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Q&A; WITH MICK JAGGER : ‘I Have No Hopes, Dreams, Illusions’

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Much is being made of the fact that Mick Jagger, who will turn 50 in July, is for the first time older than the President of the United States. But Jagger is sticking with the Rolling Stones, not a rocking chair.

His third solo album, “Wandering Spirit,” due in stores Tuesday, was co-produced by young rock and rap producer Rick Rubin (Run-DMC, Red Hot Chili Peppers), but it taps into the vital rock, soul, country and gospel styles that have fueled the Stones, which he has fronted since 1964.

In a phone conversation from New York, Jagger made it clear that his first commitment is to the Stones--the $45-million deal the band signed with Virgin Records in late 1991 might have something to do with that. He’s not even going to tour to promote his new album, instead returning his attentions to the next Stones album and tour. Writing songs with guitarist Keith Richards and finding a replacement for founding bassist Bill Wyman, who quit the band recently, are the first priorities.

Question: On your first two solo albums you seemed very concerned with sounding different from the Stones, and perhaps didn’t emphasize your strengths. Did you decide this time to stick with what you’re best at even if it means sounding like the Stones?

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Answer: I think you get more relaxed as you do solo albums, you don’t care so much about it. I mean, you can get hit with it both ways. Say you come out with the first solo album and it sounded like this, people would have said it sounds too much like the Stones. It’s very hard to win in this situation. But what I did was, if there were tracks I thought were a bit Stonesy, I said, “Well, if they’re good, I’ll keep ‘em.” Not that you want every track like that, but I don’t think every track is. I was just more relaxed about it.

Q: How much credit does Rick Rubin deserve for the way the album sounds?

A: That’s a very hard question. Am I going to give him more of the credit or none of it? Somewhere in between (laughs). I mean, Rick worked very hard on the record and I think he put his heart into it, you know? We both knew what kind of album we wanted to make and I think we worked well together.

He’s very strongly opinionated and he’s obviously not always right, like everyone else, even me. And I think we work pretty well. I mean, we had a few disagreements over minor , silly things that I tease him about, like echo and things like that. I don’t know, if I was being very English about it I’d say, “It’s all Rick’s . . . Rick made it all happen.” But he certainly helped a lot and was a very good co-producer.

Q: Your first solo album was in 1985. Are you glad you waited so long in your career before you started doing your own records?

A: I don’t really know. There’s not much I can do about it. I felt like I wanted to do it much earlier. We went through a lot of frustrating times with the Stones, but I didn’t do it at that point for whatever reasons I can’t even remember anymore.

Q: Is your solo career still under the shadow of the Stones? Or competing with the Stones?

A: I don’t really know. I haven’t thought about that. To my mind they’re different projects. The Stones projects are very large. You know, you go in and you’re doing a record which is probably going to have a huge tour behind it, with sponsorship and everything else. So (a Stones) record’s very important and I wouldn’t want to go on tour without a new record. But it’s just one part of a mega kind of event. Whereas making a solo album is just an album to me. It’s different musicians, different people and it’s not so high-profile.

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Q: You’ve probably been asked this every day for the last 20 years, but how long can theStones go on?

A: I have no idea. None at all.

Q: Any hopes?

A: None. I have no hopes, dreams or illusions. I just do it while I still think it’s viable and enjoyable.

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Q: Is the Stones’ future uncertain enough that it gives extra importance to your solo career having its own viability, commercially speaking?

A: I suppose it’s nice to know that you’re self-contained and you don’t have to rely on four other people totally for your livelihood. I haven’t actually thought about it like that. But I suppose self-reliance is something you like to get, acquire. Like you like to be in a gang when you’re a teen-ager, and then when you get older you like to be self-reliant. And I guess that’s part of growing up. But that’s not to say you can’t work in cooperation. When you’re on a tour it’s very big cooperation or when you’re doing a movie it’s very big cooperation, and making a solo record also is cooperation unless you’re going to just type it out on a computer at home.

Q: Why aren’t you going to do a solo tour?

A: I’m not going to take it on the road for various reasons. One is I really have got to get on with the next thing. I feel I’ve spent enough time on this solo project, now I’ve got to do something else.

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Q: And that’s the Stones?

A: Got to start writing the Stones’next opus with Keith.

Q: The biggest change for the Stones is Bill Wyman leaving.

A: Yes, Bill has hung up his bass, and his dancing boots.

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Q: Who’s going to don them?

A: I don’t know yet. We’ll have to see. We have one or two names. I think there’s a lot of good bass players around, and playing with the Rolling Stones is not the most technically demanding gig, but they have to have instantly a good intuitive feel with (drummer) Charlie (Watts). The other thing I’d like is someone who could come up with a few good bass lines. I mean, it gets boring trying to write bass lines when you’re not a bass player.

Q: Will you hire a full-time member?

A: Full for the project. Not for ever and ever.

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Q: Another question you’ve been asked for 20 years: What do you think of all the young bands that sound like the Stones? The most obvious would be the Black Crowes.

A: The Black Crowes! I saw the Black Crowes in Atlanta about a year ago. They were very much the Rolling Stones mixed with the Faces 1972. They’re very derivative obviously, the Black Crowes. But they have a certain appeal, and a lot of energy to play that music.

But you can’t help sometimes to sort of think you’re in a time warp of some kind watching them. Then there’s all the Seattle bands. It is a kind of back-to-basics music that you get in America a lot. Sort of fundamentalist religion and rootsy rock. I suppose it’s a reaction from computerized music. And some of those bands will come on and develop interesting styles of their own, hopefully.


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