Entry for January 18, 2007


A Conversation With Robert Wyatt (Pt. 2)

OK now, getting back–after a long period of silence, you finally started issuing some singles on Rough Trade. How did you decide on that material?

Well, during the ‘70s, something happened to my feeling, being in the rock world. There seemed to be this consensus in the rock world, which was that it was a new and semi-legitimate art form, and it was a sort of natural vehicle for new and rebellious ideas. And during the ‘70s, it became quite clear to me that what we were, as rock musicians, were in fact members of the establishment. That it was an establishment, and perhaps it always had been, ever since Elvis joined the GI’s. We thought we were kidding. (laughs) But nevertheless, it became part of the big Western Propaganda culture, all this stuff. And so really, I became interested in retrieving the idea of a sort of, if you like, disobedient music, where rebel poses had become so … sort of established, it’s part of the whole rock ‘n’ roll circus. And I was looking around for people who … You were getting to funny stages, where people who deliberately maimed themselves onstage were selling themselves as brave and courageous, whereas you had someone like Victor Jara in Chile, who because he sang for democracy in Chile, was tortured to death. If we’re going to talk about brave rebels in the music business, let’s talk about Victor Jara, not people who mutilate themselves on groovy videos. And I just wanted to–I started to see more and more of the world that was truly alienated by our establishment–that wasn’t included in rock ‘n’ roll, really.

How did you see this? From reading? Films?

I don’t know, in any one particular way. I was very, very hit by the death of Mongezi Feza, the South African trumpet player–who was the same age as me, and died at about 31 in the early ‘70s. And really, he died of old age and a broken heart at 31, as a South African exile who thought he’d escape to England and found that you don’t escape racism that easy. He’d come to the country that invented apartheid to get away—and exported it–but that hadn’t occurred to him. (sad laugh).His death hit me very hard–quite selfishly, I was very angry to have been deprived of a musician I really enjoyed working with. I started to think about all the people who don’t … You know, we’re told in rock ‘n’ roll and since then, that this is the democratic art form, this is the art form where the inarticulate are allowed to speak. You know? All that stuff–this is where black and white and working class, this is how we…But in fact, because it was so proud of being that, all the people who were alienated from this whole cozy consensus, you can see them in stark relief around you. People who weren’t included in this happy rebel party of rock ‘n’ roll. So in different ways, I wouldn’t say there was one line going through everything I did–but I would say that was the kind of thought that was going through my mind when I chose songs.

So you heard Victor Jara…

Victor Jara, I’ve done various things–now I’ve done about four Spanish-American songs.

That have already been released?

Yeah. Victor Jara, I’ve done a Pablo Milanos song, Violetta Para, and…I can’t remember…

One song, “Caimanera,” that you did–I don’t know if it was a hit here, but in the States, it was recorded [as “Guantanamera”] by a band called the Sandpipers. I always thought it was sort of innocuous. I never knew what the words meant…

That’s funny! Of course, that happens a lot with rebel music. There’s a funny thing about the Latin American music tradition–their rebel music, there’s a cultural communication problem here. Because we associate rebel music with fast and violent-sounding music, whereas Latin American political songs are gentle, seductive things to hear. “Caimanera” is not in fact the Cuban national anthem, but the original was. The bloke who wrote the tune is still alive–he’s an old black Cuban. And the bloke who wrote the original words, Jose Marti. The words I used were by Carlos Puebla, who’s also still alive and very popular. He lives in Cuba and wrote sort of updated lyrics for it.

Is that Marti the same one the states set up a radio station for?

Radio Marti. Now the States have set up a Radio Marti–one of those humorous gestures people like to make. Jose Marti was the principal Cuban leader at the time when Cuba was trying to get independence from Spain, and so his image of a leader of independence has remained. He’s still sort of a folk hero in Cuba.

So how did you come up with “At last I Am Free”? I guess I can understand “Strange Fruit.”

