INTERVIEW WITH PAUL McCARTNEY
By KGSR DJ Jody Denberg
(We thank Jody, a DJ at Texas stationKGSR-FM, for letting us post this wonderful interview. The KGSR site also contains his uncut interview with Julian Lennon. You can hear the McCartney interview Nov. 7 between 8-10 p.m. local time. It will be available in streaming audio over the Web in a link through their home page.)
MR. BAKER: This is Geoff Baker.
MR. DENBERG: Hi, Geoff.
MR. BAKER: Hi. Iím sorry it took a little while. As I said, you know, we had this road accident and stuff. Well, we didnít, but there was one which caused problems on the freeway here. However, anyway, Iíve got Paul McCartney for you. So are you ready for a chat?
MR. DENBERG: I am ready for a chat.
MR. BAKER: Okay. Hang on one second, man.
MR. DENBERG: Thank you.
MR. McCARTNEY: Hello, Jody.
QUESTIONS BY MR. DENBERG:
Q Hello, Paul.
A How you doing?
Q Iím doing good, man.
A Are you in Austin, Texas?
Q I am, where we have great music, like Willie Nelson and Stevie Ray Vaughan and all those folks.
A You better believe it. We know about that over here.
Q Paul, where are you calling from?
A Iím calling from London. Iím in my office here, sitting just across from my jukebox. And itís starting to get to be evening time here now. The sun has just gone down. So Iím sitting here with one foot on the desk and I am calling Austin, Texas. Canít be bad.
Q Itís been about two and a half years since you did your last, you know, "rock album," Flaming Pie.
Q Since then, you worked on Lindaís album, Wild Prairie. You -- rumor has it you were involved with the ambient disk by the Fireman.
A Thatís just a rumor, you know. Itís a great record, but Iíve no idea who made it. But check it out. Itís the ambience record of the century, I reckon.
Q And you did some classical composing.
Q Did you always have it in the back of your mind that you were going to do a rock and roll album like Run Devil Run?
A Yeah, you know, I really did. It was -- itís been an ambition for quite a long time, actually. You know, if you love rock and roll as much as I do, itís one of those you think, oh, thereís that song and Iíve never done that. And thereís that song I always meant to do with the Beatles. And thereís that song John meant to do with the Beatles. So, yeah, itís been something Iíve been wanting to do for a long time.
Q How does Run Devil Run -- how is it different than the Back in the USSR album from í88?
A Well, the thing is, thereís a little more care put into it. Itís -- that one, I literally showed -- on the Russian album I literally showed up and we did, I think, 17 tracks in one day. So that was just pure spirit kind of thing. This time, I wanted to put a little bit more care into the recordings. And so that was really the only difference. We took a little bit longer, but not much. It took us a week this time, instead of a day. I still wanted to get the spontaneous thing. But I just chose a different bunch of songs, you know. They were songs that just came into my memory when I sort of just looked back and I thought, what songs do I remember. Itís just a little set of songs that just popped into my mind. So I thought it might be kind of cool to do some songs that are a little bit more obscure so that young kids hearing them and, you know, will be hearing them for the first time, but also, people like myself who have been around a bit and who were there when rock and roll started, would find it interesting. And I met Eric Clapton in a restaurant in LA and he said, Oh, I hear youíve done this rock record. I hear youíve chosen some pretty interesting songs. So that was the kind of -- that was the fun on this album.
Q How did you choose the musicians on Run Devil Run, most notably, Pink Floydís David Gilmour and Deep Purpleís Ian Paice?
A Well, Dave Gilmour -- or David Gilmour, I think as he prefers to be known, Iíve known him for quite a long time, actually. Iíve made record with him. I made a record once called No More Lonely Nights that he played on. Weíve done thing over the years. And they used to be in the next-door studio to us when they were making Dark Side of the Moon with Pink Floyd. So Iíve kind of known him via that. And one day, I remember Dave, he just was showing me some old photos of himself. And there was this one and it was a really great one. Like most of the people who have been around rock and roll have got one, which is when he was a teenager and heís in a band and his hairís all slicked back and he really looks like heís rocking. Looks like sort of early Beatle photos. I remember thinking then, aha, if ever I want to do rock and roll, this guy was there. He knows where itís all coming from, even though people think of him more as that kind of epic Pink Floyd thing, you know. But I knew Dave could do it. So he was, you know, an obvious choice for those reasons.
