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Those Are Pearls: Richard Dawson Interviewed
John Doran , February 10th, 2015 08:49

Newcastle born solo performer Richard Dawson kicks off an English tour today. John Doran caught up with him recently to discuss his gift for lyric writing and his unsettling, apocalyptic visions

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All portraits, bar countryside shot, by Kuba Ryniewicz

Personally, I don’t believe in genius. I put all of my stock in clear sightedness, originality, steadfastness of purpose, bloody-mindedness, meticulous planning, quick wittedness and other, much easier to quantify attributes. However if there’s one currently operational musician who has genuinely made me reassess this belief in recent years then it’s the folk singer Richard Dawson. If there’s another songwriter out there in 2015 with a deeper understanding of their craft than Dawson, then I’m unaware of who it is.

As this guitarist and singer has strayed further and further away from the well trodden-paths followed by the majority of modern folk artists and singer/songwriters, not only has he revealed himself to have a preternaturally impressive talent but he has started to amass a sizable cult following at home and abroad. With 2014 repaying his innovation and hard work with a (richly-deserved) WIRE cover feature and universally good reviews for his Nothing Important album, it is heartening to see that his record label (Domino imprint, Weird World) are being rewarded for taking the kind of chance that many other medium-sized labels might have baulked at.

Much has been made of Dawson’s musical originality in a field that many presume to be moribund, and quite rightly so. Whether you’re talking about the influence of Sufi devotional music, various forms of African guitar playing, the ear boggling free improv of Derek Bailey (Dawson’s regular foil is former Bailey collaborator and harpist, Rhodri Davies) or the wild, gut level attack of Bill Orcutt, still no one sounds quite like Dawson. But his musical style is only one facet of what makes him so special and more and more, listeners are starting to hone in on his obvious skills as a wordsmith.

Understandably, a lot of the critical plaudits levelled at the Nothing Important album were reserved for the lyrics to the title track. It’s a moving and brave meditation on the traumas that families suffer as well as being a bright analysis into the treacherous nature of memory and not least, it’s simply a stunning song. When you look at the path the song lightly unfolds along with the narrative perspective switching between multiple family members, leaping backwards and forwards in time, switching between cold hard fact, half-memory and childish fantasy, it’s not hard to appreciate why it took months to write.

But for me, the real proof of Dawson’s - dare I say it - genius lies in another song from the same album, ‘The Vile Stuff’ - a track I’ve listened to several times a day since I first heard it last year and one that keeps on repaying me with new detail and new insight.

Ostensibly ‘The Vile Stuff’ concerns a middle school field trip undertaken by Dawson and his year seven classmates to Featherstone Castle. After one of his classmates smuggles a Coca-Cola bottle, full of various forms of strong alcohol filched from her parents’ drinks cabinet, into the dormitories where they are staying, all hell breaks loose. Amid the vomiting and the ill-advised coupling, “poor Peter Hepplethwaite cracks open his head on a shiny brass bedknob” and has to be flown to a nearby hospital by helicopter ambulance. Then there follows a loosely linked series of general misadventures that befall the narrator after leaving school. These include an assault outside a chip shop; a severe wound incurred while attempting to open a coconut with a screwdriver and a MacBook which gets covered in parsnip soup on the first day of a BTEC in engineering at Tynemouth college.

Such is the powerful evocation of the teenage experience, the listener could be forgiven for presuming this is the be-all and end-all of the song (several major reviews of the album painted the track as being not really on par with ‘Nothing Important’ for this very reason). And I should say at this point that I have never experienced another bit of art, be it film, book or song, that speaks so clearly to my own experiences of being a school age drinker. However from the get-go, this song is infused with a gathering doubt - an uncanny despondency which is soon sublimated into pure terror with repeated listens.

