Well hello there!
It’s been a little while. Work, both at home and on tour has a way of rudely encroaching on one’s own personal free time, swallowing it up into a black hole vortex of space/time continuum never to be seen again! Now that I’ve succinctly explained my tardiness in updating my very cobwebbed diary page I’ll try to catch up.
First, let me say thank you for all the emails you have sent to me asking questions, passing along comments about the concerts, records, band members’ waist measurements or other personal observations. Please be assured I do read ALL of them but it is impossible for me to answer them all as I find I can only just about barely keep up with my own personal email and other correspondence. I wish I could answer every one but if I tried doing that there would probably not be enough time for me to go out and play every night. Please don’t feel disheartened if you do not get a personal reply and don’t let that discourage you from writing to me in the future. I read it all and write back to those that I can.
Although we did have a little break at the beginning of this year, it seems as if we have been working nonstop since the beginning of last year beginning with the recording of Dot Com.
Following the recording my wife Heather and I decided to rent a car and drive to Ireland for an unstructured holiday which was absolutely fantastic! We plan on returning to see all that we missed first time around.
We returned home to the USA and were only home for about a day when I received an emergency call from my old friend Kitaro. He was in the middle of a US tour and was in a bind and had to make some changes and asked if I could possibly complete the rest of the tour. Although we hadn’t worked together in a few years and it would severely compress the now dwindling time I had at home before the JT tour started, I accepted.
I thought that this would also get me into good touring shape before our tour as it always takes a few gigs to get back in touring mode, both mentally and physically. As there was no time for rehearsals he faxed me the written music. This was almost completely useless, as he had to reduce the size of the charts to fit into a fax machine, which made all the notes just barely readable with a magnifying glass! Coupling this with the fact that by the time they made it through my fax machine everything was so squirrelly and unreadable and the reality that the entire band was Japanese and had written all expression markings and shortcuts IN Japanese, the whole thing might as well have been written in Chinese cuneiform in invisible ink for as much good as they were to me at that point!
This certainly beat any pre-tour stress I might have felt before previous Jethro Tull tours, but it was too late. I was committed. After spending a plane flight east to the first concert trying to connect what I was hearing on a cassette of a live concert with the arcane scribblings of my charts, which now looked even worse due to all of my markings on top, the music now began to resemble the look of some unearthed and long forgotten manuscript which had all the pages stuck together and bleeding through one on top of the other.
After what can only be described as a baptism by fire in front of 2500 people, I was relieved to discover I had lived through the experience and even rather enjoyed it in a masochistic sort of a way. Amazingly we navigated the entire concert program without a single train wreck although the way I recall the concert was a bit like how you feel after you have negotiated a particularly long, difficult yet familiar stretch of highway. You cannot remember anything particularly about the drive and yet you still arrived at your destination, not quite sure how you got there. It did prove to be a very good warm-up indeed for the strenuous Tull tour to come.
As most of you know who follow our touring schedule, we played extensively in Eastern and Western Europe last year followed by a lengthy USA tour, then back to Europe and the UK, returning in time for Christmas. I had a short holiday break and then began working with my friend Vince DiCola on preparing new material to play at the Winter NAMM show in Los Angeles. Following that I found myself doing sessions in Los Angeles and also working in my home studio on my own material which I intend to release at some point when it’s ready!
One of the more interesting recording projects that I have been involved with recently has been Michelle Young’s “Marked for Madness” record. She is a very gifted and unique writer, singer and piano player from Nashville. Although her music is nothing like Jethro Tull I think Tull fans will really enjoy her if only because she is so musical and quirky. Very challenging stuff. Check her out!
The recent European and USA tours have been typically intense affairs with some interesting stops along the way, particularly notable being Croatia and Slovenia which were surprising in as much as they were both beautiful and organized and not at all what I somehow expected. Poland has actually been pretty good this time around apart from the feeling that it is still very cut off from the outside world. I suppose this is what they have been accustomed to for a very long time despite the opening of borders.
