An Interview with Ian Anderson: Art Ambassador

I remember digging through my dad’s record collection and feeling overwhelmed at what was in front of me. There were so many classics sitting on the shelf in pristine condition. These weren’t just good records, they were ones that shaped our culture. The Doors, Dark Side Of The Moon, and so many more. I would get lost for hours, staring at the artwork, liner notes, and the old receipts included. I studied the gatefolds as if I was to be tested on what I had remembered. What was track three on side two of “American Beauty?” What year was Led Zeppelin II released? Who said the one line on “One Of These Days” on Pink Floyd’s Meddle? After, I would reward myself the only way I knew how. I would play each LP on the old Gerard turntable and Bose 901 speakers, and continue studying the liner notes and lyrics.

One album that really piqued my interest was Jethro Tull’s Stand Up. Not only did I enjoy hearing tracks like “Fat Man” and “Bourée,” but the pop-ups inside was such an interesting concept to me. It was more than your ordinary record, and I loved that about it. It’s easy to forget that the sleeve and gatefold do more than hold the music. Music is art, and the gatefold is included in the presentation of this art. As time went on, bands have been able to include more in the packaging and presentation of their work.

Jethro Tull’s lead singer and flutist, Ian Anderson, has built a legendary career with the Jethro Tull catalog, spanning four decades. This year, he has released his latest solo effort, Homo Erraticus, available on CD, 2x LP vinyl, and in a deluxe edition, including a hardback book and a making-of DVD. I recently had the opportunity to converse with Anderson about the new album. We discussed surround sound and lossless files, releasing music as a solo artist, and watching his son-in-law Andrew Lincoln, star of AMC’s The Walking Dead. Check out what Ian had to say below:

The new album, Homo Erraticus, came out in April and is available in several different formats, including 5.1 surround sound, 2 CD/2 DVD sets and 2x LP as well. There is talk in the industry of HD and lossless files being the future. What are your thoughts on the topic?

Without any compression, the high definition audio is the format that we have been using in the mastering sessions, one way or the other, probably since the mid-1980s. We are technically going back quite a long way with all of that stuff. Today’s customary 24-bit/96-kHz, which is 24-bit resolution, with either a 48 or 96 kHz sampling radius is superior to the CD and is exactly what we use to record the masters in the studio. It is at the limits to human hearing to detect anything of a higher resolution than that. You and I just won’t be able to hear it, even my dog would struggle to tell the difference (laughs). We actually don’t need to go any further. We are at the limits to where we would even benefit from an increase.

And that would solely pique the interest of audiophiles. The main goal for most would be the ease of access to the music.

Of course. The public want to listen on vinyl, good old-fashioned CD, or mp3 files for convenience. The latter are quick to download and easy to store on computers or cell phones. You aren’t going to go out and buy a new iPhone with 32 GB of memory and fill it up in a very short period of time with 24-bit audio or HD video. You would eat it up immediately. That is where we run into the problem, the storage and ease-of-use. So really, we have about five formats that we need to release in. Each one requires some changing, to not only on the technical audio side, but the way we package it and send it out to our audience. So there is at least five times as many days and hours spent on doing artwork and various visual and marketing formats to promote all of those different versions of the product.

You also created a wonderful 60-page book to include in the packaging of the collector’s edition of Homo Erraticus. That must have taken an immense amount of time to package and create as well.

Yes, and it does take a lot of time, and possibly even more time than it does writing and recording the album. We have to dedicate a lot of time to that postproduction work nowadays. It used to be the case where you would send off the album to the label and they would make the artwork in a couple of days and bang it out. You know, I wonder how many days it took to do the artwork for Bob Dylan’s first album, or The Beatles’ first album. Probably an afternoon, tops.

It definitely is a bit more complicated today in terms of presentation. You guys did a great job though with the collector’s edition.

Thank you. We aimed to present a more lavish version of the product with a coffee table book, something that would have a limited number produced and be a collector’s item. Hoping fans would connect with it, like how you might feel about your vinyl records. Something to keep on a bookshelf, and pick it up and take a gander at it every now and then. Something a little bit sexier than a cassette (laughs).

All of the available info and extra materials adds great value to Ian Anderson fans. Has releasing music under your own name and not Jethro Tull been a welcomed change?

Well, it may be sheer arrogance on my part, but I would like people to know my name in my latter years before I die. And so Jethro Tull at this point is 350 songs and 46 years in making music with a band comprised of 28 musicians apart from myself. I tend to relate the name Jethro Tull to the repertoire, and not the band. And right now, it is nice to have my name in the mix when it comes to billing, ticketing, and advertising.

From what I read, the live shows will be split into two parts. Is this correct?

Yes, we have two sets with a 15-minute intermission in the middle. For the first 35 minutes, we play the new record, Homo Erraticus. After intermission, we play for about an hour and 10 minutes of older Jethro Tull repertoire, loosely called, the Best of Jethro Tull.

How have the shows gone so far in promoting the new record?

The shows have been great. In the UK and some European dates, we played the new album in its entirety. For the U.S., we cut it down some to make more room for the “Best Of” part of the show. It works well because they get a nice taste of the new stuff, and the rest of the show is some of the favorite Jethro Tull material.

Your son-in-law is Andrew Lincoln, who portrays Officer Rick Grimes on the critically acclaimed AMC show, The Walking Dead. Do you watch the show or discuss it at all with Andrew?

I tried to watch it two nights ago when they had the season premiere. Unfortunately, I can’t deal with all of the breaks in ads, so I figured I would record it. Sadly, the recording failed. I set it up to record the rest of the season while I am away in the U.S. I have to keep my fingers crossed that when I return home, all of the other episodes will be there for me to watch. I have been following it from the very beginning, when my son-in-law came into the kitchen clutching a comic book and asking if I had heard of it. He had been asked to do a reading for a tv series and he had wanted the opportunity to work with the renowned writer/director Frank Darabont.

I said that it looked rather scary and gory and is that the kind of thing he had wanted to do in his career. It is a big job to maintain all of that action. Andy ended up doing a Skype audition with him, and a couple of days later they told him to get on a plane. In a week, he was set to start filming season one. He still works extensively to try and maintain that Georgian accent.

The Walking Dead is in about 150 countries around the world and has adopted many, many languages. It serves as not only an icon of entertainment, but it can win hearts and minds alike. I actually have a couple references to The Walking Dead and other examples of American film and culture which seemed appropriate. It was a way for me to pay homage to what we produce, our contribution, which is the great elements of art and entertainment.

Ian Anderson will play at Circus Maximus in Caesars Atlantic City on Nov. 7, The Paramount in Huntington, NY on Nov. 8, the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank, NJ on Nov. 9, and the Wellmont Theater in Montclair, NJ on Nov. 10. Homo Erraticus is available now. For more information, go to