Dawson hides his intent in plain sight, threading his lyrics with plenty of clues. The assailant outside the chip shop (Thadeus); the lad who cracks his head open (Peter); the pupil who “fills a Reebok Pump with the pulp from his belly” (Simon) and the object of his affections (Bartholomew); the lad who gobs at the narrator (Matthew); his neighbour who “lost two fingers to a Staffie-cross” (Andrew) who works at a no win no fee solicitors (James and James) and even the brand of screwdriver he injures himself with (Philip) are all the names of Christ’s apostles. (He hides his intent elsewhere as well. The two instrumental tracks on the album are called ‘Doubting Thomas’ and ‘Judas Iscariot’.)

By omission this casts the narrator as John* - which is apt as this apocalyptic vision of young lives potentially falling apart is his Revelation, which is terrible in its intensity. Suddenly the tiniest of details bristle with terrible implication. Just what did those teenagers sneak into Featherstone Castle with them, some booze or a more malign presence (“a Coca-Cola bottle containing a spirit”)? What is the significance of the narrator piercing straight through his hand with a screwdriver? If all of the characters are apostles then where is Christ? The only other human character in the song is a teacher performing oral sex on a female student and his description (“the deputy headmaster whose scarlet skull is firmly wedged between her thighs”) casts more of a devilish glow. Who is the terrible figure that the narrator can discern in his Newcastle United wallpaper bringing with it the first awful understanding of mortality? (“I perceive the presence of a horse-headed figure/ holding aloft a flaming quiver of bramble silhouettes. He is the King Of Children/ singing like a boiler - “tomorrow is on its way”.) Is this figure the donkey-headed Seth from Egyptian mythology or something equally as sinister but more homegrown such as the Kelpie or Epona? Despite the Christian and pagan themes, what do the references to Buddhism entail? With each new listen, ‘The Vile Stuff’ throws up yet more questions.

The song isn’t really about teenagers at all but instead about adults and their responsibilities to the children under their supervision. The Hogarthian picture of debauchery unfolding at Featherstone Castle could be seen as a parody of the Last Supper but is instead a depiction of the terrible kind of first communion that can occur when no one is in loco parentis.

It was my absolute pleasure to go out for Turkish food with Richard last week and to ask him more about these two songs.

I became sure ‘The Vile Stuff’ was autobiographical when I saw that one of your former teachers posted on your Facebook feed that the fateful trip to Featherstone Castle remained the highlight of her teaching career.

Richard Dawson: Mrs Flecknall. She was my English teacher in middle school when I used to write short stories and when the trip happened. She was on that trip. But how true is the whole thing? The idea of a helicopter flying from Featherstone Castle to Haltwhistle Hospital is ridiculous, it’s only about three miles away. But I ‘remember’ the helicopter, so it’s not a lie as such but there was no way he was actually airlifted anywhere.

Events unfolded pretty much as you hear in the song. This girl had mixed all the boozes up from her parents’ drinks cabinet in a Coca-Cola bottle to make that brown water. That filthy brown liquid with a curd on top of it. The girls and boys were split into two separate dormitories and I remember this bottle getting passed around and only having a couple of sips. But yeah, some of the boys had too much. Afterwards we went to do an activity and you could see the teachers were thinking, ‘What the fuck is going on here?’ Kids were staggering around everywhere but they hadn’t pieced it together yet.

As he is known in the song but not in real life, Poor Peter Hepplethwaite had to go and be sick. I tried to help him into his bed because he was all over the shop and he just lunged full on head first onto this big metal bedknob. It knocked him out cold. I was stood there thinking, ‘Is he dead? I think he’s dead.’ And then a teacher walked in and it was me who got summoned. I was forced to explain what was going on, even though it was quite clear really.