And then one of the guys off of the Russian album was Mick Green. And I knew Mick was one of the best rock and roll players around. He used to play with an outfit over here called Johnny Kidd and the Pirates. And heís a great guy. And I thought that the two of them together, Mick and Dave, would complement each other really well, because theyíve got slightly different styles, but they play great together. And because of their different styles, you can kind of hear the difference, rather than like two people who sound the same which just mesh into one. So I knew those two guys.
Then I didnít know Ian Paice, whoís the drummer with Deep Purple. But my producer, Chris Thomas, said -- when I was talking about who are we going to get to drum, I said Iíd rung Ringo, but heíd actually -- he was out on tour when we were making the record and he was doing things so he said he couldnít possibly -- he couldnít make it, even though I think he might have enjoyed it. But he couldnít do it. So we had to think of who next. And my producer said that heíd seen something recently of Ian and he said he was drumming great and he looked great. And so I said, "Well, letís just ask him if heíll do it, then." So that was a bit of a guess, Ian. But he worked out great and he was lovely. But it was literally just because my producer had seen him recently and thought he was drumming great.
And then one of the other guys whoís a pianist called Pete Wingfield, who everybody in town said, "Heís your man." He just came, whoever you said, "Whoís the great pianists around now?" "Pete Wingfield." "Who do you think is playing good rock and roll?" Pete Wingfield." And Pete had a record over here. He had a hit. A little thing called, 18 with a Bullet, a number of years ago, which was a great little song. And a lot of people remembered that. So I knew that if he had a hit record of his own best, he would be very at home in a studio. And, you know, so the combination of that made him a good choice.
And then the only other player, we used another drummer, Dave Mattacks, on a couple of tracks when Ian wasnít available. And another pianist, was called Geraint (Watkins) was a Welsh guy. With a name like Geraint, how could he be anything else? But he was a beautiful Welsh guy and he played really serious, good rock and roll piano as well.
And then thereís an accordion player for the track Brown-Eyed Handsome Man, because we wanted a slightly cajun, zydeco thing on that. And he turned out to be a guy who played at my daughterís wedding. So I remembered him from that. When we started talking accordion, I said, "Well, this guyís good." So he was available.
So that was it. Thatís how we chose them all.
Q Was it during the making of Run Devil Run, that you were overseeing the reissuing of the Yellow Submarine film and the release of the songtrack?
A Yeah. I was -- you know, occasionally, youíd kind of just break off and go into a meeting with that over at Apple. But that didnít really take too much time. Seeing as we actually -- it wasnít actually during that week. When we made Run Devil Run, that whole week was taken up with nothing but music and rock and roll music. So Yellow Submarine, I think, we started working on -- I think I started looking at stuff the week after. It wasnít exactly at the same time. Because, I say, we did so many tracks in a week. Literally did two tracks before lunch, had lunch, two tracks after lunch. Did the same every day. So it meant that we had done -- it was actually 19 tracks by the end of the week.
And that was all finished. That was like -- it wasnít mixed, but that had bass, vocals, harmonies, everything on them. All the recordings were finished. So there really wasnít time for anything else. Someone said to me about the band, they said, "Hey, you know, seeing as you didnít know the band, did you have any ego problems?" I said, "Ego problems? There wasnít any time." You know, we only had time to, like, do the song then, okay, next song. Bang. Then we had an hour for lunch. And by the time Iíd heated up some soup and buttered some bread, it was time to go back to the studio.
So it was great. You know, it was a real crazy week, but we just rocked through it. It was just pure music week, which I loved, you know. It was hectic, but it was hectic with the right kind of thing.
Q Well, you know, I was listening to the songtrack, because, you know, it came out just about the same time as Run Devil Run and thatís the first time Beatlesí songs have been re-mixed. Did you seek out George Martinís opinion during the process and do you think you might ever remix other Beatlesí songs?
