Interviews  |   Under The Radar, 2003

Robin Guthrie's guitar sounds and studio wizardry helped create Cocteau Twins, one of the most innovative post-punk bands of the eighties, with their brilliant waves of guitar and Elizabeth Fraser's ethereal vocals. His current band, Violet Indiana, with Siobhan De Mare, are due to release their second album, Russian Doll, soon. We spoke to Guthrie, who was at his home in France, about the secrets of good production, the timeless quality of his new instrumental solo record Imperial, and his drug infused days in Cocteau Twins. In the producer's section on page 87 of Under the Radar's fifth issue we presented to you an article on Guthrie, below is the full transcript of our interview with him.

Nick Hyman (NH): Are you preparing for the Avant (AV) Festival?

Robin Guthrie (RG): Yeah, do you know it?

NH: I was reading about it today, looks like a good line up.

RG: Yeah, I get a little chance to put people to sleep. I'm doing an instrumental set, loosely based on the same ideas that are on that record. It should be good though.

NH: How is that going to work on stage?

RG: It's just me. I'd like to do it with other people, which I've done before. It's just something that I've done over the last say three years about ten or fifteen shows of this sort and they're never the same. I'm in the garden looking for a good spot. Let me know if the reception is shit. I've got some electronics on stage and it's kind of half way between being a DJ and being a guitar player.Nothing really prerecorded, just a lot of stuff synched up. It's a technical fucking nightmare. But it's really funky when it works. I've got a four-track recorder that I use live making loops and playing on top of them.

NH: There's no way that would come to the US?

RG: I'd love to. It just takes someone to invite me. I really don't know how that record is doing in America. I think it came out a couple of months ago. I'm so out of touch with the music business so these things take a while to filter through.

NH: Let's talk about Imperial? Was it a long time coming?

RG: The show at the Troubadour was the last show we did with Violet Indiana. Siobhan was four or five months pregnant at the time and she decided to go into mother mode. I had to fill my time up with something. I did some music for an exhibition up in Seattle, a photographic exhibition with some installation music. I had my first and last track and I wanted to connect them. It's a road trip, different place and different things. I've been putting off making that kind of record for years. I've always prioritized it less but I think it made me happy to do it so in a couple of years I might do it again.

NH: Encouraging because I like the record.

RG: It's just a nighttime record or a driving through the desert record.

NH: It sounds timeless.

RG: I like that quality. A lot of music I listen to, I couldn't tell you when it was from and that's the charm of music for me. You could listen to Chet Baker and it could be from yesterday or years ago. I like that ambiguity. I think the Cocteau Twins records have survived pretty well. There's a couple of them that have some eighties sounds that date them a little bit like Treasure that has a DX7 on it which is really mid-eighties. When I hear that I'm like ooh! But with Victorialand or Blue Bell Knoll we shied away from things that were too distinctive.

NH: You're making the transitions easy for me.

RG: It's my favorite fucking subject, my music. Tell me anyone who doesn't like talking about themselves. I have yet to meet one.

NH: Let's talk about the Cocteau Twins reissues?

RG: The first four albums came out in the UK about four months ago. I don't even have any copies of them so I'm really pissed. 4AD are really slack because they don't send me shit.

NH: Was that something you wanted to do or something that 4AD wanted to do?

RG: It's something I didn't want anyone else to do, let's put it that way. I didn't have an option really because 4AD was like “this is our back catalogue and we want to exploit it and make loads of cash and not fucking pay you and get someone else to do it.” I was like fuck off, no you can't do that. There's not much heart and soul there. It's a nice bunch of people but they're in the business of selling fucking units and aren't the slightest bit passionate about music or very respectful of it. That stuff was on Capital in the US and now it will be out on 4AD and then there was the Japanese version and they all sounded different. It quite simply goes back to the late eighties and we got them done quite quickly and there was no CD mastering process like we have now. When I had the original masters and played them side by side with the commercially available CD's I thought I'm gonna do this really fucking good. I've spent a lot of time with these records and they sound so much more like the master tapes. They're richer and fuller and more like the way they were supposed to be.