I’m not trying to embarrass you by saying this but I can’t overstate what an impact this song had on me when I first heard it. I was in the middle of writing the first chapter of a book - a memoir about alcoholism. The first chapter is about my first ever drink, set against the backdrop of me being an altar boy in a Catholic Church in Merseyside. While I was writing it my friend Petra sent me a YouTube of ‘The Vile Stuff’ and said, ‘Have you heard this - you’ll love it.’ And she was not wrong. So while I was listening to ‘The Vile Stuff’ on repeat I was describing how in my parish church they had these huge paintings of the martyred apostles in the apse. And then it suddenly hit me: “Thadeus… Miss Bartholomew… Luke and Luke… Matthew… Peter… Holy shit, every character in this song is one of the apostles!” I know it sounds stupid but when I was a kid and watched Angel Heart for the first time; when I realised that Robert DeNiro was the devil, I nearly shat my fucking pants. The realisation that it had been staring me in the face the whole time was deeply disturbing for some reason. And I got exactly the same feeling from this. Like someone had just opened up a door to a totally new but terrible room.

RD: [LAUGHS] That’s high praise indeed. [PUTS ON DENIRO VOICE] Mmmm. Boiled egg John?

I’ve seen some reviews of this song where it’s painted as simply a rambunctious ‘Northern’ tale of a field trip gone wrong. And you do write about childhood in a very powerful and evocative way so I totally get why people might think this but do you think that these reviews have perhaps missed the darker, more apocalyptic overtone to the story?

RD: I don’t think they’ve necessarily missed anything. The song is almost like a cross between Dante’s Inferno - which I’m reading slowly at the moment - and a Hieronymus Bosch painting but with the characters drawn by Matt Groening. So there are those religious elements to it but I always aim for four or five primary stories, going on at the same time so it’s no surprise if people miss things. I wouldn’t expect anyone to get all of it, even if somebody just studied that one song for a year. Which would be a horrendous thing for them to have to do! But even if someone doesn’t get the links directly, somehow it still resonates in a more subconscious way.

I think you’re absolutely right. I’ve seen plenty of people talking about the unease in the song, the presence of the uncanny without referring specifically to the religious references.

RD: I want to be careful that I don’t explain too much. There are tensions in it because of the non-Christian religious imagery as well - the horse-headed figure from pagan mythology for example. I find it quite terrifying singing about that to be honest.

I know you’re interested in Egyptian mythology. Is the horse-headed figure anything to do with Set or something a bit more British like the Kelpie or Epona?

RD: Set - or Seth - was in my mind, although I didn't want it to be explicitly about that as it's a bit unclear whether he's horse headed or ass-headed, but I liked what he represented. If you’re interested, have a look at the Buddhist deity Hayagriva too - its story is very interesting. Also in Chinese mythology there are beings called Horse-Head and Ox-Head who are tasked with escorting the newly dead to the underworld. But mainly, if I’m honest, I was just taken with the imagery of it, and researched backwards from there. I liked the fact that there weren't any really obvious references to horse-headed gods I could think of. If I had used an elephant headed figure it would have been a different story. But I liked the connections in what I found and it worked for the layers I wanted to suggest. Also, just the notion of having a large powerful animal in a child's bedroom is quite something on its own.

It’s such a well sketched vignette - the image of a young adult seeing a kind of deity in the detail of football themed wallpaper. Was this a direct experience of yours?

RD: The wallpaper I had in my room when I was a teenager had the stripes of Newcastle United on the bottom half, a pine dado rail in the middle and then miniature footballs in lines above that. It was totally psychedelic. Anyway, I used to have… I don’t know if you’d call them hallucinations or visions. I remember seeing something like the horse-headed figure at some point but it was a strange room at a strange time for me because I was just bunking off school and going absolutely doolally when I was about 17 and 18. I had some intense times in that room. But the line could also be very innocent. The idea of the singing boiler is very innocent. So the protagonist could simply have been dreaming before being woken up by the central heating coming on. It all goes back to the religious aspects of the song which are to do with drinking. The first drink is always glorified. Drinking songs, even when they don’t glorify drink, they do glorify it really. But it’s a key moment for a lot of people; they take the first drink and set off down a road and then some of them never get back off that road again.