A Well, thatís always a very difficult question, now. You know, ideally, Iíd like to never remix Beatle songs because the four of us sitting there were always at every mix we ever did, well, pretty much, near as damn it. So that, you know, we all signed off on it. We said, yeah, thatís how we want it to sound. So to be any different from that, in our minds, would spoil it. But what happens is, technology, it keeps advancing, you know. So the film, when they were redoing the film, the film was in a pretty sorry state so they had to kind of go back to the negative, clean it up, really fix it up and do a lot of work on it. So by the time they did that, then they said, "Well, wait a minute, the sound track is pretty ropy, too." So they said, "We want to redo that." So it suddenly meant that the re-mixing was going to have to happen.
So we got a hold of some really good guys from EMI and we listened to it and stuff and we okayed them all. And because it was going to this 5 to 1, whatever it is, like quad only one more speaker. You know, five speakers. The Surround Sound thing, like in the movies. That was the other reason it needed mixing. So it physically needed it just for the technical reasons. So we went along with that.
I mean, Iím not that keen, like I say, unless those are the reasons, because, you know, we got it exactly how we wanted it. But, you see, a lot of the early stuff, we mixed in mono. I hate to tell you, we were there before stereo. We used to look at these two speakers on the wall and say to George Martin, "Why two, George?" We said, "Oh, we know, itís twice as loud, right?" And heíd go, "No, chaps, you see, what it is is..." Weíd go "Whaí, you split everything up. Whatís the point of that?" So no wonder, I mean, in the Ď60s all our stereo you hear the drums on the left and youíll hear the bass on the right. Youíll hear some guitars flying around all over the place. Itís like Hendrix records. You listen to him. He went mad with stereo as well.
But generally, about re-mixing, I donít really think itís too good an idea because, you know, we got them spot on the first time.
Q Thatís for --
A You know, sometimes it has to be done.
Q And Paul, you have been rocking it up of late. But thereís also a new album that just came out called Working Classical. There are symphonic versions of some of your pop songs included this time, right?
A Thatís right. Actually, it -- I just got the news today that it went to No. 1 on the American classical charts. So Iím a happy little classical bonny. Yeah, it was really nice to do. You know, for me, Iím not one of these people who sees barriers in music. You can play me some rock and roll or you can play me some bluegrass or you can play me some pop or you can play me some Seattle grunge. And I might like all of it, you know, providing itís good. I really will love, you know, Bill Monroe as much as Nirvana. So I donít see those barriers. So when it came to kind of orchestral kind of classical music, to me, itís just a bit more akin to the ballads. Itís just a bit quieter. But I donít see the barriers. So I see it all as music. You know, itís either good music or itís bad music. It all has got to be structured. And the Beatles -- the Beatles were like a four-piece where you had to have the right structure for it to sound good. And the string quartet is basically the same kind of thing, really. You know, instead of a voice leading it, itís a violin leading it. Instead of a bass doing the bottom line, itís a cello. But itís still got to have the right structure. The whole thing has got to be there. Itís got to have a good song. Itís got to go to the right places. So Iím kind of interested in all that stuff. You know, Iím very liberal with my tastes in music. You know, it doesnít mean to say Iíll listen to all of them at one time. But you know, maybe early in the morning if Iím just getting up, it might be nicer to just put on sort of quiet classical records. A bit later in the day, I want a bit of rock and roll, you know. But I love it all. I love good music.
Q It was at the services for Linda, though, where some of your songs were done in an orchestral fashion like that for the first time, some of the ones that wound up on Working Classical, right?
A Thatís right. Thatís how it happened, because I -- people said, "Well, do you want any music there?" And I said, "Well, yeah, it would be nice because, you know, Linda was a beautiful musical girl, who loved her music." And like me, she liked different kinds of music. She liked classical and rock and roll. I think mostly rock and roll. She was like a massive Jimi Hendrix fan, for instance, and a doo-wop fan. She knew all the doo-wop stuff, because she was in New York when it started, really.
So I had to think what would be most suitable. And I thought -- in the end I talked to my kids and we thought, well, if we have a string quartet and they played the songs that I wrote for Linda, we thought sheíd like that, you know. So that was what got that decision. And then it went down so well and the quartet played it so beautifully and it brought a little bit of a tear to peopleís eyes, quite emotional, that we thought, well, you know, it would be nice to have that on a record. So thatís the basis, along with three other, longer orchestral pieces that arenít done by quartets. Itís done by full symphony orchestra. And that is the basis of the Working Classical album.
Q After Linda died, the first interviews that you did were with magazines like the Animalís Agenda. And recently, in LA, you hosted the Party of the Century for PETA. Did you and Linda talk about carrying on your animal activist work if she didnít get better?
