NME - Sat 21st Dec

Bryan Ferry Interviewed by Max Bell for New Musical Express, Dec. 21 1974 Bryan Ferry is worried. To be more exact, he's apprehensive. Well, wouldn't you be with the eyes of the rock world watching your every move as a solo artist? And now having to go out and do it on stage? Stranded for your pleasure. The lone gaucho mooches restlessly around, pressing push-buttons on his colour tv, eventually settling down to watch the basketball. "This used to be my game you know, at school." Brawn Fury at outside left? That would bring the crowds back. Today, Saturday, has been a Day of Rest, saving grace before the onslaught and he needs it, 'cos he's jaded after a European tour and constant rehearsals for the Big Events. The Albert Hall? "I haven't been there yet. I'm not going until they push me on stage." If that seems to lack a certain confidence, don't forget, he's really on his own for the first time, although he draws obvious succour from the calbire of tested musicianship around him. "Martyn Ford's doing arrangements. He's invaluable - not just from the conducting point of view. When I want a particular instrument or sound, Martyn knows who to get, he's a fixer. "Basically, I'm using the people who played on the albums, including the orchestra. That's 55 people. John Porter on guitar of course, he's amazing. The guy lives music and never gets the credit he deserves. Ridiculously underated." The Great Paul Thompson, bassist John Wetton and Eddie Jobson will also be along - no surprise there - and of the regular Roxy cohorts only Andy Mackay is absent. (But then he didn't play on the solo discs either.) Nor will Bryan be at the keyboards, as he's employed specialists for the purpose. "My piano-playing has improved, at least it's Grade Two." What's the purpose of these three Ferry solo concerts? "They're really test gigs. I like to think if they're successful I'll do some more next year. It was a weird situation to be in, two gold albums which were selling without live promotion. December seemed the best time to perform them." As for working with bigger bands in the future, the idea is exciting but impracticable on an extended scale. "I like the economy of small bands; just three or four people can be very dynamic, and then it's also cheaper. We're touring with so many musicians on this thing that I'm actually losing money. That's why I couldn't have a huge itinerary, though it's nice for a special occasion. I'll get a kick out of it." On a long-term basis, the idea of doing standards, being a modern Sinatra, is intrinsically appealing. "Sure that's great but for me it's still more important to write. I'm the only one who knows how it should be done. With other peoples' material, it's already scored and I find it interesting to inflict my style and interpretation. There's nothing unusual in that, it's normal procedure. There are many beautiful songs I'd like to do - so why limit oneself? I'm all for self expansion. "A solo album with my stuff and a big band would be great - if I had the time - because it's nice to work with as many different people as possible, there are far more creative opportunities open. "Unfortunately, a lot of people misinterpret what one's doing." At this juncture we break for tea, Bryan stalking down a programme on teenybopper idols which he watches with gentlemen's relish, laughing discreetly at some of the more ludicrous aspects of six-year-olds freaking out. Our discourse resumes on the implications of his last remark, the supposed friction between himself and Roxy Music, which was inspired partially by an over-furtive Press, and partially by some ambiguous publicity statements. Ferry thinks the situation inflated artifice. "There's no friction at all, though naturally I'm speaking for myself. I really am a peaceful type person, I hate scenes or arguments - on the other hand, I never back down, mostly because I like to have an uncomplicated hold on what's happening. "The Press do the stirring because it makes good copy. In Europe, we didn't have this at all." Ferry is genuinely upset by unfounded comments and highly sensitive to criticism. "I'm the most sensitive person in the world so I've had to develop a hard shell. I mean, criticism can be flattering, too, because you're being noticed. On the other hand, I tend to resent it because I'm very self-critical myself so I usually know if it's valid. "I can be objective before anyone else - it's when others appear biased, deliberately finding things to be snide about. "But there again, one shouldn't worry, except that so many people read it. Still, if they're intelligent, they shouldn't be unduly influenced." Like the man said, he's stubborn. The Gaucho episode, a source of delight on the last tour, is one treated with an unqualified braggadoccio. Toking a mean Chesterfield, Ferry snarls: "I wouldn't back down on that because there was a *point* to it. I could have had an easier passage playing safe, wearing a white tuxedo 'til it died the death, but I've always tried to change the image. People are generally so conservative. "The reason why I wore it was that you don't see many people walking down the street like that. The Gaucho bit was blowsy, romantic, it fitted the songs." Douglas Fairbanks, John Gilbert, Rudolph Valentino and Bryan Ferry: the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse? "Sure . . . . . swashbuckling." (Makes buckle-swashing gestures). "I tempered that - insurance if you like - with the other thing which you could interpret in various ways. It was either the Third Reich, traffic cop or customs frontier guard, depending. Actually, uniforms are of interest to people fascinated by sexual imagery, clothes