Author Archive

Q&A with Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart

August 5, 2008

Mark Stevens recently spoke with Dave Stewart of Eurythmics. In the telephone interview from Dave’s home in Los Angeles, Stewart talks about his new album and tour with his “Rock Fabulous Orchestra,” life with Annie Lennox in Eurythmics and staying busy. … Here is a transcript of the interview. The questions are in caps, and Dave’s answers follow.

FIRST, TELL ME HOW “ROCK FABULOUS” IS THIS ORCHESTRA YOU’VE ASSEMBLED FOR YOUR ALBUM AND TOUR?

“I thought it summed up sort of the spectacle that I was going to create to play live with. I was kind of like, well it’s rock, but it’s fabulous, if you know what I mean. In England, you see, when you get to a certain age and you’ve been successful, they always call you rock royalty. The Times will say, ‘Elton John, “Rock Royalty.’ I was thinking about that, and, over the years, I’ve written so many different songs with so many different people, I wanted them to sort of string together when I performed them and have some sort of bonding, some glue. And I think the glue is the orchestrations and having what I call a ‘Rock Fabulous Orchestra.’ I can jump from a Mick Jagger song to a Sinead O’Connor song to a Eurythmics song, and it all feels cohesive. And then I thought if I’m going to have this many people on stage, let’s make the whole band an orchestra and a spectacle. When the curtain drops and you hear the beginning of ‘Sweet Dreams’ and it comes in with the boom-boom, it looks like wow.”

THE RECORD COMPANY SENT ME A SIX-TRACK SAMPLER CD, AND ‘SWEET DREAMS’ IS JUST FANTASTIC.

“Hey, thanks. See a lot of people at first don’t understand that there’s not one secret or anything. That electronic song has been recorded with horns and orchestra and real players and everything. I tackled it by starting with the middle section – you know that ‘Hold you head up’ part – and it all builds up and builds up, and then the strings start doubling and that high note from Amy Keys, and then boom. I really can’t wait to do that on stage.”

SO YOU’VE NOT HAD A PERFORMANCE YET WITH THE TOUR?

“I’ve never played live as me on a tour in America ever. I did one test of a gig with an orchestra. I flew to England, and I played at the Tower of London and I did this show with an orchestra. We came back to America and we adjusted the scores and the orchestrations, and we recorded a 21-song album. That was like a test, you know?”

THE TEST OBVISOULY WENT VERY WELL.

“Oh, yeah. They said it was the best show they had in the whole 10-day festival.”

I HEARD YOU SAY YEARS AGO THAT ONE DAY YOU AND ANNIE LENNOX WOULD BE PLAYING CONCERTS WITH A FULL ORCHESTRA, AND HERE YOU ARE DOING THAT, SANS ANNIE, BUT STILL YOU’VE GOT AN ORCHESTRA BACKING YOU UP. EURYTHMICS’ SONGS TRANSLATE TO ACOUSTIC AND ORCHESTRA VERSIONS VERY EASILY. WHY IS THAT?

“That’s true. I’m here in the office with a lady and we’re just doing the very final changes on the big coffeetable-size book that’s about the 21 songs and all the stories. It’s got all these photographs I’ve taken over the years. It’s funny because over the years, thinking back, I was really obsessed with orchestrations like on songs like ‘Here Comes the Rain Again.’ I would always say to Annie, ‘We’ve got have an orchestra on this.’ Any opportunity, I was just sort of mad about strings. Even when we started playing R&B, I was really mad about getting great horn arrangements. I do love the marriage of proper rock music with real instruments.”

A LOT OF PEOPLE WOULD SAY, YOU CAN’T TAKE EURYTHMICS’ SONGS AND PARE THEM DOWN TO AN ACOUSTIC SET. BUT YOU’VE DONE IT ALL THESE YEARS AND DONE IT INCREDIBLY WELL.

“It really is funny, because we could take the most electronic thing like ‘Sweet Dreams’ or ‘Love is a Stranger’ and play it with an acoustic guitar. In fact, the last time that Annie and I really performed together in 2000, we were doing a 20-day tour just the two of us — me on guitar and her singing. We only got through seven and she twisted her back, but the last gig we played it was just the two of us in front of 100,000 people in Italy. It was us with an acoustic guitar on songs that had complex arrangements, and the whole audience just sang along. I think it’s to do with when you’re writing – or when I write anyway with anybody, I just don’t like doing something on false promises. I always like to check, can we just sing this on an acoustic guitar or just with a piano? That way you can really make sure that’s a proper song.”

