Q&A March 2013, Part I

Hi Richard, thanks for giving us all the opportunity to ask you questions! It's great that your tour so regularly and I try not to miss you whenever you play New Brighton, Liverpool (or The Lowry if you don't do Liverpool). I saw you in Liverpool on Friday and was as impressed as I always am by the standard of you and your band's performance and musicianship - always a joy to watch and listen to. Anyway, I have three questions (not including the questions within those questions!):

• After a gig - what do you talk about? Do you mainly discuss how well particular songs went (performance-wise and crowd-wise); how good - or otherwise - the audience were - or do you instantly put it behind you and start thinking and planning for the next gig?

There will usually be some general comments about the show. These can vary from 'Great show!' all the way to 'I played like an absolute tosser!' - or the even more popular, 'You played like and absolute tosser!' There may be comments about the sound on stage ('Couldn't hear a thing') or the audience ('They finally woke up at the end!'). There are usually more things to discuss early in a tour, about what works and does not work in the set, and perhaps finer points of arrangements. Five minutes would be about the maximum time spent on ruminating over the show, before the real business of Rock and Roll begins - the drugs, the groupies, the wanton destruction, etc.

How did you come by Michael Jerome? I read he is ambidextrous and double-jointed (whatever that means) and I'm fascinated by his style - the way he sits high above his kit as well as how busy and inventive his playing is. He has tremendous feel and I wondered if he plays "just behind the beat" - coming down ever so slightly after the beat (usually on the snare) as it sounds like that to my ears. Is that something you've ever discussed or is it just an organic thing (Ted Mckenna once said Rory Gallagher always wanted him to play just ahead of the beat, presumably to give the music more urgency)?

Michael came through my ex-manager Donnie Graves. I think he was living in Texas at that point, and working with James Hall. I don't know if he's actually double jointed and ambidextrous, but it seems that way - a lot of  drummers can do everything either way round. He does have a set-up that allows him to be very straight-backed, which is good for drumming longevity. I'd say Michael is fairly 'on' the beat, as compared to a drummer like Dave Mattacks, who is on the back of it. I agree that Michael's feel is great, which of course makes him a joy to play with.

• Finally - do you ever just come up with a song title and then write a song around that or does it always begin with an idea? Thanks for your time and good luck with the rest of the tour. Best regards, Ian Boulton (North Wales)

I've written a lot of songs that start with the title. A good title and you're halfway there! Think of some of those Country music titles - 'She Got The Goldmine, I Got The Shaft' - and you hardly need to hear the rest of the song!

Re: big fan - small request
Saw you in Edinburgh night before last - outstanding show, put so many other supposed power bands to shame. Which reminded me - I caught your "1,000 Years of Popular Music" tour in Glasgow a couple of years back, and would kill for a buyable/downloadable copy of your version of Nelly Furtado's "Maneater" from that night. I've been scouring the internet/itunes/amazon etc ever since, but no joy. Any chance you'll ever cut one (or release an existing live bootleg)? Cheers. Richard Morgan

We don't seem to have a recorded version of that, I'm sorry.

Re: words & music
Being a fan of singer songwriters in general particularly yourself, Joni Mitchell & Tom Waits, I find that the words are as important as the music. So I was interested to see your use of the word antebellum in the song Sally B, I have never come across that word before and had to look it up in the dictionary! So my question is when you are writing songs is it the music which comes first or the words or does it vary? Do you enjoy putting in obscure words in your songs to broaden the knowledge of your listeners?

I was looking for a rhyme for 'tell 'em'. I'm not trying to be obscure - playful, maybe. Some of the 'witty' swing era songwriters like Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter and Lorenz Hart would use some very obscure language and fairly outrageous rhymes. I write words or music first, it gives you more chances of  a successful beginning.

I am enjoying the Electric cd and would like to thank you for including the two tracks from the Cabaret of Souls and 1000 years of popular song. It is an aspect of your music which I may not normally have listened to. I found the Auldie Riggs dance music reminded me very much of Vaughan Williams folk song arrangements.

Do you know if there are any plans to issue the Across a Crowded Room video on dvd? I have a copy of it on video tape but sadly no machine to play it on. I'm looking forward to the St Albans gig. Best Wishes. Sue Ellis (S W France)

I don't own this, and am unaware of any plans to re-release it.

I'm an artist, a  painter, who often listens to your music when I'm working. It seems to me that in some way your guitar improvisations are visual-spirals mostly for me. When you're playing , particularly long electric solos and you're in a zone, do you see visual images or colors? I can't thank you enough for the 30 years of inspiration- you've been an invaluable part of my creative life. John Dubrow

Many painters seem to be a touch synesthetic. I don't see colours, but I do see movies, usually relating to the song.