The idiosyncratic songsmith’s path from “very bad” debut to multi-layered latest – Uncut takes a look at Richard Dawson’s finest work, in the latest issue of Uncut magazine – in UK shops from Thursday, November 10 and available to buy from our online store.
“Is it OK to big up your own music?” asks Richard Dawson, partway into our discussion. “I’ve slagged off everything so far, but I was just paving the way for a huge self-aggrandising which will be the rest of the interview…”
While the Newcastle songwriter is certainly critical of his own work, there’s really no need: across the last decade or so, the guitarist and singer has built a compelling and deeply unique body of music. Here he takes Uncut through his records so far, from his “very bad” debut and the a cappella triumph of The Glass Trunk right through to the mighty, labyrinthine Peasant, his heavy collaboration with Finnish rockers Circle and his latest, sci-fi-inspired opus, The Ruby Cord, which appears in our 75 Best Albums Of 2022.
“It’s going to be interesting finding out what people think of the new one,” Dawson says, “because I’m prepared for all eventualities. I guess it’s probably not the most immediate record… This has been a great therapy session, anyway!”
SINGS SONGS AND PLAYS GUITAR
Dawson’s embryonic first long-player, released by the Newcastle record shop where he worked
I feel like this is the work of someone else. Probably there’s some nice melodies here and some nice ideas, but there’s just so many problems with it. There’s a lot of imitation, not least the awful American accent, which I think is a problem for a lot of singers when they’re starting out… But I wasn’t really starting out, so there’s no excuse! I think it’s very bad.
The lyrics are clumsy, the whole vibe is simpering, it’s too self-obsessed, it’s a mess. I don’t want to spoil it, because some people might enjoy it, and I don’t want to put anybody off releasing their bad first album. I used to work at the record shop Alt.Vinyl, and this was the first release on their label. I want to apologise to my good friend Graham for being so down about it, because the job they did was great. The open tunings didn’t come until later.
I was wrestling with a friend outside a pub, and they were gonna fall quite heavily, so I put my hand under them and snapped my little finger. It was really bad at the time because I thought it wasn’t gonna heal right at all – and it hasn’t, but it has given us a longer reach on that digit. But I had loads of gigs lined up, so I figured out how to play a bunch of songs in open tuning so I could just use one or two fingers. Then I wrote a few songs in that tuning and went from there.
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