Famed Artist Van Morrison Talks About Musical Career

Photo: Guitar hero. Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison will perform his album 'Astral Weeks' at the Greek Theatre this weekend.
Van Morrison/Courtesy
Guitar hero. Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison will perform his album 'Astral Weeks' at the Greek Theatre this weekend.

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Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Van Morrison, of "Brown Eyed Girl" fame, will play the Greek Theatre on May 2 and 3. The Daily Californian interviewed Morrison via e-mail to discuss set lists, songs, CDs and more.

Daily Californian: What do you enjoy most about performing your newer albums, like Pay the Devil and Keep It Simple?

Van Morrison: I enjoy whatever music I am playing at any given time. Sometimes I play certain things because it can get too serious; other times require a serious message. Some (songs) are played for no particular reason other than I might like the tune, the melody (or) the timbre; others are because of the lyrics or the mood. It varies-it has to keep it all flowing.

DC: How do you decide the balance between old and new songs in a set list?

VM: It depends on a couple of factors. One is if you feel like the audience can go with you, you know, then I can stretch out more. There might be key songs that can be stretched out more ... finding key songs where I can get these particular musicians to go along with me, because ... every band combination can be quite different. A lot of times, you can get musicians, but they don't have a rapport together, so you sometimes have to build the set around where we can go. Some bands ... can do anything, go anywhere, you know? Other bands can only go on certain songs in a certain way. It just depends.

DC: What's your favorite venue to play?

VM: I like symphony halls that are built acoustically for music-musician's best friend(s). Good acoustics (equals) walls and surroundings built for subtleties and good ambient sound.

DC: Do you have any memories of the Bay Area or of the Greek Theatre in Berkeley that you might share?

VM: Just that the audience really seems to get what the music is about. They understand where this music fits in and what it's for: the soul. It's all soul.

DC: You have a lot of fans who have been loyal to you since the '60s. How do you keep them coming back while also attracting newer fans of younger generations?

VM: It's like what Jung said about the creative process: What is unconscious or subconscious becomes more conscious. And I suppose when you become more conscious of the process then, you know, it's different than, say, Astral Weeks, which was mainly channeling something from the unconscious, you know? My latter stuff is more like coming from where there's more kind of thought going into it, there's more editing going into it; it's different in that way. But that's just because I changed. I think the fact (that) my music comes from the collective unconscious, the soul-and that it has soul and is soul-is a reason people may stay in tune with certain music. I know soul grabs my attention.

DC: You stated in another interview that you have no intention of renewing your contract with iTunes. How do you think this decision will affect your younger fanbase, who rely almost completely on downloadable music?

VM: I'm not into downloading because I'm not a download artist. Maybe some people are, but I prefer something I can hold, with sleeve notes and lyrics I can read. I think, no matter (their) age, people will understand that the hard copy CD is the very best dollar value entertainment on the planet Earth. And the best part is you can keep it for ever and more. I like the old-fashioned way of making music. I am not into disposable music-I still like LP vinyl records best. Nowhere else but the LP can (give) you a true-to-life, uncompressed, real sound. People may think the download sounds right but if you heard the music before it is compressed 100 times, you would think I may be onto something here.


Dust off your record player with Stefanie at [email protected]

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