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Interview - 1988

INTERVIEWER: Do you see an Al Stewart resurgence to the popularity of Year of the Cat?

AL STEWART: Well, that was an aberration. If you look at the eleven albums I've done which are out, and there's another one waiting to come out, it's an even dozen that I've made. The first six didn't really do anything in commercial terms, and the last four haven't, so you have two in the middle there which went platinum. They are the aberration, they're not the story.

I think I would have continued along being an obscure English folk rocker but for Year of the Cat, and that came along and it was a hit, which is not my fault, and it wasn't designed that way, but it sort of threw me into the spotlight very, very temporarily. I think probably Andy Warhol is right and I got my 15 minutes of fame. I'm not really looking for that again. I'd like the record to sell, I'd like it to do well, because I'd like people to hear it. But we're not trying to be a famous pop act here, we're just trying create a body of work which is, hopefully, lyrically interesting.

INTERVIEWER: Did the sudden rise in popularity affect you in any way?

AL STEWART: It paid some bills, that was about it. I was too busy to notice at the time, I was on the road touring, and so the record went up the charts and down again before I had gotten off the road and had a chance to see if it had affected my life. I mean, it was gone before I finished the tour. So I think there were a couple of weeks in there in which I was famous, but I was too busy to take any notice of it.

INTERVIEWER: Did the after effects improve your audiences now?

AL STEWART: Well, I think that people enjoy the song "Year of the Cat," and I have to sing it every night so it's obvious that they do, people ask for it. Someone once told me that it was a makeout song. A lot of people appeared to have gotten laid for the first time listening to "Year of the Cat" in the back of their cars, which is pretty okay by me, it's an interesting thing, but a lot of couples have come up to me and said, "We fell in love to your song." I think it's that kind of a moody, wistful song. But beyond that, I wouldn't single that out as being one of my best songs, I don't think it'll be one of my 20 best songs, there are so many of the other ones which I like a lot more.

INTERVIEWER: In concert, you refer to your music as "historic folk rock."

AL STEWART: Some of it obviously is, because I use history quite a lot. I like history, I read a lot of history, and I always liked folk rock music. The idea of throwing history in with that style of music seemed to be logical because many of those songs were ballads, story songs, that lent themselves very easily to throwing in chunks of history.

INTERVIEWER: Is there anything that you'd like other people to know?

AL STEWART: No. Nothing I can tell them. I would like them to know everything, I would like everyone to know everything.

INTERVIEWER: What do you like most about folk rock?

AL STEWART: I think that most anything you can think of, be it heavy metal or dance music, disco or country and western or opera, in almost every category you can think of, the music is the dominant force and the lyric is almost an afterthought.

What I like about folk rock is that it's exactly the other way around. You can take three or four chords and write three or four hundred words, instead of having to write 40 chords and thirty or forty words. So I basically turned the principle on its head and, as I say, I like the music to be fairly straightforward and simple and the lyric to be more intriguing, and have more depth to it. But this is just personal taste. I realize that probably 99 people out of a hundred like it the ordinary way, with the emphasis placed on the music.

INTERVIEWER: So what would your opinion of classical music be?

AL STEWART: Oh, I never listen to it. It doesn't have any words, so it doesn't have any meaning for me. It's kind of irrelevant background music. I don't listen to anything that doesn't have words. I don't listen to jazz, either. I guess it appeals to people who like music. As I said, music is sort of an incidental to me, I need the storyline to go with it.

Rest to be transcribed later ... [it says here!]

(Never previously published, except as below:)

Interview reproduced, with permission, from Dave Zatz's Page:
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