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Julian Lennon

Julian Lennon Profiled!

Atlantic Records PRCD 4153-2

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Julian Lennon Profiled Interview By:
 
Mal Reding

Produced By
Neer Perfect Productions (David Bailes)

Executive Producers:
 Judy Libow, Perry Cooper,
 Dan Neer, DeWitt Nelson

Art Direction:
 Jodi Rovin

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Julian Lennon Profile This portion of the CD is an edit of the 'Answers' section mixed with songs on the album.. the songs include "Listen," "Help Yourself," "Rebel King," "Saltwater," and "Maybe I Was Wrong."

Station Liners This portion has liners for the station to play to promote Help Yourself. They are quite corny... and Julian seems quite bored doing them..  oh the things the record company made Julian do...

  • "Hi this is Julian Lennon, it's time to Help Yourself to a cut from my latest album."
  • "Hi this is Julian Lennon inviting you to Help Yourself here on your favorite radio station."
  • "Hi this is Julian Lennon and this disc jockey is the Rebel King of radio."
  • "Hello this is Julian Lennon and you're listening to the most exciting, dynamic, provocative, impassioned, awe inspiring morning show on the radio. There, I've said it, now will you play something from my new album?"
  • "Hello this is Julian Lennon, have a great time during the holidays but please don't drink and drive."
  • "Hi this is Julian Lennon with my personal antidote for loneliness, Take Me Home."
  • "Hi this is Julian Lennon, in today's Science class we're going to learn the New Physics Rant."
  • "Hi this is Julian Lennon here. Hey, Get A Life."
  • "Hi this is Julian Lennon. If you want to Help Yourself to the best music in town then you're listening to the right station."

Answers Only A question and answer section.. the questions are in the CD inlet and I have transcribed the answers...

Julian LennonHow do you feel about your latest album Help Yourself?

I really felt this time around that I had to be completely and honestly true to myself. Not that there was anything wrong with the work in the past that I've done, but I'd sort of strayed away from certain things  like being too Beatlesque and this time around I just felt, 'Listen if I'm going to be happy anything, at least one thing, I've got to be happy about my career and that means being totally true to myself.  So, you know, this time I felt that I let my influences show a little more apparent on my sleeve than before, you know. I'm really not afraid anymore of critics or what they say because I've just, as far I'm concerned, done it for myself, in pleasing myself about my songwriting and music and I am overjoyed about the final results.

Why did you use such a variety of co-writers for the album?

You know, I had a certain way of writing before and I felt there was so much inside me that I needed to bring out and I needed people to work with me to get that out of me and the other side of it is that I needed to see how other people worked. How they did that themselves. And I was really getting tired of saying the same thing, you know, most of, in fact, pretty much all of the material beforehand, had been love songs. You know. And I think this is the first real departure from that - more observing. I mean, still relationships, but in a different light and observing life around oneself a little more instead of being so closed off, and just thinking about you and your relationship, you know, which I was so tired of. And that's why, you know, it was a conscious effort to go out there and find a couple of people to work with this time that I thought would do that for me, help me along in that sense, and I think we found the right combination, you know, to ah - it has opened a new door for me and I mean, you know, I've only just finished this album, but now I definitely look forward to the next and the one after that and the one after that. It's gonna be, it's gonna be a real pleasure.

How did you come to choose Bob Ezrin as your producer?

In looking for producers I really wanted to find someone that could - take out of me what I believed I had in me. I mean, there were certain things I was trying to say that I felt never really came out before. Maybe it was because I was still too shy about things or insecure about certain things and I'd met several producers, all of which I liked, all of whom I'd liked. I met Jeff Lynne who I thought was fantastic, very sweet, lovely man, but I think Jeff would have been perfect if I'd have had the songs fully prepared and ready and ready to roll. But I was still at a stage of writing, you know, starting to write for the next album and I met Bob and he's - I won't say an aggressive man, but he's, he's - he likes to put himself forward and let people know exactly what he's about, which is a very tough, very straightforward, knows exactly what he wants and also likes to have a battle once in awhile, you know. And after sitting and sitting and thinking over things, we had chats about how we were going to do this. And finally, after several weeks, we said, 'Alright, let's give it a shot' and we both agreed in which way we were going to approach the album and the writing of the album and the pre-production and the production itself and we took it from there.

