EXCLUSIVE Interview: Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull Talks About Aqualung, His Duet with an Astronaut and Why He Doesn't Attend Concerts
At this point in your career, I imagine you have accomplished most, if not all, of your goals. So what drives or motivates you to continue making music?
Just in the next few days alone, I have three different kinds of concerts that I am playing and that in itself makes it engaging and interesting because you have to change your approach to making the music to some degree to accommodate playing with some musicians I have never played before in the Czech Republic to playing in a multi-act festival, which I am not very good at and don't really enjoy, but I have to make the best of that situation with no sound check and somewhat difficult and tense circumstances.
Then I have to endure a long flight across the Atlantic... to land in mile-high Denver to play a concert in Red Rocks Arena in an altitude which makes things physically demanding and demanding as a flute player because in the relatively thin and dry air of the mountains above Denver, it's actually quite hard to play the flute. Every day is a bit different. I am playing in the mountains of Colorado one day and then flying down to Phoenix, Arizona in the desert--these are all a change of environment, and if we manage to find a Red Lobster on the way, or a Denny's, than that will just set things off a tree.
How many flutes do you currently own? Are they something you collect over the years or do you buy and sell them as needed?
I'm not a collector of them. I probably have more than I need, but I enjoy playing them all from time to time and the two that I take with me on any one tour aren't necessarily always the same two. I have many more guitars than I have flutes.
One of my flutes I don't have at the moment because it's sitting in Houston awaiting shipment back to me because it's been aboard on the international space station for a few months and it recently arrived home after a few months, orbiting the earth every 90 minutes.
That's interesting. How did that opportunity come about?
Well, astronauts are not wacky people from outer space. Catherine Coleman of the U.S. Air Force, an astronaut who has been up there for the last six months, is an amateur flute player and she took one of my flutes up there with her and we did a little duet from space. I was in Perm in Russia on the 50th anniversary of the first man-flight in space by Yuri Gagarin and Catherine was aboard the space station. [You can watch the duet on youtube]