There are, as most of you will know, at least two Ian Andersons connected with music from the late 60s onwards. The one we are concerned with for the purposes of today’s interview is not known for his legs (as far as I’m aware), but has been known to give the occasional leg up (my sincere apologies – I’ll stop now) to upcoming musicians on the folk scene.
Over the eight months I’ve been running this blog, I have – because it genuinely interests me – repeatedly asked interviewees for their folk music definition. It hasn’t been terribly easy, to be honest with you. Some react well, clearly delighted to be asked the very question they’ve been secretly pondering for years themselves, while others insist it’s a pointless task and seem rather put out to have been bothered by something so apparently trivial.
And so, here we are – my second Martin Simpson interview in the space of half a year. Is Grizzly Folk turning into a Martin Simpson fansite, you might wonder? The answer’s no. While I’m amazed as any other guitarist by what the man does, I think both of us would feel a little uneasy if I started documenting his every move.
In short, I love chatting with musicians whose work clearly consumes them, and not in an ego-driven way – people who (you get the sense) feel as though they’re in the service of music, rather than it being the other way around. As I hope comes across on the interview pages of this blog, I’m a music geek who loves talking to other music geeks, and I don’t think Martin would feel in any way slighted if I say that a conversation with him is a conversation with the ultimate music geek.
When we met Doc Rowe earlier this year, we turned up with a list of questions and an hour set aside. We’d have been better advised to burn the notepad and clear our diary for the next month.
Boy, that man can talk. But, then, when you have so much to say, it’s hardly surprising. The wealth of knowledge and experience Doc has amassed over the best part of 60 years documenting folk culture and heritage is staggering, and his stories as varied, engaging and downright daft as the events he has so diligently attended over so many years. Make no mistake, if Doc Rowe talked the hind legs off a donkey, it would sit transfixed while he talked its front ones off as well.
I first heard Lisa Knapp when I came back from living in Japan. In the decade I’d been there, I’d found myself drawn into a musical scene that centred around a duo called Tenniscoats – a couple who mix fragments of acoustic performance into weird and wonderful soundscapes. I was keen to find someone in the UK doing something similar, and Lisa’s name kept cropping up. I was instantly taken with her wonderful sound poem, ‘Shipping Song‘, which takes the words to the old shipping forecast and places them into something that verges on the avant garde.
It took yonks to track Sam Sweeney down, but only a few minutes to realise why that was. Just take a look at this interview. The man is involved in a million things at once and incredibly passionate about doing them without half-measures. He joined Bellowhead on the cusp of adulthood, and he seems to have been involved in pretty much every folk-related project over the following decade. His current obsessions, as you’re about to find out, include his work with Leveret and his position as artistic director with the National Youth Folk Ensemble (NYFE) – his first ever ‘proper job’, about which he is justifiably proud.
This week’s folk conversation is sprawling to say the least, but that’s to be expected when your chatting with a man who has been a fiddle and oboe player in Bellowhead, a musicologist, one of the blokes in Faustus, one of two Pauls in Belshazzar’s Feast and the musical director of the triumphant recent production of The Transports. Suffice to say, it’s a wonder Paul Sartin ever has time to sleep, let alone time to sit down and discuss it all. Best that we get down to it immediately then, before he ups and starts a new project.
Stick in the Wheel barely need an introduction these days. On the folk scene, they’re as known for their stark and direct debut album as they are for their similarly unflinching performances, and their leap from local pubs to festival stages has been swift. Meeting singer Nicola Kearey and guitarist Ian Carter in the basement cafe of Cecil Sharp House, their conversation is politically charged and urgent, although they’re not above self-deprecation, and they bounce off one another in a witty repartee familiar to anyone who has been playing in bands for most of their lives.
Lynched or Lankum; Lankum or Lynched? Rumours have been doing the rounds for some time that the acclaimed Dublin four-piece would be changing their name, and sure enough, in the days following this interview, they published the following statement, confirming that from here on in, Lankum they would be: