Ann Wilson: “The worst in the last twenty years is easy for me: autotune. What autotune does: it gets rid off all human flaws. And the flaw is what makes a voice interesting. If everything is perfect, everyone sounds the same and take makes everyone anonymous.”
Als veertiger ben ik opgegroeid zonder internet, pas in de tweede helft van mijn tienerjaren kwam de pin machine, om over de introductie van de eerste iphone (2007) nog maar te zwijgen. Is er ooit zo’n grote generatiekloof geweest? Tegelijk is die kloof soms enorm klein. Als ik boven snoeihard Journey gedraaid hoor worden dan is die kloof ineens klein. Zo groeit de interesse naar muziek uit de jaren 80 hier bij de pubers. Zouden Beethoven en Mozart ook gedacht kunnen hebben dat muziek tijdloos is? Geen idee. Ik heb het nog erg scherp op het vizier dat ‘The Final Countdown’ uit kwam en mij omver blies. Zo scherp heb ik ook nog op het vizier dat mijn broer thuis kwam met de LP ‘Bad Animals’ van Heart. Melodieus, gelikt maar ook met scherpe kanten. Het was leuk totdat Ann Wilson kwam met haar ongekende uithalen in ‘Wait for an answer’. Vanaf dat moment vond ik het geniaal en draai ik na al die jaren nog vaak de LP waarvan mijn broer mogelijk helemaal niet weet dat ik hem geconfisqueerd heb.
William Pezy Ι 29 april 2022
Covid19 controlled our lives the past years, how were these years for you?
Pretty much just like it was for everyone else. I have been in quarantine for a year and a half. I so far have not gotten Covid but have been obeying all the protocols rigorously. It has definitely put the lid on the touring industry. I haven’t been on tour that much. Before Covid I would play at least 85 shows each and every year and suddenly for two years it all came to an end. That to me was the biggest effect I think. However last year I managed to do about 22 shows. Then it stopped again and in about three weeks it will be starting again. But there was a good thing about it. We all had to stop so I had the chance to get some peace and quiet to sit down and take the time to write and write songs. The fruit of that is Fierce Bliss. I got the time to work on each and every song and then to meet with the musicians to work with them to develop the songs and demo a lot. Because of that they are now my band. The intention wasn’t even to record these album, we just wanted to make music and instantaneous we become friends. Our minds met and soon we had all these songs, that’s pretty much what happened. So that’s thanks to Covid. There was not the usual pressure of deadline, we had no idea when the world would open up again so we could really focus on quality. That was a big plus in a sad period of time.
That last part is something I hear a lot, do you think that there is a chance that in the future musicians get more time to finish songs before the have to rush to get into a studio to record the next album?
I don’t know, things might revert to the situation before Covid. What I do know is that is was good for a lot of artist to get out of the rat race and get off the road. It was good to change the scenery and have time to look inward and maybe come up with something different. There also was a feeling of unity in the population, it wasn’t really positive but it was very unified. We were all going through this together.
For example the song Greed has lyrics that were written when you were angry. What made you angry?
Oh it’s just when I feel insulted of rejected in some way. That’s what I felt when I wrote for example the lyrics for Barracuda. When you feel angry it just might peel off that filter that you get when normally when writing lyrics. When I am in an anger state of mind I do not bother to find the nice words I just write it down in a very pure way. So sometimes anger leads to nice things.
In your lyrics and songs you cover it is clear that you have a social point of view. How do you look at the world today?
Well it’s a mess. If you look at the human side, it is simply a mess. But thinking of it, hasn’t it always been a mess? Personally looking at the situation now I think it is more stressful. We had enough to cope with during the pandemic. But with the stress of the Ukrainian situation it feels like a one-two punch. Before all this, in America, we had to deal with the political shitstorm from 2016 until 2020. These three things without a moment of taking a breath is for a lot of people just too much. I have a lot of friends that are in a state of high anxiety because the don’t see light at the end of the tunnel. One thing after another. It simply is insane and we could not even consider in 1975 for instance that such a situation would occur. When I wrote Crazy On You, back then I thought the world was about to end. Sometimes the best songs come when you are on the Edge. So many things were going wrong then. But now if you look at it, it is much further advanced. How much can people handle?
So there is a small bright thing to this shitstorm which we can call good lyrics?
