Interview with Richmond Fontaine - Winchester - 14 July 2005

Interview and article by Aline Giordano

Richmond Fontaine in Concert I would have travelled miles to meet Richmond Fontaine, but it just happened that they did all the travelling from Oregon, USA, to come and play in our English little town of Winchester at the Railway Inn. As usual I turned up unannounced but front man, Willy Vlautin himself came to greet me and introduced me to the rest of the live band: Dave Harding, Dan Eccles and Sean Oldham. The interview progressed well with Dave and Dan chipping in the conversation. But as we got to discussing lyrics and Willy Vlautin's personal experience, I felt that somehow he was shy talking about it. And who could blame him? Willy's stories are his: his experiences and his fiction, the people he has met and the people he has invented. So we talked about more tangible things such as our favourite song writers. We talked about literature and we mentioned John Fante and Jim Thompson. We talked about Willy's own novel, The Motel Life, which is being published by Faber and Faber next April. Then as the crowd started to make more noise around us, we moved away from the noise but most importantly away from people who could hear us. And as the interview was coming to an end, Willy Vlautin all of a sudden opened up. His shyness left him and he talked about his life, his song writing, his ups and downs, his role models and his depression. As he himself said, "he was embarrassed talking about that shit in front of the guys". Now that we were away from the guys and the crowd, we started talking about things close to our heart, such as our very own personal depression. And whilst we were on the subjects of depression and alcohol, we could not help ourselves but talk about Bright Eyes, Elliott Smith, Tom waits and The Pogues . Willy was well aware that the tape was rolling and yet he delivered the most personal and sincere monologue I have ever witnessed in my 15 years of interviewing for Uzine. The result is a fascinating and enlightening insight into the depressed mind of a very articulate song writer from the Americana genre. Hope you enjoy the (very long) read.

How would you describe your fan base in the UK?

Dave Harding: Pretty devoted. It seems that people who like our music like a lot of music. It’s not just some passing things.

Dan Eccles: They buy a lot of music, listen to a lot of music and think that music is an art as opposed to just some product. In the States people just want to party and maybe get laid and talk right through the performance. They don’t give a shit. But for us in the UK and Europe it’s been great. They listen intently. They know a lot about the music. We feel appreciated.

Dave Harding: We have great fans.

So you’d say that in the States the profile is much different.

Dave Harding: Yes. Here we get to play nicer places, and the people who come and see us seem to know our music a lot more.

Dan Eccles: In the States, you play in a room, and there’s a bunch of people there. The chance of it being silent when you’re playing is just nil, but that can happen here.

Dave Harding: And not that it has to be silent or anything like that.

Dan Eccles: I had never experienced that before I came here. you know. pin dropped. And that’s incredible. It’s like turning the fan off in your room. God it’s all quieter now. It makes the whole thing more intense. There’s this collective tension that is cool. It’s not a visual sport, it’s an art, it’s your ears.

You’ve got a copy here of Uncut, they’ve been really great at helping you to get more popular. They’re always there to praise your talent and your extraordinarily good music. In Uncut, every time there’s a critique of your album or a gig, there’s always a certain association of words such as "exquisitely painful" or "hearts of pain". Is this an image that bothers you?

Willy Vlautin: I mean they are really dark songs. If people think they are really sad I guess that means it’s working. I never think that they are sad. The earlier stuff was a lot darker, but the newer stuff I don’t see as dark even though I guess it is.

Dave Harding: It’s just nice that people are saying something.

It’s like they’ve found a recipe, a motto that sells. But it’s a bit of a catch 22. You may be stuck in a niche and not able to move out. And whenever you want to explore different avenues, different sounds, different ways of writing, then sometimes music critiques are the first ones to hit hard on you for doing so.

Dave Harding: I think there’s nothing you can really do about it. You can’t worry about it. It’s just like a bad review. If some writer doesn’t understand your music, and says you sound like this. Obviously some criticism is helpful but in the long run you just move on and follow your path, and not worry about this stuff.

