Andrew Probyn's Interview

Continental Cafe, Prahran Melbourne 9 October 1998

Photograph Smile

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This interview was done by Andrew Probyn of The Let It Be Beatles which is a Beatles radio show which has been running for 6 years in Melbourne, Australia.  Andrews' interview is absolutely wonderful, one of the best I've heard/read.  And it is refreshing that Julian is so open in discussing his past and his music.. I'd like to especially thank Simon and Andrew of The Let It Be Beatles and Joanna for helping me get in touch with them. 

Andrew: First of all congratulations on the album.

Julian: Thank you.

Andrew: Now how many times is this in Melbourne... you've been...been here?

Julian: Oh I don't know..

Andrew: Four or five times.

Julian: Yeah, at least. Yeah. About that. Yeah.

Andrew: Do you like it a lot here? Do you like it in Australia?

Julian: Yeah. I love it in Australia.  Unfortunately the times in the past that I've been here have always been too brief.... and although this time is - you know we are here for three weeks. It's again it is like running around like a headless chicken on promotion. So... especially after not being around  for seven years you know, or however long it has been... But, because I'm - we're working in partnership with Sony this time and I'm running my company back in England through you know - with Sony. Especially when we come back my idea, especially on the road, is to not make it a grueling, hectic tour by any means. And for actually - not only myself but for the band and everybody who is on the road, to actually pace it in such a way that we actually get days - a couple days off, either before or after each of the shows so we can explore and enjoy and have a look around. That actually - That makes the show better anyway.  Because we want to get up and play rather than you know..

Andrew: You've been here for two days. What have you been up to around Melbourne?

Julian: Sleeping!

Andrew: Have you visited any sites?

Julian: No. Not at all. I haven't had a chance. I mean I've - I had a - the work schedule that we put together in Japan was beyond grueling. I mean beyond grueling! And there was literally no rest time!   I mean literally no - We had one day off in three weeks. It was - it was - it was hard to find time to eat! Never mind sleep! Um.. and so with the flight over and also not - I didn't sleep on the flight. So, it's mainly been sort of catching up and resting up getting ready for the next three weeks you know.

Andrew: Right. Have you ever considered moving to Australia permanently?

Julian: I have. I have actually. Every time I've been here. It's very scary. But every time I come here I - in the past anyway, I've stayed an extra week or two at the end,  if I didn't have to go anywhere. And I've always felt very, very comfortable here. I've always liked it here immensely. And I have very much considered it.

Andrew: Australia or Melbourne in particular?

Julian: Well, Australia.. Yeah Australia. Yes.

Andrew: What is it about Australia?

Julian: Well I don't know, the climate in Melbourne seems to be a little too close to England at the moment you know. (laughs) Ah.. I don't know, there's just.. I like the people here for a starter, it maybe, it's just a feeling, a vibe I can't - it's not particularly something I can put into words but it's - I feel comfortable here you know.

Andrew: You dedicated 'Photograph Smile' to Roberto... Bassanini

Julian: Good. Very  good. Well done. (Referring to Andrew's pronunciation of Bassanini)

Andrew: And is he the one who took the photos of you? Those fantastic photos on the album?

Julian: No. Uh..

Andrew: Who took them? Especially the picture of you playing the piano.

Julian: Well the one playing piano was taken at home when I was about two or three when dad was still around. I don't know if he took it. It could have been mum; it could have been dad; it could have been someone around the house. The front cover was me sitting on my mother's and my step-father's shoulders in Italy.

Andrew: Oh really? You can't tell that at all!

Julian: No you can't. I just cropped it out just for the face and facial expression, you know.

Andrew: Just making sure this thing is taping.

Julian: Alright

Andrew: Don't want to miss this out. Um. Do you think it was difficult for Roberto to leave knowing that your dad was Beatle John.

Julian: Not at all. He didn't a f--- basically. Him - uh you know, he was just a guy that enjoyed life immensely. It was not about who was more successful or fame or who was more famous or this, that, and the other. Roberto was the kind of guy - His family ran a very successful hotel business throughout Italy. And -and there was - it was a different life altogether you know. It wasn't even - definitely he didn't want to get up and be a pop star. He enjoyed the life that he was living.

Andrew: You've said in the past that he was more of a dad and John.

Julian: Well yeah. He was that you know, took me to school, picked me up from school. He was the one who took me on holidays. He was the one that was around and went to a football match with me or whatever.

Andrew: Who do you support by the way?

Julian: Well that was a long time ago. I'm actually not a major - not into sports much these days.

Andrew: Who was it?

Julian: Well it was Liverpool back then of course (laughs).

Andrew: Ah well. No. Well not necessarily, it could have been Everton.

