David Bowie has no intention of playing live ever again despite the imminent release of surprise album The Next Day, says his producer.
Bowie regularly emphasised the point during recording sessions, Tony Visconti reports.
The influential musician astonished the world with the launch of new single Where Are We Now? on his 66th birthday, along with news of the album launch in March.
Last week guitarist Earl Slick admitted he hoped tour dates might be on the cards – but Visconti says Bowie has all but ruled it out.
He tells NME: “He’s fairly adamant he’s never gonna perform live again. One of the guys would say, ‘Boy, how are we gonna do all this live?’ and David said, ‘We’re not’. He made a point of saying that all the time.”
Where Are We Now? was quietly made available on iTunes at midnight on January 8, without any kind of announcement or press release.
Last week Visconti said the single wasn’t representative of the full-length record, describing other tracks as “real rock.” He also shouted down long-standing rumours that Bowie’s health was failing.
Now he tells The Hollywood Reporter: “We had to sign non-disclosure agreements – but that wasn’t necessary. We love David so much. Everyone in the project, except for a few, were old-timers; people who’d made albums or toured with him.
“We didn’t tweet it, put it on Facebook or even tell our best friend. That was the hardest part: people close to me wanted to know what I was working on and I couldn’t tell them.
“I knew if I told one of them, somebody would leak it and it would be all over the world in a day. I didn’t even tell my children what I was doing.”
Bowie decided on the birthday launch strategy several months ago, says Visconti. “The countdown was unbearable. When it was finally released I stared at my computer for 15 minutes until the first person realised it was simply dropped in iTunes.”
The producer says some tracks on The Next Day might be at home on classic album Scary Monsters, while others match the feeling of Heathen.
And he hopes Bowie’s work might shake up the current music environment, which he describes as unimpressive.
“It all sounds like it was made by the same person – it’s very computerised,” he argues. “There’s a style and a sound in all these modern records where they’re interchangeable. It could be the same production crew, it could be the same singer. Everybody is AutoTuned to death and the songs are very flimsy. It all relies on beats rather than quality lyrics.
“These days, if a kid gets a new laptop and there’s GarageBand on it, within five minutes they sound like somebody on the radio. This can’t be good – it’s either the radio is bland or people have lower expectations.”
Like Slick, Visconti admits the decision to lead the album with Where Are We Now? surprised him.
But he says: “I should know better. Bowie is never traditional; he always breaks the rules.
David Bowie and producer Tony Visconti 2002 ..
“I think he understood immediately – before I even did – that people had to deal with the shock that he was back. That in itself is news breaking. So he was easing people in with a slow ballad.
“I’m just theorising here, but it’s very nostalgic about the Berlin period; especially in the video, where there are some vintage shots of Berlin in the 70s.
“It made me almost cry – I did weep, actually, I’ll confess. The first time I saw it, I got so choked up because I had been in those places with him.
“But it’s more about being at a certain place in your life, where everything was really good and happening. I think that evokes nostalgic feelings in people. That’s definitely the theme of the video, having so much vintage footage in it.”
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