The line “A Coca-Cola bottle containing a spirit” is important isn’t it? It’s important that it says “a spirit” and not “some spirits”; it’s the idea that these kids have invited a malign presence into their lives without even realising what they’re doing.

RD: Yeah, it’s horrendous. That was a careful line, although it’s a fairly obvious one as well - the idea that it’s more than just a drink that they’ve taken. How do you come back from these things? The fact it was a Coca-Cola bottle as well is very important. It’s a really obvious symbol of a lot of things that are bad with our society. It could have been about us all taking a bite of a burger… but it was actually a Coca-Cola bottle in real life.

You’ve had what I would consider to be some penetrating insights into the nature of drinking. Do you drink now? Did you used to drink heavily in the past?

RD: I used to drink heavily in the past for sure and I still drink now but not too much I think. I manage to stay healthy these days. When I was about 17 or 18 I started drinking whiskey and going all the way. There was a point where I could drink a bottle and a half of whiskey in an evening. That was my idea of a good night and I’d black out at the end of it. I worked in record shops during this period. It must have been the whole four years I was at one place and the first couple of years at the next place called Alt Vinyl. I was just a mess. I can’t believe my boss Graham kept me on. But I had some scares and I got into some dreadful situations like where I just woke up covered in my own piss at some party and I realised that everyone would have been walking over me to get by all evening. And I thought to myself, “Well, this isn’t good.”

During this period I was on these heavy shit antidepressants called fluoxetine and mixing that up with spirits. No one told me that losing control of my bladder was a side-effect of the drug and they don’t list it, so that was another thing that shook me up a bit. So I had these little glimpses that made me think, “I’m wasting my time.” I just started thinking about responsibility. I realised that I’d been given this short amount of time and I’d not made anything or done anything. It takes a long time to come back from that level of drinking but I’m normal now I think. I can drink a lof of Guinness but I’m pretty safe with it. I love red wine but it makes me sad. I think it has a lot of bad associations for me.

There is a lot of religion that comes from various belief systems on the album. What does religion mean to you?

RD: I think there’s a number of different sides to this question. One of the things I like about religion is the stories and the language it’s presented in, so purely from an aesthetic point of view it’s a really good thing. Also on a more practical level I’ve been really interested in Indian and Sufi devotional music for some time. Qawwali is one type of music I’ve gone a really long way with. I am religious but it’s my own religion. I believe everyone is a god. I would never want to explain too much about it or want anyone to join me - it would defeat the purpose. But it is a religious experience I’m having in life and when I came to terms with that it made being alive all the more rich. So what I make is religious music but not in the sense that most people would recognise. You don’t need to follow any of those systems or believe in any of that bullshit. Religion is so patriarchal. Even the good religions are patriarchal… so it just renders them totally fucking null and void.

I’m interested in the idea of the uncanny in your music. These presences you mention. You talked briefly about suffering from or receiving hallucinations. Can you tell me a bit more about this. About how old you were when you had them and what form they took?

RD: I’ve read about Charles Bonnet Syndrome which maybe I had something similar to… I had a similar experience. It affects visually impaired people with degenerative eye conditions - although they are usually further on than I am. There was a period where I would close my eyes and have a clear hallucination of objects which were usually Chinese style boxes with decorations on them. And this wasn’t my imagination or a daydream. This happened for a couple of years and I can only think it was because my vision was failing at that time - it’s plateaued since then.

That’s one element of it. And then there’s another side to this which was to do with me suffering hallucinations when I was in a heightened emotional state. I can’t say too much about this but one time when it happened I was sitting in my bedroom at a time I was under intense stress. Without warning, I could suddenly see a line of people in grey rags, coming over a rocky mountainside. They were coming from a distance far away, from way beyond the walls of the room. They were as clear as day and passing right in front of me and then out through the wall into the air. And then it just stopped.

In a way I know it’s a case of your brain realising that there’s no way you can calm down from this hyper intense state you’re in so it just goes, “Hey! Look at this completely crazy thing!”

