Andrew Tompkins played guitar in all of the music heard in the movie.

Ian Thomas, who has a Wicker Man page on Facebook, interviewed Andy approximately June 11, 2014. Reprinted with permission is that interview below. (Another good bio.)

Andy tompkins


My thanks to Andy for taking time out to reminisce about his time on-set as part of Magnet, the musicians overseen by Paul Giovanni who provided the film with some of the most memorable songs recorded for British cinema.

TWM: It's over forty years now since a long-haired youth strummed the haunting, opening bars to Gently Johnny: are you proud of how well the soundtrack has stood the test of time alongside the film itself?

AT: Yes, I am very proud of the soundtrack and the part I played in it, particularly the riffs I put to 'Gently Johnny' and 'Willow's Song'. It was an extremely exciting opportunity for a young musician, and there was a truly magical feel to the whole process.

TWM: Yourself, Gary Carpenter and others were already members of the folk band Hocket; did this prove beneficial when collaborating with Paul Giovanni, as well as settling any nerves on your first film-set?

AT: As it happens, I was mainly a jazz/rock electric guitarist when Gary asked me to join Hocket, and I believe this was one of the main reasons he asked me to join. He wanted the band to be something quite different, not just folk music played louder, so Hocket was my first real introduction to playing folk music. However, there's no doubt that knowing and having worked with a number of the musicians brought about a closeness and understanding to the working relationship that would have been difficult to achieve if we had been session players that had not worked together before. And it certainly helped the nerves! Working with Hocket and on TWM had a large impact on my guitar playing style and, although in many ways it is so different , I believe this influence remains in the music I write and record today.

TWM: And was Paul G every bit the unique innovator-composer we've heard so much about?

AT: Yes, he was a unique character in so many ways. I was very nervous when Gary first took me to meet him in Kensington, but he had a remarkable knack putting you immediately at your ease and explaining the sort of thing he wanted. His ideas enabled me to come up with the guitar parts you hear on the soundtrack, and he was always very generous in his praise for our efforts. He was a very talented person over so many varied artistic ventures, and a sad loss, too, that he died so young.

TWM: Some of the musical arrangements, I gather, were sourced from original Hocket tracks?

AT: Yes, there were some variations of Hocket arrangements used in the film. Not all the band members were involved, however, and I think that, and other priorities, caused the band to drift apart. However, we continued to do lots of work as individuals together in various guises. For instance, recording with Lesley Mackie at Pye Studios, getting together with others to record some instrumentals as shakedown sessions for Ian Gillan and Louis Austin's Kingsway Recorders Studio, and joining Stomu Yamashta's incredible Red Buddha Theatre with Gary, briefly, and later Peter Brewis and Ric Sanders, who went on to join Soft Machine and is still with Fairport Convention.

TWM: The actual film sequence for 'Gently Johnny' may never have seen the light of day had it not been for certain American influences: were you generally aware of the cult following to try and restore various missing scenes?

AT: Only by rumour. In this incredible age with the ability to search quickly worldwide for information and with online discussion groups, it's sometimes easy to forget what it was like before such amazing technology, therefore any information picked up was from friends and people involved in the production, but I was made aware that there was growing pressure to restore the scenes.

TWM: Gary Carpenter recalls scoring music for an unseen dream-sequence of Seargant Howie's. Were you involved at all in this?

AT: I do have a vague recollection of this, and I believe we recorded a session at Shepperton, but can't remember much about it I'm afraid.

TWM: The sudden inclusion of an electric guitar for the cave-chase sequence raised a few eyebrows, but were you personally happy with it?

AT: I suppose adding electric guitar and Hammond organ was quite a change from the underlying acoustic feel of the rest of the score and may have been a little incongruous, but as the film never followed convention in any way, I guess we wouldn't expect the music too, either! Gary arranged that particular piece and was played by the core musicians and recorded at Shepperton Studios where the engineers (very much ex-BBC 'Good Luck Studio') had never seen or heard a fuzzbox before! They were utterly bemused that someone would be deliberately adding distortion. It was very amusing to witness their disbelief and horror!

TWM: Once the film/music wrapped, did Magnet/Paul G push for an early release of the soundtrack than the eventual twenty-five years it took the rather inferior Trunk version to appear?

AT: I think we were all very keen that the soundtrack should be released, but didn't realize initially that the music was to be so popular. I drifted away from the music industry in my mid-twenties to pursue a career in IT so, to an extent, it disappeared from my radar for some years. When Gary told me about the inferior Trunk recording I think we were all very disappointed. It was a great thrill when the Silva Screen version came out only a relatively few years ago.

TWM: So, some Englishmen and an American go into a Scottish pub ... any never-before-told-tales from behind the Green Man door?

AT: We discovered that filming involves lots of time waiting to shoot various scenes, so to pass the time we used to have games of 'Cheat' in the backroom of the pub with the musicians and various actors. The numbers of people involved meant that many packs of cards had to be used and there were some hilarious moments when somebody was "caught" and picked up an enormous amount of cards! To keep the atmosphere going in the bar we were plied with brown-coloured lemonade in small tumblers to look like whisky. As most of us were smokers at the time, we made the most of the pre-shoot activities by the props people by stocking up on the cigarettes!

TWM: And there was some off-set harmonies with Edward Woodward, too?

AT: Yes, the musicians spent many late nights jamming with Edward. He was a very good singer, a really nice guy and did a remarkable trumpet impersonation! We had a great time and often felt a bit rough in the morning for those early set calls!

Chris Lee was staying in another hotel out of town (as was Britt), so he didn't take part in the late-night sessions. We did see him at Shepperton when we were doing the rest of the score and he talked about opera-singing and gave us a demonstration - he has a tremendously powerful voice!

TWM: Do you still own the guitar used in the film?

AT: I didn't have a decent steel-string acoustic guitar at the time and the one you see in the film is a Yamaha borrowed from a friend. On a number of the recorded songs I used Paul G's 'Martin', which was a lovely instrument. (See Andy's website for an impressive display of his guitar collection!).

TWM: Any chance of a Hocket/Magnet reunion one day?

AT: There was a brief reunion of Gary, Ian Cutler and me in London six years ago to promote what was going to be a stage version of the film. We played a few of the songs to an audience of potential investors and it was great fun, but, sadly, it never came to fruition. More recently we had discussions with Silva Screen about going on tour with the songs, both in the Uk and USA, which would have been very enjoyable, but I gather they had problems getting the rights holders (Canal+) to agree to it, so it went on the back-burner.

TWM: One that will, hopefully, still come about ... Andy, many thanks indeed.

Andy Tompkins was talking to Ian Thomas aka The Wicker Man.