NH: You would suggest that a fan like myself that has all of those CD's go back and buy them again?

RG: I would definitely suggest purchasing them. I've got kids to feed. If all the rest of the band members weren't so fucking mental we'd still be making records. I'm alright. The remasters are fucking dope as they say over your way. I've had an American staying with me for a few weeks and he's been teaching me this silly fucking American slang. He said that it was shit but that meant that it was good. Whatever. I'm sorry that they weren't as good as the best vinyl ones that sounded better than the CD's. Hopefully now, it will be universally the same everywhere. I'll tell you what, the artwork is shit. That's a good reason not to buy them because they're so fucking cheap and vulgar. The idea was to take them back to the original records and since they were made for vinyl, the artwork was different. Listen, my involvement in it, the whole idea of the exploitation of the catalogue; you know these records have been mid-priced and I'm not making any fucking money off of them my kids and their kids won't make any money off of them. It's business and it has nothing to do with me. It's ugly, you have no idea the kind of contracts we had in the eighties. It's like forever. I wanted to keep my good name and have them sound good, whatever 4AD does thereafter is their thing and they'll continue to sell those records for a long time. Ugly old business isn't it?

NH: What got you interested in music and production?

RG: What got me interested in production is a good question because I don't know what got me into music. It goes back twenty years with me making my first records and being thoroughly fucking dissatisfied with them. Feeling that they were not a representation at all of what my band was like, at the time the first Cocteau Twins album Garlands was so fucking lightweight. My band at that point, we had these little drum machines that we put through these fuzz pedals and guitar amps and miked them up through the PA and when we got into the studio I was intimidated by all of the studio types that said you couldn't do that because it caused distortion. The guitars sounded good on that record but the drums sounded all sort of 808 and tinny rubbish. Not like what the vibe was at all, so it didn't really capture the band as we were live. The next couple of times it was like “I want my guitar to sound like a bell” then the engineer would make it sound like his bell and I'd say I wanted it to sound like mine. I said, I'm gonna do this. The naivety made me believe that I could do it. Head Over Heels is my first outing on the engineering and production sort of thing. In college I had worked with electronics so I think I was pretty good and had experience but didn't necessarily do it the proper way. I cut my teeth on it, Head Over Heels. I was proud of it because it was a good representation. Prior to that, it was not quite. One thing led to another and I started putting a studio together with a four track, then sixteen track to the twenty-four track, then the four twenty-four tracks. It turned into me almost loosing my fucking shirt or house with all of the equipment. I set up another little studio for the public. I've rebuilt it over here at my house. I've got the same equipment as everybody else and I just do my shit. It's not what you've got; it's what you do with it. Done away with all of my tape machines and stuff. So, I just use an old PC, a couple of Yamaha O2R's and old analogue outboard. I've got the best of both worlds really.

NH: Are you working on anything right now?

RG: It's difficult rehearsing with a band because you can never get motivated in the house sitting about smoking cigarettes. It's way worse when you do it yourself. It's like fuck, I could watch the telly or I have to cut the grass. There are all of these other things and I've got motivation problems but it's my last night before I'm off to Spain and I've got to get it right. I haven't got it right yet.

NH: Are you going to do another Violet Indiana album?

RG: Yeah, we've done it. It's fucking awesome.

NH: When is it coming out?

RG: I don't know. We've got a couple of fucking problems with it. How to release it, where to release it, when to release it and I've got conflicting ideas with everyone else on how to do it. It's gonna take a little while to resolve itself. I think if it was one of those records you'd just put it out, but I think it's really special. It's a really good one, I think it's one of those records that you make once every ten years; it's really powerful.

NH: Do you have a title?

RG: It's called Russian Doll.

NH: It will come out on Bella Union.

RG: It might not. The relationship between me and Bella Union and me and Siobhan is a bit strained. She doesn't quite like the idea that it's my label so we're looking for another record deal at the moment, it's depressing that's all. In order for Bella Union to survive it has had to take a very professional attitude towards the release of records and I don't like that. I feel like your playing God with people's lives and I'm a musician so I know how they feel. If they're unhappy because the record isn't selling any copies I feel shit and I don't want to feel shit.