YOU WOULD KNOW THIS BETTER THAN ANYONE, BUT IT MUST BE A RATHER DAUNTING TASK TO FIND A REPLACEMENT FOR ANNIE LENNOX. HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT THAT, AND WHAT WAS YOUR CRITERIA IN WHO YOU CHOSE TO SING EURYTHMICS’ SONGS.

“What I did was on the tour I play about seven Eurythmics songs, and then I play Tom Petty’s ‘Don’t Come Around Here No More,’ ‘Underneath It All’ from No Doubt, a duet I did with Candy Dulfer for ‘Lily Was Here.’ So I actually have myself singing on lots of songs like the Bryan Ferry and the Tom Petty ones. And I duet on ‘Here Comes the Rain Again’ and I sing ‘The Miracle of Love.’ But when it’s a real out-and-out obvious female vocal-type song, I have four female vocalists on stage with me. They are all very different voices. Amy Keys, for example, is the main singer. She’s a real soul belter. For songs like ‘Missionary Man’ or ‘Would I Lie To You?,’ she’s got that voice. And then I have Sierra Swan, who’s a more alternative, edgier singer and more for songs like ‘Thorn In My Side,’ ‘Love Is a Stranger’ and ‘Sweet Dreams.’ What I do with all the female singers is treat their voices like instruments in an orchestra,” Stewart said. “Amy is more like the brass section, and Cindy is more like the violin, if you will. The front line is actually me, four women and Mike Bradford, a bass player.”

FOR YOUR NEW VERSION OF ‘SWEET DREAMS,’ THE SONG, TO ME, HAS TAKEN ON A ‘MISSIONARY MAN’-TYPE BLUES FEEL? AM I READING TOO MUCH INTO THAT OR AM I HEARING BLUES IN ADDITIONAL TO THE SOULFULNESS OF THE ORIGINAL ‘SWEET DREAMS’?

“Absolutely. You are absolutely correct. I describe it in my book that with ‘Missionary Man’ I was creating kind of a voo-doo concoction, and that’s why in the video, it’s like I’m making a weird experiment and it turns into Annie. But, for this album, I did this same kind of feeling with ‘Sweet Dreams’ with this blues waling on top of strings. You hit it right on the head. You are absolutely correct.”

FEW MUSICIANS GET A CHANCE TO WORK WITH THE PEOPLE YOU HAVE OVER THE YEARS – ANNIE, OF COURSE, BUT TOM PETTY, JON BON JOVI, BOB DYLAN, SINEAD O’CONNOR, NO DOUBT, GEORGE HARRISON, MICK JAGGER. THE LIST GOES ON AND ON. DO YOU ALWAYS HAVE AN IMMEDIATE REPORT WITH OTHER MUSICIANS OR DO YOU HAVE TO WORK AT THAT LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE?

“I say in my book that writing songs with people is like falling in love over and over again, but obviously you don’t go falling in love with everybody. It’s this thing that there’s sort of an instant chemical reaction and you say, ‘I know I can write a great song with this person.’ It’s like a feeling. Some people I just know. I’m not really a gun-for-hire songwriter. All these songs came about by being in extraordinary circumstances or meeting somebody and getting along and having an acoustic guitar.”

“DON’T COME AROUND HERE NO MORE,” YOUR TOM PETTY COLLABORATION, SOUNDS AS FRESH TODAY. IT SEEMS LIKE A PERFECT CHOICE FOR THIS TOUR, AND YOU TAKE ON TOM’S PART, TOO.

“Thanks so much. On Tom’s version, there was a drum machine most of the way through and a sitar guitar. But this version, it’s the whole band playing, and I’m playing the same sitar guitar. But, obviously, I’ve got an English voice.”

EURYTHMICS WAS STRIPPING SONGS, LIKE “WHO’S THAT GIRL?,” DOWN TO ACOUSTIC PIECES BACK IN 1986 – ACTUALLY THREE YEARS BEFORE BON JOVI FAMOUSLY PERFORMED AN ACOUSTIC SET ON NATIONAL TV AND BASICALLY PUT INTO MOTION THE WHOLE “UNPLUGGED” SERIES. WASN’T EURYTHMICS ALWAYS AHEAD OF THE TIMES, AND, SOMETIMES, DO YOU FEEL THAT YOU AND ANNIE DIDN’T GET ENOUGH CREDIT?

“It’s funny. You are absolutely spot on there. When of the guys who started MTV, he did actually tell me that he saw Eurythmics play and do that well before Unplugged and also U2. I think it was the beginning of Unplugged.”