I’ve only had that type of experience twice. The feeling is powerfully convincing that you’re seeing another world - that there is a doorway open to somewhere else. I can see that’s why other people would have interpreted it that way because that’s what it feels like but I’m smart enough to know that it’s just a visual thing and that it’s all happening up here in my head. But just because it’s happening up here in your head doesn’t make it seem any less real to you.

It was so strange and so divorced from anything else that I knew. I love the idea of there being other worlds and I often have a sense that different worlds are rubbing up against one another causing doorways to open up making connections between two spaces possible. But this could simply be a way for the brain to describe something that is just beyond perception. It’s similar to how people talk about reincarnation and again, this is something that feels instinctively right to me but I know enough to realise that we’re simply describing in the most clear way we can a concept we’ll never be able to fully grasp.

But the question isn’t, ‘How real were those visions?’ or ‘How outlandish were those visions?’ The real question is ‘How outlandish is what we’re experiencing right now? How reliable is this [reality]?’

Can you tell me more about your history with your eyesight and how it’s affected your outlook and art?

RD: Firstly on a very practical level it affected me in that I’m registered disabled and that means I can work less because of various benefits I receive. So in the past I could afford to only work for three or four days a week instead of five, for example, so that meant I had more time to practice. Also the first year I went self-employed… I know this isn’t very interesting but it’s the crux of the matter… I knew that most of my rent was covered and that I only had to earn £30 a week to eat. In the end I had to sell most of my CD collection to make ends meet but that was a healthy thing too. I have a condition called juvenile retinoschisis which is a form of macular dystrophy, a degenerative condition that me and my brother have. He’s got it a lot worse than me and I think he’s registered blind now. I’m not registered blind, I can see a great deal but details and the edges of things fade away. If I move back away from the table like this all of your features disappear.

What a relief for you... I read an interview with you from a couple of years ago and you were talking about writing the lyrics for Nothing Important and you described the process as a total ball-ache. When I listen to ‘Nothing Important’ and ‘The Vile Stuff’, it strikes me that it must have taken you absolutely ages to write those lyrics. Is that the case?

RD: Yeah. They did take a long time. ‘Nothing Important’ had been in my mind for a couple of years beforehand and I had the first two lines (“I am born by Caesarian section at 9.30AM/ in Princess Mary’s Maternity Hospital”) but I didn’t have the time to sit down and really think about them. And then when I did it was difficult because I don’t have a particularly quick mind and I’m not very well read. I mean, I love to read but I started too late, I read too slowly and my concentration is not great, so I find I have to really focus on the job. It took me five months to write the lyrics to ‘Nothing Important’ all told. I treat it like a business and work nine to five every day because otherwise I can lose focus.

Was there a eureka moment? For example did you realise it was all coming together at the point where you wrote the line about the treachery of memory?

RD: It’s funny you mention that. I’d been working on the song for so long and then I got to the middle section which came together really quickly even though it had its own challenges but I was dreading having to deal with the end of it. But there was a eureka moment and probably the only one I’ve ever had. And then those lines came really quickly. They came in a day. (“In the end it wasn’t meant to be./ He was the most beautiful thing that I had ever seen./ He survived for seven days/ before he slipped away.”) I wrote those lines and thought, “There’s not another thing you can write after that.” So I picked up my guitar and tried it and when I was playing it I felt that I’d nailed it. I felt incredible relief, if that doesn’t sound too self-aggrandising.

Is the song strictly biographical in its information?

RD: Yeah. Some things get exaggerated in the same way that a little scratch on your hand can develop into a really nasty wound if you don’t leave it alone but it all comes from the same place. I hope there are little clues about where those moments are.

You’re not going to tell me anymore about who the protagonist is are you?

