Friday, August 31, 2018

EXCLUSIVE Q&A with RICHARD THOMPSON


MANY RIVERS TO CROSS:

An EXCLUSIVE Q&A 
with 
RICHARD THOMPSON

DAVE RAYBURN: 13 RIVERS contains 13 songs with 13 stories. Does the number 13 hold any special, perhaps unlucky, significance with this collection?
RICHARD THOMPSON: A lot of albums have 12 songs, and this, to paraphrase Nigel Tufnel, is one more. 13s don’t bother me. As rivers go, it’s a good number.

DAVE: The new self-produced album was recorded in analog at Boulevard Recording in Los Angeles using a minimalist approach and a variety of fabled equipment. What kind of unique gear did your engineer, Clay Blair, bring to the mix and do you feel that it helped in making this such a warm, headphone-friendly album?
RICHARD: We recorded on an original Studer 24 track machine, tracks and all overdubs. At some point you throw that into the digital realm because it ends up in that medium. Clay is a Beatles nut, so he has a lot of Abbey Road clone gear, and just about every amp or guitar the Mop Tops ever used. It does all help to warm up the sound for sure.

DAVE: Noting an intense year for you and your family, these songs reflect on a precise period in your life. You’re also not one to shy away from spinning a healthy dose of imagination into your reality, songwise. How much of this album would you say is a transparent account of the songwriter?
RICHARD: I think everything gets twisted a little, moves from reality to fiction, so it creates a kind of parallel world. The emotion is the same, but the facts have moved a few feet to the left.

DAVE: At a very young 69 years of age, what do you find to be the most challenging thing about making your way through today’s music world?
RICHARD: I don’t think I do make my way through it. I ignore most of it. I feel I live out on the edge of it, and I’m grateful the audience can find me there.


DAVE: “The Dog In You” is quite direct in its description of the vile predatory creatures that we read about all too often these days in the news. Is this song a reaction to the recent #MeToo movement or is it an observation of something else altogether?
RICHARD: This is very personal, and I can’t discuss it. Take it as you find it.

DAVE: In a 2009 episode of Elvis Costello’s SPECTACLE, you discussed the tragic folk music that you often draw from noting that “dark” was generally what you considered to be your normal. You immediately followed up by saying that you were working on “happy.” How’s that going?
RICHARD: That never turns out to be very interesting! Dark always has the best songs. I’ll stick to my ‘normal’. Most songs that everyone likes are on the serious or sad side of experience.

DAVE: Your earliest musical influences came from your father’s substantial record collection, additionally fueled by the early rock and roll records your sister would bring home. Do you happen to recall the very first record you ever bought on your own free will based on your own burgeoning tastes?
RICHARD: At five years old, I bought “A Four-Legged Friend” by Roy Rogers (with Trigger). The B-side was “There’s A Cloud In My Valley Of Sunshine,” a song which has obviously influenced my whole world view and musical taste.


DAVE: Your musical education knows few boundaries, as made perfectly clear with your 1000 YEARS OF POPULAR MUSIC collection from 2003. If you could hypothetically travel back in time, who would you care most to collaborate with and what would you wish to achieve through the experience?
RICHARD: I would have no desire to collaborate, just to watch and learn…so many great points in time to be a fly on the wall. I’d love to see dance music in England in the 1500s…Mozart conduct some of his own music…be at the premiere of the Rite Of Spring…see the Quintet Du Hot Club De France…see Louis Armstrong & His Hot Five. 

DAVE: In between your time with Fairport Convention and the beginnings of your solo career, you spent a significant period as a session musician, most notably providing accompaniment to the very private Nick Drake. Did you have any one-on-one involvement with Nick while working on recordings such as “Time Has Told Me” and “Hazey Jane II”?
RICHARD: I just came in after the fact and overdubbed guitar. Nick was not in the studio at the time. I saw Nick frequently because we had the same manageent and the same record company, but there was no discussion with Nick about the recording - I talked to producer Joe Boyd and engineer John Wood about what Nick would like.

DAVE: RUMOR & SIGH’s “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” from 1991 has arguably become your signature song. Given the loving lyrical detail, were you ever the owner of such a fine piece of machinery?
RICHARD: Vincents were always too expensive for me - I only had a fairly crappy BSA. A Lightning just went at auction for just under one million dollars. But that’s the point of the song - it’s not your everyday bike.

DAVE: You’ve got a stellar array of players (Taras Prodaniuk, Michael Jerome, and Bobby Eichorn) assisting on the new record. Will they also be accompanying you out on the road in support of 13 RIVERS?
RICHARD: Yes, they are all out on the road with me.

DAVE: Across these thirteen new episodes, you generously project sharp poetry, fiery guitar bursts, and critical glances… all familiar and rewarding denominators from a productive music career that’s lasted over fifty years. With eight studio albums released in just the last ten years, do you foresee any sign of slowing down?
RICHARD: I do what I can. You never know how much of a career you have left, so enjoy it and embrace it. I have a lot of projects I want to do, so I’m busy!

Many thanks to Richard Thompson and Steve Dixon

RICHARD THOMPSON
13 RIVERS

9.14.18

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