Julian: No. Very true. Well.. uh.. hmm..uh.. Okay! We won't get into that one. But that was in the younger days so...

Andrew: Yeah. You say on the inside of the 'I Don't Wanna Know' single - In fact, a lot of people would have missed it because you don't expect things to be written on the inside.

Julian: Yeah. I did write a lot this time.

Andrew: Inside it says that 'this is the song - this is the sound that many people out there have been waiting for.'

Julian: In a sense, yeah.

Andrew: Was it a deliberate..

Julian: Oh absolutely! Beyond deliberate. Yeah. I mean, after, you know, after so many fans and critics in the past making the comparisons all the time saying 'well he sounds just like the Beatles or just like his dad' and I always sort of push away from that. Didn't even make any comments about it.

Andrew: When I heard it for the first time I thought it was absolutely startling.

Julian: Yeah. Yeah when it first- on the track.

Andrew: It's - Do you think it's - it sounds like something from 'Hard Day's Night'? It could have fitted..

Julian: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Andrew: Yeah

Julian: I wrote it and designed it specifically to do that.

Andrew: Around 'A Hard Day's Night' ?

Julian: Well no..

Andrew: That style..

Julian: Well that style, mid-sixties basically. You know and sing it as close to dad's style as possible you know. That was the idea. I mean also it was, from my point of view, it was tongue in check you know, because of all those critics who had said 'well when are you going to cover a Beatles' song?' I said, 'Why would I want to do that? Number one they did a brilliant job the first time around. And number 2, if I did that you know, how am I supposed to move forward in my own life? You know, if you keep pulling me back?'  and 'No! I'm not a replacement. You know, I'm a different person entirely. Grew up in different circumstances you know.' Um.. you know.. and so I - after all those years of the critics saying you know 'you sound just..' so this time I thought well I'll do one exactly like it and so when they say this again I'll say, you know, 'well he sounds just like..' I'll say, 'well yes I do.'

Andrew: And well it's - it's a wonderful song in it's own right.

Julian: Yeah its alright. It's a little ditty, poppy, thing you know. But.. uh.. you know. The idea was to say 'well yes I do' now and get over it. Get past the comparisons. There is more to the work that just comparing it to the Beatles or you know it's like when people ask me about like bands like Oasis and say 'well what about the comparisons.' And I say, 'well you know, at the end of it, it's not the about comparisons. It's whether you like the song or not.' It's as simple as that you know. Everybody takes influence from everybody. That's where we, you know, accumulate our knowledge and our history you know.

Andrew: I suppose it has occurred to you that today..

Julian: YES!

Andrew: ..is your dad's 58th birthday. Um Have you chosen today especially?

Julian: No.

Andrew: It's just a..

Julian: Not particularly. No. It's a fluke of nature.

Andrew: You've described Paul McCartney in the past- I think it's in a very recent interview, as a real sweetheart.

Julian: Yeah.

Andrew: In as far as he has been very supportive of you. I believe he was in contact with you during the making of this album. Is that right?

Julian: Well after the album actually. After the album. Not during the album. He's always been one to send Christmas and Birthday cards. Every year! Amazing! And um - A (someone takes Julian's picture here and distracts him a bit. When the photographer apologizes, Jules says: 'No. No. No I don't mind') And uh it's - he's always been there and like an Uncle but it's always .. ah.. it's been a little awkward you know, because it's difficult for him you know.

Andrew: Have you contacted him since Linda's very sad passing?

Julian: No. No I purposely didn't. I purposely didn't because I felt that more than anything, knowing what dealing with what death is like it's - it would be more beneficial to let him have some time and some space. And he needs to be with his family, and he needs to do a lot of healing you know. And when the time's right, I'll - you know, I'll 'ither see him personally or what. But I felt he needed time first. I didn't want - you know 'cuz everybody is going to send everything in at the same time saying - you know. And it's all overwhelming. It's all too much you know.

Andrew: Yeah.. um.. If you hadn't been the son of John Lennon, would you have been a Beatles fan?

Julian: Probably yeah. Well..

Andrew: Who would have been your favorite then?

Julian: Ah. I don't know. I think - I think - That's very difficult to say because between .. ah.. I mean, they all had elements that are individual that when brought together made a fantastic situation. But.. um.. individually, they had their own talents which were equally as good as each other in different areas you know. Dad was the more raw. More sort of more raw, honest, aggressive approach. And Paul was much more the melodic, softer side of things. And I like both those sides you know. Uh.. I think, quite often that more of my stuff that I think that IS influenced, is more on the side of Paul because of the melodies. I'm a melody freak. I love melodies you know. But I still like that harder edge side too you know.

Andrew: In the seven years before 'Photograph Smile' you had a rest, you had a break from the industry, what were you doing?

Julian: Ah LIVING! I lived!

