Here's Anna response to all your questions. Once again a huge thanks to Anna for taking the time to answer all our questions in such depth.
Saw you play with Tull at Fowey, Cornwall, in 2007 and you seemed to enjoy the experience. What did you learn from playing with such a tight-knit band with some quite ingeneous and complicated arrangements to the music. From memory, you had a great time playing Bouree. I learnt so much from playing with Tull!!! Firstly, playing with musicians who have been perfecting their craft over the past decades and jumping in and trying to blend with that is definitely a challenge. Each band has their own rules when it comes to timing, arrangements and tone - with Tull - no electric violins and play on the beat rather than the pocket!! Actually it felt more classical than the other music i'd been playing. Ian is an absolute perfectionist and he hears EVERYTHING. I really admire that! It definitely made me a better player when it comes to precision and THINKING about how you play. And yes - Bourree was fun!
What would you say are your favourite Ian Anderson compositions bearing in mind the "worldmusic" influence that you have in your music and the more recent songs which Ian A has written with an "eastern" flavour. Well, Budapest is definitely one that has the eastern flavour.... and I absolutely love Thick As a Brick - there's a bit in the middle of this where Ian and I would dance around each in a musical-jig-standoff. I really enjoyed playing 'My God' because the arrangement for the violin was so classical and then in contrast to that was 'King Henry'. Then suddenly the set goes into the Donkey and the Drum which is a new composition in 7. It feels a bit like a Balkan drinking song, especially when you're playing it live and you lose where the first beat of the bar is!! Playing with Tull really is the most diverse set when it comes to musical styles.....
What inspired you to take up the violin? Was it the instrument itself or a specific musician which leads me to: My mother plays violin as a hobby and i grew up with loads of music in the house - so she started me off on the violin...
Who are your musical heroes, both violin players and other musicians? I remember my Grandmother in Germany taking me to see Josef Suk the violinist when i was about 8 or 9 years old - I was mesmerised by this big bear playing this tiny looking violin - my Grandmother took me round the back to meet him and get his autograph...around the same age and older I also got taken to a lot of classical concerts and i remember in one orchestra of old ageing men there was this one younger woman with long brown hair who played the violin and i remember watching her the whole night thinking she the most glamorous person I'd ever seen. But in truth I never wanted to actually be a musician - classical or otherwise. Although there were (and are!!) loads of musicians i admire there was never one person who i looked up to as a hero - music was always a really personal thing for me - my violin was a way to express myself and communicate emotionally...and when i performed I became aware that that was something i could share with other people. It was never about trying to be like someone else.
Do you play any other instruments? I had a music scholarship to my school and so I took piano for a couple of years, but I never really felt connected to it. The violin was always my instrument and felt a part of me - piano just felt like something i 'played'. It's useful though for songwriting!
what do you think of Jean Luc Ponty and L. Shankar from Frank Zappa fame and of Ray Shulman of Gentle Giant? To be honest as i was growing up I didn't listen to many violinists other than classical. The only jazz violinist i knew of was Stephane Grapelli. Jean Luc Ponty I became aware of when I got my Violectra violin made (he plays one of those)...so i looked into his music. He's an amazing player and definitely inspirational but a very different style to my own. About 5 years ago when I was 22 I was given the album 'Natural Elements' with Shankar and McLaughlin - this is still one of THE most amazing albums i have EVER heard. The fusion and the fire of the Mahavishnu Orchestra is still unbeaten!!!.....Gentle Giant? I have to admit....I am totally ignorant - I am going to Itunes right now.
