A's to RT Discussion List Q's Part II
4/6/2006 (updated 4/6/2006)

RT Discussion List Q&A
Courtesy of Flip @

Do you think that alcohol or drugs can be of help (for some) in composing or performing? (I understand you don't even indulge in caffeine these days.)

RT: Definitely, but it's a hit or miss thing, and a self-delusional thing. A bit of weed seemed to help Louis Armstrong, but Charlie Parker was horrified that followers took up heroin because they thought that was part of his genius. In the 70s, cocaine was fashionable, even in folk circles, and I remember endless hours wasted in recording studios, while musicians hyped themselves up to some imaginary creative peak, that sounded great to them at the time, and crap to everyone else (and still does). How people live their lives is their business, however, and how they go about being creative is their business. I do believe that whatever intoxication is, you don't have to be drunk to get there - Rumi the poet would be a good example of that, and it's hard to improve on Rumi.

Do you (or, I guess, does Bug Music) ever get approached to use your songs in commercials? Are you averse to the idea?

RT: I would hope that if it was MacDonald's, I'd have the moral courage to turn it down. Something greener, I would not be averse to.

Everybody gives "advice to a young artist." Among your fans are those who are no longer young, who are artists or would-be artists, trying to balance the demands of workaday life with those of the creative life. (Witness the number of people who ask you about tunings!) We're not people who can quit our day jobs outright and write or paint or dance. We have advantages over youth: experience with the rich variety of life, enough sense not to self-destruct. How can we take what we have and fulfill our purpose with it? Specifically, what one to three pieces of advice would you give to this sort of no-longer-young artist?

RT: If you want to play music for your own enjoyment, well, great. Some of my favourite musicians in the world are amateurs with day jobs. The really tough thing, and I say this having watched friends of mine struggle, is to get any wider appreciation, to get a record company or radio station to take you seriously, to go from amateur to professional after the age of 40. It can be done, but it's a rare thing. So you have to ask yourself, what is fulfillment? Is it just playing for yourself? Playing for a few people in the living room/salon/bar once a week? Or is it having a larger audience, a career, a profile? It shouldn't be like this, but it is.

Having been an avid reader during your youth, do you have an opportunity to read any books between your numerous engagements ? If so, would you be prepared to tell us what topics and writer's interest you and whether you have any recommendations?

RT: I read a lot travelling, on planes, sitting in airports, waiting for sound check. To answer your question in full would take a long time. I could just tell you what I'm reading now:

GB 84 by David Peace -novel set around the miners' strike in the UK, real and fictional characters intermingling. Really talented writer. (Thanks Chris.....)

Krakatoa by Simon Winchester. I've enjoyed just about everything Winchester has written. An extraordinary historical event given great depth of background.

Collapse by Jared Diamond. Essential reading for anyone concerned about the future of the planet - everyone got their hand up? Why past and present civilisations collapse or succeed.

Riding The Wall Of Death by Allan J. Ford and Nick Corble. (Final Draft) Hope this gets published soon. A history of the fairground attraction and riders and characters who worked on it. Well researched and put together.

I think one of the most remarkable sounds emanating from the Box set is that of your voice on "The lady is a tramp". Indeed I initially believed my ears were creating a deception. Please comment on that song and your choice of voice and whether there is ever likely to be a repeat of your pukka English accent in future song?

RT: Pukka English? I was trying to be Buddy Greco. This was for a contest on Top Gear, John Peel's show on Radio 1. Not one listener guessed the band, which was some sort of achievement. It was one of those 'short straw' songs. Simon on drums, DM on piano, and the shortest straw for vocalist.

With regard to his lyrics describing a whole range of deviant behaviors from manipulative people through stalkers, abusers and even the outright psychopathic, I would like to know if RT reads psychology books or works purely from observation.

RT: I used to read psychology, because I really had no natural insight into people, and it helped. At some point, I gained a little bit of intuition, just by being older, I think. It doesn't interest me that much now...I know a few counsellors, whose judgement I greatly respect, but most of the psychologists I've met, especially the clinical variety, have been mad as snakes.

Bearing in mind the existence of a group of songs with boozy references (God Loves A Drunk, I'll Regret It All In The Morning, Down Where The Drunkards Roll, possibly I'm Taking My Business Elsewhere, perhaps even I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight, and no doubt others that don't immediately spring to mind) and given that the latest Notes From Home assure us that there is not a drop of alcohol in the house, can Mr. Thompson tell us about the last time he can remember being drunk? (if, of course, he ever was!).

RT: See question above re Rumi etc. I haven't been drunk since about 1974, and of course the best times are the ones you can't remember, but I'm told I was brilliant, witty, fascinating, etc.

I am getting around (eventually) to the songs which enthrall me - the ones about The Old Profession: Painted Ladies, Turning of the Tide, maybe Taking My Business Elsewhere, maybe Poor Little Beggar Girl, maybe Devonside, Man in Need?? The Egypt Room, I'll Regret It All in The Morning, (in fact there's not much 'silver' on Pour Down Like Silver), Cooksferry Queen?

Would RT please comment on these references in his rep?

RT: Read into it all what you will, and who am I to stop you, but I'd say only Turning Of The Tide is about a hooker. The rest are concerning degrees of relationships.