Willy Vlautin: A lot of people have said that certain records of ours were their least favourite and then you talk to them a year later they go "oh yeah I really love that record".

Dan Eccles: Weather changes mood.

Willy Vlautin: You can’t worry about stuff like that, it would drive you crazy.

Dan Eccles: Don’t worry about what other people say. It’s a complete waste of time.

Willy Vlautin: If someone from your family said something you’d listen to them more that some critic. I try not to read magazines, I end up doing it but I don’t like reading them.

You have re-recorded some tracks from your first two albums. What prompted you to do this?

Willy Vlautin: We didn’t own our first two records. It was hard for us to buy them from our old record company and no one else could get them. We wanted to give our fans a representation of our first two records. And Dan is on it so it sounds really good.

Dave Harding: It’s the first recording that Dan has played with us even though he has been playing for almost two years, but he has never recorded with us.

Dan Eccles: Post to Wire was already recorded and for The Fitzgerald.

Dave Harding: There was not really room for much lead guitars.

Dan Eccles: Oh there’s room! (laughs) I get to play the songs live.

Dave Harding: He was a bless. It’s like if you’d painted your house and re-do it ten years later, you get better at it.

Did you change any lyrics?

Willy Vlautin: I changed a couple of lines here and there. I changed little things that were driving me crazy, but it’s pretty much in the spirit. We tried to stay in the spirit of the first two records. It was a pretty spontaneous kind of thing.

Dave Harding: Yes we treated it as it was a live.

Willy Vlautin: It came with its own kind of feel, like it’s its own record in a way. It turned out a lot better than I thought it would. People seem to like it so far. Sean likes it now! He hated it at first.

The track, The Longer You Wait, gives me goose pimples every time I listen to it. I read an article saying that "in three minutes you say more than some lyricists say in a life time". I can see the point. It is a very powerful song and the lyrics work very well. Can you tell us about how this song came to life?

Willy Vlautin: I guess I was just thinking about the whole idea that how you can have been next to somebody, living with somebody for so long and know absolutely nothing about them. Like couples, or a father and a son, you can spend so much time with them, yet they are kind of disappearing before your eyes. In this case the husband and wife have been going forever and he just quit caring for her, and then she gets suspended from work, although it doesn’t say in the song, for like drinking on the job. That was the story I had written about an alcoholic nurse that finally gets caught, she gets suspended and is really depressed and the husband finally wakes up and realises that he has no idea who this woman sitting next to him is. They don’t sleep together anymore, he can barely remember when he last kissed her, hugged her or touched her. He’s going to take her camping to get away and they are going to try and figure it out again. As he’s driving, he’s trying to figure out who she is and what she is. And she is also realising that she’s spent so much time with this guy and he didn’t really open up to her. The whole idea is that when you have a problem deep seated with someone that close it’s harder to address it. It’s easy to let shit slide. It waited so long to address anything that it’s going to fall apart until one of them breaks down. And then you have to address it.

The melody stands out in the album, how did it start?

Willy Vlautin: It started out as just a folk song and then the guys transformed it.

Dave Harding: This song was around for a while.

Willy Vlautin: And I had the lyrics for a while. I changed the melodies a lot. If I think the lyrics are pretty decent or fit, I keep them, and dress them up in different melodies and play them a lot.

You once said it got inspired by a short story that you wrote. Is it a summary of the short story?

Willy Vlautin: Yes. Once in a while I do that like write a summary. Like Casino Lights on The Fitzgerald I was writing the short story, Keeping Calling, and started working on the song at the same time.

Are they two different writing processes?

Willy Vlautin: Yeah. When you write stories and fiction you disappear in your own world. I don’t drink when I’m writing a lot. It’s a different feel. When I write songs I can write songs with a hang-over. I wrote a story about a girl, I felt so bad for her because she was going through this really bad time so I wrote her a little love song. It’s on Post to Wire. It’s stupid I know.

No, not at all.

Dave Harding (to Willy): Did you ever write a song that inspired a short story?

Willy Vlautin: I’ll have a think about that one man!

