AFG was fortunate enough to have an interview with Ian Barrett, nephew of the late Syd Barrett. He shares some memories of his beloved uncle, also tells us a few details about the new film Have You Got It Yet? which is now starting to premiere in theaters across the US! and finally, Ian shares his inspiration behind creating his own artwork. Ian is a really knowledgeable and lovely individual and we couldn’t be more fortunate to share this with you all. Hope you enjoy!
AFG: Hi Ian thank you for taking the time to do this interview, first off congratulations on the new YouTube page and Instagram! What prompted you and your family to start those up? Can you please tell us what can we expect content wise?
IB: I would LOVE to say that we have hours of footage from the UFO and tons of full length interviews, but I’m afraid that just isn’t the case. We are looking at it optimistically as a forum for both new material that we can bring to the surface, and also new creative work inspired by Syd’s work. I think that one of the most amazing aspects of Syd’s career is that so many years after his short career his small canon of work still inspires people in so many ways. I am hoping that we can tap into that inspiration and put this work before the many fans who would love to enjoy it. Be it traditional animation or cutting edge virtual reality techniques we are hoping to create something exciting AND in the spirit of Syd!
AFG: We know there are animations for Syd’s masterful lyrics, what was the inspiration behind those?
IB: Refer back to my previous answer and understand that in a video sense there will ALWAYS be a ‘lack of Syd.’ We wanted to find a new way to bring his music to a new audience. I have loved the creative work of Alex Teglbjaerg, a Swedish video animator. Alex has an amazing creative flair for making videos that capture the imagery and iconography of Syd’s music and art. His work has been used within the live show of Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets and toured the world so many thousands of people will already have seen his work. We are working with Alex to bring all of Syd’s songs to life as animated lyric videos. This process takes time so it will be an ongoing project..Alex tells me that he has been featured in A Fleeting Glimpse already so many of you have already seen his work. You can see Alex’s work here https://www.youtube.com/c/artistontheborder
AFG: Speaking of lyrics, how do you feel Syd’s lyrics hold up over time? Pink Floyd music in general have stood the test of time and new generations keep clinging to it, which is amazing. We feel the same way for Syd’s lyrics and music. Which it’s always lovely to see new Syd fans keep emerging. That says quite a lot about what he created in such a short musical career.
IB: One thing I think that has changed a lot over time, is the understanding of the lyrics. Years ago they were enjoyed as songs, but I don’t think anyone had really taken the time to really dissect the lyrics themselves and realize that they are NOT just the disjointed ramblings of a lunatic. There is a comment in ‘Have You Got It Yet’ the new documentary about Syd and his career. An old friend of Syd commented that he spent months refining the lyrics for just one song.
If Syd’s lyrics fascinate you I can thoroughly recommend the book ‘A Very Irregular Head’ by Rob Chapman I met Rob regularly while he wrote it and know he spent a LONG time analyzing and exploring the genesis of his song lyrics. It isn’t always obvious, but many of the lyrics contain historical and artistic references that were skilfully woven into the songs.
AFG: One thing that we love that people gravitate towards with Syd was his stage presence. When you watch Astronomy Domine from the BBC’s “Look of the Week” you really see how much of a driving force he is, then in the famous Hans Keller interview comes off incredibly charming and humble. We also find that one thing that gets overlooked was his innovative guitar playing. When one thinks of Pink Floyd they automatically think of David (respectfully) but Syd laid that groundwork. Most of the band’s sound came from what he was doing. Do you agree?
IB: I’m not equipped to comment on the intricacies of the musical relationships within the band. There are many many obsessive fans who could wax lyrical on this, I would rather just give a instinctive answer. The footage of Syd playing Interstellar Overdrive from ‘Let’s All Make Love In London’ speaks of that power. You can literally see him improvising throughout the song. He’s painting with music. It would never have suited what Pink Floyd turned into, It just wouldn’t. But it was magic while it lasted.
AFG: What do you personally feel is the essential Syd Barrett song? If you had to choose one song to underline who your Uncle was.
IB: I can’t choose one favorite song. I’ll just talk about a few that are special.
This just hits me hard, EVERY TIME. It is just so stark. Bleak but beautiful.
“Crisp flax squeaks tall reeds
On a circle of grey in a Summer way”
It’s far from an obvious Syd classic but it should never have been hidden away on Opel.
Again this hits hard. I’ve heard it covered beautifully by REM and sat in front of Chrissie Hynde when she reenacted it at the Barbican tribute. It’s a lovely, lonely barrage of imagery.
AFG: The Madcap Laughs has been widely regarded as the best Syd solo effort even in its ‘warts an all’ and over the more polished follow up Barrett in 1970. Why do you think that is?
IB: The songs on Madcap are less embellished by instrumentation and overdubs, and that gives the voice and words such power. I’ve never ever heard of anyone listening to this album and not being moved in some way by it. I’m not saying everyone has to like it, but you can’t ignore it or feel nothing in its presence. There really is nothing like it.
AFG: We think it’s highly important that people know Syd wasn’t a recluse but just a man who wanted to live in peace and out of the limelight. After reading Rob Chapman’s book “A Very Irregular Head” we were surprised to see how many stories have come out about him in his later years. There were crazy fan theories we had never heard before like him trying to hail a plane like a cab on the runway of an airport. Do you feel those are more or less put to bed now that time has passed?
IB: Trust me, I’ve heard them all! One benefit of the internet taking over as a forum for discussion is that these stories can be discussed, fact checked and often discounted quite easily. Before that they were published in books and sat unchallenged and they were spread and sadly often believed. With there being no interviews or rebuttals from Syd, fans often just assumed the stories were true. I would like to congratulate Rob Chapman for doing a great service in dissecting many of the more outlandish ones.
