New music that spans the world

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Fantasy author Terry Pratchett paid violinist Peter Knight the most elegant compliment when he called him “the man who can spin the world on his bow”.

Peter, who is coming to Sheffield with his band Gigspanner next week and has been performing with Steeleye Span for 40 years, was suitably impressed.

“It’s a beautiful thing for him to say,” he said.

“We were playing at his 60th birthday party. He loves Steeleye Span and that’s how our Wintersmith project came about.”

Peter was prompted to mention a potential collaboration with the Discworld author and to his joy found he jumped at the chance.

Terry Pratchett sent the members of Steeleye Span away to read Wintersmith and his other novels featuring his character Tiffany Aching, who is a trainee witch.

Band members were inspired to write songs and that has resulted in the Wintersmith CD, which is out this winter.

Peter said: “I’ve just heard the mixes of a couple of my songs. They sound fantastic and it’s going to be a very good album.

“You’re never really sure when you’re doing it.”

Perhaps that sounds surprising but he has been around for long enough never to take anything for granted.

He remembers working on a project with bass guitarist Herbie Flowers.

“I remember him leaning on a tape machine saying ‘you know you’ve got a hit here’.

“I think I bought a copy and my mum bought a copy and that was it.”

Whereas Steeleye Span are associated with traditional English folk songs, Gigspanner take influences from all over the world.

The collaboration came about when percussionist Vincent Salzfaas approached Peter to see if they could play together.

They tried out the pairing on a few gigs and decided to add someone else into the mix, who is Celtic rock exponent Roger Flack on guitar.

Peter said: “We were all of one mind really about what we wanted to do.

“When we work on new material now it is obvious if it is going to suit us or not.”

He said that when they play they always allow themselves lots of space for improvisation.

He says that audiences appreciate this and love the fact that even the same set will sound totally different the next time they play it.

Vincent plays congas and djembe, which is a West African drum. Does that make them a world music band?

Peter said: “I think it’s all world music. Now we have access to any music we want to hear.

“I can broadly say that music from Gigspanner is based on folk music.”

He is keen not to put off Steeleye Span fans from coming to see Gigspanner and realises that his original band opens doors for his new one.

However, he adds: “I think that all these lovely young folk musicians now bring in influences from all over the world.

“Our 2009 album Lipreading the Poet was named by The Wire as one of the best 15 Global Albums of 2009.”

Judge for yourself at The Greystones in Sheffield next Thursday, October 24.