Dan Eccles (to Willy in a kind of joke way): Do you write about food?

Willy Vlautin: No.

Dave Harding (to Willy): If you were going to write a song about food what food do you think that would be?

Willy Vlautin: Ravioli, man! That’s my favourite food.

Dave Harding (to Willy): What would you rhyme with ravioli? Specoli? Sorry to take over the interview! (laughs).

Dan Eccles: You really bummed us all out!

In your songs, your protagonists find refuge in alcohol, drugs, violence, and gambling. You seem to process the world and turn it into these fairly depressing and bleak songs. Can you share with us how this process works? How the visualisation of the outside world is internalised and turned into songs?

Willy Vlautin: I tend to polarise situations. (silence) I guess a lot of times when I am working on songs I always tend to have anxieties. And everything gets really dark in my head, then I polarise situations that feel right in my guts. I don’t think there are as bleak as real situations. Earlier songs were pretty bleak. Alcohol, it seems is always in my songs, because I love drinking but it can cause so many problems. I worry about it a lot you know. I’ve been around people who have had a lot of problems with it, like my father and my brother, both are heavy drinkers.

I was trying to describe your music to a friend of mine, but it’s actually quite difficult. How would you describe your music? The obvious answer would be ’americana’, but.

Willy Vlautin: I mean I think we are a rock band. I like the mood swings of country. You can play really fast stuff and very sad ballads. I am a huge fan of ballads. I can write these a lot easier than rock songs. My heart is more into quieter stuff, but the thing I really like about the band is that we can go up and down like your mood swings. I like the songs that drop you down.

A caption caught my eyes. can’t quite remember where but it read something like "REM saved American rock".

Willy Vlautin: Oh yeah, that was in Uncut! I’ve just read that article - although we try not to read the magazines!

Dave Harding: We stayed at a friend’s house and he had a big stack of them so we had no choice!

I have a lot of admiration for REM, I really like their music, but that made me wonder about what the essence of American rock is.

Willy Vlautin: Oh God, I wouldn’t know. Dave is a scholar of rock n’ roll! I don’t think REM saved American rock. Replacements, I thought were really good. When I grew up there were two camps. There were the REM arty college kids and then there were the Replacements’. I mean I like REM a lot, Reckoning is one of my favourite records, but I don’t know that one band could ever save anything.

Can American rock be saved anyway!? Does it need saving?

Dave Harding: There are always good bands in the US, hundreds of good bands.

Willy Vlautin: Just like there are here (UK), whether or not you find them or they get recognition, that’s a whole different thing.

Dave Harding: We have our favourite band in the world, and hardly anyone has ever heard of them. Grand Champeen is a great four piece rock band. They have three records out. They should be a popular band.

Willy Vlautin: They are a hard working band. They have got their shit together. They are really good. We play with so many great bands that never really get there. There is always going to be good music.

That’s the problem we don’t have access to them. A person who goes to work every morning tends to listen to main radio stations to get inspiration, and CDs are so expensive now.

Willy Vlautin: And they are so many bands! They are so many records coming out. I have a hard time to know what to buy. There is a lot of competition. In our city there are three/four clubs and they play three bands a night every single night.

I think at the moment the American music scene is fairly healthy. Bright Eyes is popular. And one band can lead to another one. Bright Eyes and Richmond Fontaine are not that far apart. I don’t think American rock needs to be saved.

Dave Harding: I think in the article they were talking about the eighties.

Willy Vlautin: Yes, when REM came out they created college rock. That was the article’s angle. They are a great band!

Yes, I saw them at the Isle of Wight festival.

Willy Vlautin: Oh yeah. were they good?

I think they lost it a few years ago.

Dave Harding: I haven’t seen them for something like twenty years!

They headlined Glastonbury a few years ago. That year was fantastic, Radiohead were playing as well. REM enjoyed it so much that they came back and it felt like every single word had been rehearsed. It was flat. This is when I thought I don’t want to see them now. And then you’re at the Isle of Wight festival and REM are top of the bill, so you’re not going to go away! Anyway. let’s talk about the mood in your songs. There is a certain amount of depression coming out of your songs. So much so that I can’t listen to more than 3 or 4 tracks in a row otherwise I get really down!