RD: No. Well, I wouldn’t want to explain it fully but I don’t want to be obtuse either. It could swing. It could be one person or a number of people. I think there are a number of possibilities about who the singer is and whether it's one person or two or many is open for debate. Whether they are many who think they are one, or one who thinks it is many, or whether it is even human to begin with is a moot point.

But I don’t mind telling you the details about the stuff from my own childhood. The story did happen in our family. It was very specifically about a child being lost and that was the impetus behind the song. I had a brother who was born before me called Alan. I am the youngest of three and I think it was two years before I was born that my parents lost Alan. He lived for seven days. I’d always thought he was born before me and my elder brother and sister but he was actually born in between them and me. I was an unplanned pregnancy and when the time came it was a very difficult birth and at one point it looked like both my mother and me would be lost. So I grew up with all of this half-joking stuff like, “He was an accident… he's always been trouble!” Until I researched the song I hadn't fully taken in the trauma of my birth given the weight of what had happened two years earlier. But one of the key things here I suppose is that it was always emphasised to me what a close shave it had been; the fine line between me making it and not making it; from actually being conceived in the first place to finally making it through a particularly hard birth!

I talked to my mother about it before writing the song because I knew I’d have to do interviews on this subject. I had to ask her about how she felt about me singing about it. She’s an incredible lady you know. She said, I should just do what I felt was right. And it was the same with the song as well, I asked her what level of detail she was comfortable with me putting in there. She said that I should just trust my instinct. This kind of thing happens to so many people and it’s just not spoken about.

What can you tell me about your Uncle Derek who we encounter in ‘Nothing Important’ at his funeral and then later as a ghost?

RD: Well, I remember him only a little from when I was a kid. He was a really sweet man. He had an accident when he was a kid. He was hit by a lorry and ended up disabled down one side. He had to have a metal plate put in his head. He died when I was about four and my memory of this is standing next to my mam whilst she answered the phone. It was one of those big chunky cream ones with the ring-dialler and the curly cord. And when she got the news she clutched onto my brother, for support. Thinking back I don't think she actually dropped the phone, or a drink, as I say in the song, but I have clear recollections of the phone receiver being dropped and a drink being spilled on other occasions, by different people. I also have a vivid memory of waving to Uncle Derek from the pedalo whilst on holiday in Majorca. We had to leave him on the beach because there was only room for the five of us. There was barely room for me and I had to squeeze on the back. But I'm assured this is impossible because he had died before we went to Majorca.

My mam really did place a photograph of a lady he was fond of into his coffin, without anybody knowing. Years later Gypsy Rosa Lee read her fortune and mentioned this incident in great detail. She said, “Your brother was really glad that you put the photo in there. He was really touched.” My mam hadn't told anyone about the photo and no one had seen her do it either.

Around the same time I saw the Easter Bunny you know.

I take it you don’t mean someone dressed as the Easter Bunny.

RD: No. He knocked on the door and my brother answered. I was frightened so I hid behind the door. I peeped around and saw that he had come in a big old dragster car (we actually had a little dragster racing board game at the time). It was parked at the end of the drive and the engine was still growling. I remember I was really scared. The Easter Bunny understood this and leaned around the door to look squarely at me. He was very serious and not like a cartoon bunny. He was a very realistic looking rabbit, but human sized and wearing quite simple clothes. He looked at me and was very solemn. Then he slowly nodded and handed me a chocolate egg. I cannot stress how melancholy an air this giant rabbit had about him. Then he got back in his dragster and roared off.

You’ve touched on it already but I wanted to ask you some more about how important the impermanence of memory is on your songwriting.

RD: It’s definitely an interest. On one hand you can look at memory as being unreliable but the other side to that coin is that it’s also incredibly creative. We don’t lie to ourselves. It’s not dishonest. Things change and that’s part and parcel of what we are. Memory changes events but events are multi-faceted and we tend to see them from only one vantage point. This conversation we’re having now - say we look back on it in five years time should we think about it - will be different then. It won’t be untrue but it will have rotated a little bit. It’s crucial I guess because everyone is doing it so why not write about it? And why not joke about it as well? I don’t think you should be too serious about it.

