Bob Dylan has revealed that he is a fan of Stereophonics, and also that he cannot imagine his own writing being influenced by his series of albums of American standards, because “these melodies are so structured in musical theory, they’re so tricky with time signatures and shifting melodies, that it’s beyond me”.
In a long interview on his website, conducted by Bill Flanagan, Dylan discussed the making of Triplicate, his new triple album of classics from the American songbook, along with growing up in Minnesota, his first exposure to rock’n’roll and his tour bus TV viewing habits (“I Love Lucy, all the time, non-stop”).
Here are some highlights:
On why Triplicate is three discs of 32 minutes – “It’s the number of completion. It’s a lucky number, and it’s symbolic of light. As far as the 32 minutes, that’s about the limit to the number of minutes on a long playing record where the sound is most powerful, 15 minutes to a side. My records were always overloaded on both sides. Too many minutes to be recorded or mastered properly. My songs were too long and didn’t fit the audio format of an LP. The sound was thin and you would have to turn your record player up to nine or 10 to hear it well. So these CDs to me represent the LPs that I should have been making.”
On the appeal of songs from the pre-rock age -“These songs are some of the most heartbreaking stuff ever put on record and I wanted to do them justice. Now that I have lived them and lived through them, I understand them better. They take you out of that mainstream grind, where you’re trapped between differences which might seem different but are essentially the same. Modern music and songs are so institutionalised that you don’t realise it. These songs are cold and clear-sighted, there is a direct realism in them, faith in ordinary life, just like in early rock’n’roll.”
On whether the American songbook would influence his own writing – “I doubt it. These melodies are so structured in musical theory, they’re so tricky with time signatures and shifting melodies, that it’s beyond me. It’s hard to be influenced by any of it if you’re not familiar with that world. I could be influenced by a part of a melody or a phrase, but that would be about it. I don’t think I’d be influenced by anything lyrically.”
On whether Triplicate is nostalgic – “Nostalgic? No, I wouldn’t say that. It’s not taking a trip down memory lane or longing and yearning for the good old days or fond memories of what’s no more. A song like Sentimental Journey is not a way back when song, it doesn’t emulate the past, it’s attainable and down to earth, it’s in the here and now.”
On his favourite recent music – “Iggy Pop’s Après, that’s a good record. Imelda May, I like her. Valerie June, the Stereophonics. I like Willie Nelson and Norah Jones’ album with Wynton Marsalis, the Ray Charles tribute record. I liked Amy Winehouse’s last record.”