Willy Vlautin: I’m sorry.

That’s ok. Not to worry. . I used to listen to depressing music all day long and enjoy it! But now I tend not to do that anymore. It’s not good for my health. The song you wrote about your uncle who is now dead, towards the end of the song, I could find some lightness in it.

Willy Vlautin: The song’s Western Skyline?

Yep. In a way because it’s over it gives you more freedom to let go of your emotions and be at peace with yourself. Musically the song is lighter than most of the others on the album.

Willy Vlautin:Willy Vlautin: I was a little kid when he died. Later I used to go fishing in this river. I would tell my mum where I’d been fishing and she said that’s where your uncle died. He died right around where you’ve been fishing. The memory just sat there and then you imagine what you would say to your uncle when he’s about to die, it’s a beautiful skyline, there will be beautiful girls, don’t worry, everything is going to be alright, with golden lights, the sunset, you and me would be walking down towards the lights and in the casino, we’ll have a really good time with some girls who’d be genuine and will treat you nice. Yes, it is more hopeful. If you friend was hurt and really scared, you’d be lying and you would try and ease his mind. I was just trying to think about what to say. For my part I would not stop crying, but in hindsight, I would say things that would ease my mind, that we would go hand in hand like good buddies. It’s nice if you’re hurt that somebody says the right things, it really takes the pressure off you.

You read a lot of American literature.

Willy Vlautin: Yes. although I try and read a bit more English literature. I just kind of read what I know.

I was just gonna say, I can’t really comment, because I don’t read that much American literature myself, apart from John Fante which I really enjoy.

Willy Vlautin: Yes, he is so great and popular over here. He is not popular at home at all. I mean, I just heard of him because Charles Bukowsky is really popular at home. John Fante is a great writer.

…and he is very well appreciated in France too.

Willy Vlautin: That’s good. That makes me feel good! He deserves it.

…and Jim Thompson is quite big in France too.

Willy Vlautin: Jim Thompson was a huge thing in France. Black Lizard Press re-issued all of the Jim Thompson’s in these really cool covers, and I was in a store once, and they had this big display and I just started reading them. I’ve read most of them. I’ve just finished Wild Town on my way over here. I think he is a great writer.

Would you consider publishing your short stories?

Willy Vlautin: Well, I am publishing a novel next April on Faber and Faber. It’s called The Motel Life. I signed the deal 8 months ago. I was lucky, lucky! I’m grateful. I hope it doesn’t flop, because I love writing more than anything.

Did you have a contract to write a fiction or did you have something already written?

Willy Vlautin: Oh yeah I already had. I have a stack of stories! I have four novels: Two good ones, one that I’m not sure about and one that I have just finished. I think people will like it. Well, I hope so.

Back to music, Polaroid, from Post to Wire, you sang it with Deborah Kelly. Is this something you would do again?

Willy Vlautin: Oh yes, definitely! I really like her voice and she is a really nice person. If I could choose any one in the world I would do it with her, if I had a good song. I hope to write another song with her. I like the idea of using the same singer again. We have such a good time. She is in a band called the Damnations, in Austin, Texas and we all get along very well.

I think that’s pretty much all my questions. Anything you would like to add or ask?

Willy Vlautin: Not really. I only butchered that one question; I butchered a few of them probably! But the only one I kind of butchered was the one about the bleakness of characters.

It’s probably a question you are being asked a lot!

Willy Vlautin: No. I get embarrassed talking about that shit in front of the guys. You know the one thing that is always interesting to write about is when people make the same bad decisions over and over. I’ve always struggled, playing like a loser. If you’re really hard on yourself you won’t take chances. You wouldn’t take the chances you would take if you liked yourself. If people play life like they are losers, they are always going to lose. And I’ve done that for years and years.

