JETHRO Tull, led by Dunfermline-born Ian Anderson, have sold more than 60 million albums, won a Grammy in 1989 and have sold out arenas all over the world. The prog rock icons, who have had an undeniable influence on modern music, are set to release their 23rd album, RökFlöte, on Friday.

It follows January 2022’s The Zealot Gene, Jethro Tull’s first studio album of new material for almost two decades. It was critically acclaimed and became their first UK top-10 album since Thick as a Brick in 1972.

RökFlöte is inspired by Anderson’s fascination with religion and Norse mythology. The flautist wanted to explore this in a more meaningful way than heavy metal bands who have tried in the past.

Talking about the album, Anderson said: “I decided to look at 12 Norse gods and their personalities and roles, which have parallels with Greek and Roman Gods before them. In a playful way, I wanted to examine these characters and personalities and in the final part of each song look at parallels in my own life experience of people and behaviour.

“I’ve been interested in religion in terms of different worlds, cultures and different points in history. But I rather steered clear of Norse religion because of the obvious associations with right-wing politics and nationalism. It’s OK when it’s Tolkien, it’s even OK when it’s Wagner but when we get to Heinrich Himmler, I have to say check please and leave the room!

“I had to do my research and get my head round the associations that I found uncomfortable but if we always did the things that were easy then we’d all be making Ed Sheeran albums, wouldn’t we?”

Jethro Tull were famed in the 1970s for their energetic and unpredictable live performances, encapsulated by the quirky lead singer Anderson, who often wore codpieces on stage and played the flute on one foot.

People of a younger generation are introduced to these performances through YouTube videos and are intrigued to learn more about this captivating band. However, the reality wasn’t exactly as rock and roll as it seemed!

Anderson said: “I’ve often wondered with these YouTube things that we all see, what happens after the show? It would be interesting to see YouTube videos of people who had gone back to their hotel room and hung up their wet clothes or had a late-night snack of cold food that was prepared six hours before.

‘IT’S certainly far from the rock and roll lifestyle in reality. Most sensible musicians are tucked up in bed an hour after getting off stage but that doesn’t quite fit the myth.”

Jethro Tull famously performed at New York’s iconic Madison Square Garden in 1978 but despite this huge accolade and achievement,

Anderson said: “While it may be some feather in somebody’s cap to have played multiple shows in Madison Square Garden, it was something that I really never enjoyed, I’m a theatre guy!

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“I like the traditions of the theatre and the proscenium stage and the fact there’s a couple of thousand people in front of you. You feel more or less that you could reach all of them. If you are playing to 20,000 at Madison Square Garden then it becomes so impersonal.”

Anderson made the flute cool and stylish as it was a centrepiece for the band’s success and uniqueness in the genre. There have been very few artists that have incorporated classical elements to rock to the same extent before Tull or since.

Anderson said: “The flute players, the few that there are who have been involved in rock music, have played other instruments and flute is an occasional feature in what they do.

“Compare this to the role that the flute has in Jethro Tull, which is much more dominant and an equal partner to the electric guitar. It’s not just tinsel on the Christmas tree, it’s the blood and guts of a lot of tunes.”

Alongside his passion for music, Anderson also has a keen interest in politics. When talking about the vote for Scottish independence in 2014, the Tull frontman said he’d be sad to see the end of the Union.

Asked for his thoughts should another referendum be held now, he said: “I would feel the same way. We can assume in this day and age that just as 50% of Americans seem to love Donald Trump and 50% don’t, half the people want to separate from the UK and the other half don’t. Roughly speaking we have an unnerving equality of division between those who want to go and those who want to stay.

“Personally, having an English mother and a Scottish father, I naturally think of myself as a product of the Union.”