Bryan Ferry's 'Olympia': The Work Of A Perfectionist The lead singer of art-rock band Roxy Music is back with his first album of original music in eight years. Featuring all-star guests, Olympia has been lauded as the work of a perfectionist. Ferry talks about the creative process behind the project and how he's adapted in the music world.
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Bryan Ferry's 'Olympia': The Work Of A Perfectionist

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Bryan Ferry's 'Olympia': The Work Of A Perfectionist

Bryan Ferry's 'Olympia': The Work Of A Perfectionist

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(Soundbite of song, "More Than This")

GUY RAZ, host:

The British art rock band Roxy Music had been recording for 10 years before they hit the upper reaches of the U.S. charts in 1982 with this song.

(Soundbite of song, "More Than This")

ROXY MUSIC (Music Group): (Singing) More than this you know there's nothing. More than this...

RAZ: Roxy Music personified romantic cool, and no one more than lead singer Bryan Ferry: his bespoke suits, his poised presence, his sense of style. He went on to record several solo records, but it's been eight years since he's released an album of original songs, that is until this past week.

"Olympia" marks the return of Bryan Ferry, and he picks up right where he left off.

(Soundbite of song, "You Can Dance")

Mr. BRYAN FERRY (Musician): (Singing) In a discotheque at dawn is when it came to me. I've been raving through the night looking for some company.

RAZ: Ladies and gentlemen, all the way from our studios in London is Bryan Ferry.

Bryan Ferry, welcome to the program. So great to have you on.

Mr. FERRY: Hi. How are you? Good to be here.

RAZ: This track we're hearing, "You Can Dance," it leads off this new record. Any Bryan Ferry or Roxy Music fan will hear this song and know instantly this is you. This is your sound.

Mr. FERRY: It's been an interesting album to make (unintelligible) because all the songs are starters. It came at different times. And sometimes, I would work on tracks for quite a long time, longer than most people, maybe, like an artist, say, in a studio where you have canvases facing the wall.

I have light in my studio with music, I guess, bits that I start, and then I leave them a few years and go back to them and say, hey, this is an idea that I want to pursue and so on and eventually completed them.

RAZ: I've always wanted to ask you about the way you write, because I hear a lot of your music, and I really hear it on this record. I hear nighttime, you know. Do you write at nighttime?

Mr. FERRY: Yeah, music of the night is what I like, I guess. I find that the moods that I like to cover tend to be kind of moods of the night. And the sort of music that I've always kind of liked as a listener has been music of the night.

You know, Billie Holiday, Coleman Hawkins, these are sort of my idols from the jazz world. You always really feel it's night music, you know?

RAZ: I mean, there are songs in this record that, you know, you feel like you could listen to in a car driving down, I don't know, Sunset Boulevard at 1 a.m. or down a lonely road at 1 a.m. or through lonely road at 1 a.m.

Mr. FERRY: Yeah. Hopefully, with the rain and a big of fog somewhere.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. FERRY: (Singing) (Unintelligible).

RAZ: A lot of writers have made attempts to describe your voice over the years, and you know about this because I'm sure you've read some of those descriptions. Rolling Stone recently - this is one of my favorites - referred to your voice as a sexy vampire croon.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: How would that...

Mr. FERRY: Well, that can't be too bad, can it?

RAZ: How would you describe it?

Mr. FERRY: Oh, I would prefer not to describe it at all. I hopefully think that you learn a bit about singing as your career develops. But your voice does change over the years. And I think you just have to take the instrument that you have and make the most of it, yeah.

RAZ: Yeah. I mean, because I hear your voice on this record, and to me, it sounds more resonant, more polished, like you have even more control over it than maybe you did when you were 25. You're not obviously 25 anymore.

Mr. FERRY: Yeah. Maybe I kind of know what I want to do with it more now. You sometimes find with singers of an older generation, you obviously think of people like Bob Dylan and Tom Waits and so on who's voices kind of get kind of deeper and darker.

RAZ: Right.

Mr. FERRY: And I find it very interesting how voices actually change over a period. As long as you can still be expressive emotionally, then that's what singing is about, really.

RAZ: And I think that expressiveness really sort of comes out in the track called "Heartache by Numbers."

