English alt-rocker Joe Jackson is proud of his ambitious 2015 release “Fast Forward,” which contained four quartets of songs recorded in New York, Amsterdam, Berlin and New Orleans, and some of his edgiest work to date, including “Neon Rain,” “Poor Thing” and a cover of Television’s “See No Evil.” But he’s even happier his 1979 punk-fueled sophomore album “I’m the Man” was reissued in LP form. “I really like that vinyl’s back,” the 61-year-old says. “It’s a bright spot in the current industry, the only area of the music business that’s actually growing.”
You originally intended to issue “Fast Forward” as four separate EPs?
I was building up a stockpile of songs that I wasn’t really sure what to do with. I didn’t have a vision of an album, or what the band was going to be or where I was going to record. And my manager said, “Maybe it doesn’t need to be an album — you can just put out an EP instead, and then do another one.” And I got quite excited about this idea. And it seemed like there were four cities where there were musicians that I wanted to work with. Then the EP idea got shut down, so we put them all together as an album.
The Amsterdam material sounds almost Broadway, the New York songs feel more urban, urgent. But the Berlin stuff…
Yeah. I have an apartment there, and people have said that the Berlin EP has a darker quality. It has the cut “”If I Could See Your Face,” which refers to a real event that happened in Berlin – an honor killing, where three Turkish brothers tracked down and killed their sister for dishonoring the family. She had been sent to Turkey in an arranged marriage, but had run away. So the big question I’m asking in that song is about the limits of multi-culturalism, which is a big question in Europe today: How can it work when you have such radically different cultures alongside each other?
When you visit cities on tour, are you a museum guy?
I do try to be. But it seems like every time I go to a museum, it’s closed. But I’m always walking around, and I’m very much an observer. I like to learn as much as I can about the local culture.
Ever walked into a scary situation?
Yeah. That’s happened. One time I got mugged, and it was in Amsterdam, believe it or not. And in my mind, that was not a place where I could’ve gotten mugged. I’ve been in scarier places than that and not come to any harm. But it goes to show you that if you drop your guard, anything can happen.
IF YOU GO
Where: Palace of Fine Arts, 3301 Lyon St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. June 21
Tickets: $60 to $85
Note: Jackson also plays a sold-out show at 8 p.m. June 22 at the UC Theatre in Berkeley.