David Bowie shocked the world yesterday by releasing the mournful single "Where Are We Now?" and announcing that a new album called The Next Day – his first LP in a decade – would hit stores in March. Bowie has yet to talk publicly about his comeback, but his longtime producer Tony Visconti told the BBC that they'd been working in secret on the disc for two years.
"I've been listening to this on headphones, walking through the streets of New York, for the past two years," Visconti said. "I have not tired of a single song. I think the material on this album is extremely strong and beautiful. If people are looking for classic Bowie, they'll find that on this album. If they're looking for innovative Bowie, some new directions, they'll find that on this album too."
Visconti was surprised that Bowie selected the downcast "Where Are We Now?" as the leadoff single. "It's a very reflective track for David," he says. "Maybe the only track on the album that goes this much inward for him. It's quite a rock album, the rest of the songs, so I thought to myself: 'Why is David coming out with this very slow, albeit beautiful ballad? Why is he doing this? He could come out with a bang.' I think the next thing you hear from him is going to be quite different."
Bowie and Visconti first joined forces in 1969 on Space Oddity. They worked together on many of Bowie's most enduring albums, including Low, Heroes, Lodger and Scary Monsters. After a long break they re-teamed in the early 2000s for Heathen and Reality.
They worked on the new album at a very slow pace. "We never spent more than two to three weeks at a time recording," Visconti said. "And then we'd take off as much as two months. We'd usually work on one or two songs in an afternoon and we'd whip them up to shape where they'd sound like great rock tracks. At that point there wouldn't be any final vocals or lyrics. This is the same way I'd been working with him since The Man Who Sold the World. He hasn't really changed in his approach."
Bowie's 2004 tour was cut short when the singer underwent emergency heart surgery for a blocked artery. Rumors spread that Bowie's long absence from the music scene was related to health problems, but Visconti says that isn't the case. "He's a very healthy man," the producer says. "I assure you. I've been saying this for the past few years. I couldn't explain how I know that, but I worked with a very healthy David Bowie in the studio and a very happy David Bowie in the studio."
The Next Day hits stores in early March. It's unclear whether or not Bowie will support the disc with a tour.