Interview with Dave Pegg by Anil Prasad
© Copyright 2002 by Anil Prasad. All rights reserved.
This interview is part of the "Fairport Convention:
Come All Ye" story. Please refer to the main article
for related biographical and historical information.
      What does Fairport's 35th anniversary mean to you?
      I'm just grateful we're still able to get on the plane or into the van. 
      [laughs] We've always been a working band. We don't sell enough records to 
      sit at home relaxing until it's time to make the next album. It has to be 
      an ongoing thing.We've always had to work and tread the boards. We get 
      most of our fun by going out and playing live. We've already done so much 
      this year. We did 28 concerts in England and Wales, then Tokyo for a 
      couple nights, then a week's worth of gigs in Australia. After that, we 
      did Belgium and Germany for 10 dates. We've already done a year's work 
      already by most band's standards. 
      I'm very pleased we've been able to survive. In England, we have a very 
      loyal bunch of fans, some of which have been with us since the late '60s. 
      We also have some young people who've discovered the group by attending 
      our Cropredy Festival. We're very grateful we still have an audience. It's 
      very much a club, the Fairport audience. Everywhere we go, we know 
      people—especially in England. At our Cropredy Festival, we probably know 
      half of the 20,000 people who attend by name. They've been here for so 
      long. We couldn't survive without people coming to see us live. 
      Where does the new album fall within the group's back catalog?
      Oh God, I don't know. There are so many Fairport albums. [laughs] Every 
      one is different. Every time we make an album every 18 months or so, the 
      musical content is down to what the guys in the band come up with. We're 
      always on the lookout for good songs. We're kind of selfish in some ways 
      because we just play stuff we feel works in the band. We tend not to 
      overstretch these days. We're at that age where if it doesn't work fairly 
      instantly, we feel it's not right for us and we'll choose something else. 
      We pick from the best of what we've got at the time and that which fits 
      the people in the band.
      Why is playing material best suited to the band a selfish act?
      Most other bands probably consider things like airplay or whether the 
      record company will like it. Those aspects have never been a priority for 
      Fairport right from the start of the band's career. We've been lucky 
      enough to do what we want without being pressured by what's popular or 
      fashionable. It's the way people do their best work—playing stuff they 
      really want to play. We just hope our audience likes it. Sometimes, 
      they're not sure about the stuff we come up with, even though we love it. 
      That goes vice-versa too. Sometimes we record stuff we're not convinced of 
      and then people come up saying "Oh, we really like that. It's great."

       Describe the process of putting the new album together.
      We're lucky to have Chris Leslie. His songwriting has really developed 
      over the last three or four years. We have several songs on this record 
      that Chris brought to the band. "My Love Is In America" is one of my 
      favorite songs ever actually. Since Chris joined the band, there have also 
      been some songs we've been able to reintroduce into the live format like 
      "Now Be Thankful" and "Banks of the Sweet Primroses." We also looked at 
      "The Deserter" again, a great song by a guy called John Richards which 
      Simon [Nicol] recorded on a solo album. We also previously did a version 
      of it on Old, New, Borrowed, Blue. We had started doing versions of these 
      songs live and many of our English fans said it'd be nice to have a new 
      recording of them. That's why we went back and did that. Also, it's our 
      35th anniversary, so it's nice to have a look at the past, as well as 
      including new stuff.
      The way Fairport records is quite old fashioned. We've reverted to the way 
      we recorded in the '60s and '70s which is doing everything mostly live, 
      with very few overdubs. What we do is spend two or three days looking at 
      new material with a view to recording it. Then we play them a few times 
      and go into our studio. We have our own studio in Oxfordshire called 
      Woodworm. It's right next to my house in an old Baptist chapel that we 
      converted. It's not a big place, but it's quite a nice room in which we're 
      able to play at the same time. We also have a great engineer named Marc 
      Tucker. We record everything to 24 track analog and then bounce it over to 
      Marc's Soundscape digital system for overdubs and mixing. It's a fairly 
      easy process. We spent about three weeks in the studio making the new 
      album in total.
      How does the process differ from the days of the Allcock-Mattacks line-up?
