12:42 pm - 01/13/2013

David Bowie: open to performing, though not touring

David Bowie is not sick, says his close friend Tony Visconti. “People thought he was dying. He’s not dying any time soon, let me tell you,” says Bowie’s long-time collaborator, who produced the comeback single that shocked the world on Tuesday. [...] Visconti insists those rumours are not true. “He couldn’t have done two years of work if he was a sick man. He’s very healthy, he’s very fit. He had the heart operation and that’s it. He’s long since recovered from that.” [...] Lately, there have been rumours that he is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Visconti, the Brooklyn-born Italian American who has been one of his closest allies since the Sixties, refutes this, too. “He is as sharp as a tack. He is sharper than ever. This boy has not lost a single brain cell.” [...]

Tony Visconti is adamant, though, that the song should not be seen as evidence of Bowie’s frailty. “That’s a vulnerable voice he has used time and time again. Fantastic Voyage [on Lodger], for example. It’s part of his technique, to sing that way. He put that voice on like he’s vulnerable, but he’s not frail.” [...]

For all the talk of being a recluse, Bowie never actually stopped making public appearances. He was at the premiere of Duncan’s film Moon in Utah in 2009, for example, and with Iman when she received a fashion award in 2010.Still, Tony Visconti thought his friend had given up writing songs, so was “totally surprised” to receive an email from Bowie in November 2010, while he was producing the Kaiser Chiefs’ album in London. “He said, ‘When you get back, do you fancy doing some demos with me?’ This was the first time since Reality [in 2003] that it was even suggested that we do anything in any studio, so I was quite taken aback. There was no preamble, no warning. It was really weird.”

A few days later, Visconti found himself in “a small, grimy room” at 6/8 Studios in Manhattan, close to Bowie’s home. “Sterling Campbell was on drums, I was on bass, David was on keyboards, Gerry Leonard was on guitar. By the end of five days we had demoed up a dozen songs. Just structures. No lyrics, no melodies and all working titles. This is how everything begins with him. Then he took them home and we didn’t hear another thing from him for four months.”

Why was that? “He wanted to listen and be certain he was on the right track.” They returned at last to a more upmarket studio called the Magic Shop, also within walking distance of the Bowie home. Now the drummer Zachary Alford and bassist Gail Ann Dorsey were involved. The guitarist Earl Slick joined in later. 

“We only recorded for two-week periods and then we would take months off again while David analysed it all,” says Visconti. “I was walking around New York with my headphones on, looking at all the people with Bowie T-shirts on – they are ubiquitous here – thinking, ‘Boy, if you only knew what I’m listening to at the moment.’ ” Everyone involved in the project had to sign a non-disclosure agreement. “For the older members of his tribe, we didn’t really need to do that.”

It suited them very well that nobody was expecting anything. “Bowie was photographed many times, very close to the studio, carrying lyrics,” says Visconti, laughing, “but people preferred to believe that he had retired, after the speculation of the last few years.” How did Bowie feel about that? “He never felt he had to defend himself. He was bemused by it.”

They were in the studio for a total of three-and-a-half months spread over an 18-month period. Surprisingly, they worked office hours, 10am to 6pm. “The last time we did all-nighters was Young Americans,” says Visconti. “We work intensely for those hours. We don’t take a break, except to eat some lunch and watch a little bit of Harry & Paul.” Yes, he really does mean the BBC sketch show by Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse. “We love them. But then we get on with it.”

So what does it sound like, this album which is due out in March and called The Next Day? “This is a serious record. Half of it you will need to listen to a couple of times. There are some very strange songs, a new direction. He’s tapping into his jazz roots. The song called If You Can See Me has very wide, beautiful, crunchy jazz chords, with time signatures that Dave Brubeck would be proud of.” Half the record has a classic sound, though. “There are four or five songs that would get an audience up on its feet, clapping. It’s arena Bowie.”

Despite all reports to the contrary, Visconti reveals that Bowie may actually perform these songs live. “He doesn’t want to tour any more. He’s had enough of it. But he hasn’t ruled out that he might do a show. It was a relief to me to hear that he was open to that.”

Will there be another record? “We recorded 29 titles. We have at least four finished songs that could start the next album,” says Tony Visconti happily. “If all goes well, we will be back in the studio by the end of the year. He’s back. Bowie has found out what he wants to do: he wants to make records. Nothing else."

full article

nb: this is actually directly in conflict with what visconti said .. yesterday? about no more live performances. lol visconti.
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