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LIFE BEYOND SURVIVAL

A man whose life and work links Nick Drake, David Bowie and Sonic Youth, Michael Chapman is still a vital presence even as he approaches his 80s. Jonathan Wright meets the psych-folk pioneer

By his own estimation, Michael Chapman is enjoying a “resurgence” after years when he thought his capacity to write fresh material had “dried up and gone”. His new album, True N o r t h, like its 2017 predecessor, 50, features new songs: “You can’t imagine how pleased I was, because I thought [songwriting] was over and done with,” he says. “I thought, ‘If they want me to do an album, I’m going to have to do covers, even if I cover myself ’.”

Considering Chapman’s enviable back catalogue, reaching back to Rainmaker in 1969, this wouldn’t be the end of the world. Then again, one of the reasons Chapman’s reputation has grown down the years is because of his restlessness. He turned 78 in January, but Chapman’s need for reinvention hasn’t faded. “I’m not mentioning any names, but if I’d played it safe I could have had a lot more recognition, probably money and whatever, than I have, but I don’t make the same record twice,” he says.

This doesn’t preclude looking backwards for inspiration. True North is an album that calls to mind the rainswept vistas of Northumbria, where Chapman lives in a farmhouse in splendid isolation, yet one key inspiration was Jazz On A Summer’s Day, a film of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. It was a documentary that introduced Chapman to the music of clarinetist, saxophonist and composer Jimmy Giuffre, a man whose approach anticipated the free improvisation techniques of the 1960s.

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Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Long Live Vinyl - Apr 2019: Record Store Day
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