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21 f 12 shots from the fRoots

Rocket Launcher a dozen leading questions to fire at Sam Sweeney

If you were given the funds to organise a concert bill, who would the artists be?

I’ve always wanted to be asked this question! Easy peasy. Spiro would open the show, playing mostly stuff from Lightbox, because that’s the record that made me fall in love with them. Then Guillemots would come on and play the whole of Through The Windowpane from start to finish. Then Arcade Fire would headline the show play- ing most of Funeral and The Suburbs. Wouldn’t that be perfect?!

Which totally obscure record do you most treasure and would like more people to know about?

Screaming Maldini’s eponymous first record was pure pop perfection. They were an astonishing band from Sheffield who wrote insanely intelligent pop songs, mostly in irregular time signatures but with more hooks than you could shake a stick at. Of course, Joe Public didn’t like it much because it was original and pure genius, so they split up. Buy the record, it’s unbelievably good.

What was the best live gig you ever saw? Without a doubt it was Arcade Fire at

Earl’s Court on June 7th 2014. The whole night was one enormous fancy dress party with the best live band in the world, 22,000 people all dressed up, the most incredible stage design I’ve ever seen and a perfect set list. They finished with Wake Up and every- one was hugging and singing. Then we all spilled onto the streets of London, still singing. It was probably the best day of my life and I’ll never forget it.

And what was the worst?

I can’t actually name the group here because it could well get back to a member of the band and that could be rather embarrassing! I was about eleven years old, though, and my whole family left the gig at half time because it was so dreadfully out of tune (and in period costume...).

What was your own best ever gig? If I had to pick one gig that really made

me think “Wow – this is why I do this for a living”, I’d have to pick Leveret’s gig at the Sage Gateshead on our last tour. Everything about it was beautiful. We played really well, and the audience just got it. The vibe in the room was magical and it felt like we could have played all night. When Leveret are really cooking, it’s the best feeling in the world. Lovely!

And what was your worst?

That’s easy! I mean no offence to Fay or the organisers of this gig, but the first ever Fay Hield & The Hurricane Party gig was on

the second stage at Wychwood Festival. The Damned were playing on the main stage and they would have drowned us out anyway, but to top it all off, our entire gig was accompanied by screaming feedback due to an incompetent sound engi- neer. We were so demoralised afterwards. It was atrocious and I felt awful for Fay.

What’s the professional achievement you’re most proud of?

I was recently appointed the Artistic Director of the National Youth Folk Ensemble. It’s the only job interview I’ve ever done and it’s a process that I hope I never have to go through again. But I’m very honoured to be at the artistic helm of this amazing new pro- ject. We are going to take English instrumental music to some exciting places with the best young musicians in the country. It’s enormously exciting and I can’t wait to get started.

What’s the most embarrassing thing you ever did in public?

I can’t bring that much to

mind. Not long ago, Leveret did a gig at Cecil Sharp House and we did the show in the round. We usually move round one position at half time so we are facing a dif- ferent segment of the audience. We were in Kennedy Hall and I proclaimed at the start of the second half that I didn’t want to have to look at the horrible Cecil Sharp House mural for next 45 minutes and that I had hoped the venue renovation plans would include the eradication of said piece of terrible art. Needless to say it did not go down well. Apparently people love it. *Awkward turtle*

Which song or piece of music would you most like to have written yourself?

O Magnum Mysterium by Morten Lau- ridsen. If you haven’t heard it, you simply must. It’s one of those impossibly beautiful pieces of choral music that sounds like heav- en. If I’d written it, I reckon I could die happy knowing I had contributed some- thing meaningful to the world.

Who was the first musician or singer you were inspired to emulate?

When I was just starting to play the fid- dle, I wanted to be Dave Swarbrick. I saw him a lot as a kid and just wanted to be able

to play like him. I appreciate my style is nothing like his nowadays, but I promise you, as an eleven-year-old whippersnapper (ha!), I could do a pretty good impression. There is evidence!

Who was the last-but-one musician or singer you lusted after?

Ooh crumbs! Does anyone ever give a truthful answer to this?! The folk world is very small and word travels quickly, so in light of that, I’d have to say Benji Kirk- patrick

If you had a rocket launcher, who or what would be the target, and why?

Whilst I don’t wish death upon any-

body, I think the world would be a better place if the following people got in the bin. So, if I’m allowed, I would strap Cameron, Osborne, Murdoch and Katie Hopkins to the rocket and launch them into the middle of a large desert where they could live out the rest of their days being nasty to one anoth- er, eating cacti.

Sam Sweeney currently plays in 84 bands and most of them are constantly touring and releasing new records – like Leveret, who you can hear a track by on this issue’s fRoots 57, and soon-gone Bellow- head.


root salad

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