WAS EURYTHMICS ALWAYS AHEAD OF THE TIME? IT ALWAYS SEEMED AS IF EURYTHMICS WAS A LITTLE BIT AHEAD OF WHERE EVEYRONE ELSE WAS?

“Certainly we were in videos and everything. I looked at videos as little short movies. If you look at ‘Sweet Dreams’ and other videos out at the same time, it was usually just a band playing in a room with a visual effect. But ‘Sweet Dreams’ was a little weird movie. I remember that the record label saying, ‘Why do have to have a cow in it? Annie’s so good looking.’ And in that video there’s this one scene where the cow turns purple. It’s interesting, have you read Seth Godin’s book, “The Purple Cow?” It’s a business book, which is basically about making your business remarkable, and it talks about how you have to create your world, your brand or your company as something that stands out. … And I was actually doing the same thing. We could make a video to this song or we could make a surrealist type movie that grabbed people’s attention but it also had a subtext about what the song is about, which is that the world has sort of gone into overdrive. We had the boardroom and put the cow in the boardroom.”

YEARS AGO, YOU AND ANNIE THOUGHT YOU WERE GOING TO RELEASE AN ACOUSTIC ALBUM CALLED “UNTOUCHED.” WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THAT IDEA?

“What happened was that when Eurythmics became so huge and Annie, being such a private person, it was always very scary for her to start any Eurythmics project, because it would snowball into the whole roller coaster. So we had many ideas like let’s play opera houses. We’d have all sorts of ideas and tell people, but we would never end up doing it. We often thought about me just on a guitar and some strings and just Annie. There were endless combinations.”

I WAS AT RECENT BON JOVI CONCERT, AND JON WAS THANKING THE CROWD FOR BEING THERE FOR 25 YEARS, AND YOU’RE IN THAT SAME CATEGORY. IN FACT, YOU’VE BEEN IN THIS BUSINESS MORE THAN 25 YEARS, BUT EURYTHMICS HAS BEEN PART OF YOUR LIFE AND OURS FOR 27 YEARS NOW. I’M FASCINATED – AND PLEASED – THAT SOME MUSICIANS AND GROUPS MANAGE TO FIND THAT USUALLY ELUSIVE LONGEVITY. WHAT’S THE SECRET?

“I think it’s to do with personality and being able to maintain some semblance of stability in your life. It’s very hard balancing being an artist and other things that happen in your life – marriages, families, kids. Some people manage to do it, and some manage lots of complex situations and still keep their creativity alive. But then others get buried under it all and they could swallowed up before they know it. And some people stick to formula, and they stop experimenting. They think they’ve struck gold here and we’re going to play the same thing for five years.”

EVERY EURYTHMICS ALBUM HAD A DIFFERENT FEEL, A DIFFERENT TYPE OF MUSIC. IF YOU HAD TRIED TO REPEAT ‘SWEET DREAMS’ FOR SIX ALBUMS, YOU WOULD NEVER HAVE LASTED.

“No, we would have been categorized as the electro-era.”

A-HA, THE GROUP FROM NORWAY, HAD A BIG HIT WITH “TAKE ON ME” BACK IN 1985, AND IN ENGLAND AND EUROPE THE GROUP HAS BEEN RECORDING SINCE, RELEASING REALLY GREAT MUSIC AND HAVING HITS FOR THE PAST 20 YEARS, BUT IN THE STATES, MOST PEOPLE WOULDN’T KNOW THEY’VE RECORDED ANYTHING SINCE 1985. RADIO PROGRAMMERS DECIDE IF YOU’RE GOING TO BE AROUND AND HAVE LONGEVITY. WHAT IF ‘SWEET DREAMS’ HAD BEEN WRITTEN OFF AS A ONE-HIT WONDER, AND RADIO TURNED ITS BACK ON YOU BACK IN 1983. DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE WHAT IFS IN LIFE?

“I think it was the videos, our visual assault and that we played America so much. We played arenas and everywhere. I think people realized we were the real thing. We would also do tricks like we would send the radio ‘Would I Lie To You?’ And they’d say ‘Holy shit, this is great. Who is it?’ ”

I WAS LUCKY ENOUGH TO SEE EURYTHMICS LIVE FOUR TIMES, THE REVENGE TOUR, THE REVIVAL TOUR AND PEACE TOUR. I NEVER HAD A CHANCE TO CATCH THE SWEET DREAMS AND TOUCH TOURS. THE TOUCH TOUR, FROM PICTURES, LOOKED LIKE A LOT OF FUN. TO ME, IT SEEMS A SHAME THAT TOUR WAS NEVER CAPTURED ON VIDEO. YOU AND ANNIE WERE PERFORMING ‘I HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE’ AND REALLY DOING AMAZING STUFF. THAT SEEMED LIKE A REALLY FANTASTIC TIME FOR YOU.

