An Interview with Robyn Hitchcock

A photograph featuring Robyn Hitchcock has been released by the organization Depicted in the image, the British musician is seen in an interview setting.

Robyn Hitchcock’s musings on the meaning of the universe – “The meaning of the universe is an apple,” he stated – is emblematic of the type of off-the-cuff wit that characterizes his work

As a figure in the music industry, Hitchcock has been described as a “wandering bard” and an artist rooted in the punk era who was cited as an influence by the likes of the Replacements and R.E.M.

To this day, his unique lyrics and artist style still invoke comparison to Bob Dylan and Doctor Who.

Robyn Hitchcock’s spoken-word introductions before his songs often add to the entertainment value as much as his music itself.

His tales of glass cathedrals in the sky, Neanderthals, and marshmallow-attacks are not meant to be logically understood–as he once explained, they simply serve as a “lo-fi visual aid” to the music.

His bizarre and creative imagination is part of the appeal of his “retro-delic” performances.

Robyn Hitchcock’s 2004 album, Spooked (which features Gillian Welch and David Rawlings), expresses his fondness for tree living

  •  “I’ll bring you fat juicy worms / I’ll bring you millipedes”
  •   and serenades a television
  •   “My kid will look like you I swear.” The album is a perfect example of his signature style
  •   combining poignancy and hilarity
  •   across his long-spanning career. I had the pleasure of speaking with Robyn one evening in his London residence to discover what his current interests are.

— As put forward by Lou Anders


What is causing the unease in you?

Robyn Hitchcock has been spooked for most of his life, and he believes it could be due to his father’s nightmares before he was born. His dad had been injured in the War and his paintings were full of vivid images, leading to the conception that there were bad dreams in the house. Hitchcock posits that everyone lives in the same nightmare, just reacting to it differently. He believes that humans are essentially an experiment that failed, and this is reflected in the look in Frankenstein’s monster’s eyes.

It knows it is deformed and not accepted, yet still wishes to be something better – similar to the human condition.

BLVR: Is there no way for us to continue? Do you think we have to step back for a bit before we can go forward?

RH: In an evolutionary sense, there’s no going back. One of the issues is that the current American government has not completely accepted the effects of the Industrial Revolution.

To put it bluntly, the worst people in a group of humans tend to be the ones in charge, and since they have to be smart, they usually make mistakes when making decisions.

This is shown throughout the history of human art and suffering; for example, in the proverb “the lesson of history is that nobody learns the lesson of history.”

Do you tend to look on the bright side or the dark side of things? It’s quite remarkable that you have such a positive attitude towards mortality and decay.

RH has a strong sense of pessimism intellectually, yet when it comes to his life force, he is full of energy and enthusiasm. He loves to experience many different things, for example, music, food, sex, films, and travelling.

His libido is quite powerful, and he strives to keep out of fights. RH summarized his inner conflict in a song called “My Mind Wants to Die but My Body Wants to Live” and he believes this phrase encapsulates him as a person: while his mind is in despair, his body is content.

BLVR: The more recent pieces of your work have a certain maturity to them, combining poignancy with surrealism and humor. An example of this is “Television,” a song expressing love for the TV which can make you smile one moment and tear up the next.

I have always had a fondness for sad songs. Even before I started playing the guitar, I could appreciate sad songs. At first, I didn’t have the ability to compose them.

My early attempts at songwriting were more like stories. I have an active imagination and I’m optimistic that it is calming down as I age.


BLVR: It is quite impressive the way you are able to combine humor and poignancy. This is not an easy task to accomplish. It appears that many people in the United States struggle with being both witty and sorrowful simultaneously.

RH: I was inspired to pursue music when I heard Bob Dylan’s songs when I was thirteen or fourteen. He had an ability to create a sense of both sadness and humor in his work, and it’s something I’ve always tried to emulate.

The song that truly stands out to me as an example of what I want to achieve is “Visions of Johanna.” Are you familiar with it?

BLVR: Bob Dylan’s music really speaks to me, and that particular song is especially dear to me.

