Aera, March 2005

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  • 2005 March

Japan publications


Welcome To Japan


What is the concept of your latest album, The Delivery Man?

It has a story running through it. It is told in fragments so it can work on your imagination. And it also contains things that have been happening in the world. It is telling the tale of three women and their relationship with a man called Abel, who has a secret.

What was the recording process?

It was pretty concentrated. I went down with the intention of rehearsing, then played in a tavern in the town quite a bit. Unfortunately, I was a little too enthusiastic with my singing and I had to wait a few days to get my voice back, so I had a little time to hang around in town and get to know some people, which was good. We actually recorded most of the record over that weekend.

Did you sightsee in Tokyo?

I went out to buy some presents. I usually try to do something while I am here. In the past I have been to Ueno Park, to the museums. You have great record stores here, so I always like to visit those. I did that in Osaka. Sometimes I like to go for a walk, get lost not knowing any particular thing.

How do you feel about having concerts in Japan?

With somebody like myself, who does not write very typical lyrics, it is a very big contribution that the audience is making, in order to listen to what's being said, and to try to understand the sense of what I am saying. I do appreciate the effort that the audience makes. People are very thoughtful and are more reserved, but usually concerts end with great excitement. I always have a very enjoyable time. Wonderful. 0: How do you put words into your music?

It's strange that I find it difficult to describe how I do something or what I do. I write thoughts down as they come to me. I think about the same things over a long period of time. And therefore, fragments of writing that you do over some time, when you examine it, you discover that certain things you have written are connected. Some pattern emerges and some rhythm may emerge or a fragment of a melody. And the idea for the songs would be suggested in the title, the emotion you have, something which focuses on the story, like you say in The Delivery Man. I knew how to do it. I'd be doing it all day long. It's become like a factory, but it's slightly elusive and mysterious to me. I hope it always remains so. I don't want to understand it properly.

Are the words coming from an inner depth of yours or from the outside world?

I think the words come from my personal location, which is my imagination. But imagination is stimulated by everything, by love, by sorrow, by something you regret, by something you reflect upon in the world, by angers that make you despair — these are all impulses that create an impetus to write.

You have been a prolific song writer for a long time. What is your secret?

I have no idea. If somebody asks me to write a song, I can often do it very quickly, as an impulse or inspiration comes to me quickly. I think sometimes people slightly distrust those who are prolific, as if doing a lot must be somehow inferior, you know.

Do you actually love to travel around the globe?

Obviously, in my work, I physically travel around the world quite a bit, and I have a shared apartment with my wife in New York; she has a beautiful house in British Columbia, so we spend time both in New York City and in a beautiful coastline environment in British Columbia where eagles fly outside the window. I have lived in many different places and I travel a lot, sometimes with work, sometimes out of curiosity. I have been in South America and Africa, but I don't have any special longing to travel.

In a musical aspect, what helped you cross the borders so creatively?

I am curious about different things. I don't think it's quite exceptional. I grew up in a house with a lot of music in it, and all the music was of interest to me. Until I discovered what it would be really about, I couldn't judge it. When you are young, you don't really understand jazz or classical much as they are impenetrable to young ears. But I always listened to my old records when I was a child, while appreciating the brand-new records.

What sort of music did you listen to in your childhood?

Predominantly, my parents listened to jazz, and to good singers such as Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Nat Cole — but also classical music, and a little folk music as well. I don't remember Rock and Roll very much as a child. Obviously in the 60s, by the time I was old enough to know how to turn the radio on, make my own choices, there were wonderful things like The Beatles.

How does your wife, as a great jazz musician, influence your music?

She never influences me musically. We influence each other. We happen to have the same or similar job, so we can talk to each other about our experiences. The work we did together for her album I enjoyed greatly. The only downside of her success and my ability to keep working after 25 years or more is of course we don't see each other as much as we would like. But in two days time, we will meet in London. That will be wonderful (with smile).

You've taken on many challenges, such as making ballet music or performing in movies. In what direction do you plan on moving next?

Well, we have a tour and the band is playing very well indeed. I want to carry on those concerts into next year. The recording business is in a transition at the moment. We have to be looking for new ways to communicate with the people. Concerts will always work because they're timeless, but there are going to be new ways. Obviously, downloading is now a legal credible vay to present music, and people can get high quality music which they are not stealing. That's possibly the way to go. That's going to change the way we structure the work that we present because albums won't mean anything anymore. But it's a fascinating time.


Aera English, March 2005

Includes an interview with Elvis Costello.


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