The Gary Wright Interview, Part Two
Continued from Part One
BILL KOPP: Two of the bonus tracks on Connected are George Harrison-related. “To Discover Yourself” was co-written with George in 1971. Can you tell me a bit about the circumstances surrounding the writing of that song?
GARY WRIGHT: I don’t remember exactly which album…it was definitely after All Things Must Pass (1970). It wasn’t when George was actually right in the middle of writing for an album. He just came up to my flat that I had in London at the time. I had been writing this song, and I played it for him. He took out his guitar and he helped me finish it off. And I never did anything with it; I always kept it in the back of my mind. But then when he passed I decided to finish it. The day he passed away, I actually went into the studio to put that song down.
BK: The song’s arrangement – lone piano – is a stark contrast with the rest of the album. Did you feel a need to be true to some original vision of the song, rather than somehow try and bring it sonically in line with the modern songs on Connected?
GW: It wasn’t actually part of the album. It’s meant to be an additional track which I had, one that the public wanted to hear. Because I had been getting emails asking “when are you going to put that song out?” So I decided now was the time to do it.
BK: I saw one of the earliest All-Starr tours — with Todd Rundgren on guitar – and I get the impression that the whole affair is a sort of loose, back-slapping endeavor where everybody has fun. It doesn’t come off as quite the grind that a plain old tour might be. Is that accurate?
GW: I would definitely say there’s a spirit of happiness, and everybody’s having a good time. When we’re onstage, though, I think the band is really serious. It’s a great show. I kind of get the feeling it’s not loose, not like some of the earlier All-Starr tours. In those, he had a lot more people; I think on the first one he had a lot of people onstage. I think this one works really, really well musically because the songs are strong. The chemistry – how the songs flow into one another — really works. I think this is the best show Ringo has ever had.
BK: On the current All-Starr tour, how many spotlight tunes do you take?
GW: I do two. Each member of the All-Starr Band does two, and Ringo does his stuff.
BK: The All-Starr tour ends soon. What’s up next for you after that?
GW: I will be going out on tour, probably in October, to promote Connected. I might be going out with another artist, or I might be doing some gigs on my own.
BK: I was very impressed to see that while you’re making Connected available digitally, you’re paying more attention than most to the issue of quality, of the integrity of the finished product. 320kbps MP3 and FLAC — that’s impressive. Do you think that the rise of digital culture has meant that people are (paradoxically) settling for diminished quality audio, with lo-bit MP3 files everywhere?
GW: I agree with you. It’s kind of the opposite of CDs were to records. As opposed to evolution, it’s like devolution. You can put more “information” into less space on an MP3 file than on a WAV or AIFF file, but you lose quality. That’s why I wanted to make the music available this way.
I also have a cool thing coming out: it’s a flash drive that’s encased in a pendant with the om symbol (ॐ) written on it. It’s to be worn as a necklace, and if you take it off, pull it apart and take the flash drive out, it’s got the whole album digitally, plus the bonus tracks we’ve talked about, as well as a remake of my song “Love is Alive,” a duet with my son Dorian. It’s also got videos of me taking about the making of Connected, plus stories about George and Ringo, as well as a video I did with George where he’s singing backing vocals. Some special photographs, and some other stuff. It’s a special package.
BK: This video with George singing backing: is that “Two Faced Man” from the Dick Cavett Show (1971)?
GW: No, it’s another track that I did [in 2005] called “Don’t Try to Own Me.”
BK: Tell me a little bit about your involvement in the upcoming George Harrison biographical film.
GW: I got the call from Martin Scorsese’s office, asking me if I wanted to participate. And I did. We had a very special relationship, insomuch that it was rooted in spirituality and Indian philosophy. And I think among his friends, I was the closest to him in that regard, in the spiritual sense. I think that’s what interested Martin. He’s making this bio-doc about George because he’s interested in George’s spiritual side. The film will be out sometime in 2011.
BK: Because you so fully embraced synthesizers in the 70s – and did so in what I would argue is an “organic” and intelligent manner rather than a bloodless, robotic approach – I’m guessing that you’re perhaps more open than many of your musical generation to new technology. Social media, etc. How involved do you personally get in the fan-interaction media like MySpace, Facebook and Twitter?
GW: I get pretty involved in it, and I have people working with me that are really good at that stuff. Because it’s something you really have to do. You’ve got to make your music available. Because we live in an age where – unfortunately – there’s no more record stores except for Wal-mart and those kind of big chains. And they carry a limited amount of product. So you really have to reach out. And I do get involved: I write letters to my fans, and give updates.
And as far as my website (www.thedreamweaver.com), I try to make that as modern as possible. I was actually one of the first artists to have a web site; this was back in the days of Compuserve [laughs]. I saw then that this was something that was going to be important. And people are spending more and more time on their computers.
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