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66 Rolling Stone, September 2011
The Lifeof Bryan
of Bryanof BryanBryan Ferry on relighting his solo career, and why there was never going to be a new Roxy Music record
BY MATT ROSS
Bryan ferry is hungry. having braved the istanbul sunshine for a photoshoot, hes retreated indoors and now sits at a table littered with half-drained glasses of fruit juice and abandoned teacups. While his people mill about, some marshalling journalists and others whispering into cellphones, the 65-year-old singer, and founder of Roxy Music, politely enquires about getting something to eat amid the maelstrom of activity. Theres nothing edible immediately to hand,
but its apparently on the way, so he shrugs and leans back in his chair, smoothing his tie. His enduring relationship with London fashion designer Anthony Price means that Ferry is rarely seen looking anything other than quintessentially refined, and despite the June sunshine, hes sporting an immaculate two-piece suit, carefully arranged
PHOTOGRAPH BY EMRE YUNUSOGLU
The Lifeof Bryan
Rolling Stone, September 2011 67
The Lifeof BryanThe Lifeof Bryan
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68 Rolling Stone, September 2011
so that his designer watch is conspicuous-ly showing. His whistlestop visit to Istan-bul has come about so that Ferry can play a private show tonight for the launch of the Swiss company IWCs new line Ive been admiring the watches that every-bodys wearing, he admits, glancing down at his own wrist while also pointing out the other people in the room who are sim-ilarly equipped, before filling the first few minutes of our interview with the obliga-tory patter and time, it appears, is short. Do whatever you have to do, an officious-looking man had impressed upon me a few minutes earlier, but just do it fast. In person, however, Ferry speaks slowly and carefully, pausing before every answer, as if considering every word in great detail.
Its been a busy year so far, he says, his soft, measured voice suggesting any-thing but. We did a U.K. arena tour with Roxy in January, and then went to Austra-lia with that. And now Ive got the Olym-pia tour started. We did a couple of weeks in Scandinavia, and that went really well too. Juggling two tours is undoubted-ly a huge amount of work, but as Ferry points out, touring Olympia his latest solo album and playing with Roxy Music
doesnt quite involve pulling double duty. Its a big band, some of the same people as Roxy. The same basic core of the band. To work with Ferry is to be part of a mod-ern-day musical circus. Friends and col-laborators dip in and out of his troupe of musicians, instrumentalists switch from the Roxy tours to Ferrys solo shows, even members of his family he has four sons are often performing on stage, designing the shows visual elements, or helping out in some way or another. Its a family busi-ness that its turning into, he says, laugh-ing as he recounts how a friend of his son wound up being his star guitarist. Im obviously doing something right, as a tal-ent spotter.
Surrounding himself with talented musicians is something Ferry has been doing for more than four decades. After his early attempts at starting a band
resulted in relative f lops The Banshees and The Gas Board, Ferry founded Roxy Music in 1970 with Graham Simpson, Andy Mackay and a then-little-known Brian Eno. The bands first single, Vir-ginia Plain, reached Number Four in the
ing quite a lot, so you get quite drained. The solace that Ferry found in covers was vital to the survival of Roxy Music, but it wasnt long before his innate creativity began to seep into his solo material, albe-it in a slightly muddy manner. His second solo album, 1974s Another Time, Another Place, featured one of his own songs as the final track on the second side, while its fol-low-up, 1976s Lets Stick Together, includ-ed five re-recordings of Roxy Music num-bers. I started complicating things by doing my own songs in the solo albums, and it all kind of began meshing togeth-er, so people would generally think Jeal-ous Guy is a Bryan Ferry track, but its ac-tually a Roxy hit.