We are not saying for a second that every story of Roger/Syd’s behavior was false. He was an eccentric and unique man and we totally accept he did behave in some peculiar ways, but when put in the context of the drug culture of the late 1960’s he’s hardly alone in that! But now the silliest stories have been out to bed, it leaves the path more clear for people to enjoy his creativity and imagination in the way it should be appreciated. There are many stories such as him mixing Brylcreem and Mandrax tablets and pouring the mixture on his head and letting it pour down his face and creating a terrifying image on stage.
I suspect there is a tiny fragment of truth in most of the stories but they have become enlarged and mutated over the years until they become something far bigger than when they started. Syd had an incredible way of pulling many influences and inspirations together and boiling them up into an amazing stew.
IB: When I was growing up we had no understanding or care about what he had been. We visited my Grandmother often in Cambridge and he had moved back from the chaos of London and just happened to be living in her house. My brothers and cousins would often convene there and storm around on rickety bikes… He was always very quiet and reserved but would often come out and chat to us while we played.
He even stayed all Christmas at our house in Luton one year. It was lovely to see him for such along time and so intimately. Nothing about it was anything out of the ordinary other than a family friend asking to come to the house to meet him and I guess to get an autograph. Again, we’re just a totally ordinary family who by happenstance have ended up in quite an unusual position.
I like to see my life a little like the scene in ‘The Wizard Of Oz’ when Toto rips open the curtain and you accidentally see the Wizard. We have been privy to seeing something of the mechanics of the music industry without actually being part of it. I don’t mean this in a negative way, in some ways it’s fascinating, but it’s not something we ever set out to do. While we never set out to become involved in helping manage all the sustained interest in Syd’s music and art we all decided it is better that we keep some level of control over it rather than just handing control over to an unknown third party.
This is why we decided to create the Official Syd Barrett Website ourselves and in 2016 we launched it. We have tweaked and redesigned it since then and we’re all really proud of the way it looks and works. I would be thrilled if anyone that has not seen it can give it a look as its a great way to jump into the wonderful world of Syd Barrett!
AFG: It’s been said he painted a lot in his later years, was that what made you want to become an artist yourself? The creativity gene runs in the Barrett family!
IB: I do love creating art, but the visual art grew out of my love of making jewelry. I started my jewelry business about twenty years ago now, and it is the thing I am most proud of. I have no jewelry training but built the business myself from scratch and it is now a flourishing business. I have created a huge collection of meteorite and fossil jewelry and sell it all over the world.
I also supply museums and galleries around the world, including the National Space Centre in Leicester England. I use amazing materials such and moon rock and stone meteorites as well as fossils like ammonites and shark’s teeth. I bring a bit of magic to them with solid silver and coloured enamels. I also create visual art, mainly watercolor painting and linocut prints.
This started just as a bit of fun, but has grown over the years and I have now created quite a few record covers for various bands and also stage artwork for live shows. I love getting up every day and making amazing jewelry and art!
For Ian’s visual art you can find him here www.ianbarrettart.com
AFG: Do you play an instrument or write at all?
IB: I don’t really play guitar much. I play a tiny bit, but only at home. Couldn’t do it in public. I have been in bands, a long time ago. I used to be in a band called Papajellyfish many moons ago. It was a lot of fun, and grew from something very small and silly into something actually quite successful. Life’s like that sometimes.
AFG: The new film “Have You Got It Yet?” Is gaining major popularity by word of mouth of those who have seen it. What can you tell us about it? It’s been in the making for a decade, what went into it? It’s been said it’s the “definitive Syd documentary” would you agree to that statement?
IB: I saw it at a cinema when it was released and it was fascinating to finally see Syd’s life writ large. People have asked me if it was a strange experience, seeing his life up on the big screen. But actually it has taken so long to be finished I have lived with its creation. On that premise alone, it wasn’t as strange as you might imagine. As for the time to make the film, I cant go into details, but there were lots of small things holding up the release.
There always are with complicated documentaries like this and it was great when it was finally finished and let loose in the world! There are many people all around the world keen to see the film and that just shows the amazing and sustained interest in Syd’s life. I know there are many that have not yet seen it yet, so I wont spoil the surprise by going into detail about the film, but what I will say is that it is a warm and intimate film with interviews with quite a few people close to Syd, some who have never spoken on film about him.
AFG: Do you know when it will be available to the rest of the world? Will there be a physical bluray release/streaming release?
IB: I simply don’t know all the details on this, and it’s a question I am asked on social media a lot. Essentially there will be global screenings for some time, and they will roll out in different continents at different times. Then there will be streaming and also DVD releases coming afterwards and possibly terrestrial television also. But I really don’t know the timings of these. I don’t think anyone knows these as yet Just be patient!
There is no reason that eventually anyone who wants to see it will be able to. You can keep up to date with the film at either the standalone website for the film www.sydbarrettfilm.com and also our new Syd Barrett Official Instagram and Facebook page.
(This interview was conducted before the official announcement of the US screenings, with director Roddy Bogawa appearing for a Q&A session in New York City. For the full details please visit the film website to purchase tickets for any upcoming screenings in your area and keep checking as more dates are surely to be announced as its extended through to September!)
AFG: To send us off what do you think is the most important thing you want people/fans to take away from Syd’s mark on pop culture and the world?
IB: That’s a big question. I don’t like to pontificate or preach, so I’ll just say put on one of his albums and enjoy it. Then you will understand why he has made such a special mark on the world.
AFG: Ian, it’s been an absolute pleasure and an honor. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us we have nothing but love and respect for you and your family over here at AFG.
We welcome our readers to follow Ian and his work at the links above and stay in touch. We look forward to what’s in store on the Syd Barrett Youtube page and of course the new film. Congratulations Ian! All the best to you and your family.
Lots of love from the AFG family.