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Since Ian is on the road, this issue features Mike Mitchell's interview with Ian, featuring questions from Ian's fans. The interview was conducted 1 June 2007 for BCB 106.6 FM and The Horse's Mouth.
'Words (Big Mouth)' - a song for the wife? : Yes. We go to Rick Tedesco's house once a week and get completely slaughtered and the mood can turn ugly on the way home and has done on a few occasions over the years.
You just released Shrunken Heads and completed a European tour, which included three acoustic gigs in the UK. What was the idea behind just three gigs? : To come in and create a bit of a buzz (in May), and keep the thing alive until October. We've got a single coming out in October, and a comedy DVD.
Grastark: Gigs which are all seating - do you realise that there is less electricity in the audience?: Didn't make any difference to me, I know what I'm supposed to say … sometimes it's nicer if you're tired. I'd just done six in a row and the 7th was an all-seater for which I was totally grateful.
'Shrunken Heads' / 'Soul of America': It's bewilderment, really. I can't believe how a country as big as America can be run by half a dozen families with selfish interests at heart … and everyone else is a terrorist - I don't get it. I feel bad for Americans, but what they've got to do is smarten up and change things quickly because they're hated now by a lot of people, and justifiably so to a certain degree.
Was 'Twisted Steel' ever considered for inclusion on Shrunken Heads?: Yeah, we did it. It's there. The track is done except the vocals, because I forgot the words half way through doing it. There's a version of 'Irene Wilde' done that Andy York arranged, that's done as well. They'll come out sooner or later.
Shrunken Heads truly is a follow-up to Rant?: It's the American Rant I suppose, a bit milder than Rant. Politically I was thinking about England on the last one and a bit more about the States on this one, although the imagery I get (of the track 'Shrunken Heads') is more of England. I like the track: the chord sequence, the phrasing's good, it's conversational. I've always been a bit of a Dylan fan. I'm pleased with that one; I'm pleased with it live too.
Are you pleased lyrically with the album?: With 'Soul of America', I have a snooker table and it was covered in verses trying to capture the bewilderment and the pragmatism, and in the end I got so frustrated I said to Andy, 'You're American, you choose the verses coz I'm sick of the whole thing' (laughs). So Andy put it together out of about 400 verses.
Matt the Hoople and hfreiman: 'it used to be 10 now it's 10:08'?: I think I started writing that verse at 10:00, and it was 10:08 by the time I (finished) … it's one of those weird things, I'm not so sure about it.
You'll get asked about it on Horse's Mouth.: Yeah, but I don't have to answer it. (laughs)
You must be delighted with the critical reaction you've received so far?: In the States it's well over the top. People wanted something like this. Maybe we got lucky, the wind's blowing the right way; I wouldn't confuse that with stardom by any means (laughs). But we are having a lot of fun with this … so if it all stops tomorrow it's great coz all the reviews over there (Europe) have been great and the reaction to the live band's been great. I ain't got a complaint really, except getting from A to B (travelling).
Suppersready: Who was 'Stretch' written about?: I had a friend in Northampton, he went one way, and I went the other. He had a great brain and a great sense of humour, but he had a very dark side to him. Something had messed him up; now and again he had to go and smack people for some reason. So he wound up not having much of a life. We met again seven years ago and we had a great couple of years and then he got cancer and died. I miss him, that's who Stretch is.
Spikelavendar: given your recent preoccupation with history and politics, who are the people you most admire, and how have you incorporated their examples into your own life?: I don't really know because history lies; you don't know what to believe. Anybody slagging off Winston (Churchill) will incur my wrath. John Adams, Lincoln.
'How's Your House' -- you mention adding a bridge at the end of that song, did you not think the song was complete?: No, it was like two chords and the lyrics came in 10 minutes. When I laid it on the band I thought, this is not going to work. It was just a poem, a bit of fun. But the band convinced me.
Benno: if there was one song he could re-write and re-publish which one would it be?: I don't think that way; I don't like going back. I find it extremely tedious.