      It's a different thing. That was a very long-running line-up. We were 
      together about 11 years—the longest of any Fairport line-up. We went 
      through lots of musical changes in the late '80s. It was a great, very 
      adventurous time because we made music utilizing Martin's very good 
      abilities on the keyboards. We got into lots of programming stuff. We 
      would attempt very ambitious pieces like "The Wounded Whale" and "Red and 
      Gold" which used big, orchestrated arrangements that Martin would program 
      in. He'd then play guitar over the top. It was a very interesting period, 
      but completely different. Our records were more formulated then. We spent 
      an awful lot of time in the studio making those albums. There was a lot of 
      sequencing, programming and playing to click tracks. Now, it's kind of 
      gone the other way. It's much more simple. With the kind of music we're 
      doing now, you can literally set up in a pub or someone's front room and 
      play most of it live. Every different line-up and album has been different 
      in its approach. Times change so quickly. When you get new personnel, you 
      want to utilize their unique talents and abilities. The music changes 
      according to who is in the band.

       What's Gerry Conway like to work with compared to Mattacks?
      They're both fantastic drummers. I've spent most of my life playing with 
      Dave and we have an instinctive way of playing together which was very 
      satisfying. It's a bit like that with Gerry too. Gerry comes from a 
      different background and is a totally different drummer than Dave. He's 
      more into percussion. He's played with Fairport before. I've also played 
      with him in Jethro Tull on the Broadsword and the Beast album. So, I don't 
      have a problem with Gerry. When Dave left the band, Gerry was our first 
      choice. He's very familiar with the way Fairport records and we're great 
      friends. It was a fairly easy transition.
      Do you feel the band competes with its own past?
      It's something I've never thought about because I've been doing it for so 
      long. I've been in the group 32 years now. I have my favorite periods of 
      Fairport and I look back and think "Oh, that was great. It was wonderful 
      what we were doing." I love the Full House line-up. It was a fantastic 
      period having Richard Thompson standing next to you playing such 
      sensational guitar every night. It was a real thrill. I also loved it when 
      Jerry [Donahue] was in the band. I'm kind of a guitar-oriented person. 
      Rising for the Moon is also one of my favorite albums of all time. I also 
      love Fairport Nine. I like Bonny Bunch of Roses too, it's a great album. 
      The stuff the current line-up does is up there too.
      I never think "Are we as good as we used to be?" because you can never do 
      that. It's the kind of thing the media does. A lot of people wrote 
      Fairport off when Sandy [Denny] left the band in '69 and then when Richard 
      left. It's kind of been diminishing with the media ever since. It's like 
      they think "Oh yeah, I remember Fairport. But now, they don't have 
      Richard, Sandy or Swarbrick." I never think along those lines because I 
      want it to be as good as it can be with the current line-up. 
      Having said that, as time goes by and the older you get, music's one of 
      those things for which you remember how great it was when you were a 
      teenager and first got hold of something that really turns you on. I love 
      The Band and its records like Music from Big Pink and The Beatles. I find 
      I only play records up to 1974. All of my favorite music is from the '60s 
      and '70s. I was playing Kate and Anna McGarrigle's albums the other day. 
      They're sensational. I'm not kind of okay with what's happening in terms 
      of modern music.

       Let's discuss a couple of criticisms leveled against the band lately. The 
      first one is the band's decision to re-record older material in versions 
      some consider less definitive than the originals. What's your opinion on 
      I have to disagree or we wouldn't have bothered recording them. [laughs] 
      If you start listening to what people say, you'd never go in the studio. 
      We make music for ourselves. If people don't like it, fair enough. They 
      can go see another band. But it's also Fairport fans that asked us to do 
      these songs. We're a very sociable band. We always go out and sign CDs 
      after shows and pick up comments from people. We get a lot of feedback. We 
      get lots of letters from people. The versions of "Portmeirion," "The 
      Deserter" and "Banks of the Sweet Primroses" are going down really well. 
      What you have to bear in mind is a lot of people have never heard these 
      songs. They didn't buy Angel Delight or Simon's solo album, but they've 
      heard the band in concert and want versions of the songs. That's why we 
      did it really. Otherwise, if someone wants to hear it, they might not be 
      able to get Angel Delight on CD because it may be difficult to find. So, 
      it's all purely coming from people's demand really.