NH: Was there a record that impressed you from a production angle when you were younger?

RG: In the mid-seventies, I was into Roxy Music. I sort of got into older music and discovered Phil Spector. When I heard that, I was like hey that's fucking cool.

NH: A lot's happened to Phil since we last spoke.

RG: You know I might just shoot Siobhan to be in the same fucking camp with Phil. I thought about it recently. Phil's cool, she probably deserved it.

NH: How do you choose projects?

RG: I haven't produced anyone in a while. I have done a few things. Producing something is quite a big undertaking. How do I choose? I used to choose bands that I liked or something that I wasn't sure of but thought I could do something with it and make it the way I like it. It took a while to stop coloring everyone's records with my fucking sound. I think that was a mature thing making everyone's records sound like mine. “I don't know about that, I'm the artist” “Fuck off!” I thought it was a good way to work with people. I think production is about producing people not producing records and getting them able to perform as well as you know they can. If you stick a mike in front of people it just makes them go stupid, it makes good singers sing badly. It's an alienating circumstance to find yourself for a lot of musicians. I think coaxing performances out of people and working with it. I like working with singers and there are two types, the vocal has to be higher than anything else or hide my vocal under the high hat. It's almost like two different jobs. I've been churning out a lot of material myself. I've been trying to work with French people since I live here now. I've been discovering so much cool music here that doesn't get a chance in the UK or US. In the UK people go, “it's foreign, I don't like it, I don't understand it”.

NH: How long have you been in France?

RG: I've had a house here for about seven or eight years. I decided just to move away from England completely. Fucking English. It's that old Scottish thing; I can't get away from those fuckers. There's one or two nice ones, there must be. London was a very exciting place to be when I was younger and more single and with less kids. But life changes and I realized that I didn't want to bring my kids up there, I didn't want them breathing in it.

NH: Are there any projects you've turned down and regretted later?

RG: No. Contrary to popular belief, I don't get offered millions and millions of things. Maybe if I had a manager that would happen. Things come along that seem interesting and I try to get involved with it.

NH: How about this, have you worked on a project that you'd wished you'd have turned down?

RG: (Laughter) Yeah, fucking dozens of them. Yeah, there's a lot. Sometimes when something comes along, you just do it to do it. I've done remixes of tracks that I've really hated. I've only done them specifically as a challenge to remix it into something I like. That's really the only thing that gets me through it. If you love something, if I love something I can't remix it very well because I wouldn't change it.

NH: Any examples that you want to name check?

RG: No, not really. I can't think of one to put myself on the fire line like that. There's something in everything, maybe there's some things I wouldn't touch. I enjoy working. Doing remixes for me is such a breath of fresh air. You don't have to work with people, you get all of their sounds to play with then steal and use on you own records, it's great.

NH: What do you bring to the table; what separates you from other producers?

RG: I don't know, your e-mail you sent about the producer's section had a list of people and I was like whoa, because their sole role is producer. They're not musicians or artists in their own right, they're mostly just producers. So, it's nice to be in with that lot as well. I think the fact that musicians and producers are recognized like that is sort of, I guess the nicest way to say it is that I makes things sound quite distinctive for some reason and I don't know why that is, I can't put my finger on it. I don't set out to do that, it's just the way I hear stuff, you know. I don't aspire to create a certain sound, I just push up the fader and that's what happens. I don't know.

NH: Do you think being a musician makes you a better producer?

RG: I think helps in being a certain type of producer. You know, there's types of records where if I came across them it would be very hit or miss because of the way I hear things. Things that are a little bit leftfield I can make even more leftfield. Quite a few of the things I've done have been quite traditional in instrumentation. A few years ago I made a record with Guy Chadwick, the guy from House Of Love. Did you hear that record?

NH: Sadly, I missed it.