Yeah. I know it’s funny. First of all, “At Last I Am Free,” that’s a strange one … I think it’s a mistake in thinking the only music of rebellious significance, of revolutionary significance, is in music which is consciously so. And to me, popular black American music for example, amongst other kinds of music…Although however little of it is consciously, in any piece of music, if you say “We exist and we’re proud of existing, we wish to do well and flourish, like everyone else”–in certain societies, it has political connotations. At that time, people like Chic were being dismissed, because–I mean, I know that Chic, when they were young, had been attracted by the Black Power movement, like a lot of people, but decided that the best thing to do was just to try and “make it.” But the way they did it at that time had no legitimacy within rock currency, because they were smart, cleanly dressed, and everybody was, you know, smart-dressed, and you did really smart things at the discos. And although that was making money, it had no status. And somehow, there’s always been this time-lag, it seems to me, with black American music, whereby you do something and it’s enjoyed, but has no status, and then white people take it up and the genre gets status. So that 10 years later, it’s really groovy to dress up smart and do good disco tunes–but it wasn’t then, you know? So, although they wouldn’t–I’m not trying to impose my views on Chic–but just simply from my perspective, the existence of them and what they were doing, was politically very interesting.

It was a good song, too.

That’s right–I mean, apart from that. It was a very nice song. I had the feeling about this song, that they had written this chorus and then backed off the implications when they came to the verse. And did what everybody in rock ‘n’ roll does–which is play safe and pretend that the whole thing was about personal relationships. (laughs)

I have to admit, just the lines, “At last I am free/ I can hardly see in front of me”…

It’s a great couplet. I mean, I think that’s great poetry, just those two lines.

What was the logic in the shared 45s you did–what was it, with Disharhi?

Yeah, well that’s really thanks to Rough Trade Records, because I was reluctant to record again. I really wanted to get out of the music business by the late ‘70s, I’d really had it. But I couldn’t do anything else.

Why did you want to get out?

Just because it no longer seemed to me a real frontier, you know? It was a fake frontier–every week there’s something amazingly new happening, but it’s so utterly predictable that it is, it’s hard to call it something amazingly new. (laughs) The novelty machinery is just so predictable, that somehow the feeling that you were a part of–that rock ‘n’ roll was–that you were one of the Davy Crocketts of music, had gone, you know?

But to draw an analogy in jazz, a lot of the great players of the ‘50s and early ‘60s were rebels, yet they’ve seemed to digested that and come up with some conclusions.

That’s right, yeah–I think what happened in jazz was very interesting. Because I now listen to the jazz that I listened to in the ‘50s–much the same records, actually. Basically bebop and the immediate aftermath of bebop. But I listen to it as a classical music now–and I think it can be happily played as such. So it’s another thing completely now, even though the notes might be the same. For what it’s worth, I see the bebop period in jazz–so far this century, if I was going to retain one or two art movements that were transcendentally rich, I would say that jazz period, the ‘40s and ‘50s. I would certainly say. And even if that never happens again, like Beethoven never happened again, or Bach never happened again–it’s still a permanent source of inspiration, and you can play, nobody’s angry with somebody playing Bach because he hasn’t come up with anything new lately. (laughs)

You don’t look at any rock ‘n’ roll that way, eh?

Well, I can see how other people would feel that–and, I know, do. There are people who feel exactly that way about certain periods of rock ‘n’ roll. I suppose it depends on your own particular line, your own particular source of inspiration. Rock has never made it as that, quite, for me. I think it became so tangled up into the mainstream in a way that jazz–at least the jazz I like–never has done, really. I mean, I know that there are some well-paid jazz musicians, and I’m very pleased that there are. But nevertheless, there’s something–the rock establishment in England reminds me totally of the Royal Family and so on, in a way that not even Miles D
avis does in jazz. Not even in terms of their attitude to themselves, but in terms of their role in the mass media, the newspapers and so on. And that may all be fine–there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that kind of acceptance–except that … I dunno, one thing and another, I just didn’t enjoy, I didn’t feel that I was part of something that really meant anything to me. So I was really looking elsewhere to act. But I couldn’t find anything else, it was sort of too late. This is all I can do. And so I’ve come back to making records.

