Not many artists set out to create an album “like a creaking wooden animal” or put obstacles in their way like sticky strings or detuned guitars to keep their music fresh and vital but then there are no artists quite like Richard Dawson.
Contradiction is a word that he says resonates more and more for him. Indeed, he’s often bracketed as a folk musician, but leans on much wider influences from Iron Maiden to Faith No More; his lyrics refer to stories from the north-east of England, but he is uncomfortable with the idea of regional stereotypes; he enjoys the compositional process but embraces random elements and is fascinated by “faults”; his words can summon unpleasant images but he tries to steer clear of the grotesque.
His talent and combination of contradictions have won him many admirers – his latest album Peasants was voted The Quietus’ number 1 album of the year – and on Friday 8 December 2017, he performs live in Beirut for the Beirut and Beyond festival. Here at the British Council, we’re delighted to be supporting the show.
Beirut and Beyond
Dawson was invited to perform in Beirut by this year’s guest curator, electronic musician Maurice Louca – a man we know well from his previous associations with Masãfãt festival and Nawa Recordings. We asked him how he’d come across Richard Dawson’s music: “We were playing at the same festival in Budapest,” said Louca. “I was playing with the Dwarfs of East Agouza and got the chance to catch [Dawson’s] performance and was absolutely floored, so when I got the chance to do this [Beirut and Beyond], he was on top of my list of musicians to invite … I’m definitely expecting him to be one of the highlights of the festival. [Dawson], for me, stood out from anything else I have heard coming out of the UK in a while.”
Louca himself hopes to have a couple of Dwarfs of East Agouza records coming out very soon then will be touring with them, Lekhfa and Karkhana in 2018 with a third solo record to follow.
The Smudging Ritual
“Parsnips!” Richard Dawson’s tour portrait catches moments of live performance and intimate interviews. Contains some strong language.
From the 2017 album Peasants comes “Weaver”.
The Vile Stuff
Dawson’s idiosyncratic guitar and vocal style takes centre stage on this track from 2014’s Nothing Important. Commenting on the video, John Suh: “I'm from Korea, and this song is still perfectly relatable as a narrative of what the class troublemakers will get up to on a school trip. Just switch out the colloquialisms, names and brands to the local equivalents and it absolutely fits. Funny how the human experience is pretty much the same regardless of where you live.”