New Q+A from RT!


Apologies that I can’t get to all your questions this month – a very large postbag – RT

- Quadrophenia or Tommy? – Jonathan Hecht

I prefer the mini-opera ‘A Quick One While He’s Gone’

- I love acoustic classics, amazing cd! Any chance of getting together with Joe Boyd again? He always seems to produce some of your finest work. – Gregg Viner

Glad you like Joe’s studio work. He always puts the artist front and centre in his productions. Some of the classic albums he’s done in the past still sound good as new. My next few projects are already spoken for, but I’m always happy to work with Joe.

-  Hi Richard. My twin sister and I have seen you and are huge fans of your music! I’m going to see you in October at the Scottish Rite auditorium once more. Here’s my question: do you have some sort of ritual done before a performance that you wouldn’t mind sharing with us? Thank you so much!  – Lara & Lizzie

 - I’m interested in how artists prepare themselves mentally/physically/ spiritually to get into their unique creative zones. Richard, would you care to share any of your pre-writing, pre-composing, or pre-performing rituals?  – Rebecca Clark

I don’t have pre-writing rituals, I just try to knuckle down, or get swept along by an already ongoing process. Pre-performance, I like to start thinking about the show early in the day, perhaps around mid-morning, about what kind of performance it will be, and I try to visualize myself on stage. This is just for a minute, but I’ll repeat this during the day, and with more frequency as showtime approaches, so that I’m fully focused when I walk on stage. I play guitar for somewhere between 20 minutes and an hour, usually scales and warm-up exercises, and do some vocal looseners, mostly checking the extremes of the vocal range.

- when are you next touring the electric band in england and why dont we in the uk get any request type shows – keep on keeping on! – Tim Wilson

This may change, but I’d hope to have the band touring the UK next Spring. We haven’t done an all-request show in the UK yet mostly because of venue. It requires a certain intimacy, and I just haven’t seen the right space for it yet.

- What is so special about a Lowden L32C? – Bob Drake

I think it’s a superbly built, great sounding instrument. My signature model, which is based on the L32C, sounds exceptional, and I’d recommend you give one a spin.

- Any chance that you and Elvis Costello will collaborate one day? – Sophie Houston

We have, from time to time, and I hope we’ll continue to do so in the future.

- Richard… I’ve been on a Humble Pie jag of late and wondered if you ever collaborated with Peter Frampton either in the studio or live? – Tom Morrissey

Last year, I guested with Mr. Frampton on a couple of his live shows in California, which was great fun. He’s a fine, melodic player, and very nice human being.

- You have done many all request shows with no restrictions as to which songs the audience can choose. Given your large canon of songs, have you ever thought of doing an all request show of just your own material? There are so many great songs to choose from! – Chris Maddox

I quite enjoy the random element that the normal show provides, but I know it frustrates some people. A lot depends on the make up and intentions of the audience. The crowd at Montalvo, where I’ve been doing it for some years, now seem to be out to baffle and confuse me with obscurities, waifs and strays…whereas the shows I did in Napa recently were almost all my songs, with only 3 or 4 covers per show. I enjoy both ends of this spectrum, and I think I’m still inclined to keep the requests inclusive of everything, and trust the audience to be intelligent, sophisticated, reasonable, witty, forgiving, encyclopaedic, and patient – surely not too much to ask?

- I have read that your father was a detective at Scotland Yard. Did any of his criminal cases find their way into any of your songs? Many thanks, Mark Stenzler

If my father was at liberty to discuss his cases, which I doubt, he chose not to bring his work home. I got the occasional ride in a squad car, which was pretty exciting, but I grew up in a block of flats where all the families were police, so there didn’t seem anything that exotic about Dad’s occupation. Later on, we might be in the pub together, and he’d excuse himself to go over and talk to someone for a few minutes. He’d come back and explain that that was old Charlie ‘Fingers’ Hutchison (or some such), who he’d put away for five years, and they were just having a laugh and a chat about the old times. Once, after he’d retired, we were watching the news, and there was an item about the legalisation of marijuana. “Marijuana?” my father said, “We used to call that Indian Hemp. We’d confiscate it and keep it down at the station. We all tried it, of course – can’t say it did anything for me though!”


- So when are you going to tour Australia and New Zealand, Richard? – Rosalind Dalefield

- Any chance you’ll make it to Australia in the next few years!? – Tom Ruggles

We are planning to be in Australia and New Zealand with the Electric Trio next March – check Facebook or our website for updates.