I hate to say it, but I’m grateful that’s all you can do. “Shipbuilding”–did those guys offer you that song?

Yeah, that just arrived on a cassette–and a phone call saying, “Could you try this?”

And aside from the fact that it was a beautiful song and you did a beautiful version of it, that was something very serious you successfully got across in the rock format. Are you quite pleased with that?

Well, I mean, really, all I was doing there was exactly what Costello and Langer asked me to do, as well as possible. Strictly speaking on those things, they’re sometimes called collaborations, but they’re not. I was working for them, definitely–and I just saw my job as trying to sort of live up to what it is they expect me to do.

What did you attempt to do when you went back in the studio for Old Rottenhat? Did you say, “Well, I guess it’s the rock life for me, I’m going to make this sort of record”? It’s different from your others.

Yeah. I mean, I do what’s–every time I do something, I think, “Well, this must be the end.” I get that terminal feeling, you know? And I think, “This is all I have left”–and that’s what comes out. So it’s not really a question of choosing from some vast array of possibilities. I sort of sit down and I think, by process of elimination, at any given moment, there’s only one particular thing possibly left that I could do. And so Old Rottenhat is, while I was doing it, which I suppose was a couple years ago–well, it was just terminalist, basically. Except, of course, once you’ve done something and then afterwards you stop to think, “Well, there’s this missing and that missing–maybe there’s still some other things that could happen after all.” But it’s really … I don’t think I choose to make a certain kind of record. When I remember making records, I make the only kind I can, my ambitions are very simple. I try to make records that I would like to listen to. It’s as simple as that.

A while ago, when you were talking about the Chic song, you said they took the easy way out–they made a song that was political about personal relationships. It seems as if there haven’t been that many songs you’ve recorded of late that are really personal to you. They’re more like political statements. And I may not agree with your politics, and thus there might be some problem in terms of me liking your music. But in fact everyone’s gone through emotional things–is that a hindrance to you?

I have the same problem with any lyrics. I have a big problem watching–see, Warren Beatty does Reds as a love story, so as to not alienate people totally with the politics. But then I have the problem of, how can I fall in love with Diane Keaton–I just don’t feel that way about her. I find that harder to deal with than the politics. (big laughs) I mean, everybody’s inviting you onto their private patch when they make a record–and there’s a risk of losing people who don’t share that … [brief break as he leaves to answer door] The thing is, you’re hedged all the time, not by strict laws of what you can and cannot say, but by various sorts of consensus that get built up during any given period, about what’s an acceptable way to speak. There was a program on television the other night with three Caribbean poets. And one conservative Caribbean poet, who lives in the States, was complaining about any poem which wasn’t about personal relationships. And he was saying you can’t impose an ideology on poetry. The only one doing it was him. He was saying it’s got to be about personal relationships–he was boxing people in. But because that’s such a sort of consensus, nobody thinks there’s an ideology whereby you’ve got to see everything as personal relationships. But I see that as boxing people in, you know? Who says that’s what they’ve got to be about? You know? Art is what artists do, as me wife says, and–though I don’t really decide what I write about, I mean, if I sit down, I really don’t know what’s gonna happen, What comes out is bound to be some kind of result of my preoccupations and the things I think about. So it’s natural. There’s a terrible kind of area which is called “unpretentious”–which is, there’s this thing called an unpretentious rock ‘n’ roll record, where somebody says, “I’m not gonna try to make art, I’m just gonna make an unpretentious rock ‘n’ roll record.” And you get the most pretentious five minutes of your life coming up–you know it’s coming for you. And so there isn’t a particular area that I would consider legitimate or illegitimate, you know?

