When Phil Jackson last visited Grapevine HQ, we also got the chance to ask him about his own projects away from The Rutles, a tour of which he’s now halfway through, so see what happened when we chatted about his music and other upcoming projects…
Hello, this time its all about you! For starters, why don’t you tell us a bit about your albums C Sides and Hands form earlier this year…
Well, C Sides was a fun idea and was a reaction to an album I did last year, where I wanted to have songs that were like a snapshot. I just went and somewhere and basically wrote streams of consciousness, of what I saw around me and that brought out emotions in me, and things that had been resting in my soul.
At the time, to free myself up, I thought ‘I’m going to write a set of C Sides. Not A Sides or B Sides, they’re C Sides, so it doesn’t matter if they’re good or not.’ and that is a really good way of thinking to free yourself up, so I came up with some fun, interesting stuff, with a few emotional moments as well.
As part of the experience, I went away to America and I wrote a couple of songs there. I went to Nashville and Memphis, and I wrote some songs there. I have a little 8-track, handheld recorder, and most of the songs were actually recorded on that, so it was really quick and a case of write the songs, and record them the same day. The last song on the album is actually recorded in an empty bedroom in Nashville, so that just gives you the vibe of it.
Meanwhile, Hands came along because someone wanted some music for a film they were making in Woodbridge. I didn’t have any Piano music recorded, but I play Piano and have done a lot of background Piano, so that’s sort of what it is, it’s a set of improvisations of my songs and it’s like background music. It’s really chilled out, perfect for if you want to have a romantic meal, and a lot of people have said ‘ah, I put it on in the car and its really chilled me out’, so that’s all it is really and it’s a set of about 15 songs.
I liked the quirky videos that go with C Sides too…
Fantastic! Yeah the videos are quite like the recordings, they’re pretty spontaneously captured and thought-up, and then I spliced the ideas together, but hopefully they aren’t detracting from the music.
Certainly not! Did you always want to be a musician? Where did your influences come from?
Yeah, well I’m not sure it was a matter of being a musician. I don’t think I felt like I was a musician until I started a band, and that was in my late 20s. But since I was 12 years old I wanted to be Freddie Mercury… obviously I’m quite bald now! But I wanted to be Freddie Mercury, so I got a guitar and wanted to write a song, so I got into songwriting and wanted to be a singer.
I did that for a while, then at about 15 I started playing piano, and I did a lot of formal training on piano. But when I was about 19, I got heavily into Jerry Lee Lewis, and that was the end of me being taught piano, so I got heavily into bashing the keys as hard as I could trying to sound like him, and I became quite rock n roll influenced on the piano.
I like a lot of stuff though; I’m influenced by all the good stuff down through the last century, from Classical to Blues and Jazz, Country and Rock n Roll especially.
I’m also a big fan of The Traveling Wilburys – who for those that don’t know are almost a super group; they’ve got George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne. You’re getting the best of all those 5 people, who are all very famous in their own right, but there’s some sounds on my C Sides and other stuff I’ve done which sounds very Jeff Lynne, and he produced a lot of The Traveling Wilburys stuff. If you listen to them, you’ll hear some of me.
Following the tour, what’s next on the agenda for you?
For me, it’ll just be more gigs really. I hope to do a couple more gigs with my own stuff; I’ve actually started putting together a band for my solo stuff.
I’ve got a gig on the 9th June at the Bandstand on the Beach in Aldeburgh, so that’ll be fun as it’s literally on the beach in a bandstand. I’ll hopefully have the band ready for that, we’ll be playing all my new stuff from the two previous albums. I’ve also got another album I’m going to try and bring out later in the year of snapshot songs again, so it’s all very quick stuff, and that gig will be with Izzy’s Daughter as well, who I play piano for and she’s very interesting. She’ll be on the bill with me that day, and we’re doing a couple of different sets.
Then my rock n roll band are doing a few gigs in late June and hopefully more to come. The summer is young at the moment and hopefully they’ll book us in different places. For now, we have Music By The Sea in Aldeburgh on the 30th June at about midday, and also on the 30th June we’re at FinnFest in Finningham (Suffolk) in the evening at 9.30pm, which apparently we’re headlining!
For updates, you can find our links on Facebook, Phil Jackson Rock & Roll Band, that’s us and Phil Jackson Music, that’s me. All in a nutshell – like a nut!
Yes, like it! Thank you and good luck with all the upcoming gigs and festivals.