16 Dec 2015

Nine Questions with Alasdair Roberts

Photo credit: Drew Farrell
Today, we're bringing our Nine Questions questionaire feature out of retirement temporarily to have a quick chat with prolific Drag City folk artist Alasdair Roberts.

What was the first record you bought?

'Now That's What I Call Music 2' (the UK series, not the US one), which was released in 1984 when I was seven. My favourite song on it was '99 Red Balloons' by Nena, but I also quite liked Tracey Ullman's version of the Madness song 'My Guy's Mad At Me.'

What was the last record you bought?

A Maki Asakawa double LP compilation on Honest Jon's.

What's one thing about you that very few people know?

When I was 13 years old I had a pen pal who lived in New Zealand. His name was Duncan and he was from Richmond, near Nelson in the South Island. Thanks to the internet, I think that the concept of a 'pen pal' is now obsolete. Duncan, if you are reading this: I hope that all is as well as can possibly be with you. Thank you for sending me those mix tapes of New Zealand bands back in the day.

If you could record with any one artist who would it be and why?

I like to think that any potential collaboration could be rewarding, regardless of factors such as the knowledge of either party for the previous work of the other, the level of esteem or otherwise in which each collaborator holds the other, the differing personalities of the collaborators and so on... indeed, there's nothing to rule out the idea that working with one's 'dream collaborator' might just not work. One of my most recent collaborations has been with the Edinburgh-based lute player Gordon Ferries – we recorded the song 'Caleno Custure Me' (mostly influenced by the Alfred Deller version) for a project about songs featured or mentioned in the work of Shakespeare. Gordon's playing is beautiful.

Who should we be listening to right now?

I don't like to be prescriptive, but why not have a listen to the music made by Brigid Power-Ryce?

Vinyl, CD, digital or cassette?

Since I got a new turntable and speakers last year, I've been enjoying a lot more vinyl – but I listen to music in all formats. There are some LP's in my collection which I'm thinking of digitising so that I can listen to them when I'm travelling.

Tell us about your latest release.

The most recent album is entitled Alasdair Roberts and it came out on Drag City in January 2015. It features ten new self-written songs and was recorded by Sam Smith at Green Door Studios in Glasgow. It's quite different the record which preceded it, A Wonder Working Stone, which featured 13 musicians and big arrangements with drums, bass, fiddle, brass, accordion, viola da gamba, bagpipes and so on. The new one has a few guest appearances – friends on whistle, clarinet and vocals - but is a lot more stripped down, based mostly around acoustic guitar and voice.

What's next for you, musically?

I have plans to record another album of new songs in January next year. The session will begin with drummer Alex Neilson and bass player Stevie Jones, both guys I've had the pleasure of working with often over the years in various ways. Then there'll probably also be other guest musicians involved. I've been touring a lot this year, so now I'm enjoying a spell of time at home during which I can concentrate more on new writing and creating - although I am heading over to Norway for two gigs later this week.

What's for dinner?

I've been invited round to the house of some neighbours for dinner; I have no doubt that the food will be wonderful and that it will be an enjoyable evening all round. They're currently hosting a group of musicians from Niger who are touring in Scotland.

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