There is so much happening that another bulletin has become necessary. For those who don’t yet subscribe to “Blues In Britain” magazine, I have included the original full interview with journalist Peter Clack at the bottom of the page.
Things change and develop so quickly that I am having a job keeping up myself!
I have just completed yet another tour of Poland which saw us play at Augustow Blues Marathon and Hard Rock Club Pamela in Torun among many others. The reception we received from audiences was outstanding! Circumstances have meant that I have had to expand my pool of musicians. The latest line up of the band, Jacek Chruscinski (bass) and Artur Malik (drums) has proved to be so enjoyable that the audiences are picking up on the good chemistry between us. While in Poland we started work on a new album! I didn’t expect this but we are working on this now and hopefully it will be released very soon…..within the year!
Acoustic solo gigs are still progressing well. Just did the Guiting Power Music Festival, here in the UK. Rain was threatening to dampen spirits but actually it was a very enjoyable event.
Work on the “Broken World” charity single for the Eden Gate charity, working for the homeless is well underway. This is a collaboration between me and Shaun Freke and will be aired for the first time at a band gig in Chepstow in December. Details at the bottom of the page.
Also playing with the Jigantics. (Folk/Roots)
KEITH THOMPSON INTERVIEW – Blues In Britain July 2018
Hi Keith, I first saw you a few years back now when Keith Thompson’s
Strange Brew were playing at the Gloucester Blues Festival, it was, I
remember a great set and the band produced an equally good album.
Could you say a little bit about yourself, how you got to play the
guitar, those who influenced your playing, where you began to perform
live and your early bands please. And a little on your background and
introduction to the blues.
Yes that must’ve been a long time back. Over 10 years! We dropped
the “Strange Brew” name because people kept confusing us with a
Cream tribute band, plus with several line up changes, it was decided
to opt for “Keith Thompson Band”…keeping things nice and simple.
Wow, that’s several questions in one there!….I began playing around 5
years of age so I really don’t remember ever not playing. I started
getting noticed at school and won talent contests by the time I was 8
and by the age of 14, I was playing locally in pubs and clubs. There
were a couple of school bands. I guess the first ever gig was in front of
the school. I taught a mate of mine to play guitar and out of that
came my first serious band. I think we went through several name
changes eventually settling on “Poacher Brown”. We were big shots in
our hometown of Cheltenham but it was with this band that I did my
first real pro gig! Wind on a few years, by now I had left school and
worked as a printer but I quit when we got the chance to play in
Germany. That was a life changing experience…we had to play 5x 45
minute sets every night. 6 on weekends! After that experience we
came back to Cheltenham and formed a new band with another local
big shot…Mick “Wurzel” Burston, later of Motorhead fame. This band
was called, “Bunter”. It was a great little band in a similar style to
Thin Lizzy with the twin guitars. We did well, that is until punk hit
the UK….but that’s another story! My influences were varied…most
prominent were, “The Beatles”, “Free”, “Rory Gallagher”, “Cream”,
“Fleetwood Mac”, “The Groundhogs” and many more. Plus I also
listened to more song based folk music that my sister was into, “Cat
Stevens”, The Strawbs”, “Fairport Convention” and the legendary
“John Martyn”. The Blues came later. One epiphany moment was
when I was listening to the chart stuff on Radio 1 and out of the blue
they played “Burn out your Blind Eyes” by John Mayall. I had never
heard anything like that before and I didn’t understand anything about blues at that point but I guess that was the very beginning of a
long journey of discovery.
Alongside the albums with bands you’ve also produced two fine
examples of the acoustic side of your talent, mainly as you say as a
blues rocker, could you say how and what inspired them, the most
recent 2017’s Two Minutes to Midnight, was outstanding.