Andrew: You were becoming a chef.. ah dabbling in things..

Julian: No. I've been cooking for years. I've been cooking since God knows when. uh..

Andrew: What about designing computer games? Is this true?

Julian: Yeah. That's true.

Andrew: What sort of games?

Julian: Ah.. I Ah.. to not give the game away. But it environmentally - it's a particular game that deals with teaching kids without - it's on a subconscious level, on a very subtle level, teaching kids about the environment. About the consequences of what happens. And morally, judgment, and the consequences there of.  You know.. I can't give too much away until it actually happens. I don't want someone else to take the idea.

Andrew: Okay - Your own label, 'Music From Another Room', what does that mean?

Julian: What does it mean?

Andrew: Yeah. What does it mean?

Julian: It means freedom! That's what it means! It means after all those years of putting so much trust and faith in other people who didn't do f---ola for me..

Andrew: Well you've been shafted in the past.

Julian: Well that's another way of putting it yes. (laughs) Yeah. Yeah. I didn't say that. No - You know there was just too many broken promises. Too - Great lack of support.. which was so frustrating when I was on promo tours working my backside off and .. you know, the record company before I  even do that - did that- And the management, knew that there was going to be no support. So I was going out on the road doing a promo tour for a year or two with the management, the record company, knowing that they weren't going to support me on this and this was absolutely frustrating. And so I just said 'That's enough!' I had enough. And their idea of who I was, was different from mine. I mean they were marketing me, you know, as the 'son of.' They didn't know how to handle me. They didn't approach me on a personal level or an artist in my own right you know. It was never the case. And so it was time to get out of all those contracts. That took about four or five years. And then.. ah.. you know, I just lived. I had been in the industry since - from the age of 20 you know, 'til seven years ago. So as an adult, I had no time to myself to figure who I was outside of the music industry.

Andrew: Just a couple quick more questions. I know they are trying to wind us up.

Julian: Sorry, it's dinner time that's why. Go on.

Andrew: Do you think that Yoko Ono would be annoyed that your latest album has been getting far better reviews..

Julian: HELL YES! YEAH! Absol-f---ing-lutely!

Andrew: Now she's put a fortune behind Sean's album.

Julian: She's put enormous amounts behind Sean. I - Listen, I love Sean to death. I support him beyond. You know. But I think he has little understanding or knowledge of what actually she's been doing behind this you know. I feel he's gone into this Indy label you know, thinking that it's given him street creed and clap but the actual money she's forking out of her own pocket to support him to do all the promotional stuff.. It's mind boggling. Mind boggling!

Andrew: What do you think of his album?

Julian: I like it. You know it's -

Andrew: Do you think it is a bit pretensuous at times?

Julian: I don't know.. you know, these days people are definitely (someone interrupts) these days you know people are definitely getting on with things they want to do themselves rather than what other people want them to do. So you know, in that respect, I'm happy for him. I'm not necessarily sure.. you know.. this was the right style or the right choice as a debut album because, you know, this is supposed to be some indication of where you're going and it's..

Andrew: It's many styles in it..

Julian: It's a little - he's a little confused in which area he wants to go. Because he love melodies. I know that. But he's also grown up in an age with grunge and Pearl Jam and all that kind of stuff and he's trying to do this to it. Ah. Ah .. he' having fun. But it's early days yet. And I think he's - I think he will do something great down the line.

Andrew: Would you like to record with him?

Julian: Maybe. I don't know. Who knows? I don't know.. I don't know. If we have an idea together one day. I mean we see each other maybe once a year.

Andrew: You've accused Yoko in the past of cheapening your dad's image.

Julian: Absol-freaking-lutely. Yeah!

Andrew: Yeah. What can you do to stop that?

Julian: I can't do anything! Nothing! Not a single thing.

Andrew: You've spent a lot of money buying those things that she's been selling.

Julian: Yes.

Andrew: Hmm.. It must just infuriate you!

Julian: It's beyond infuriating. The most infuriating thing is the money that I'm buying it with was dad's money in the first place.

Andrew: Right. Yeah.

Julian: So I'm buying it back with his cash. It's like how ridiculous is that! you know.

Andrew: Yeah Look Julian. While you're talking. I - the reason That I'm such a fan of the Beatles and the reason I've been following your career with great interest is... I actually do a Beatles show in Melbourne. It's the only Beatles show in Australia.

Julian: Are you serious?

Andrew:  Yeah. Six years it's been going. I was - Could you do a little primary for us? Saying 'this is Julian Lennon and you're listening to 'The Let It Be Beatles''

Julian: Sure. Why not - 'Hi this is Julian Lennon here and you're listening to The Let It Be Beatles.'

Andrew: That's brilliant.

Julian: No problem.

Andrew: Yeah..