How do you know when the lyrics are done?

RD: [SIGHS] I’m pretty happy with the lyrics on the album but there’s just one that I didn’t get right and for me it throws the whole surrounding minutes into disarray. It’s really all out chaos surrounding this lyric.

That’s the trouble with creating anything though isn’t it? Everyone else can see this thing that they think is amazing and all you can see is what you perceive to be a flaw. Isn’t it always going be like that when you’re songwriting?

RD: I think so yeah. I don’t even mind telling you the line. It’s in ‘Nothing Important’. “Cradling a false pearl” is the offending line. “A skiff on the swollen Tweed” - I’m happy with that. The idea is that it could be the skiff cradling this pearl or it could be this ceramic seraph mentioned in the next line, and you’re not quite sure. But I should have just written, “cradling a pearl” but I wrote “cradling a false pearl” and it’s a disaster. I hear it every time and think, “OH MY GOD! WHAT WAS I THINKING?!”

I know it’s beholden upon me to say at this point, ‘You’re being a bit too hard on yourself’ but really, you’re being too hard on yourself.

RD: Sure but I think it’s important to be hard on yourself. It was about three or four months later when I played it and thought, “That’s not right” but by that point it was too late. Overall I’m not going to beat myself up about it but it’s important to recognise that the reason why I allowed it to happen and realise that if I let myself off with it this time then the same thing may happen again next time. The reason why it slipped by was the fact there were just so many things going on that I needed to co-ordinate and I lost track of it. It sounds silly to say it would be ten times better for the omission of one word but it would…

You’re on tour this week. There’s a lot of storytelling that goes on in your live show; a lot of preamble and interjections. Should I take it that none of it’s rehearsed?

RD: It’s not so clear. I think about the sort of things I want to talk about and have some stories and even if they’re not rehearsed the first time I tell them, they become rehearsed. It happens in life as well. We’re all rehearsing stories all of our lives. Even when we’re actually living the experience we’re rehearsing for when it becomes a story. And every time we tell stories they change slightly and we affect our own memories in telling them over and over again.

So maybe there is more preparation than would appear to be the case. The shambling around for five minutes at the start of the show and failing to plug my instrument in is both practiced and very genuine. I don’t do anything that’s that contrived but at the same time you have to have certain places you can go. A lot of it comes from working with Rhodri. He’s been in the improvisation scene for so long and he taught me to listen to my surroundings to hear what’s going on so I can react to it. But it gets easier the more shows you play for sure. You give yourself more options for where you can go.

Well good luck with it all - watch out for those false pearls.

RD: It’s a minefield I tell you!

It’s been an absolute pleasure.

RD: Thank you.

Richard Dawson is on tour in England this week

Tue 10 - The Harley, Sheffield
Wed 11 - The Soup Kitchen, Manchester
Thu 12 - The Lexington, London
Fri 13 - West Hill Hall, Brighton
Sat 14 - Annie's Burger Shack, Nottingham
Sun 15 - MacDevitts Studio, South St Arts, Reading
Wed 18 - The Shipping Forecast, Liverpool

[*Or does it? After all St. John's Ambulance do crop up in 'Nothing Important'…]

Jack Padurariu
Feb 11, 2015 10:36am

I've spent hours on end listening to The Vile Stuff over and over again, I don't quite know why it's so captivating to me, but this interview has only made me more fascinated by Dawson. Thanks!

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Feb 13, 2015 9:03am

'Nothing Important' was already one of my favourite records of last year but this interview made me go back and listen to the album with a new perspective that has improved it for me.

That's really rare in music journalism so thank you very much.

(Though you'll be to blame when I cry like a baby see him tonight.)

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Georgina Walker
Dec 23, 2015 6:29am

Ive only just caught up with this after seeing Richard Dawson for the first time this autumn. What an illuminating interview.

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