I'm curious to know your opinion about those great violin players, and to know if they have influenced your style, somewhat. They didn't really influence my playing because I hadn't listened to any of them until I was already doing my own thing - also, when I was still studying at the LSE I was hanging out on the London music club scene.....so it was more of a folk/roots scene that took me away from classical rather than jazz or progressive rock. I would just go up to musicians after they'd played and ask to jam with them or record for them - that's literally how i started getting work - i remember i kept getting compared to Scarlet Rivera (Bob DYlan's violinist). Then i toured with my uncle's goth/punk band to Berlin and also to Whitby Goth festival which opened up a whole different musical avenue!!
can you remember when you started playing and what was your motivation? I was seven and it was definitely watching and hearing my mother play as i was growing up. She wouldn't let me start playing until i promised to practice every day. From a young age i really loved performing so once i discovered that practising enabled you to perform better then that was a good motivation....i actually wanted to be an actor between the ages of 5 and 16 so i've always loved playing in front of audiences.
have you got any funny tour stories? (with or without Tull!) Yes i do - but the number one musician/crew rule is: What goes on on tour, STAYS on tour. I could tell you all sorts of mischief but I'll never be hired again!!!! Actually - the Tull lot are very well behaved...but if you've had a good show and you pass enough wine into Ian's hands, you get to hear some amazing stories about touring back in the days when it was proper rock n roll. Things like certain members of Led Zeppelin peeing in the ice machines in hotels......Actually i would say that the best or funniest incidences on tour always seem really insignificant taken out of context. When you're touring you're in this little bubble which is totally separate from the rest of the world. The only things that matter are: the show; what's for dinner?; how did the show go?; what's for aftershow food?; are there laundry machines in the hotel?; where are we on our day off?....The people around you become like family - you develop your own rhythm and your own language....and so things that seem hysterical or relevant within the walls of the tourbus or the venue just really seem inconsequential and irrelevant once relayed or written down! (Sorry!!)
How did you get the gig with Tull and what was it like to work with Ian Anderson? It was completely out of the blue and completely unexpected, as often the best things are. I got an email from some random email address claiming to be 'Ian Anderson' and asking if I would consider being a special guest. I thought it was spam so i didn't answer for a while. Apparently it turned out that some American fan who had seen me with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra (which i've been a member of for the past 5 years) had emailed Ian recommending me. How crazy is that??! That is exactly why i absolutely LOVE Ian. Even after forty years of being in the music business, he is still a crazy opportunist who will try anything!! I mean - how many people who have sold 60 million albums even READ their own fanmail for a start?? And then to not only read an email but look up some random violinist and then email her....i don't know, but that attitude to life is inspirational!! So here I am!
I remember reading somewhere you did some recording with IA or Tull around the time you toured with them. Is this right and can you shed any light on the tracks that you recorded? I think he was trying out some stuff for the new tracks he'd written - one of them was 'Donkey and the Drum' - i mentioned it somewhere above as sounding a bit like a Balkan drinking (or drunk) song...I can't actually remember what the other one was - it seems like ages ago!!!
I remember 99 Lives being introduced by IA as being inspired by a somewhat scary happening that occured to you, what's the story behind that song? Well one of my favourite regions to travel to with music is the Middle East (everywhere from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and around the Arab Emirates)...i've been out there a few times when trouble has broken out....I missed the bombing of Beirut Airport by about 50 mins and was stuck in Amman, Jordan trying to get back to London. But whatever my superficial experiences are, this is the real life of a lot of ordinary people out there, and 99 Lives is really a celebration of life. Music is such an important part of their culture and I absolutely love playing there. It's actually amazing what music can do when it comes to bringing people together - wherever in the world you happen to be playing and whatever your background or culture is - music is the ultimate truth which can break down all those barriers. It sounds cheesy but it's true!!
Would you like to work with Tull again and are there any plans to do so? No plans as of yet but i would love to play with Tull again. I'm actually having lunch with Ian tomorrow - he;s become a good friend and definitely someone I see as a bit of a mentor. I can't wait to hear about his gigs in India with Anoushka Shankar.
You are a dynamic performer as well as a great player so when you go onstage are you thinking, "right, let's give these folks a show" or do you just concentrate on the music and the moves just kinda happen on their own!? Depends on what type of performance it is. The music is a way to communicate and the violin happens to be my instrument....but for me the audience is really important. You can feel the energy of an audience as soon as you walk into the venue - whether it's a small bar with 50 people, a theatre with 1500 or an arena with 15,000. Making the audience feel something is definitely of my performance - it;s never JUST about the music or JUST about trying to be 'dynamic' - the two are totally interlinked and the balance between the two depends on which band i'm on stage with!! With Tull I would say it's a pretty equal balance between the two - every note counts and there isn't much call for doing kneeslides across the stage and running through the audience jumping on chairs (like with the TSO!) but at the same time you're onstage with Ian Anderson who's definitely a performer so i'm not going to just stand there in one spot with my eyes closed like I might do in the studio...Every gig is different - you just have to feel it!
