A second consecutive Ian Anderson solo album — “Homo Erraticus,” due out April 15 — is affirming to Jethro Tull fans what they mostly already suspected, that the long-lived group is effectively no more.
Anderson writes as much in liner notes to the deluxe edition of “Homo Erraticus,” declaring that, “The huge body of work that is the Jethro Tull catalogue stands firm close beside me and in good stead… But I think I prefer, in my twilight years, to use my own name for the most part being composer of virtually all Tull songs and music since 1968.”
And he tells Billboard that “nothing is going on at all” with the band these days.
“And that’s the point,” Anderson explains. “To me, Jethro Tull is…the vast body of repertoire that’s Jethro Tull, the record catalog, the music, and I think that, if we look back on it, it kind of came more or less to an end during the last 10 years or so (with) a couple of live albums and a studio album of Christmas material. That might define the last albums under the name Jethro Tull. It’s a body of work I rather think is now kind of historical, since the weight of it lies back in the 70s and 80s in terms of volume. And I rather think it’s nice to kind of leave that as legacy.”
Anderson adds that recording and touring under his own name now also allows him to shed some guilt he’s felt since February of 1968, when the group’s booking agency gave Jethro Tull the name of an 18th century British agriculturist after several other monikers were rejected.
“If you’d asked me 20 years ago did I regret anything about my musical career, my answer then, as it is today, has always been the name of the band,” Anderson admits. “I can’t help but feel more and more as I get older that I’m guilty of identity theft and I ought to go to prison for it, really. It’s almost as if I watched old Jethro Tull at the cash machine and leaned over his shoulder as he put his credit card into the machine to check out his PIN and filched his credit card form from his back pocket as he walked away and then fleeced his bank account. It doesn’t make me feel very good. I never paid much attention in history class, so I didn’t realize we’d been named after a dead guy until a couple of weeks later.”
“Homo Erraticus,” which follows Anderson’s 2012 release “Thick As a Brick 2,” is his third album to employ the fictional Gerald Bostock, who Anderson introduced on Tull’s 1972 concept album “Thick as a Brick;” Bostock is “credited” as Anderson’s co-writer on the new album’s 15 songs, which examine British history past and present along with some visions for the future — although Anderson himself came to study history later in life.
“At school we only did two years of history and had three dreadful history teachers who were appalling at their trade,just dreadful people,” he notes. As for the album, Anderson adds that, “I slightly jokingly say it’s a folk-prog-metal album with classical music and folk music influences. We have a rich arrangement of essentially rock music, but with lots of elements which are part and parcel of my style, I suppose.I don’t try to write music in a style, but that’s the context. I think it’s important that it can be seen to link with things I’ve done in the bigger body of work that is 44 years in the making, really.”
Anderson and his current band — all of whom have served tenures as part of Jethro Tull — hit the road to promote “Homo Erraticus” starting April 28 in U.K., with European dates into August and U.S. shows during the fall. He plans to play the new album in its entirety, with a second half that will include “a selection of the best of Jethro Tull’s sort of classic songs.” He’ll also be digging deep for three songs that Anderson says “are quite well-known pieces by Jethro Tull” that have been rarely played live but are going to be part of this year’s set.
“It’s kind of interesting to find three songs I’ve always discounted doing again, but when I went to listen to them again I discovered there were elements of those things that I really did like that overwhelmed the things I didn’t like,” he explains. “So I just have to tune out those negative association and just get on with doing the job.”