1 - RT Answers Internet Discussion List
8/27/2006 (updated 8/29/2006)

Richard Thompson For Completists

1. Recently a clip of an inspired 1999 Barrymore-Madison-bandconcert showed up at YouTube while every 18 months the rumour surfaces, that the full show has been captured by 5 cameras which made me wonder if your crystal ball tells you if there's a chance for a commercial DVD-release of this event before your (undesired by me) death? Flip Feij

RT: I would love to see this issued, but there are problems...there has been comment on the List about this, so I'm inclined to go into some detail as to the reasons - this is all, of course, as far as I know the facts:

The DVD was shot by Kenneth laBarre, and there was a verbal agreement, details to be agreed later, with my former manager, Donnie Graves. When it came to negotiation, lawyer Dana Cook, and Donnie were unable to reach agreement with Ken - they said that the deal he expected was too far away from any industry standard. My current manager, Tim Bernett, also tried to establish a deal in which Ken would recoup his costs, and share in profits. Again, he was unable to come to an agreement. I would dispute that Ken was treated aggressively, or unfairly in any way. Something should have been signed at the outset, no doubt, and everyone would have had the same expectations.

2. You are a prolific songwriter and have mentioned that you start feeling antsy when you haven't written a song for a little while (I believe you said "for a few weeks"). Have you ever experienced lengthy songwriting droughts? If so, what was the longest one? How do you overcome these droughts? Andrew Waller

RT: I don't keep a diary, ticking off the dark days...I try to get round the block thing by always having something older to tinker with - an extra verse needed somewhere, a bridge to nail down - just to keep the flow going; and then without thinking about it, other things start to pop up.

3. Assuming no or few restrictions on time and money, what would your recording plans or priorities be?

RT: I might be tempted to make a series of 'concept' albums with symphony orchestras, a rock opera or two, a 'duets' album with Barbara Streisand, etc. Maybe it's a good thing budgets are limited. One advantage would be the ability to re-record...I've never had that luxury.

4. You have played at many festivals over the years. This year in particular you graced several quite small gatherings in the UK with your presence, like Ascott, and Wickham for example. Are you ever tempted to turnmup with a small tent, stay the weekend, and join the audience to see the rest of the acts. If not, why not, and if yes, I can happily lend you a tent and a folding chair! David Jackson

RT: I have a tent, and a chair, and do camp, but my ideal is nature, with no-one else in sight, rather than the campsite at Glastonbury. Now, I can go shopping at Safeways, and rarely get recognised, but at festivals I don't get much peace if I go out into the crowd, even though I've grown a beard as a disguise. I never get spotted at Jazzfest in New Orleans, however, where I frequently go as a punter.

5. What size and kind of notebook do you like to carry around to jot down ideas, or does it all stay in the head? If you use notebooks, do you copy them to a larger one, or do you end up with a collection of smaller ones? Derrick Leigh

RT: Writers can be anal about stationery - I am of that school. I use those little Italian flip-top pocket notebooks for quick jottings on the move. For a workbook, I use a French 4-ring binder, and keep older pages in master files. I use French grid paper.

6. Am I right in suspecting you were made to listen to "Singing together" with William Appleby on BBC radio for schools, when you were a youngster? (The several folk songs that you pop into your repertoire (e.g. Shenandoah, Mingulay Boat Song) all seem to be the versions that we had to sing in primary school in the Fifties). Paul Woods

RT: I hated all that stuff at the time, because it wasn't Little Richard. I think my version of Shenendoah is different! We did learn a lot of Victorian, cleaned-up folk music at school, and country dancing...I don't think that happens any more.

7. So, aside from your 1000 Years project, might you ever consider recording further traditional material with a lighter touch than the RT Band generally gives the songs. (I ask this because your voice works just well with smaller groups, and/or slightly less-heavy arrangements. I'm thinking of "Mingulay", again, or the version of "Jealous Words" you performed on the Prairie Home Companion. Maybe record a selection of songs from "Singing Together" done for the 21st Century!)

RT: If and when it happens, fine.

8. How do you feel about the increased pressure from the industry to close down sites offering guitar tablature information? Do you feel, as I do, that a tablature can only ever be a "hint" as to how to play a song, and in any case when attempting dense and complex music such as your own, amateur efforts are often inaccurate (which might actually be a better reason to force their closure than that they notionally infringe some element of copyright)? Edward Collier

RT: I think TAB is a fine thing, and I use it myself for figuring out some jazz voicings. The downside of it is, you'll never figure out a different way of achieving the same thing - there's creativity in getting something wrong by ear. The TAB stuff of mine on the web is pretty inaccurate. I think the copyright thing is ridiculous, it should not be subject to the same laws as notated music.

9. What would a teenage RT do if he discovered tabs to Les Paul's "Caravan" and McGinty's Meal and Ale" by Willie Kemp? TJ McGrath

RT: I could 'get' Caravan by Les Paul, it's not harmonically difficult, so TAB might be useful for some things, but as above, by ear is sometimes easier, and can send you to other places. We did, however, have the wonderful half speed, 16 r.p.m., on the gramophone, for those tricky Django runs. There's a plug-in now called the Amazing Slow Downer, which is fantastic (and plays everything slower at true pitch).