Graham Neale interviewed Robin for the Radio One Rock Show in 1980.
inspiration and anchorman, Tommy Vance [1941-2005] began by introducing our hero to listeners thus....
“And so it was, from the quiet and unassuming guitarist with Procol Harum to a flamboyant axeman well
into the mould of Jimi Hendrix. No ‘flash in the pan’ it was at all.
He never set Britain alight but especially in the United States, he’s been a huge success. Now he’s back home on a sell-out tour
promoting his album ‘Victims of the Fury’.
But as Graham Neale discovered when he met Robin backstage at Leicester’s De Montford Hall, good gig place, getting back on the road in Britain was not an
Robin: No I haven’t actually played until this tour for two and a half years. I haven’t really felt like it, to be honest. We definitely worked very very hard when we first went out on
tour in America and we worked practically non-stop for the first three or four years. You know you just get tired of it in the end and you need a break from it.
Graham: So what have you been doing with
yourselves in the meantime?
Robin: Not very much really but mainly just working on this new album. I put a lot of thought into it, a lot of thought.
Graham: OK. So you’ve started a British tour now,
how do you feel about Britain? Because back to Procol days and your early days with your solo band, it’s been a case of breaking the States and then Britain latching on afterwards. Does that sort of thing upset
Robin: My musical home is America really. All the music that’s influenced me has come from America. I’ve never really been into British or European music at all of any kind at all, apart from the odd
classical thing. So it’s seems natural for me to go to America to play, to be more successful there because the music I’m making is more American than anything.
Graham: Do you resent the fact that British
audiences haven’t cottoned on as quick the Americans have?
Robin: No, I’m just thankful that someone has, somewhere. I don’t really expect to be successful. Just because you think you’re good it’s
no reason to expect success.
Graham: So you’re not prepared to moderate for tastes at all. You’re doing exactly what you want to do?
Robin: I want to get into making records more now. I’ve never
really gone into that it’s always been a bit loose you know, making records in the past. I want to make more entertaining records. I don’t want to change my music, the music that I’ve got to say. I can’t
change that because that’s the way it is. I just want to make more entertaining records.
Graham: More accessible, commercial or what?
Robin: Just, finer records, from an artistic point of view.
Graham: Spend more time on them?
Robin: I do, I want to spend more time on them. I want to spend more time making my music into records. Before it’s always been you just make a recording of the music in
the past, which is a different concept than making my music into records.
Graham: The new single’s doing surprisingly well, it’s being played in places where I wouldn’t expect to hear it. Are you
pleased with the way it’s going down?
Robin: Very very pleased and surprised because that was the last track on the album I would expect to be released as a single and get played.
Graham: So you had nothing to do with picking it?
Robin: No, I wouldn’t have picked that one which just shows I don’t know anything about it. It was an album track, it was a very strong album track which
became the title track of the album. It’s a very strong song because of the lyric, which Keith (Reid) has written for it. I think he’s added a lot of weight to it that I don’t think we’d have had before.
Graham: Let’s look at the stage side a minute. Obviously, you’re a three piece obviously when it comes to the studio. Do you use anyone else on stage or is it the same?
Robin: No. The idea of this new
album was that I wanted to go out and play live. We changed back from a four piece to three piece because a three piece is a better live working unit.
Graham: It gives you a lot more work to do.
Robin: Yes, I suppose it does, in a way but it’s much more exciting to me, to play in a three piece. So that was another thing why we took so long getting this album together because I wanted all the material to
be great live material as well as good records.
So it took quite a while because that type of material is very very hard to come up with. Stuff that is good on record and is also great live as well, is
interesting on record, has some depth to it, also is exciting to hear live, those are the hard ones to come up with.
Graham: So how do you deal on stage with numbers that has two guitars at the beginning,
I’m sure there are a couple of those on the new album?
Robin: Play a lot louder! Basically that’s it, you’ve got to make more sound to fill it out. But it’s a very exciting thing because you have to
fill that space. You have to put more out that’s why it’s such an exciting thing, a three piece. You’re committed. There’s no way that you can flim flam you’re way through it. You’re absolutely committed
to a full out performance.
Graham: Do you still play as loud as you used to?
Robin: No, I don’t think I play as loud as I used to.
Graham: You’ve got a very noticeable sound. How do you
really achieve it, the basic equipment that you use?
Robin: Just ordinary equipment that anyone can get but of course mine is doctored, it’s beefed up and redesigned and I have my own pedal board which
I’ve been using for three years which my electronics guy designed for me. But all the pedals in my pedal board are just stock stuff you can buy from shops. It’s just how they’re used.
Graham: Do you
ever get bored Robin of being compared with Hendrix because it happens in just about every interview on yourself?
Robin: It doesn’t bother me, at all. I don’t think my music’s like Hendrix’s music. I
can always hear the superficial things that are similar from his influences. My music is different. You’re talking about people listening to it without a musician’s ears.
If I wasn’t a musician it would
be very easy for me to say it is very similar to Hendrix’s so I appreciate that what people are hearing, that’s what I would hear if I wasn’t a musician. The actual musical personality is completely different.
Perhaps when people buy one of my albums and take it home that after several listenings that they might get into the actual personality of it rather than just the superficial side of it.
Graham: How are Jim
and Bill in the band? Could they be say any drummer and bass player?
Robin: No, especially not Jimmy’s singing, there’s only voice like that in rock.
Graham: Have you ever fancied having a go yourself?
Robin: I ultimately would love to be a singer but I wasn’t born with the gift of the voice, the sound, I think that’s why I like to play lead guitar
because it’s the nearest thing to the human voice you can get. It’s a very expressive, human sound and I’m really a frustrated singer basically that’s what it is.