RG: Oh, that's a nice record. It's like me being mellow because it's quite a countryish record. It's called Lazy, Soft & Slow. That's a production where I don't think I dominate at all. I don't think I'm too cool. What I did was try to use a lot of traditionalists with the guitar, pedal steel and stuff like that. There's a few turkey songs on it that aren't so cool. It tried to be a little more pop. The downtempo things are just lovely as I remember it. It's not all fucking reverb and sparkly guitars, you know.

NH: What are you listening to lately?

RG: I've not been listening to anything in the last few weeks because I've been working. I have my phases. I had a three-month phase where I listened to music about three months ago. In the studio, the last thing I want to do when I come out is listen to music. It's a hard one really, because I always get asked, “what are you listening to?” Even the stuff I do listen to doesn't seem to influence me when I go into the studio. I don't get it. I never think to myself that it'd be good to use a fucking trumpet like Miles Davis. I don't hear it that way. Even if I listen to stuff like that. It's a bit of mystery to me sometimes. But that's okay.

NH: What album do you think is the pinnacle of production?

RG: I don't know, but I'll tell you what. I'll tell you two that are completely fucking overrated. Sgt. fucking Peppers is completely fucking overrated and Pet Sounds, completely fucking overrated. These are two big production records that everybody always name drops. They're not exactly unlistenable but maybe you had to be there in the fucking sixties man. I don't hate them but I get really fed up just hearing them say that they're one of the top British records ever.

NH: That's because they've been saying that for thirty years. What albums do you think are better or more innovative?

RG: A million records are more innovative. The thing about those records is the timing of them. You listen to Phil Spector's work, which predated them by a long time, and at the time that was pretty fucking “dope”! He surely didn't use a four-track tape machine and do backwards fucking vocals and things. I think Pet Sounds is a fine record, don't get me wrong; I actually like the songs on it and stuff. I just get tired of hearing it. Some magazines fucking greatest British records of all time in your face for fucking people who buy two records a year. I think there are some people who make records at home that are much more inspiring. It's really. Times just changed a bit hasn't it?

NH: Look at what the personal computer has done?

RG: I know it made us have to listen to loads of really shit records. It's everywhere, people making music now is just generic. They bought the sample disc from their local PC World and they're fucking off they go. I don't want to seem jaded because there are a lot of great bands who put out great records as well. But the fact is, there is more music being made now than people who listen to music. My kids steal the fucking music off of the internet and they fucking buy Playstation games. That's what they spend their time on, they buy fucking DVD's and Playstation games, music is like... My generation, I'm 41, I grew up in the seventies and music was the only interactive entertainment where you'd choose the record that you played. You go on the radio and the TV and it was passive, you'd listen to something else someone was playing you. Now for interactive entertainment, kids have the net, they have the fucking DVD's, they have the video games; so much stuff that they can choose. My generation, we just had music. It was much, much more important.

NH: Do you use Kazaa or LimeWire?

RG: Me, I use the Usenet. I'm old school, man.

NH: Do you prefer digital or analogue, or both?

RG: For my computers I prefer digital (laughter). I like what I can do with digital, I'm not really too bothered by analogue but it was much harder to be me in the old days than it is now. There were loads of cables about and there would always be one cable fucking you up completely. There was lots of fucking about taking things out of racks and plugging things into the wrong holes, less experimentation and more like, can you get it and that's great. Now you can do the same things sitting in your seat moving your butt and with moving your mouse around you can do the same sort of experimentation. It's a similar process; it depends where you're coming from. I generally have an idea of the sound I want before I sit down and make it. I know an absolute lot of genius music is not made that way. It's made completely randomly and hit or miss. I usually have an idea of the kind of things that I want to put in which is maybe why I don't spend as much time recording or sitting in front of the computer screen. The worst thing in the world being a producer is working with a programmer. You go into a studio for sixteen hours a day and you watch somebody's back through a cloud of cigarette smoke with his nose in the fucking screen all day. It's really frustrating really because I want to fucking do it. That negative stuff I said about music is what I'm about to do on stage this fucking weekend. Me using current technology to do something I couldn't do without it. I hope it will be different than other people use it so I can put my stamp on it. I've toyed with the idea of making an electronic record because I've never really, because I've used my guitar for everything. The guitar is such a practical instrument and I can make it sound like anything with a little bit of dicking about.

