Home' Rhythms Magazine : Rhythms March-April 2019 Contents 18
by RichardThompson and his band (Taras
Prodaniuk on bass and Michael Jerome
on drums) at 3rd & Lindsley. He has a new
album out - 13 Rivers -which includes some
gloriously angular songs. I went down
into the mosh pit and stood in front of his
amp and found myself among a bunch of
Nashville guitar players - nerdy, I know. I
was close enough to see the smoke coming
off Richard’s red stratocaster and got to
see those double bends up close. I asked
him afterward about those strings - he
uses light gauge strings but has a high
action, a la Jimi Hendrix. Good to know! I
interviewed him a few days later.
Richard Thompson was blessed with a
family who had good taste in music. His
father liked Django Reinhardt and Les Paul.
Combine those guitarists with his sister’s
rock’n’roll record collection and you have
the perfect blend for a budding guitar
player to learn his craft. He also grew up in
London at one of the most exciting times in
English musical history. “I used to go to the
Marquee Club quite a lot and see people like
The Who or TheYardbirds who’d play every
Thompson developed a guitar style that
is very particular to him and quite unusual
- a blend of finger style and flat pick. “I
learned on a classical guitar for a couple of
years and that got my fingers working...
I’d already been playing plectrum guitar.
Without really thinking about it, I’d be
sitting watching TV or something and I’d
just be practicing the guitar and I’d be too
lazy to put the pick down.”
“When I was like 11 or 12 years old, I was
in bands playing instrumental stuff...
Shadows, Duane Eddy... and from there I
went into more vocal bands where we were
doing rhythm’n’blues covers. I met up with
the guys who became Fairport [Convention]
when I was about 16.”
When producer Joe Boyd heard Fairport
he was mostly impressed by Thompson’s
‘sophisticated’ guitar playing and Boyd
decided to produce their first album. “Joe
was probably the one person in Britain who
would’ve kind of got who Fairport were
and what we were trying to do because
his background was so involved in roots
music,” Thompson says. “He was the
stage manager at Newport Folk Festival
when Dylan went electric. He’d already
recorded the Incredible String Band. It was
a really fruitful relationship from the very
If you are a Nick Drake fan, you have heard
Thompson’s lead guitar on those records -
Bryter Layter for example. “Extraordinary
records...” Thompson says. “They still sound
extraordinary which is a great tribute to
Nick and to his arrangers, engineers and
producers because the records are kind of
timeless.” Fairport and Nick Drake shared a
management team at that time. “We used
to smile at each other, but he was a very
shy person and I was very shy as well, so
a conversation between myself and Nick
in 1969 would have been not particularly
interesting, to say the least.”
The new album, 13 Rivers is a record with
two very distinctive sides. The first half is
tough, angular, modally electric and striking
- some of Thompson’s strongest work ever.
It starts out with The Storm Won’t Come, a
deep and brooding song. “Well you know,”
Thompson says, “It’s a song of something
impending, or it’s a longing for change
but if you go seeking change, sometimes
it doesn’t work.You also have to wait for
it to happen to you.” On the intriguing
musical change from verse to chorus: “I
wanted something that wasn’t predictable.
Sometimes to go from one minor key to
another minor key for the key change is a
bit more unusual.”
Thompson and band opened the show
with Bones of Gilead (13 Rivers) and the
effect was immediate and compelling. The
song has an experimental feel to it, hard to
describe but ‘English folk punk modality’
may give you some idea.
The song Rattle Within opens with a
distorted and ominous drum stomp. “It’s
about the voice of doubt that’s inside you,”
Thompson says. “For me it comes from
my parents saying, ‘Oh, the music you’re
playing is a waste of time.You should do
something more profitable... of more
benefit to you in life. And you start to doubt
yourself.You have to kind of find that voice
and kill it.” He sings, ‘Who’s gonna save you
from the rattle within?’
For someone who seems to have had a very
successful musical career based very much
on his own terms, the struggle for integrity
seems a surprising topic. The song is Trying.
“Well that’s career,” he says, “but there’s
also one’s personal life where you try and do
the right thing and sometimes relationships
go wrong and you act impulsively or
stupidly and you think, ‘Oh gosh, I really
regret that. What was I thinking?’”
It’s hard to be a good human isn’t it?
