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29 August 1970
CHAMPAGNE FROM SLIPPERS? NO — WHISKY FROM WELLIES!
Face to face with JOHN EVAN
Is John Evan your real name?
"Almost — this is the name that just sort of came out. I'd done some session work for the last Jethro Tull LP, and when the sleeve came out there'd been a spelling mistake — and they called me John Evan. My real name is John Evans. But everybody calls me Evan now."
How did you come to join Jethro Tull?
"That goes back to about eleven years ago now. Ian Anderson and I were in the same class at school in Blackpool. I used to wear National Health glasses, and always sat at the back of the class looking very studious. He was at the very front reading out Latin prose in a Scottish accent. And he impressed me being a bit different than the rest of us!"
Were you a bit different, too?
"I wanted to be, so I got myself a record player and some records by those Beatles people, and I invited him round to hear them — and I stuck a bottle of whisky in a wellington boot so that he would think I was very different, too! When he saw the whisky, he decided I was — and we formed a group together."
Why didn't you stay with the group?
"I thought I should go to college, and went to the Chelsea College of London University to study pharmaceutical chemistry. I thought I really had to do that because at grammar school they used to tell us that if you hadn't got a degree by the time you were 22 you might as well shoot yourself."
Did you get your degree?
"No. I had only one year left to go, but Ian kept pressing me to join the group — and in the end I did. It was a very persistent campaign on his part. He kept phoning me up to play on sessions when they were making their LP, and then eventually he told me that if the group was going to progress I would have to join them."
At what point was that?
"Just before last Christmas Ian sent me a postcard from America asking me to play on 'Witch's Promise' and then when they were recording 'Benefit' he kept phoning me up and asking me to play piano on different tracks.
"When they were in Germany and started playing live again he realised they couldn't go forward without piano — and he pressed me to join again. He said they needed a pianist on stage."
How pressing was he?
"He gave me the impression that if I didn't join, the group would fold up — because he wasn't happy with it then. Ian's not the sort of person to go backward or even stand still; he must keep progressing all the time."
Do you think of yourself as a musician?
"Not really. I am a scientist — if anything I am a scientific musician! I'm not creative at all really. I would rather play something someone else has written. To me, the great challenge is to take something that someone else has written and learn to play it well. And that means I fit very well into the band."
Do you have any interests outside music?
"Not at the moment. When I was a scientist, I was a scientist 24 hours a day. Now I'm a musician, and I'm a musician 24 hours a day — but I don't expect this to last forever.
"If this finishes, I shall go back to college and finish my degree. The great difference is that with any luck I shall then be financially independent, and able to finance my own research."
No other interests at all?
"Only my car — an MGB. I enjoy tinkering about with it just as much as I enjoy driving it."
Which musicians do you admire?
"Classical pianist John Ogdon, he's a very fine musician. I've seen him once or twice. And in a totally different way, Keith Moon. He's a creative musician which is something I could never be."
What was the last book you read?
"Edgar Allan Poe's short stories. But I wouldn't say he's a favourite author, he's too cumbersome."
Are you interested in sport?
"Not really. I'm not an athletic person."
What sort of person are you?
"I have to be totally involved in whatever I'm doing. When I was younger, I used to worry about what sort of person I was, and what sort of identity I had. But as I grew older, that finished. I no longer worry about having an 'image'."
Do you enjoy meeting people?
"I don't really enjoy contact with people — that was why I became a student of chemistry rather than a doctor. I would rather deal with chemicals than people. And I could never put myself in a position where I had to take decisions about other people's lives. I just couldn't be a manager or something like that — though Ian is very good at that. I can't order people about with authority, that's my biggest weakness."
Do you have any others?
"Yes, I'm a natural hermit. I was doubtful about coming into this group business because I was afraid I would lose some of my privacy. I prefer a very sheltered, very secluded life. When we finish a performance, I just go straight back to my hotel room."
What will you do if you make a lot of money?
"I would go back to chemistry, and get my degree — with the great difference that unlike most students I wouldn't have to live in poverty. And then I'd be able to afford to go on studying if I wanted to. In this country, research grants are very small — and it would be nice to be able to begin some research without being dependant on a grant like that."
Are you superstitious?
"Very slightly — as much as a scientist can be — and there are quite a few superstitious scientists! But I wouldn't go to the extreme of going everywhere with a rabbit's foot in my pocket."
Do you get nervous?
"I suppose I do — but not when I'm playing on stage. I look on my work with Jethro Tull as a job. Everyone has to do a job of some sort — and you can't be nervous about your job!"
What do you think you will be doing in ten years' time?
"I expect to be at some college, but I don't know — everything has an impermanent feel about it. My feelings are that music should be a hobby, just like football should be a hobby — but here I am making my living at it!
"As far ahead as I can see, I'm a full-time member of Jethro Tull. But I don't know where that's taking me."