INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS THOMPSON

 

Questions by Francesco Ferrua, Stefano Viezzoli and Lorenzo Zencher

...with contribution by Dario Pompili.

Directed by Francesco Ferrua.

 

Parsons Day: Let's start from the beginning: what's your musical background? What studies and tastes have you developed in your first years in music?

Chris Thompson: The first music I remember was singing hymns in church and short chorus's in sunday school. We didn't have radio or tv or any other music in my home as my father died when I was very young and I lived with my grandparents. I heard rockabilly music at a friends house and love that when I was 12 yrs old, but I was in a music shop and heard …I Saw Her Standing There …by The Beatles ...and that was it, I was hooked, I got a guitar and started playing and singing. Musical influences were Sam and Dave, Wilson Pickett, The Four Tops, Joe Cocker, The Beatles and Rolling Stones …The Kinks, Manfred Mann, Blood Sweat and Tears and Chicago.

PD: Once left New Zealand, you moved back to England and just one year later you joined the historical Manfred Mann's Earth Band. How did you get the contact with Mann and what's your present relation with him?

C.T.: I answered an advertisement in the Melody Maker newspaper for a lead singer ...it was MMEB and I got the job after a few auditions and recordings. Manfred and I are great friends. I'm at present working on a few songs for him.

PD: Finally, in 1983 you began your solo activity with the album Out Of The Night …has been hard to assert you on the music industry as a solo artist or the path was already smoothed by your great reputation you created working with several other artists?

C.T.: It's always hard to begin a Solo career, that's why the first thing I did outside MMEB was NIGHT, a band together with Stevie Lange. I guess luck plays a very important part and finding the right song at the right time. For instance my solo record …High Cost Of Living should have had You're the Voice on it, but the record company people didn't like the song!!

PD: In 1992 we've seen your involvement in the emotional Freddie Mercury tribute concert. You were involved in the organization as well as on stage …but what have been exactly your works as event responsible?

C.T.: I worked with the band for 4 weeks before the show rehearsing all the songs as the artists were not able to be there all the time, and organising all the background vocals etc. I was supposed to sing Kind Of Magic at the concert, but somehow it got dropped !! It was a very disappointing day for me.

PD: At that time, someone said that the tribute was also a sort of rehearsal in order to choice the possible successor to Mercury as Queen vocalist …George Michael and Roger Daltrey seemed to be the most probable candidates. You were one of the responsible for the concert …what can you tell us about this supposition? And did you never think to candidate yourself as Mercury successor?

C.T.: No …the tribute was just a tribute concert. No one could be a successor to Freddie, he was simply the best.

PD: Please, talk us about the SAS Band…

C.T.: The SAS band is a group of musicians and singers who want to go out and have fun doing what we love to do ...perform. It's always fantastic fun. Spike Edney, the musical director, is the best at putting this sort of thing together (he was MD at the tribute gig). No Egos … just great singers …great songs …great fun and we get paid !!!

PD: You worked with a great deal of artists, like Elton John, The Doobie Brothers, Tina Turner, Ray Charles, Brian May and many many others, besides Manfred Mann and Alan Parsons. What of these experiences left the greatest mark on you, and what's the artist from which you learned more?

C.T.: I think working with Elton left the greatest mark because he is such an incredible singer, writer and piano player. To work with him was a tremendous experience. I think I learned the most from Manfred as we worked together for such a long time. His ability to persevere and make an ordinary song a hit is second to none.

PD: Alan Parsons and Mike Oldfield are two artists that have been compared so many times from the musical criticism. You have worked with both them, so what differences you noted working with Parsons and Oldfield?

C.T.: They are actually very similar in their working styles.

PD: When did you encounter with Alan Parsons for the first time and how did you get to be asked for the Try Anything Once album? How much time you spent for those sessions?

C.T.: Alan got my number and called and asked me if I wanted to sing Turn It Up, which I loved …so I said yes. I worked about a week on the project.

PD: Do you think that having worked with a sound engineer and producer of Alan's calibre have influenced the way you edit your own albums?

C.T.: No …I don't think about what other people do when I work on my own stuff.

PD: When in 1994 you joined the Alan Parsons band for they first tour, have you had the chance to decide what songs to sing? What AP songs did you like more playing live?

C.T.: Well, I sang the songs I had recorded and then we looked at the list of songs Alan wanted to do then decided what would suit my voice and of course experimented with songs at rehearsal and also we changed songs even on the road. My favourite to sing was Turn It Up, but I also loved La Sagrada Familia and Don't Answer Me.

PD: Did you suggest to Parsons the release of You're The Voice on his The Very Best Live album or was an Alan's idea? Do you already know that exists also an italian cover of that song, titled La Scuola dei Serpenti (that means Snakes School) released in 1995 by Matia Bazar?

