NY Rock Interview with Bryan Ferry Continued from Page One...   Bryan Ferry
Bryan Ferry performing at the Theater at Madison
Square Garden in New York City, July 24, 2001
Photo by Glyn Emmerson © 2002 NY Rock

NYROCK:

What do you think of Brian's work with U2?

BRYAN:

Very good. And they are good. Great guitarist again. Terrific. They're all good. I'll tell you who's really good – [Red Hot] Chili Peppers. I think they're really great. I went to see them – and I never go to see anybody – and my children are big fans. Then I met Anthony [Kiedis] here and he gave me four autographs! He's really nice, the singer. Have you ever met him at all?

NYROCK:
 
Not yet! They played at the Olympia last June, where you're playing.

BRYAN:

Did they? Oh cool!

NYROCK:

It's aired on MTV Europe on a regular basis.

BRYAN:

They filmed it? Very good! I thought they were exceptionally good.

NYROCK:

Do your children listen to your music?

BRYAN:

Mine? They know it a bit, but they don't know everything. They haven't heard all the albums. I've never really indoctrinated them, but they quite like it, I think. They're not embarrassed by it, which is something!

NYROCK:

Back to your album again... You pay homage on this album, namely to Alain Resnais and Marilyn Monroe. It happens to be the 40th anniversary of Marilyn's death this year. Was "Goddess of Love" a tribute?

BRYAN:

Really? I didn't realize that. How interesting.

NYROCK:

You often include icons of pop culture in your songs: James Bond, Jackie O., Johnnie Ray and Garbo....

BRYAN:

I think it's colorful. It adds color to throw in things, references to things. I should really place products in. I must do that one day... like Wella Shampoo or something (laughs).

NYROCK:

And they'll call you and ask you to do commercials and advertise your music at the same time!

BRYAN:

Yeah, it would be nice to have some advertising spots.

NYROCK:

Do I detect an element of William Gibson in "Hiroshima"?

BRYAN:

Oh yeah, very much so. I like his writing. Yes, he's good. I like his books. And the film "Blade Runner" was a bit of an influence on ["Hiroshima"] as well. Similar sort of thing. It's the same world visualized by Ridley Scott and he did that very well. That kind of futuristic, Oriental thing: steam coming up and weird characters and lots of neon flashing lights. It is a bit like a surreal... like a dream. Like a spaced-out sort of cyber-dream. That was what I was trying to do.

NYROCK:

That's what I wanted to point out: there's a lot of contrast on the album.

BRYAN:

Yeah, Americans have always found that weird, of course.

NYROCK:

Do you think they prefer things to be straight in music?

BRYAN:

Straight down the line, and I'm the opposite of that. I've always taken great pleasure in not being like that, although I look straight. I suppose they think I'm weird (laughs).

NYROCK:

But that shows that you constantly renew your music by experimenting.

BRYAN:

I think so. I could experiment much more and do things which are much more difficult, but I've got to make a living, and that's always been my excuse. I've always wanted to do an album everybody hated. That must be my next task, you know, something which is difficult.

NYROCK:

Do John Cage and Morton Feldman still influence your music?

BRYAN:

Not really, no, but I like the idea of it, that people do music that has no intention of being on MTV or on Top 40 radio. And it's great that people do stuff like that, assuming they're doing it with people of talent. There's a lot of dodgy music done by people who don't have much talent, not only in the pop world but in this sort of pseudo classical-modern serious music, which obviously is not very good. But that's the same with anything, new art, new music. It's very hard to sit through everything. That's why Pink is so good (laughs). What else do I like? I love that Mary J. Blige record, Family Affair. It's really beautiful and so simple, and yet effective and [has a] great groove.

NYROCK:

You have a career spanning 30 years. Do you have any professional regrets?

BRYAN:

(Reflects) Yeah. I don't know which one to mention, but I do. When I stopped touring in the early '80s for a few years, it was a mistake looking back. I lost touch with my audience in a way and I think that was a bad career move. I turned down a song that would've been a number-one record. Simple Minds did it. That launched them – "Don't You Forget About Me." It's a really good song.

I was too busy mixing my own album at the time and thought, I don't really need to do this. Someone should've grabbed me and said, "Do it!" (laughs)

It might've made me a more successful artist, I suppose, in America, which would've been good for my morale, I think.

NYROCK:

Do you really find that you haven't broken in America? You do have quite a fan base there.

BRYAN:

Well, yeah, I did, and I found it at various times. The audience I have there is great, but it's not Middle America. In New York, you couldn't wish for a nicer audience, or in L.A., Chicago, Boston. But when you get into secondary markets, they don't have a clue.

It would be nice to fly over in a private jet when you're touring. That's the big difference. Traveling there is quite hard, hard work. Doing a show is great; it's easy. It's the traveling that tires you up. Occasionally, I have had a jet, a private plane for one or two gigs, special shows. "Oh great, this is how U2 do it!" (laughs). You think, "It would be nice to do that."

