2 RT List Interview
10/2/2004 (updated 10/2/2004)
TJ McGrath: Most of us, as you well know, attend as many Richard Thompson shows as we can, driving miles and miles to see either a solo or band show. We do this
because of the quality of the performance and the significance of the songs
which speak directly to us.
Are there singers and songwriters touring and performing who you make every
effort to see when they're in town? Is it hard to sit in the back of the
crowd and watch someone else on stage without thinking of your own time
under the spotlights? Are you daft enough, like many of us, with writing
down song lists and chatting up the musician after the show? Have you been
backstage to compliment a performer and found that he/she has no clue as to
who YOU are?
I would travel any distance to see dead people - O for a time machine!
As for the living, I'm concerned to see as many ageing heroes as possible
before they shuffle off stage right. Glad I saw Brother Ray a couple of
times, Tal Farlow, Fats Domino, Snooks Eaglin...I'll always see Martin
Carthy or Norma Waterson when they come through town, Emmy Lou,
Bonnie...I've frequently met people backstage who don't know who the hell I
am, and that's just fine, I have no expectations.
Bob Dubery: What tartan do you wear?
(This is important! I (a sassenach) have a small wager with my missus (born
and bred in Edinburgh). I say it's Campbell, she says Black Watch. I hasten
to add that there's no money at stake - just bragging rights and some
Andy Graham: In response to Bob Dubery's inquiry:
I've seen Richard wear the Campbell of Argyll tartan, which is appropriate
since his surname qualifies as a sept of Clan Campbell, but it is directly
related to the Black Watch "universal" tartan sett. It is no coincidence
that The Black Watch tartan, worn by the oldest Highland government
regiment, is a darker-hued version of the sett claimed by the Campbell Duke
of Argyll -- as many Scots readily know, the Campbells were perhaps the most
numerous and most powerful anti-Jacobite, pro-government clan (though their
enemies argued some Campbell chiefs were mainly interested in
self-aggrandizement, which was not very often inconsistent with supporting
government and/or English and/or Parliamentary interests). So you're both
right, in a sense. It is a Campbell tartan, which in itself is a lighter
version of the Black Watch. If asked to adjudicate the wager, I'd say
Richard wears Campbell. Regrets to missus from this expatriate Scot.
I am entitled to wear Campbell or Cameron, and your missus may also be
right - I believe Campbells can wear Black Watch as well. What I actually
wear is Ancient Muted Campbell - the greens suit my pallor better.
Bob in Johannesburg, South Africa: Do you have plans to tour regions or countries that you haven't toured before?
Dreams, yes - plans, no. Nothing on the books just now. I did turn down
a couple of offers to tour South Africa back in apartheid days. No offers
BBL: I wonder sometimes what it would be like to be a singer/songwriter and to be
walking along somewhere and to pass a house with the window open, or a shop
with the radio on and to unexpectedly hear a song--one of your own
recordings!--emanating from within. Perhaps even from a car waiting at a
stop light. I would think that to hear one of your own songs in this way would prove a
bit of an odd, but pleasant sensation, on many levels. Perhaps later in a long career it is less of a surprise or excitement than it might have been early on (or maybe not?). I would think that especially the first time you hear yourself, your song, on the radio would be a
terribly thrilling moment. br>
- Can you recall any such experience(s) and the associated feelings?
Perhaps such moments mean less over time after having performed with other
major (and minor) celebrities, seen yourself on television, seen your name
and image in countless magazines and web sites, etc.- Does "fame" provide any thrills anymore, or has it ever?
I've only ever heard myself unexpectedly on a car radio - scanning
through frequencies, and finding some impoverished and deluded station
somewhere playing old farts like me. Yes, it must be strange to be Bob
Dylan, and to be greeted, upon stepping into a lift, with a Muzak version of
"Like A Rolling Stone". I was driving with Fairport in 1967 when our first
BBC session was broadcast. We pulled the van over and were utterly
gobsmacked. Soon got blase about it. Fame, blah.
Brendan Teeling: You have been quoted as liking Philip Pulman's His Dark Materials trilogy. How do you square the anti-religious theme in the trilogy with your own
beliefs? (I think the books are great as well by-the-way and have no problem
squaring them with my beliefs.)
Well, it is anti-corrupt religion and anti-corrupt science - in the
books, the two are married. Perhaps it is also a war between logic and
intuition, between the mundane and the imaginative, as well as a war between
Man and God. Pullman creates a whole universe, which is inevitably smaller
than the real one, but which manages to be a great metaphor for the real
Kevin O'Donnell: Have you ever been happier than you are right now (generally speaking, excluding things like 'I've just dropped the strat on my toe' or whatever)?
What effect do you think that general contentment has on your songwriting
and playing (assuming that you are in that state)?
Happiness is a day to day thing. I've been happier and unhappier. If I
knew what ideal state to be in to write or play music was, I would live in
that artist's garrett, shoot that heroin, or lie in that beach. I don't
think there's a formula.