Thanks, well I always had this other side to me. For many years I
wrote these acoustic songs that no-one ever heard. I did start doing a
few gigs in the 80’s ‘cos I was written off as a dinosaur by then in my
early 20’s as “Punk” and “New Wave”, closely followed by the dreaded
drum machine took over!….so I took a bit of a side step into the world
of the singer/songwriter. Song writing is like anything else, it takes a
long time to get really good at it so some of the early songs might be
a bit painful to listen to now. However, I was always noticed more for
my guitar playing and I made a reasonable living as a session guy in
the late 80’s and 90’s. I started doing blues gigs around this time with
a couple of local guys and we got signed by a record label based in
Switzerland…so the acoustic stuff took a back seat again. Record
labels always want you to be genre specific so that they can more
easily market what you do. It’s only relatively recently that I re-
visited the acoustic stuff. I am an avid songwriter so by now I had a
backlog of songs as well as new ideas that didn’t fit what we were
doing in the band at that time. This resulted in the two acoustic
albums…the most recent being “Two Minutes to Midnight” Also, I
never want to stand still. Being creative means that you are
continually progressing, and trying different things. In 40 plus years of
playing I would say that not surprisingly it hasn’t always worked but I
guess for the most part it has.
When you did your most recent full band album ‘Catch the Fire’ it not
only brought some amazing reviews but saw you recording alongside
both Buddy Whittington and Laurence Jones. I remember chatting to
you at a festival about the album, which I could tell you were pretty
Yeah, I wanted to make an old school blues-rock album really. I had
the Climax Blues Band rhythm section and after several tours we were
pretty hot. This line up played several gigs in Croatia, One of which
was, Umag Blues Festival where we met bass man Pete Stroud. He was playing with Papa George at the time. I just remember that we all got
on really well. Anyway it was Pete that introduced me to Buddy
Whittington. It just so happened that later that year I was doing a
little tour in the USA starting in Dallas, Texas. This is where Buddy is
from so he invited me on stage with him in the Fortworth area. Buddy
is a fantastic player as you know and I just asked him if he would
guest on my album on a couple of tracks. “Sure, juss gimmie a hollar!”
was his reply so there you go….I did! Laurence was playing on the
same bill as us at Banbury blues Festival. I went over and started
chatting and I think he just came out with it that he would play on a
track if I wanted him to so yeah….he came over, we chatted guitars,
jammed a bit and then I just got him to let rip on “Getting Ready For
The Burn”…. and he’s been letting rip ever since! Haha.
One of your strengths alongside your vocal and guitar talents is being a
strong songwriter, how did this side of your career emerge, or were
you not keen on playing covers as many used to.
Yeah I started off a long time ago playing covers and I have done more
than my fair share of playing cover band gigs. I began writing songs
almost from day one and even in my early gigs; I always threw in a
couple of originals. Ever since I started releasing albums though it’s
been the other way around…throwing in a couple of covers! I actually
consider myself as a songwriter at least as equal to my guitar playing,
either solo or with a band. The buzz for me is seeing an idea emerge
out of nothing to be a finished creation. That’s exciting and I feel like
I am giving more of myself that way. I love the artists that I was
inspired by…I learned from them but I never wanted to be a copy of
them. I love to play and guitar solos are great but only if they
enhance and build the song. Also, you know, if I set myself up as just a
great guitarist, then I have some pretty big boots to fill so the song is
the king for me.
How does having your own studio plus your own production company
Density Music make a difference and obviously give you full access on
your music, but doing things your way. Many now are producing their
own then finding a market for them, what’s your take on this side of
It really grew out of necessity. I came to the conclusion that no one
was going do it for me so I did it myself. Quite early on I decided that
if I was going to get into this business then I needed to know more
about all the aspects of the business. I learned the recording process, I
did “Live” sound engineering, studio production, I did some work for a
record company learning about copyright, licensing etc. I’ve booked
my own gigs, created my own web site. It is just the way things have
turned out. I was always looking for agents and managers and all the
help I could find but I wasn’t going to sit around doing nothing while I
waited! I guess you could always bemoan the fact that I wasn’t picked
up by a major label or something but in retrospect everything I have
achieved I have done myself, no hype, no massive industry backing. I
have my own little cottage industry. I guess I just don’t give up easily!
I look back now at, at least 30 European tours, 10 album releases and
a varied musical experience. That is pretty satisfying.
You tour Europe most years, how do you find audiences there say,
compared to here.
As a generalization, I have always found that the audiences in Europe
have been very knowledgeable. They take it very seriously and they
can tell me who my influences are and who plays with who. They also
don’t seem to have quite the problem with age as we have here in the
UK. It is not unusual for there to be younger guys in the audience. I
am sure that they would tell you that the same problems exist there
as here and I certainly know of clubs that have now closed, just the
same, but generally I think we have a bigger problem in the UK.