I’ve done that for years too.

Willy Vlautin: It’s bad habits.

And it’s as difficult to stop as quitting smoking or drinking!

Willy Vlautin: Oh yeah. Or like quitting heroin. Not that I know about heroin or smoking. I love getting drunk but I’m scared of it too. I went through years where I never did anything expect get drunk and pour my money drinking. I had a fun time doing it, and then you start worrying about it, like I want to be more than that. There was a time in my life when I really enjoyed hiding out in a bar and then you get to a point in your life when you realise you haven’t done anything in years, like a normal person would do. If you’re scared all the time, if you think you’re a bum, it’s a lot easier but you don’t do anything.

It’s easier? …but it’s actually more difficult really!

Willy Vlautin: It’s a trap. That’s why I write about all the guys that write about this. Basically my characters are different versions of the way I perceive myself I suppose. It’s hard when you make bad decisions after bad decisions and then you finally get strong and you get to make one good decision. And maybe the only strength you have is to get out of the bad situation, and you don’t have the strength to actually change yourself. It’s like this song on the Fitzgerald, Don’t Look And It Won’t Hurt. Behind that it’s the idea of cutting ties to your old way of living that is not good and try and make it on your own. At the end of the day it’s still you. I mean, that girl is still her, and now she’s alone, she’s made this big break and moved to a different town and got a job and she’s trying to make a go of it, but at the end of the day she is still the same person. The tenancy would be for her to eventually call her boyfriend or hook up with the same exact guy, and let herself fall into the same trap, and to be with those kinds of people and you hope she doesn’t and that she is strong enough. And then hopefully she has a little bit of love for herself, I guess, to try and break the cycle. I mean it’s really hard to do. I’ve had really hard times. But I’ve been lucky that some of my buddies had been good people. I worked with a guy for years who bought a house. And I had always dreamed about owning a house my whole life. I worked with this guy and he just saved his money and tried really hard. And finally found a house and bought it. I was so impressed by it. He was no different to me. He was just a guy, but he had a vision of what he wanted. I did the same and I got a house too, after three years of trying. Being around that guy totally made me feel better about myself because when I got my house, I was so proud of myself that a bum like me had a house. You know it’s the size of a little apartment but still, it made me feel better about myself. Then I would try not to drink on a week-end and it made me feel good about myself. You know those little things are so fucking hard for me. And getting that book deal definitely made me not think myself as such a bum.

Especially with Faber and Faber.

Willy Vlautin: Yeah. They’re really nice. I mean it’s always a struggle.

I mean it’s a very personal question, and you don’t have to answer it. How do you think you got conditioned to feeling not being good enough and being too hard on yourself?

Willy Vlautin: If you’re so hard on yourself then you reach that point where you don’t do anything. And it’s that whole trap again. I mean I’ve always been like that myself. My mum was like that. Her mum was like that. I think maybe there’s a hereditary environment there. My mum was really hard on herself and unsure of herself. And that rubs off. I think it’s in our guts, and definitely the way I was raised. I mean no offence to my mum because she worked and tried really hard. She was good but she had so much uncertainty about the world. And I felt that way. I’ve just started to get over it a little bit in the last five years. I’ve always had a hard time, I had really bad nerves, up until I was 27 or maybe 30. I could not go shopping unless I was half drunk or it was late at night. But being in the band cured me a lot of that because I meet a lot of people.

It’s an incredible journey from lacking confidence to go out shopping to being the front man of a band.

Willy Vlautin: Yes, it was really hard, and that’s why I felt in love with writing songs because they made me feel so good, like music makes you feel so good when you are lonely. Songs can be your best friends, they can cheer you up. I wanted to be part of rock n’ roll, in a kind of naive way. I just really wanted to be part of it at any cost. I knew it would be really hard. I didn’t play sober until I was 28 or 29, I was always wasted, and really depressed. That wasn’t very good because I was drunk but then I could not quit either. And then you get over it, and it gets better. My mum always told me you’ve got to keep trying and it will eventually go away. So I just wanted to be in a band and I didn’t want to fail. I wanted to have fun, drive around in a van, hang about with my friends, and those are great guys. But it took me a long time. I couldn’t even introduce myself to anybody until I was 19, 20! That’s why drinking has been a good thing for me in a way. It’s like taking anti-anxiety medicine: a few drinks and you don’t really care about anything, you disappear in your own head.