How did the album title Help Yourself come about?

Well there's a tiny bit of a story behind the title of the album which is that ah - Bob Ezrin and I, who produced the album, were sitting around and we were trying to think what the title could be. I was looking for something that - was catchy, was warm though, was honest and I really, after working on the album for over 6 months, really was unsure of what I should call it and, funny enough, this guy who used to work with Bob Ezrin years and years ago, maybe 15-20 years ago, called Arian Zero, called him up. And they hadn't spoken up until this point. Called him up about 3 in the morning and Bob says, 'Hello, who is this calling me up at this time?' He says, 'This is Arian Zero. Do you remember me? You know, we used to work together. I used to be in this band years and years ago' and he said, 'Vaguely yeah, why? What are you calling me for?' He said, 'Well, I just had a dream. You're working on Julian Lennon's album aren't you?' and he said 'Yeah, yeah, why?' He said, 'Well, I had a dream that it should be called Help Yourself' and Bob said, Bob thought nothing of it and said, 'Well, thank you very much' and went back to sleep and then in the morning when I came into the studio he said, 'Listen, this guy called me up last night and says the album should be called 'Help Yourself,' came to him in a dream.' So I sat and thought about it and said, 'Yeah, that's brilliant. That's just what I'm looking for' so that's what we went with and it sort of captured everything that was trying to be said in the album.

Your voice seems to be very versatile on Help Yourself.

I'd always loved singing falsetto stuff, you know, but, you know, I'd always been slammed by the critics for, you know, well, you know, 'He's doing his dad's falsetto stuff.' I said, 'What? What? Because dad does falsetto I'm not allowed to do falsetto?' so I got really angry at that and I thought, you know, enough of that and I'd always sort of sang in one sort of register before. I never really wandered and ah it always appealed to me that, you know, 'Well, maybe I can run my voice up and down the scales a little bit' and I think this album afforded me the opportunity to do that.

Help Yourself took 18 months to make. What was that like?

I went absolutely crazy. I mean, I locked myself in a little gray room for 8 months, you know, 8 months of hell, but it was an understanding between Bob Ezrin and I that, you know, if - if anything's gonna to go out on this album it has got to be great, every piece, every word, every piece of music has to be the best I can do at this point in time in my life and so it was a constant battle, you know. I thought I had something great, Bob would walk in and say, 'You can do much better than that' and I thought, 'Oh, c'mon, no, I can't' and then I go, 'Alright. I can, I can'. So there was a a lot of back and forth, a lot of back and forth for that whole 8 months before we went into pre-production which ah, with Scott Humphrey, which lasted another 4 months or so which, at that point in time, we were still rearranging songs until the very very last minute, you know, I mean, we really were trying to better everything we had rather than settling for things.

Tell us about the musicians who played on the album.

Scott Humphrey was the guy that um, Bob Ezrin brought in from Canada, who was this young keyboard genius. 

Steve Hunter was just incredible um he - unfortunately, he didn't have anything to do with the songwriting side but, Steve Hunter used to play with Lou Reed and Alice Cooper, and is just an incredible guitarist. 

John McCurry, as usual, did some great stuff with me on this I felt. We didn't actually have that much time together to write this time 'cause he was working on other projects. But we did manage to come up with "Help Yourself." 

Justin Clayton, again, I felt that he'd definitely matured in his writing. I think he's, we've grown up well together as far as writing partners. 

Now, let me see, Lou.. Lou.. well I call him Lou, Louis Molino was a drummer that Bob introduced me to that had great potential in the past but, due to management and things like that, sort of unfortunately got lost in the haze of other drummers and he came along and we had this song called "Would You," which we had already finished and put together and at the last minute Bob said 'Well, you know, I think it would be nice to introduce some live drums on the track' and we'd had a couple of people sort of give it a shot but because of the flow of the song many of them had difficulty really keeping it together and after Lou played on it, I mean, we fell in love with it even more and were just amazed by the fact that he could pull it off because it was not an easy song to just sit back and sort of lay back and play and after that, you know, we said, 'Okay, I think there's a couple more tracks on the album, here you go' and he surprised us all and I think he did a great job, fantastic. 

