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POP MUSIC : 10 QUESTIONS : MICK JAGGER

If there’s anything as certain as a live album after a Rolling Stones tour, it’s another round of interviews by Mick and Keith to promote the album.

In contrast to the increasingly reclusive nature of such American superstar-class pop and rock stars as Michael (Billion Dollar) Jackson, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Prince, the Stones continue to hit the publicity trail.

It’s a holdover from ‘60s when all the British bands--including the Beatles and the Who--spent as much time talking to journalists and posing for photos as they spent in the recording studio or on stage. Media exposure was considered essential.

So, as soon as the advance tape of the new Stones album hits reporters’ desks, they can begin expecting a phone call from Mick and Keith.

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Ring!

Yes, it’s Mick Jagger, calling to talk about the Stones’ new live album, “Flashpoint.” The collection, featuring two new studio tracks (including the first single “Highwire”), is due in stores Tuesday. Jagger was calling from Atlanta, where he is starring with Emilio Estevez in “Freejack,” a futuristic adventure movie.

Ring!

Three hours later, it’s Keith Richards, from his home in Connecticut, ready to talk about the Stones album and, if asked, his second solo album, which he hopes to begin recording this summer and have in the stores this fall.

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The reason that writers--including me--are so quick to pick up the phone is that Jagger and Richards compose one of the two most important writing and performing duos in rock history--and for most of the last 25 years, they’ve come up with something lively to say.

Question: I’ve never heard anyone say they loved doing interviews and promoting albums, so why do you and Keith still do them so much?

Answer: (Jagger laughs) Well, now there’s a new question. (Pause) I really don’t know. It’s just something we’ve always done. I guess we could decide not to talk to the press anymore, but that doesn’t feel right to me. There is something I like about talking to journalists that really goes beyond promotion because you aren’t just talking to the journalist, but you are talking through them to people who presumably are fans of the Rolling Stones. The interviews give you a chance to say a few things and maybe clear up some of the things people read about the band.

Q: Do you have any second thoughts about releasing “Highwire” as a single from the new album during the height of the Persian Gulf conflict? Many radio stations have apparently resisted the single because of its anti-war theme.

A: The resistance didn’t surprise me, given the content and the fact that a lot of stations only program computerized dance music these days. But I don’t regret putting it out. The war may be over, but the problem (addressed in the song) of arms sales around the world continues. Supplying arms to regions that aren’t volatile is dangerous enough, but when you supply arms to volatile regions, you up the ante and you normally get a war at the end of it.

We were pretty lucky to get out of this war--our side of it at least--with so few casualties. If you look beyond that, we inflicted a lot of casualties against a lot of poor Iraqi people who were pushed into battle at the point of a gun. I’d like to see a moratorium on arms sales to the region.

Q: Did you read Bill Wyman’s book about the Stones?

A: Oh, come on (he laughs). I read little bits of Bill’s book in the newspapers, but there have been so many books written about myself and the Rolling Stones that I couldn’t get though anybody’s book on the Stones anymore. There have been enough to fill shelves. Most of them are garbage.

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Q: Have you heard that Vanilla Ice has recorded a rap version of “Satisfaction”? Any feelings about that?

A: I heard a version of him doing it months ago, which was strange because it sounded mostly like the Rolling Stones. I have no objection if he wants to do the song, but if I were doing a rap version of someone else’s song, I wouldn’t (rely) so much on something that was done 25 years ago. You should do it with your own music. But . . . there’s always room for guys with good haircuts.

Q: Have you been keeping up with the debate, at least among pop critics, on the issue of whether rock is dying?

A: I’ve seen (some of those stories) and I don’t know if it is dying. I wouldn’t want to say that, but the world does change. Nothing stays the same. I don’t only like rock music. There are other forms of music that I find interesting.

Q: If you were 15 or 16 today and wanted to be a musician, what kind of band do you think you’d want to start?

A: I would want to do everything, every kind of music. I wouldn’t want to be limited to like playing heavy metal or whatever. That’s one of the good things about a lot of the young British bands, they are mixing all styles of music. I think that’s very good because that’s very now .

As much as I admire new rock bands like the Black Crowes or whatever, they seem to be coming from some sort of time zone which I vaguely remember. I find it sort of interesting, but we’ve seen it all before. I’d prefer to see something that is either new and different or at least a mixture of things.

Q: What about the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum shows with Guns N’ Roses and all the talk about the competition between two generations of rockers?

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A: I loved those shows. They were right in there with the best shows on the tour. I think that Guns N’ Roses, however bizarre their appearances were, really kind of upped the ante for the audience anyway, the emotion. They made the shows more exciting. The whole deal of (Axl Rose) falling off the stage and ranting about was very rock ‘n’ roll. It reminded me a little bit of the Doors in a way.

Q: What attracted you to the new movie?

A: It’s about this race car driver, a sort of clean-cut American hero played by Emilio Estevez, who is snatched into the future and stalked by this vicious guy, who is played by me. It’s kind of a fun movie . . . a lot of shooting and I get to use a lot of weaponry. I just thought it would be fun to do another movie and there was this kind of a mean bastard part and I thought, why not?

Q: Your role as the decadent ex-rock star in “Performance” may have done as much to define your image in the ‘70s as anything you did with the Stones. When’s the last time you saw that film?

A: Oh, God. I haven’t watched it in years. But I think that’s true about “Performance” and my image. Movies really do define you if you get a strong role. That might have been one reason (movie) people didn’t trust me a lot in ‘70s. They had this image of me . . . that I wouldn’t show up or something . . . that I was a real weirdo. What’s fun about movies for me is that it’s another intellectual discipline. On one hand, acting is so different from singing. Yet, there are also a lot of similarities. You have to be so very disciplined in both.

Q: Did you ever think you’d get married again? (Jagger married longtime companion, model Jerry Hall, with whom he has two children, last November.)

A: (Pause) I’m very ambivalent in my feelings about marriage. I think it promises a lot to people . . . sort of like saying, once you get married you are on the highway to heaven, and quite often it isn’t that. I think marriage has always been based on a combination of religious and legal reasons. It’s a very . . . oh, I don’t know. I think all this is probably another interview. I’d be very happy sometimes to talk about social mores sometime when we both have an afternoon free.


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