      The second criticism is the idea that the band is veering away from its 
      folk-rock reputation towards a more laid-back sound. 
      We're called a folk-rock band and I think we still are. If you look at 
      this current CD, there are some traditional songs like "The Happy Man," 
      which I'm particularly proud of. The songs comes from this village five 
      miles away called Adderbury. They've been singing it for years, but 
      no-one's heard it outside of Adderbury. So, in some respects, we're 
      keeping the tradition going. We've introduced that song to a much wider 
      We're not bothered with comparing anything we do to what we did in the 
      past. We get a bunch of songs together we think we can perform well and 
      that's it—that's an album. We're not trying to make another Liege and 
      Lief. We use outside songs like "The Crowd" that Anna Ryder wrote. We 
      really love the song. Most people are hearing it for the first time with 
      us. It's a song people really get off on. So, I think we're really doing 
      it right. There's no point in trying to make the music sound like 
      something else you did in the past or a particular style. You have to 
      approach everything new and from scratch.
      Everyone points to you as the key reason Fairport and Cropredy survive to 
      this day. What's kept you committed to this band through its many ups and 
      I wish I knew! [laughs] It's certainly not the money. Cropredy is 
      something I'm 100 percent committed to. My wife Chris organizes it and our 
      whole existence is based around it. It's become the biggest 
      folk-rock-related event in England. It's something we're very proud of. 
      We've been doing it for more than 20 years now. Obviously, Fairport plays 
      there every year and it's the biggest event on our calendar. It's 
      something we look forward to immensely.

       I'm a bass player. I have to play in a band and I like playing in 
      Fairport. They're my friends. I've spent 32 years in the band and I'm 54 
      years old. I've been involved with the band for well over half my life. 
      There are times when I think I'd like to get away or have a year off from 
      it to do other stuff, but I still get the chance to do other things. I 
      played with Jethro Tull for 16 years as well, which was very musically 
      satisfying. We made some great albums. I still get asked to play on 
      people's records from time-to-time. And when anyone uses our studio, I 
      usually end up playing on their records too. [laughs] So, I'm still very 
      active musically and Fairport remains a great release. 
      When I play with Fairport, I'm doing what I want to do musically. Apart 
      from the historic aspect of it, I enjoy making records with Fairport, 
      playing live and the company. I'd always have to play live even if I 
      wasn't in the group. I'd have to play with someone else. The bass is 
      pretty boring if you play it on your own unless you're Jaco [Pastorius] or 
      Victor Wooten. When you play like I do, you have to play with other 
      people. [laughs]
      Do you listen to people like Pastorius and Wooten much?
      Oh yeah, absolutely. I love Victor. He's fantastic. I'm really pleased 
      Fairport is on Compass Records, the same label he's on. The people at 
      Compass like Alison Brown are great. They're all musos. In fact, we have 
      Alison Brown playing at Cropredy this year. 
      How has your bass playing evolved over the last 30 years?
      It hasn't evolved. [laughs] It's exactly the same as when I was 19 years 
      old. I still play the same three notes! I've never really altered my style 
      at all. I must confess I never practice. Musically, I'm very unschooled, 
      but I do really enjoy playing the bass and performing live. Playing music 
      is the only time I ever play. I put my bass in its case when I'm not 
      playing and it won't come out until I play it again. I might get it out to 
      clean it. [laughs] I don't think my style has really changed at all. I 
      never got involved in the slapping thing. I'm still very old fashioned 
      because 60 percent of the time I still play with a plectrum. But I enjoy 
      it immensely. When you play in your band, you get to do whatever you want. 
      I didn't really enjoy playing sessions, which I did a lot in the '70s with 
      Dave Mattacks. We played on so many people's albums then. I never enjoyed 
      having to change my style to fit somebody else's music. I figure if my 
      style doesn’t work almost instantly, then they have the wrong bass player.
      How would you describe your style?