NH: On Imperial, there are moments where you can hear a click track beat.

RG: Are you saying that I mixed the drums too low? Have you listened to that record a lot?

NH: Yeah.

RG: Because one of my things about production, mostly on my own records is that playability where you listen to the record on the sixth time you hear something that you've never heard before. I like to take things and put them out of context. Like a big fucking heavy metal guitar and mix it so quietly in the mix that it's almost subliminal. If you listen to it on headphones for the fifteenth time and then you suddenly get it. I put a lot of movement in sound like slow delays that create movement and you can't actually put your finger on it. What is happening in that track? You know something's happening. It's quite fun.

NH: I've had that happen with tons of your records, especially with headphone play.

RG: I like that, one could call it a production trick if you like but it's something that I'm quite conscious of doing. It's like subliminal. It's the right catalyst to make the other parts work, the parts that are more prominent.

NH: Is there an album you are proudest of?

RG: No, not really. I think some of the Cocteau Twins is pretty cool. I think a lot of the Violet Indiana stuff is pretty cool. You talking about production wise? I don't know I don't really listen to them. I've yet to reach that point in my life where I make the photo album.

NH: Did any of the Cocteau stuff surprise you when you were remastering?

RG: No. Because I always think my records are pretty good anyways. It was a nice thing to go back and do that because it was so emotional because my headspace took me back to that time and space of doing the stuff. The stories, the myths and the pictures I've got about those records are different than anyone else has. Being able to make music that's like a canvas is a bit interactive. People have to put something into it and then what they get out of it is much more personal. When you're working with a lyricist like Siobhan for instance there's a lot less room to do that. You can't do it with the lyrics because the lyrics are really in your face. There like, “you fucking left me, you bastard” and you can't really interpret that any other way. Got to have a little fun with the music to make an ambiguity in it. With Liz it was great because people would superimpose their ideas on what she was saying. It became quite personal.

NH: Other than Phil Spector, are there any other producers your admire?

RG: When I listen to countless records that I love, I just think, I wish I could produce a record like that and I don't think I'll be able to. I don't think I have that fucking vision of music at all. If I listen to something old like Chet Baker, Billie Holiday and Patsy Cline or something like that. It's like, fucking these are records. All you need to do is watch Elvis That's The Way It Is on DVD and that's how you make fucking music. These musicians, I'll probably never have the opportunity to work with that type of thing. I listen to that type of stuff but it never shows its head in what I do. A lot of what I do comes from inside, I feed on myself. That sounds kind of disturbing. It probably is some sort of therapy issue. This is probably something I shouldn't tell people (laughter). Oops.

NH: What do you think will happen to recording and listening to music in the future?

RG: Recording will just get more and more fucking... You are going to hit a point where the technology doesn't work anymore and we'll have the best fucking hi-fi systems built into your “My First PC” and then it will be a throw back to “let's get some musicians in a studio”. In a way, with all of this technology, the recording industry has turned back to the way it was in the seventies and eighties. The buzzword was Logic and the EMF delay and you're using this thing that costs thousands of dollars. Now the buzzword is Pro-Tools. Is it Pro-Tools or something inferior? Well, that's just absolute bullshit. It's all fucking nonsense. It's an industry buzzword and all of the A&R people know about it and you knew that you had to spend a lot of money if it was one of them. I don't actually have one major recording system. I do everything and I use quite a lot of different software. I jump projects around from one to the other. I've got a big pile of manuals in my bathroom. I've always been a bit of a pariah when it comes to following the conventions. For me, I've done about four records on Pro-Tools and I've always ended up taking one Pro-Tools and putting it into another system and working that way. It annoys me a little bit, that's all. It makes you feel as if your music is inferior. Back in the Eighties when I was making records with the Cocteau Twins I always picked studios that didn't have FSL's. I didn't think it was very good. I liked one studio because the mixing desk had been bought from ABBA and I thought they made brilliant records and I thought that some of that would rub off on me. That's the sort of choices I made. All the wrong fucking choices, but there ya go.

NH: What about the future of listening to music?