The specter of communism still looms over everything, although we played in this absolutely beautiful hall in Warsaw built during that regime which was like their version on The Royal Albert Hall in London. Fantastic acoustics too, even for electric music, which is remarkable considering that it certainly was not designed with that in mind!
Starting in Scandinavia and working our way south, we did 6 gigs. Although the travel was a little rough, with long, long drives we had two very pleasant 11 hour journeys on the ferry going from Stockholm to Helsinki and back, through the Swedish fjords. We even had our own cabins, which were quite nice. They have restaurants, gyms, and theaters etc.-like mini cruise ships. In an effort to get a little more rest and to avoid the inevitable early morning plane flights, Andy and I went after the gigs with the crew overnight on the bus to the next stop. It has been a bit of an adjustment sleeping on the bus, as the bunks are not very spacious, to say the least, and the European buses in general are not a patch on the American ones. Oh well…. it’s better than a real job!
Next we headed for Slovenia and Croatia having no idea what that was going to be like. Zagreb, Croatia was great! It’s clean and beautiful and the people are incredibly friendly. Surprisingly, it’s almost like Germany compared to the Czech Republic and Poland. Then on to Slovenia and Istanbul. Because of civil unrest, the crew had to travel with an armed guard on the bus in places such as Serbia which we they had to pass through in order to get to Turkey, but thankfully it all went without incident.
Istanbul was once again a fantastic experience. I remember listening to the amazingly beautiful wailing emanating from the Blue Mosque on the hill just above our hotel and looking out over the Bosphorus at the Asian side of Istanbul, which is referred to as the gateway to Asia.
Interestingly, half of Istanbul is in Europe and the other half across the Bosphorus is in Asia. The crowds and sights were great but I was looking forward to getting home for a short break before the big US tour started.
We began the first leg of the US tour in Austin, Texas. Slightly shaky start with the much requested medley being ditched along with a few other pieces until we settled on a reasonably solid set. Different songs find their way in and out of the set periodically depending on the region we’re in and what we played the last time we were through the area, so people aren’t hearing the same show twice.
However, those of you who have complained, your grievances have been duly noted and passed on to the appropriate authorities. Section 125c-4b. For all of you who have complained that my drum solo in “Dharma for One” is far too short, I must say that is a first!! It is indeed a very thin gray line between a too short and a too long drum solo and a completely subjective one, so you all will have to fight that one out amongst yourselves and the rest of the band, I’m afraid.
The many kind birthday wishes that arrived in the form of emails, hot habanero jellies and sauces, flowers, shirts and various bric-a-brac, ameliorated the inevitably embarrassing scenario of a birthday on the road, on a gig day no less. In and amongst that I received an amazing range of useful and useless gifts from band and crew alike which they took great delight in presenting to me on stage with full lighting rig blazing, right before the concert. There was NO way out and I hope that I accepted them with gratitude and a minimum of visible embarrassment. Many thanks to all of you!
We have also had the genuine pleasure of sharing the stage with some fantastic folk on these 3 U.S. legs. The Young Dubliners, The Chieftains, Smokin’ Joe Bonamassa, Joe 90, Roger McGuinn and Willy Porter have all raised the curtain with great style and musicianship. Ian and I were lucky enough to be asked by the Chieftains to join them on their encore number which was an 18 minute extravaganza about an aging reprobate named Uncle Joe who was particularly fond of naïve young women, which was played at an insanely fast Irish tempo.
This was one where you had to get on board, hold on and get out of the way as you were apt to get side-swiped by dueling soloists or a small army of Irish dancers madly jigging across the stage. This was in sedate contrast to Martin who sat in several times with Joe Bonamassa on his cover of Tull’s “A New Day Yesterday”. He was hardly required to move at all unless the spirit moved him but if it did, look out, whereupon Martin would burst into an uncontrolled frug/break dance as he is sometimes inclined to do, to the complete surprise and utter delight of the audience.
Hope that has caught you up a little bit and look forward to seeing you out on the road this summer. I’m going to go do my laundry now. Take care y’all.