      Lazy. [laughs] It's just something that comes very naturally to me. I try 
      not to get in the way of the vocals. I try to use some taste and restraint 
      whenever possible. I also like having a go and we still have some songs in 
      Fairport in which we get to rock out. In the current line-up, we do "The 
      Light of Day" off the new album which is a chance to stretch. "Matty 
      Groves" is still great fun to play. We've played it every night since I 
      joined the band. It's an opportunity to kind of show off a bit. 

        How did the Fairport Unconventional boxed set come about?
      It was a real labor of love by Nigel Schofield and Neil Wayne. They did a 
      great job on the Martin Carthy boxed set and wanted to do a Fairport one. 
      It was so difficult for them to get permission from all these different 
      labels, but they had 100 percent cooperation from us. We said "Go for it" 
      because we trust them. We thought the Carthy set was spectacular, with 
      incredible information in a great booklet. I don't think anyone else could 
      have done it. 
      What was your involvement in track selection?
      None whatsoever. I didn't figure my thoughts on track selection were 
      necessary. There was no point in telling them what I think. I gave them 
      150 DATs from live gigs and studio outtakes and said "Here, help 
      yourselves." I also had several lengthy meetings with them and gave them 
      old photographs and put them in touch with various people. That's all I 
      did. I think having an outsider put the thing together and choose tracks 
      is what makes it work. There are too many conflicting interests in the 
      band. One person might think "That's crap. I sang out of tune" or "That's 
      a bum note." It would take forever with the band's involvement. It's best 
      to let someone do it for you.
      Island has taken an interest in reissuing expanded versions of the 
      Fairport back catalog. What accounts for their interest in doing this? 
      I have no idea. It's nice that they do these things because there are 
      people that want to buy them, but they're not going to sell them in vast 
      quantity. There's nothing in it for them. They're not going to sell a lot, 
      maybe 3,000 to 4,000 copies each. For the amount of work involved, the 
      return is negligible. 
      It's taken them awhile to do. People have been asking for this stuff for 
      years and years. I had lots of discussions with Island to do a boxed set 
      for the 25th anniversary, but it's difficult for a big label to justify 
      spending any time or energy on projects which won't sell bucketloads. 
      Also, the people working for them now have never heard of Fairport 
      Convention. We were on their label from 1970 to 1975. It was 26 years ago. 
      Now, I call up Island and say "I'm Dave Pegg from Fairport Convention" and 
      they go "Who?" It's like they've never heard of the band. They're a great 
      label and at times they've been very helpful to us, but times change. 
      Everybody I know left years and years ago. It's all these outsiders that 
      put these things together. I'm pleased they're doing it. It's good that 
      Island allowed Free Reed to use some of the stuff they own for the boxed 

       The Manor sessions were recently unofficially released. How do you look 
      back at those sessions and that period of the band's history?
      I don't know where people got the tapes, but we used some of them on the 
      Free Reed boxed set. It's a bit annoying when things like that get out 
      because it was only Swarb and myself that ever had the tapes. Anyway, it 
      doesn't matter because it's a bit of history. It was a time of great 
      stress. The band that recorded those sessions had disintegrated after we 
      made that version of the Rosie album. It wasn't the fault of the people in 
      the band, but it didn't gel. We hadn't played together and it didn't work 
      out, which is why we never utilized any of the tapes and then went on to 
      record it all again for the Rosie album which came out. The Manor sessions 
      don't embarrass me at all. It doesn't bother me that people have them or 
      want to hear them. I'm not embarrassed by any of the stuff on it because 
      you can't be. It's what happened at the time. It's like a photograph. It's 
      nothing to be ashamed of, but at the time, we didn't think the tapes were 
      of good enough quality or content to put out.
      In my opinion, Tipplers Tales and Bonny Bunch of Roses stand as highlights 
      in the band's pantheon of releases. How do you look back that period of 
      Fairport's history?
      I'm glad you like those albums. I like them as well. They're very folky. 
      It was a time when most of the stuff on those albums was traditional. We 
      did some nice stuff very well on them. They were recorded very quickly at 
      a studio just up the road here from Oxfordshire. Tipplers Tales was done 
      in 10 days from start to finish.
