Rolling Stones Interview: Mick Jagger and Keith Richards discuss new music, lockdown and more
The Rolling Stones have returned with their first new song in eight years with ‘Living In A Ghost Town’.
To announce the news, Stones duo Mick Jagger and Keith Richards join Zane Lowe on Apple Music to premiere their new material and discuss the origins of the song, how Jagger rewrote the lyrics because they were too dark due to the current coronavirus crisis, postponing their tour and much more.
At certain points in the conversation, the duo discusses the toll coronavirus is taking on live entertainment, and more. Richards also reveals that there’s more new music to come and a new Stones album.
Here, we explore the key takeaways from the exclusive interview.
View the clips and see the full transcript, below. Apple will also release the full interview tomorrow, Friday 24th April, at 5pm which will be available through this link.
Jagger and Keith Richards On New Rolling Stones Song:
Jagger: “It wasn’t written for now but it was written about being in a place which was full of life, and then now there’s all bereft of life, so to speak. And when I went back to what I’d written originally lyrically, it was all full of plague terms and things like that. I never actually used that, but it was all there. It was very close to the times that we’re living through now. But Keith Richards and I both had the idea that we should release it. But I said, ‘Well I’ve got to rewrite it’. Some of it is not going to work and some of it was a bit weird and a bit too dark. So I slightly rewrote it. I didn’t have to rewrite very much to be honest. It’s very much how I originally did it. I was just jamming.
“I was just playing a guitar and just wrote it like that. I don’t know what frame of mind I must’ve been in. I mean it was semi-humorous, then it got less humorous and I don’t know. Sometimes these things take a long time to write but this, I just wrote it really quickly in like 10 minutes. We played this song just Keith Richards and myself and a friend of ours, Steve. We routined it together after I’ve done it and we worked some parts out. And then we went and recorded it with a band. Then last week I redid the vocals for this. And it’s just open to own interpretation to a certain extent of course. But yeah, no, it was a little strange because the original was so much apropos of the times we were living through already.”
Richards: “It’s a strange thing, you know what I mean? But it’s just something that happens between Mick and me without us having to really think about it. Mick had come up with a song and we recorded it over a year ago, I think last February in LA. It’s sort of eerie when suddenly it’s coming to life, I mean the ghost comes to life. Mick and I have been in touch, but obviously only via the satellite. I had said to Don about a month or so ago, I said, ‘Hey, this is a time for the ghost town track’. And then Mick called me and said the same thing and that great minds think alike. And they said, ‘Yeah I need to fix some of the lyrics or the vocal’. So we sort of did it from outer space. But I actually liked the way it turned out.”
Richards on new music and evolving the working relationship with Jagger:
“I didn’t mean to be so stingy with you guys. I didn’t know it was that long. Look, there’s more coming. Okay. I mean, because we were cutting ‘Living in a Ghost Town’ as part of a new album along with several other tracks. And we just pulled this one out because I mean obviously I’m not staring you in the face and you say, ‘You got to say it now’. But otherwise there is, I promise you more stuff to come. And obviously Mick and I started writing songs together in the 60s when we were sharing the same apartment.
“Then after Exile on Main Street, that’s when the band exiled. And so then Mick and I, it took us a while to develop a new way of writing while not actually together. I could knock on Mick’s door and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got an idea’, and we’d write it. Now it has to be done. Yeah, it’s a different way but the world is a big place. I’m still trying to figure it out. We’ve got another five or six tracks and there’s a lot of sort of soul feel about it for some reason without anybody intending to. I’m keeping an eye on it and also Mick and I are obviously right now we’ve got nothing else to do but write some more songs, right?”
Jagger on the current coronavirus crisis:
“I mean, for me, I’m very lucky because I’m in a profession, if you want, that I’m able to work. Right now we would have been rehearsing to go on tour. Unfortunately I have other facets and so I’m very lucky so I can do stuff like redo the song that we just talked about. I’ve been writing other songs, new songs, finishing off other ones so I can work a lot from home. But not everyone’s in that lucky position. And people say, “Yeah, I can,” but there’s a lot of people that can’t. A lot of people lost their jobs and it’s not your fault.
“It’s circumstances completely out of your control. It’s not as though I did a bad job or I screwed up on my job and got fired. It’s 20 million people lost their jobs completely for something that’s nothing to do with them at all. And also the less money you have, the more worries you have. So for lots of people, it’s really tough. I mean, I have friends and they live in really small apartments in a big city and they don’t have anywhere to go and they’ve lost their job. I’m very, very lucky and I’m very aware how lucky I am, but not everyone’s as lucky as me. And it’s been a horrible time for everyone. But some people worse than others.”
