Talking cats, Nashville and music with Robyn Hitchcock
British singer-songwriter and cult favorite Robyn Hitchcock comes to Milwaukee this weekend after releasing his 21st album, "Robyn Hitchcock."
"It's a good place to start," says Hitchcock. "If you like this one, you'll like my 20 other albums."
In the late '70s, Hitchcock was a member of The Soft Boys and went on to make about a half dozen albums with his band, The Egyptians. His musical and lyrical styles have been influenced by Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Syd Barrett.
Hitchcock will perform in The Back Room at Colectivo, 2211 N. Prospect Ave., on Sunday, June 18. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are available here.
OnMilwaukee: How do you feel about your new album?
Robyn Hitchcock: It's not really different from my other albums, more of a distillation of what I do. It's a good place to start. If you like this one, you'll like the 20 from the past.
I'm not an innovator - I'm a summarizer or a condenser. I haven't had anything new in terms of sound; I just know what I love in music.
What are your thoughts about Milwaukee?
I enjoy going to the lake. And I like that bookshop in the airport. The last time I was there I bought a book by Nabokov. I think that's a fantastic way to welcome people: with books. I hope that bookshop is still there.
It's is! It's called Renaissance Books. So … do you enjoy touring?
I love playing live, but I would mind not flying so much. I'm a chronic frequent flyer; a world shredder. I have contributed to the destruction of the environment by jetting around the place. I know that's not right, but that's how I make my living. If only I could wave a wand and make a pumpkin into a carriage.
How do you like living in Nashville?
I can't say it's affected the way I write songs, but it's definitely stimulating. There are so many musicals about. It's an exciting place to be.
Did you go there for music or for a person or both?
My partner, Emma, is Australian, but she was living here when we meet. We fluttered around the world for a bit, but we came back here. I totally did not see it coming, but here I am.
Do you have kids?
Yes, but they're old. Older than me.
A lot of cats. More than I would have thought. In my 20s, I didn't get cats at all, but I do now. I'm a cat man now.
What do you like about cats?
They're are smart, good looking, inscrutable and very understanding. They are parallel to us, they have intelligence and emotions not quite the same as we do, but you can see the connections between us like you can see the connections between Earth and Mars – we are in the same solar system, yet we are different. If they were five times their size they would eat us, instead we give them their breakfast. They're miniature lions that will soon get articulated thumbs so they can send emails and texts and improve health care.
Short answer? I like being around them.
What do you miss about Britain?
I miss the clouds and the damp and the drizzle. I miss the reality check that you get in Britain, but also really glad to be rid of it. I'm more ambitious and fanciful here, more of a careerist because I've always done better here than in Britain.
I have so many friends here I don't even think of this as a foreign country. I've slowly become American over 30 years. Everyone here is an import except the Native Americans. We're all follicles growing on a foreign scalp and here I am: one such follicle.
Are you more comfortable with or bothered by aging?
It's funny how you squander your youth on strange hairstyles. In the 80s I had a mullet. I didn't have a good hairstyle until 40. And now I have a lot of things men my age don't have. I'm a professional adolescent – people pay me to not grow up. I'm lucky.
How have you kept steam over years?
It's not like I'm super healthy, but I haven't been diagnosed with anything, either. But if you said, 'Give me 10, Hitchcock,' I'd likely just lie on the floor.
I don't know what keeps me going. I'm very relentless, habitual. I trained myself from age 15 to 25 by writing about 300 terrible songs and then it suddenly began to click. I now have a songwriting habit which I fund by playing live
I never say 'I'm going to write now" or 'I must write.' It just builds up – it's an accumulation like gravy or puss or rain – and eventually the tank is full and I have to let it out. That's what I do and I will do that until after I'm dead.
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