Q&A: I'll be buggered if I'll censor myself
6/29/2004 (updated 6/29/2004)

Dear RT---
Who is YOUR favorite guitarist, reason I ask is I read an Eric Clapton interview in the late 60's and he mentioned that the "guy with Fairport was one of his favorite guitarists," so of course I had to go get hooked on you, so now I am gonna put you on the spot or not if you prefer not to answer. Here's to 36 more years with Henry the Human Fly. stay in tune--Bryan Underwood

I probably like those dead ones - Django, Eddie Lang, Charlie Christian. From the living, how about Martin Carthy, Johnny Smith, John Etheridge?

I know there are various other songs RT throws into his '1000 years of popular music' shows that did not make the album. Is there a chance that those might be made available on say the RT store on iTunes like some of his other exclusive releases? Cheers, Rob

After our small upcoming '1000 Years' tour in the Autumn, I hope we'll have enough for a volume 2...we have some exciting posibilities in the works.

The performances documented on the "More Guitar" CD are enhanced by some rather extraordinary drumming by Kenny Aronoff. The Chicago gig I caught during that tour featured a local substitute drummer, since the "regular" 1988 tour drummer (Mattacks? Conway?) was somehow incapacitated. Apparently Aronoff filled in later in the tour--to a wonderfully serendipitous effect, I believe. What was the whole story there?

I think it's been described elsewhere, but to recap - Dave Mattacks slipped in the shower and broke his ribs on the tour. He soldiered on, strapped up, for a couple of shows, but was in great pain, so he was sent home. We did one show drumless, Ist Avenue in Minneapolis. Jim Keltner recommended Kenny, but he couldn't start for a week, so HE recommended David Derge, who filled in brilliantly with no rehearsal. We had great fun with Kenny, who tolerated our requests for smaller drums and lighter sticks with good humour.

I am going to ask one of those equipment-bore questions now. I have long admired not only your electric guitar playing but also your electric guitar sound. I do realise that this comes about, in no small part, as a result of technical skill and the choice of guitar. I have a nice Strat, so I could be said to be halfway there on those issues. However, I do wonder what type of amplification you use (e.g. for "The Way That It Shows" or "Mother Knows Best"). It sounds like Fender. I have a POD to set up so such things are important in my little world.
Many thanks, jpedley

I use mostly Fender amps, old and new, and Line 6. On the tracks you mention, I can't remember the exact amplification. Sometimes in the studio, we run 2 amps in parallel, and blend them. I have a '56 Fender Pro, '60 Pro Reverb, Reissue Vibroverb, and on record, I've used Vox, White, Fender Princeton, Fender Vibrolux, Ampegs various, etc.

Hey Richard,
I just read your latest questions and answers. The questioner who wants you to revive "Yankee Go Home" or write a song about Iraq. For God's sake...please son't. Political rants and sloganeering are not art. As Bob Dylan once said to Phil Ochs..."You're not a're a journalist." Please Richard...stay an artist. jollyhangman

And Bob Dylan didn't write any political songs? If only Picasso had listened to you, and not bothered with that ugly 'Guernica"...and as for those war pictures of Goya....and those rantings of Shelley and Dickens...Picasso said he refused to censor himself, it wasn't his job, and that's good enough for me, so I'll be buggered if I'll censor myself either. Am I Shostakovich in Stalinist Russia? I sang a Phil Ochs song for a while because I was alarmed at the lack of debate in the US, and I wanted to hear something voicing a different opinion about US foreign policy. As of the latest poll, I now appear to be in with the majority...and for my money, Phil Ochs was an artist - certainly at the political end, but still an artist, and God bless him. Can someone draw me an accurate map showing where the political, personal and social begin and end?

Dear Richard
I've been very inspired by your playing, particularly your electric guitar work-probably your playing and that of Tom Verlaine (he played with 'Television', a US band, but he also made a great string of solo albums in the 80s) have been my single greatest influences. I was wondering if you had any tips to a young player these days on best practice. I usually flit about the various modes-mixolydian, dorian etc-and I know a reasonable number of chords, but I was wondering if there was any single technique or practice that you'd recommend to young player ie improving speed or working in more chord changes. Of course I know that relentless practice is really the best and only answer, but I'd be grateful for any insights that you might have, as so little real muscianship has commercial success nowadays and mentors are accordingly hard to find. I'm appalled and turned off by the 'shred' metal mechanics that continues to dominate most contemporary music and guitar magazines so any pointers to other sources of learning on the guitar would also be a great help. Thanks for your time, Alex Marshal

Practising scales is the basis of it all - try to extend yourself to cover 2 octaves and more. Then try to mix up the scales, randomly or with purpose. Try superimposing different triads on top of each other - C Major, CEG, then take the G as the start of the next one, say, GBD, then the D can be the root of a D Diminished, DFA flat, etc. Expression should be practised too - nuance, vibrato, attack. Listen to wind instruments to learn how to play in listenable phrases. Try to play piano harmonic voicings on guitar. Remember the guitar is a voice, so try to make it sound as human as possible.