Q&A: Bryan Ferry

The Roxy Music frontman on being Kate Moss' wedding singer

You are, as of last month, a CBE – congratulations, but what’s it for?

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I was very surprised and quite taken aback. I think my parents would have been very happy for me, because they loved tradition. As do my sons, funnily enough. It’s for services to music – which is simple but nice. I was very pleased to be recognised for my music, because I’ve spent most of my life doing it; 40-odd years being quite passionate about it. I’m not sure if the Queen does it all the time. But it would be nice to meet her one day.


The CBE is part of an order of chivalry – a good fit for you?

I’ve always liked history, I’ve always liked tradition. At school, history was one of my favourite things. I’m flying in a minute to Versailles – that’s where we’re doing the show tonight. It’s a wonderful summer full of mysterious contrasts.


Including playing Westonbirt Arboretum and Thetford Forest this month. Do arboreally based concerts pose any logistical difficulties?

Depends on the forest you’re talking about! Evergreen or deciduous? And whether there’s a good leaf this year! No, it depends on how they set up the stage, what the acoustics are like, what the PA is like, obviously. Standards are quite high for outdoor shows these days. Last night we were in Freiburg in this enormous tent, and the night before that it was the Vienna Opera House, and the night before that was Kate Moss and Jamie Hince’s wedding.

You performed?

We did. We did the festival at Hop Farm in Kent first, then they sent this enormous helicopter – I didn’t know they existed that big – to pick me and the band up. There were about 16 of us. Flew to Kate’s about 11 o’clock and did the show at midnight.

Was it a normal “wedding band” set – you know, some Abba, bit of Walking on Sunshine, Robbie’s Angels?

Well, it wasn’t normal to do two shows in one night. Prince does that occasionally. And Kate’s choice for the wedding was very, very sophisticated. The first dance was If There Is Something from the first Roxy Music album. And it went down really well. I was quite surprised how many people like that kind of thing. Kate knows her Roxy onions – I’m very flattered that she likes what we do.


Which song filled the floor?

Oh, that one. I guess because it’s unusual, we don’t generally do it in one of these sets. You do Avalon and Love Is the Drug… things that people really know. Slave to Love is always a bit of a winner, of course.


That bash must have been a sartorial challenge to a man of even your stylish pedigree. What did you wear?

Just one of my stage suits. They’re pretty much the same. Nothing outlandish. I do have a couple of preferred tailors. The English one is Anderson & Sheppard, they’re a Savile Row tailor that I really like, traditional kind of people. And then Gucci do very good ones as well. And some of the band wear Dolce & Gabbana. So it’s a mixture. You just want something that has a good silhouette.


You recently completed a reunion tour with Roxy Music. Any chance of you doing a full musical project with Brian Eno again?

I think he likes to do his own thing, and I suppose I do, too. I really admire what he does. He played for a few minutes on my most recent album, Olympia, but it was quite a while ago when we recorded his thing. I guess we share a certain history and we laugh at the same things a lot of the time.


You went to art school in Newcastle, he went to art school in Winchester. What was it about 1960s art schools that produced a generation of musicians and artists who are still going strong?

In the case of Newcastle it had this great run where Richard Hamilton was the main teacher there. They call him the Godfather of English Pop Art – although I’m sure he doesn’t like being called that! He’s a brilliant artist who’s still doing great work today. So it attracted a nucleus of very talented people who were also teaching there.

Students like me flocked there if we could get in. It changed my life, really. I had four years of working with some very cool people. And that four-year period gave me the time to figure out what on earth I wanted to do with my life, creatively. We spent a lot of time in the wrong places – the bars and the nightclubs of Newcastle, of course! But all in all, I came out of there with a sense of purpose, and it was channelled into music.


You’re now rich enough to collect art – Walter Sickert, Wyndham Lewis…

I’m interested in British art from the first half of the 20th century. I started collecting art when I’d had some measure of success as a musician, but didn’t want to spend the money on sports cars and yachts. I knew a bit about art, so I thought, well, these pictures aren’t that expensive. And I felt happier having them around me, you know? So over the years it’s actually built up into quite an interesting collection.

You were recently judging vintage cars. What do you look for in a lovely old model?

Just something that appeals to my sense of design. I’m not really into engines, although they can be quite important. I remember my first car as a student was a Studebaker, which had a fantastic shape like a shark, really streamlined. And unlike other American cars from 1957, it just was very discreet. I had to push it more than drive it, but it looked incredible.


And how about younger models? Have your tastes in women changed over the years?

Possibly. It’s hard to say, and I’ve always been a great admirer of… um… of them! From an early age, ha ha – watching movies, idolising Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor. I guess I look for friendship – that’s as important as anything else with women. Enthusiasm is very important, too.


You had a “health scare” earlier in April when you were due to appear on stage in London. At 65, has it dimmed your ardour?

No. It’s actually given me a more – well, I feel fitter, funnily enough. Strange. I have an irregular heart rhythm. How do I rectify that? By hypnosis and black magic. And playing lots of concerts.


So what was the last song you played at Kate ’n’ Jamie’s?

Let’s Stick Together, which seems quite appropriate. The dancefloor was heaving.


Who was the most drunk?

Oh, that would be a very, very tough call!

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Radio 2 in Concert: Bryan Ferry – Thursday July 21, 8.00pm Radio 2