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P o s i t i v e V i b r a t i o n s


cnfm radio cambridge, 16/1/92

Twattish Studenty Bloke (who's name was never given): Hello, welcome.

Robyn Hitchcock: Hi.

Sarah-Jane (Sloaney type): You're certainly, I'm being very tactful here, no newcomer to music, but do you still enjoy playing, recording and writing as much as you did with the Soft Boys?

RH: Yes, in a word.

SJ: That's a very good word, as well, isn't it, really? You've only recently signed to Go!Discs. In fact, Perspex Island is your first LP for the label. What made you decide to sign with them?

RH: Well, we're signed to A&M for the rest of the world and we're actually based in the States now, at least as far as work goes, and Billy Bragg is signed to Go!Discs, and it was his idea, really. He offered us a tour with himself and a record out with Go!Discs. You know, he sort of gave it to them or something. So it was really his idea.

TSB: I mean, Sarah-Jane mentioned, you've been around a while. Sixteen albums, you've released.

RH: I think this is our fifteenth, actually.

TSB: Right, fifteen, sixteen. Does it get easier to make records and write songs the more you do it, or is it more difficult, or as easy as it always was?

RH: I think it gets easier, but I think it gets more predictable. You know, there's a sort of energy to your early recordings, and if you check back on early recordings by just about anybody the same thing is there; the first thing you make with a band, or your first solo album, or something. I heard some really early Buzzcocks playing last night. That's an example of it. After a while it gets like Paul McCartney, or Elvis Costello, or any of them, really. Like Bryan Ferry. You sit around being professional, trying to improve on what you did, but you probably take fewer risks. You get more professional, but you probably get less exciting.

TSB: Do you think that's a bad thing?

RH: Not necessarily. It's like saying "Is 20 a better age than 40?" They're different. You don't sit there when you're 20 saying "Gee, one day I'll be 40 and then life will happen", and you shouldn't sit there when you're 40 saying "Oh my God, I used to be 20", they're just different.

TSB: The new LP, Perspex Island, Sarah-Jane mentioned, is already out in the United States. Would you say it's your best piece of work so far?

RH: It's not bad. I mean, it's quite complete. I think Morris's comment was "It sounds like us, only better". What we did on this record was spend a lot more money recording it. You know, having an outside producer, doing it in LA where the microphones all have therapy classes. You know, they all feel good about themselves. But we've done equally good. Back to the Soft Boys days - one of the best things the Soft Boys ever did was Underwater Moonlight. And we did that for a thousand quid. You know, I don't know how much the average listener, unless they're real hi-fi buffs, notices what the EQ on the snare is like at the bottom end. Or notices anything, really.

TSB: Yeah. Yeah!

SJ: You recorded it with the Egyptians, and also worked with Peter Buck and Michael Stipe from REM.

RH: Yeah.

SJ: How did you get involved with them?

RH: I met Peter years ago in North London, and I met Stipe a bit later. It all fell into place, really. Peter's the guy we usually work with, because he loves playing anyway, and his guitar style meshes quite well with mine. You can't really tell who's playing what, we both have that sort of picking, you know, the easiest word for it is folk rock, but it's basically sort of picking on an electric guitar.

SJ: You seem to be much better accepted in the States, and consequently more successful. Why do you think that's been the case? Is it frustrating for you?

RH: Well, it's good to be accepted somewhere! I think, you know the sun sets in the west. You know, they always send you over to the States anyway. It's just that normally you start off here, you get going and then you go to the States, and they, you know, say "Wow, you've deserted your British fans". Like Slade or somebody. It's like Napoleon marching on Moscow. People die in the attempt. Well, they run out of energy. With us, it never really took off in Britain, and then we realised that it had in the States. So we sort of commute, you know, we live here but we work there. We hadn't done anything here for I guess about five years, and Billy and his manager said "We think you could probably do this stuff in England". Or rather, Britain. In fact, the best audiences on the tour were Scottish.

TSB: You did tour with Billy Bragg. How did that tour go? Was it a good tour for you?

RH: It wasn't bad, except, you know, we were second on the bill to Billy. Over there, you know, we're equal. Here, he's sold billions more records. So, I mean, it was a bit of, sort of, what's the word for it, bit of an ego cramper. But that's not a bad thing, there's so much either ego massage or ego deflation in this business, you need a good, sort of, amount to keep in balance. There were good audiences, and the other thing was, they were all full houses.

TSB: Always helpful for the ego, isn't it?

RH: Well, it's nice to have some people there.

SJ: The new single is excellent. Would you say it's a good reflection of what we can expect from the LP?

RH: Pretty much. This is the most pop of the things on the album, which is why it was released as a single. It was written and sounds like a pop song. You know, I wrote it in two and a half minutes around the table and that was it really. In fact, my old colleague Kimberley came in and suggested a couple of, what to do with the chords in the middle bit, and other points. But, you know, it was very fast.

TSB: Do you like pop singles?

RH: Some of them. The interesting thing about a pop single is that a good single, it doesn't really matter who it's by, it has a life of its own. People, you know, they're fans of a certain act so they all buy their records. But a great single, you know, whether it's 'He's A Rebel' or 'Runaround Sue' or, you know, 'Material Girl' or 'I'm Not In Love' or any of them, you know, 'I Feel Love', they're by people you might not be remotely interested in but they're just great singles. That art may have disappeared. I don't know, there's so many singles it's pretty hard, you know, they're all fighting for life.

SJ: How pleased have you been with the reaction to your material in this country this time around?

RH: Well, it's been quite good. But there's, you know, like, four hundred thousand other records coming out. You know, they haven't burned me in effigy or anything, but they haven't really got time, there's too many other people they've got to burn in effigy. We did our first headline British date last night, in Leicester, in well over four years, and there was a good response. Tonight's Cambridge, we'll see.

TSB: A good turnout for tonight, no doubt, for sure, anyway. You're playing the Junction in Cambridge, are you looking forward to it?

RH: I never look forward to gigs just before, you know. It's like waiting to be led to the scaffold. We're all in different rooms getting nervous. Andy's getting nervous over in the pub, Morris is probably getting nervous in the car.

TSB: Well, I hope it goes really well. I know it's a good turnout, because they've sold loads of tickets. We'll play the single, and thanks for taking the time to join us.

SJ: Thank you!

RH: Great.

TSB: All right, thanks, bye.

RH: See you, then.
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