Matt Bissonette was another guy that Bob brought in who we had a lot of fun with and who is again just a great bass player and threw in several ideas on the bass end of things. 

And as far as percussion was involved, you know, we'd, with Bobbye Hall who is, has an incredible sense of feel percussively and, I mean, we just went in and all played together. Stuff that we couldn't play obviously Bobbye would play because she knew how to do it properly but there was occasions when Bob and I would get in there with her and rattle a few things. 

Alan Schwartzberg was another brilliant drummer who is an old friend of John McCurry's, who'd known John in the past.

Tell us about Blue Nile vocalist Paul Buchanan and the song "Other Side of Town."

One major band artist that I absolutely fell in love with was a band called "Blue Nile" and someone played it to me for the first time and it touched me so emotionally. I thought, 'This man and his lyrics and his voice are so incredible.' It just moved me beyond belief and I thought, 'Well, this is how I feel. How come I can't write like this. Why can't I get those emotions out or that feeling when I feel that inside?' and finally I worked at it and I set up a little studio at home in my living room and my manager gave me a call, said, 'Hi, this is Patty here. Listen, Paul Buchanan, the lead singer and writer, you know, of the Blue Nile, is in town. He's here just two weeks. Do you fancy meeting him?' I said, 'Are you kidding? C'mon, please!' and so he came by and it was very strange because it was like a long lost brother vibe about it. He walked into the door and it was like we'd known each other in a whatever life, you know, past life or whatever and it was just fantastic, it really was. We had such communication without even speaking to each other which was very strange and we sat down and basically came up with most of "Other Side of Town" in one afternoon. Actually, when it was brought up, you know, about the two of us singing the song I thought, 'Well, isn't that a bit strange…two men singing a ballad?' (laughs) I thought it was a bit peculiar  but then, when we worked it out lyrically, it made sense that it was just two men who have the same emotions about life and relationships and what happened to them.

How difficult was it to put the songs in sequence?

Because of the amount of time we'd spent on all the songs on the album and trying to perfect them, you know, as much as possible, and having such a selection, 12 songs of what we felt was fantastic stuff, it was very difficult the whole way to find out what should go in front of what, what should go behind what, does it matter? You know. And, we had to juggle the sequence around so many times so - because all the pieces individually were very special to us emotionally as far as what was going on and we had to find a flow, you know. It had to - although everything was, the subjects in each song were quite different. We had to find a way of joining it and keeping it together so it made some sort of sense. And, I think how we did that was basically taking you on some sort of emotional trip. So the way in which you hear the album, first you can be angry about a situation or interested in a situation and it'll take you through the muse of being happy, upset, sad,  angry… you know, pretty much I try to attack every emotion to some degree and I found, well, Bob Ezrin and I found, that that was the only way in which you could sit down and listen, be able to listen to that much music was to be totally sucked in and drawn into this album and for you to go on a little trip or ride, you know, through emotions and I - we felt that, well, "Rebel King" was a good eye opener.

Tell us about "Rebel King."

'Rebel King,' 'Rebel King,' 'Rebel King'… the story behind this, first of all, how it came together was Anthony Moore basically had pretty much all the lyrics together and what he was saying, although it was complete madness in some respects, appealed to me. But he'd thrown a demo tape together but it didn't have any music at all. There was a rhythm to it, but there was no keyboards, no guitars, no nothing, so basically, I did this after we'd met and he'd gone back to England and I sat with the words and the groove and came up with the music behind it basically and we slammed it together and after he heard it he was very pleased with it. I mean, the basic story behind "Rebel King" is initially sort of shooting down the rebel inside oneself, the devil inside, that a - that is capable of wrecking a lot of happy situations in your life, you know. And so, I mean people can obviously - the listener can take it for what it is or take it somewhere else but initially that was the thought behind it was, trying to stay happy and keep the devil down.

Tell us about "Saltwater."

