The Who’s Pete Townshend: ‘I’m working on a project that’s half rock opera, half art installation’

Guitarist for Glastonbury headliners also discusses Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Robert Plant

The Who‘s Pete Townshend has hinted at an upcoming project that’s “half rock opera, half art installation”.

In an in-depth interview with Rolling Stone, The Who guitarist and songwriter outlines several current projects, which also include a new book and unreleased archive material.

“I’ve got loads of songs,” he said of his upcoming work. “I’m working on a big project at the moment, which might be half rock opera, half art installation. I don’t know where it’s going to go. I’m going to start with a book. I don’t want to talk too much about that now.”

“I haven’t done a new solo piece for a really long time,” he went on. “If I did, I think I would want it to be something that really addressed everything that’s going on in the world at the moment. I’m old enough and wise enough and stupid enough and have done enough dangerous shit to say pretty much whatever I like. It won’t be popular, but nobody can hurt me now, really.”

Speaking about unreleased older material, he added: “I’m also working on old songs, going right from the beginning. I missed a few songs at the very beginning — gave tapes to producers to listen to and never got them back. But from ‘My Generation’ onwards, I’ve got tapes of every single song I ever wrote, and the supporting paperwork. Sometimes they’re silly little scraps and sometimes quite more.”

In the interview, Townshend also reflects on Bob Dylan’s later output, mildly criticises Bruce Springsteen’s live show and acknowledges Robert Plant’s handling of Led Zeppelin’s legacy.

Of Bruce Springsteen, he said: “I did [check out Spingsteen’s shows] in the early days, but not anymore. It’s a bit of blood and glory for me now.” Asked in what sense, he replied: “Exactly the sense that sentence implies.”

Speaking about how often he writes songs, he said: “I just don’t do what Dylan does. I don’t drag myself around the world, and I don’t put out an album every six weeks [laughs].”

On Led Zeppelin and Robert Plant, he added: “Robert could probably do everything that he wants to do. He could do the occasional Led Zeppelin comeback and make a lot of people very happy. There’s a kind of churlishness to that [opinion]. But he’s his own man, and he has to make his own decisions.”

He also reiterated that he doesn’t enjoy playing live. He stated:”I always feel very sad when I say this because I think I’m unusual in this respect. People don’t really believe me. But I don’t enjoy performing. I don’t feel uplifted on the stage. I rarely have moments these days onstage when I go into what jazz musicians call ‘the zone.’ I rarely lose myself on the stage.”

It was recently announced that the Who will be the third, and final, headliner for Glastonbury 2015. The band – currently marking their 50th anniversary – will headline the festival, with Paul Weller performing in the slot directly before them. The two acts will perform on the Pyramid Stage on Sunday (June 28).