The suave singer tackles a raspy legend.
Wed Jul 4 2007
Illustration: Rob Kelly
Bryan Ferry's voice is so serene, so distinguished and so utterly English that you can't help thinking he'd be great at (a) voiceovers and (b) phone sex. But instead, Ferry's most famous for fronting the very-'70s art-rock ensemble Roxy Music. And he's just released Dylanesque, in which he covers 11 classics by the legend once known as Robert Zimmerman.
The 61-year-old singer, style icon and father of four sons (Isaac and Otis are currently making waves overseas as, respectively, man-about-town and pro-foxhunting activist) has done just about everything most red-blooded males only fantasize about (he's even got a 26-year-old girlfriend, Katie Turner). Still, having maintained a private, relatively low-key profile for more than 30 years, the performer sparked mass controversy back in March when, during an interview with the German press, he praised the Nazis' skill with architecture and public ceremony as "just amazing, really beautiful." TONY caught up with him on the phone from his London studio.
So, you've never met Dylan?
No. I don't really socialize that much in the music scene. I spend so much time recording and performing that when I've got free time, I tend to be with people who are not musicians. We're both very private people, so the chance of us bumping into each other would be quite rare.
Have you at least been in the near vicinity of him?
[Laughs] That I have been. I saw him play for the first time last year. My teenage sons took me along. They're huge Dylan fans.
Your sons get so much attention in the U.K.—has anyone pitched a Ferry family reality series yet?
[Laughs] That might be too much for people to take. My sons are a handful. But they're all characters, which is good. And the energy that flies around them sometimes is pretty spectacular.
Are you actually considering this?
Well, you never know, do you? It'd be thrill-a-minute, that's for sure.
You don't seem like the kind of guy who'd like being trailed by cameras.
No—that's my idea of hell.
Let's talk about the Nazi episode. What happened there?
I said I thought the Nazis had a talent for creating public spectacles, with Leni Riefenstahl's movies and Albert Speer's buildings, and the massive street parades and flag waving.
And that didn't go over too well.
I was talking about art, but people thought I was praising fascism—a concept that I consider abhorrent. The whole thing's been very upsetting. I can't apologize for it enough.
Are there any old Roxy outfits you'd care to apologize for?
Well, I wore a gaucho outfit for a tour in 1974 or so. It was very Rudolph Valentino, and actually launched a whole look. But it wasn't, perhaps, the right thing for me.
You once said, "The older I get, the less I know about women." Care to elaborate?
[Laughs] I still consider myself a novice in that area.
What about younger women?
I'd say, approach with caution.
So how do you and your girlfriend make it work?
It's a combination of me being, dare I say, young at heart, and Katie having an old head on young shoulders. She's very old-fashioned, in a way.
You've admitted to being a very slow writer. Do you suffer from ADD?
[Laughs] I am very easily distracted. But it's not about being idle. I take on too many things. Touring, for instance, is a genuine distraction. I can't really write when I'm traveling.
Do you ever worry that you've run out of things to say?
As life goes on, I do feel less of a need to write more. I like my body of work quite a bit, and I have such a big repertoire to choose from that I'm not that concerned about producing new songs.
A lot of concertgoers will be happy to hear that.
When you're about to do a tour, you listen to your catalog and think, Which ones do I want to do? Quite often, it's the earlier stuff I have a preference for.
So you don't consider Dylanesque to be your masterpiece?
Of course I do!
Dylanesque is out now.