We all know that Tullies past are present are a thoroughly nice bunch of guys but just to prove it Peter Vitesse has agreed to do a Q & A session with us about his time with Tull and his other musical activities before and since. The format will be the same as we did with Jon Noyce so I will leave this thread open for two weeks to give everyone a chance to put questions to Peter. I'll then lock the thread and send them on.
Peter played a huge part in creating the Tull sound in the early to mid 80's so I'm sure everyone will have loads of interesting questions for him. Fire away.........
Q1. What was it like working with Ian Anderson on Walk Into Light? It's an album I revisit frequently and still enjoy and I'm interested to know what the process was when you and Ian wrote the songs that you are jointly credited with.
Q2. When you recorded The Broadsword and the Beast as a member of Tull, did you have in the back of your mind the music that had gone before or did you have free reign to "do your own thing"?
Q3. What did you "learn" from your time with Tull and did it enrich your subsequent music in any way with regard to composition and performance?
Q4. Finally, did you enjoy the Tull experience?
“The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the greatest intention” ― Kahlil Gibran
Peter what I wonder is whatever became of cyclops kitty? Truly a Tull collectible. Remember what I'm talking about? Prior to the beginning of the Broadsword shows, (think I saw 3 of them, definitely Nostell Priory and Chicago), there was a stuffed? kitty set upon your piano with one eye. Just as the show was to begin, maybe by way of warning a laser light would emit from the pootens eye, speaking to the impending horror of Count Anderson's arrival. As I recall you are Scottish, from one of the cities I am guessing. Surely in your time with Tull you had cause to visit Skye, and probably had been there prior to that. In all my travels that remains a particularly special place, I wonder if it helped inspire anything musically.
How much creativity were you allowed in Tull? It seems you had more credits to your name than say Evans and Barlow etc. combined in just a short time with Tull comparably. How do you think that era of Music has held up over the years?
In your pomp and all your glory, you're a poorer man than me.
How were you approached to work with Ian and Tull? Any touring tales to tell? [Thankfully I was sober when I typed that] Would you consider writing/performing with Ian again? The Tull output during your time with them seemed much more prolific than following years, any notion as to why that might be?
And thanks for your contribution to the Tull leagcy, I enjoyed that time considerably.
Here's the answers to our Q & A, a million thanks for Peter for taking the time to answer our questions in such depth and thanks to all of you guys who took part.....
Try this lot out for size! Peter.
Q: Any plans for his song ..Beg ?
A: This was a song that I wrote with Leon Jean-Marie and Felix Howard. I posted my demo of it on my Myspace as the finished production ( by Mark Ronson of all people!) was very poor. Leon is a very talented artist and deserved a bit more luck but we were all excited by the idea of Mark Ronson producing the track as he was riding high with the Amy Winehouse stuff at the time. Bugger.
Q: What was it like working with Ian Anderson on Walk Into Light? It's an album I revisit frequently and still enjoy and I'm interested to know what the process was when you and Ian wrote the songs that you are jointly credited with.
A: The truth is that it was very tough. Of course, my then youth and the subsequent passage of time have softened my memories a little, I do remember that Ian had put me up in his house during the making and I remained to all intents and purposes 'skint' whilst we grappled with the prevailing technological challenges in the form of the then primitive sequencers and samplers for the best part of a year!! Apart from having about ten quid to my name throughout, I was very into all of this ( I have always been an early adopter of new technologies ) and Ian was keen to explore new ways of making music and doing something altogether different from Tull. Some Tull aficionados are hugely upset by how contrary this all seemed but we were both doing what inspired us at the time and there was never any conscious effort to hop on ANY bandwagon. Looking back it was very innocent and quite authentic and true, not good maybe, but well intentioned. Fly by night was a track that I had put together one evening and Ian liked the vibe. We worked on a melody together and Ian did the lyric. Later on Ian did some Lynn drum programming and bass guitar. I was very pleased with the sampled string and flute parts that I had done ( remember dacka-dack dack dack...dack dack ) and I thought this was as close to a single that either of us was capable ( over the years I've come a lot closer to this elusive pop dream and have indeed written some multi million selling tunes. Sadly, none involving the fabulously talented Ian Anderson).