RH expressed that a certain song has been a source of inspiration, noting that it is both tragic and absurd simultaneously. They expressed satisfaction that it appears to be helping them to grow and develop, although they acknowledged they are not always certain of this.

BLVR: Considering how greatly Bob Dylan has impacted your work, do you think he is aware of your existence as one of the many artists that have followed in his footsteps? Have the two of you ever crossed paths?

I personally don’t think I would like to come into contact with Dylan. It’s not that he needs to demonstrate himself, yet I believe he likes to “play” with individuals when he meets them.

Possibly on the grounds that everybody is so overwhelmed by him that he can’t resist having some sort of fun. I don’t think he is as verbally aggressive anymore, but he just kind of makes people look or feel dumb.

I feel like I am stupid enough and I don’t need to meet Dylan. I do not think he would want to meet me either. Listening to his stuff is enough for me. I think artists present the best version of themselves and you find yourself wanting to meet them.

But, it is the fruit that is important. Listening to people’s records is better than actually meeting them. I think the best way to get to know someone is to work with them.

But, I am not sure I would even want to work with Dylan, he appears to have a great time playing with his musicians. There is a ton of hearsay about well-known people. If somebody meets you and you are in a bad mood, they may go around saying bad things. It’s difficult to manage. If people are treating you in a strange way, I don’t know what to do.


BLVR: Generally, you don’t have a lot of political content in your songs– I can only think of a few off the top of my head (“The President,” “Do Policemen Sing?,” “Dancing on God’s Thumb”). But, now you’ve come out with “W Sucks.”

Is it because the situation has gotten so dire that you felt the need to take a stand?

RH: You have been informed about that, even though it has not been made public yet?

To be ready for this talk, I looked through some old radio conversations that had been recorded.

RH: I had written a song called “W Sucks” that I planned to release as a public service before the last election, but I was afraid it would mess up my chances of getting a visa again, so I didn’t follow through with it.

Someone from the Onion offered to help distribute it, but at the time I thought it didn’t really make a difference if a rock musician shared their politics. Now, however, I think it’s really important that people speak up, but it’s still important to be mindful of who is saying what.

BLVR made their point and it was heard; they had the victory.

RH: [Laughs] They did! I’m not sure how else to say it without sounding cliche, but I suppose it’s a matter of people becoming beacons for each other. When you find yourself in a desperate situation, it’s comforting to know that there are people out there who share the same beliefs.

When the last election happened and Bush was re-elected, I was on tour in Minneapolis and it felt like a wake. Everyone, including me, was in need of a pick-me-up, so I offered to do a free gig the next day.

After that, I noticed that the gap between me and the audience had significantly narrowed. Someone told me that stupid people don’t like my music, but I think it’s safe to say that my audience is pretty smart.

It’s impossible to vote for Bush if you have a sense of humor, irony, compassion, or imagination. I act as a filter and people who are drawn to me could not possibly vote for him. We’re all in a little huddle and it’s not even about preaching to the converted.

It’s just about saying, “Hey, I see you feel the same way. Here we are. We’re not completely surrounded by the undead.”

  1. All elements can be considered of equal importance, in that even real, tangible figures like Condoleezza Rice can exist side-by-side with those who may not be real, like the Devil.

Back in 1992, I attended a show during which Robyn Hitchcock played at the Park West with the Egyptians. During the show, he told a story about how the Devil had attempted to collect a soul from the Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles and ended up being stuck in a minibar.

As a result, he left behind a “green globule of pure evil.” Four years later at the Alligator Lounge in Santa Monica, he made a casual reference to this episode without providing any explanation.

Unless someone else had been at the previous show, I was the only one who could comprehend the reference.

To me, it seemed to be a natural part of Hitchcock’s world where the Devil can show up in your minibar and leave behind pure evil, and he was simply making a reminder of this situation. It was as if someone was mentioning a city’s atmosphere or a great spot to eat.

RH made an interesting remark, not realizing that it was a repetition. They noted that items such as minibars had come across their mental landscape.

I sensed that the songs likely had underlying stories, and that more than a single song may have been derived from the same story. However, it’s not necessary for us to know the tale in order to comprehend the song.

RH stated that they have been constantly encouraged to write a book of children’s stories as their work appeals to both adults and younger audiences.

