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Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson speaks out on flutes, groupies and reviewers

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Yes, sometimes he still stands on one foot while playing the flute. Yes, he still owns a fish-farming business on the side. Yes, after 32 years, he still fronts the former blues band turned rock band turned art-rock band called Jethro Tull.

And Ian Anderson is happy to talk about any of the above, or about the band’s new album, or the upcoming tour that brings them to the Caras Park Pavilion on Sept. 27. But he’s more than accommodating when asked if he would mind living in the past, so to speak, for a few minutes, and discuss what it was like to be a rock star in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

“In that period, America was the big test, the big quite scary and dangerous test,” he says. “Because if you passed that test and cracked America, you were doubling the scope of your record selling, doubling the scope of concert appearances. So it was clearly very important. ... And the bands and artists who didn’t make it in the U.S.A. are well known for having failed.”

But Anderson wants to make it clear that he and his bandmates weren’t typical pop stars. They weren’t the type of folks who would be seen mixing it up at late-night parties with lots of drugs and groupies.

“We weren’t part of that rock ‘n’ roll-animal-party lifestyle,” he says. “Our drummer Clive Bunker was an amiable, cheerful character; he would just have a drink. Clive may have smoked a joint somewhere along the way, but I certainly didn’t. [Guitarist] Martin Barre used to retire early to bed with an Agatha Christie book. I used to watch Johnny Carson on the late-night show. I mean, we were incredibly boring and conservative people.”

And today there’s a new album, j-tull dot com, which, as usual, is splitting the critics down the middle. But since it’s also the usual Tull presentation of guitar riffing, flute histrionics and both serious and whimsical tunes, long-time fans are not going to be complaining. Critics don’t bother Anderson anyway.

“I always say to the record company, ‘If you’re going to send me reviews, only send me the bad ones,’” he says. “In the bad reviews there may be something useful to learn. Occasionally a valid point is made which is worth the attention of the duly bashed recipient.”

But stepping onto the stage can be just as nerve-wracking as waiting for the reviews to come in.

“The sense of anticipation, the sense of the challenge of it is always there,” Anderson adds. “There’s always a sense of going out there with a potential for spectacular failure. It’s good to be a little tense about it, but you don’t want to get to the point where it gets you completely wound up. I rather like the idea that this little transformation is just like easing yourself into a favorite old pair of trousers. You just kind of slip into them and it feels good.”

Jethro Tull plays Caras Park, Monday, Sept. 27. For ticket information, call 1-888-MONTANA.

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