Inspired by Nick Pynn – “The Octopus of Sound”
Johnny Savage interviews Nick Pynn, a musical guru who taught him the finer things in life: jigs, reels, polkas, waltzes, rag-time skips, two-step hops and bluegrass leaps!
My first violin teacher was horrid. At primary school, I loved the sound of the instrument and was
certain I wanted to learn, but I had an ogrish instructor. Lined us up and shouted at us ‘til we cried.
Best way to inspire eight-year-olds, or so he thought. I wasn’t brave enough to carry on for long.
Once I’d got Twinkle Twinkle Little Star down to a tee, I wanted to look for motivation to learn which
didn’t rely on my tear-ducts to correct my earliest mistakes.
Through a fortuitous twist of fate, I was offered lessons by a truly remarkable musician. Nick Pynn,
collaborator through the years with artists as wide-ranging and diverse as Steve Harley, B*Witched,
Arthur Brown, and Billy Bragg. Described by Stewart Lee as “the octopus of sound”.
Nick Pynn, collaborator through the years with artists as wide-ranging and diverse as Steve Harley, B*Witched, Arthur Brown, and Billy Bragg. Described by Stewart Lee as “the octopus of sound”.
Inside his house was every stringed instrument I could name plus twenty I had never imagined, and he could play
each one to the highest level imaginable. This assessment was not just correct to my nine-year-old
brain. When I was lucky enough to interview him recently, I discovered three instruments I’d never
heard of during the course of half an hour at his Sussex studio!
Over the next five years, he taught me to play folk fiddle music from near and far afield. Irish jigs
and reels. Swedish polkas and waltzes. Jewish wedding dances. American old-time shuffles, rag-time
skips, two-step hops and bluegrass leaps! And this is just a taster of the vast array that he taught,
performed, transcribed, lived and breathed.
Here, he tells me his thoughts on elements of his musical journey, the nature of the fiddle’s connection with the human spirit, the
impact of technology on traditional folk music, and what’s going on in Sussex today. Find out how
you feel about all of this and him – he’s great!