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 dish-washing br>
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 since.

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 one.

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.