'Saltwater' was co-written by a guy called Mark Spiro and his wife and I. In fact, how it all came about was pretty interesting. I'd never really thought about using outside material at all originally on this album and Mark sent me a tape and there were some things I liked about it but there were things I was unsure about and so I sat around and played with it for awhile and Mark came over and I played it to him and he was extremely happy about it. I mean, I have to credit Mark with doing most of the work on this and his wife but I think my input was very important too and it is definitely, for me, a goose bump song, you know. I feel that, I mean, just lyrically it's so beautiful, you know, and I think it's not complicated and it shows a lot of emotion and I think touches everybody because whether people care about things or situations or not, I- you can't help but be drawn into what the song is about, you know. And basically it's about reflections on one's life and what's happening around you in your life and very straightforward but so honest that it almost hurts.

Tell us about "Get A Life."

Glen Tilbrook from 'Squeeze' and I got together one afternoon very briefly because he was only in town for a week. And it was a little awkward. We didn't, you know, I mean, we got on very well but we didn't really know how to approach writing a great song together in an afternoon. So basically we came up with the verse musically, no lyrics as such, no real idea of where we were going, and he actually came up with the chorus which had the word "listen" in it so I felt that was a little awkward seeing as we had a song called "Listen" on it, on the album already, and I loved the groove and the feeling behind it but - and I thought it should be a sort of Dylanesque rap and I pretty much wrote the lyrics maybe a week or so after he'd gone back to England. But just could not come up with the rest of the song and I'd made several attempts with Bob to try and make some sort of sense of this or put it in some sort of order and nothing came together and then just at the last minute before we'd finished all the album, I went into the studio and said, 'There's got to be a way of getting this song a life' and so I just sat there in the studio with Scott Humphrey and an acoustic guitar and it just came, you know, (snaps fingers) just like that and an hour later we had the finished product and I, you know, sent the tape to Glen. He was very excited about the fact that something came of it, you know, because we were very uncertain while we were trying to get it together, but it's, you know, it's one of the most sort of upbeat songs on the album so I was very fortunate that it came together otherwise we'd be in ballad hell really.

Tell us about "Would You."

Blue Nile basically inspired this for me, this song, musically anyway. The chords that were played in Blue Nile and the way they were put together were something that I'd had always done at home. Very similar style, very strange bizarre chords that seemed to match and not always go together but I had these chords for years and I said to Anthony Moore - I said, 'Listen I've got these chords and I want to use them but I don't know how or where' and he said, 'Well, I've got these words and I want to use them but I don't know how or where' and I was able to write, record, and finish the song within a day or two. 

The reason why that lyrically it appealed to me was because at that point in time, I mean, I've been going through a lot of different emotions and feelings over the past year, year and a half, dealing with this album and relationships and just friends and just this and that and lyrically speaking, you know, when I first heard Anthony read this to me, 'Would you rather the feeling of no feeling at all,' you know, the feeling of being numb, it was pretty much how I felt quite often while trying to put this whole thing together and then I considered the fact that wouldn't it be nice to be able to not have pressures in life, to be able to just float through life and although it's simplistic in what it says, it does tell a story of how people think or how things affect you.

Tell us about the song "Maybe I Was Wrong" that you wrote with guitarist Justin Clayton.

The thing that attracted me to "Maybe I Was Wrong" was the fact that it's not a happy story. It's, you know, it's a bit of confusion and it's not saying, 'Yes, I love you' or this or that. It's actually a sort of giving in to yourself or understanding what's true about a relationship, whether it is right or wrong, you know. It's actually saying "Maybe I was wrong, maybe I am wrong about this relationship" instead of just winging it and hoping for the best.

Tell us about the title track "Help Yourself"

I believe it's absolutely true that if you want to get on in life then you really do have to help yourself and to push forward. John McCurry and I sat around thinking, 'Well, where are we going to go with this' and I'd already had part of the music there and then John came in and said, 'Alright, try this' and it was a back and forth thing and we didn't have any lyrics and John again had to, like everybody else I write with, had to disappear back to New York. And I sat around writing and he'd sort of mentioned a couple of ideas and it came together in about two days. 

This was at a period where we'd pretty much finished the album and I asked Bob to come around because I thought we had something special here. And I put the headphones on his head and said, 'Have a listen to this' and he knew I was completely nervous about this because John McCurry and I really liked this song and he knew I was particularly nervous about him listening to it for the first time. And so I sat opposite him in the room and throughout the song he would be leaning forward shaking his head from side to side as if to say, 'What the hell is this? This is terrible' and so I’m going, 'Oh my God. This isn't going to go anywhere. How am I going to beat him on this one?' and he took the headphones off and he said, 'Listen, I'm only kidding. It's great. Let's go and take it in the studio and work on it' and that was that and everybody was happy after that.

