Robyn Hitchcock, HITS Interview

Robyn Hitchcock, HITS Interview

Thanks to Rich Swartzwelder, SWARTZWELDER@WVUSA.U92.WVU.EDU, for sending this along.

HITS magazine, April 24, 1995


by Jason Cohen & Michael Krugman

Erstwhile Soft Boy, bizarre and brilliant solo artist, writer, painter, all-around renaissance man - Robyn Hitchcock hardly needs an introduction. Currently touring America as a solo performer and preparing to move into a new house in London, Robyn has 10 records out at the moment - a 7" single on Calvin Johnson's K Records, and, from the scrupulous folks at Rhino, a collection of previously unreleased material (You And Oblivion), along with eight heavily bonus-tracked reissues of classic non-A&M albums like I Often Dream of Trains, Gotta Let This Hen Out, and Eye. A new record -and a new record deal- are on the horizon. HITS met up with Hitchcock, looking dapper as usual in a sharp white suit, on the shores of Austin's Town Lake, smack in the middle of SXSW festivities, where he was forced to suffer questions by starstruck fan Jason Cohen [who was once what Robyn would call a "Glauberite"], with occasional interlocution from Michael Krugman [who has always thought of himself as a Trotskyite]. Get out your thesauri, kids!

HITS: So why are you here at SXSW?

Robyn: All the people that I've met in the business in the last ten years are here. I haven't seen them all, but I know they're here. It's beautiful, this whole crowd... it's sort of the Glauber Generation. I know Karen hand-picked everybody in L.A. and put them where they are today. Karen loves to be talked about - Hi, Karen! Our paths may diverge, because I think she's staying alternative, and I'm going triple A. I was one of the first alternative artists, but "alternative" was always a meaningless term; it's not like you could sit on the porch and play a country song, or a blues song, or a folk song, but y'know, what's an alternative song? [adapts Southern accent] "Hey grandpa, play us some alternative!" I'm basically a song writer - another of those hind-legged creatures. So now I'm like William Shatner in the latest "Star Trek"; I'm handing my bit of the baton over before I move on.

H: Then we'll have to kill you.

RH: Well, I'm going to die of something, I might just as well be killed by people in the music business. I think it's one of the highest forms of flattery.

H: Now, I haven't heard the K single yet...

RH: Well, nobody's heard the K single. It came out, but you can't find it anywhere. There's three new songs - one's called I Something You. One of them is called Zipper In My Spine and there's another one called Man With A Woman's Shadow. I recorded them very fast at Calvin Johnson's - we started upstairs, and then they wanted to make supper, so we moved down into the basement and they were making soup.

H: Your father was a thriller novelist?

RH: He had various stories out, but his best things were never published. He had one where Stonehenge was made invisible by the MI5, and everyone who witnesses this act is put into a mental institution, and then Merlin reappears, and he's a new age hippie traveler - Morgan LaFey is his hippie chick - and they wouldn't publish it! I don't know why. He wrote another one where there's a new God in power who decided to put everyone's sex organs under their armpits instead of their crotch. And there's another one where a woman gives birth to a rubber tire. I think it was a sa-tire.

H: So this is a genetic thing.

RH: Well, I'm certainly descended from my father. I'm probably a pretty different personality than him, but he definitely had ideas, and unfortunately, his ideas weren't marketed. Because unlike me, he didn't go out and schmooze. I really like schmoozing; that's why I'm here. He'd have loved the audience but he didn't get that opportunity. Maybe he got more done.

H: Are the Egyptians on the new material?

RH: We had a sort of three-legged race for ten years, and I think we just got tired. We still see each other, but in terms of producing a record... maybe we'd do another one at some point in the future, but it just got stale. It's very important to actually arrange stuff myself. It's a matter of empowerment. Ten years ago, the material wasn't strong enough for me to go out on my own; I think now it is. Also, I don't see myself as a rock performer, specifically - I'm an entertainer, I know my marketplace is intellectuals and hippies. So be it - I see myself as entertaining those types of people for the rest of my life, with songs, stories, books and paintings. Having said that, we'll presumably get a deal with a record label and there will things saying "eccentric English rocker," but I'm not, really. I've really got no more to do with rock music than Laurie Anderson does.

H: Tell us about the Rhino reissues...

RH: I think you're mad if you listen to them all the way through. But there's some quite good stuff. I did some post-cosmetic archeology - I overdubbed some of them.

H: Which are your favorite albums?

RH: My favorite Egyptians album is Fegmania because it was a really good vibe playing together after a long break, and it's the most consistant set of songs. Trains and Fegmania are probably the peaks on the Rhino set. I think the first sort of quasi-grown-up record was Element of Light, then I had a big relapse with Globe of Frogs, which was all kinds of rent-a-Hitchcock, fish insects and crawling things. Queen Elvis is my other favorite Egyptians album, which I think was brilliant and because `it was on a major label I think it was a bit underrated - the community of the hip didn't take it that seriously.

Last updated: 9/27/95