Robyn Hitchcock is a British alt rocker with a career spanning over four decades. He has recorded more than 20 albums with The Soft Boys, Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians, and as a solo artist.
I had the pleasure of meeting Robyn Hitchcock last April when he performed at Chesapeake Public Library. During our conversation, Hitchcock graciously agreed to the following Q&A interview, conducted in October via email correspondences.
Although Hitchcock’s November 15th show in Virginia Beach has been canceled, fans can still see him perform in Richmond on Saturday, November 16, 2019, when Hitchcock brings his quirky lyrics and captivating stage presence to the Capital Ale House, 623 E Main St, Richmond. Tickets are still available for the 8pm showtime.
Your current tour includes some unlikely smaller venues, such as your recent local visit to the Chesapeake Public Library…what motivates you to perform at these tiny venues?
I play small places because they’re easier to fill.
If you were not a musician, what profession might you have chosen?
If I were not a musician I’d be a florist or a beekeeper.
You’ve collaborated with top-notch musicians and film makers. Who has been the most fun or most gratifying to work with?
I love playing guitar and singing with Gillian Welch & Dave Rawlings. They live down the street from me in Nashville - what a joy! And I enjoy writing songs with Andy Partridge - we have an EP “Planet England” out now on his APE label.
You’ve recorded over 20 albums with major recording labels, you’ve got fans worldwide, you’ve worked with legendary film maker, Jonathan Demme, you write, you paint, you draw. What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishment?
My greatest professional accomplishment is to have kept doing what I do for over 40 years and still be making a living out of it.
Bob Dylan has been cited as one of your musical influences. Any others you’d like to mention or discuss?
Not really - I came of age in the late 1960s and you can still hear echoes all of those great musicians in what I do.
When you appeared at the Norfolk Yacht Club in 2017 and the Chesapeake Public Library earlier this year, many stalwarts in the audience raved about your legendary show at the now-defunct Boathouse back in the day. Do you actually recall playing there?
I played the Boathouse with my band The Egyptians 30 years ago. I remember sitting on the bus outside, and meeting the father of my then-girlfriend Cynthia. He was a captain in the navy, but a sensitive man. He must have been horrified that his daughter was involved with this drunken Brit.
What’s on your Spotify Top Ten playlist?
I don’t have Spotify, but I think it has me.
What do you like about living in Nashville?
Nashville is a hive of musicians - a great place to be one.
One of my favorites is your 1986 song, Bass. What is its inspiration?
Sex and the ocean.
Any emerging recording artists you’d recommend for your fans to follow?
Weyes Blood is very good. Cass McCombs is great, tho’ he’s been emerged for quite some time now. Justin & The Cosmics from Nashville. Tristen, also from Nashville -they’re great. My partner Emma Swift will have her first full-length record ready next year - that is sounding exquisite.
Is Robyn Hitchcock your real name?
As far as I know.
What is most requested, or most applauded, song at your shows?
My Wife And My Dead Wife and Balloon Man. I’m sick of them but I like the money.
What is your favorite song to play in concert?
I’m Only You and The Lizard both let me improvise on guitar a lot at the end - that’s fun.
Your fans have been described as a “cult-like following.” What’s your take on this?
I cast a laser beam - it’s intense but very narrow. Most people aren’t struck by it, but if you are, you totally get it. I’m a great believer in intensity.
Favorite American junk food/ comfort food(s) while on tour in the States?
If food is junk I don’t eat it.
In concert, you often mention your cat, Tubby. Do you have other pets? Do they also have their own Instagram pages?
Tubby’s brother Ringo is another Scottish Fold. Tubby lost an eye very young through an eye infection; all the empathy that I can’t feel for other people I feel for Tubby. We Brits are like that with our pets. But I love Ringo too - he shares my taste for over-eating. They are lovely boys. They’re both on Instagram.
You’ve been quoted as saying your music is “paintings you can listen to.” What would you like to say about your own paintings and drawings?
My father drew and painted so I learned visual art before I could play the guitar. For me, it’s less emotional than music but can be even more a portal to the Unconscious, which is something I look for in songwriting. I’ve started painting again, hope to have an exhibition some day.
Who is your favorite visual artist?
Giorgio DeChirico is probably my favourite artist. Dali, Leonora Carrington, Paul Delvaux, Man Ray, Dorothea Tanning...the surrealists...and Picasso. Surrealists seem to live a long time.
Your father was a novelist. Has his work influenced your songwriting?
My father, Raymond Hitchcock, was a cartoonist, painter and writer in that order. I grew up inhaling him at point blank range and everything about me comes directly from Raymond. My mother Joyce had a lot of energy, and joy in other people - I got so much from her, too.
What’s one thing you want my readers to know about you?
I hope your readers will draw their own conclusions about me. I love cheese, and old streetcars, and crustaceans, and cats.
Many big-name musical acts are becoming involved in social conscience activities. For example, the New England-based band, Guster, is very involved in preserving the ecosystem and has created an international nonprofit called Reverb, which engages bands and concert goers to become more aware of and actively participate in eco-friendly touring practices. Is there a particular charitable cause that you support and would like to mention?
Right now Extinction Rebellion, and any of the Planned Parenthood and Gun Control lobbies have my full support. We need a future for all the people that we’re putting into this world, and the other life forms that are mutely dependent on us.
Any pre-show rituals?
I always fall asleep for 10 minutes before a show: it drains my head of toxins.
What do you see as the biggest challenge to lengthy tours?
I’m always on tour, so I go home a lot. The biggest challenge is getting home and wondering which hotel you’re in.
What’s your favorite color?
Green. What’s yours?