Poland for example, it is still really very much part of the culture to
go out to a live gig, not just the big gigs. Having said that, I am really
grateful for all those loyal supporters that come to our gigs but it is
really hard to move forward in the UK I think.
Last year you used on some solo shows amazing background scenes that
added depth to the songs, from railroads, to scenes of Britain to photos
of some blues greats, how did this come about, because it was hugely
effective to see on those live shows.
Well it first came about when I did a few shows with a friend of mine
who is a writer/storyteller. I decided to use the backdrop video
projection to add some colour and meaning to the songs. Again, it was
a case of doing it myself. I got into taking video and editing just for
fun really. It is a bit more creative than just “doing a gig” and so
where possible I use this mainly on the solo shows.
With the number of venues closing for live music, how is life on the
road for a working musician today, and can live music pay enough?
Well it’s pretty tough unless you have money behind you! I guess
everyone’s experience in this is different. If you’re Ed Sheeran it is
probably great but you know; this country has absolutely loads of
artists and musicians and not enough places to play really. I
am one of the lucky ones in that I am still finding outlets with the
European connection and also play in other bands…currently playing in
the Jigantics who are more on the Folk/Americana end of the
spectrum. There are many promoters out there doing the best they
can, and let’s face it, they are mostly volunteers who do it simply for
the love of the music. They can’t afford to lose money any more than
we can so there you go; it’s a vicious circle. It’s sad when I hear of
great bands giving up or clubs closing because they just can’t make
ends meet. I have something of an entrepreneur spirit so I seem to
keep finding a way to continue. Again, I am really thankful that there
are those that are dedicated in coming out to support us and other
acts like us. We couldn’t do it at all without them! I am just saying
trying to make a living as a musician has never been easy; even in the
70’s I can’t say it was exactly easy! Of course, I can only speak for
myself in this. Someone else may have a totally different perspective
and feel they are having the ride of their lives!… If you meet ‘em,
then send ‘em my way will you!
Finally Keith, future plans, recordings, tours (both band and solo),
festivals and Europe. What can we expect to see from you this year?
Yes I have a pretty full diary really. All details are on my web site:
I have ideas for recording…I want to take my time but the idea is to
bring the two sides, electric and acoustic, together for a really great
album. Meanwhile I will be releasing new songs from time to time on
Itunes and other downloading sites along with videos on
YouTube….just to whet the appetite! First there is the new KTB album!
Mon 6th, Black Book Cafe, Lifting the Blues event, Stroud (KT solo acoustic)
Sat 18th, Miserden Folk Club, Carpenter’s Arms, Miserden (Jigantics)
Saturday 1st, Peppers, Bull Lane, Gloucester(Jigantics) 3.30pm
15th -16th, Midlands Game Fair, Shifnal (Jigantics)
3rd – 15th October Tour Poland – Czech Republic – Luxembourg (Keith Thompson Band)
Thursday 11th,City Theatre Club, Kolin, Czech (KTB)
Saturday 13th. The Blues Club, Letzbuerg. Grand Hotel, Vianden. Luxembourg (KTB)
Monday 15th, Hlucin, Czech (KTB)
Wednesday 17th. Willows Folk Club, Arundel. (Jigantics)
Thursday 25th. Drill Hall, Chepstow. Opening for the Marbletones (KT solo acoustic)
26th Oct – 4th November, Holland Tour (Jigantics)
27th, Café de Lantaern, Holland (Jigantics)
Thursday 1st. Theater De Wegwijzer, Molenweg 25, 4339 AA Nw.- En St. Joosland, Holland (Jigantics)
Friday 2nd. Peter en Leni, Damsterweg 20 9629 PD Steendam, Holland (Jigantics)
Sunday 4th, Roots aan De Zaan, De Kleine Waarheid, Klauwershoek 4-8 Zaandam, NL TBA. Holland (Jigantics)
Tuesday 11th, Bristol Blues Club (KTB)
Saturday 15th. Drill Hall, Chepstow (KTB) (Release of “Broken World” charity CD)