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Pennyblackmusic | 2003
Total Guitar | 1996
Guitar Player | 1996
“If things look they are going for you, you have to really take the chance and make the most of it.”
– Gareth Davis (Former Stone Roses manager)
If anyone else might have to come up with this line, then it might have been Robin Guthrie. A guitarist and a songwriter, Guthrie emerged on to the music scene in 1979, with one of the most important bands of the late 80's and early 90's, the Cocteau Twins.
Shortly before the Cocteau Twins broke up in 1998, Guthrie formed the London-based record label Bella Union, with his long term friend, former Cocteau Twins bassist Simon Raymonde. In 2000 Guthrie formed a new band Violet Indiana with ex Mono member Siobhan de Mare. The band released an album 'Roulette' in 2001 and also two EPs, 'Choke' and 'Special' and a single ‘Killer's Eyes'.
You might have also come across Guthrie's solo instrumental album 'Imperial' which came out in March this year. At the moment he is concentrating on finishing off a new Violet Indiana album.
All in all he certainly doesn't leave anything chance in life standing aside. To catch up on everything that has gone on the last 18 months, since Pennyblackmusic last talked to him , I asked for a second interview. The last time I spoke to him , I met with him in London. For this second interview, I spoke to him on the phone at his new home in Paris.
'Imperial' was released on Bella Union in March this year. The history of the album, however, reaches back to early 2001.
“I decided to do the album last year in April when I was in US in Seattle." Robin says, answering my first question of the interview. "I had done some instrumental music for a photographic exhibition of Ted Grudowski called 'The Sky Is Falling'. The first and the last tracks of the album ('Imperial' and 'Drift') were used in the exhibition. Then I decided to write some music in between for the middle part. It just came from that really. Siobhan also got pregnant, so we couldn't really do Violet Indiana for a while.”
'Imperial' has 10 tracks and runs for over 50 minutes length. Each track clearly expresses some kind of attitude or feeling. Robin's took the inspiration for each track from his own life experiences.
“Sometimes I get inspired by a place I've been to” he reveals. “My music to me is very visual and when I close my eyes it can take me somewhere different. A few of those songs are about particular places I've been on. 'Thunderbird Road', for example,in my head is about Arizona where I went a few years ago.”
“My wife was also going to have a baby” continues Robin, who is the father of 2 girls, Lucy Belle and Violette. “She wanted something to listen to while she was in the hospital having the baby. So I wrote the music for her.”
When you look at the artwork on the paper box of the album it has soft brown, white and blue colours. Only looking at it a second time I noticed that it is actually a part of a naked woman's body, which is continued onto the back of the box. Even though it captures a private part of the body, the cover is done with the most perfect balance to feel completely natural and beautiful.
“It's just a photograph I took long time ago, but I always thought it might appear on a record one day” says Robin. “Part of the thing about making records for me is that there is more than one outlet for creativity. Obviously the main meaning there is with my music, but I like doing other things as well. I like making records covers. I do lot of photography and things like that.”
Personally, I think the cover fits perfectly with the music, as it gives the impression that it's somewhere far away which is what the music also suggests.
“Yeah, you are right.” Robin agrees. “I'd never thought about that, but you are right. It feels distant, doesn't it ?”
Robin's main project for the last 3 years has. however, been Violet Indiana. Violet Indiana's music is similar to what the Cocteau Twins used to sound like, but is more peaceful and sensual.
Since releasing the album and the two singles, things have been quiet for a while.
“After Siobhan got pregnant, we couldn't really tour and make much music” says Robin.
Today Siobhan is the mother of a 7 month old boy and Violet Indiana are back together working on their second album.
“We are have almost finished the new Violet Indiana album” confirms Robin proudly. “It is absolutely delicious. It's better then the last one.The last one was quite down. The new record is very up.”
Upon hearing this, I wanted to know as much as I could about the album. “At the moment I don't know how many tracks it will have” Robin continues. “We have done about 14 songs so far. I haven't decided what is going to be on the album yet. I think there are some really strong tunes.”
“I've got several favourite songs” he reveals when I ask him. “But I don't really know what they are called yet.” He laughs and adds. “You'll just have to wait!”
“I'm really happy with it. We put out 4 releases and then we took a break for a year. I was a bit nervous maybe it wouldn't be be that good when we came back, but I've been really really pleased with it" he says.
The album is due in September of this year. “During the summer we will be getting ready Violet Indiana to play” says Robin. “We may come to UK then but I don't know yet. You need people to want you to play the first.”
A lot of things have changed for Robin over the last year and even more since the era of the Cocteau Twins. The change of lifestyle since he moved to France seems to have given him even more inspiration than ever and keeps him very much involved in music.
“Maybe things are different for me because I'm not in the UK” he ponders. “I've got a studio here and I have very different life. All those things create an influence. You get a different view on life. I was in London for 20 years and I loved that time, but I have no desire to be there now. There are some other people who live in France like Tim Keegan (from Departure Lounge, another one of Bella Union's acts-Ed). It's quite a good place to be really.”
Making music on his own terms has always been one of the most important things in Robin's life. As Robin told Pennyblackmusic in the last interview, one of the main reasons why he established Bella Union was to have complete independency and creative freedom.
Even though Bella Union was first established with the aim to put out Cocteau Twins music only, it quickly became a home to many other artists. Up to date Bella Union has released CDs by nearly 20 acts including the Dirty Three, Lift To Experience, the Czars, and Departure Lounge, as well as Violet Indiana.
“I think there are bands on Bella Union that seem to have success in their own right, and not because they play really fashionable music” explains Robin. “I think the music industry especially in UK is based around fashion not quality. It's probably the same in Paris, the same in LA and the same in every big city.”
Having just released his debut solo album and despite finishing off the Violet Indiana album, Robin is already working on more music still. “I've been working on another instrumental album which is nearly finished” he reveals. “I've done about 6 songs for it already. That's going to be the next thing.”
“It doesn't stop” he laughs. “My family always tell me to take a break, but it's difficult. I've been also working with some French people and some Italian people.”
It is now nearly 25 years since Robin first became involved in music in 1979. By now he must have done everything he wanted to do in music. Or has he?
“All I ever wanted to do is to make the kind of music that I wanted to do at the time.” Robin explains when I ask him whether there are any other goals he would like to reach. “Making music is very personal. It's like keeping a diary. I won't start a project with grand plans thinking what I want to achieve. It's really just about documenting what I'm doing.”
“I would like to see Violent Indiana getting a little bit recognition“ Robin adds. “I'm getting some good recognition and a lot of nice press on the 'Imperial' album. It makes me a bit sad because I want Violet Indiana to be something like that. I've got real belief in that. I know it will come. It just needs some time.”
All the music that Robin has made in his life has been made with the deepest dedication and belief in it. Maybe that proves that the best way to go is to follow our instinct and true belief in what we feel is right. It has definitely worked with Robin's life.
These were Robin's last words of our interview:
“I'm sitting in my studio at the moment. Okay, I'm alone at the moment because that's how I work, but I'm really really happy to be here and to make beautiful music.”
I am speaking for myself, but I am probably speaking for thousands of other people all around the world as well. “We are really happy to be here too and to listen to that beautiful music, Robin.”
Interview by Olga Sladeckova.