But then you are more and more within yourself, and then you’re going down hill!

Willy Vlautin: Well, it’s not really the greatest thing! (nervous laughs)

You know, what I really admire in you and your song writing is that although it’s very personal things you always tell interesting stories in a very nice way.

Willy Vlautin: I mean, I was always much more comfortable writing stories about situations, because I can be more articulate with the way I felt. I was so self-conscious being mean to anybody or saying the wrong thing in a song unless I masked it in a way that I felt in control of the situation. I always wanted to honest. If you’re really shy and unsure about yourself, the best way not to beat yourself too much is to tell the truth. I grew up with this kid who had a really bad home life, but he would tell it to you. He’d go like my dad, he hasn’t gone to work for three weeks, and he won’t go to work. He would tell really embarrassing things about himself, because he figured that if he admitted, then what can anybody say? And it’s true. That’s why I started writing about the way I felt about some characters. If I admitted I was a bum, then what can you say about that because I’ve already said I’m a bum. Then it takes the pressure off you. I had a really hard time writing first person about depression. So then I started writing stories and then I mixed the two together. Some people don’t like it because there are too many stories. Well that’s just the way I write.

There cannot be too many stories. There cannot be too many books, the same for records.

Willy Vlautin: Yes, and I buy a lot of records I don’t like. And some people buy our records and they may not like them. I feel bad that they have spent their money on them but the whole key is that some day you find a band that you like. When I find a band that I like I get all excited.

Who is exciting you at the moment?

Willy Vlautin: Vic Chesnutt.

Fair enough!

Willy Vlautin: My girlfriend is a huge Vic Chesnutt fan.

She should check out my interview with Vic.

Willy Vlautin: We will. I should write your website down now. And how about you?

Mmm, at the moment. (Arrrgh, caught me off guard.)… mmm… (can’t quite think straight right now). I really like Bright Eyes.

Willy Vlautin: I’ve never heard him. That’s exciting.

He sings these songs… these stories which are very depressing and they are about him, whether or not they are really about him or not, I don’t know. He’s got this song that starts like this: "I had a brother once, he drowned in a bath tub before he ever learnt how to talk and I don’t know what his name was but my mother does."

Willy Vlautin: (with his most compassionate voice) That’s sad.

Yes. And it reminds me of tragedies that happened in my own family, and perhaps to a certain extent in families in general. Bright Eyes is like my comfort blanket. (Now I’m getting personal myself). And some of your songs have the same effect.

Willy Vlautin: That’s good. I mean there’s nothing better than that. Tom Waits does that for me. I disappear in his songs. I can just listen to him and it makes my whole life happier, and he’s sad and he is always screwed up and his characters are always crazy, but it makes me feel right at home, just like you’re saying. Elliott Smith, he writes really heart breaking first person lyrics.

Oh yeah, I love him.

Willy Vlautin: He seems to write with blood. Every song seems to take a little bit of him.

Have you heard King’s Crossing on his last album, From a Basement on the Hill.

Willy Vlautin: I’ve got that record but I don’t have the song titles.

It’s the one that goes: «I can’t prepare for death any more than I already have. It’s Christmas time and the needles are on the trees, a skinny Santa is bringing something to me, his voice is overwhelming, but his speech is slurred, and I only understand every other word. And at the end he goes: This is the place where time reverses, dead men talk to all the pretty nurses, instruments are shinning on a silver tray, don’t let me get carried away, don’t let me get carried away». He sings that with such a soft and fragile voice that it always brings tears to my eyes and shivers down my spine.

