2016 Artist Survey: Robyn Hitchcock
Hitchcock on Trump, Artificial Intelligence, Scary Movies, Brexit, and Stranger Things
Feb 21, 2017 Issue # 59 - 15th Anniversary
Find It At: AMAZON
For Under the Radar's 14th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2016. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2016 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions. Here are some answers from Robyn Hitchcock. Hitchcock is releasing a new self-titled album on April 21 via Yep Roc. Robyn Hitchcock is his 21st studio album, but his first self-titled one.
For our annual Artist Surveys we emailed the same set of questions to musicians about Trump and the election, 2016's deaths, self-driving cars, Stranger Things, first kisses, scary movies they shouldn't have seen as a child, which Friends character they are most like, and much more.
Pick up or download Under the Radar's Best of 2016 / 15th Anniversary Issue for Artist Survey interviews with Amber Arcades, Austra, Faris Badwan of Cat's Eyes and The Horrors, Boxed In, Caveman, The Charlatans, Cursive, Lucy Dacus, The Dears, C Duncan, Sadie Dupuis of Sad13 and Speedy Ortiz, Dutch Uncles, Ezra Furman, Robyn Hitchcock, The Invisible, Justin Lockey of Editors and Minor Victories, Lost Under Heaven (LUH), Lush, Midlake, Phantogram, The Range, Springtime Carnivore, Sunflower Bean, Surfer Blood, TEEN, The Thermals, Nick Valensi of CRX and The Strokes, Jenn Wasner of Flock of Dimes and Wye Oak, and Yuck.
A shorter version of Hitchcock's survey appeared in the print version of Under the Radar's Best of 2016 / 15th Anniversary Issue, this is the full unedited version.
Top 10 Albums of 2016
In no order (sorry).
William Tyler: Modern Country
The Claypool Lennon Delirium: Monolith of Phobos
Shirley Collins: Lodestar
David Bowie: Blackstar
Lucinda Williams: Ghosts of Highway 20
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard: Nonagon Infinity
Anne Lise Frøkedal: Hold on Dreamer
Grant Lee Phillips: The Narrows
The Rolling Stones: Blue & Lonesome
Cass McCombs: Mangy Love
2016 was regarded by many as a fairly tough and negative year. Was it also a hard year for you personally? If so, how? And also what were the high points for you?
I lost my cat and two humans; not a great year for me, though I've made what I think is a great record. But I—and billions more—have almost lived through it. Almost.
What are your thoughts on how the U.S. presidential election played out?
That's the greatest disaster of the year, and probably of this century so far. Donald Trump should not even be a free man, let alone president of the most powerful country in the world. He, his team, and the people they represent (albeit less than a quarter of Americans eligible to vote) are dedicated to erasing every humane development in the U.S. since the Emancipation. They horrify and disgust all but the deadest of hearts and the dullest of minds. But sometimes shit just wants to happen, and it does. What it tells me—as does Brexit—is how divided we are as a species. Is there any bridge connecting Us and Them? We breathe the same air and use the same drains, but we are effectively different creatures. We need two worlds; one going forward for Us, and one reversing for Them. In a way, we all want to go backwards; the Trumpistas and Brexiters to the white male supremacy era before 1960, and The Humanitarians to around 1970, the momentum years for social evolution. But the future is rushing towards us all, with a precarious climate and crazy weather that "They" refuse to acknowledge. I'm not a U.S. citizen but I am currently based there. I can't vote but as an artist I am politicized now—there's no abstaining. I wish there was. Apart from a few blinkered souls whose aversion to Hillary blinded them to the horror of President Trump, I think my audience and I feel alike on this "issue."
What reality TV star would you have rather been elected president?
I don't watch it. It's not my reality.
If you were president, what would you try to accomplish in your first 100 days in office?
The impossible: gun control, Planned Parenthood, federal-wide guaranteed abortion rights, limitation on corporate powers and tax evasion, reinforced Obamacare, amnesty for immigrants, and public investment. There'd be a revolution. They'd be up in arms. :(
What are your thoughts on Brexit and the future of the European Union? To what extent do you think the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump were motivated by the same factors?
Yes indeed. Life has gone too fast for a lot of people. What good is democracy if it grows from a bed of distorted information? And of course, both sides make similar claims about bias: Trump bleats about any media source that doesn't reflect his view and we do the same. Bottom line: assuming Trump's presidency runs the full term four years without apocalypse, impeachment, or a lucky accident, he will have to make life worse for his supporters—and everybody else—or he'll be voted back in. Eight years of President Trump would finish humanity and most other life forms on the planet.