I can write good lyrics when I’m happy and have nothing to worry about, but some of the purest and best songs can be written when on the edge. For instance look at ‘Ohio’ the song Neill Young wrote, the songs were written in activism. I’m looking the next coming years towards songs that came from this chaotic time we were in. I hope that artists take it seriously and use this moment to speak out. It is not the time to run off into a fantasy world or any form superficiality becomes they can’t handle anything negative. I really hope that the artists and poets will participate and take part. Well that’s my opinion.
You went to Nashville, can you explain why Nashville and the people you worked with?
In the last ten years Nashville changed dramatically. It had turned into a meeting point for all kinds of artists of any genre that just get sick of anything that has to do with Hollywood like, star making, image type of philosophy. It has become a meeting place for artists, especially those who dare to cross the borders of their genre and inspirate each other. I hired Tom Bukovak as a musical director to help me develop some demo’s. We started in Alabama. He got some group of artists from Nashville. We immediately understood each other and went off. Then after we went to Nashville and it was amazing. It is a place with a lot of energy, a lot of inspiration and great artists. There is so much available so it was a great time to hang out.
Can you tell me more about the process of starting with an idea and working towards a song?
In the past 80% of the songs are ready when I go to the studio. I had most off it ready on a small handheld device and people had to listen to that and play their parts in the studio. This time it was different. I think I had about 50% done. The lyrics were written, the concept of the songs were ready and next I sat down with Tom to work it out further. He made the music and I picked melodies form the parts he was playing. So that really was new. You know, in the past demo’s were mostly way better than albums. Because the demo’s had the energy and enthusiasm and in the studio people had to play as good and nice as possible. In the studio you try to make it perfect. That kills the enthusiasm and energy.
Your telling me that you went from being in control, to let it happen?
Yes, normally I have one or two co-operating song writers that usually do what I want them to do. This time I had just me and my ideas. So I had helpers, people giving me their result of their interpretation of my idea. And I good sit down and wonder if this inspires me and collaborates it into a good song. To be honest, this was very liberating. But what did not changed is that my lyrics were 98% finished. This has not changes since I started in the music industry. Some songs are easy, some are hard like you are working on a sculpture.
The music industry and musicians have changed over the years. What to you where changes for the good and things that have gone worse?
The worst in the last twenty years is easy for me: autotune. What autotune does: it gets rid off all human flaws. And the flaw is what makes a voice interesting. If everything is perfect, everyone sounds the same and take makes everyone anonymous. That is exactly what is happening the last years. It becomes very hard to identify who you are listening to because everyone sounds the same. However on the same side, all these extra tools make it so nice to discover and use them. A good thing that has changed is the position of women and that a lot off different styles off music made it to mainstream accepted music. Take for instance rap music. The spoken word aspect is great and is a plus. So for many genres. When I grew up there was folk music, disco or rock & roll. You had to choose one these three. So when you were a woman you had to chose between folk of disco. Nobody knew what to think of us when we started playing female fronted rock music. For the last thirty years women have invaded in all aspects of society in a new way. You have female managers, attorneys, publishers and so on. It has turned towards skill instead of gender.
Touring is exhausting, I remember Dave Mustaine of Megadeth writing a song called ‘The Killing Roads’, how do you make sure touring is something that won’t suck the life out of you.
The most important things are simple. Make sure you have people around you that you love and trust. Also make sure you have a manager that never books more than two shows in a row. You need to stay in shape. Exhaustion is what makes a tour hard. So keep away from exhaustion. The strangest thing is to keep away from parties when you are on tour. Simply because otherwise it is very hard to make it to the last dates.
There are four covers on the album, what made you pick these?
I have always been a Queen fan and love ‘Love Of My Life’. I was listening to ‘Night At The Opera’ and suddenly it struck me. What if you would take this song out of the Queen style, this chamber/baroque like style and change it to a organic down to the earth type of song as a duet. I wanted to do it with a man. Because my voice is raspy and rock and roll so the man has to sounds like an angel. No doubt it had to be Vince Gill. I am blessed he accepted the invitation. ‘Bridge of Sighs’ to me is the ultimate blues song. It has power, it has depth and it is scary. So it is blues.
Next year Heart celebrates its 50th anniversary, are there any plans of things left on the bucket list?
Yes there are plans for the 50th anniversary but I am not to talk about it yet. But yes…we are planning something great. Something is happening. Besides that, I have started to write new songs and enjoying my dogs and husband at home and watching the spring happen. I am not calculating long term. I think that one things will lead to other things, so let that happen. I just like to live life as it comes. Go for it!.