Willy Vlautin: Yes I mean, he can bring tears to your eyes. I got to see him in Portland. He lived where we lived for years. I got to see his shows. You know in America people talk through yours shows, but him, he had like two hundred people just speechless. Yes, he is a heart breaking guy. He seemed like he lived hard and wrote hard. He wrote really hard felt stuff. And he is really good at that, expressing his depression or whatever, better than almost anybody I can think of.

Yes, when I listen to Elliott Smith, I look at my guitar and think, what’s the point because he’s done it all.

Willy Vlautin: Yes you could say that about all the great ones. If I compared myself to Tom Waits I’d quit! I definitely would never be star player.

Well, you never know.

Willy Vlautin: I’m no Tom Waits.

Let’s face it there can only be one Tom Waits!

Willy Vlautin: I mean you can’t compare yourself. Elliott Smith is not you. But, I see what you mean. There’s a writer I like, William Kennedy, from New York. What he writes is set in one town in the 1930s, and all the characters inter-connect. He is a genius. Of what I think is great, he is the greatest writer. He is really smart and he is fearless. He understands English language so well he can play with words and do whatever. Words are really hard for me, I have to really pick and choose what I want to say carefully because I don’t have that kind of ability. My only ability is to sit there and think about how I would say it. Fuck! If I had compared myself to him, I would have quit this too. That’s why I don’t read rock magazines, because I can get so intimidated by how good everybody else is.

Especially Uncut. There are a lot of bands I would not have been into if they hadn’t mentioned them. But then, they always have the big names: Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, U2, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits. Usually they have two or three bands covering three quarters of the magazine and probably as many as one hundred sharing only a few pages. But it’s worth its while for those only few pages. Ok, it’s a business. (and I sort of was losing track of what I wanted to say!).

Willy Vlautin: Yes and Uncut took a chance on us, and they really helped us here. In the States they would never write about a band as small as us. So I have a lot of respect for Uncut. I mean these guys have to put the big names on the cover otherwise no one would buy the magazines. You know some guys can never get enough reading about the Beatles, the Stones and Bob Dylan.

You’re going to the Guildfest tomorrow. Have you heard of this young British artist called Patrick Wolf?

Willy Vlautin: W.o.l.f.?

Check him out. He is good. He’s just released his second album, Wind in the Wires, with that great song The Libertine. He went to South West England to write this album. If you have a spare moment, go and see his set.

Willy Vlautin: I’ll definitely check him out, and I get to see the Pogues too which I’ve never seen before. I was a huge fan of theirs when I was in high school. I thought Shane MacGowan was a great lyricist. I wish he got more credit. He is a better writer than he is a drinker. I’m sure his writing days are done, I hope not, but it seems like they are, but he sure wrote really good songs. I hope he is remembered for that and not his drinking, even though I admire that too! Fuck, I love the Pogues. At the time, he was cocky enough to write about anything. He could write big political songs. He writes great horse racing songs. That will be fun.

Thank you very much for your time.

Willy Vlautin: Sure thanks. So what do you do for the Health Service?

Oh, well, mmmm… The Health Service is going through the computerisation of patient records and we're implementing a new hospital clinical system. I'm helping project manage parts of this in my local hospitals.

Willy Vlautin: That's a big job!

Yes, and it's very political. There have been a few false starts, which were frustrating, but at the end of the day it keeps me in the job and blah, blah, blah (who wants to hear about my job anyway?)… (Then I gave Willy the link to the Uzinemusic website)

Willy Vlautin: Thanks a lot. I'm anxious to read your piece on Vic. He is another guy who lyrically is fucking talented. His wife played with him?

Yes, his wife played drums and his niece played bass guitar.

Willy Vlautin: Oh yes, she's got a great voice. Does she sing during the show?

No but she does the supporting act, just her and her guitar.

Willy Vlautin: Vic is so prolific too. I was really into his stuff some 7, 8 years ago and I kind of lost track and then I started listening to him again. You know like you go out of phase with certain artists, and then you get back into them. It was nice to meet you.

For more details, visit… Richmond Fontaine's website

Photograph © Aline Giordano 2005