“Yeah, we were really experimenting. We were on stage with Sam from Sam and Dave singing ‘Wrap It Up.’ We thought we could do anything.”

COULD YOU?

“Yeah, we could really. We would go on stage and nobody would know what was about to happen.”

(DAVE GETS A TEXT MESSAGE AND EXCUSES HIMSELF FOR A BRIEF MOMENT.)

“Sorry, I’m back.”

WITH YOUR NEW ALBUM, YOU REFER TO IT AS VOLUME 1. DO YOU HAVE SOMETHING FOR VOLUME 2 ALREADY PLANNED, OR IS THAT A REFERENCE TO THAT THERE ARE STILL MORE SONGS TO COME FROM DAVE STEWART?

“This album is made up of 21 songs that have huge stories to them, and then there will be another 21 songs. Obviously Annie and I wrote over 100 songs just ourselves. You know the MorrisonHotel Galleries? They sort of specialize in photographic exhibitions, and they’ve given my an exibition on Sept. 17th for photos from this book. And that’s really amazing timing because on the 18th, I’m playing The Fillmore.”

YOU’RE FAMOUS FOR NEVER BEEN IDLE. FROM THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN, YOU’RE ALWAYS ON THE GO. WHAT MAKES DAVE STEWART STAY ON THE GO?

“I must have been hit by lightning on my head or something. When I was kid, I had all these little radios they had a little thing you put in your ear, and I remember when I was little, I put into my ear and plugged it in the electric socket and my head went zapppppp.”

YOUR SON IS A MUSICIAN, CORRECT? DOES HE SEEK ANY ADVICE FROM DAD?

“Both my sons are musicians.”

DO THEY COME TO DAD FOR ADVICE?

“They like to play me stuff, but they like to have their own opinions.”

I FIND IT INCREDIBLY SAD WHEN I HEAR A REALLY GREAT SONG, AND IT’S, FOR WHATEVER REASON, NOT A HIT. IT DOESN’T GET PLAYED ON THE RADIO. IT COMES AND GOES. GREAT SONGS ARE SO PERSONAL. YOU’VE BEEN LUCKY, BECAUSE YOU’VE HAD LOTS OF HITS. YOUR SONGS ARE PLAYED ON THE RADIO SOMEWHERE EVERY MOMENT OF THE DAY. DO YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF A LUCKY MAN?

“Well, there is a great archive in the sky now, isn’t there? Sometimes my son will say to me, ‘Hey, Dad, you should hear this song. Have you ever heard of this guy Lou Reed? And I’m like, ‘Yeah.’ But they’re just discovering him and albums that they’ve discovered. It’s like the whole thing starts again.”

WHAT DO THEY THINK OF YOUR WORK?

“They are always very critical, but they are very supportive at the same time. They like to say, ‘That’s really cool’ or ‘I like this other one better.’ They’ve got their own tastes, you know?”

WHAT ABOUT YOUR PAST STUFF? EURYTHMICS?

“They recognize that we were a powerhouse, and they’ve seen us on stage on the Peacetour, and I think they were like, ‘Wow!’ ”

I THINK ANNIE LENNOX SAID ONCE THAT HER DAUGHTERS WERE A LITTLE EMBARRASSED WHEN THEY SAW HER ON THE PEACETOUR AND SAID SOMETHING LIKE, “MOM, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”

“I was with them, and they were really excited about it and they were gobsmacked, because none of our kids had actually ever seen Annie perform, so the first time when they went out front to see it, they were like, ‘Holy shit.’ ”

DO YOU THINK EURYTHMICS WILL MAKE THE ROCK ’N’ ROLL HALL OF FAME SOMETIME?

“I don’t know. I would hope so. I think we’ve played enough and made enough records and created enough stuff to at least merit a nomination or whatever. Two years ago, we were inducted into the Hall of Fame in Britain by Bob Geldolf, Sting and the prime minister.”

WAS THAT ODD FOR THE PRIME MINISTER TO BE SAYING ALL THOSE NICE THINGS ABOUT YOU? AS A MUSICIAN, WAS THAT SURREAL?

“Not really. I knew Tony Blair for years before he was prime minister. I’ve had many interesting turns in my life where lots of different people have been around, and Tony Blair just happened to be one of them. He would be there at the same dinner with Robert Altman. He genuinely meant what he said.”

