Interview with Bert Jansch at Fleadh Festival 2000

bert-janschHere is a transcript of an impromptu interview I did backstage at the London Fleadh in 2000 with Bert Jansch. I was very lucky as Bert rarely gave interviews and I will always remember it as we shared a banana in his caravan just before we started…

Q             Who’s been your greatest musical influence and why?

A             Davy Graham I think. Beyond that I was collecting everything from Woody Guthrie to Scottish stuff mainly. Although I was listening to Scottish folk music, it wasn’t until I heard Davy that it pointed the way in which I wanted to go.

It’s mainly the people in my generation of folk music that my influences have come from.

Q             If you could be one person in History, who would you be and why?

A             I don’t think I would like to be anybody famous because every single one has got his or her own drawbacks. If you think of somebody really famous, like Abraham Lincoln, there are so many negatives that go with being someone like that.  I’m just happy being myself!

Q             What is your favourite movie and why?

A             One of my favourites has always been Marilyn Monroe; she was the dumb blonde, but the light of entertainment, so probably the movie “Some like it hot”

Q             Tell us about your latest album or forthcoming album?

A             Yeah, this is one (Crimson Moon) I’ve produced myself and engineered for myself because I’ve become really tired of the finance of the whole studio thing, so over the years I’ve been collecting all the gear that I need, all the equipment, so I can record any time I like and play with a bunch of people like Johnny Marr (guitar/harmonica/backing vocal), Bernard Butler (guitar) who don’t usually get to play with.

This album is just as good as all the rest I’ve done actually.

Q             Where was your most memorable live performance and why was it special to you?

A             I remember playing with Brownie McGhee on an acoustic roots film, that is certainly something I will never forget. I have it on film as well (although I didn’t play much).

Q             If you could use one of your songs to promote something, what would it be and why?

A             I think seriously “Needle of Death” because it’s as much up to date now as it was when it was first written, although I don’t like singing it (it’s a depressing song).

Q             Where do you see the future of the music industry lies?

A             Well I think it does lie in, believe it or not, people like me because there are a lot of us who play intimate personal music, rather than dance music and all that kind of thing. You can churn dance music out basically by numbers these days, or so it seems, but you can’t do that with performance. Without players in the background playing away, the whole thing would soon grind to a halt.

Folkmaster comments: One of our ethoses of starting the site was to focus on the music. It seems to me that folk Music, especially in the UK, needs all the promoting it can get. The mass media tend to focus on the fact that the bands look good rather than the music subject matter.

Television does that, you don’t even have to have experience of playing in front of audience beforehand to make it, just get on “Top of the pops” and there you go.

Folkmaster comments: Which is killing music in a way.

Q             What venue would you most like to play at?

A             Well I’d like to do Cambridge festival a couple of times.

Q             What is the first single you ever bought?

A             (Laughing) “Bad Penny blues”

Q             What was the most embarrassing thing to ever happen to you on stage?

A             I think the most embarrassing performance was at the Isle of Wright Festival because when we (Pentangle) first started to play a woman jumped on stage and grabbed the microphone.  She was then ushered off stage at which point Mick Jagger decided to join the audience.  Then, shortly after that, a Hayrick caught fire then helicopters started circling overhead, and this was all happening within the first half an hour of being on stage.

Q             When your not involved in producing music, what do you do?

A             Gardening, well my wife does most of it, I just get hauled in to do the bits she can’t do.

Q             What is your legacy, what would you most like to be remembered for?

A             That my music was there to be enjoyed, I hope that would occasionally come across.

Interviewed by the Folkmaster