The last thing in the world I did
was come over here to discuss the meaning of art with you, but let me pose a hypothetical question: Suppose there was a terrible situation in some country in the world, and you wrote a wonderful song about it, a beautiful song about it. But say the situation soon ended, was smoothed over, and five years later it was just a memory. Your song would be dated in a way, whereas a song about personal relationships might last forever. Does that trivialize what you just said?

No, it’s a good point. In other words, talking about really the difference between writing poetry and journalism, for example. What a journalist writes is particularly geared for a moment, whereas a poet might try to write for a longer period of time. But I think that one grows out of the other. I mean, the initial desire to communicate arises out of necessity, really. First of all, it’s functional–it’s the whole basis of … Here we are, talking about the meaning of art! (laughs) We’ll just quickly get the meaning of art out of the way (laughs) But the reason why we learn language is that so we can share information–it’s the basis of civilization, and it’s functional in basis. But just as eating is also functional, once you’ve got enough to eat, you then eat for pleasure, and you don’t just think about vitamins and proteins. You think about, “Well, I’d really like some of this.” And I think art arose out of the same thing. I mean, once you’ve got the fundamentals like, you know, “Please stop sticking that knife in my stomach” out of the way–you’ve agreed not to stick knives in–you can then just enjoy talking to each other for its own sake. But I see them as closely related. And it just depends on the circumstances. I’m quite, I wish my political songs would become obsolete–it would be my dearest wish. The nearest it happened was most recently, when we were asked to do the SWAPO single. When we were asked specifically to help publicize political prisoners in Namibia who were in prison. And there was to be a part of the campaign to release the political prisoners. And during that time, there was enough pressure, and about half of the political prisoners were released at the time the record came out. Which was wonderful, which meant that the record–just the fact that it had been part of the campaign, which was already bearing a bit of fruit, and the South African government had let a few of the prisoners out. So I’m very happy to have an obsolete-record on that basis.

Back to more mundane matters: I read a letter recently in one of the music papers from Bill MacCormick, and he seemed to think your song “Alliance” was addressed specifically to him. Was it addressed to anyone in particular? You don’t have to tell me who it was.

The song “Alliance”–I didn’t read the letter, although I heard about it a couple of times since–the song was specifically to David Owen, who is the leader of the Social Democratic Party, whose function I see as creating a Democrat party in England so that the two parties are Social Democrat and Conservative–so that there’s no possibility of a Socialist government, in other words. His job is to provide an alternative which isn’t very alternative. (laughs) And he had come up through the ranks of the Labour movement as his power base, and then when he got the power base, he rejected it, and decided to become a kind of [inaudible word or phrase] And the song is very specifically about that, about Alliance politics. And Bill works for the Liberal Party, which is one of the two parties in the Alliance. And it was the biggest shock for me during the ‘70s was to discover that the–I think it happened over a lot of places–was that the liberals, who I’d assumed were part of this century’s anti-fascist tradition, in the end, when it comes to protecting their own interests, are very … shy. (laughs) About coming forward.

A career in diplomacy awaits you.

And I found that during specific times, when it really seemed that, win or lose, it was worth making it clear whose side you were on in a given battle–such as the battle of the Conservative government here to smash the national union of mineworkers–you have be, you’re either on one side or the other. This is not simplistic left-wing politics–the either/or polarization is created by the government on purpose, so you really have no choice. Either you’re on one side or you’re on the other. And the Liberals in the end turned their back on the miners–they were embarrassed by them, they found them vulgar, and they didn’t really care enough. And you suddenly thought, well, in the end, none of them–it’s not expedient for them to support the miners, because the miners looked like losing, so they dropped it. And this happens time and time again. And I started to see more and more that up to that time, the Liberals here, the so-called reasonable middle-ground people, played what seems to me a deadly role in a time of right-wing aggression, of just kind of diffusing and taking the wind out of a united opposition. And this was how it looked to me, and it was a song about that. Now, if anybody doesn’t want to be one of those people, doesn’t want to associate themselves with what the Alliance is doing here in England–which is to divide the opposition to the conservatives–then they’re not the target of my song. You know? I’m not gonna say who they are. It’s up to them whether the song is about them or not.

