INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
New Musical Express January 20, 1973 - by Ian MacDonald, Charles Shaar Murray & Nick Kent
THE MAN WHO PUT SEQUINS INTO MIDDLE EIGHTS
The Bryan Ferry interview in which the Roxy mastermind meets Ian MacDonald, Charles Shaar Murray and Nick Kent...
SCENE: Bryan Ferry's swishy Earls Court flat. Three varieties of journalist bicker amongst themselves, two photographers consult their light-meters, lots of other people hang loose, chatting coolly. Enter Mr. F. to a respectful round of eyebrow-raising and a single strand of ticker-tape which descends lazily from the ceiling. Selecting a dove-grey jacket of Italianate cut from his lounge wardrobe, he seats himself before the assembled inquisition and diffidently adjusts a pair of shades tinted an elegant bottle-green. With the customary champagne flowing and to the marginally raucous accompaniment of Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era revolving upon his new stereo, the man who put sequins into middle eights addressed himself to a laid-back barrage of informed criticism.
Now read on:
MACDONALD: America's falling to pieces, is it?
FERRY: I would never consider myself an expert on what's happening in America, having only been there one month. It's very, very down. It seems a much less enthusiastic place than Europe.
MACDONALD: Which city did you like best?
FERRY: Definitely Los Angeles. It was the most attractive place by far, although New York was nice as well - for different reasons.
MURRAY: Would it be fair to describe you as a closet American?
MURRAY: Were your preconceptions about America borne out by going there?
FERRY: Up to a point, yes. Some things were that much better for seeing them in the flesh. It's fragmented. More of a collection of countries than one place.
MURRAY: Were you particularly struck by any salient aspects of American culture apart from bubblegum-flavoured ice-cream?
FERRY: I'm not much into ice-cream as such. The thing is, we led a very enclosed existence while we were over there. You don't realty have time to see a great deal while you're in a hotel or at an airport waiting for a plane. The only time we had to explore was in Los Angeles and New York: going into delicatessens and than sort of existence.
MACDONALD: Still want to go and live in New York?
FERRY: I could quite happily live there for a few months. I'd also like to live in L.A. for a while. I met John Cale in L.A. He wants to produce our next record. It'd be really nice working with him at some point, but there are a lot of practical difficulties at the moment. He wants to do it in L.A., you see. You don't know what happened to Sterling Morrison after The Velvet Underground, do you?
KENT: He's teaching English at the University of Texas.
FERRY: Really? I'm told that Texas is the new place in America, in the sense that California used to be. We didn't get to Texas, though I'd have liked to.
MACDONALD: Did you see Bette Midler while over there?
FERRY: No, we missed her. She just finished playing The Troubador when we arrived in L.A. I think she's coming over here very soon.
KENT: Did you see any good acts while your were there?
FERRY: None, that was the frightening thing. Every band we played with we were totally bored by, Edgar Winter, Humble Pie, Jethro Tull, Jo Jo Gunne. All boring. [A pause ensues, broken by the sound of clinking glasses, various words like "I dunno", "Delicious", and "Pass the ashtray" and the Electric Prunes starting up on I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night. Everybody joins in on the chorus].
MACDONALD: When are you starting on the new album?
FERRY: Week after next. In Air Studios.
MURRAY: I heard a rumour that the second album was going to consist of re-recordings of the tracks on the first album to be entitled Roxy Music's Greatest Hits.
FERRY: I wouldn't deny it at this stage.
MURRAY: What's the new version of Ladytron going to sound like?
FERRY: It'll be in 3/4, you know? [Hysterical laughter all round]
MACDONALD: Is For Your Pleasure going to be on it?
FERRY: It's going to be the title track.
MACDONALD: For Your Pleasure seems to be a step away from Roxy's customary scintillating burlesque, towards a more direct rock sound.
FERRY: Could be. It was written at the same time as the stuff on the first album. We'll be producing the new one ourselves with John Middleton doing the engineering. I don't really want to predict what the album's going to be like. There's nothing more boring. I think we've done far too much of that sort of thing in the past.
MURRAY: One of the things Marc Bolan said to me was "Whatever they say about me, they can't deny that I've made my point." Do you think you've made yours?
FERRY: I've made some sort of point. I don't know whether I've got a strict point to make - maybe he has. I've got a lot of things that go together to make up a picture, but individually they don't mean much. I hate making definitive statements - not that I'm equipped to, anyway. I always think: Oh, I said the wrong word, or the wrong thing. So I never try. The whole point of it is that it can be anything.
MACDONALD: Did it surprise you that your audience turned out to be comparative youngsters instead of, say, university students?
FERRY: That was after the hit single.
MACDONALD: Has the original idea of the group gone by the board since then?