What aspect of being a musician today excites you the most right now and what aspect of making music gets you the most discouraged?? Playing with other musicians is the most exciting - continually learning and getting better at your craft. When i look back since I left university 6 years ago and the journey I've taken since then - that to me is the best feeling...and knowing that there are still so much ahead...there is no stop and start with music - it's a journey that doesn't end - until i'm too old and arthritic to play!! Also, the feeling that you are creating something out of nothing....music is the most magical alchemy!!! Before you get onstage and play, there is nothing there - and then together with a bunch of other people you create something for people to enjoy - how cool is that?? Or making CDs...I just finished my first proper album - it's called 'Rise of The Warrior - (it's out on itunes)...that definitely felt like an accomplishment and it feels amazing to have something that is YOU and say you created it. The most discouraging aspect.....music is 100% of your life and it is with you 24 hours a day 7 days a week. it is not a nine to five job that you switch off from. Not only does that have the danger of turning you into the most narcissistic person in the world it also means it takes you away form your friends and family...Touring is hard work - it's the best in the world but it also puts you in a bubble away from your family. Just now I toured for three months with the TRans-Siberian Orchestra around arenas in the United States and Canada. We were away from home for Christmas and New Year (and Thanksgiving for everyone else who was American.) This is the 5th year I was away from my family for Christmas - that has to be the worst bit of the job.
You play just about anywhere, Enormodomes, little club dates, The Pyramids and everything in between!...What's your favourite kind of gig, what different challenges does each gig present and what's the most unusual place you've ever played a show... The pyramids has to be the most breathtaking - or down by the Dead sea on a stage built on an infinity pool...at the same time playing night after night in an arena (and sometimes twice a day) looking out onto a sea of 10,000 faces......that is pretty spectacular too. And then after playing in arenas for three months there's nothing more satisfying than playing in a tiny club!! Or playing festivals around Europe is great too - there;s an incredible one called Exit Festival in Serbia which is a festival in the grounds of an old castle....INCREDIBLE!!!! The strangest (and most impromptu) gig has to be Houston on a night off on tour where we ended in a rather strange bar - the owner heard i played with Jethro Tull and wanted me to play for her - i ended up taking her into the women's toilets where i played some Irish reels - we were soon joined by about 20 other people crammed into the toilets (the acoustics where great!!) and then joined by a guy on his guitar...there was dancing and everything!
Challenges? Hmm - once you know what you're actually playing (sometimes remembering notes can be a challenge!!) the only challenges really are technical ones.....or linguistic ones (or both!) I did a gig in Cairo once where NOONE on the crew spoke English. And the wireless wasn't working for my violin - they had lost one of the antennae - they couldn't seem to understand why the signal was breaking up so i was doing my best to use sign language. In the end they were going through the crowd following me holding the receiver above their heads - they had found a fork which they stuck into it as a replacement antennae. The whole thing looked vaguely ridiculous but it worked. I have a hundred stories like that - it's the only thing that is likely to stress me out before a gig - these are usually the one-off gigs i do....that's the beauty of touring with a whole crew of people who take care of EVERYTHING for you, so all you have to worry about is the actually playing!
In what ways does the place where you live and the places you have visited affect the music you create, or your taste in music? They have totally affected me in EVERY way. I am a complete sponge and absolutely soak up ideas and energy from whoever I am with or wherever I am. RIght back down to my Irish roots and growing up in Scotland helped form the Celtic part, my Greek roots condition my love for the middle Eastern side and then travelling over there added that bit....playing with TSO and more metal musicians have added that edge...you name it - i soak it all up through osmosis whether consciously or subconsciously. I am a total melting pot - i used to be insecure that i wasn't strictly classical, or strictly jazz or strictly anything.....Apart from the classical training until I was 18 i haven't really studied anything....i have totally picked up everything from the people who i have shared my life with up until now - that;s what's so exciting - i have NO idea what will happen in the next 40 years!!
