Q – I've now finished listening to your prodigious output for 2009. Not a lot of surprises on the box, since I had found most of the material during the golden age of Napster, but it's nice to have it all legally, and the notes are great. Two highlights for me were the sound of the guitar on the Bremen record (anything special or different there?) and the Tom Waits impression in Dublin, which is fabulous, and which caught me completely by surprise. I'm curious as to how that came about and whether it's a featured bit now in your shows. I've not been able to get to a concert since Seattle in 2005.
A – Interesting that you like the Bremen guitar sound. I don't especially, and certainly prefer the Wheelan sound. The Bremen engineer used two mics on the guitar so the sound is stereo – low notes over here and high over there. Unfortunately there also seems to be slight detune making a subtle chorus which I would never have suggested… really a small gripe, though as the overall sound is excellent. The Tom Waits thing evolved over a year or so – the story over a couple of years. Like most of my stories – it was spontaneous once, and I guess some folk laughed, so I told it again, maybe slightly differently, etc, etc. I suppose I can't tell it much more now, unless I'm playing virgin territory, which is rare these days. Still, I'm told I will play Eastern Europe for the first time soon, but I somehow doubt my humour will make it past the ghosts of the border guards.
I can see myself now, on stage in Seattle, holding up The Whelan asking – 'who has heard this?' – if I perceive it's a minority then there will be no holds barred and I predict a bawdy night of song and stand up.