(Soundbite of song, "Heartache by Numbers")

Mr. FERRY: (Singing) Midnight to daybreak, I can't believe the pain. The way you look, the way you talk, the way you walk away. Oh, I can't take heartache by numbers from violet to grey. I paint all your colors I wash them away.

RAZ: My guest is Bryan Ferry. His first album of original music in eight years is called "Olympia."

Bryan Ferry, this morning, my colleague, Liane Hansen, interviewed Brian Eno on WEEKEND EDITION. And he, of course, was your long-time collaborator in Roxy Music.

Mr. FERRY: Music, yeah.

RAZ: He appears on this record. Now, your relationship with him was always characterized by this kind of fierce, creative tension. Did that make the music better?

Mr. FERRY: Yeah. Funny enough, I can't remember having any arguments in the studio with Brian. So maybe there was a kind of competitiveness there at the time, but we never had any conflict.

Brian played on the first two Roxy albums with me, and since then, we've only worked twice. But I'd like to do in the future a bigger collaboration. It was just nice to have him on the record, as it was to have Andy Mackay doing a couple of oboe figures. And Phil Manzanera played a little bit more than they did, actually, because I co-wrote one of the songs with him.

RAZ: You guys got together in the early '70s. I mean, when you're in the studio jamming with them, does it take you back, or is it a completely different experience?

Mr. FERRY: It feels really just yesterday when you get together with people like that, who you have such an ancient history with, as it were. It's like old friends from college if you see them, and...

RAZ: Same kind of inside jokes and the same things you were saying.

Mr. FERRY: Exactly. Yeah, like the same roles that you adopt.

(Soundbite of song, "Song to the Siren")

Mr. FERRY: (Singing) Long afloat on distant oceans. I did all my best to smile. Till your singing eyes and fingers drew me loving to your isle.

RAZ: A lot of your fans have heard this record, and some of them wonder, why didn't you just make this a Roxy Music album?

Mr. FERRY: Well, at one point, I was thinking of making this into a Roxy album. Some of the tracks, I thought, maybe I can turn this into a Roxy record. And for a few weeks, I entertained that notion, and then I decided it wasn't the best thing to do and that it really suited more the material to be a solo record. However, I would like to do one day a Roxy album.

RAZ: Oh, thank you.

Mr. FERRY: And if that happen, I think it would suit me - for it to be perhaps more instrumental and more experimental.

RAZ: And your fans would love it. You know that.

Mr. FERRY: Yeah. I think they would. But I would like to give them a sort of record that would be right. And I think this is I like this record a lot, but I don't think it's a group record.

It's been interesting on this record to work with people like the guys from Roxy Music but also a new set of players we haven't mentioned.

RAZ: Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers...

Mr. FERRY: Oh, yeah.

RAZ: ...Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead; Nile Rodgers, of course, the guitarist on "Like A Virgin"; Dave Gilmour from Pink Floyd; members of Primal Scream, the British band. You've got people from Groove Armada, Dave Stewart from The Eurhythmics. I mean...

Mr. FERRY: Yeah.

RAZ: ...a lot of bold-faced names. This is like an all-star cast album. How did you wrangle all those egos?

Mr. FERRY: Well, they're all there at different times.

RAZ: Right.

Mr. FERRY: That's a big help. But the fact is it's great to have these different generations playing together, one bringing the experience of being in the music business a long time and the other Is just fresh to making music. And you get that sort of real kind of earnest zeal, you know, which is very interesting.

RAZ: Bryan Ferry, can I ask you one more question before you go?

Mr. FERRY: Of course.

RAZ: What is the secret to staying cool after age 60?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FERRY: Well, I don't really know.

Raz: Just one secret. Just give us one.

Mr. FERRY: I'd put it in a bottle and sell it to you. But keep interested. You know, keep I'm so curious about the world, and I see life as an adventure, which is kind of hopefully never-ending. But I guess it's got to stop sometime.

RAZ: And you're releasing a line of cologne soon. Will that help people like me?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FERRY: It's the magic ingredient.

RAZ: That's Bryan Ferry. His new album is called "Olympia." You can hear a few sample tracks at our website at

Bryan Ferry, thank you so much.

Mr. FERRY: It's been great talking to you. Thank you very much.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. FERRY: (Singing) (Unintelligible).

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