Q: When you recorded The Broadsword and the Beast as a member of Tull, did you have in the back of your mind the music that had gone before or did you have free reign to "do your own thing"?
A: When I auditioned for Tull back in 1980, I really had very little knowledge of their music. On the other-hand, Ian and the band were looking for inspiration and a bit of youthful daring do. During the audition itself I would launch into improvised pieces based upon what had gone on before and this unfettered energy wasn't hindered by knowing much of their glorious musical heritage! My influences from that time were mainly Jazz and Jazz rock fusion and I think my desire to improvise in this way, tempered by the folk/classical pursuits of my Tull predecessors made for a good combination.
Q: What did you "learn" from your time with Tull and did it enrich your subsequent music in any way with regard to composition and performance?
A: I thank my lucky stars that I was fortunate enough to participate in Tull. Ian mentored me in so many ways. Music, photography, philosophy, trials cycling, off roading and it was Ian who introduced me to my first sushi! I have a huge debt of gratitude to Ian. I was also encouraged by Martin and Dave whose diverse musical influences pulled me so much higher up the musical ladder than I could have ever achieved myself. These are the kind of people that you meet once in a life time. Lucky or what?
Q: Finally, did you enjoy the Tull experience?
A: At the beginning I loved being with Tull. I was plucked from obscurity and found myself playing all this great music in the company of these very fine humans. But I was always aware that you can stay too long in the comfort zone and I needed to keep moving and as Ian's voice began to get worse, his own temperament began to suffer. The night Ian jumped off stage in LA to berate some poor Tull enthusiast for smoking weed was the night I made my decision to experience life without Tull's cosseting support. Enjoyable? Well with hindsight it was. Had I stayed any longer, I'm not so sure.
Q:Peter what I wonder is whatever became of cyclops kitty? Truly a Tull collectible. Remember what I'm talking about? Prior to the beginning of the Broadsword shows, (think I saw 3 of them, definitely Nostell Priory and Chicago), there was a stuffed? kitty set upon your piano with one eye. Just as the show was to begin, maybe by way of warning a laser light would emit from the pootens eye, speaking to the impending horror of Count Anderson's arrival.
A: I have a very dim memory of this. Perhaps some of your readers might remember what this robofeline did.
Q:As I recall you are Scottish, from one of the cities I am guessing. Surely in your time with Tull you had cause to visit Skye, and probably had been there prior to that. In all my travels that remains a particularly special place, I wonder if it helped inspire anything musically.
A: I was born just outside Edinburgh in a place called Seafield although I went to seven (yes seven!!) different schools throughout Scotland. I have stayed in Bothwell, Motherwell, Wishaw and toward the end of my secondary schooling, a place called Brechin which, by the way, is definitive PROOF that the statement 'it is better to travel in hope than to arrive' is, as far as Brechin is concerned, true. But all of that moving gave me an appreciation of the beautiful Scottish countryside and when I did visit Ian in Skye one Christmas, I was completely awestruck by the scenery. I have found, however, that inspiration comes at the oddest and sometimes most inappropriate moments. I never did write a piece of music that was inspired by the Cuillin mountains in of themselves but my music is derived from having lived with that moment in time amongst the many others as part of what constitutes me.
Q: How much creativity were you allowed in Tull? It seems you had more credits to your name than say Evans and Barlow etc. combined in just a short time with Tull comparably. How do you think that era of Music has held up over the years?
