Exposure: James Blackshaw
- Nicola Meighan
- 1 October 2009
James Blackshaw is one of our most spellbinding contemporary artists: the virtuosic Londoner’s lush guitar mantras and instrumental psalms are extraordinary. He’s coming to Stirling soon but for now he’s reclining in Turin … ‘I just visited a fruit museum,’ smiles the 12-string alchemist. A fruit museum? ‘It was full of fake fruit reproductions – totally bizarre and kind of tedious.’
And this from a dude who’s completely self-taught: that must take some patience. How did you do it?
I just listened to other people’s records and learned that way. Then I started to develop techniques and a style of my own.
Has being self-tutored made you more instinctive and liberated as a musician?
In some ways, yes – I’m inspired by music that’s not guitar-based, and try to find ways of incorporating that into what I’m doing – like trying to make my guitar sound like a piano. The tunings I use are unorthodox too.
Alongside comparisons to Steve Reich, Philip Glass and Jack Rose, you’re often likened to American Primitive guitarists John Fahey and Robbie Basho: do you feel any cultural obligation to advance their doctrine?
I feel flattered that people consider me to be in their tradition, but while I respect them very much, it’s important not to be too reverent and find your own voice.
Before vanquishing folk and the avant-garde, you spent years playing in punk bands: what further aural curveballs enlighten your unearthly arias?
Hmmn, a lot of 60s pop! I love Harry Nilsson, The Zombies, The Beatles …
Tollbooth, Stirling, Sat 10 Oct.