steven who said yes, he’d like to have a go at doing something. I think it was Aqualung he started with, and he went off and did a couple of test mixes, which he sent to me and we talked about it and I thought this guy has got a lot of sympathetic natural ways of listening to things to give you a clarity, a little edge, a little definition, but not to fundamentally change either the stereo layout, the positioning of instruments, or to hugely change the sound and the balance of things.  He just gives it clarity and polish and I know exactly how he does it because I worked with Steven on it. Two days ago I was listening to Steven in the studio as we were working on a remaster of the War Child album from 1974. He’s a good guy and I’m sure he will do a good job as long as he wants to keep doing it… but he’s got his own life to live, and I have to feel sometimes a little embarrassed that he keeps being given yet another old Jethro Tull album to remaster.  So, I mean, I think his enthusiasm at some point will wane. I’ve said to him, “Steven, you know, when the moment comes and you’d rather be washing your hair or practicing yoga or making a health food supper or whatever you do, just say the word.” Because the last thing I’d ever want him to do is feel obligated to have to remaster thirty albums.  He’s already done about six, so I feel a bit embarrassed about the hours that he has to put in on all of this.

SPAZ:  Do you feel that downloads and streaming have decreased the attention span of the average music buyer who is more interested in songs than albums?
IAN:   Well, I don’t think that it is responsible. I think the reality is that some people don’t really have the time in the day to sit and concentrate and focus just on listening to a piece of music. Music is a backdrop. It’s something that is around them. They listen to it in the car on the way to work or on the train or on the bus or on the airplane. It’s something there without really having to think too much about it. I have to accept that some people will listen to my music that way, so I’ve got to cater to them, as part of the job of giving people choices to how they listen to music. Those who do want to sit and close their eyes with a great pair of headphones on or some wonderful speakers and really kind of absorb themselves in the music—I’ve got to cater to that too. You have to give people all the options whether they’re in the digital domain or whether they’re listening to a vinyl cut. I’ve got to do [vinyl cuts] as well again these days. It’s all about recognizing and respecting the fact that people have different ways of listening to music and different needs for listening to music. I have really got to make sure that as a record producer I am there to try and cater to those needs and give people a choice. 

Thanks to Ian Anderson

Special thanks to Kevin Day, Anne Leighton, Tony Valenziano, Bill Kopp and Dana House

Click HERE for up-to-date info on 
Ian Anderson tour dates!









An EXCLUSIVE interview 

By Stephen SPAZ Schnee

     Desmond Child is a Pop and Rock dynamo.  Even if you don’t instantly recognize his name, you most certainly know his work.  Forty years ago, he formed the trio Desmond Child & Rouge, who began making a name for themselves once they moved from their home base in Miami to the bright lights of New York City.  They made a memorable appearance on Saturday Night Live in 1978 and went on to release two albums that may not have sold as well as expected, but they certainly showcased Desmond’s knack for writing a catchy tune.  Kiss’ Paul Stanley took note and asked Child to co-write a song with him.  That song, “I Was Made For Loving You,” became one of Kiss’ biggest hits and kick started Desmond’s career as a successful and in-demand songwriter.  You might be familiar with some of the other songs he co-wrote: “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” “Dude (Looks Like A Lady),” “Angel,” “I Hate Myself For Loving You,” “You Give Love A Bad Name,” “Livin’ On A Prayer,” and so many others.  Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you can sing every word in your head just by reading the song titles.  Desmond Child not only wrote some pretty catchy pop tunes, he also is a big part of our pop culture – a man who has made a lasting impact in a business that sometimes eats its young.
     But being a successful songwriter isn’t the most important role in Desmond’s life – that honor belongs to his role as a father to twin sons Roman and Nyro. In fact, when Stephen SPAZ Schnee chatted with the legendary songwriter, music barely entered into the conversation.  Instead, the discussion focused on the documentary Two: The Story Of Roman And Nyro.  The film documents the twelve year journey of Desmond and lifelong partner – now husband – Curtis Shaw and their connection with friend Angela Whittaker, the surrogate mother who would give birth to Desmond and Curtis’ boys.  The movie works on many different levels.  Not only does it follow Desmond, Curtis and Angela from pre-conception up through the boys’ first ten years, it also focuses on the power of love and family in a world that still doesn’t fully accept the idea that a gay couple can lead a happy, healthy family life and raise their children just as well as a straight couple can.  The fact that both Roman and Nyro have become exceptional, bright and talented young men is proof of Desmond and Curtis’ love and commitment.  Two: The Story Of Roman And Nyro is an emotional ride that will entertain as well as educate.  Directed by Heather Winters and edited by Lennon Nersesian, Two is a powerful story of love and family – something we can all relate to.

STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE:  Two: The Story Of Roman And Nyro is just about to be released.  How are you feeling so far about the reaction to it?
DESMOND CHILD:  Well, we’re thrilled.  You know, a lot of times our film is being played to kind of like-minded people, but we’re very excited that we’re starting to get a broader spectrum, which is who we made the film for – the people that are between New York and L.A. Our goal is to change hearts and minds and get people to understand that we’re just like everybody else, and that also gay families need all the rights and protections that everybody else has.

SPAZ:    Now, I know that the seeds of the film started with Angela’s video diary, but who came up with the idea of sort of turning this whole journey into a documentary?
DESMOND:   Well, I think that when we saw Angela’s footage, then we started taping our events as well. We all said, “Someday maybe we can turn this into something.”  So that’s how it started.  Usually we would hire a video guy to come and film events like birthday parties and that’s why it looks like we just go from party to party.  We sort of knew that we had something and so when we turned it over to Heather, it was like three hundred hours of footage and stills and all that.  Just her and editor Lennon Nersesian took two years to organize it in an artful way.  When I first saw her cut – the first cut – it was like I was stunned because I thought it was just going to be chronological, but the way she went back and forward in time was the way people tell stories. They tell about something that’s happened and then all of a sudden it’s like now, and then back then again, and back and forth.  It’s a very kind of organic natural way that it unfolds.

SPAZ:  Did you have a say in what footage would and would not be used, or did you completely leave that to Heather and Lennon? 
DESMOND:  They found the best parts that they could.  I saw that.  I mean, I wasn’t happy when I looked like I was fat, but it worked so I went with it (laughs).  There were bad shots that I had taken out that I just couldn’t bear (laughs).

SPAZ:  To me, the film was ultimately about this journey of love and family.  What do you want people to walk away with after seeing the movie?
DESMOND:    Well, as I explained in the film, my own father was very intelligent and a very charming man.  He didn’t think that gay men were fertile – enough testosterone to be fertile.  So there is that thought out there.  I remember sitting in an armchair feeding my kids their bottles, one on each arm, and George Bush was on the TV and he was asked, “What do you think about gay people wanting to be married?”  He squinted up his face and said, (imitating) “I don’t understand why they want to get married.  They can’t have children.”  It’s like, really?  So, I mean, it’s like their thought process didn’t go beyond the fact that a man and a man can’t actually impregnate each other.  It didn’t go any further than that, and thus, we shouldn’t have rights because marriage was created to make babies.  We know ninety-year-olds that get married in the nursing home – they’re not gonna be having any babies anytime soon.  They have the right to get married.  They have the right to marry a prisoner that they can’t have intercourse with, but they have the right to be married.  So, the whole fertility thing is not connected to marriage.  People marry because they like each other.  They may have no desire for children.  This whole argument was based on fertility, even in the Supreme Court. Way before in vitro fertilization, lesbian couples were doing the turkey baster thing. I mean, children that are now forty years old or more came from that generation.  Our kids are from the first wave of male partners being able to conceive biological children through an egg donor and the surrogate mother, or just a surrogate mother that would have the child with them.  There really are a huge amount of families like ours out there now.  In vitro fertilization is becoming more affordable than it was when we started out.  It was very experimental and expensive, and so we wanted to make a film so that we could also encourage other gay families to say, “Hey, we can do this.  It’s doable.  We can have this in our lives if we want it.” 
SPAZ:  People tend to forget about all the families involved with surrogacy.  In this case there’s you and your family, and Curtis and his family, and then Angela’s family and all the people connected.  Knowing how many people would be affected, how much soul searching did it take for you and Curtis to say “OK, yeah, we’re going to do this”? 
DESMOND:  We’d been together for a long time and so we got to that point in our lives.   I was in my late forties.  It was like I always wanted children.  If we’re gonna do it, it’s gotta be now, because I’m sixty now and I find it hard to keep up with them.  I’m almost like two generations away from them in a way.  It’s different.  I’m not a young parent, but I couldn’t wait any longer.  I had to move on that.  Maybe it’s a biological urge, but also for me, as I show in the movie, my origin is where I didn’t know who my real father was until I was eighteen, so that was very important to me because I had a missing part of my childhood.  It was very important to me that I fulfill that biologically.  That’s why I’m the biological father.  It was really important to me.  It wasn’t as important to Curtis to be a biological parent. 