I WANT TO TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT EURYTHMICS. YOU OVERSAW A REALLY WONDERFUL REPACKAGING THREE YEARS AGO OF THE EURYTHMICS CATALOG. THE 1984 SOUNDTRACK/ALBUM WASN’T INCLUDED. ARE THERE ANY PLANS TO REMASTER THAT WORK AND INCLUDE SOME REMIXES AND B-SIDES?

“BMG couldn’t get Virgin to agree to put it amongst it all. I would like to dig into the 1984 vault and find all the tracks we left off. There was a lot of amazing, experimental stuff.”

EVEN WITH YOUR REMASTERED ALBUMS, THERE ARE STILL SOME MISSING TRACKS, MISSING REMIXES, ETC. OBVIOUSLY YOU CAN’T FIT EVERYTHING ONTO A CD. DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANS TO REISSUE ANY OF THE OTHER MISSING TRACKS, LIKE THE REMIX TO “THERE MUST BE AN ANGEL,” COMES TO MIND. IF NOT IN CD FORM, MAYBE ON ITUNES OR OTHER DOWNLOADABLE MUSIC CENTERS?

“There are some amazing fan sites – eurythmics.me.uk and he’s compiling just about everything and he has another friend who has a site called dnafiles, and between them I think they’re trying to get everything. And they can have a link to it all.”

I’M AMAZED AT ALL THE THINGS YOU’VE GOT GOING.

“I’m launching a whole sort of collection of everything from clothes to guitars, everything in a sort of Rock Fabulous lifestyle. … A launch of all that is in Las Vegas Aug. 25. But, right now, well, I’m lying flat on my back right now.”

BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO?

“Well, me and this lady, Tabatha, are here with our eyes falling out of our head from checking and proofreading the book and making sure the photos are the correct quality. I’ve never toured America as Dave Stewart, and people will ask what is it? All I can say is it will be an enormous spectacle where the audience will recognize every song one after another. I really look as myself as a sort of Cab Calloway-type character. I’ve created my band. You know the period when the bandleaders were the stars? So I’ve created this epic thing, and I’m going to lead it into the throw, as they say in Britain. I’m going to create this spectacle and give the audience a sort of musical journey. We’ve had costumes made for the orchestra and everything to look at it will be amazing, and to look at it be amazing and sort of amazing in a way.”

 

 

Be careful what you wish for …

February 7, 2008

Want to know what’s on “The Love List”? Well, you need tickets to one of the upcoming performances at the Johnson City Community Theater.

Joe Smith, who handles publicity for the JCCT, said he’s seeing more and more patrons from Unicoi County attending the performances at the theater, and, in fact, I’ve talked to several folks from Erwin, including former Vice Mayor Connie Denney, who tell me how much they enjoy the shows. Connie remembers particularly enjoying “Ten Little Indians,” “Godspell” and “The Fall of the House of Usher.”

Of course, in recent years, a number of Unicoi Countians have had starring roles in many of the productions.

The Erwin Record is one of the corporate sponsors for “The Love List,” a comedy guaranteed to deliver an evening full of laughs.

The show opens Friday, Feb. 15, at 8 p.m. and continues Feb. 16, 22, 23 and 29 and March 1 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 24, at 2 p.m.

To learn more about the Johnson City Community Theater, visit its nice Web site at http://www.jcct.us. A nice musical score will keep you entertained while you search through the site.

Here’s some details about “The Love List”:

“The Love List” introduces Bill, a statistician and lonely bachelor who has not had much luck in the female department. In fact, he has been single for many years. Eager to help his friend find true love, Bill’s close buddy, Leon, gives him a subscription to a dating service that he purchased from a gypsy woman. As it turns out, this dating service is no ordinary match-making service.

The first assignment is to develop a list of the top 10 traits in the ideal woman. Bill and Leon have different opinions of what this dream girl should be. But no sooner does Bill finish this list when there is a knock at the door and young Justine arrives. And to Bill’s surprise, she is a walking checklist of his original list.

At first it’s all fine and dandy, but as Bill and Leon begin making alterations to the list, they realize that Justine is changing, too. In some instances, it’s hilarious, but other times it becomes disastrous. It’s a lesson in being careful for what you wish for in this hilarious comedy for Valentine’s season.

Produced through special arrangement with Samuel French Inc., The Love List stars Brad Davis, Lindsay Light and Chris Murray and is being directed by Sharon Ramsey Salmers.

This show contains mature subject matter and is intended for adult audiences only.

Tickets are $10 for students and seniors and $12 for adults. Reservations can be made by calling 926-2542.

Enjoy the show,
Mark
mstevens@erwinrecord.net