Lately what musical periods or styles do you find yourself most drawn to as a listener and what band or musician, past or present, who you flat-out LOVE do you think we should all be listening to? I have been listening to more metal artists and also more classical again - one album i'm loving at the moment is 'Emigrate' - it's by the guitarist who does all the Rammstein stuff - so it's the heavy industrial riffs of Rammstein with less German vocals....check it out! This year on the TSO tour we had a new vocalist called Tim Hockenberry - a totally untapped talent - his voice is incredible - think Tom Waits but more...you can check out his myspace - www.myspace.com/timhockenberry ...he's got a few albums out and is currently working on a new one.Form last year I really loved the Vampire Weekend album...and I've just ordered the new Fall Out Boy album...there's a song from there we listened to in the dressing room every day before the TSO shows, so now i have to have it!My taste in music is totally eclectic - it really does depend on my mood. If you like jazz and need something to chill out to there's an artist with the weirdest name: Ferenc Snetberger - there's an album called 'Nomad' which is totally enchanting...the track Fifth Frame is perfect for meditation!Also, after playing with Steven Tyler when he joined TSO for three shows I have to admit I went and updated my entire catalogue of Aerosmith albums....the intake of breath at the beginning of Dream On takes me straight back to the NY arenas!!
The TSO is a massive success in the US, has there ever been any discussion about bringng the show to other countries? Yes - there will be a European tour once this new album is out - they are talking about possibly as early as 2010! Fingers crossed - can't wait for you to experience a bit of the TSO madness - you HAVE to see it live and 3 dimensional - CDs and youtube just are NO substitutes!!
The new album, Rise Of The Warrior; is there and underlying theme or inspiration behind the songs (I will avoid the dreaded concept word!) or are they a collection of individual pieces? Hehe..oh dear - is concept a bad word?? Hmm - let's say , yes there is definitely an overall theme when it comes to the Rise of The Warrior album...it's about a goddess warrior rising from the underworld and claiming revenge... she wins the battle of course...now you know that and you have the track titles you can make up the story as you go along...I was thinking of writing out sleeve notes for the tracks but at the same time I think the great thing about instrumental music is that you have the title of the track to give you some sort of starting point but from there your mood and your own imagination can go wherever the music takes you.
Was it an album that came easy and wrote itself quickly or was it a hard task to compose? I met (by chance) a very talented young composer called Joost van den Broek. His background is classical piano and heavy metal...we decided to write something together and suddenly in 5 days we'd written 8 tracks! So after a couple more writing sessions we had completed an album which he ended up producing. It was through him that I came across the other musicians who played on the album - Sander Gommans on guitar, Koen Herfst on drums and Johan van Stratum on bass. A really talented bunch of players!!
How about the composition process? How did you write and record the music and what did the musicians you worked with contribute in terms of writing and performance? Joost and I cowrote everything together - some came from an initial piano melody he had and others came from ideas I already had (like 'Ballingoola', the main tune for which I wrote on the tube in London on my way home).....and then writing together sometimes we started out with a riff which we then hooked a melody on, adn sometimes we ould wake up and think about the kind of track we wanted to write next....we were actually really focused in regards to the tracks we already had - we wanted there to be enough varying textures and styles, with the violin as the central voice underpinning and driving the album.
It's currently only available as a download, are there plans for a hard copy release .....having a meeting with my manager this week to discuss all the plans for 2009!! Will keep you posted!! (Just sign up to the mailing list on my website!)
Do you have any plans for touring the album after the TSO tour and what else can we look forward to from you in 2009? I really hope to perform the album live.......watch this space!
and finally, and I said l would actually pass this on but he's a good lad and it's all toungue in cheek so.......
Will you marry me? Good weather in the Bay Area, no jealousy during your world tours...I'll stay behind and mind the plants and pets. You can have the red bicycle or the green bicycle and the dowry includes plenty of Tull stuff.....okay? Would marry you just for the better weather. looking out of my window and it is raining here in London. And they say Berlin is FREEZING........the green bicycle would be great - but can i ship my pink one from Berlin?? It has a basket and everything.