Features | Interviews

David Thomas Broughton

By Peter Hepburn | 25 May 2005

I'm still not entirely sure of how I came to hear David Thomas Broughton's The Complete Guide to Insufficiency.  What I do know is that every single one of you out there should be trying to track it down and hear it for yourselves.  The album is a collection of five simple, beautiful, folk songs played live, solo by Broughton. His voice alone sets him among the likes of Antony (of the Johnsons) or Devendra Banhart, while his skill as a songwriter and performer sets him in the same area as Smog and Jason Molina.

Broughton agreed to answer some questions for us here at CMG, so here are his thoughts on the critical process, his music, and the music that he loves.

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CMG's Peter Hepburn (CMG): Introduce yourself.

David Thomas Broughton (DTB):
I am David, I am a part-time Conservation Officer, part-time data analyst for an electric company and someone who enjoys such past-times as making music and pictures.

CMG: Where are you from?

DTB:
Otley. Near Leeds, England

CMG: How old are you?

DTB:
24

CMG: What are your ten favorite albums of all time (I get to ask this 'cause it's an email interview and you can think about it for as long as you like)?

DTB:
I can't think of 10 (even with all the time in the world I couldn't decide). Some which had an impact in my life and i still regard highly are: [Van Morrison's] Astral Weeks, Days Have Gone by John Fahey, Cat Power's Covers Record, Laurie Anderson's Big Science. (Also I can't choose which Tom Waits or Smog to include, as they all appeal for different reasons). Other contenders are Joni Mitchell's Clouds, Arto Lindsay's Noon Chill, Lambchop's How I Quit Smoking, Nina Nastasia's Blackened Air, and loads more.

CMG: What have you been listening to lately?

DTB:
last thing i bought was Josephine Foster's Hazel Eyes... so that.

CMG: How did The Complete Guide to Insufficiency come about?

DTB:
My usual combination of existing songs and improvisation, it was kind of thrown together on the day, a lot of stuff happened for the first and only time on that record. It is pretty much how a gig would've gone, sometimes it happens to be nice sometimes not. That's the fun.

CMG: Why record it in a church?

DTB:
It was their [Birdwar and Ghosttown] idea. I had my fist gig with Nina Nastasia in a church it went so well with the acoustics, it was thought an all round good idea to emulate this.

CMG: How exactly did you record it (in terms of technology and technique)?

DTB:
It was just me, my loop and some extra microphones in the back of the hall. A single output and a vocal track all recorded at once - so it was just one take... I'm very un-technical, i can't really go into this one very much.

CMG: Which song on the album are you most proud of, either from the standpoint of the songwriting or in terms of how it turned out on the album?

DTB:
I was proud of "Unmarked Grave" -- I've never been able to re-create those harmonies. All have good points, the climax of "Ever Rotating Sky," the completely spontaneous whistling on "Walking Over You."  From my own songwriting point of view I think I like "Ambiguity" the best

CMG: What's the inspiration for "Unmarked Grave"?
DTB: Obviously a traditional folk song is under there -- the simple premise of lost loved ones, the death thermes come from folk heritage. I like this, kind of celebrating all aspects of the human condition. Lost soldiers abroad could be constued as topical. The melody turned out to be similar to a Jackie Leven song, as he is well known in my parents house this may be a subconscious influence.

CMG: Where do you want to take your music from here?

DTB:
I have no idea, it is a fairly spontaneous approach; whatever happens, happens

CMG: Do you see the next album as being more of a studio project?
DTB: The next is a vinyl release of some home recordings, there will also be a >similar full length CD, Interested in sound, I'm working on field recodings involved in up-coming work.

CMG: If you could have any artist cover one of your songs, who would it be, and which song?

DTB:
A female singer, I reckon Josephine Foster could do a pretty scary "Unmarked Grave." I don't know who does good covers…Smog did a masterful rendition of "That Leadbelly Song' on the last tour.

CMG: Also, which songs do you like covering?

DTB: Any really, I do some Springsteen for my mum... I like Smog because they work on a similar cyclic premise to mine (I admit he may have been an influence), also I like some of the female voiced songs they are good to interpret in my own voice.

CMG: Who would be your first choice to play a show with?

DTB:
Not sure -- Tom Waits would be a good one, he is big time though, never would accept.

CMG: If you could eat one human being, who would it be? Keep in mind that eating this person could mean you get their powers.

DTB:
I think I'd like to eat someone who has a lot of power which they abuse I'd channel that power into good  (sorry that's a bit right on), but on a selfish level Id've eaten John Fahey to play guitar. Alive,  maybe someone like Six Organs' Ben Chasny. (I'd like to be able to play some sort of great guitar -- I'm just too lazy to practice).

CMG: What's the most flattering rock moment you've had?

DTB:
Someone once said 'great show' after a gig.

CMG: What's the worst comparison you've suffered?

DTB:
I was compared to some poo.

CMG: How is it having your work laid out in front of critics, like myself, and left open to broad, simplistic interpretations?  Is it just something you see as coming with the territory, or does it act as something of a deterrent for releasing albums?

DTB:
I'm not bothered. It is fun to see what they come up with. I've liked it so far...I'd be happy if critics would just...carry on. They make themselves look stupid sometimes and we think its funny, it is good to see all the strange interpretations.

CMG: What should people listen to after hearing Complete Guide?

DTB:
I don't know if anything needs to be listened to, I suggest everyone listen to Josephine Foster, though. If people haven't heard that Harry Smith collection, they should.

CMG: What's the best thing about living in Leeds?

DTB:
At the moment it is where Katrine and I are, that she is here is the best thing. As far as cities in the UK is it is the best for having the extremes of being close to great countryside (Yorkshire Dales) and being a city with loads going on.

CMG:
The worst?

DTB:
The fashion -- people need to just relax a little on this with their trendy haircuts and distressed clothing.

CMG: What do your parents think of your music?

DTB:
They accept it they know its their fault I am interested in music and their liberal nature which let me do this thing I do.

CMG: Who's your coolest fan?

DTB:
I don't know who likes me apart from some of the reviewers...

CMG: Parklife or What's the Story (Morning Glory)?

DTB:
I used to be an Oasis fan but I guess now I'd prefer the Blur.

CMG: If you were forced--at gunpoint--to cover a Dylan song, what would it be, and what colorful, seldom-used instrument would you add to give the cover more flare?

DTB:
I prefer a slow thing like "Lay Lady Lay," I can get my voice around it. I'd do it on one of those African thumb pianos.