      Simon had just come back to the band. We did a few days or rehearsal and 
      started doing gigs. The musical climate of the time was a bit difficult 
      with the punk thing. We felt a bit out of place, but we enjoyed making 
      those albums. Vertigo put them out—a subsidiary of Phonogram. It was a 
      very enjoyable period musically. We got on very well together. But Swarb 
      was having hearing problems. Also, at some of the gigs we were doing, we 
      felt so old and out of place with what was happening around us musically. 
      We weren't sure why we considered it or cared about it. So, Swarb moved up 
      to Scotland where he bought a place and then we went our separate ways. We 
      didn't want to replace Swarb. He didn't want to be in the group, so it was 
      a natural place to stop.
      Vertigo also played a role in ending the group at that time by buying the 
      band out of its contract. 
      It wasn't a great deal of money. It was about £30,000. It was the first 
      time we had ever made money out of music. We got like £7,000 each. It was 
      more money than we'd ever had in our lives. This was back in '78 and it 
      enabled us to split up. [laughs] It's how Swarb bought his place in 
      Scotland. It was great. Everybody had a bit of money. Prior to that, we 
      had never made any money on Fairport. It was always a real struggle. That 
      was one of the worst aspects after all these years—when you work your 
      balls off and get nothing at the end of the day. It was always a major 
      problem for the group. It was the reason the Rising for the Moon line-up 
      split-up. We did 30 dates in America, 25 in England, worked our balls off, 
      and at the end had nothing. People need money to live. It's why we set up 
      our own label in '79. The main criteria was everybody would have to make a 
      living with it. The only reason we can survive now is because of our own 
      label which pays the artists 80 percent of net profits as opposed to 10 
      percent, as in most standard record deals. It works by being our own 
      cottage industry in which we do everything ourselves.

       Tell me about the Woodworm Records release philosophy. It seems you put 
      out a disc for about a year-and-a-half and then license it out to many 
      labels afterwards.
      We're such a small label that we can't afford to keep a catalog with all 
      of our titles because our storeroom is our garage. There's only so much 
      room in it. [laughs] So, what happens is we'll put out a new Fairport CD 
      and it'll have a selling life of about 18 months. Anybody that wants to 
      buy it will buy it in that timeframe because we'll be playing in their 
      town or they'll get it through the mail order site. If they're in England, 
      they'll be able to get it from the record store for about five weeks after 
      release. The shops don't bother to stock it after that. The new CD is 
      probably selling 100 copies a week across English record shops. It came 
      out January 15th, so its life is going to be another few weeks and then 
      nobody will stock it anymore. It'll disappear from the shops. When we get 
      to the point when we're selling like 10 a week, we can't do it anymore. 
      You have to press up another 1,000 at a time to make it economically 
      viable. So, you have to stop and say "Right, this is it, because I haven't 
      got room to store these CDs anymore." It's as simple as that. At that 
      point, we figure everybody who hasn't bought it now is never going to. So, 
      then I sell the stuff to various labels and they put out compilations. 
      The compilations benefit the band when we go abroad. People bring us these 
      compilations to sign. When they do, it's often the first time I see them 
      even though I licensed them. Sometimes it is the compilations, not the 
      original albums, through which they learn about us. It's because the 
      people who put out the compilation CDs often have better worldwide 
      distribution than we do. We have Compass in America and their have 
      licensees and we have a distributor in England. That's about it. So, the 
      compilations mean Fairport's music has a chance to get onto some shelves 
      in other countries. It's the only way we can work. It's the way we do 
      things. As a tiny label, we don't have an office with a dozen people. So, 
      I figure it's a way of getting our music to more people. People who have 
      bought all the proper albums don't have to buy the compilations because 
      they've already got the music. It makes no difference if you're a Fairport 
      fan. You don't need to feel obliged to buy the compilations.
      Tell me about the logistical challenges and risks involved with putting 
      Cropredy on every year.
      Every year, we have to look at the festival to see how it did. We always 
      hope to have one the following year. Last year was a very bad one for us 
      because England had the foot and mouth disease epidemic. It was a real 
      worrier because our ticket sales were down 25 percent on the year before. 
