Interview with JOHN WETTON

April 2003

wetton1 That’s been a long want to talk to a man who’s a living embodiment of classic rock, yet it took too long a time to do so, and the time just wasn’t right due to John’s personal issues. If the conversation turned out not very good, don’t let it be misguiding, as Mr. Wetton’s usually less bitter and biting than it may seem, the latest album of his, "Rock Of Faith", being a perfect reflection of his inner soul.

– “Rock Of Faith” seems to be the most whole album of yours, taking in all the variety of styles you explored before. Did you deliberately try to bring the past experience into this day, at this point of your career?

“Rock Of Faith” is a document of my life, like all other albums, it reflects an accumulation of feelings – reality, not fantasy.

– Is there any kind of relief now that you reconnected with old friends who helped you out with the record? What’s friendship for you, then?

Friendship for me is love. I love all the people in my band, and crew. I talk to them, I see them – we go for a meal, and talk, and enjoy ourselves sometimes, and I hope they love me. And in the end…

– One of those friends is Richard Palmer-James. The CD of your demos contains several pieces from 1976 that didn’t result in your first solo album, “Caught In The Crossfire”. Why?

I also love Richard, and I have no control over record companies.

– Except for “Crossfire” and “Faith”, Robert Fripp is on each of your albums. Do you write a certain song with Fripp in mind?

No, if he happens to be here, I’ll work with him. He’s a lovely person, and we get on. We’ve known each other since we were fifteen years old.

– Then, another guitarist, Steve Hackett – he’s on couple of your records, though it’s only “All Grown Up” that he delivered guitar solo for. Sure, he’s a great harmonica player, but why didn’t you let him more guitar space?

I do what I have to do to make a record, and it’s my record, so I do what is necessary. And, as it’s my name on the record, not yours, I’ll decide what happens.

– There was an argument between me and Hackett once. He said your bass sample he used for his “In Memoriam” came from “Firth Of Fifth”, while I had it as sounding more like “Starless” and, thus, made Steve doubt his version. Who’s right, then?

I’ve no idea, and I don’t particularly care.

– Of all the guitarists you worked with, who do you consider most suitable for your music? I’d bet David Kilminster

You’d lose, it’s John Mitchell!

– And back to friends. Ian McDonald was on “Sinister” and played acoustic shows with you, while you sang on his “Driver’s Eyes”. Did you renew your relations with Ian from the Hackett’s concerts or from the JETHRO TULL tribute album?

Ian and I have never lost contact in thirty-five years. We’ve even shared girlfriends.

– You took part in some tribute albums – to GENESIS, TULL and ELP, if my memory serves right. Are you keen on paying homage to the artists you love?

No, I get paid a lot of money to do this.

– TULL and ELP tributes, Billy Liesegang’s album, PHENOMENA – there were another singing bassist beside you, Glenn Hughes, who, incidentally, recorded a handful of demos with Geoff Downes. Your impressions of Glenn?

Glenn is a wonderful person, with a fantastic voice. He is a very good friend of mine, and I love him.

– Jumping back in time… You did sessions for George Martin. Was there anything remarkable about those?

George gave me a break when I needed one. He also taught me humility.

– Did you meet THE BEATLES at the time? Your ASIA songs were apparently influenced by their writing method.


– “Real World”, a song you co-wrote with Ringo Starr – how did it come about?

We know each other, we were hanging one day, I picked up an acoustic guitar…

– Talking your previous album, I see a reason for the “Sinister” title (though you play with right hand), but why “Welcome To Hell” as an alternative title?

Why not?

– Can “Rock Of Faith” and “Sinister” be called “painless” compared to previous efforts with songs like “Hold Me Now” or “ArkAngel”?


– You wrote several songs with Sue Shiffrin and David Cassidy. Wasn’t there a thought of doing a whole album with them?


– Is there any chance to hear in the future the recordings that you made with Bill Bruford and Rick Wakeman?


– Both “Faith” and “ArkAngel” have instrumental numbers on them, which seemed not that typical for you…

I write music: some vocal, some instrumental.

You seem to appreciate a female voice and wrote the songs for Cher, ABBA’s Agnetha and, most recently, Lana Lane. Were the songs written for a certain singer originally or just given away?

I wrote “We Move As One” specifically for Agnetha, who is a wonderwoman. If she would agree, I would marry her. Cher got the song because of her producer.

– “Suzanne”, “Jane”, “Christina”, “Emma” – do you have anything to add to the list?


– “Christina” that you put out on "Akustika" is a one-off song as there’s no studio version, or is it somewhere in the vaults?

No studio version. It’s a tribute to my Goddaughter.

– Regarding vaults – a couple of years ago rumours were abound of some kind of Wetton anthology – not that on N-M-C – to be released. Do you plan something like this?


wetton3– Is QANGO project over now? John Young told me there was a studio album planned...

Yes, it’s over, but John and I will continue working together.

– John also told it was your idea to play “All Along The Watchtower” at QANGO’s live shows. Are you a Dylan fan?

I’m a fan of my son, Dylan, not Robert Zimmermann.

– Live albums – if I’m not mistaken, I have seven solo ones, all great performances but very varied sound-wise, up to awful, as is “Sun Plaza”. How does it come this way with Voiceprint’s “official bootlegs”?

Hey, it’s just better that we get the money rather than someone who doesn’t even know me!

– With so many live albums of yours, there’s one song on each – “Rendezvous 6:02”. What’s so special about that one?

“Rendezvous” has a very special appeal, not only to me, but to the audience.

– You did live shows with the band and solo, and acoustic concerts like that with Martin Orford and Ian McDonald. How does each format appeal to you?

I have to approach each one individually.

– That line off “Heat Of The Moment”, “And now you find yourself in ’82” – how many times you changed it and why stopped?

“Eighty Two” does not refer to the year, but to a location. That’s why there’s no hyphen.

– The URIAH HEEP chapter of your career was always downplayed. So how did it feel to have joined forces with Ken Hensley one more time?

I love Ken.

– How substantial was your creative input in HEEP? I mean, there’s Hensley’s demo of “Footprints In The Snow”, which is almost identical with the band’s version.

Yeah? Why are you talking to me, then?

– The same concerns a couple of songs that Max Bacon put on his album. Were you aware of him releasing those songs before you?

Yes, but I sell more records.

– And the last one: while others go from simple to sophisticated music, you go from sophisticated to simple – is it what’s called The King’s Road?

That’s not a fair question. You know what I’m capable of. Please, let me decide what I do.

Many thanks to Martin Orford for the interview arrangement.

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