20 Questions

Robyn Hitchcock

by PopMatters Staff

10 February 2008

PopMatters debuts "20 Questions", a weekly feature of short, sassy questions aimed to encourage playful responses that reveal the gist of the artist. We couldn't think of a better person to start with than the witty and clever Robyn Hitchcock.
cover art

Robyn Hitchcock

Sex, Food, Death... and Insects

(A&E Home Video)
US DVD: 25 Mar 2008
UK DVD: Available as import

Robyn Hitchcock is a legendary English singer-songwriter with a vast body of work that spans more than 30 years with more than 20 albums to his name. He’s well-known for his wry, dark wit and literate pop songs. The new DVD hitting stores on March 25, Robyn Hitchcock: Sex, Food, Death… and Insects, is a cinematic exploration of his creative process and a behind-the-scenes look at his 2006 tour.

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. It’s a gently devastating book.

2. The fictional character most like you?
Doctor Watson in the Sherlock Holmes stories. I just don’t have a clue, but sometimes I ask the right questions.

3. The greatest album, ever?
Sometimes it’s Revolver by the Beatles, sometimes it’s Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
Star Trek. The humans are more human.

5. Your ideal brain food?
Doing the cryptic crossword with my wife, Michèle.

6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?
The songs I wrote 30 years ago don’t seem to have dated. I love history, but I’m outside of it.

7. You want to be remembered for…?
Who I was, not what I did. But that ain’t gonna happen. We live and die and fertilize the earth. New life grows out of us—life is always there, it just changes its form. Our culture lives, continuously, and if we’re lucky we get to steer its course a little. Culture is the real organism, but it could be flattened by a meteorite. The way we live today would have been unthinkable to our ancestors, and will be absurd to our descendants.

8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?
Freud, Marx Brothers, Dylan, HG Wells, Goya, Mervyn Peake, Syd Barrett, Shakespeare. They’re all men, because our culture up to now has made women almost invisible. At least the 20th century allowed women to write more than before. Right now I’m reading a great 21st century novel by Hilary Mantel called Beyond Black. Gillian Welch and Tanya Donelly are two of my favorite living singers.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest. I wish I’d invented Cary Grant, too, but I guess he did, as his original name was Archie Leach. The Knights who say ‘Ni’ in Monty Python and the Holy Grail are sublime, too—whoever wrote that understands something fundamental about our existence. Makes me almost proud to be human.

10. Your hidden talents…?
I use every one I’ve got, and the others are unmentionable

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
“Dad, we’re in England now—you need to drive on the left” from Maisie my daughter in 1990.

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
My Fylde acoustic guitar from a friend in 1982.

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or…?
Naked in warm water. Water has no labels except of course bottled water. But I wouldn’t want to swim in it unless I was a goldfish on a subway train or somewhere inhospitable like that, in which case a bottle of mineral water might seem a nice refuge. A tiny mermaid, however, would need a saline solution, unless she was a freshwater mermaid.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
Keith Richards. Of course, he might bring along Ron Wood.

15. Time travel: where, when and why?
1949. Just before I was born. We survived it, even though we thought World War III was knocking at the door. It’s been knocking all my life. In 1949 they had free health care in Britain, trams and trolleybuses in London, and you could still smoke in bars. And the Beatles were about to reach puberty. Rock ‘n’ roll was simmering in swing/jump, and jazz was about to become be-bop. Holidays in the past would be very popular now. I wonder where Keith Richard would go?

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?
Think twice. OK, Spa vacation then. Why hurt anyone apart from the recent administration in US and Britain? People are always flawed, but Tony Blair is unforgivable—the label said ‘Socialist’. And he owns a Stratocaster! It’s like a spy movie where the kindly uncle who’s sheltering you turns out to be an enemy agent. That’s just what Blair was—an enemy agent. Where’s my Prozac?

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or…?
Without sex there is no life. Then, as you say, there’s chocolate. Drugs, legal and illegal, are a way of putting life on hold, but how long can you stand to listen to the muzak?

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
Bergen in Norway; Seattle and Tucson in the USA; the Isle of Wight in England. I’d like to visit the Lake District while I’m still walking and breathing. Then there’re the beaches of Australia, and the clouds of Venus.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
Don’t commission the next generation of Trident nuclear missiles. Why spend money we don’t have on something we don’t need just to maintain a global authority we lost years ago? The Americans have plenty of weapons.

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?
Immediately, I’m getting a pizza from Pizza Express. They have Peter Blake’s artwork on the walls in there, it’s almost like eating Peter himself. With olives. Otherwise I’m editing a collection of old recordings made with the Egyptians in the 1980s, preparing a new record album with the Venus 3 for fall release, and working on something with Andy Partridge (legendary XTC main man) in his shed.

We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work. We are a wholly independent, women-owned, small company. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing, challenging times where costs have risen and advertising has dropped precipitously. PopMatters needs your help to keep publishing. Thank you.

//Mixed media

Call for Music Writers... Hip-Hop, Soul, Electronic, Rock, Indie, Americana, Jazz, World and More

// Announcements

"PopMatters is looking for smart music writers. We're looking for talented writers with deep genre knowledge of music and its present and…

READ the article