NYROCK:

You wrote "Can't Let Go" at a time when you were apparently considering giving up music. Why did you feel that way?

BRYAN:

I didn't really want to give up music. But I was feeling quite down at the time. I was living in L.A., which was kind of weird for me. I like L.A., but I shouldn't live there. I'd been there for months and "Can't Let Go" was more like can't let go of the real world, my real life, 'cause I was living up in Bel Air in this weird house. It was like moving on in weird circles. It's a good song. I liked doing that song. Wonderful guitar player on it, a guy called Waddy Wachtel. He has hair like yours, right down to here (points to his hip). He lives in L.A. He was Stevie Nicks' guitarist. In Keith Richards' band, he's the other guitar player. He's all over that, Keith Richards' record that he did. Waddy, real character, a great player. Wish I'd play with him again. One day....

NYROCK:

I wish I could play the guitar that well!

BRYAN:

Yeah, same!

NYROCK:

Roxy Music is to glam what the Sex Pistols are to punk. Who do you think is glam today?

BRYAN:

Glam is Puff Diddy, Daddy, Duddy, whatever he is – P. Diddy. He's glamorous. All those rappers, they're the only glamorous people working in music now. They dress up in these chains of gold, cars, girls and this and that, high-heeled shoes... There's a certain... The rock bands are rather drab, even the good ones. You definitely don't want to look at them; you might want to listen to them. But some of those R&B people are very good. And Mary J. Blige, she's got all these fur coats and hats and stuff. She's good; I like her.

NYROCK:

What's the best moment in your career? This interview?

BRYAN:

Yeah, this interview and tomorrow night at the Olympia, I suppose. I don't think I've ever played the Olympia before, but I'm not totally sure. Somebody ought to tell me....

I'm not really sure what it was, the best moment. You always hope it's to come. I've had quite a few moments I've liked, so it's good enough. I like the second album that I did, For Your Pleasure, the second Roxy album. It's a long time ago. It was my favorite overall album that I've done.

NYROCK:

Did you really want to be a Tour de France champion?

BRYAN:

Oh (enthusiastically), I used to when I was 15! I was really mad about cycling and racing.

NYROCK:

Did you train?

BRYAN:

Oh yeah, every night. I had beautiful bikes and I was really into it. I just thought it was really glamorous. I suppose young people think football is glamorous – soccer – it's big money and the stars of it, they look good and have a great big house and a huge Ferrari.

When I was that age, cycling just seemed so glamorous. I guess the fact it's very colorful – French, European and Continental.

NYROCK:

Are you still into it?

BRYAN:

No, not at all. But people always remember, especially in France, that I'm interested in it and I get letters about it.

I'd love to follow the Tour de France one day. It's a really exciting spectacle. I've only seen it once as it was coming into Paris and that was very exciting for me. I have memories of that. It was really good.

NYROCK:

You often refer to the fact that you were born on the same day as T.S. Eliot. Did you take it as some sort of cosmic sign?

BRYAN:

Well, yeah. It's weird, when I started reading Eliot, I really felt incredibly close to some of the things I read. I could feel this. It's fabulous when you do that, when you discover somebody who you like, when you kind of feel those feelings, even though he articulates them better. He would probably be my favorite poet. Some of it is really beautiful and sad, haunting. Words can be very powerful. I find them very difficult.

NYROCK:

Is it difficult for you to write lyrics?

BRYAN:

God, torture. Absolute torture.

NYROCK:

More difficult than writing music?

BRYAN:

Oh yes, much, because music is just something that comes to you. You don't question it. And [with] words, you're [saying], "I've heard that before" or "I've written something like this before," and all the time, you're editing it. "Is that a very cool thing to say?" or "I feel I can say it better." I like the fact that music is more abstract. But when you get music and words together, that can be a very powerful thing. It can be great. But I don't write so much now, because they're too painful. So by touring all the time in the last couple of years, I'm just actually escaping from the process of writing (laughs), because I can't write on the road.

NYROCK:

So writing lyrics is difficult for you. But when you do write, what breaks through that difficulty? What inspires your words to flow more easily?

BRYAN:

I don't think in that way. I don't feel the compulsion to write like I did when I was starting out. I do feel, however, I gather great satisfaction from performing now, because I'm less nervous than I used to be. I used to be such a shy person. Performing was terrifying.

NYROCK:

You were shy?!

BRYAN:

Oh really, very, and still am. But I feel more confident now. And I start the show now... I just walk out and sit at the piano. I could never have done that ten, 20 years ago. But I haven't changed that much!

NYROCK:

Do you do anything, like meditate, before a show?

BRYAN:

Not really, no. But I do like to have peace and quiet for a good hour. People keep out of my way, otherwise I'm going to give them a hard time (laughs). I just get all cranky and strange.

December 2002

Back to Page One of Bryan Ferry Interview

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