Interview: Roy Harper

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HIT CHANNEL EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: June 2010. We had the great honour to talk with a true legend: Roy Harper. Roy is a pioneer in British folk scene and he has done many iconic albums like “Stormcock”. He is known as the singer in Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar” song and from “Hats off to (Roy) Harper” song from Led Zeppelin’s “III”. He has also works with Jimmy Page, David Gilmour  and John Paul Jones among others in various occasions. On 7th November 2011,Roy celebrates his 70th birthday with a show in London’s Royal Albert Hall. Read below the very interested things he told us:


A few days ago (May 2010) you played in Mojo Honours list 2010 at Jazz Cafe, London and in attendance, was your friend Jimmy Page. Did you enjoy that night? Do you feel comfortable with “Honours” events?

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It was a great night. Nothing to do with the awards, just another way for MOJO to advertise themselves. MOJO is a good magazine that is respectful of most performers and performances. The arts columns in the newspapers are often biased, misinformed, one-sided, and generally unbalanced views which more often than not reflect the arrogance of their writers.


 You just finished a Europe tour with Joanna Newsom. Which was the feedback your received from her fans? Were they  familiar to you music and your lyrics themes?

Joanna is a big Roy Harper fan, which is why she asked me to tour with her. I’m a big Joanna Newsom fan, which is why I really enjoyed doing it. 2 or 3 of the band are familiar with my work, and I loved what they did with her.


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Your fans know that at times, you spend long periods without playing guitar due to health problems, etc. At which stage is the next studio album?

I’m not ill. In fact I’m quite well. I have a congenital blood system defect. The veins and arteries in my lungs are not joined in the way that most people’s are. In fact, they join before they pick up the normal amount of oxygen. I just have to take care of my lungs, which I didn’t used to do when I was younger! It’s an hereditary condition, it’s not an illness. I have long periods of doing other things rather than playing the guitar for lots of reasons. Often I’m more interested in gardening, and planting trees, and observing wildlife. Or going to the city to see more in the museum, and find myself a new shirt. Sometimes I’m disillusioned with the way the British arts media has treated me, but in some ways it’s been my own fault in the past, because I’ve treated them the same way.


In March 2006 issue of Record Collector you said that there is unreleased material (4-5 songs) with Jimmy Page from ’80s, that it wasn’t mature enough to be released then.. Is there any chance to hear these songs soon?     

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The tracks you’re talking about are still in the same state. I always think about the future. I very rarely think about my own past. These songs would need quite a lot of work on them, but I’m engaged in writing new things.


Many musicians are inspired by your works (Ian Anderson, Jimmy Page, the late Nick Drake, Jeff Martin, Duncan Patterson and others) but famously you haven’t done money from your art. Had you ever got disappointed by this factor?

I am disappointed sometimes, yes, but I always said that I wanted to make records and perform in the way that I do, so I have to live with the consequences. I have always been considered to be ‘uncommercial’ or not commercial enough to break through into the mainstream, and I’m afraid that this kind of a reputation alone can seriously affect a career in music. The machine ignores you if you’re not considered to be commercial..


Your lyrics speaks about injustice, war, materialism, religions etc and you aren’t afraid of talking about political issues. Which is your opinion about the recently bloody Israeli invasion in unarmed ships, carrying foods, medicines and other useful materials to people of Gaza?

These are all the reasons I’m considered to be uncommercial, because I speak out about things. The music media doesn’t like opinions. It much prefers to handle something that doesn’t disturb anyone. Something that can virtually guarantee the maximum amount of sales.


Your friend and neighbour, Jeff Martin recently played for second time in Athens, Greece. Both shows were sold-outs. Is that difficult for Greek fans to see you live some day?

I don’t know whether I’ll ever come back to Greece. I have some Greek friends, but I don’t know where they are now. I’d love to see Athens again, but there’s only so much that I can do. I’m writing an epic song at the moment which is really all analogy, but it’s based around the story of Jason, The Argonauts and The Golden Fleece. However, it’s centered on the personal story of Orpheus, who of course was in the boat….


Which music do you hear nowadays?

I listen to the radio quite a lot, and I’m always trying to find out what’s going on, but there isn’t the same interest in music that there used to be. People have drifted into other parts of the leisure industry. There’s a lot of good acoustic music beginning to be made in the USA, and in Europe to, but a lot of it is underground. Joanna is a good example of this. I think in times like these that the kind of people like I was when I was younger are again becoming more interested in playing instruments that they can carry into any situation. Acoustic instruments and people-sized instruments that are perhaps more real, for real people, than Stadium Rock or Industrial Rap.

There’s a place for everything, but I think that acoustic music is having a new life at present because of its accessibility to music people. To people who are actually interested in music as an art form and as poetic entertainment rather than people who just want the loud Saturday night rave, which of course has its own validity. There’s always got to be a time and a place in which to let off steam and commune with more physical gods. I do it myself, but my heart is in the emotion of melody, and where and how melody can transport and direct emotional content. It’s actually a very old story, and if you’ve gifted yourself that kind of mode of life, you are always able to express it. It’s a great release to be able to do so.


A huge “THANK YOU” to Mr Roy Harper for his time and his great answers.


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