The Stone Roses recently announced gigs for 2016. Throwback Thursday to 2005 when Mary Boukouvalas interviewed Ian Brown about his first Australian solo tour.
Ian Brown talks to Mary Boukouvalas about grooves, politics and music transcending borders
Manchester’s The Stone Roses was one of the most critically acclaimed bands of the late ’80s and early ’90s. Ex-singer, Ian Brown makes his long-awaited visit back to Australia, solo this time, promoting his latest release, The Greatest.
Ian Brown is an icon for a generation. His laid-back attitude is transferred through the phone-line, as is his great sense of humour and his integrity. Ian Brown can be thanked for helping youth defy social conventions through imitation of his cool swagger and his long carefree loose-cut hair. He can also be thanked for influencing many artists, Noel Gallagher included. He, himself is influenced by his heroes: James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Marvin Gaye. Brown also loves punk rock, stating that the first album he bought was T-Rex. Then he got into The Sex Pistols, The Clash and early reggae. However, the major inspiration to begin his musical career was to fill a void. Brown states: “At the time, when we formed the Roses, we started doing music, in ’85 – ’86, because we didn’t think there was anything that was entertaining us. We wanted to make music for ourselves really.”
Though The Stone Roses have long since disbanded, Brown’s passion for filling a void in music is resolute. “I think what made the Roses good initially was that we had a groove and other guitar bands didn’t really have a groove at that time. And it’s something I’ve tried to keep, is the groove, cause I think the groove is the most important thing about the music. I loved the first LP, it was a sort of 60s record with a bit more power, the second Roses LP was a 70s rock LP, we never actually got to make the 80s LP.” Brown laughs as he adds: “I’ve done that myself now … I don’t think about the Roses anymore. The group finished nine years ago and I can say I’ve got six LPs on the shelves … I feel proud that I was in The Stone Roses and of what we achieved.” However, Brown continues that there will be no reunion. “Everything comes to an end. When we were kids we loved The Beatles but we weren’t upset cause The Beatles didn’t reform for us.”
A natural progression and a mature approach to his music exists. “I feel that each time I make a record, it’s an improvement on the last. And that’s what I always try. Me own standards, I got to try to improve on what I’ve done before.”
His favourite track on the new album is the latest single, All Ablaze. “I like the latest one always. I like the lyrics, I like the groove of it, like the beat of it, love the guitar melody line, like the sound of it.”
As well as his music, Brown does the album artwork layout and his wife does the album photography. He has also directed a few of his own video clips, including my favourite, F.E.A.R, with its ingenious construction of the lyrics and its sombre tone.
Yet there is no arrogance with Brown. “Anyone can make a film or a record … you just have to imagine on a blank screen what you want to see on it or a blank cd what you want to hear on it. So I just did it … and I liked doing it. It’s a lot of work making a video. You know, it’s weeks of work, prepping it all, and filming it and editing it all. At the end of that process, I was glad that I got through it but I didn’t have a feeling like I did when I finish a record. You know you feel great when you finish a record. If you was into filmmaking, that’s the feeling you would feel at the end, but I didn’t feel that, so I’ve got no ambition to do that.”
As for his ambitions and the immediate future, Brown laughs and says: “Spain in the morning.” He has a long schedule of touring ahead of him, including the UK, Ireland, then Australia, and then even more touring. Brown also aims at recording some new material and having a new album by the end of next year. Brown does not find the long touring schedule restrictive though. “I get to express myself, I get paid for it and I can travel the world the world with it. It’s an absolute dream. I’ve got no restrictions. I love the connection of playing me music, performing songs for people -that connection. I love it.” [pullquote]I love that music transcends all borders, gender, age, race, religion. Music transcends all that and I’m part of that and I love to be a part of that.[/pullquote]
“I played in China recently in Beijing and the first 50 rows were all generals … soldiers and police. The general came up to me and said: You’re not allowed to say anything about Chinese … and I said: Am I allowed to mention that the US space program is a military program? He pissed himself laughing and said: Yeah. It was cool.”
However, Brown’s sense of humour doesn’t detract him from the important issues of politics, his feelings towards those in power, and using music to promote ideas and ideals. “If you’re a young guy and you’ve got all these people listening to what you’ve got to say and someone asks you what you think of the Iraq war, then I think you should give an opinion. [pullquote]I don’t know if music can change the world but I think people should attempt to.[/pullquote] Far from being a perfect world so I think people expressing themselves are trying to do something about that. After 9/11, songwriters have to address what they’re going to write songs about now. Were they going to write love songs or escapist songs or were they going to write songs that address real issues in the world? [pullquote]I think it’s good that people are political. John Lennon was political in a way. Marley was political in a way. I think that if you’ve got real power you can use that power.[/pullquote] All the governments are war mongers. I’ve just heard that you’ve had a threat to Sydney Bridge. It’s like everything that’s gone on in the last hundreds of years, we’re going to pay the price for it.”
Brown feels Australia, especially Melbourne, will be a highlight. “Melbourne I thought was the coolest city in Australia, for me, the last time. You had the best food and the best weed. Melbourne people know me cause I played there in ’95. I’ve been trying to get there solo, you know. In 8 years I’ve done, including the remix LP, 6 solo LPs. It’s a big dream for me to come to Australia. I can’t wait to get there.”
Australia can’t wait either, especially as Brown promises to deliver: “The best of me works for the last 15 years.”
Ian Brown latest release, The Greatest, is out now on Universal.
Ian Brown and his 8-piece are headlining the first ever offering of great live performances at the Falls Festival in Lorne on Thursday 29th December 2005 and The Forum in Melbourne on Sunday 8th January 2006.
First Publish in Beat Magazine, December 2005.