- You’ve expressed your fondness for the Highland Bagpipe and you’ve authored a second part for traditional pipe tune, correct? Any further pipe plans? Can you suggest any of your own compositions that could possibly be adapted to the pipes? And I’m the guy who brought bagpipes to a guitar camp, last year. Had a blast!!  – Ross DeAeth

Don’t think I’ve written anything for pipes, although I’ve adapted several pipe tunes for guitar. I love the pipes, Highland, Lowland, Irish, Northumbrian, etc. It’s just a sound I grew up with. I have a tune on my next record that I think would adapt perfectly as a slow pipe march.

- Why did RT say there was no good music in the 80s in his Asheville performance of 1000 years of music – what was Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Jackson Browne, CSN&Y and so many more. Surely they were as good or better than Abba, who were included,Nina Sazer ODonnell

My comment was fairly tongue in cheek…All the acts you mention I think of as 70s artists – including ABBA – they certainly all started in the 70s. My main dislike of the 80s is the bad SynthPop, which still sounds mostly dispensible to me, although I love the Korgis (which we play in 1,000 Years), Gary Numan, and Marc Almond.

- Richard…(And MEGA talented family/people) you surround yourself with…After 3 decades, one Frets and Refrains with our Daughter, Luci, (Opera Luci), and 4 Concerts…Allow us to introduce ourselves as the Matthews Family! Hello to You, Nancy and You beautiful Children!! Thank you and yours for being so accessible! I love your family’s extremely amazing talent! We (my family) and I are anxiously awaiting the ‘Thompson Family Album’. Kudos for anticipating your fans every desire! However, after the many kudos, We do have a Question…You are so very Literary/literate; (Yes, I know it is a ‘British Thing with the ‘Queens’s English’ and all, LOL) truly you are…Who are your 4 favorite Authors/Authoresses. And, do you read plenty?  – Margo Matthews

I read when I can, it’s one of life’s pleasures…and don’t let the accent fool you, I’m not that literate! Off the top of my head, 4 authors I enjoy:

Kate Atkinson (Life After Life)

Haruki Murakami (Kafka On The Shore)

Hilary Mantel (Bring Up The Bodies)

David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas)

 I love your new album Acoustic Classics but why did you re-record Vincent Black Lightning when it’s so close to the original and there are so many other songs that you could have re-recorded?  – Keith Peverly

This CD was intended as an introduction for first-time listeners – hence the inclusion of a lot of ‘favourites’, including VBL. You’ll probably be more interested in volume 2…

- Why do you never seem to tour in Europe (especially Greece)? - Max Sommers 

I do tour a lot in Europe, probably less in Mediterranean countries (like Greece), and maybe that’s just a language difference. Please annoy your local promoter to book me – I can’t play unless I get asked! – It’s really not my choice.

 - What’s your favorite Japanese food? I’ll treat you next time! – Tomonori Shimizu

I’m fond of katsuo-no-tatake.

- Did you ever live with the rest of fairport, by the Ash in Little Hadham? My Dad was headteacher of the village school, I think Dave Swarbrick’s child or children attended for a while. We lived in the old school house and Dad took cine footage of the day the lorry hit The Angel, it is now transferred to video and soon to be on DVD. I attended both concerts given in the cow field at the foot of the Roman barrow opposite the pub, I was a 13 year old girl, I sat on the stage and was completely starstruck! Many years later, I was in my forties and working in Cambridge. Swarb, whilst very poorly and using oxygen on stage, performed at one of the folk clubs. During the interval I went up and introduced myself, he immediately asked about the lorry incident as by pure coincidence he had been telling his companion about it the night before. I was so happy to see the improvement in his health more recently as the most vivid of images I have back from those days, 1969-1970 if memory serves, is of young Swarb leaping about on the stage and fiddling like no-one else can. Later I became a fan and follower of yours, always at the very front of any concerts where you could dance, attending every concert local enough for me to get to. I kept this up until health prevented me from doing so and now delight when you unexpectedly pop up on the radio in the mighty boosh or recently loose ends. You have been a big part of my later life, but have never known for sure whether I had met you in my early teens or whether at that point you had already left. 2 or 3 of your instantly recognisable chords, still have the power to flush my body with a warm energy and a charge to shoot up my spine! I hope you continue to play forever. xxx Jacqui Haynes

I was there with the band during their tenure at The Angel, had the bedroom above Swarb’s, and was thankfully away when the lorry hit! Yes, it really is great to see Swarb still playing, and I appreciate you still listening after all these years. All best wishes.