On the subject of the mineworkers, was that 12-inch 45 you did with some Henry Cow people (“The Age Of Self,” 1984) put forward by you?

No, that was put forward by the people who did it, Chris Cutler and some, and they asked us to sing on it, and it was…Considering that they don’t have a commercial network to operate on, a proper one, they made thousands of pounds
for the miners’ families, and it was, on its own scale, surprisingly successful. And then various people–a lot of musicians got involved, it galvanized a lot of musicians. See, I can’t do gigs, so that’s the way I contribute. But a lot of musicians contributed concert time. People came out, you’d be surprised. Van Morrison came out and did stuff, Bruce Springsteen came over and gave a lot of money, and Paul Weller was wonderful–Paul Weller absolutely incurred the wrath not of God but of Miles Copeland, which is pretty much more dangerous, I think, in this Big Brother world. (laughs)

On a personal level, to what extent would you say Alfie has influenced your music and your thinking over the years?

Very, very much indeed. I’m glad you asked that, because that’s the bit I’ve missed out. Since the ‘70s, I’ve been getting older, I got married and I’ve been paraplegic–and everything that’s happened has been a result of one of those three. And I can never figure out which. But the being married is very important. Alfie is politically very literate, and I think maybe because she’s not English–she came here as a refugee when she was about seven–she’s middle-European, her mother was Polish, her Father was Austrian–and she remembers English as a foreign language. And she’s always been able to see what England’s like as an outsider, and the people who can see anything from the outside are very often blessed with a kind of political acuteness–they need to be, you know what I mean? …The people who are alien in it [the system] are the ones who analyze it, what’s happening. And Alfie has a very acute and uncompromising way of looking at politics–and actually, to the extent to where she would read things out to me. I didn’t go to University, so I get confused with a lot of long words translated from the German. But Alfie would basically go through Marx, Lenin, Fidel Castro and anyone else with me, and sort of talk about what they were saying.

Would you say that at one point you were apolitical, and that you then gravitated toward politics?

Well, I used to have the kind of arrogance of, I think, all artists–of thinking you can kind of intuit. Is there such a–is there a verb, “intuit”?


There is now! Intuit your way through everything. But there’s a lovely Marx quote–sorry, you have to have one. But it’s probably wrong, so don’t worry about it. But it’s something like, if everything were just how it seemed, or felt, then we wouldn’t need science. You wouldn’t need to examine things. Things are not what they appear on the surface. You know? All these simple equations that people make, like overpopulation and famine. You know, where they don’t think, well then, how is it that some of the most highly populated places are also the most wealthy? You know what I mean? They don’t think of those. You have to actually look beyond what seems. Is it poor people who have large families who are at fault, or is it people have large families because they’re poor? You really have to examine it, all those things, one by one. And Alfie taught me that at least I should try to do that.

Good answer. Are you recording anything right now–are you writing anything?

I just went into a studio last week for a day to do some music for a Paul Haines poem. Paul Haines?

He did Escalator Over The Hill with Carla Bley?

That’s right, he’s a Canadian poet, and I think he’d heard what I’d done with Carla and Mike years ago, we’d set up a correspondence. He sends wonderful cassettes to me, and things like that. And a New Yorker is putting together a record of various people doing his music, Kit Hanrahan.

Oh yeah.

And they came over and said, “Could you sing one of his poems?” So I found a poem of his called “Curtsy,” and I sang it in the studio, so that was the last thing I did. It’s this very simple little ditty. I’m not used to working that way round–that is to say, putting music to words.

Is it all your music, and your voice, and his words?