Ok, what do you hear from your back catalogue and think, 'that annoys me, I'd like to do it differently?': Oh, I see … I remember we had a problem with 'Crash Street Kidds', I don't think we ever nailed that … there was a song called 'I Need Your Love' on Short Back 'n' Sides, that thing never worked. 'All the Good Ones are Taken' is another one; that's the one I'd like to go back and do again.
For the early birds who pre-ordered your new album Shrunken Heads, there's a limited edition bonus EP containing three tracks. Were these tracks meant to be included on the album originally but then split away as a marketing tool?: No, on this one it ran right with 11. If we added another slow one it would be slow/heavy. I suggested 'Wasted' instead of 'Read 'Em and Weep', but Andy insisted on 'Read 'Em and Weep'. You can say that the bonus tracks were a ploy, but the 11 stick together.
Nice sleeve/artwork.: Yeah, Mick Brown's idea. He got some guy to do it; I think the guy was the singer from Nazareth or something (actually it was Max Maxwell, singer from Sensational Alex Harvey Band); he's very good.
This is the second album you've co-produced with Andy York, and we know that you have immense respect for him. Now he can never be Mick Ralphs or Mick Ronson, but as a partner, he must tick a lot of the boxes that those guys did?: Well he's very aware of that - Andy knows exactly who Andy is, his strengths lie in different areas. He's committed to the point of being committed. He's like Ronson in that he's an arranger. … I wouldn't swap him for the world.
The glass guitar: curious about 'Read 'Em and Weep' and other such ballads. As a man who's been married for years and years, where do you get the inspiration for such lyrics? : That all came from the four-mile walk. That actually happened, because in those days you couldn't afford the bus fare. I lived in Shrewsbury; she lived in Meole Brace which is four miles outside Shrewsbury. It's a long way to walk home after you've been dumped (laughs), and it sort of grew from there.
Andy: have you read 'The World is Flat: a Brief History of the Twenty-First Century' by Thomas l. Friedman? Was it the inspiration for 'When the World was Round'?: No. He's not the first one that's asked me. I've heard of the title but I've never read the book. Originally it was going to be 'When the World was Young', but it just didn't sound right.
Grastark: Your favourite track from Shrunken Heads?: I like 'Shrunken Heads'. I've told you before they're all your babies; it's kind of being rude picking one out.
'I Am What I Hated When I Was Young': It's just a little poem, y'know. It's clear to me that all kids think that a guy over 35 is dead, and we all think they're stupid. It's just family fun (referring to Jesse).
Davec: Despite your well known dislike of the corporate-ness of the music business these days, does it frustrate you that you have not had commercial success, particularly when you are undoubtedly respected in the business and often cited as a major influence on so many artists?: It's a mixed thing: if you get big with a corporation you make a lot of money but you have to do things 24/7 and you become something you don't particularly like. Yes, I'd like to sell a lot of records but on my terms, not on a corporate labels' terms coz it's too much like hard work. It's more important making records.
Grastark (again): there must be some things that puzzle you about your fans, who you see idolizing you all over the place. I'm a big fan, is there a question you would like to ask me?: (pause) No, I get it. I have a good set of fans, they get together even if I'm not there (reference to the Notting Hill meet in Oct '06). That's really nice; that's like-minded people getting together and having a really good time. And it's not like we're a bunch of yobbos either; they're nice people and that's why I do the Horse's Mouth. I'm well appreciative of them; they've held me through when nobody else was particularly interested, and I don't forget that.
Next album?: I've got seven melodies and two lyrics. This is probably four years ahead of where I would be. No 'Twisted Steel', 'Rollerball' or 'Irene Wilde' -- probably bonus or something. The next album will be the next album.
It's 35 years since 'Diary of a Rock 'n' Roll Star', have your opinions changed?: Oh I don't know, I can't remember what my viewpoint was! (laughs) If indeed I had one. Don't do it (get into the music business). It's a scumbag business run by thugs, but I manage because I'm on the fringe. And I've been lucky with covers and that means I don't have to play the game. Now I'm only doing what I'm doing because I have a healthy respect for my manager Danny (Goldberg), he's legit and honest.
Thanks to Mike Mitchell (RTM) for providing this edition of The Horse's Mouth.