Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson on Aging, Sound and Continuity (Part 2 of 2)

Continued from Part One

The new album’s deluxe version also includes Bruce Soord’s 5.1 mix. In the ‘70s when quadraphonic sound – the historical antecedent of 5.1 Surround – came around, many people thought of it as a gimmick. Where did and do you stand on audio formats beyond traditional stereo?

I recorded two albums where, during the recording the process and doing the mix, we were thinking in terms of quadraphonic sound. And I went back to remix, from memory, the Aqualung album and Warchild in quadraphonic sound after they had been recorded and released. So I did have an experience of working in quadraphonic back in the mid-’70s. It was an interesting option, but it was hampered by the reality of trying to record the rear two channels and to encode them digitally, because the quality of digital encoding, at that point, was very crude. And they had to be cut on the quadraphonic vinyl album which meant that the encoding for the rear two channels was subject to a lot of distortion and very limited bandwidth. It was never really going to happen.

Quadraphonic sound did become the precursor for what became the CD. The idea that you could digitally encode audio signals was something that began in the ‘70s and then really took root in the early ‘80s. So that was a very useful technology in that regard. But quadraphonic vinyl albums, that was just a bit of a side show; it was never really going to happen. It was not good quality and something we could’ve probably done without. But having sat in many studios and listened to 5.1 surround mixes and more recently listened to things in Dolby Surround and Sony 360, I can see why it has its place.

But, frankly for me, I’m only possessed of two ears, and they are quite directional, and I enjoy listening to music in stereo. I don’t really feel the need to rush out and spend many, many, many thousands of pounds or dollars on a system that would allow me to play back surround sound. I have no interest in spending that money and forever doing something to a room in my house which would render it unsaleable. Because if you’re going to do that job properly, you’re talking about a studio installation that’s going to cost you a serious amount of money. You know, the only time I ever listen to music is when I’m making a record, so I have no interest in having some high-tech listening room to listen to other people’s music!

Some artists are employing multi-channel sound onstage and in concert. What are your thoughts on that?

If you start to scatter musical sound sources around a 360 degree audio environment, well, that’s not the way you hear music. Even standing on the stage, that’s not the way I hear music. I guess, if you’re in the middle of a symphony orchestra, perhaps that would have some credibility. But frankly, most of us on a concert stage are too busy trying to remember what note to play next rather than listening to the people around us in that kind of a way.

RökFlöte came together quite quickly on the heels of The Zealot Gene. Can we expect you to keep up that kind of pace going forward?

I have another project in mind for release in October of 2024, which I’ll really start getting to grips with in October of this year, but that is a way off. I know what it’s about; I know the general subject material and how I’m going to go about doing it, but I’ve deliberately avoided putting anything too detailed in terms of pen to paper at this point.

Because when I start working it, I want to have momentum. I want to have a gathering storm of ideas and creativity to pass on to the guys of the band. I don’t want to [start] and then maybe a year goes by before I really get around to seriously working on the mastering and recording of it. An album has got to have some momentum, some life where you begin, you develop, you make some demos, you get in the studio, rehearse it, record it, and mix it, master it, do all the album artwork, and release it. There’s got to be a continuity there to keep the energy level up. And the time for that is: not yet.