FERRY: Not at all. No way: It hasn't changed a bit except that it may have become a little more light-hearted in attitude.
KENT: Have you any grandiose ideas about building up your act?
KENT: I once read an interview with Eno where he was thinking of going onstage in Nazi uniform because of the Nuremberg Rally atmosphere at certain gigs.
FERRY: Yes, we once had something like that at Stoke-on-Trent, I thought it was going to be Munich all over again. These boys in boiler suits trucked down the aisles to the front of the stage and started doing this amazing dance. We're going to be doing a tour of very big venues after we've done the album. We'll be playing the fabulous Green's Playhouse we all hear so much about. I'm looking forward to that.
MURRAY: Is the American experience going to be recycled into a bunch of songs?
FERRY: I shouldn't think so. It didn't really have that much effect on me. I've seen it all before somehow. Maybe I'm getting too blasé.
MACDONALD: You're not going to tell us anything about this new album, are you?
FERRY: Not really. It's all totally up in the air.
MURRAY: Do any of the others in the band show any ambitions to write stuff?
MURRAY: You're keeping these subversive tendencies well suppressed?
FERRY: No comment. [Pause] Well, I know a couple of them want to do their things. Andy's done some. If anybody comes up with something I think is terrific and which I can relate to, then it'll go on the album.
KENT: You stockpiled material for the first album over a period of two years didn't you?
FERRY: Less than one actually. And there about three leftover which will go on the second one. When we recorded the first one we just picked the ones I thought would make the best album. I think we did too many on that album to tell you the truth. If I'd known then what I known now, I'd have probably put on two less numbers.
MURRAY: Are you going to put Virginia Plain on the new one?
FERRY: No way. I'd like to do another single before the next album comes out. I haven't really had time to think since we did the American tour. It's so weird not having time to think.
MURRAY: A single off the album or something specifically written for a single?
FERRY: Neither. We'll just go into the studio and record a lot of tracks and if one sounds like a single, we'll use it. Virginia Plain was originally going to be a track on the second album. It was going to be much longer and more involved than it was eventually.
MACDONALD: Do you foresee a time when the group will become superfluous to you and you'll go solo?
FERRY: Any group is radically a transient thing. I'm very interested in doing a solo album of things not written by me, but which I like very much. Like that 'Under The Influence' feature I did in NME last year. Something along those lines. But only things you can get a new angle on.
MURRAY: Why don't you do another version of Waiting For The Man? Bowie's doing one on his live album.
FERRY: I'm sure David knows what he's doing. He sent us some poinsettias in the States, by the way.
MACDONALD: What do you make of what he's up to at moment?
FERRY: Difficult to say. He seems to do very well for himself.
MACDONALD: I've heard of being diplomatic, but this is ridiculous.
FERRY: I don't know really. Maybe he likes us. People on the West Coast were saying he'd been raving about our album to them, which was very nice of him. I think I'll buy Ziggy Stardust next week. I liked a lot of the things on Hunky Dory very much. Changes - I liked that.
MACDONALD: Did it annoy you the way everybody caught on to the glam/glitz stuff at the same time that Roxy started? After all, you'd been plotting it for quite a while.
FERRY: It was just one of those things.
MACDONALD: Has America changed Roxy as a playing organisation?
FERRY: I think our playing's improved. We had to play much harder, more concise sets. If that's what you mean.
KENT: What were your impressions of Hollywood?
FERRY: Basically, it was a beautiful place full of very boring people. They were all wearing 1967 headbands and asking each other what sign they were and seeming generally out of place. Americans seem to have rejected so much of their environment for some reason. When you're in New York you find yourself thinking: These people don't deserve this city. They're all so drab, and the city's like a hundred years ahead of its time. I don't think Americans are very informed, actually. They're not very bright.
MACDONALD: How long before you lose your patience with the whole rock industry?
FERRY: It's been very kind to me. I suppose next year we'll be on the scrap-heap: I don't know. We don't really get involved much with The Scene. The only people we talk to are journalists.
MACDONALD: That's what I meant.
FERRY: I don't mind any of it. I'm not as interested in rock as music, as I used to be; there doesn't seem to be anything exciting going on.
MACDONALD: Do you care about confusing your audience? Do you think that Roxy's essentially just a part of the whole glam/glitz bit [Kent and Murray: Boo, get off] or do you care what you do next?
FERRY: [suspiciously] Do you mean educating them, improving their minds?
MACDONALD: No I mean surprising them by some irrational new move.
FERRY: Yes, I like surprises. If you can pull them off.
MACDONALD: Are you going to try any on the next album?
FERRY: Dunno. [A very long pause. Journalists shuffle their feet, whistle, and look at the ceiling] Shall I put a record on?