The last time Dave Pegg was playing, as part of Fairport Convention on his home patch, he had to send in his son Matt, as substitute, because of an operation on a tendon in his hand.
|Back from left,Simon Nichol, Gerry Conway, |
Ric Sanders.Front left Chris Leslie and Dave Pegg
“It's going to be great coming back to Birmingham Town Hall, it's my favourite gig 'coz I'm a Brummie and so is Ric Sanders, so for us it's like going home.”
Pegg was born and bred in Acocks Green and Sanders brought up in the Second City.
“We were there last year but I couldn't play, I cut a tendon in my finger. I'm playing again this year now it's almost completely recovered.”
In two years time Fairport will be 50 and by then Pegg will have been with them for all but the first two - Simon Nichol is the only founding member left.
The current line up of Pegg, Sanders, Nichol, Chris Leslie and Gerry Conway, is the longest the band has had, at 18 years and it's in the middle of their winter tour promoting their first new studio album for four years, Myths and Heroes.
“I think the album is the best one we have made with this line-up," says Pegg with obvious enthusiasm. "Myths & Heroes is not quite a new direction for the band, but it's certainly a more complete view of where the band is at musically, in terms of influences and there's lots of new stuff on it.
“Chris, our multi-instrumentalist, has written most of the material and we've also got songs from our friends Ralph McTell and Anna Ryder, who's from Warwick," says Pegg, who spends most of his time in Brittany when not working in England.
“It's really worked out well, there aren't any so-called filler tracks on it; we don't rush to make albums and we will only put stuff out when we've got what we consider to be really good songs.”
Does that explain the four year gap between this and the last studio album?
“Yes,” says Pegg with a wry laugh.
When he joined did Pegg have any inkling that Fairport would last this long and that he would end up being the lynch pin in it?
"Not really, when I joined Fairport it was exactly what I wanted to do. Joining for me was fantastic I was playing music that I really wanted to do, and I have stayed with them through all the changes and there have been 27 different people in those 46 years.
"But the nucleus of the band has been constant for the about the last 18," explains Pegg in what is still a discernible Brummie twang.
"We took over running our own affairs because at the end of the seventies the music business changed and it went from being all the little labels such as Island and Chrysalis, who really loved music, and it got taken over by accountants and became just a music industry, which is what it is nowadays.
"This is why we are glad we don't have anything to do with it. Because our commodity is stuff we want to record, it's never commercial for Fairport, it's always been a very honest style the band has come up with, and it's there because we like the music and not because we are trying to get into the charts."
So after at least 27 changes of personnel, how does Pegg explain Fairport surviving this long?
"We've managed to continue, almost non-stop, throughout the years, mainly by treading the boards rather than achieving vast album sales, but we have consistently gone out year after year and done this kind of winter tour.
"That's what's kept our audience, we've got people who are my age, I am 67, and we've got youngsters coming along because of the interest in the band from them coming to Cropredy*. Which is a very eclectic type of festival where there is something for everybody.
“We packed up in '79 because we thought we were too old to carry on what we were doing. It was when the music business started being run by accountants; it was also the punk era, so we thought 'we were really too old fashioned' and 'we shouldn't be doing this, we are out of context with musical tastes'.
“It was a bad idea," admits Pegg, "but we actually felt like that, because believe it or not we thought we were really old then, we were in our early 30s,” he laughs loudly.
“I didn't stop playing music because I was with Jethro Tull but then we started getting back together because of Cropredy and that's one of the reasons the continuity is there.
“We still love treading the boards. We all still love doing what we do and we hope we have kept our audience by being OK at it.”
|The latest Faiport album|
"It's a name that was allocated to Fairport way back in '69 when they made Liege & Lief and it's as good a description of what we do as anything.
"We don't do many traditional songs now, but our songs are all story songs, and they relate to things that have happened in history a lot of them, even though they are new songs.
“We are definitely not folkies, so the folk rock box kind of works.
“None of us are really traditional music players, we've all come from a rock background.
“I started in R&B, playing in groups such as The Uglys in Birmingham. I did join the Ian Campbell folk group for a year which is where I got my interest in traditional music.”
Does he have any thoughts on the future of Fairport?
"I don't have any plans to stop doing it, even though I am getting on and the bones feel it some times and occasionally I struggle on. I just love playing music and we are all the same I think, and hope there will always be a Fairport."
Myths & Heroes will be released on March 3 in CD and vinyl and in download formats.
*For those who don't know, Cropredy is festival organised by Faiport in the village near Banbury of the same name. The festival has been going since the early 70s and has steadily grown over the years to be one of the major festivals on the folk calendar. Although it should be understood Cropredy is not purely a folk festival. Although it started off as a showcase for Fairport the bands and artists who play there come from a wide range of musical genres. For more information visit www.fairportconvention.com/guide.php