Jagger on writing during the crisis:
“This is a weird thing about writing. It’s like I’ve written things down obviously about the times we’re living and everything but then you want escapism as well. When this might come out, this might be all in the past or we’re going to be in a different place or we don’t know what’s going to happen to us.
“So you don’t want to just concentrate on this moment. But of course you do want to document it as well because it’s very important. So you got to just let things come, see what comes out and be aware that you’ve got a multitude of choices to draw on.”
Jagger the 15-year wait for a Rolling Stones record:
“Long time ago. Last original Stones. Yeah, it was so long. And I think one of the problems I personally have with it is that it’s suddenly that you want it to be really good. So I don’t just want it to be a good album, I want it to be great. You know? Yes, I’m very hard on myself.
“If I write something or if I write something with Keith Richards or whatever, it’s going to be great. It can’t just be good.”
Jagger discusses tour postponement:
“Postponing tours is really bad and the whole touring thing, we don’t know what’s going to be happening. We don’t know when there’s going to be the next football match. We don’t know when the next tour outside’s going to be. You would imagine that playing outside would be more healthy than playing inside, one would imagine, but you don’t know. And people are saying, “Well are you going to be playing in a stadium that’s 40,000 people? You’re going to have 20,000 people in there,” for instance. But this is all in the realm of conjecture.”
Jagger on heart surgery recovery:
“Well first of all, after I had this heart operation, after two weeks I went to get a check-up and I spoke to the doctor to say, “Look, I know you’ve got this tour on, but really you should take the summer off.” And the guy said to me, “Okay, so you can go on tour now.” I said, “What do you mean?” I said, “Do I have to take it easy?” He said, “No, you do anything you want.” I thought I was going to get the summer off at this point. Just go. Just go “Is there any restrictions?” He said, “No, there’s no restrictions. Just do what you’d normally do.” So I did. So that made me feel good in a way. So I just did what I did.
How do Rolling Stones build a setlist?
Jagger: “I mean I always like to go through the songs and make lists and try and figure out to do something that hasn’t been either never been done or done very, very rarely. And so to throw something a bit different in. The thing is it’s a weird vibe that you get if you’re playing it because mostly we play in stadiums, right? So when you get an audience like 30, 40, 50, 60,000 people, it becomes a sort of common denominator as opposed to 300. If you’re playing to 300 people, you can play anything you like because they’re very happy to listen to anything you want because everyone’s like close.
“Yeah, they would like to hear a few familiar numbers, but you can more than if you’re playing to 50,000 people. The majority of those people want to hear certain songs. They’re not going to hear every song they want, but they expect to hear certain things. And if you don’t play them, they’re kind of, I’m not saying they’re disappointed, but there’s definitely a thing.”
How will The Rolling Stones keep moving forward?
Jagger: “As I said to you before, I want to finish off some of these tracks that we’ve recorded. I can do that myself at home here in this room where we’re talking now. I can work in here and I can work with other band members and finish off things that are sort of halfway. And start creating new things completely. If we can’t all get together, we can send bits and people can work on them at home or in a studio or whatever. It shows you it was relatively easy to do that piece for the TV show in the Can’t Get What you Want piece.
“That was relatively easy to set to sort of make a track and kick it off and then send it to everyone else and ask them to play it. It’s the stuff you can do. But I mean there’s obviously no substitute for being together. I’m sure that it’s not going to be forever, that you won’t be able to get together and do music. We’re totally in the world of theorising and conjecture as far as concerts are concerned at the moment, so we don’t know. We just have to guess that these possibilities could happen. This could happen, this could happen. We’re not going to have live concerts for a little bit I think, but hopefully it won’t be forever.”
Richards discusses self-isolation:
The same way I guess. Hunkering down with the family and a couple of friends and a dog or two and just holding it out. We got a new puppy just a week ago just to keep ourselves occupied. It’s coming out as Honey I think. Yeah, it’s a little French bulldog. About three months old. She’s really sort of enlivened the household.”
Richards discusses Rolling Stones rehearsals:
“To me it’s all in the rehearsal. Traditionally in those two or three weeks doing rehearsals, it’s far harder work for me than actually doing the show. Rehearsing is my way of getting in shape. Get more intense. I want things to be right and we all do. And we stay standing on our feet for like ridiculous hours, 10, 12 hours sometimes just because rehearsing is where you get it all together. And it’s where you can screw up and also come out with like fresh ideas on how to play something.
“So, that’s the hard work. Lovely hard work. I love it, but I ain’t doing it now. I mean the idea now of getting back on the road, and for us all to be back in crowds again without giving a shit. That’s going to be a beautiful thing, right? Just going to have to hunker down for a bit and then we can get it together. Let’s see how things go, hopefully, next year.”