Interview by Mike Aylward
Fairport Convention are an English institution. Formed in 1967, they revolutionized folk music with their album Liege And Lief and almost singlehandedly created the genre of folk-rock. Their ever-evolving line-up has included such folk-rock luminaries as Ashley Hutchings, Richard Thompson, Dave Swarbrick and Sandy Denny.
In 2002, Fairport Convention will have been entertaining audiences around the world for thirty five years. The musicians involved have always been unique in their revolutionary embrace of traditional British elements, richly evocative songwriting and uncanny interplay of the bandâ€™s many vocalists. In conjuntion with the release of "XXXV" (Compass Music), the band is embarking on a North American tour, that is part promotion of their new cd and part celebration of their long history.
Simon Nicol, the only remaining original member of the band, and Chris Leslie split the lead vocals between them and Nicol, Leslie and Dave Pegg provide harmonies throughout. Fairportâ€™s 35th anniversary album contains a mixture of new material alongside selected reworkings of some of their earlier music.
They are coming to Canada on April 2cnd for gigs in Toronto and Peterborough. I asked original bandmember Simon Nicol about the band, their new cd, and the upcoming tour:
Mike: What are your feelings, about releasing this cd after 35 years, keeping the Fairport concept going, and being the only original member?
Simon: The band has always been more than the sum of its parts and really exists to perform on stage. That's what we're best at! And unlike most other bands we don't make records and then go out to promote them,; we tour almost as much as Bob Dylan and occasionally go into the studio to put on tape where we are and what we're doing. Big difference.
Mike: How has the music changed over this time?
Simon: The recipe changes with each line up; this is reflected in both the choice of old repertoire that works with the existing personnel and the new music which that line-up generates.
Mike: What have the new bandmembers brought to the group?
Simon: Strong singing and I think the best vocal blend that band has ever had; also a relaxed and comfortable rhythmic sure-footedness.
Mike: Do you think Folk-Rock is still a healthy music form today?
Simon: I resist pigeonholes where possible. If you want to call it Folk-rock or fusion or whatever that's fine, I prefer to hink we're playing the music that comes naturally to us.
Mike: What new influences (if any) are there on XXXV?
Simon: Chris's songwriting goes from strength to strength, and the string-iness of the arrangements is sounding purer and cleaner than ever.
Mike: Do you have any expectations for the new tour?
Simon: To keep on making new friends who judge the band in its current incarnation first and then, if they wish, go on to discover the history later. And not to lose the Old Friends!
Mike: If you could change anything after 35 years, what would it be?
Simon: I'd have Peggy grow his hair back, I'd lose twenty pounds, and maybe have sold twice as many records!