The new album consists of new songs - recorded live and with a second disc of demos. It's a fairly unusual way to approach a new album - what was the idea behind that ?
It is quite unusual, I didn't realise it was unusual, I assumed other artists had done it, but having done it now I can understand why they haven't. It's quite difficult because in the studio you have lots of options but this way you don't. Sometimes I think fans prefer the live versions of songs, that's the feedback I get, so I thought lets chop out the process and go straight to live to get all that energy straight away; that's the trade off: lots of energy for less options.
Would you do it again?
I might do it again, not for the next album I think we'll go back to the studio but I wouldn't rule it out in the future.
Do you find it odd to live in the USA and to be considered a quintessential English musician ? How do you maintain that essential "Englishness"?
I do see myself as very English, well more British actually, culturally I'm very attached to Britain. These days you can live any where and stay in touch so its not hard, I can listen to Radio 4 on computer whilst doing other things and read The Guardian online whenever I like. Its not that far away these days and where I live (L.A.) America doesn't really culturally impose itself anyway so you can be who you want to be.
In the last couple of years you've played many live dates in the UK - more than has been the case for many years. Any particular reason to refocus on UK ?
I'd say its down to more opportunity really, I will play as much as the market will bare, I want the audience to be excited and I don't want to be over playing. This year I played four different shows at Meltdown and I thought it was a bit crazy but three of them sold out which was very encouraging, very gratifying, and i hope to be back in January next year.
How did it feel to curate the Southbank's Meltdown festival? You were a more active participant in Meltdown than some previous curators-- were there any particular memorable collaborations / gigs in the series
There were lots of fantastic moments. In terms of other curators over the years some have had no physical presence at all which is interesting, others have played in almost every show, I tried to be somewhere in between.
There was a fantastic guitar night, with some very special musicians and a wonderful atmosphere. There was also a very special tribute to Kate MacGarrigle which was very emotional, people are still talking about it, it was quite extraordinary. They were the highest highlights I think.
Has it inspired any future collaborations or repeat performances?
That's an interesting thought, Possibly yes, there were some moments you simply couldn't get again but also some inspirations and some of the one to one collaborations in particular may well bear fruit in the future.
One of the shows focused on political music; how important or relevant do you think politics in music is at the moment?
At the moment...hmm... its not changed that much, right now there is a lot of politics in rap and hiphop as opposed to popular music but politics has always been a thread, music has always been a place of political comment and challenging social injustice. Sometimes you seen an increase in the volume of that thread, I'm thinking for example in the 60s when musicians spoke out widely against the Vietnam war and racial injustice. I don't think its as extreme now, I don't see that level of outpouring but who knows? It could happen.
At the Witchseason Weekender at The Barbican last year you were obviously enjoying sharing the stage with Teddy and Kami Thompson (his children) - any plans for family gig's a la Wainwrights ? Or a collaborative album?
There aren't any projects as such planned, its a thing if I'm in New York or he's in LA I might do something with Teddy, yesterday my grandson was around the house and we played guitar together but its just a thing that happens, its rare to organise it; we're all so busy and its hard to get us all in one place.
There is a new generation of bands like Trembling Bells, The Eighteenth Day of May, Espers and Midlake who are drawing inspiration from the early original Fairport Convention albums. How does that feel?
Um.... that's fine.... I suppose its.... I don't know what to say.... it's a nice thing to think your work influences others but it's not what I look for or think about. As a creative musician you're concerned with your own work but if it interests others that's great.
Do you have any favourite cover versions of your songs?
Probably! I've not really thought about it.... hmmm... let me think.... I Misunderstood by Dinosaur Jr that's very good work and Swan Arcade did a version of Great Valerio, Swan Arcade are really very good.
If there's a documentary about Fairport on BBC 4 do you watch it? Do you read books like Joe Boyd's White Bicycles, that cover parts of your life?
I'll probably avoid them, I don't want to see or read those things.
Can you imagine any significant evolution in the electric guitar? And do you ever splash out on new technological innovations?
Yes, I don't think there's been a big watershed since Hendrix, its not been so cataclysmic lately but guitar music is always evolving. With gizmos, I've seen lots of them about and I find them interesting but most don't sound good to me. As a guitarist you have to think guitar music might evolve or you might as well go outside and yourself!
Is there anything at all you can't do on a guitar that you would like to, or like to do better?
Sometimes as a musician one of the most creative things is hearing other instruments, I can hear something wonderful on the piano and the piano players using two hands doing totally different things and I aspire to recreate that. Similarly with brass instruments, horn players – those fluid lines are something to aim for with a guitar.
You answer a lot of fan questions on your website, is there anything you wish people would ask but never do?
There are lots I wish were not asked, lots I don't answer, I just quietly hit the delete button. The whole question and answer thing is a modern but necessary evil, I do enjoy doing it but I'd also enjoy it if it didn't exist. People expect that level of engagement now through twitter and facebook and suchlike and I am happy to embrace it but I am also a fairly private person – and all those answers could be lies of course!
Finally at a seasick steve gig it's not unusual to see people sporting his trademark John Dere tractors caps. Do you ever walk on stage and see the front row sporting his trademark black beret? What does your hat represent to you?
I do see some hardcore fans wearing berets which is fine, I don't slap lawsuits on them as they are entitled to express themselves but I just really wear it out of habit, to be honest I'm a bit bald and it reflects too much off the light so yes it cuts down on reflection!
Dream Attic is out August 30th on Proper Records. See richardthompson-music.com for more information. Thanks to JonA and MattG