Answers to Jan/Feb Questions, Part I

Richard, have you heard James McMurtry? If you have, what do you think. I think he is the USA equivalent to you - a great guitarist, very good songwriter, there's nothing flash about his shows. I love his music, almost as much as yours! Cheers, Roderic Jones

I like my music almost as much as his!

What are your memories of Shelagh McDonald? I know you played on her album Stargazer. Did you ever do a live gig together? Thanks for all the music, Philip Ward

I never played live with Shelagh, only in the studio. I think I did 2 records with her, maybe only one was released. She seemed a nice girl. Her disappearance in the mid-seventies was the subject of much speculation – one theory had it that she was doing something shady for the CIA. She resurfaced in the 90s, and said she’d had a bad drug experience, and had been lying low. Hmm…

Hello, Richard, I hope you will return to Kent Stage soon.  You will, of course, be very close to Mentor, Ohio, where you will find many smart girls and Painesville, Ohio, hometown of Harlan Ellison. Do you notice a difference between your British and American audiences? Bambi Vargo

Well, I adore them both, of course. The Yanks want you to know at the beginning that they’re there to have a good time, and they want you to have a good time too. The Brits are rather more cynical, and want to see if you’re going to mess up before they clap -  for them, this would be equally entertaining. They let it all out at the end, though.

We fans often ask you about collaborating with other artists. First, do you get tired of such inquiries?


Second, is there any band of your generation (besides Fairport obviously) of which you could imagine yourself being a member? Trevor and Sandy’s band? Ray’s band? Pete’s band? Chrissie’s band?

Not really. I’ve been independent too long.

Third, could you ever see yourself doing a project with an iconic world musician?  Ry Cooder’s inspired partnership with Ali Farka Toure, his record with V.M. Bhatt,  A Meeting by the River and Henry Kaiser and David Lindley’s Madagascar project,  A World Out of Time, come to mind.

I wouldn’t rule it out.

How do you view your role as a hired gun (e.g., playing on Loudon’s score for “Knocked Up” or playing on one of Teddy's records)?  Fun? Or a distraction from writing and touring?

It’s fun, and I always learn from these situations. Sometimes hauling out the amps and guitars for a studio one-off is a chore, but I’m usually glad I did it.

Could you see yourself someday writing (or co-writing) a humorous Gilbert & Sullivan type of piece?  March of the Cosmetic Surgeons on the FFKT record Invisible Means demonstrates your predilection for writing darkly humorous light operatic material.  Or did Cabaret of Souls experience satisfy that curiosity and disabuse you of any notion that writing a long form piece is worth the time and effort?

A G & S type of piece would have no place in the modern world, but humorous, certainly – Cabaret Of Souls is intended to be humorous, when it’s not being dark, which it is most of the time, or a mixture – sort of doomerous. I have two more long pieces in the pipeline, which I can’t discuss, so don’t ask.

You have mentioned here and in interviews that you are environmentally conscious and enjoy being out in nature, hiking and visiting places like Costa Rica, Mexico, Hawaii and presumably many exotic places Down Under. Aside from getting stung by the scorpion, what is one of your most memorable encounters with wildlife? Douglas Alan Feinstein

I can’t pick one, but I would include:

Standing next to a Three-Toed Sloth – they only come down to ground level once a week to poop

2 feet from a Howler Monkey as it crossed the bridge into La Selva Reserve

Not stepping on a Fer-De-Lance – missed by about 3 inches

Various amazing birds – 16 species of hummingbird at one feeder, Quetzals, Orange Doves, Tanagers, etc.

1. when you use a whammy bar, is it screwed so it is tight to the body so you can only "wham" down? or is screwed looser so you also can "wham" up? if so, how much? one whole tone, half tone? do you (also) "wham" by bending the guitar neck?

Yes, I keep it screwed mostly down, and only glide down. Occasionally, I bend the neck – still not sure if this is kind to the guitar.

2. I've seen pictures of your old Stratocaster and noticed that the neck pickup, especially under the bass strings, is screwed down very low/far from the strings. How come? Best regards, Jim.

The magnetic pull from the p/u was causing the 6th string to play sharp.

When you fly does your Lowden ride with you in the cabin or get checked as baggage?

Always checked. The only way to take it in the cabin is in a soft case, and if the bins are full, they’ll stick it in the hold, soft case and all – LWIII has a song about it!. Also, you have to walk around the airport with a guitar on your back, a target for every dentist and time and motion study person who ever picked up a guitar ("Hey, I play too! I have a beautiful Taylor/Martin/Collings at home!")

How about during band tours? (electric guitars go as baggage?)

On band tours it rides on the bus.

If the latter, what sort of case do you use to protect the instrument? Cheers, Douglas Alan Feinstein

I use Carlton Cases, the best for something of carryable/checkable size. You could use something bigger, that offers more protection, but you’ll be oversize for airlines, and your arms will grow longer. I’ve never had a problem with Carlton.