We lost three highly influential music icons in 2016. What are your thoughts on the passing of David Bowie, Prince, and Leonard Cohen? And what are your favorite albums by each artist?
David Bowie: Heroes. Leonard Cohen: Songs From a Room. Prince: probably Purple Rain—I don't know his albums so well. Each man left the world with a shock and a wake of sadness. The timing was especially grim: Bowie's death set the pattern for the year (though let's not forget that Lemmy exited just before 2016 struck), Prince went suddenly as the year was shaping up to be grim, and Cohen set the seal on the election result. There are still many rock avatars still strumming away, as Oldchella proved. And the rest of us aren't far behind.
What do you think Prince and Bowie's afterlife project sounds like?
Like each other?
Which Friends character are you most like?
Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow).
What scary movie did you see way too young as a child, how'd you end up seeing it, and does it still scare you now?
A BBC TV series called A For Andromeda in which an alien entity from a distant galaxy materializes on earth as a cute blonde woman (Susan Hampshire). That scared me all the way to Nashville.
Are you ready for self-driving cars and a more automated future?
Artificial Intelligence is another force that wants to happen. The race is on between making ourselves extinct (climate change and a nuclear-empowered Trump) and making ourselves superfluous (the iPhone 13 should be smarter and more empathic than we are). We're merging with our phones now; in a generation they will become implants and then, who knows? What will we do in driverless cars? Spend more time on the Internet? Watch movies? Work out? I think if there is a future it belongs to the iTems. Humanity is too unstable to last much longer, without some drastic evolutionary leap, akin to dinosaurs jumping off cliffs and growing wings. Most likely we've been a phase—that's about to end. We'll replace ourselves with machines, and consciousness of a kind will continue. These iTems will have all our old movies and will get tears in their apps whenever they watch Casablanca. They may take human form, as hermaphroditic Elvises and Marylins. To them we organic humans will be the mythical forbearers—Atlanteans, or the like.
Tell us about the most memorable fan encounter you had this year.
Most people who accost me in the street or at shows think I'm Nick Lowe.
Tell us about your first kiss.
I must have had it by now.
Under the Radar has been around for 15 years now, since December 2001. How do you feel the music industry has most changed in that time, both for the better and the worst?
Music and industry—do those words belong together? I think we—or whatever we replace ourselves with—will always have music, but we won't always make money from it. You can't live off record sales now, so everyone from me to McCartney is out there gigging. Making albums is an expensive hobby now, though I'd like to point out yet again that my new one is very good. :)
Which Stranger Things character do you most relate with? Why?
Eleven—she's out of place but she knows what's happening.
After Donald Trump won the election which band (or song or album) did you first turn to for solace and motivation?
I listened to The Band. Their laments for an old, mythical, human-friendly America/world were very comforting—sad more than angry—as winter advanced and democracy froze.
What deli menu item could you buy with your 2016 Spotify earnings?
An organic avocado and some Gouda cheese with cumin.
What would be the worst punishment the devil could devise for you in hell, if he exists?
I won't say—I'm sure he can read! Probably something involving smoke-free sports bars, root vegetables, and "Arthur's Theme."
Would you survive a zombie apocalypse? Explain.
Anyone who can survive Trump will survive the zombies.
What rock 'n' roll lifestyle cliché is truest?
That you think you're the centre of the universe—because of course you are. That and the sexy younger partner in the leather jacket who knows how to use Uber.
In which ways are you most like your parents and in which ways are you least like them?
I'm charming, manipulative, and doubtful, as my parents were. But unlike them I go on stage and demand attention—I'm a performer and a kind of exhibitionist. Perhaps that makes me less controlling in real life—I get some of it out of my system on stage.
What's the best practical joke you've ever played on someone?
None I remember.
What's your favorite year for music and what were your favorite albums from that year?
1966 was a peak but probably more albums came out in 1967: Are You Experienced, Sgt. Pepper's, Piper at the Gates of Dawn, The Velvet Underground & Nico, Safe as Milk, The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion, The Doors, and Forever Changes. I never left it...
What song would you like to be performed at your funeral and who would you like to sing it?
Something jolly that would make people cry.
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