A In truth, you know, when someoneís ill like that and when Linda was ill like that, we actually didnít spend a lot of time talking about what would happen if she didnít make it, because we were just trying to be so positive. But anything like that, you know, I automatically know that -- what she felt. And I know -- we spent so long together working on the animal activist thing that I thought that -- well, I know for sure that she would want me to continue that work. Sheíd hate to think that it would stop just because she died. She has a food company over here in England, particularly, thatís probably about to go sort of international, that makes vegetarian food, which has been a huge success. And we did mention that, you know, sheíd like that to continue and stuff. But really, all we put -- we just said, if anything should happen. But we didnít get too deeply into that, because, to tell you the truth, we read each other like books. After 30 years, we might as well have been the same person talking on a number of subjects. And so I knew exactly what she wanted on that. So, youíre right, thatís why I did the animal magazines, rather than kind of do sort of, you know, sobby interviews about how I feel now and how Iím coping and stuff. I feel, no, itís much more valuable and sheíd be much more into me saying, you know, hey, letís think about the unfortunate creatures in the world. So I knew sheíd want me to do that.
Q Was Linda the kind of person who kept all her stuff in order? She took so many great photographs. Was she a good archivist? Did she keep her photos in order?
A You know, she was terrible. When I first met her, she had an apartment in New York. And it was -- from top to bottom of that apartment was piles and piles of prints that sheíd never filed. And she was about to get an agent, but she never did. But what happened was over the years, she got a bit more organized. And eventually, she got -- she, through the help of her daughter -- our daughter, Mary, whoís a photographer, too. Mary said to her, "Come on, Mom, weíve got to get this all organized." So Mary helped organize it. So there is now a photo library and a couple of girls work there. And they helped Linda put it all in order. So itís now very well ordered so that -- for instance, next year, Maryís going to choose some of Lindaís photographs to make a calendar. We did that. Linda used to send a calendar out each year. So that kind of work, because Mary knew how Linda liked it to happen, she was an assistant, literally, because I kind of know how she felt. We can actually continue to do a lot of that work for quite a long time because itís all organized. And thereís so much stuff that hasnít come out. Linda was a very prolific photographer.
So, yeah, but she herself was hopeless. Even worse than me and thatís really going some. Actually, Iím not sure she was worse than me. Iím pretty bad. But weíre flaky artists, you know. I couldnít organize a -- I donít know what.
Q Well, that was my next question, Paul, do you have a feel for where all your demos and unreleased songs are?
A No, Iím terrible, man. Honestly. I got a real scare last week because Iíd been working on some stuff this year and thereís a couple of songs I really like. And I lost the demo. I kept thinking, where the heck is it? Where have I put it? I didnít have sleepless nights, but I had sort of uncomfortable moments for a few days. I was going, oh, man, Iíve gone and lost these things. But they showed up at the bottom of a little suitcase, actually. So I found them. Boy, did I feel good. But -- so Iím now swearing to myself that I will get one of the guys at our studio and organize it because I donít want to lose this stuff.
But Iím just about up to date, but theyíre in little shopping bags and itís very haphazard.
Q We donít want someone else doing your box set 50 years from now who doesnít know the insight that you had. I know weíve got to wrap up. Iíve got a couple more quick questions and Iíll let you go.
I wanted to ask you quickly about one of my favorite McCartney rarities. I was surprised that the song Goodbye that you wrote for Mary Hopkins was left off the Anthology. Did you consider it?
A Yeah, it was considered. Yeah, there were a couple like that. But you know, there was so much good stuff to go on there that a lot of good stuff got left off. The other thing was, with the Beatles, youíve got to be equal. Itís a four-way split, you know. And it was a great democracy, the Beatles. Sometimes painfully so. But if you look at it, it was one of those things were we always tried to be very equal so that there are probably more of my demos knocking around than there were of Johnís. So just some had to be left off, just in order that we could equalize up his, you know.
Q Well, Paul, Iíve got to tell you, I think Goodbye is one of the all-time McCartney classics.