SPAZ:  Do you feel that America is a little bit more accepting now than when you finished making the film two years ago? Gay marriage is now legal in how many states?
DESMOND:  I don’t know how many.  It’s like 19 or something, but you know, why do we have to fight for that?  Millions of dollars are being spent on legal fights that we have to pay.  Why should we have to fight so hard and waste resources on these fights?  I mean, we’re still fighting.  Even if we engage in some areas, it slides backwards in other areas.  All of a sudden there will be a voter thing and then the people, the opposite side, says some scary thing like, “Your children will turn into transsexuals.”  Of course, they go right to the people with the biggest fears and their propaganda, which is unfounded, so then we lose some of these things. Parents of gay people think they failed somehow.  But then they realize that it’s just a norm.  It’s a scientific norm.  Just like blue eyes, brown eyes, green eyes, gay, transgender identities… You can’t change somebody from being straight to gay.  You can’t change somebody who is gay into straight.  You can make them act like they’re not because they’re afraid of the reprisals socially, or worse in Uganda and other countries, but it happens so much. 

SPAZ:  I noticed in the film just how amazingly different Roman and Nyro are. Both of them seem to be just fantastic kids with these great personalities, but both very different.  Are you surprised by that? 
DESMOND:    It’s wonderful.  I just love it that they’re so different.  It’s great because every soul is different.   Like, you know – not to be too New Age, but like snowflakes, there are no two snowflakes that are the same. In nature, all these conditions create all these differences, and we need that because people that are different from each other make an interesting world with better chances of our overall survival.

SPAZ:  You’ve had this amazing career as a performer, songwriter, producer… Is this the most fulfilling time of your life – with Curtis and the boys?
DESMOND:  Yes, it really is.  Because I still have my health.  I have a wonderful home life.  We have wonderful friends.  We feel very safe in our world.  I have young artists that I’m working with.  It’s a great time.  I’m also doing a variety of different things – from making records still, which is my day job, and writing songs – to developing a Broadway show, developing movies, developing television shows, and maybe one of them will stick.  Who knows?  So, I’m doing things that are challenging, that I haven’t done before, and so I’m still growing and learning, which is fantastic.  Like the guy that has three months to live and he starts learning Italian.  Like, why?  “I don’t know, maybe they’re wrong.”

SPAZ:  What’s next for Desmond Child?
DESMOND:  I was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 2008 and I was asked to join the board of directors.  I’m the vice chairman of the museum committee and we’ve been working very closely with the owner of the Brill Building to bring the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame museum experience to create a real attraction in New York City within Time Square.  Hundreds of thousands of people will visit each year and learn about what songwriting is, why it’s valuable, why we should honor the music makers of the last century and also to understand why music has value and why people should pay for it.  So, I’m involved with that. After my mom passed away – she was a Latin composer/song writer/poet – I helped to found the Latin Songwriter’s Hall of Fame and that’s at  We’re getting ready to go into our second gala October eighteenth in Miami Beach.  We’ll be inducting our second set of inductees including Gloria Estefan.  So we have a very exciting show happening.  I have a pretty busy life.  I’m pretty maxed out.  

SPAZ:  What is currently spinning on your CD, DVD, Blu Ray or record players?
DESMOND:  When my mother died I had been listening to an artist named Buika.  She grew up in Spain amongst the gypsies and she is a genius.  She created her own kind of music, which combines kind of tropical or Cuban sounding boleros with flamenco and jazz, and I got to know her.  We’re going to be writing together.  I’m looking forward to her new book of poetry and photography that’s coming out.  I’m working with her, but when she’s not around, I just listen to her.  She’s incredible.  She’s completely unique and so inspiring.

Thanks to Desmond Child

Special thanks to Craig Van Gorp, Lauren Watt and Dana House