- Richard – Many years ago you contributed to the Stargazer album by a young Scottish singer called Shelagh McDonald. No connection, I’m sure, but shortly afterwards Shelagh became ill and disappeared from view for 30 years, much of that time living in a tent in the wilds of Scotland. Do you have any memories of that session and her, and were you aware that she has returned to playing and singing, her voice being as beautiful as ever. – David Jackson

I remember working on the sessions. There was some speculation about Shelagh – one theory was that she worked for the CIA, and was withdrawn from field operations because of danger to her life. I’d heard that she was back singing, which is great news.

- Was that a crack I saw in Zoetermeer in your Lowden’s soundboard? - Luc Luyten

Yes it was. I don’t know when it appeared. I try to keep guitars humidified, but it’s still hazardous travelling and flying through all different climates.

- While I love Richard Thompson’s songs and singing, as a guitarist, I yearn to hear lots more of Richards brilliant guitar playing uninterrupted by his compelling lyrics and singing. Are there any available Instrumental-only recordings? If not, may I humbly suggest that an all instrumental CD would be very well received by legions of fans. Many thanks for years of spectacular music! - Mike Liebhold

I have an old CD called ‘Strict Tempo” which is instrumental dance tunes. Other than that, I get a bit bored with instrumental-only projects. I like to mix it all in together.

- Hello Richard, having finished Ry CooderLos Angeles stories’ I was wondering if you might consider going down the same path at some time? I still miss news from home;the sword fight from a wheelchair is one of the few times Ive laughed out loud from the printed page, regards - Max Cuthbert

If I get time, I might do something like that – mostly I’m busy on music projects.

- Dear Richard, thank you for yours pray for us. First of all, forgive me for all your music, that was downloaded by me illegally. But I’m buy legal content as far as possible. Second. Please, share links to your livestream events a few hours earlier! On your Facebook page I mean. When you are playing live, this is a deep night in Russia usually. I want to have possibility to be with your band and your listeners. Yes, the quality of sound is poor, but I love to feel spirit of your live performances. Third. Did you know, are there any songs, written by Hazrat Inayat Khan? On iTunes, I found Jelaluddin Gary Sill, album “Singing Zikar of Hazrat Inayat Khan”.  How can I get acquainted with his music? How can I learn to play or singing his music? Thank you! - Ayrat Shavikov.

Sometimes we don’t know if something is going to be streamed until the last minute, but I take your point, and I’ll try to give more notice if possible.

I know very little about Hazrat Inayat Khan – sorry.

- I am a long time fan of Richard Thompsons music and have seen him play twice (ACL 2010 and March 2013 The Grenada in Dallas).  I also play around on the guitar and am trying to learn a few songs (Beeswing and When the Spell is Broken) via the iPad app, The Right Path, which is worth the money just to hear Richard describe his playing and the songs.

 - With those songs, however, I am having a hard time with making the bends Richard is so easily able to do.  While Ive played for a long time 40 years or so, Ive never been inclined to fiddle around with the action of my guitars. Im a strummer, not lead.  I take my guitars as they are off the shelf.  I might change string gauges, but I dont mess with the bridge or tension rod etc. (That being said, I couldnt tell you what gauge strings I use now, beside Nanoweb). And although my girlfriend knows Danny Ferrington (she got his ukes as a fantasy gift in the Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog), Im not likely to ever have a custom made guitar and there are no luthiers where I live. I play a nice Taylor, however.  Heres my question: What gauge strings does Richard use on his acoustic guitar? Would adjusting the action make it easier to bend the strings on my acoustic?  Am I just a wimp and need to practice more I’m fully prepared for the latter answer. Thanks. - Robert Dunlap

I use light gauge strings, which are really medium gauge – heavy gauge used to be a choice for the old jazz players – Eddy Lang reputedly had a .075 6th string! – my gauges are .012 to .054. You should be able to bend a semitone on the 1st and 2nd strings, even a tone is normal – a semitone on strings 3, 4 and 5, and a tone on the 6th string. The action should not make a great difference to bending, although I recommend you find someone, somewhere to set your neck up properly. Even a well-manufactured guitar like a Taylor will move a little as it settles down, or as the climatic conditions change. Failing all this, you may just be a wimp – but all is not lost. Guitar accessory suppliers will sell you devices to strengthen your fingers, and you can work on wrists and arms with fairly light free weights.