Jethro Tull World Tour Program Interview
From the 2007 World Tour
What was your musical background before you joined Jethro Tull?
DP – If you really want to start at the earliest point where I began to be aware of music, I suppose I was about four or five years old. At that point, I was only aware of classical music and some jazz being played around the house. Pop music was really on the periphery of my radar. I didn’t hear the radio much until we moved to New York City, at which point I was given a little $5.00 AM transistor radio and used to scroll through the stations, listening to anything that caught my ear. Suddenly the Beatles burst upon the scene and disrupted my quiet little universe. I literally thought they invented pop music, having had no idea of the rich history that had preceded them. From about the age of seven up until about the time when I was eleven, I played piano, mostly classical and not particularly well. I remember being quite young, having to play these recitals with parents and teachers sitting and listening and then afterwards having to hear them critique the students performances. I hated that part and instead wanted to be outside playing baseball, however I stuck with the lessons and now I’m glad I did. The interesting part is the only thing that I can remember from those piano lessons, apart from my piano teacher’s rather ample bosoms staring me down at about eye level through the entire lesson, are the songs that she let me select. Not that they were particularly good pieces of music but at least they were my own choice.
If you really want to know more about my “life before Jeth” and current extracurricular musical encounters in greater detail, I would recommend that you go to our web site, www.JethroTull.com. You’ll find far more than you ever wished to know about each one of us, possibly being sorry that you ever looked. Consider yourself warned.
Why did you take up the drums and what other instruments do you play?
DP – I started playing the drums at about age eleven because I’d seen the Beatles on TV and thought, there’s a job that I could handle. I loved the idea of getting chased down the street by hordes of young girls and at one point even went to great lengths to stage such an event in front of a girls school, thinking that would be hugely impressive to the exiting eleven year-olds. Needless to say that impressed no one, apart from my sister and her friend who thought that it was pretty questionable and sadly entertaining, that we would go to such ludicrous lengths to draw attention to our little rock combo, The Foggy Dawn. This innovative unit comprised myself on upturned trash cans and lead vocals, (believe it, dear readers) an accordion player and a guitarist whose only amplification was his father’s tape recorder mounted on top of a portable television stand, which we were sure looked exactly like a Vox Super Beatle.
For a while the piano went on hold, until about the age of fourteen or fifteen when I decided I wanted to understand what in the world the other musicians were doing. At the same time I began to seriously study drums and percussion, taking lessons from jazz and classical teachers and subsequently began to gain some experience playing in rock bands, jazz ensembles and school orchestras, where I played drums, percussion, and occasional tympani and mallets. I still dream of being able to play the piano like Horowitz but in reality play more like “All in the Family’s” Edith Bunker (thankfully, no relation to good old Clive).
What is your first memory of becoming aware of JT and their music? Were you a ‘fan’ prior to actually playing with Ian/JT?
DP-As many people know, I was a fan of Jethro Tull many years before I joined the band. I remember being at a friend’s house and hearing “Cat’s Squirrel” on the radio advertising an upcoming concert at the Fillmore East in New York City, by a then unknown band from England called Jethro Tull. I instantly decided that this was a band I had to see. Years later, when the 25th Anniversary 4 CD boxed set had come out, the irony dawned on me that I was represented on it, both as a band member and an audience member. At the age of 16 I attended the 1970 Carnegie Hall concert, which I remember quite vividly. So I appeared as a spectator on that CD and as a participating musician on the Beacon’s Bottom and Live Across the World and Through the Years CD’s. 3 out of 4 – not bad. Odd, ironic and kind of a nice twist of fate. Certainly a unique achievement of sorts.
Favourite acoustic JT song and why. Favourite rock JT song and why.
DP- Slipstream is one that comes to mind. For some reason it reminds me of New York’s Central Park in the summertime plus I get to play a little glockenspiel part on it! Black Sunday is another one that I love to play, but one which unfortunately, we haven’t performed in many years. It is extremely challenging with lots of tricky little twists and turns and simply a very exciting piece of music to perform. Rare and Precious Chain is another one that is also near the top of my list of favourite electric songs to play. It combines an Eastern sensibility, with a trance like feel and some gritty toughness that I find very appealing. I can almost see the cobra’s head coming out of a snake charmers basket in a dusty square in Bombay or maybe Cairo, while a little memsahib with a veil over her face does a belly dance nearby.
Looking forward to getting back on the road with JT?
DP-I always look forward to playing live with the band. Even though it’s been a little while since we have played together onstage, I am banking on the fact that all those years of developing my muscle memory will pay off! Because the music is so challenging however, I find that there is the same degree of difficulty and needed precision, performing it on the last night of a tour as there is on the first.
What have been your (a) most memorable and (b) worst on-stage experiences? (Not necessarily IA/JT)
DP-Certainly one of the most memorable, probably ranking in the top five all-time musical experiences I have ever had, was when Tull went to India and performed with Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia, India’s acknowledged master of the wooden bamboo flute. Basically, we had to learn to play a 40 minute raga in a single afternoon’s rehearsal! There was a structure which did repeat thematically but in different feels and tempos and around which there was constant improvisation.