Yeah , but it’s only got six notes in it–and an E-flat at the bottom, I think. It’s no big deal, but it’s a good poem. And Evan Parker came by and did a little wonderful saxophone stuff on it. And I’ve never worked with Evan before, though we’ve lived near each other and been friends for a long time, so …

What’s your impression of Evan Parker and the state of British jazz right now? I’m a big fan of the whole scene, actually, but I remember three years ago I came here and went to London’s Seven Dials club and saw maybe 20 people who’d come to see Elton Dean’s group. I thought it was kind of sad.

(laughs) Look, I have the same problem. When I went to New York, I’d think, “There’s a club there with Wynton Kelly on piano!” I have Wynton Kelly on my Miles Davis records, I thought, “There’s gonna be queues down the street–how can we get in?” But he’s just a pianist playing at some bar in New York. It’s exactly that sensation. In fact, to be honest, I’m not very in touch with what’s happening around here. I don’t go out much–I mean, there’s a club, Ronnie Scott’s club, we used to go there quite a lot and see people there. In fact, the last group I saw there was a Cuban band called Irakere.

Was that with Paquito D’Rivera?

No–well, he’s living in the States now. But the rest of the band–it’s a wonderful band they’ve got. So we went to see them. And that’s really … what else have I been to? Since then, a Bulgarian folk music concert by Bulgarian grandmothers, from the Sofia region, which was wonderful, utterly amazing. Then the last thing I went to where I heard music was a meeting of the Communist Party where there was a little ANC Choir, which jumped up between speeches and did a few rounds of freedom songs and sat down again, and that was wonderful. But I’m more likely to go to a political meeting without any music in it than a musical meeting without any politics in it. (laughs)

But insofar as British jazz musicians go–I mean, Wynton Kelly can come over here and be highly regarded, and even now in the states there’s a rebirth going on. But most of the British jazz I’ve got on record has only been imported–there doesn’t seem to be that same worldwide market.

As I say, I don’t know, because I’m out of touch myself. I’m not exactly housebound, because Alfie has a car, but like Duke Ellington said, I don’t get around much anymore. I’m not in touch. I mean, just the odd flash I get. I mean, it was a good time to ask the question, because just a week ago I heard Evan playing his ass off, and that was nice.

When you record now, do you feel more or less freedom than you did before?

Oh, that’s an interesting question as well!

Seems like whenever I get a record of yours, before I put it on I have absolutely no idea what to expect. You’ve pretty much got free reign.

The limitations are that there are an awful lot of noises that I don’t know how to make. (laughs) I find it hard to find musicians who can play my music, so I tend to have to play it myself. But I’m not a virtuoso, and in the end, after I’ve made one of my records, I think, “Well that’s really the best I can make it.” But I will still then go on and put on an old Mingus record and think, “Shit.” (laughs)

You’re still young.

So that’s the limitations. I mean, it’s just hard to play what you hear.

Let me ask you a question you’ve probably dealt with already: Since your accident, electronic drums have progressed at such an amazing rate, it almost seems that pretty soon you’ll be able to do with your hands what you used to do with your feet. Does that even interest you anymore?

Well, I used to–really, the engineer went crazy; he thought that he was never going to get any work again–because I used on my little Japanese Casio toy keyboard, I used two of their percussion stops. “They’re not for recording; they’re just for learning tunes at home!” But I fixed the little samba thing, and he had to record it. But seriously, I can’t imagine that yet, no. Because really, the drumming I like mostly is cymbal and hi-hat-based jazz drumming, which seems to be the area that the electronic drums have the hardest time coming to terms with. And they do have jazz licks on them, though they seem to me rather old-fashioned, kind of Buddy Rich, businessman’s-bounce type jazz. When they get a machine that can do like Louis Hayes or Elvin Jones, then I’ll be interested. But they have that kind of fluidity, there’s something that I haven’t found a machine that could do. But who knows?

