Couple of months ago, I wrote this review about one of the best folk/psych-singer-songwriters I know – Chris Thompson’s debut album.
Though remained little known, Thompson’s album from 1973 is a stunning piece of work, combining terrific guitar playing, strong melodies and beautiful arrangements (partly thanks to members of obscured acid-folk band Magic Carpet).
After Thompson himself left a comment in the original post, I offered him to throw a little interview to STR, and I was delighted when he agreed.
So here it is, a rare interview with a musician who should have become a legend, if history wasn’t in the way.
Small Town Romance : Your album draws many influences from British folk. Being originally from New-Zealand, how did these influences got in your music? did you bring it along with you or was the material written while you were in London and exposed to that music?
Chris Thompson : I am a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, as most of us are in New Zealand, and so British(and Western culture generally) is not unfamiliar to us here.Some of the tracks on the album were composed in Auckland N.Z.in the ’60’s before I left for London. For example “Her hair was Long” and “De debil take de blue-tail Fly” were inspired by recordings of John Renbourn and Traffic, respectively.
STR : Who were your influences on your guitar playing?
CT : John Renbourn,Roger McGuinn, Ry Cooder, Tom Rush…
STR : Tell us a bit about your work with the much obscured, though highly appreciated Magic Carpet band
CT : I met Keshav Sathe because he was part of the Julie Felix Band (as I was) and we became friends.He introduced me to Clem Alford
and we started jamming together, and I incorporated them into some recording I was doing at Bill Leader’s studio in Camden
STR : How did the label (Village Thing) accepted your album?
CT : Ian A. Anderson of Village Thing Records approached me at a concert(The Kentucky Colonels @ The Nashville Rooms in London) and said he’d heard some of my work and that he was interested in having me make an album for them.
STR : And how did the media?
CT: Recently(and especially in N.Z.) the media have been very complimentary.
STR : How long did it take to record it?
CT : The sessions took place over 2-3 years in London, Dublin and Bristol.
STR : As I read in the reissue booklet, the album didn’t sell well, was that a crucial issue for you, or did the fact it was released at the
perfect time and scene was enough for you? Did it feel like the perfect time and scene? Was there some sort of a folk wave felt by
the musicians themselves (as opposed to the media trying to build hype on this ‘new thing’ from Pentangle and Fairport?
CT : I wanted to become a recording artist and was happy to get a recording contract as it meant recognition of my efforts.The re-issue
did finally make me some money thirty years later….you’ve got to believe in your music whether its popular or not.
STR : After the album release, how long did you stay in the UK before heading back home?
CT : I left before the album was released.I was in the U.S.-in California- when it came out.I was heading back to N.Z. with the master
tapes, hoping to get them released here.
STR : What did you after this album? Could you list your album titles since then?
CT : Chris Thompson ’73
Echoes from the Pit ’76
Hometown Voodoo ’81
The Natural Blues ’83
Together(with Lynne Thompson) ’85
Live in Concert(with Lynne Thompson)’88
The Road to Raglan ’90
Far Out and Solid ’92
Coffee Break(my first C.D.) ’93
Song for Laura ’95
Time Flies 2000
For my Double ’04
The White Sapphire ’05
STR : What do you think about the industry these days? Not talking about the pop industry, but rather the many label exist today,
trying to expose many many great bands
CT : They’re all doing what we used to do but their music is different from mine.My sort of music is still hard to find.
STR : What are you listening to these days?
CT : Mostly Texan singer/songwriters like Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, Nanci Griffith etc.
STR : Any plans for a next project?
CT : The recording industry doesn’t really interest me any more, but I continue writing and performing my songs and administering
my publishing catalogue.
STR : Who do you see, as the promises of the current folk movement? Are you keeping track of the current scene?
CT : .I still listen to the originals: Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, Nick Drake, Dick Gaughan, Bob Dylan etc as well as N.Z. musicians like
Chris Priestley, The Big Muffin Serious Band and James Wilkinson & Jimmy Young.Internationally, the best young singer I’ve
heard in recent years is Meg Baird from Philadelphia, who has recorded one of my songs
STR : You told me your daughter is a musician as well, could you tell us a bit more?
CT : Lora is completing her degree in Media Arts and playing bass in a metal band called Wretch.They’ve recently released their first
album and you can see them in a Youtube video called “Fine cheese and the French countryside”.
STR : Anything else you’d like to add? Personal stuff etc?
CT : Thank you for your interest.I’ve listened to your album and was quite impressed even though I seldom listen to instrumental
music-I did have a John Fahey album called “I remember Blind Joe Death” which I gave to my daughter’s partner Matt because
he’s interested in slide guitar
Thank you Chris, for the interview and fantastic music, and I hope many listeners will find be intrigued to go and check out your lovely music.