imagery, breeches and so on - not necessarily me. I also like straightforward, archetypal clothes. The tuxedo's a very classic example. It's just an alternative to going on stage dressed like this," (indicating present denim apparel), "which is all right, but quite camp for me now." What always intrigues me about Ferry the Performer is his distanced stance and the conglomeration of poses, almost as if Stanislavski had put him through his paces. A method in his madness. At the Rainbow recently, he'd slouched on like a slow motion Dean in the middle of a fit of pique. Ferry rejects the suggestion of a synthesised routine. "The movements are ones that seem right. They feel OK. I don't really notice them unless I see a film of the show." One conclusion many had jumped to was that A Ferry Diversified was A Ferry Weakened. This is smartly refuted: "There's no differentiation of energy in these projects. I put a hundred percent into everything. Obviously Roxy takes up more time with the writing." Hence the incresingly democratic song breakdown? "Partly. Also the others - Andrew and Phil - want to contribute. That's fine, as long as I have control over the material that goes in. I feel the need to guide the course of an album; they bring their songs or ideas - and I choose what I can best employ myself in." While Ferry isn't a humble person, neither is he falsely modest, and he won't yet be drawn on "Country Life". "It's too early to say whether I'm pleased with it. I think I am. Basically, it was a real sweat to do and I had to make time for the lyrics. In future I hope to have the material ready when we go into the studio - otherwise it becomes a millstone. "Again there are the pressures of an audience and a company that both want the product." Claims that "Country Life" was named after an obscure reference to metaphysicist John Donne are incorrect ("I read that too."). In fact, the riddle is solved by a brief look around Bryan's front room, where three or four copies of the famous same-name magazine are scattered. "I'm an avid reader of glossies and that's one of the great eccentrics. There was also some sexual allusion - I've always been intrigued by the Profumo affair. "The cover contrasts with the usual *Country Life* photography, where you normally have characters shooting ducks or jumping over fences in top hats. While I'm pleased with the controversy, I don't think the picture's depraved . . . a bit seedy perhaps, but you see far worse things than that." The Roxy covers are getting more obscene though? "Maybe . . . . . well, it does tie up . . . . . . if I may use that phrase . . . . with the others in terms of a series." In terms of progression and quality, "Country Life" seems (to me) to be Roxy Music's master work - yet with that definitive musically idiosyncratic aura which has prevented anyone covering the material. "It's the ultimate flattery, being covered. Have you heard Mike McGear's version of 'Sea Breezes'? I'll play it to you." While McCartney's string arrangement blasts out, Ferry taps out the rhythm happily, delighted at the compliment. "On the new album I could see 'If It Takes All Night' and 'A Really Good Time' being done by others, I'd like that. "I like language and English is a beautiful one to work with, but it gets harder to retain a fresh, semi-adolescent thrill, mostly because a lot of critics are so blase and cynical. "However, when you find that what you've written is important to someone, then one gets involved. If it means something to them you've got a fan for life, at least they're interested in what you have to say. Then I feel the lyrics should always stand up to reading, I take a tremendous amount of care with them. It's very rarely that I leave a verse unaltered from inception." The care he takes in shaping songs extends to his influences. "They have to be things that happen to me, things that come from within - or it's meaningless. I've always tried not to make every song centre on the same subject level. It's good to actually *write* about something, apart from love songs, like '2H.B.'. 'Tryptych' is religiously inspired, though not a specific. It's Very Artistic, too, with the three different sound directions." Use of puns and the depth of allusion where one line often assumes various meanings, are becoming standard trademarks of Ferry's work, and draw a large response in terms of appreciative letters. "They're real feedback - and I read them all - but at the moment, I'm too disorganised to reply to many. In fact, I'm too disorganised to reply to *any* of them." Ferry's on-stage cool, and the impression he gives of casual control doesn't always coincide with his true feelings. "I'm a very proud person - I have to be because I'm into what I'm doing completely, I'm a professional - but sometimes it would be nice to throw gigs, stalk off. The trouble is that you'd let down so many people. Ultimately one can only emulate one's own standards and mine are very severe." The mystique with which Ferry shrouds his private life serves a useful double purpose. Firstly, it's a form of protection and secondly it helps to promote the unobtainable sex-symbol figure. To counter the encroaching adulation he's been forced to change his phone number ("Wish everybody would leave me alone") and install an Ansafone which, when played back, revealed a mixture of bone fide messages and very silly crank calls. "It goes in phases; my attitude is, since I give about twenty-four hours a day to the public, they should leave me alone the rest of the time. The worst aspects are when one is virtually imprisoned in an hotel or leaving concerts. That can be frightening."

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