Q: The age-old question, Lennon or McCartney—who do you prefer?
A: Well, if forced to choose, I would say Lennon, but my actual analysis is that it’s a combination. I think that’s what everybody who has that argument is really missing, that the Beatles were, at the core, Lennon and McCartney, not Lennon plus McCartney or vice versa, but Lennon and McCartney together. And while both are great artists and musicians in their own right, they were never as good without the collaboration and the competition that created their special symbiotic relationship.
Q: Lennon once said that if more politicians in the world were like Pierre Trudeau we’d have world peace. What’s your response to that?
A: You know, the funny thing is—most people wouldn’t believe this—in a strange way I’m a big admirer of John Lennon but obviously I don’t share his politics. Although, if you know much about John Lennon, his politics were not quite as fixed as people think, his politics shifted around a fair bit. Look, I know that when a lot of musicians are singing they’re trying to get a political message out. I’m a politician: when I’m singing I’m just singing. I got no political message.
Q: I know you like classic rock but do you like any music from the last 20 years?
A: I don’t want to say anything trashing music from the last 20 years because it’s not that I dislike it, I just probably haven’t given it much of a chance. Laureen actually listens to music a lot more than I do—I just don’t have the time. But I still tend to like stuff in the rock vein. I loved the Alanis Morissette album Jagged Little Pill, loved it. I like Blue Rodeo. I like Nickelback.
Q: You play when you’re at home, and I understand you play on the road sometimes if you can get a piano in your room. What do you play when you’re by yourself?
A: It’s almost always a series of Beatles tunes, a few other songs from classic rock, the ’50s to ’70s kind of era, the stuff that I know.
Q: How often are you able to play?
A: Laureen claims I play almost every day. That’s not true, but probably every other day I play an hour or so. I don’t do scales or any practising. I just sit down and fool around.
Q: What do you get out of it? How does it make you feel?
A: I’ve always had a kind of peculiar relationship with music. I love playing music in some ways, and I sit down, I relax, but I really get into it, I get lost in it. On the other hand, it isn’t long before I start to get perfectionist about it and, you know, start to maybe . . . well, it becomes less than relaxing.
Q: You’ve taken some heat in the political arena for speaking dismissively of fancy arts galas where artists take the stage to beg for higher subsidies. Was your performance at the National Arts Centre gala intended as some sort of gesture to the arts community? Was there a political message behind it?
A: Well, I certainly wasn’t there to complain about my salary. No, look, I’ve never had anything but respect for artists. That’s not the issue. I was just there singing a song. As I said, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I thought, “Well, while we’re on this bandwagon, let’s ride it.”
Q: You’ve done a lot of other things over the years to show a non-political face, a more human dimension of yourself—everything from flipping pancakes to comedy skits. Why do you think this particular performance has resonated the way it has?
A: I’m not sure. I’d probably have to go watch it. I haven’t. I hate seeing myself on television and I haven’t actually gone and watched it. I just saw one 10-second clip but it did capture the electricity in the room. We were surprised at the response, at how kind of crazy it got. Obviously we thought people would notice, we’d get some coverage, but this is much, much bigger than we expected. It was just a wonderful reception.
Q: Why don’t you like seeing yourself on television?
A: I don’t know. Maybe it’s the perfectionist in me. Also, I find it like an out-of-body experience. It’s like watching somebody imitating me. It makes me very uncomfortable. Maybe it’s the shy side of my personality or something. But I don’t watch any Canadian news—I don’t want to see myself on television. But I guess I’ll watch this one.
Pages: 1 2