A: Loads. I did put in lots of musical ideas, concepts and various passages so I guess it was down to Ian to decide whether these were more worthy than contributions by other band members, past or present. As far as the music 'holding up' is concerned, I find impossible to 'measure' within oneself if something is more or less valid in the grand scheme of things. You do what you do. "The moving finger having writ... moves on". From the 'Lamarckian' evolutionary point of view, I think that if the music of that era HAD held up, then it would be much more prevalent today and we would have to acknowledge that what may have been good at one point had not informed subsequent further improvements and/or replacements that followed. I can't imagine how dreary a world like this would be.
Q: A philosophical question Peter.... Would you like to glimpse say 200 hundred years into the future and if so what do you think you'll see ?
A: Ah, philosophy! Don't ya just love it? Prediction is a very dangerous thing , especially when it's about the future!!! But what the hell, its just for fun....right?
Copyright and intellectual copyright. Gone. Replaced by nano robot entry into the Xfactor singing a melody over what sounds suspiciously like 'Seal Driver' from Broadsword. No organisation left active to collect royalties on behalf of Ian Anderson or myself. An elk coughs and later dies in a meadow. Rosencrantz does not return. A purple woman becomes president ( this is important as it has previously been held that there are no purple women role models). Jordan to receive new breast/lung implants. And a heat resistant vagina. Michael Jackson's great grandchild is the first human/machine hybrid to host cookery program live from Mars. Area 51 to start 'open days'. Seriously, I do think that copyright is in some danger. Mainstream popular music has all become very familiar. Soon I expect there won't be much in the way of income to be arguing over as most musical endeavour will exist in the 'long tail' of statistical likelihood. That's not to say that there will not be any good music in the future but we have witnessed a decline in compositional length ( at least) over the last 100 years and entropy being what it is, I cannot see a return to a 32 bar chorus never mind the 7 minute single. This is, of course, a debate that rages in every field where 'art' comes face to face with commercialism and thus far the need to appeal to the so called 'lowest common denominator' has won out. My pessimistic outlook for popular music not withstanding, I do believe that if we manage to harvest the Helium 3 from the Moon and transport it back to Earth economically, we might progress to what Dr Michio Kaku has defined as a type 3 civilisation in his book 'Visions'. If humankind does indeed go on to distribute nearly infinite amounts of energy in an egalitarian way who can tell what wonderous works will ensue in the knowledge that 'everything is gonna be alright'. OK so now your thinking, how can I link Helium 3 with music? Perhaps the Greeks were on to this thousands of years ago. The music of the spheres. Plato and Parmenides. They can tell us more about the future than I ever can.
Q: How were you approached to work with Ian and Tull?
A: I answered an ad in the Melody Maker that said "International rock band looking for keyboard player". I auditioned at Ian's house and got the gig.
Q: Any touring tales to tell? [Thankfully I was sober when I typed that]
A: I have loads. There were quite a lot of good natured pranks played upon me or that I perpetrated upon others. One that I remember backfiring on me took place during the Australian leg of the 'Under wraps" tour. It wasn't often when the band and road crew stayed in the same hotel but on this occasion we were all in The Sebel Town House in Sydney. There were two lifts to the rooftop swimming pool and on a day off we were all sunning ourselves there. I bet Doane that he couldn't swim two lengths underwater and before I knew it he had jumped in. As he returned on his second length under water, I took all of my clothes off and jumped in just in time for my 'winkie' to land on Doane's surfacing nose. 'Ho ho' I thought, 'great jolly jape'. In the meantime my roadie (Paul) had run with my clothes to the lift and sent them down to the lobby! I ran up in time to get the second lift which the road crew shoved me in and sent ME hurtling towards the lobby!! Naked and dripping wet I hit the fourth floor button as I was sure this otherwise salubrious hotel reception was not ready for me in that state. I looked for somewhere to hide on the fourth floor but the lift 'pinged' and in my head I knew my only option was to impersonate a cupids statue.This was the sight that greeted the emerging occupants of the lift. Moments later the other lift arrived containing Paul and my clothes. I wasn't arrested and I think I got away with the Cupid statue bit. Anyway, I wasn't arrested.