My last question, and the most broad-based of all: How do you see yourself and your music evolving through the next decade?

Is that all? Let me have a cigarette! (laughs) I don’t operate by decades. I
do it week to week. I mean, I’m usually in a fairly desperate state, because I can’t really imagine what I’m going to do next until the idea arises. And I keep thinking, “Well that’s it–now what am I gonna do for the rest of my life?”

Let’s say you go to a few more of these meetings, and over the years you start to realize that this sort of “political” career is more satisfying to you personally than performing music. Do you think you’d give it up?

I don’t have the temperament to be either a good driver or a good politician. I mean, in both cases, you have to be able to keep your nerve and stuff like that. I don’t think I’ve got the temperament to be a politician. I don’t actually think I’ve got the analytical ability, either. I can follow it as an amateur, if you like, and support people. I see my political activities not as really giving advice–or let alone taking a lead–but simply as adding support to people who I feel don’t get enough. That’s really–adding a voice, quite literally. Support. So in the end–I’m back to where I started–I don’t know. I’m not ambitious, I’m quite happy just to get through a day without having fallen out of the chair or running over the dog’s tail, or something like that. You know, and if I just get through the days like that. I know less about what I’m going to be doing in the future now than I thought I knew when I was a teenager. It’s absolutely a completely unwritten story.

Are you a sentimental guy?

Sentimental–let’s think. That’s an interesting word.

Do you drink?

I try not to, so much, because I tend to–when I drink, I over drink.

I was wondering if maybe once in a while you have a drink, sit back and think about the “good old days,” whatever they may have been.

No, I’m not a nostalgic person, I wouldn’t say. At least not personally nostalgic. I get kind of vicarious collective nostalgia. (laughs) And I suppose it’s the same thing you would use the word sentimental for. I mean, if I see a picture from 1980 here (points to wall), this little idealized poster from Mozambique, of village life in Mozambique, and I think of what they’re being put through now, as a frontline state, you know, by South Africa–if that village exists, it’s certainly been bombed–I feel very nostalgic for the village that might have been, if they’d been left to have it. And I get nostalgic for–probably in a sentimental and unrealistic way–about the first Americans, you know? I sort of have romantic images in my head of …

Do you mean the American Indians?

The American Indians, particularly Central and South, but all over, really–but I mean, I was brought up on, my mother used to read me Longfellow’s The Song Of Hiawatha (laughs)… So if I have sentimental attachments, they are things like that, really. Which is why it’s so impossible for me to say my political interest isn’t personal, because the things I sing about couldn’t really touch a more personal side of me. Like if I’m singing a Violetta Para song about exhorting the Mapuche Indians of Chile to rise up against impossible odds in Chile, then I’m singing like I’m singing about my own son.

(pause) Well, I think you answered all my questions–and very well indeed. I’m really grateful for your time.

I’m grateful for your interest. But as I say, it’s difficult to–because although you know me, I don’t know you, so I don’t know what you want, really.

Well, I’m very much a fan of your music, as you can tell. But I bet it must be a creepy feeling for you when I start talking about Eire Apparent albums and stuff like that.

Oh no–it’s great, I don’t mind, I like it! It’s nice, it reminds you when you have done them, I don’t mind at all. The only thing is, you don’t want to disappoint people–you know, you don’t know what it is about what you’ve done that people like. You just sort of answer the questions.

It’s just that every interview I’ve read with you over the past five years or so has been so heavily entrenched in British politics, that as an American, it’s sort of difficult to get a grip on certain aspects of your career. Basically, I just wanted to ask some stuff that I always wondered about. Because the farther along you go, the less the chance you’ll ever be asked, I figure.

Yeah. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Coffee or tea was it?

I wasn’t drinking anything.

Would you like one now?

I wouldn’t mind a cup of coffee, actually.

It’s OK coffee here–Alfie’s not English, so she knows how to make coffee. (laughs)


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