Q&A July 2011, Part II
8/4/2011 (updated 8/4/2011)

Wondering if Mr. Thompson has read a new book by Rob Young about the British folk scene called Electric Eden and if so what his thoughts are regarding it. Also, was he interviewed for it or participate in any way? Thanks for the great music. - David Zipkowitz

I wasn't interviewed. I thought the overall premise was interesting, but the stuff I knew about - the 60s onwards - I found riddled with inaccuracies. I wish he had spoken to more people. Much of the recent past seemed to be based on other interviews.

saw you perform at the Stables in Wavendon. You seemed in a very relaxed mood but you really seemed to go to a 'different place' when you sang Willy o'Winsbury, it was just magnificent. I loved that you invited us to sing the chorus of Down Where the Drunkards Roll, Crawl Back and Johnny's Far Away. You looked very proud of Jack, who seemed to be delighted to be there. My question is about 'Meet & Greet' - it seems to happen much more when you perform in the US - how do you decide when you are going to do it? Are we British fans more daunting to meet or are the US fans much more friendly? - Alicia Russell

It usually depends on:

The lateness of the hour
Whether we are traveling very far
How pooped I am after the show

I have no prejudice as to country - the yanks are just as scary as the British.

i am enquiring if you will be returning to australia in the near future... i am from brisbane and have seen you about 4 times at the tivoli theater... absolutely brilliant concerts. regards, rob greer

Still working on an Oz tour.

Any plans to bring Cabaret of Souls to NYC? Or too cost prohibitive?
Live From the Artist's Den on PBS is terrific showcase for musicians, much like Austin City Limits. Have you (or "your people") looked into your playing on the show - solo, electric trio or full band?

We are looking at a venue in NYC for COS. This is a very expensive show, New York has high hotel prices, etc., so we are struggling to find a cost-effective way of proceeding. I'll check and make sure we are aware of Artist's Den.

A recent episode of Live From the Artist's Den featured Robert Plant and The Band of Joy. I was surprised to learn that the second song of their set, "House of Cards," is one of yours (from First Light). Have you heard their rendition and if so, how do you like it?

I've heard it, I like it - way better than the R&L version.

Speaking of the Band of Joy, Buddy Miller's overall sonic approach to lead guitar often has a similar intensity and feel to yours (especially on "House of Cards"). How did you enjoy playing with him on Cayamo 2011?  You seem like musical kindred spirits.

I like Buddy's work a lot. He is a great frontman, sideman, collaborator, and human being.

I recall an appearance on Later with Jools Holland by you, Norma Waterson, Martin Carthy, Eliza Carthy, Dave Mattacks and Danny Thompson. It was wonderful seeing English folk royalty performing together. Any chance of that iconic lineup ever performing again?

This was promoting Norma's record of the time, and featured many of the musicians who played on it, so it would take a similar record with a similar lineup to reproduce that appearance (or an excuse thereof). All best wishes to Norma as she recovers from a long illness.

Considering the amount energy you expend during a concert - particularly a solo show - what sort of fare do you eat before performing? How long before a show do you have a meal?

This varies a little, but generally I eat light before a show, a snack really, and something afterwards if I'm still hungry. Lunch is a more important meal on the road, if there's time to get it. Sometimes we go days without a 'proper' meal, and catch up on a day off. I try not to eat within an hour of going on stage, to avoid burping, and to avoid that stuffed feeling.

What are your thoughts on the current fast-track-to-fame phenomenon typified by shows like American Idol (Carrie Underwood), Britain's Got Talent (Susan Boyle) and fueled by exposure on YouTube (Justin Bieber)?

It's all crap. The next Incredible String Band will not arrive via this process.         

I was amused and entertained by your recollections of receiving your honorarium at the University of Aberdeen, particularly: "We upgraded at Hertz to a Mercedes, because we knew we'd be driving through the front of Buckingham Palace, and didn't want a repeat of our Grammy experience (the aged Honda Civic, standing out somewhat in the line of limos, stalled when the valet tried to park it, to the great amusement of the jeering crowds)." Assuming that you're not pulling the collective leg of your fan base, what prompted you to drive to the Grammys driving an "aged Honda Civic" as opposed to, say, hiring a limo or pulling up in the Daimler Dart wearing a scarf?

Didn't think it through - didn't really care anyway.

What is the origin of the "Heaven/Hell" joke you occasionally tell during solo shows ("You go to a party. In Heaven, the English greet you at the door, the French do the cooking, the Italians provide the entertainment, and the Germans organize everything..." etc.) ?

I read it in a book called The Europeans - forget the author - written in the early days of the EU, and as a guide to understanding our European neighbours. It was quoted as something already well known.

What are your feelings about the Murdoch phone hacking scandal? Might it be potential subject matter for a future song? (Rebekah Brooks makes a great character.)

I hope this is the end of Murdoch's political influence, and indeed I hope it is the end of NewsCorp. I would at least like to see large chunks of it sold off, and some very senior executives in prison.