|Out of the Darkroom|
- April 1985
OUT OF THE DARKROOM AND INTO THE DAYLIGHT
Having celebrated his re-emergence with a successful tour of Australia and a new album called "HOPE & GLORY" TOM ROBINSON gets all metaphorical with Terry Byrnes...
'I don't think I could stand another ten years of this fighting / All
this stabbing and wounding, only getting my own back / I don't want to
batter you to your feet and knees and elbows / When I'm kneeling by the
candle at the foot of my own bed.'
MUST FALL HARD
Harder when there is some height to fall from Hardest when you hit the
bottom and start looking up.
MY BLUE-EYED SON ?
Losing the plot, finding the plot, stalking the Berlin Wall with a head
full of terror and a heart like a land-mine. That's where.
"I think the Bronski Beat are having exactly the same problem as TRB.
They're constantly on the verge of breaking up because Jimi can't handle
the pressures - he didn't enter into singing from the point of view of
being pushed around by eight photographers on the trot from Dutch teen
magazines or being asked what underpants he likes wearing by French interviewers,"
rails Robinson, in a voice that is at once cultured and earthy.
By 1981 Robinson was in Europe, practising his version of East-West detente. It was a time of catharsis for him, a time to seek the matrix of his identity outside the music industry.
He was looking for a new context, and in the atmosphere of Potsdam and East Berlin - through the choice of playing his songs to audiences unfamiliar with his past - he found inspiration free of prejudice, free of the machinations of pop, and began to write many of the songs that would comprise his eighth album: Hope And Glory.
The hope was that Tom Robinson would make a comeback. The glory was that
he did. The song ? War Baby. A rumble through Armageddon, it caught the
smell of terror Robinson so vividly talks about when describing the 'European
pressure-cooker'. The album ? Stalked by death and regeneration. Full
of tenderness and horror. It addresses The British Dream of rebuilding
the Empire, of being something again, of hoisting the Falklands flag as
an excuse for grand nostalgia. Tom Robinson says Britain is still suffering
Onstage at the Tivoli, one Thursday night to be precise: 'Tom Robinson
and Crew, all the way from England, for the very first time ladeez and
gentlemen!' Tom Robinson bounces on bright as a beacon. He's a big boy,
going slightly paunchy, but possessed of that magic ingredient: Presence.
No mucking around, as he kicks the band off into an hour and a quarter
set featuring material from all phases of his career. The Crew were rough,
raw, and playing with just enough edge to let you know they weren't that
interested in the mechanics of precision. Like Robinson, they went for
the feel every time. They might have taken Rikki Don't Lose That Number
too fast, but what the hell? It's the spirit that counts, right?
Q: What do you compose on predominantly ?
A: "Predominantly the drum machine - the drums being my favourite
instrument. That's why the only permanent member of the Crew is a drummer
(Steve Laurie). Basically, I'll set up a groove on the drum machine...and
then sit down and start working out the bass line and chord pattern over
the top. Atmospherics and War Baby started out from the drums - in fact,
pretty much every song I've composed in the past five years has started
out that way.
Its something Brian Eno pointed out years and years ago - you don't have
to be particularly musicianly to turn out interesting music!"
A: "It grew out of 'Sunspeak'.
A: "That's exactly what it is. The way The Sun was talking about 'our boys' penetrating the defences of the enemy, making a tactical withdrawal - the symbolism seemed so luridly sexual that I examined a stick-up from a psychological aspect. A stick-up in any sense you like - rape, daylight robbery, assault."
Q: What is it that you are scared of being put through in War Baby ?
A: "I refuse to be drawn" (laughs).
A: "That was a Hamburg song. I was living in Hamburg at the time, and
I'd spent New Year's Eve at Peter Gabriel's place in Bath in England.
Before the guests arrived for the party, Peter showed me some ideas he
had. I had my trusty Walkman with me and taped them, and took the result
away to Hamburg with me and eventually put those lyrics to it."
A: "I don't like to analyse it very much, because you can destroy
the most creative part of it. I read a very rare interview with Van Morrison,
and in that they asked him what he thought when he was writing so-and-so
a song, and he said 'I never think when I write songs - it comes from
a different place.' Always, the best songs are the ones that come spontaneously
- when you're not using the thinking Process at all. Mind you, I think
you have to use the conscious brain to push the song into shape - to give
it metre, rhyme, and say 'this is a middle eight'. . .
A: "I wonder if a lot of artistes refer to themselves as outsiders.
It surprises me to find out how many were the fat kid who got bullied
at school, and found that music was a way of getting attention and acceptance.
A: "I rest. That's one of the benefits of being a post-pop star
- I'm actually going to stop and live instead of being a business machine,
because the songs are born out of experience, and if your experience day-to-day
consists of hotel rooms, then that's what the songs will be about - as
we saw in the mid- seventies. I have a lot of material for my next album,
but I don't have a lot of songs, if you take my distinction. You know
that Isherwood statement: 'I am a camera'. As you're travelling around
doing your daily work, you make notes, get flashes of ideas. . . the raw
material... I have about 50 songs, and I have a word processor at home
-which enables me to re-draft and update the fragments.