C.T.: Yes, I was aware of the Italian cover. We were doing You're The Voice live on the tour and then I sang it at the concert in Arnhem to celebrate the end of the 2nd W.W. It was recorded then and that's how it got to be on the live album. Alan liked the song and suggested we do it live.

PD: A crowd of 120.000 attended in 1995 at the grand World Liberty Concert, where you sang the always very powerful song You're The Voice …what means for you to perform in front of so many people?

C.T.: That was tremendous, a fantastic concert. It was however hard for me as I went on last and had to get my energy level up to that of the audience, but I think it was a great success. When they all started to sing at the beginning of the song, it was a huge surprise for me and very emotional.

PD: And after your appearance at the World Liberty Concert you joined Alan for the world tour, the last tour with Andrew Powell in the lineup. In an interview Alan said that Andrew didn't like to go on tour …from your point of view, have you ever noticed disagreements between Alan and Andrew? At the audience eyes the AP band has always seemed to be a well together band …it was really so also once left the stage?

C.T.: Hey, it's difficult on the road to always get on, but it was a good tour. Andrew is a fantastic musician, I think touring was hard for him to suddenly be away from his family (as it is for all of us!!), but we had good fun.

PD: Also your powerful duet with Sarah Brightman for the Fly album has been recorded by Parsons. Have you some particular memories from that experience? Do you know what others tracks on that album were engineered by Alan?

C.T.: I only remember how high that song was!!

PD: Are you still in touch with Alan? There's the possibility to see you together again? Perhaps with Alan as engineer or producer for your future album…

C.T.: I haven't seen Alan for a while, he did ask me to do the Tribute to Abbey Road tour, but I was already working at that time.

PD: Maybe you already know that Alan has disbanded his band and now he ventures into a more electronic contemporary music. During the time you spent with him, in studio and on the road, have you ever perceived his desire to face a new musical genre taking suggestions from the new electronic wave and artists like Massive Attacks or the Chemical Brothers?

C.T.: No.

PD: After all the years of waiting, finally Michael Ernst's The Excalibur Project is ready to be issued. We have had the occasion to get an advanced copy of this album, an album that you co-wrote and where you also sang, and we really think that it's a wonderful work. When began your involvement on it? It seems that Alan hasn't recorded your sessions, but have you had all the same the occasion to meet each other during these long works?

C.T.: I met Michael and Andreja Ernst at a MMEB concert and they asked me to help with some English Lyrics for the project. I then went to Austria to record some vocals and ended up singing I think 5 songs. I didn't record with Alan. It was great fun working on the project and the other writer, Johnny Bertl, is a great writer and arranger.

PD: Are you still in touch with Michael? Are you involved also in the release of the musical inspired by the album?

C.T.: Yes, I talk to Michel often. I'm not involved in the musical.

PD: What can we wait from CT in the next future? With which artist, you've never worked with, you would want to collaborate?

C.T.: I'm planning a new project, a kind of concept CD and DVD with music, etc., inspired by New Zealand. We are going there to record in March. I would love Aretha Franklin to sing one of my songs.

PD: You've always alternated your works as singer, guitarist, composer and even event organizer. Which of these activities gave you the most satisfaction? What would you like to do that you've never made in your long career?

C.T.: I'm a singer really, that's what I think I do best. I would like to find a great young band... help them write some hits... produce the album and go on tour with them and just have fun!!!

PD: Recently you've released your personal anthology album (Backtrack) which go through all your career. What's been the criterion in the choice of the songs?

C.T.: Just songs that I liked really.

PD: What do you like to tell about your new album?

C.T.: I love WON'T LIE DOWN... Its the only album I've made that I love to listen to and sing along. My favourite track is DUST IN THE LIGHT, I want that to be in a film. I think the album has lots of power, emotion and energy.

PD: As many other artists you have your official web site, where you manage the selling of your albums and where we can totally download two of yours albums as mp3 format (The Beat of Love and High Cost of Living). What do you think about the web, it help or it hurt the music?

C.T.: I think the Web is great for new artists. I think it probably hurts people like Madonna but they have enough money anyway. If someone down loads something and they like it and play it to their friends someone is eventually gonna buy something of your music. Of course we need to sell music to survive and to protect our copyrights... I'm sure it will all work out in the end.

PD: We'd like to leave you with a question at the which we really hope you'll give a positive answer: there's the possibility to see you some day here in Italy?

C.T.: Hey... I'd love to come to Italy... see if you can make it happen !!!

--OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2002--

 



We wish to thank deeply Chris Thompson and his personal secretary, Allegra Ringo, for all their availability and kindness.


You can reach Chris official website at:
http://www.christhompson-central.com