Wednesday, October 24, 2007

"New Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens interview"

from - By Dean Goodman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - British folk singer Yusuf Islam is tentatively returning to show business, almost three decades after converting to Islam and retiring from the business to focus on his religion, family and charity work.

Late last year the artist, formerly known as Cat Stevens, released his first mainstream pop album since 1978, "Another Cup," and in March played his first full British concert in 28 years at Porchester Hall in London.

Among the 250 people present were his wife, daughter and granddaughter, as well as old friends from around the world. The concert was broadcast by the BBC, and has been released on a DVD package, "Yusuf's Cafe Session," which also boasts a BBC documentary and various music clips:

Q: Was it nerve-racking returning to the stage for a full-length concert after such a long absence?

A: "I made it as comfortable as possible so I wasn't as nervous as when I do, for instance, the large gigs with 40,000 people, because this was only 250 people -- many of them were invited by us! I made it as homely as possible. In that regard I kinda recreated my own cafe, which brings me right back to Shaftesbury Ave., where I began my life anyway."

Q: Was the audience instructed not to cheer once the songs started? They seemed very placid.

A: "I think that there tends to be a response to me sometimes that almost verges on the reverent, y'know! They may be expecting a halo to pop up or something like that. There's just that kind of respect I think they had for me. It's always a great and infectious, warm reception that I receive."

Q: Any post-show adrenaline rush to rekindle memories?

A: "This time I had a family to go home to! It was completely different from the old days where I'd have a lonely hotel room somewhere and a mirror to look at, and that was it. Now I've got a great family and a great support from my family, and meeting my old friends. Some of them traveled all the way from L.A. to come and see it."

Q: You look good on the DVD. Do you work out or have dietary strictures that keep you so well preserved at 59?

A: "I look after myself. I try not to over-eat. I don't do that much exercise. But it's my constitution, I suppose, slightly nervous, so I don't necessarily get too heavy or too overweight. But it's nothing special I do."

Q: What's your biggest indulgence?

A: "Let me think about this ... tea. I have to say tea, because I love tea and I love to drink it."

Q: Do you get out to concerts? Will you go and see the Led Zeppelin or Sex Pistol reunion shows?

A: "I saw Roger Waters, his last tour. And that was great, I really enjoyed it. He's an expert. He's a perfectionist, sound and visual. I loved it. I recently also went to a Steven Seagal concert because I thought it was so unique to have this guy -- a brilliant actor but also quite a developed Zen Buddhist -- playing blues guitar."

Q: Have you thought about writing your memoirs?

A: "I've pondered it, and in a way I've done bits and pieces throughout the years, through my talks, through my interviews -- not all of which have been conveyed 100 percent in their accuracy! And my songs. The job of writing the book is something I tend to put off, but I'm being chased."

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