Interview: Robyn Hitchcock

When it comes to writing upbeat pop songs about insects, deceased spouses, and other suitable-for-nightmares subject matter, former Soft Boy Robyn Hitchcock is the best there is. And his singular point of view has developed no small number of friends, fans and followers: he's recorded with Gillian Welch and David Rawlings (Spooked), been filmed by Jonathan Demme (Storefront Hitchcock),and both recorded and toured with R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck and longtime R.E.M. sidemen Scott McCaughey and Bill Rieflin (Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3's Olé! Tarantula).

Just after noon on July 11th, with Hitchcock traveling across the Long Island Sound on his way to another solo acoustic tour stop, he offered his views on the Arctic Circle, his vast songwriting catalog and the potential lifespan of vinyl, while brushing aside the opportunity to pimp out his latest box set, Luminous Groove, released this past Tuesday.

I'm going to throw a couple of short answer questions at you before we get started with the more serious stuff.


Tell me something that you've never ever done before in your life.

I've never been to the Arctic Circle, but I am going in September.

Well then, that answer would be a lie in October, but we can take it now.

Yeah, late September, early October.

Why are you going to the Arctic Circle?

I'm going with a collection of musicians and filmmakers and artists and writers with an organization called Cape Farewell who take artists and scientists--artists in the broad sense of the word--to just to witness the polar regions. To see the disintegrating and terrifying, you know, majestic, but imperiled landscape. I haven't been up there, but my wife has been before which is why I'm going. And this one has a lot of musicians on it.

Obviously your wife had a positive experience or you wouldn't be duplicating the trip.

You're dead right, although the one she was on was a much smaller ship. It was a 1910 Seamaster schooner and they're putting the musicians on a Russian minesweeper. They think we need more space.

Well, since you've never done this before, it's literally a once in a lifetime experience. Is this something you're excited about?

Yeah, yeah. I mean, you know, I very seldom go anywhere I haven't been before. In fact, this ferry is another example of somewhere I haven't been before. By this stage my trails are well-worn and my grooves run pretty deep, so this is a deviation.

I know that you're going to learn about the environment but is there any specific work involved or will you be able to just kind of soak in the experience?

I think the work is soaking it in. I mean, the idea is that we're not doing anything apart from witnessing what we're seeing. So we're getting away from all our regular activities and pursuits. You know, I dare say people are going to be frantically journaling and everything, but there isn't any mission other than to see what we see because very few people see it and it won't be there much longer. Whether we can do anything about it is another question, but we're lucky enough to see it and I suppose that's the idea. That's what Cape Farewell is doing is showing people what it is. And because I've never been there I can't pre-react but I know it's completely changed my wife's existence and altered her compass completely. It's changed the medium she works in and all kinds of stuff, so I'm interested to see what it does to me.

It sounds like a wonderful opportunity.

Tell me something that you've done once and one time only.

Well, that's mentionable. What have I done once and once only? I don't know. I've made mistakes more than once, that's for sure. I've seen the Queen three times. I've never met Morrissey so I suppose I could say I've never met Morrissey once, but in some sense I've never met him many times. I don't know. I'm a very habitual creature so I think I tend to do things multiply or not at all.

You mentioned your wife. Is this your first marriage?

Michele is my wife. And we are married, yeah.

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