October Answers, Part I
11/7/2009 (updated 11/7/2009)

I recall in 'Solitary Life' that you record at home. Now, be honest, do you ever use Autotune, even just to tidy up a recording?

To be honest, I don't possess Autotune.

Secondly, I’m forever travelling between my home in Istanbul and the UK, and I always seem to miss your concerts. So, any plans to play in Istanbul in the next 20 years? I’ll sub you the ticket J. All the best, Alan Gentle

I think the only way to play in Turkey is through an exchange sponsored by the British Council. I’ve never managed to do it, but I’d love to play there.

Looking through an old book about Fairport Convention I re-read that your  Hofner V3 guitar had the old English word 'falan' written across it, ‘for some obscure reason'. I've tried in vain to translate the word, can you shed any light? Max Cuthbert.

I forget what it means, and can’t find any reference to it.

The Eternal Question: The song title "Sloth"----rhymes with "both" or rhymes with "moth"? Thanks, Mike in Lompoc

Back in Little Hadham in 1970, Fairport were rehearsing a couple of new songs, both with working titles. The fast one was known as ‘Fasth’ (later Journeyman’s Grace) and the slow one was called ‘Slowth’, which progressed to Sloth, which stuck, even with the advent of real title possibilities, like ‘Just a Roll’. So I suppose it should be pronounced to rhyme with ‘both’. The song has not too much to do with the deadly sin of the same name.

I've been reading the Dave Smith book on your songs, and in it there was a quote from LP that you used to read horoscopes in exchange for a bottle of wine - something I used to do in those days too. And I probably should have guessed it. Anyway, as an amateur astrologer since '69 and a fan, I've been curious about your chart, and of course your birth time is not available publicly as far as I can tell. I wonder whether you would be willing to share it?  I would keep it in strict confidence.  I expect prominent Saturn, Venus, Mercury and Uranus, but hey, what do I know? Looking forward to your next appearance in the greater NE of the US. Ed Falis

It’s a bit personal, asking a chap for his astrological nitty-gritty. Rather like giving away one’s DNA, or declaring one’s underwear preference (which I think I already did in this column – not many secrets left). If you must know, I believe I was born around 6AM – Pisces was rising, anyway. I’d lost interest in Astrology by about 1973 – good for arranged marriages, though…

Would love to see you play in the pacific northwest this winter.  All those tantalizing dates in CA and HI...what, no upgrades to fly north? Shannon

The next band tour/live recording project will be from Seattle to LA, in February 2010. 

I've seen your solo act several times but I've never managed to catch an all request show (it's on my "to do list" but the opportunities are slim in my neck of the woods). If I were able to do so though, I would request "Happy Days and Auld Lang Syne" for reasons I can't really explain. Do you ever play it solo and, if so, might you possibly work it into the set list on a future tour? Thanks for all the great shows that I've enjoyed. Glen W. McCann

I do play it solo sometimes, and I enjoy it – glad you do too. I would not say I get a lot of requests for it, though.

How do you improvise solos, do you use specific keys or modes or something like that? Dan Part

This is a big subject, not easily broached here. I’d recommend a book like Getting Started With Improvisation by Ned Bennet. It’s amazing how few classical musicians can improvise, and how surprised they are that I can’t sight-read The Rite Of Spring.

As the ultimate eccentric British musician (so they say), I wonder if you have come across the Eigenharp yet, which seems to the ultimate British eccentric musical invention. As far as I can see, it’s like an electronic version of Pete Zorn really.  Are we likely to see you ditching the Ferrington in favour of an Eigenharp any time soon? More seriously, though, are you interested in the application of technology to music? I thought I read somewhere that Front Palour Ballads was recorded in a home studio. Michael Lodge

Ivor Cutler makes me look like Nicolas Parsons in the eccentricity department. I’ve seen a few videos of the Eigenharp, looks like fun, basically a Chapman Stick meets a bassoon meets a synth. I’ve never played one, and look forward to that. They say that art/architecture follows the technology, which is generally true, with a few blind alleys and pitfalls thrown in (Syndrums, anyone?)

I thoroughly enjoyed Richard's show on 10/4/09 in Cambridge, MA. During his set, Richard gave mention of three friends that he had just recently lost, and dedicated a very moving song in their memory. The lyrics contained the phrase "when a brother slips away." Was wondering if you would identify that song. Richard, I'm very sorry for your loss. Best, Ken

The song is called ‘A Brother Slips Away’, currently unrecorded.