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Rakshasa: Dhumaketu

Scotland's Simon Thacker is one of Elsewhere's kinda people. He plays classical guitar but has his ears wide open to the world and mostly works in cross-cultural contexts with musicians from India.

His most recent album Rakshasa with his ensemble Svara-Kanti finds him exploring that area deeply, but the centrepiece is a commission from minimalist innovator Terry Riley.

And look at his answers below: how many classical guitarsts will happily mention the Wombles, AC/DC and the Gunners?

Yes, Simon Thacker -- whose Rakshasa album we highly recommend -- is definitely our kinda guy. 

The first piece of music which really affected you was . . .

I actually had to really rack my brains as I had never really considered what the very first piece was…I remember that I got a cassette tape player for Christmas when I was three or four but I only had two tapes for quite a while … someone’s old Beach Boys Greatest Hits and The Wombles. The stand out was Barbara Ann, which I played over and over and over and…

I can still sing the chorus of Superwomble. But don’t tell anyone…

The first tape I pestered my parents to get me was AC/DC and that laid the foundations for my musical listening for a lot of primary school…

Your first (possibly embarrassing) role models in music were . . .

Hmmm, definitely Angus Young. When Guns n’Roses hit (I was eight) I used to tie my mother’s headscarf round my head like an Axl Rose bandana and jump from sofa to sofa to Welcome To The Jungle. I occasionally still do that…

Lennon or Jagger, Ramones or Nirvana, Madonna or Gaga, Jacko or Jay-Z?

Lennon, Nirvana, Gaga, Jacko

If music was denied you, your other career choice would be . . .

Play up front for Scotland at football, big scary lumbering striker. Except I’m rubbish at football. Better keep practicing guitar…

The three songs (yours, or by others) you would love everyone to hear are . . .

Impossible to choose…ask me tomorrow and I’d give a different answer but here goes…

1. Bulerias de la Perla from Camarón De La Isla’s Calle Real album, the great innovator paying homage to the great cantaora of the past La Perla de Cadiz, amazing singing, incredible interaction between the guitars

2. not a song as such but Nazakat and Salamat Ali Khan’s early recording of raga Darbari (or Durbari as it says on the lp, recorded when they were 26 and 24 respectively), transcendentally beautiful, builds in excitement and elemental virtuosity for 22 minutes (link

3. Carlo Gesualdo’s Moro, lasso, al mio duolo, a madrigal for 5 voices from Book 6, the Alessandrini recording (link, a few hundred years ahead of its time with the Heavy Metal progressions... scorching emotional intensity in a renegade compositional style, exploring the darker reaches of the human psyche.

3.5 If I was able to shoehorn one of mine in it would probably be Rakshasa.

Any interesting, valuable or just plain strange musical memorabilia at home?

I’ve got an oud and a kora, the latter I bought at a Spanish market 15 years ago and miraculously managed to smuggle it back on the plane by engaging the hostess with eye contact on the way on then putting it under my legs and covering it in newspaper for the whole journey…don’t think it would have survived a trip in the hold. I spent around 8 weeks practicing eight hours a day, getting lessons with Moussa Kouyate. Then when summer was over and it was time to go back to uni I had the Bach Chaconne and Ginastera Sonata to learn…my kora playing never recovered…

The best book on music or musicians you have read is . . .

Impossible to pin this one down, so many, but I’m currently having my mind expanded by The Mysticism of Sound and Music by Hazrat Inayat Khan.

hitchcock_final_movie_posterIf you could get on stage with anyone it would be . . . (And you would play?)

The Kronos Quartet, to play my own music, with lots of special guests from around the world. Sanam Marvi, Daler Mehndi, Zakir Hussain and V. Selvaganesh would be among them.

The three films you'd insist anybody watch because they might understand you better are . . .

Hitchcock (the recent Anthony Hopkins one), Julian Bream-My Life In Music, See No Evil Hear No Evil…. ;-)

The last CD or vinyl album you bought was . . . (And your most recent downloads include . . .)

Last CD was Through Thick and Thin by Bear Creek, last download The Burgh Island EP by Ben Howard

One song, royalties for life, never have to work again. The song by anyone, yourself included, which wouldn't embarrass you in that case would be . . .

My own Svaranjali

The poster, album cover or piece of art could you live with on your bedroom forever would be . . .

Anything by El Greco

You are allowed just one tattoo, and it is of . . .

Never believed in tattoos…

David Bowie sang, “Five years, that's all we've got . . .” You would spend them where, doing . . .?

Based in rural Andalucía with my better half, playing and composing,

Simon_Thacker_s_Svara_Kanti_RAKSHASA_webAnd finally, in the nature of press conferences in Japan, “Can you tell me please why this is your best album ever?”

Rakshasa is my latest testament, the summation of my experiences, learning and inspirations up to this point on this ongoing, ever expanding journey. My aim was to create new soundworlds through the combining of Indian and Western music, then extend them through my imagination, furthering the expressivity of my unique musical language and developing my own contemporary tradition.

Something that doesn’t sound like anything else, is the music unmistakeably of today but couldn’t have been achieved without my immersion in these traditions.

I think I have succeeded but know I have not even scratched the surface of the possibilities.

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