A Oh, thanks, man. You know what I remember about that? I -- Linda and I once took a boat. We were going -- Linda said -- when she got to Scotland, she said, "Whereís the Shetland Islands? I love those, that knit wear and stuff." And I said, "Oh, itís way, way up at the top." And she said, "Can we go?" I said, "Well, I suppose so. Itís not the kind of thing you normally do." But we got in a Land Rover with the kids and the dogs and we just took off. We eventually got to this place. We missed the ferry that youíre supposed to get on, so we had to get a little fishing boat. So this craggy old guy in a big wooly sweater from the Orkney Islands said, "Hey, Iím going up there. You can come on my boat." And he told me -- this guyís name was George. He was more Norwegian than Orkney, which is how it gets when you get right up the top there. Theyíre almost speaking Norwegian. He said to me, "That is my favorite song," he said, Goodbye." And he used to play it as he was setting off on his fishing boat, you know. So thereís a little anecdote that you didnít know.
Q Thank you, because I love that song.
A Well, cool, man. I like that one, too. Itís a nice little thing.
Q You know, another great rare one, On the Wings of a Nightingale that you --
A Yeah, that I did for the Everlys.
Q Yeah, and thatís a --
A Well, I love those guys so much, you know, and they asked me to come up with a song. Yeah, Iíve got one or two like that. Iím a sucker, you know. Anyone who I love like that says to me, "Do you think you can come up with something?" I go, "Oh, let me see if I can." And nearly always I love them so much that I manage to some up with it. Tom Jones, actually, recently just asked me to come up with something. Heís such a great singer. I just come up with one for him, maybe itís going to be on his next album.
Q So if weíre at a party and youíre maybe playing guitar or piano and someone requests you to play something off the wall like Iím Carrying from London Town or Iím Looking Through You or Somebody Who Cares, from Tug Of War, do you remember these songs?
A No way. No way! You just give me a few minutes, though, and Iíll go get the record and learn Ďem up again. Thatís what have to do when I go on tour. The thing is, Iíve done so much stuff, thereís no way a single brain could carry all that stuff. But, you know, itís what I do. I just go back to the record, learn it again.
I was recently -- a couple months ago, I was playing with Elton John and we were doing Hey, Jude. And he was going to take one of the verses, it was on a concert we were doing for Montserrat. And he said, "What key is it in?" I said, "Donít ask me. How the hell do I know?" So we got the record out and tried to figure it out.
Q Well, I was lucky enough to see you play at the PETA party the other night.
A Oh, yeah. Wasnít that fun?
Q And -- oh, my God, that was the best party ever. And then Iíve seen you play on all the tours, but here you were on a small stage, no bells and whistles. Would you ever think about touring on a smaller scale where you could --
A You know, I think thatís the way we would have to do it next time, because itís the way to go. I really like it. You know, the only reason you ever go to those huge 60,000 stadiums is because people say, "Well, when you come to Austin or you come to Cleveland or you come to New York, thereís going to be all those people who want to see you, but theyíd be disappointed." And thatís the only argument against, you know, working on small stages. But itís so much nicer to work on a small stage. So maybe next year Iíll go around to them.
Q That would be great because it would be so wonderful to see you explore all of these wonderful songs. Weíve been talking with Paul McCartney. His new album is called Run Devil Run and itís a rocker. And Paul, thereís three rockers on there that you wrote that are amazing, but I would imagine that you wrote some ballads over the last year and a half. Do you think weíre going to hear them ever?
A Yeah, sure. I -- having done this now and having done the classical album, Iím now setting myself up, you know, once Christmas is over with and all the stuff to do, Iím setting myself up to record a new album. Iím not sure how or, you know, with whom, yet. But Iím really quite excited about it because Iíve got a few little songs and Iíll write some more in the meantime. So, yeah, Iíll be doing some more stuff next year. So hopefully, before the year is out thereíll be a new studio album. But Ďtil then, what weíre going to do - is weíre going to rock in the new year, New Yearís Eve and weíre going to play Run Devil Run because itís going to rock your little cotton socks off.
And you have a great one, man. And listen -- all you listeners, have a really beautiful holiday, beautiful Christmas and a fantastic new century. I hope to see you around one of these days.
Q All right, Paul, and have yourself a great holiday. It will be your first one with your grandbaby. I bet itíll be fun.
A You bet. Itís going to be a great one.
Q All the best from Austin, Texas.
A Cheers, Jode.
Q Take care, Paul.
A Bye-bye, see you.
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