Subject ———— bryan ferry (Musician) From ———— NILE RODGERS CC ———— JAKE CHESSUM (Photographer) ATTACHMENTS ———— 5 Assisted by Kevin Trageser and Andrew Sutherland Grooming by Sandrine Van Slee at Art Department
NILE RODGERS—I love this album [The Jazz Age] and I’m surprised at how well it works. I was raised in the jazz scene in New York’s Greenwich Village; were you nervous about offending your fans or worse – offending jazz critics whom I like to call “The Jazz Police?”
BRYAN FERRY—I would hope that fans of the originals would be amused and entertained by hearing them done in a different light, in the same way as they seem to have enjoyed some of my covers of songs written by other artists. I’ve always been of the belief that a good song can be approached in a variety of ways, and that was the premise behind this project. As for “The Jazz Police,” I’ve been delighted to find that they have had a generally positive response to the album! We tried to make the record sound of the period, and it’s amusing to watch people who think that they are listening to an original piece of music from the 1920s who then realize that they recognize the melody of Love Is The Drug, or Virginia Plain.
NR—In the late seventies I had many delightful conversations with poster artist Paul Colin. I collect his work, so naturally I’m very curious as to why you chose his images for your cover?
BF—I’m also a big fan and occasional collector of Paul Colin’s work, and we felt that his illustrations of La Revue Nègre perfectly evoked the reckless energy of the Jazz Age, which is what we were trying to capture on this album. As I’m sure you know, it’s also interesting to note that he was in fact the boyfriend of Josephine Baker, who was one of the most colorful figures of that epoch and who created such a stir in Paris with her famous banana dance.
NR—Are you a daydreamer and do you romanticize the concept of living in this period?
BF—Yes I suppose you could say that… I seem to be continually drawn to the past for inspiration. Earlier in my career I had explored the music and culture of the 1930s, and this time I felt like going back even further, to the roots of the music that I love. After the horrors of the Great War, the twenties were a time of great celebration. The Jazz Age was such an exciting period and it’s not only some of my favorite music that comes from this era, but also literature. It saw the birth of modernism with T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land – a fantastic poem, which I love. And it was also when F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby, which documents the period with great panache. The way in which the novel captures the excitement, hedonism, and general craziness of the time makes me want to be transported back to witness some of the revelry and excess of one of Jay Gatsby’s parties with my own eyes, albeit with rose-tinted glasses!
NR—Were you aware that the groups of the big band Jazz Age are the major influence on the lyrics of my band CHIC, most notably in our first single Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah). Do you know what “Yowsah” means and who’s most credited with popularizing it?
BF—My encyclopaedia tells me that it originated with the American jazz violinist and radio personality Ben Bernie, who popularized it in the 1920s, but to be honest I’ve never been quite sure what it means…
NR—How did you decide which songs to reinterpret?
BF—Like most things, by trial and error. I wanted the album to cover all aspects of my career, both with Roxy Music and as a solo artist. Some of the tracks are well known and others more obscure album tracks. We tried out a wide variety of my songs, and the unpredictability of the mood that these interpretations would take, made the process all the more interesting. Love Is The Drug and Virginia Plain for instance, seem to have retained more or less the same essence as the originals, whereas Avalon – which was one of the more challenging songs to arrange – has a quite different mood to the original.
NR—Knowing how artists think, was there a grand design, for example: why 13 songs? Does Colin Good’s given name being spelled the same as Paul Colin’s surname mean anything to the project?
BF—Knowing you as I do, I guess you like to see a grand order to things! I’ve always thought 40 minutes (20 minutes each side) was roughly the right amount of music for an LP, and in my opinion this also applies to CDs. As for Colin Good and Paul Colin, I’m not totally sure!
NR—After knowing and respecting you for such a long time this project comes completely out of the blue to me. Why this and why now?
BF—I had wanted to do an album of instrumental versions of my songs for some time, and I thought that doing it in twenties jazz style would be a cute idea. I happen to know such a strong group of jazz musicians here in London who I felt could help me realize this. Throughout my career there has been such a strong focus on my work as a vocalist and my role as song-writer was less well known. I wanted to take the opportunity to see how these songs stand up on their own without the lyrics and to put the spotlight on my role as the writer of these songs.
NR—Though you didn’t know it at the time, Roxy Music would have a tremendous impact upon the formation of my band CHIC, as a result of me seeing you perform a London show at a venue called Roxy. Do you remember anything of that night?
BF—Very happily we seem to have a mutual admiration society going on here! As you know I have always been a huge fan of your records with CHIC, and all the other people you’ve produced. I began my long association with the recording engineer and mixer Bob Clearmountain after hearing his work with you and CHIC – a relationship that continues to this day, and all thanks to you my friend. So I’m very glad if we were some inspiration to you along the way!
NR—As a colleague, friend, and fan I really like this record. Do you think you could imagine doing new compositions in the style of this period?
BF—Oh, I think so. Having immersed myself in the period so much for the last few months it would probably feel perfectly natural. I am taking these jazz cats on my next tour, so watch this space!
NR—Is this a traditional record deal or is it funded and distributed with a new business model? If it’s a newer model distributing classic songs interpreted in a period style, do you find that somewhat ironic?
BF—Both the funding and distribution are based on a new business model. The decline of the major record labels has made record deals in the traditional sense fairly rare. I think that this has been very productive on the creative side as these new approaches to the business side of music have led to a more adventurous approach to making records. Rather like we say, a cottage-industry approach. This seems to be a more cavalier and exciting way to do things now.
NR—If this project is a commercial or spiritual success would you consider performing other artists’ songs in this style, and maybe even singing them as well?
BF—Yes, we have already done a couple of contemporary songs in this style for a movie soundtrack. I have also sung a couple of my own songs jazz-style on a live radio broadcast recently and I was quite surprised by how easily it went.
NR—I secretly feel you’d love to be standing in front of a jazz big band singing either your own music, be it new or remakes. Come on tell the truth, am I correct?
BF—Well, I am in fact looking forward to going on tour with this music later this year. I should think that I will end up singing a few of the tracks, as well as being the impresario. The thing is Nile, that I will always love being surrounded by great electric guitar players, such as yourself, and it’s very hard to shake that addiction!
NR—Because I believe in deep hidden meanings I’m going to ask you exactly 13 questions to match the 13 songs on you record. Can I play on your next album?
BF—You’re already booked pal!