      Cropredy costs so much to put on. It's like building a little town in the 
      middle of nowhere. You're laying on everything like toilets and 
      electricity. Logistically, it's a nightmare and is very expensive. If 
      Cropredy ever didn't make money, we'd have to stop doing it. We hope this 
      year it will be better because—touch wood—there's no foot and mouth at the 
      moment. You can't insure against it, you see. It's such a risk. If it 
      happens, you don't have a festival. You're bankrupt. We try to make our 
      ticket prices really cheaper than any other event you go to. We look at 
      other festivals and we think Cropredy is very good value, especially the 
      camping aspect. Most other festivals really sting people who bring camping 
      tents. We need a good year this year. If we have a good year, I'm sure 
      things will be fine. Also, when you have a big anniversary year like this 
      one coming up, more people from abroad are more likely to come. Last year, 
      they might have thought "I won't come this year, I'll wait for the next."

       You raised eyebrows by booking the Oysterband for Cropredy this year, 
      despite the rumored tension between them and Fairport.
      It's a bit of a joke really. I once made a joke about the Oysterband 
      because they once slagged us off. It was before I ever saw them—before 
      they changed their name. I read some article about them and how they were 
      supposedly revolutionizing folk music. They implied the Fairports are 
      boring old farts. Then I saw the Oysterband and I wasn't that impressed to 
      be honest. [laughs] It sounded like an early version of Fairport, but 
      without the musicality, I have to say.
      I get upset when people slag off Fairport without really seeing the band 
      or knowing what they're talking about. But I don't have any argument with 
      the Oysterband. Young people love them and I've seen them a couple of 
      times. But it's nothing new for me. I can't get that excited. Why should 
      I? You know what I'm saying? They're a folk-rock band with accordion and 
      I always joke about the Oysterband and it always gets back to them which 
      is fantastic. [laughs] It's something that's really built up over the 
      years. But I have nothing negative to say about them. I hope to be 
      pleasantly surprised when they play Cropredy.
      So, does their forthcoming Cropredy appearance represent a burying of the 
      [laughs] There is no hatchet. Obviously, we've booked them, so I have 
      nothing against them at all and neither do our audience. They love the 
      Oysterband. They've been around a long time as well and work very hard. 
      They've got their own kind of following as well and whether that following 
      will come to Cropredy to see the other boring old farts is debatable. 
      [laughs] Cropredy has something for everybody. The only criterion for 
      booking a band is that we like them.
      You just said you weren't impressed with them. It sure sounds like you 
      don't dig them.
      I do! I mean, I don't dislike them! [laughs] They're a great band, but 
      they're not revolutionizing folk-rock for me—at least, they haven't the 
      times I've seen them. It's just that one of them said something negative. 
      I don't even know the guy's name. It was something like "We're the 
      greatest. This is what folk-rock is all about. We're not boring old fart 
      has-beens" And then you see them and blimey, they sound like Fairport! 
      Your relationship with Iain Matthews is another one that was said to be 
      I have no problem with Iain now. He's a very nice chap. I did have a 
      problem with him years and years ago. He came to Cropredy and there was a 
      problem between him and the rest of the band. He kind of upset me. It's 
      not the kind of thing you talk about in interviews. It's got nothing to do 
      with Iain musically. It's all been resolved and everyone is happy to have 
      him come out and play at Cropredy this year.

       Iain's a great singer and part of the early Fairport. For this year's 
      Cropredy, we're having the early Fairport line-up perform—the one that 
      goes up to the end of '69. Iain was in the band for only a couple of 
      years, but you really can't have an early Fairport line-up without him. 
      It's difficult for those guys to do early Fairport because there's only 
      Richard, Ashley [Hutchings], Simon and Iain. 
      On Friday at Cropredy, the albums from '67 to Liege and Lief are what the 
      band will do. I've nothing to do with it. I don't know what they're going 
      to do. I'm not on any of those albums, but Ashley was. So it's his 
      department. He'll pick the repertoire and do all that stuff. I can't get 
      involved in it. I'm just pleased Iain is coming over. We saw Iain in 
      Amsterdam last year when we played a festival. He's doing well, he's got a 
      new band and is touring quite a bit.
      Do you have time for any non-Fairport activities these days?
