By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
BERT JANSCH: He was completely new to me. We were looking for someone to finish the album, interested in another sort of outlook. We went to see him play at the Astoria in London, and it was a great night. And I really wanted him to be on the album.
I was always impressed with the quality of the traditional material you dug up while you were in Pentangle. How did you and John Renbourn find these songs?
At the time we both seemed to be into similar things, what we were reading and stuff. I was brought up with traditional songs from 15 onward, from the first pub-club I went to. My interest in the guitar really took off then, and I was taking lessons at that club. And I liked it all, you know, Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, Big Bill Broonzy and Brownie McGhee — who actually came and did a gig at that club. I was about 16 and a half. Which was amazing, you know.
Can you tell me about “The Old Triangle”?
That one directly comes from the clubs in Scotland. There was an Irish singer named Dominic Behan, who I knew when I was quite young, and he used to sing it. And his brother, Brendan Behan, the actor, it was part of a play that he was doing. I know that Brendan wrote the words, but the tune I think is a traditional Irish. The play is about capital punishment in Ireland, and the song takes place in the Royal Canal in Dublin — the prison is on the banks of the canal. And the triangle itself is a bell, which rings for sleep time and exercise.
I like this line in it, “The female prison has got 70 women, and it’s there they would rather dwell.”
[Laughs] Well, that could only happen in an Irish prison.
Did your strong-handed picking style derive from blues players?
Well, no, it’s a combination of things. The player that really interested me more than any other would be Davy Graham, in the early days, certainly. And it’s just a cross between all sorts of players — Doc Watson, even, Clive Palmer of the Incredible String Band.
In Pentangle, were you listening to modern jazz players too?
I was particularly up for Charlie Mingus. And Coltrane, and that there. But Pentangle also had Danny Thompson and Terry Cox, who were a jazz rhythm section, and they used to play at jazz clubs, or with Ronnie Scott. I mean, it was heavily jazz based, Pentangle.
Were you studying the improvisational aspects of jazz?
I very rarely played the same thing twice. But it’s only if I play a blues will I actually extemporize.
You’re easily as distinctive in your singing.
That’s acquired — there’s nothing really natural about it. When I started, I bought the guitar first, ’cause I was a bit shy in those days, and it wasn’t until I started drinking and stuff like that and played a couple of tunes — then I’d sing.?
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