"Listen" is the only song you wrote alone. Tell us about it.

'Listen' was a song that I'd basically had in me for a long time lyrically about just how I felt about things, how I felt about what critics or people thought they knew about me and also it was about relationships that I'd had, you know. It was pretty much sort of saying, 'Well, you know, I've had enough of what you have to say about me, you know. I don't think you know me as a person. You're just judging me from what other people have said about me or what you take for surface value, you know. I don't think you know me at all and, basically, I just don't want to have to listen anymore to what you have to say about me or your opinions' so that was one of the first songs I'd wrote. A little aggressive at the time and felt I needed to get something off my chest.

Tell us about "Take Me Home."

I basically wrote "Take Me Home" with Justin several years ago and I had the idea in my head, a melody in my head, and I asked him to try and sort of to transcribe it to guitar and we'd take it from there and basically what you're hearing is what it used to be plus a couple of things added. When we took it into the studio we felt that lyrically it could've been a little stronger. I still like the idea that it should remain a little folky in a sense, very simple, no drums, no nothing, just to the point. And the original lyrical concept came up with the thought that - well basically I was feeling very insecure and alone at the time of the writing of this and it was just- I was just thinking about things and the original idea came from the thought, I don't know why it was set in Ireland, the thought of two people meeting at a dinner or a party and thinking that that could be the last night on this earth and rather than be alone on that night, to be with somebody who you could just hold and feel you were loved or love them and that's basically where the idea came from. And it's, you know, it's not necessarily a happy song by any means but it's - I think it's a song that provokes your thoughts about relationships and how you deal with people and how people deal with you and how they love you and vice versa.

Where did "New Physics Rant" come from?

'New Physics Rant' was originally something musically that I'd put together several years ago before the Mr. Jordan album. I always keep everything so I just had bits of music here and there and I was running through old demo tapes and Bob said, 'What's that?' and I said, 'That's just, you know, jibberish' and he said, 'No, no, no, no, no. I think we can do something with that' and then Anthony Moore came along and, of course, had the craziest lyrics I'd ever seen in my life which was basically a very interesting look at the universe, life and everything else in it. And, and I didn't quite know how to approach this. Bob said it should be like a rap and I said, 'Well, I don't really want to fall into that category' but he said, 'No, you've got to understand. It's a guy talking about the universe and life and everything else, but I think he should be a guy that's trying to demonstrate something but obviously people are not listening to him so he tends to get a little outraged at the end and wants you to definitely understand what he's talking about although it's almost impossible.' And so lyrically it's very deep and twisted and the idea of calling it a rap sort of annoyed me because everything else was a rap at the time and still is at the moment. Not that I don't like rap, it's just that I didn't wanna, you know, appear to sort of jump on any old band wagon, you know, so the British are famous for ranting on and being overly boring and terrible sometimes and just waffle waffle and so, I mean, New Physics Waffle wouldn't quite of worked but Rant did.

Tell us about "Imaginary Lines."

There's a great story behind 'Imaginary Lines'. Musically, Justin had written most of the material and we didn't really have anything to talk or sing about. We'd sort of been banging out heads against the wall. And a friend of mine had a little condo down in Mexico. So we decided to drive down there for the weekend, just to get away from this little gray room and we both were sort of observing, you know, the barriers that have been put up between the Mexicans and Americans and the border lines. And, it really hit me a lot but, I mean, it really took Anthony by surprise. I mean, it really upset him. You could see all these people just lining up against, you know, fences, being stuck there, not being allowed to go where they wanted to go, you know. When we got down there he disappeared for quite some time and then came down to us and said, 'You know, I have an idea for the song now. It's all about the people we just saw'. I said, 'What, you mean on the border?' He said, 'Yeah, yeah.' He said, 'I feel we should talk about the fact that people are not free anymore. They're confined to borders which other people with more power have put up and it's a very unfortunate situation and especially seeing as the land was originally theirs, that it's very unfair how this has all worked out and, you know, while the Americans are living it up rich in California, you know, the Mexicans are, you know, hanging around on the back streets in poverty.' It's very, it was really sad to see. I mean, it wasn't - It was originally, the concept was from that border but it was generally talking about the borders around the world that we're confronted with and how unfair it is these days and the people aren't really as free as they think they are.