“It’s the hardest thing in the world, yeah,”
The new album is 13 Rivers on New West
Records. Go to https://rhythms.com.au/
for the full interview.
Anne McCue reports
in from the home of
By Megan Crawford
Raw. Honest. Brilliant. Brooklyn based songwriter, performer, multi-instrumentalist, producer
and recording artist Joan as Police Woman is heading back to our shores for a tour this May.
It’s been quite a journey from the teenager who studied violin and played in orchestras, to
a strong woman who has played with the best in the business and built an international
reputation as a renowned alt-rock songwriter and performer.
Joan Wasser began her music career young, gaining early admittance to the College of Fine
Arts at Boston University at age eighteen. In those early days she favoured new classical
compositions with her fiddle and bow but, in 1994, after listening to the likes of Hendrix,
Siouxie and the Banshees, Bad Brains and Nina Simone, she left her classical roots behind
and moved to New York. Keen to create and play, she jumped into the studio working as a
session musician with a broad range of artists, including indie, jazz, pop, Haitian, soul and R&B
genres. She joined various alt-rock bands in the 1990s, playing with The Dambuilders, Those
Bastard Souls and Helium. In 2002 Joan as Police Woman was born, as she stepped to the
forefront and claimed the attention of music lovers everywhere, releasing her first EP in 2004.
It would be easy to look at Joan’s six-album back catalogue, profess that she is an acclaimed
songwriter, and leave it at that. But her love of creating music extends far beyond simple
album sales; you might say she is obsessed. “I say yes to almost everything” she admits. “I just
want to be making music all the time.”
Joan has said yes to a lot in recent years, with musical collaborators spanning Lou Reed, Beck,
Toshi Reagon, Sparklehorse, Laurie Anderson, Damon Albarn, Sufjan Stevens, John Cale,
Aldous Harding, RZA, Norah Jones, Daniel Johnston and more. Her ability to work with such
diverse artists is a reflection of her training and love of a broad range of genres.
She’s tried her hand at radio broadcasting, filling in for Guy Garvey on his 6Music show in the
UK, enjoying the experience of sharing the music of other people rather than her own. She
also co-wrote a film score with pianist Thomas Bartlett (Doveman) for a Brian Crano movie
called Permission that stars Dan Stevens, Rebecca Hall and Jason Sudeikis.
Branching out from strictly musical collaborations, she also has an ongoing longtime
collaboration with Dutch fashion designers Viktor & Rolf, writing and performing music for
their fashion shows.
Joan comes to Australia this May with new music in tow, last touring here in 2014, long
before her latest album Damned Devotion was released. Her rawest album yet, it strips
the songs down to their core, baring all. It is that raw honesty that draws in listeners and
lovers of Joan As Police Woman.
Her shows across Australia on this tour are varied, from intimate rooms like the
Northcote Social Club to the exquisite extravagance of the Spiegeltent in
Wollongong and the Gold Coast. The love for Joan At Police Woman is evident,
with her first Northcote Social Club selling out in less than a week, after only
a post on her Facebook page to spread the word - no publicist needed!
This prompted a special encore performance at the venue, with true fans
gaining the opportunity to see her in a rare solo experience on this tour.
For the rest of the shows, she brings with her a new band, comprised
of Parker Kindred, Eric Lane and Jacob Silver, who have been recently
touring together across Europe as Damned Devotion launches there.
But it’s Joan’s voice that is truly the champion of both her albums
and live shows, showcasing the depth of emotion that is intrinsic
in her music. She has experienced some challenging times across
the years, including the death of her boyfriend Jeff Buckley in 1997,
the suicide of her friend Elliot Smith in 2003, and her mother’s death
4 years later. But even from these dark and seemingly hopeless places,
there is always hope embedded in her songs and their delivery. The latest album
is her most powerful demonstration yet that hope doesn’t have to be naive, and to see
the album performed on Australian stages will be a true treat.
Music is definitely a calling for Joan As Police Woman, and it feels like there won’t be
a moment in her life that she’s not doing it. “Today”, she discloses, “I can comfortably
say that music has saved my life and continues to save my life. I am a devotee. It’s not
something I can even choose or not choose, it’s just what it is.”
Joan as Police Woman tours Australia in May.
JOAN OF ART Songwriter, performer,
multi-instrumentalist, producer and
Joan As Police Woman has it all.
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