He continued to explain that people of all kinds, including fictional characters, are of equal importance and can exist together, like Condoleezza Rice and the Devil.

RH believes that everybody has stories going on in their head all the time, and that when they are about to fall asleep, they begin to see things that have nothing to do with their current life.

He suggests that for some people, these stories bleed through more easily and that this must be the case for him.

BLVR: I noticed you mentioned science fiction. I have always been intrigued by the song “September Cones” off the album You & Oblivion, particularly the lyric “The phone box glows / Beside the sea.” Is that inspired by Doctor Who?

RH: [Laughs] Ah, good, it’s not related to Doctor Who after all. Are you familiar with the traditional British phone booths? Not the ones used by the police.

BLVR: The ones with the hue of red.

RH:The red phone boxes, that’s right. I did a painting of one, as a matter of fact. I imagined it on my most beloved beach and then composed a song concerning it. I completed the painting, but then destroyed it. It’s interesting how the Doctor has become a lower-end figure.

But he still has the police box. It’s fairly funny. Back then, when it was designed forty years ago, they were quite common. Now, the one outside Earls Court Station in London is the only one left in Britain.

Most individuals recognize the police box only because of the TARDIS, so what was once meant to make it blend in now makes it a unique and bizarre relic. I’m really delighted to see it. Before I wanted to be a cult figure, I wanted to be Doctor Who. I wished to time-travel.

At your live shows, you often provide spoken introductions that hint at the future and technology. This is rather intriguing to me in comparison to the organic nature of your music.

I wanted to be a scientist, as I saw potential there. But my science classes at school required a lot of maths and I wasn’t good at it. So, I chose the arts instead and adopted Bob Dylan as an inspiration.

I would have liked to pursue science but I’m not too optimistic about what the next few centuries will bring. We still think like savages, but now with technology. We haven’t reached the maturity to handle the consequences of our discoveries.

Nuclear technology, laser beams and the internal combustion engine are all examples of this. We are not at the point to use them properly, which is why this crisis has ignited.

It is amazing that prior to the Industrial Revolution, the extent of our capabilities was limited and the damage we could cause was minimal. However, with the advances made since then, the potential for destruction is great. This thought process can be quite captivating for both you and me.

BLVR: How do you feel about the concept of God? Your work indicates that you have a spiritual outlook, but you are not necessarily religious.

RH: Agreed, it’s sensible to consider that the Earth could be some form of intelligence. Take for example, the complex internal structures of living things – it’s hard to imagine them forming without some sort of intervention.

Perhaps evolution is even more evidence of the divine than the traditional creation myth. Both the idea of a god creating the universe and the notion of nothingness suddenly becoming something are inconceivable. Whether it’s written in the Bible or in scientific literature, both theories are unthinkable, and believing in either doesn’t exclude the possibility of a divine force at work.

BLVR: Technology provides us with fresh metaphors and the web exemplifies how an immense interactive system can exist without any one person controlling it. You can put into it whatever you desire and take away whatever you choose.

However, the internet has no knowledge of you; it won’t be reprimanding you if you take an additional cookie during lunchtime.

RH: Although the internet could possibly be seen as a type of worldwide intelligence, I’m uncertain if it’s having an effect on our capacity for empathy.

BLVR: I was merely referencing how a spiritual system could function without a singular leader.

RH: I assume that there exists a moral code.

It’s almost like a moral physics; when a person behaves selfishly or destructively, they can expect that pain will come back to them in some way, although it may take a while and may have caused a substantial amount of damage to other people in the meantime.

This could lead to a cycle of pain and healing, although the idea of healing might bring to mind a high-priced spa in Chicago where someone is paying a hefty fee for a short-term solution.

It Could Be of Interest

The prevalence of the internet has had a substantial impact on the way we communicate. We have seen a shift from traditional methods of communication to digital forms.

This is largely due to the ease of use and accessibility of the internet, which has helped to bridge the gap between people from different parts of the world. Consequently, people can now communicate with one another in real time, regardless of their geographical location.

Our writing staff is varied and passionate about arts, literature, film, travel, music, and entertainment.

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