      There's nothing in a non-Fairport capacity at all. When I'm not on the 
      road, I'm sitting here in my office putting together the Cropredy Festival 
      or doing things like sorting stuff out for the Free Reed boxed set. It's a 
      proper job. When I do get any time off, I'm going sailing. We've got a 
      boat. I'm also going to a Bar mitzvah in Florida soon. Then I'm going to 
      Las Vegas for three days because Dave Swarbrick's ex-wife Gloria is 
      getting remarried there. My wife Chris and I are best lady and best man.
      How large does Richard Thompson's shadow loom on Fairport? Even after 
      leaving more than 30 years ago, it's rare to see a mention of the group 
      without his name.
      It's probably frustrating for Richard to have Fairport Convention's name 
      stuck 'round every time you read "Richard Thompson, former guitarist with 
      Fairport." It's not frustrating for us at all. Richard is our favorite 
      guitarist-singer-songwriter and always will be. In my opinion, he's 
      untouchable. I worship the ground he walks on. I love his stuff. It's 
      magnificent to get the chance to play with him occasionally. It makes us 
      very happy. But we got over his departure very quickly. The year after 
      Richard left, the band became its own thing.
      It's different with the shadow of Sandy. We worry that people go "Who's 
      Sandy Denny?" When we do gigs, we play "Who Knows Where the Time Goes?" 
      because many have never heard of her. Everybody has heard of Richard 
      because he's never stopped working. He's always coming up with stuff and 
      making new albums. He almost has enough credit in the music industry and 
      there's almost enough appreciation for what he's done. It's taken him a 
      lifetime to get the recognition he deserves, especially when you think 
      about how big a talent he is. There are still people who don't know about 
      him. Everyone knows who Eric Clapton is, but they don't know about Richard 
      Thompson. It's getting there.

       Everybody leaves a shadow when they leave the band, but once you have a 
      new-line-up, you have to rethink everything. It's who's in the band at the 
      time that becomes important. We don't live in the past. Our repertoire has 
      three or four old songs out of 16. We like playing the music we've made 
      with this line-up. 
      What did you make of Clinton Heylin's Sandy Denny book?
      I can't get into all the politics of it, but I enjoyed reading it. There 
      are some things in it you don't even want to go into really. I don't have 
      much time on my hands, so I read it very quickly and looked for nice 
      things rather than negative things. I think for somebody who wants to know 
      about Sandy, it's a nice book to have, but there's all those negative 
      things I'd rather just gloss over.
      During your teen years, you worked with John Bonham in a band called The 
      Way of Life. What do you recall about those days?
      We did covers of stuff by The Byrds, Jimi Hendrix pieces like "Hey Joe," 
      some blues and rock and roll stuff. We also did some of our songs that 
      Chris Jones, our guitarist wrote. We only did about 18 gigs because we 
      never got re-booked. It was because we were so loud. [laughs] Even then, 
      John was the loudest drummer in the world. He was already a fantastic 
      drummer and it was great working with him. He would throw himself 100 
      percent into everything. He was very much into music. I would have liked 
      to work with him more, but never got the chance.
      We were 18 years old and full of the joys of youth. [laughs] We had a good 
      time, I think you could say. [laughs] He used to drink excessively. In 
      fact, I think he taught me. I blame him for my drink problem.
      You once said "It's not essential to be an alcoholic to be in the band, 
      but it does help." Does that still hold true with the teetotal Chris 
      Leslie in the band?
      It's nice having Chris in the group. He's been a very sobering influence 
      on us. [laughs] There have been times when Fairport have been worse for 
      the wear for drinking stuff. Hopefully, those days are gone. We work 
      incredibly hard. We're more or less out every night performing. It's an 
      average of a five hour drive to the gig, two-and-a-half hours for 
      soundcheck, and then the gig itself. It does kind of take it out of you. 
      It's true, there are some nights when people get too relaxed, but we 
      haven't had any of those this year so far. Accidents do happen. People 
      have problems. Everyone has an off-night. There's five people playing 
      music. You can't expect everyone to be having a great time every time. But 
      the highlight of my day is playing. I touch wood that I can shun the curse 
      of drink for another month during the next tour until I return home and 
      can put my bass away. [laughs]

      ► Home