Richard Thompson On Getting Older and Losing Meaning
Besides being a stellar guitarist, Richard Thompson is a superb songwriter and one hell of a witty dude. Over the course of four decades, Thompson has evolved from an above average, British folk rocker to a legendary guitarist plying his craft across several genres.
Speaking from a tour stop in New York City and in anticipation of Saturday's show at the Granada Theater, Thompson spoke with DC9 about his tremendous new album, Electric, and how people covering your songs can be a good and a bad thing.
I hope it's not too early for you. You probably don't do too many interviews at 8 in the morning.
On no, it's not too early. It's rock and roll. I usually get up pretty early. Maybe that's a sign of age.
You turn 64 this week, correct?
Yes, later this week, but I am not a self celebratory person. I just let it quietly slip away and slip past. It's absolutely true that the older we get, the less we like birthdays.
For the fun of it, I looked up some of the people who share your name. There are many politicians, members of royalty and even a U.S. General from 1926.
I had no idea. That's strange. I thought I was the only one. That is kind of sad.
Your new album, Electric, is a hell of a effort. Listening to it made me think about the movie Spinal Tap, when the guys had all the amps turned up to 11.
[Laughs] I think that when I make a record, I like it to sound like it's spontaneous and like it is live. This one mostly was. Everything was recorded very quickly. It was done in a house which is a good way to record. I think it has a certain spirit to it which is something that you always strive for. I'm not sure you always achieve it. I am glad that spirit comes across.
Why record in Nashville?
I wanted to record in a relaxed environment. I wasn't trying to make a country record. It clearly isn't that, but I wanted a certain vibe and ambiance.
While you were in Tennessee, did you make it to Graceland?
I didn't make it to Graceland, but I did make it to the Country Music Hall of Fame. That is quite fun. I did this question and answer thing at the Hall of Fame. When you perform there, they take you back stage. I got to play Chet Atkins guitar. I was looking at these great 78 rpm records and these great artifacts. It was all cool stuff.
The new album starts off with a bang with "Stony Ground." Did you intentionally lead off with a rocking cut?
Yes, it's good to start a record off with something mid-paced, something that is not too fast and not too slow. I think that song does that. It's a slightly intriguing sounding song. It has a sound to it that I don't think any of the other tracks have. We had a few choices for a lead off track, but we went with that one in the end.
I loved "Stuck on a Treadmill." It sounds like Fairport Convention meets Black Sabbath.
[Laughs] That's a marriage made in hell. It's a sort of a funky version of Fairport.
Is "Good Things Happen to Bad People" autobiographical?
I would say not. If it was autobiographical, it would have to be tongue in cheek. I think it's about someone else as far as I can tell.
You've had so many of your songs covered by artists in a wide variety of genres. Do you ever hear a cover version and think what are these people doing to my song?