Like his Rorschach-gone-awry music, Robyn Hitchcock speaks his mind but often lands in left field, yabbering. But it’s nice yabbering –— eloquent and generally interesting. The one-man touring machine who fronted the Soft Boys and the Egyptians doesn’t know how many albums he’s fathered (“Twenty-four is a good guess,” he says), but Rhino Records is pushing nine CDs’ worth of material circa 1980 to ’87, and he recently secured his hip factor by recording a three-song 7-inch on K records. Not bad for an old-schooler still wrangling with life’s heavies: sex, fame, drugs and religion. “There’s a theory that the Easter Bunny predates Jesus,” says the Englishman, who describes his tune “Sometimes I Wish I Was a Pretty Girl” this way: “I suppose I was imagining I was a man imagining I was a woman killed by a man pretending to be a woman. It’s a discreet form of sexual suicide.” But fret not, loyal readers. Hitchcock goes in for the save: “I’m happy to say I don’t feel that way anymore.” Whew!
According to principles of neo-cognitive psychology, the past is but an illusion that should be forgotten. Is it weird having yours documented on shiny discs that cost $15.98?
I accept that. That’s one of the paradoxes: You cannot go into the past, but the past can carry on in you.
Wow, that sounds like Stevie Nicks.
[Laughs] Well, that’s consoling!
How old are you?
At the moment, I’m 42, but I’ve been all kinds of ages.
That’s old. You don’t have much time left on earth.
That’s probably why I’m making more of it. It’s not particularly old in terms of being an artist. I don’t regard myself specifically as a rock musician anymore.
What do you regard yourself as?
Just an artist, really.
Have you ever eaten a Big Mac?
No. Beef should be restricted. If you want to eat it, you should grow your own.
What’s your problem with beef?
Anyone will tell you that it’s enormously energy inefficient. It goes: Forest is replaced by cow, cow is eaten by a person, then a person shits. A perfect way to turn foliage into feces.
You know Americans; we love our burgers, and we love shitting.
Well, it’s time to think differently.
What the hell is “retrodelic”?
That’s a term I coined to describe my approach to music, which is basically pointing backward. I’m the last of the ’60s rock stars. The last to hatch out, really.
After Groovy Decay, you quit the business for about three years.
I got very depressed.
Did you take pills for it?
No, that defers it. That’s just mortgaging your own depression.
What did you do?
I drank a lot. I did some gardening. I did some articles under a different name, and I also wrote lyrics for the Damned.
What did you grow?
What did I grow?
Yeah, in your garden.
I didn’t grow anything. I pulled things up.
That’s weeding. That’s not gardening!
I was a gardener. That’s what takes up the most time: pulling things out. I’d rather pull out weeds than teeth.
Are you eccentric?
No more than Michael Jackson.
Robyn, he’s pretty eccentric.
Yeah, but look at his music He sells in billions to people who have no heads.
What’s your R.E.M. connection?
God, I met them years ago.
Has Michael Stipe made a pass at you?
No, nor me him, although he is gorgeous.
So you’ve had homosexual experiences?
Years ago, but that was simply because I was sent to a good school.
There weren’t any girls around, so you had to practice on men.
I see. Did you ever fuck your fans?
Well, if you can call it fucking. I was usually too smashed. But, yes, but it was quite a while back. I certainly had my nose in the rock & roll trough.
A lot of your songs are about sex. Where does the preoccupation come from?
[Sighs] Well, I don’t think I’m the only person preoccupied by sex!
You’re the only one with an English accent singing about it the way you do!
Well, sex and death. Everything that lives has to have sex. I mean, televisions don’t have sex. Light bulbs don’t, because they don’t necessarily die. If you regard the computer revolution as a living organism, it will also die and need to have sex, so you may be confronted with the possibility of computers fucking in 50 years. I’ve got a feeling humanity is about to die out and replace itself with electronic babies.
Jeez! You’re a paranoid’s dream date!
Well, I find it very difficult to reassure people. That’s one of the hardest things about being a parent.
Did you have a shitty childhood?
No. I had some very good bits, but there was something looming over it.
What did you want to be when you were little?
A doctor. And I wanted to be a time traveler and build a time machine, but I wasn’t scientifically endowed, so I became a cult figure instead.
Better a cult figure than a cult leader, huh?
[Laughs] Dead-right there.
Do you think Jesus would’ve dug your music?
I think my stuff would’ve been too humorous for Jesus. That’s one of the problems I’ve had with Christianity. It’s humorless, and you’re born into debt. You owe Jesus one because he died for you long before you were ever conceived.
I bet Jesus laughed. He was probably sitting around with the disciples, and they farted, and everyone busted out laughing.
I hope so, but there aren’t many references to our Lord farting.
Have you always been unplugged?
I started out playing folk clubs on my own doing cover versions and comedy songs. Then I acquired musicians who became the Soft Boys, then the Egyptians, and now I’m on my own again. So, for a long time, yeah.
I mean mentally.
[Laughs] I don’t know if I was ever plugged, man.