What is "Keep The People Working" about?

Lyrically what it says about is pretty straightforward, you know. You've got to keep the people working to make the bombs to kill other people and in the end probably kill all of us, you know, and it's - I think a lot of the stuff is a little cynical on the album and this is definitely a nice little piece to finish it off with.

Do you think your father would have been proud of this record?

Well, of course, that's impossible for me to know but, I think he'd be proud in the sense that I went through a lot of realization with this album in sort of getting a little closer to who I am in a sense and just what I'm singing about and what I've written about and the people I've worked with, who've been so dear, so kind and wonderful. It's definitely, as far as I'm concerned, a more mature look at life and it does definitely speak from my heart. You know, there isn't any bull about it, you know. I, again, I think, again, he would be proud of the fact that it's not - I'm not trying to please anybody, you know. I'm just writing down what I feel and hoping everybody else enjoys it, which I think he would obviously understand and appreciate.

Is it hard for you being the son of John Lennon?

I find the problem that I do have about any sort of situation dealing with any people is that just as, for an instance, if I'm meeting someone, now, when - if I was Jack the Lad, you know, or someone other than myself meeting someone for the first time, they wouldn't have any history on me. You know, you start a conversation saying, 'Well, Hi, what do you do, you know.' 'This.' First of all, I have my background to contend with as far as people knowing me before I even know them at all and, I mean, this still works as far as a live situation as well. Not only do I have that but I have dad's history too so that's where - I mean, it really does get tiresome. It really does but, I mean, these days I don't dwell too much on stuff about Dad, you know.

Do you think the critics are unfair towards you?

Well, I think on Mr. Jordan they did give me a bit of a hard time. I don't particularly know why, but I felt that I've always had a bit of a hard time with the critics, you know, and that's why, especially this time, I really have sort of got to that point where I really don't care what anybody says anymore.

Like many people you've had your problems with drinking and drugs. What stopped you from going off the rails altogether?

The thing that really pulled me together through that time of drugs and drinking and everything was I mean, literally waking up one morning and feeling like I was on the doorstep of death and walking into the bathroom and looking at the mirror, looking at myself in the mirror and basically seeing someone I didn't recognize, you know, someone so green, so out of shape, so overweight, so - just disgusting really and I wanted much more from life than what I was doing to myself and I basically sort of - it was more like a cold turkey sort of thing. I said, 'That's got to be it, you know. I'm either going to live or die' and from that point on I also believe it was who I was hanging out with, where I was going. I think your surroundings have a lot to do with what happens to you as a person. I mean, that period was when I lived in New York and the second album hadn't done well and I just felt really down on my luck and, you know, especially after the first album doing so well and I just got involved with all these very strange characters down in some very dark and dingy clubs and after hour clubs and it lasted for about two years, you know, and I scared the hell out of myself. I still, you know, once in awhile under pressure have those feelings of, 'Well, you know, I could be - just go down the road, have a couple of drinks, you know, see what happens' and it's a constant battle always but I have seen the lighter and better side of life that I should know better by these days, which I do, it's just that once in awhile the back of your mind goes, 'Remember partying?' because there's some parts of it obviously you remember as being fun. But after the fun, you know, it's not fun anymore and that's when I moved, you know. I came out to Los Angeles and actually bought a little house and sort of started fresh really.

Do you have a sense of what sort of person you are?

All I know is that everyday is a new experience, everyday I'm learning, getting a little older, a little wiser, and I think that's the only thing that keeps me together is looking at what I've done in the past and how I've dealt with things or approached things and that I feel, is the only sort of guidance I have in finding out where I'm going or who I'm becoming. So, I still don't know as yet, you know. I've got so much more to learn, so many things I want to do that'll probably tell - it'll tell myself what sort of person I'm going to be. I mean, I don't really know truly, you know, who I am to a certain degree. I mean, I know where I've come from, I know who my family are, but I still think there's a lot I've got to find out about myself.