RG: Everything will take its course. I don't know what's next after the CD. Every music company has to sell the music on something. There's not one system yet, digital rights management, there's too many options. It goes back to recording in the old days, you walked into a studio and the desk you worked on had two-inch tape. You could that two inch tape to any studio in the fucking world and carry on and work on your project. Now everyone has a different system with their Pro-Tools and Logic, things don't like talking to each other and it can be a huge problem if you take it from one studio to the next. Now it's happening a little bit with digital audio MP3's or MA files or whatever. The trouble with half the MP3's you hear is a really slow bit-rate and things like that and they don't sound really good and people haven't explored the technology to do it properly. But as far as commercial, I've not bought any music on MP3. Maybe I'm a bit old fashioned, but I don't like paying for anything on the internet. CD's won't go away I don't think. But do I give a fuck if the music industry collapses because of the music industry? No I do not. I really don't give a fuck. These people have been exploiting and they'll continue exploiting. They're just gonna be selling things on different formats forever. I think they're are some cool little devices around. The price of memory has dropped. Gigs and gigs of memory will fit on a compact flash. You can have quite a lot on an iPod and these types of things. If you can't get enough music on a 20 gig iPod then there's something wrong. The bigger these small hard drives get, the more people will want to put on them. It's a bit silly.

NH: The internet might not be the complete solution.

RG: I think as a distribution system, it's cool.

NH: What do you think of the Apple Music Store, where you can purchase a download of an album at a discounted price or buy an individual song?

RG: I don't have an MP3 player, so I can't really embrace that technology. I've got a drive on one of my servers at my house that full of MP3's and I haven't fully explored them. Maybe it's a generation thing. My daughter downloads loads and loads of stuff and doesn't even think about it. But then she says things like, “Dad, what was your favorite computer game when you were little?” and I say that we didn't have computers. “What was your favorite DVD?” “We didn't have DVD's” “Fuck off Dad, what was your favorite video?” “We didn't have video's” So I'm from a certain age. I think I'm still pretty fucking cool though because I've been using computers for the last twenty odd years now. I'm a lot more savvy than people half my age. There's a mentality, it's not how much you know it's the way you've come into that world. I've got an old Atari video game system and when I showed my daughter she couldn't believe it. She said, “it's shit”. I'm like, yeah but we used to love them.

NH: What's going on with Bella Union?

RG: A few things coming out. There's a band called Explosions In The Sky and another band called Jetscreamer from Texas, you know Simon (Raymonde) is really into Texas. He's much more involved than I am with taking on the responsibility. We made a conscious decision years ago that I wanted to start making music and he didn't want to make music anymore so he put his energy into that more than I do and I do music more than he does.

NH: Didn't he just work on the Clearlake record?

RG: Simon, yeah he does their production and this, that and the next thing but he's not making a Simon Raymonde record. I was gonna do something with him on our Series Seven but haven't been able to get us in the same place at the same time long enough. So that hasn't happened yet.

NH: So no Cocteau Twins reunion.

RG: Uhh, not for the moment.

NH: Do you keep in touch with Liz?

RG: Yeah, but Liz is the mother of one of my children. We do talk, we talk all of the time. Liz and Simon don't talk though. She's Lucy's Mom. We don't talk about music very much. We talk about...

NH: Parenting issues.

RG: Yeah, it's time for Lucy to get a haircut. She's not listening to me. She keeps going on about what your favorite video was when you were young.

NH: I'm gonna list off a few records you've worked on, maybe you could say a few words about them. Lush, Spooky.

RG: Ooh, good record. Love that record. I got a bit of a hard time for making them sound like me. The reason they wanted me to make the record is because they liked the sounds I made. I fucking loved that band, they were great. I liked the album they made after, Split. I don't know who produced it though. That was a great record as well, so I'm not only into them because I worked with them. They were great, a nice bunch of people.

NH: Cocteau Twins, Heaven Or Las Vegas?