The two entities Roxy Music as a col-lective and Ferry as an individual con-tinued to coexist, apparently happily, for several years. Though Roxys line-up was tweaked, they continued to release albums until Avalon became the last studio re-cording in 1982. Following their disband-ing in 1983, it appeared that Roxy official-ly ceased to exist until a 30th anniversary tour in 2001. The group remained active, touring Portugal and the U.S. in 2003. Two years later, Roxy Music played the
Isle of Wight Festival, and the Berlin edi-tion of Live8 the following month. But to listen to Ferry, the symbiotic relationship between the band and his own pursuits makes the notion that they were official-ly broken up a tricky one. Indeed, many of Ferrys solo albums feature some of his longtime Roxy collaborators, such as Phil Manzanera, Andy Mackay and even, on selected records, Brian Eno. I put it to him that Roxy Music never really stopped, but rather that the ebbs and flows of the band and his solo career have merely danced around each other over the last 40 years. Theres always been something happen-ing, he agrees. When I got married and had a family, I kind of slowed down from touring. I just couldnt go on the road. I was fed up with being on the road actual-ly. In 83 I thought I wouldnt tour again, and started spending a lot of time labor-ing over things in the studio maybe too long but since my children have grown up, I seem to have a new lease of life as far as touring is concerned. The last five years Ive been really hard at it.
This reluctance to call time on a band he so clearly still enjoys has also led to no small amount of speculation about new Roxy ma-
U.K. charts, and a f lamboyant perfor-mance on the BBCs Top of the Pops fur-ther raised the bands profile. Their self-ti-tled debut record was well received upon its release in 1972, while 1973s For Your Pleasure peaked at Number Four on the U.K.s album charts. Following the sec-ond LP, Eno parted company with the band, and while the next Roxy album was released that same year, it came a month after Ferrys emergence as a solo artist in his own right. His decision to go it alone, he insists, was not the result of a band-shattering rift. The tradition-al solo album from guys in bands comes when you say Oh, the band wont play my songs, Ill go and do my own thing, he says. But it was the opposite of that, be-cause Id written the first two Roxy al-bums, and I just wanted to get away from my own writing and do something differ-ent. For Ferry, something different in-volved an album that allowed him to pay homage to some of his favorite tracks. I thought it might be fun to do an album of covers, covering different styles as well as different artists, he says of These Foolish Things, his 1973 debut solo record. There was a song from the Thirties, These Fool-
ish Things, a Bob Dylan number, A Hard Rains a-Gonna Fall, which was the hit, and all sorts of things from Brill Build-ing, Tin Pan Alley and Beatles, Stones, I covered a lot of different genres I think. I just thought it was a bit of an I can do this as well.
The album, which was certified gold a year after its release, came at a perfect time for both Ferry and Roxy Music. It was probably quite a good thing for my ca-reer, because it opened up a more main-stream audience to Roxy Music. Id always thought wed have a very esoteric, art kind of audience, and having those mainstream hits like A Hard Rain meant, I think, that people started to get me more. It also meant that I never got tired that much of being in a band, which would have proba-bly driven me mad, had I not had that out-let to go and work with other players and get away, as I said, from the writing. It seems strange to hear the man who wrote Avalon, Love Is The Drug and More Than This express a desire to avoid writ-ing. As it turns out, Ferry has always found that particular side of the business a little tiresome. For me, [writing] is a torture, a torment, and in those days I was writ-
Solo albums normally happen when you say, The band wont play my songs. With me, it was the
opposite. I wanted to get away from my own writing.
Rolling Stone, September 2011 69
terial. For the last decade, numerous music publications have claimed that a new album was imminent, out of the question, and ev-erything in between. Its a tendency that causes a wry smile from Ferry. I never make pronouncements like, Thats it for the band, because it never seems to work. It never seems like the right thing to do any-way. So in the nicest possible way, its his own fault. By refusing to commit, one way or the other, rampant speculation was al-ways going to be on the cards. Theyll all say that weve got a new album coming out, and we never did. Its because I always said that Id like to one day, which is true. And Id love to go into the studio for a week with Brian Eno, say, and just fiddle around and something interesting would come out of it. But not to do, like, an album of songs, which would take about two years, but to do some-thing instrumental. He pauses for a mo-ment, appearing to consider this for the first time. It would be nice to do film music with Brian, or with the rest of those guys. You know, they all have their own careers, and one lives here and the other lives over there, and Eno very much has his own career. But its nice to have some kind of contact with your history.
Ferrys history, with Roxy members and other famous faces from the industry, has certainly stayed with him. The person-nel listing on 2010s Olympia reads like a fantasy studio session. Credited on the album (amongst others) are none other than David Gilmour, Johnny Greenwood, Dave Stewart, S