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DISC & MUSIC ECHO
29 November 1969
LISTEN-IN: IAN ANDERSON
in which pop people answer some awkward questions
Ian Anderson is undoubtedly the showman of 1969. By alternately growling, rolling his eyes and hopping on one leg he has earned himself a place with the Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Arthur Brown showmen of the era. Offstage he is thoughtful, preoccupied, and takes his career very seriously. He has very definite views, and what he's not sure of he won't talk about.
Do you think a higher education is an asset in pop?
"I feel I benefited from an art school and a grammar school education. All the things that seemed pointless at the time — why one had to be quiet in the library, why one had to play games — become clear afterwards. I see it now as a framework which I can apply in what I need now.
"The same applied at art school when I had almost total freedom. It was evident after being there six months that if I didn't discipline myself I wouldn't do anything. You only find out by learning self-discipline and self-examination. It's an essential part of any art to study your own feelings and motives and how to apply yourself without being self-indulgent."
How do you equate your aggressive personality onstage with your seemingly quiet personality offstage?
"What I do onstage is something that stems from the music, and is an aspect of my character which is purely natural. Before I started playing I was like that — not all the time, but that part of me would come out more often. I would swear and be vulgar and tend to be extrovert in everyday life. Now being onstage enables me to leap about and be that side of my character, and offstage I have no need of that extrovert behaviour.
"It hasn't really made a better person of me, it's just made me realise what I was like, and made me more aware of certain sides of my character."
Do you think your stage act could be a bad influence on people?
"Yes, quite easily, and that's something that concerns me — particularly when I tend to indulge in vulgarity onstage. But I do believe that most of the things I'm saying are things the kids have heard before and say themselves occasionally.
"I think a concert hall is a good outlet for that sort of humour, but I think it's bad when it becomes the written word. The written word lives on out of context, whereas a four-letter word spoken in jest in an emotionally charged atmosphere can be entertaining.
"But if an ageing grandmother in our audience was offended, I'd dearly like to apologise."
Do you think musicians should use the stage for putting across their political or other views?
"I would never use music as a means to an end to put my ideas across. I have strong social, political religious and moral views but I don't think the time is right to push them across. If ever I felt it necessary to tell people and discuss with them what I believe, I would do it in a medium outside my music.
"I wouldn't object to doing it on a TV talk show. At the moment I'm a musician and nothing else. Music becomes an impurity if clouded with messages."
You seem preoccupied with your motives and feelings. Are you very into self-analysis?
"I once borrowed a book called 'Teach Yourself Psychology' but don't think I ever read it. I've got an Auntie Floss who's got a degree in psychology and she's a great analyser. But that book turned me off trying to find out things by reading. I think that's a poor substitute for forming your own conclusions from experience.
"I think about what I see and what people say to me and what I say to other people. I suppose I've seen a lot more than I realise. I'm not so good as some people at maintaining self-discipline and control — I get very depressed and screwed up at intervals, but after an hour or so I can think it out.
"I suppose George Harrison and that lot were on about achieving self-control by avoiding the thought processes, whereas I in times of stress tend to concentrate on them and force them my way."
Has showbusiness made you distrustful of people?
"No — I don't trust or distrust people. I have very few friends — and they are friends just because they're people I simply like to be with. I only have about two or three, and one of them I don't even trust."
Are you sincere in what you are doing?
"For what our contemporaries play, in what's called the underground, I think sincerity must be a key word. You must possess integrity as a musician, as a performer, if you're going to do anything about pop as a music form and if it is ever going to mean anything more than it does now, if it's ever going to have a more positive effect on society.
"Thank God most do have integrity — Fleetwood Mac, Nice, Family. I would guess that these groups and a lot of others might think we aren't sincere because we've sold out. But the kids should enjoy you first at their level, and then you can try and educate them if you must.
"It's the same with painting and saying to someone 'you must hang a Picasso in your home because he's good'. You have to say first of all, What do you like? Pictures of horses ? Sunsets or nymphs playing in the trees? And after you've found out, try and get them to hang up a GOOD painting of what they like."
Are you very money-conscious ?
"No. I don't think it's easy to become a materialist. It's easier to have been one, and not be one any more. In terms of money and possessions, I'm not. Perhaps it's because I've never been starved of these things for any length of time. At the moment I could go and get some money, but it isn't just knowing I can get it, it's an awareness that I wouldn't know what to do if I had it. Money seems a fairly useless thing to be involved in."
Does the future bother you ?
"I don't want to think about it. I sometimes think six months to a year ahead — it's nice to do that amount of vague planning, to make you feel that little bit happier. But I suppose I'm still young enough to resent knowing what I'll be doing when I'm 40."
For the amount of money you're earning, do you think it's bad that you can't play the flute properly?
"In terms of playing it in the formal way I don't play it with that technique, but I think I play some very technical things. When I tell people I don't really consider myself a good flautist, I'm saying I'm not truly conversant with it and can't play anything and everything that can be played on the instrument. I'm not passionately concerned with playing as a virtuoso."
Thanks to Mike Wain for this article