Cale Gets On With It
Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.There are few rock artists who, at 61, can headline a stage for up-and-coming talent at a major U.K. festival.
But that was where John Cale found himself this summer: on the "New Stage" at the Glastonbury Festival, one of a string of European dates he played ahead of his Oct. 6 U.K./European EMI release, "Hobo Sapiens" (details of a North American release were still being finalized at deadline).
In fact, the "new" description is apt; on the album, Cale performs and writes with a renewed sense of purpose and enthusiasm rarely seen in a veteran artist.
Cale calls the album "very different" from his previous output in a career encompassing some 30 albums since he left the Velvet Underground in 1968. He adds, "It's on a different scale from anything I've ever done."
Welsh-born New York resident Cale's work with the Velvet Underground -- which he co-founded with Lou Reed in 1965 -- has been a huge influence on generations of rock acts. He has also produced a number of acts that proved highly influential, notably Patti Smith and the Stooges.
Classically trained, his solo career has ranged from orchestral pieces to minimalist experiments; he has also contributed to more than two-dozen film soundtracks. At the core of his work, however, is a block of song-oriented albums, including "Paris 1919" (Reprise, 1973), "Fear," (Island, 1974) and "Music for a New Society" (Ze/Island 1982).
"I'm amazed at the lack of sales success on some of those early records, because they are absolutely stunning," admits Capitol Music U.K. president Keith Wozencroft, who brokered Cale's new worldwide EMI deal. "Hopefully we can improve on that. John's a fantastic songwriter, with this incredible voice."
Although Cale had released soundtrack work in the intervening years in one-off indie deals, he had been without a label since parting company with Rykodisc in 1997. He is reveling in being signed directly to a major label for the first time since leaving Warner/Reprise in 1973. "I'm just getting on with my work," he says, "and they're letting me get on with my work. I'm quietly rejoicing in it."
The 12-track "Hobo Sapiens" was co-produced by Cale with Nick Franglen of electro-pop duo Lemon Jelly, whose 2002 sophomore album on XL recordings, "Lost Horizons," is nominated for the 2003 Panasonic Mercury Music Prize. Franglen's involvement, Wozencroft says, gave "a real exuberance and energy to the record that wasn't on the previous demos.
Cale adds that the album was ready for mixing, but he wanted "somebody with an objective and more eccentric ear to come listen to it and strip out what was nonessential. I got more than that; I got some really nice grooves added." Although he admits the album is "not easy listening," Cale insists that "there's a lot of humor in the songs. There's also a lot of cinematic stuff in it."
The release of the album was preceded in the U.K. by the "Five Tracks" EP, released May 26. The album's lead single, out in the U.K. Oct. 27, is "Things."
"You never know what's going to happen," Cale says with a shrug. "I'm prepared for writing/recording/touring, writing/recording/touring... and that's about the only way I know how to do it. That's why the new [touring] band was put together."
A U.S. major market tour is being considered for the fall, with a European trek probable to follow.
Excerpted from the Sept. 13, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com Premium Services section.
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