Ian Anderson interview regarding Gentle Giant

From The Gentle Giant Home Page

By Arlo West, July 3, 1995

Ian Anderson is currently on tour supporting his wonderful new solo album and I caught up to him in Boston Massachusetts at the Orpheum Theater on June 1st 1995. His newest solo effort is an extreme departure from the Tull arena yet strikingly Tullish in it's Ian'esqueness. In other words it's everything the true Anderson fan could hope for and more. It's now 12:33 am the night before the Divinities show and I am using my computer to type up this quick interview and thinking how incredible these things ( computers ) are really. After all it was my computer which proved that there is still a lot of devoted Gentle Giant fans out there (considering their demise in 81 ) in cyber space and most are also big Tull fans as well. It may seem odd that anyone would want to interview a modern day minstrel such as Ian about a band that doesn't exist any more except in the fond memories and dusty record collections of its devoted fans. But that is the essence of it all there music seems to (if I may borrow a phrase from Ian) have a "timeless quality".

AW: Ian in 71 Gentle Giant went on tour with Tull do you remember them?

IA: Yes, I remember Gentle Giant well and still own many of their records.

AW: Their music is described frequently as being quirky, complex, and hauntingly beautiful, does this in anyway rekindle your recollection of them?

IA: My recollection places them in the "research and adventure" category and, at their best, they found exactly what they were looking for!

AW: Do you own any of there CD's? If so which is your favorite?

IA: I own no CD's of Gentle Giant, only original vinyl copies and somewhere I think there is even a single of "Kites" by Simon Dupree. A "Pictures of Matchstick Men" -like moment which some devotees might wish to forget.

AW: Kerry Minnear the Keyboard player would have made a great member of Tull were there ever any thoughts of hiring him when you were looking?

IA: Yes, we considered contacting Kerry but were told that he had, more or less, given up thoughts of music as a full-time profession along with Gary Green. I am not sure if this information was entirely accurate, but that's what we heard at the time.

AW: Did you know that in the fanzine "Proclamation" which is about G.G. Derek Shulman the lead vocalist listed Aqualung as one of his most liked albums and Gary Green the guitarist lists you personally as one of his favorite songwriters, and also in a "Proclamation" poll of G.G. fans Jethro Tull was voted #1 band in best other groups category?

IA: No I didn't know about the comments in the fanzine "Proclamation", but I am sure the mutual respect of the members of both bands would rank high.

AW: I have heard some traces of Tull in Gentle Giant but its seems to be a subtle interplay and not a blatant plagiarism. Does it feel strange to know that Tull and Gentle Giant seem to attract the same audience and share some similarities?

IA: Many of the influences common to Jethro Tull and Gentle Giant will have come to bear at around the same time in our separate musical developments and there is bound to be some similarity here and there in our musical styles and phrasings as well as attention to detail and the concern to improve as musicians.

AW: Can you share a moment or highlight that you would remember about Gentle Giant from the 71 tour?

IA: I have never heard a band scream, shout, rant and rave each other on an almost nightly basis as soon as they return to there dressing room. In this respect they did not give the impression of being happy bunnies.

AW: Would you have thought in 1971 that both Tull and Gentle Giant music would be so incredibly important to people and that the computer would play such a big part in the transfer of information about the bands to the extent that it has?

IA: No, I would not have anticipated the ongoing reverence for such bands especially in the light of technological communication, but I guess you also find gun collectors and paedophiles on the internet if you look hard enough. I think, on balance, I would rather discuss and/or reminisce regarding Gentle Giant over a civilised glass or two at a cocktail party rather than journey in disembodied trance through the mysterious world of, as you put it, Cyber space. However, each to there own.

AW: I find myself listening to Tull and Gentle Giant all year round but they seem to take on a special feel in the Fall. Do you find this to be a mere coincidence or is it that the music takes on a magical almost mystical quality during that time of the year?

IA: I do not understand this question. Is this when the Magic Mushrooms ripen!

AW: In the last years of Gentle Giants existence they put forth a couple of albums which were considered to be pop or commercial oriented that were heavily criticized by the progressive rock crowd. And I have myself got into a few heated discussions with folks about the reasons a band does this. Having been accused of this yourself do you have a few words of advice to these armchair critics who only see one side of a band and are not receptive to change?

IA: I remember a great deal of pressure on the part of Chrysalis Records and there management being exerted on Gentle Giant at the time to attain a more commercial level of success. I suspect some return on investment was required by record company and management alike and I would guess that at least some of the band would have really liked to enjoy the tangible benefits accruing to such a move for having struggled for so many years to support themselves as musicians. Personally, I believe their finest song to have been "Turning Around" from the final part of their career embracing as it does, all the legacy of their musicianship and eclectic interests together with a direct and relatively simple approach.

P.S. I did actually call Derek Shulman with regard to a possible reformation of Gentle Giant with a view to playing a few concerts together with Tull. As I expected, he did not think that it would be possible but, as I equally expected he was very, very pleased to be asked. I am sure all the boys from Gentle Giant are most flattered of the longstanding interest and affection demonstrated by their numerous fans in many countries. I am happy for them.

Yours sincerely, Ian Anderson

AW: Well that's it for now Ian thank you for your thoughts and time and good luck on the Divinities tour. We all will look forward to hearing the new Tull CD which is being released this fall!

Notes

This interview that I conducted with Ian was done in a rather strange way. I first typed up the questionnaire and brought it to the Divinities show thinking I may not be allowed a person to person interview as I was afforded in 1991. This was the case and upon entering the backstage area and meeting briefly with Kenny Wiley I was assured that Ian would receive the script. I enclosed the questions in a self addressed envelope and awaited it's return not knowing if there would be a response or not. There was today! I also would like to thank Glen and Laura Gamarat, Ralph Thompson, Kenny Wiley, Lou Maurice and especially Ian's assistant Heather Bunting.

Thank you very much Ian for taking the time.

Your friend in Maine,

Arlo...In my own funny ways I find I learn much more...West