Cheese Addict

After 20 years and as many albums on his own, Robyn Hitchcock is still lost in a world of fairies, elves and French fromage

NT: I think "I Feel Beautiful" (from Jewels for Sophia) may be the only love song featuring tomatoes and enormous beasts.

RH: Well, why not? That's what it is. It's not old people walking through Central Park hand in hand with no emotion and ghastly mellow saxophone. In reality it's beasts and tomatoes. I just like to try to find a slightly different way of saying things. Because otherwise, no one's saying anything. It's just money changing hands and people's brains dying.

NT: Tell me about "Mexican God" from Jewels for Sophia. I'm thinking of lyrics like "The horror of you floats so close by my window/At least when I die, your memory will too."

Robyn Hitchcock: "I just like to try to find a slightly different way of saying things. Because otherwise, no one's saying anything."
Feridoun Sanjar
Robyn Hitchcock: "I just like to try to find a slightly different way of saying things. Because otherwise, no one's saying anything."

RH: I don't like to add to the sum of human misery, but I felt that this was a good song. It was one of those that was written in the middle of the night. When you can't get away from anything, you just have to face up to how you feel. Can't sleep, no refuge from whatever it is that's bugging you, so I wrote it down, and I probably relaxed by looking at one of my books about who engineered what Beatles session.

NT: What's the status of your book?

RH: Well, I've done the first draft. And I think I have to do a second one, but it's bloody difficult writing a book. What tends to happen is, once I start trying to write the book, I just write a lot of songs instead. Probably the next crop of songs will come while I'm sitting there trying to finish this thing.

NT: Well, that's not bad at all -- at least you're not cleaning incessantly to get away from it.

RH: I clean a bit. I actually usually have to go somewhere where there isn't a guitar. Go away for a couple of weeks and leave the guitar at home. That forces me to write it. That's next year's project. It exists. It's just not good enough yet. Maybe I'll just wind up doing a lot of interviews about it, and it will never come out. I'm sure people will value the book much more if I never publish it.

NT: Or you could do a sort of a books-on-tape thing and have your guitar and speak it while you're strumming, if that's easier for you.

RH: I think people would get bored.

NT: I love your stories when you're playing live.

RH: Yeah, but they're improvised. Maybe if I got somebody else to read it out, like an actor. That would be better.

NT: I think Brad Pitt would be good.

RH: You do? Do you think he'd be good?

NT: No.

RH: Is he a friend of yours?

NT: No.

Robyn Hitchcock on cheese and waist size:

NT: Traditionally, the poets have been remarkably quiet on the subject of cheese.

RH: Well, they have. They have. Maybe they haven't had a problem with it.

NT: Little bit addicted yourself?

RH: Well, yeah, you know. Might as well face it if you're addicted to cheese. I've put on a lot of weight over the years, and it's not all alcohol. My girlfriend, she has this (cheese), it's so strong it affects her breathing, and she has to lie on her back with her arms and legs in the air like an upside-down table.

NT: That's some potent cheese.

RH: Yeah. It's this French stuff called Mimolette. It's disguised as a Dutch cheese. I didn't actually put it in the song, but it's the most extreme one.

NT: Extreme cheese!

RH: It's very extreme cheese. It's the cheese that you can't say no to. It's the crack cocaine of the cheese world.

NT: I noticed on this record you say, "I can't even fit into size 38." I wanted to ask you about that.

RH: Well, I haven't quite got that fat yet. I'm heading that way, though. I'm size 36. I used to be 28.

NT: "Some day, I could have a 50-inch waist . . ." Do you remember that one (an old lyric from Hitchcock's "My Favorite Buildings," a track from 1984's I Often Dream of Trains)?

RH: Yes, I do. I hope these songs don't come true. I need to write one about how I'm gonna be back to 34. I'm going to be.

NT: Right, you've got to manifest.

RH: Sure, it's a form of prayer.

NT: Pray to the waist god.

RH: Well, you've got to pray to the waist god. We pray to the weather god and it works.

NT: Do the waist dance?

RH: What's that?

NT: I don't know. Rain dance, waist dance . . .

RH: Waist dance. For a second, I thought there actually was, like, an Arizona waist dance. Like people with phantom Hula-Hoops trying to bring on their periods by waist dancing.

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