RG: Fuck me; I did a lot of drugs making that one. Yeah, that was a good one. I made it in my studio September Sound. It's the first record I made in that studio. I think it's a good record personally. It's funny, because there are other Cocteau Twins records that sold more than that one, but that's the one that all the people always talk about. Wasn't the biggest commercial success.

NH: What was the biggest commercial success?

RG: I think Four Calendar Cafe. That's the one that people don't like because it's not on 4AD. A lot of people go back to that record and think it's pretty good. I think the band sort of settled into something at that point. Within a certain framework there's quite radical differences between all of the albums but maybe Four Calendar Cafe wasn't different enough from Heaven Or Las Vegas. I don't know. I don't really care. I was always pissed off when people gave that record a bad review but mentioned the record deal and 4AD, which seemed to be the bigger thing. What they failed to realize at that point was that we were on 4AD when we made the record. They thought we went commercial by going to a big label but we made the record before we went there dude.

NH: You mentioned drug use before, how did it aid your creative process?

RG: I wasn't shooting heroin into my eyeballs. It got really bad. I had to go to rehab and get myself fucking clean. I can't go near them. All of that time, it's been twelve years since I've been using. If you put them in front of me now, I wouldn't have it in me just to say that's a good idea. I just stay away from it. Toward the end of my drug taking years, I was making Four Calendar Cafe. That was a pretty dark and miserable time in my life. I did half of the album and went to rehab and came back and finished the other half. All of the up and jolly ones are the ones I did when I was fucked up on drugs and all of the dark and miserable ones are when I got clean. That shouldn't be that way. Head Over Heels was a big dope album, but dope as in smoking weed. It's more aggressive and spiky. Victorialand was very kind of introverted and gentle and that was a cocaine album. It's always been wrong. I like Bill Hicks when he talks about drugs. I can really relate to everything he says about drugs. Especially about music. All of these records you like, all of those people are really high. It's true. That's not always the case, but in my case it was a confidence thing and that came back when I wasn't taking drugs anymore. There was a little bit of doubt that I couldn't do it without the drugs. I did it in about a quarter of the time because I didn't spend three and a half days to program the high hat anymore. “It's not right, it's not right, I've got to get it right, what day is it?” If it had something to do with my music, then I'm quite happy about that, but it really fucked up my life at the same time. I'm still here, so I guess I got off lightly.

NH: Just cigarettes now?

RG: Well no. I quit smoking. In fact, I quit smoking every week. It's the most pointless drug ever known to man. At least when you get high off of proper drugs, you get high; when you smoke cigarettes, you just want to smoke another one. You don't get fucking high, what a waste. (Coughs) There you go, fuck.

NH: Are there any artists that you'd like to work with?

RG: Yeah, probably. But I don't know. Do you have any ideas? I like it when other people say, “hey, you should listen to this”. I don't actively go out and look for things to impose my will upon. There are people who come into my life or my consciousness and it seems like the right thing to do.

NH: What does Lucy think of your music?

RG: I was in this French magazine lately and I didn't think about it until a copy came in the mailbox and Marilyn Manson was on the front of this goth magazine. I thought, oh fuck here we go again! Big black gothic typeface everywhere. I thought, oh no! Then my daughter comes in and sees Marilyn Manson and says “cool, Dad you're in this, that's so cool, can I take it to school?” I was so embarrassed and mortified by that. She grew up in an environment where she went on tour with us and she's always been a whiz with music being in studios, she's really comfortable around that. She sings. She has a voice that's amazing. She sings like her Mom. She'll be starting something at some point. I know that because of the talent she has at this age, that she'll do something great one day I'm sure. But I ask what she thinks of my music and she says that it's old. “Don't you like any new music?” She did think it was cool that I was in the same magazine as Marilyn Manson.

NH: I'm sure that Marilyn would love to work with you. Would you work with him?

RG: I think I would, yeah. I just want to find out how he got so skinny. What do you eat to get like that? Oh, bats. Okay. Bat stew. I understand that he did the soundtrack to the new Texas Chainsaw Massacre and it's got “Song To The Siren” on it as well. Shouldn't some big fat fucking movie company be sending me some fucking money for that? In your fucking dreams mate.

Interview by Nick Hyman.