Q: Would you consider writing/performing with Ian again?
Q: The Tull output during your time with them seemed much more prolific than following years, any notion as to why that might be? And thanks for your contribution to the Tull legacy, I enjoyed that time considerably.
A: Thank you for saying that. I notice that, in the main, I take a lot of flak for having destroyed Tull with my synthesizer. But of course, all that was happening then is that we ALL got a big kick from experimenting with this form of music making. I think my LACK of fear for Tull preservation was the reason why Ian was so prolific in those days. Besides, preservation ( in this context) possibly requires even more energy than innovation. Adopt, adapt, survive.
Q:Broadsword: I know that it has a Norse/ Celtic theme however can you give us any more info on the influences both in music and lyrics?
A: For my part, the influences that I brought to the table were mostly from Jazz and Jazz rock fusion ( the latter has since begun to sound horrible to me ). But I was aware that my predecessors had more classical influences and I tried to integrate them too. Sounds very 'knowing' but it was all very ad hoc. Had I enough sensitivity or had removed my head from my own bottom for long enough, I could tell you that Ian was in a state of lyrical flux. 'Beastie' being a metaphor for some form of paranoia/super ego. 'Seal Driver' linking Ian's love of all things mechanical ( and at the time, water borne ) with perhaps some kind of phsyco/sexual game play. I could, but then again I can't in all honesty. I was 23 years old and in Jethro Tull!!! Really, I didn't know anything existed! Least of all Ian's lyrics. They just got in the way of my playing. Ian, Martin and Dave were very forgiving.
Q: What's the best Tull related question we haven't thought of asking you? (cue amusing Tull anecdote!)
A: Is there life after Jeth? Most certainly!!
Q: You've worked with musicians in a huge range of styles, so what do you listen to for pleasure?
A: I love the works of Clause Ogerman ( orchestral Jazz) and I adore Kurt Elling and Laurence Hobgood. So mostly all progressive Jazz for pleasure.
A couple of questions regarding Under Wraps:
Q: As it was stylistically a radical change in the Tull sound was there a feeling amongst the band during recording the album that you were taking a big risk?
A: From my point of view, not even slightly. Knowing Ian and Martin as I do, I feel sure they wouldn't be able to do ANYTHING if they felt it was premeditated. You have to be cognisant of risk in order to take it. I don't think any of us were.
Q:With the possible exception of Passion play it's probably the Tull album that divides fans opinions the most, did you ever get any negative reactions from fans when you toured it?
A: Good heavens, all the time!!!
Finally, a chance to shamelessly plug your current projects........
Q:What are you doing right now, how can we buy it and where can we come and see it!?
A: I am writing with and producing a wide range of artists ranging from Robin Gibb ( whose album I have just finished co writing and producing ) to new young talents amongst whom are Anna Leddra Chapman, Ben Montague and Nate James. Check my Myspace if you fancy a listen.
Wow, this was so interesting - Thanks very much to Mr. Vitesse, Col, and all those who posed questions. Very informative - Many thanks!
I'm a bit ashamed of my youthful opinion of some of those eighties works. I had a very immature understanding of the creative process, and was unwilling to give something new a honest, open listen. I think a great many of those tracks have aged very well.
The next generation(s) of Tull fans won't experience the same shock of stylistic change, and (hopefully) will judge the entire catalog on it's own merits, rather than unfairly weighing down this-or-that album with the sorts of expectations i once did.
Good on you for helping to push Tull in new directions, Mr. Vitesse - and for sharing your time with us here. Sincere thanks!
Just passing through before another long stint at work and read the PV answers to our questions. Honest, unfazed by success, genuine etc and an all round good bloke. Thanks Col for the thread and lets hope there are many more with like minded people.
“The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the greatest intention” ― Kahlil Gibran