In those concerts, I believe the band rose above and beyond anything which even we thought we were capable. And we did it without wearing any turbans!
Speaking for myself, I felt at times as if I was playing at the absolute top of my ability and hanging on to the edge of the table with the last tiny joint of my little finger. It was some of the most exciting music in which I have ever had the pleasure of participating. There was one moment in the raga, which got increasingly faster as we played through the various sections, where Vijay Ghate, Hari Prasad’s extraordinary tabla player and I played an alternating duet of ever decreasing bar lengths. At one point Vijay played the most mind bending polyrhythmic 128th note pattern to which I was supposed to respond. It was so stunning that I simply stared at him for a moment and then burst out laughing. Really the only sensible response. I then simply followed it with four pianissimo quarter notes on the bell of my cymbal whereupon the audience burst out laughing, getting the joke as well. Those nutty Indians!
We certainly have had our share of train wrecks, personally and collectively. I hardly know where to begin. Now these can range from being highly subjective experiences to ones where the security guards turn around and look at you and the janitor runs up from the basement to see what’s happened.
I can certainly accept the blame for my share of onstage train wrecks but a particularly spectacular one that comes to mind occurred during “Songs from the Wood” on the 1984 Under Wraps tour. There’s a particularly tricky ensemble passage of alternating odd bars that easily lends itself to potential musical disasters. All it takes is for one of us to erroneously displace an eighth note and you’ll be swallowed up into the abyss. The slow motion effect, much the way one experiences an accident moments before it happens, distorts time and logical reasoning beyond the point of no return. We knew it was coming, could see it, feel it and hear it coming but were nonetheless helpless to stop it, gripped in the vortex of its own inevitability. How it began, who started it, is irrelevant and lost in the ether anyway. The end result was a series of disparate downbeats clattering across the stage, and probably not sounding dissimilar to a band falling down a flight of stairs with all of its equipment tumbling down behind them. Nonetheless, I’m sure there were people in the audience thinking, “Awesome new arrangement! Those progressive Tull guys are always doing something different “. Yes, we plan it just like that.
What has it been like working with IA? – onstage and in the studio. What is he like as a musical leader? How much input to the compositions/arrangements do you have? Etc.
(Thoughts on Martin Barre, particularly as an acoustic guitar player, and also as fellow band member.) ????????
Martin-can you rephrase and condense these two questions into one?
DP- Working with Ian and Martin and all the musicians that I’ve had the privilege of playing with in Jethro Tull over the years, continues to be one of the great joys of my musical career. There’s a standard in the band that is set individually and collectively that we all feel we must live up to every night. Sometimes that’s quite difficult, other times it happens in the most natural, effortless way but however we arrive at that point, we all try pretty damn hard every night. Everybody who has ever played in Jethro Tull has brought their own unique identity to the band and it is that sensibility which makes up the changing collective sonic identity that is Jethro Tull.
What other projects outside IA/JT have you been involved in recently or plan to be in the future?
DP- I have been involved in a number of outside writing and recording projects over the last 10 months. I have been working with my long time musical partner, Vince DiCola on tracks for the upcoming Thread CD. We have been writing and recording for several months with a view to performing some time later this year. Recently, I have been composing a marimba and percussion piece for a project called Congo Square, which is a benefit CD that is being put together to directly assist the New Orleans musicians that were affected by Hurricane Katrina. This will be coming out later this year. I have also been working on mixing tracks for a live album from the tour with Martin Barre and Willy Porter that we recorded on tour back in 2004. That is coming together pretty well and we hope that we will also have it out sometime in later 2007.
There are a few other very interesting writing and recording projects in various stages of development which I will be posting more about in detail on the Tull website, as they progress. Watch this space.
In addition to some essays and other unrelated music writing, I have started work on a book, not an autobiography, that is proving to be a substantial undertaking. Because of the nature of the material, it is going to take some time to complete. There’s a lot of research and interviewing involved and that is all I am prepared to say about it at this point. It’s going to take as long as it’s going to take.
Anything else you wish to add?
DP-I would like to acknowledge all the kind letters and e-mails I have received in the last year inquiring about the state of my health. Despite what some people have assumed, I am quite well and healthy now. I did undergo some necessary surgeries on my feet and then later, on my back, which led quite a few people to wrongly speculate that I might never play again. Like anyone recovering from surgeries such as these, there’s a period of rehabilitation involved. It is a long process and it is necessary that I remain disciplined about continuing my daily rehabilitation and exercises. Considering that I have been playing music professionally for nearly 35 years I think myself lucky that I have had relatively few physical derailments. Although this was a fairly major, though temporary sidelining of my performing work, it enabled me to spend time really focusing on various aspects of my other writing interests. That has been a great blessing. Really wouldn’t have minded missing the surgery part though!
And most importantly, a big thanks to all the fiercely loyal Tull fans who continue to support us, year in and year out, regardless of Britney’s hairstyles, Dubya’s mis-steps and our own alarmingly thinning follicles inching back in fright with each passing mirror.
We appreciate it!