KG: I think it must have been a sort of strange situation he was in, being an artist, very well known, as a rock musician, a rock star, but he always wanted to be known as a poet and as a writer, as far as I know. But then again his output seems to have been much bigger in the musical field as well. Did he felt himself that he was under sort of pressure from the music-biz, that he had to produce more in that field, just to earn his money maybe or..?
JC: Im not sure about that because, I mean during the early Hawkwind years I didnt know him really, and I suspect that he was very, very much involved in doing what he was doing with Hawkwind and enjoying what he was doing with them - and I think probably the split with them came at a time lets say fortuitous, because it also gave him the opportunity to go and do more work of a different kind. And as the years went on then he was more and more able to do that, to do music when he wanted to, to write poetry when he wanted to and as you know when he died he was going to actually go back to University to study drama. So I think, had he not died when he did, he probably would have turned more to theatre and poetry. It seemed to be the balance was tipping I think. Although he did have vague plans to do something again with Hawkwind, yeah I think its true to say the balance was tipping. I dont think he would have ever stopped composing, writing music, that was a major major part of his life, but first and foremost I think he saw himself as a poet, all his other work stemmed from that, from his nature as a poet, if you like.
KG: Do you think that he kind of suffered from this kind of public view on him? Seeing him all the time as a musician and just looking at his poetical work as a minor outcome or a sort of side effect of his music? Or did that public opinion not really matter that much to him?
JC: I dont know, I mean I dont even know if thats true because he introduced poetry to a lot of people who would not maybe otherwise have been that interested in it, a lot of people who were really into Hawkwind. And you could say the same about theatre. A lot of Hawkwind fans came to see the things that he did with theatre, and theyre maybe not the sort of people who would normally go and watch a play or read poetry. And because they liked Roberts work and they kind of liked where he was coming from so to speak, they looked at what his influences were. So you probably get people reading T. S. Eliot who would normally never look at something like that. So I think it works both ways, and there certainly was a different audience for some of his poetry and theatre, and again had he not died when he did, you know, maybe that would have been built on more and his audience would have spread.
KG: How would you judge the situation at the end of his life in terms of his career so to speak? Was he on the brink of getting on with it, reaching a wider public, or did it look like he was getting into smaller or minor areas - reaching a completely different audience with his poetry maybe?
JC: Its hard to say, I mean because he was always on the brink of something. But I think maybe the fact that he wanted to do drama that probably would have opened up a lot more for him. I think there are more possibilities with theatre. There were probably more possibilities around the time he died, yes, I think its true to say that.
KG: Did he have sort of subjects or obsessions that stayed with him throughout his life? I mean, you have this kind of recurring theme of flying or aviation, his fascination for flying, was that really a thing that stayed with him throughout his life?
JC: Yeah, that was, yeah, totally, constantly. He claimed to have wanted to be a pilot. He actually was in the whats it called it was like the junior RAF, I cant remember the name of it, but apparently he had a perforated eardrum or something, which meant that he could not follow that particular line of training
KG: So he becomes a musician!
JC: (laughs) Yeah, exactly! Become a musician instead. And I suspect that he wasnt exactly RAF material. But yes, he always was fascinated with flying, and the sort of Dan Dare, space travel ideas, that was a major obsession that was with him as you say throughout his life.
KG: Were there any other things like that?
JC: Yes. One of his favourite novels was The Thity Nine Steps, which is kind of one man up against everybody else, the solitary the solitary protaganist, which I think Robert saw himself as.
KG: Do you think he had a fascination for the character of the "hero"?
JC: Yes, absolutely, yes, the solitary hero. And that appears many, many times, in many, many different guises, in his work.
KG: What I find the most interesting thing about his work, which I think comes across in all of his work, his poetry and music, is that its always sort of ambivalent. That hes fascinated by something but still has the distance to send it up or to make a complete satire out of it, like on the Captain Lockheed album. I have the feeling he was also very romantic about it. Some pieces are incredibly romantic to me.
JC: Yes, thats true.
KG: ...and thats his originality, I think that he had the ability to keep enough distance from it to be able to make fun of it. But I wonder - was that intentional or was it just a natural approach to him?
JC: Well I think its two-fold because, and this is partly why I say that primarily he was a poet because I think part of his poetic ability if you like was to look at something from a completely different angle, turn it on its head, see it afresh, which in some ways is the job of the poet, to make you look at something in a different way, to see it afresh. So theres that, but there was also his humour, I mean his humour was just incredible. And yes, he brought that into everything, he couldnt resist it - thats also true. So you get this kind of two-fold way of looking at anything, plus as you say he was a romantic. So you'd get a kind of two-fold way of looking at something. Youd get Robert standing back, or turning the thing upside down, but seeing it with humour as well. So yes, youre right.
KG: Did he talk himself about this kind of thing we are talking about now in a, let's say "reflective" way or was it just a natural thing for him to work with this sort of distant or original perception he had?
JC: He didnt really talk about that, no. He would talk happily for hours and hours about the mechanics, no, the material he was working with, whether it was the fighter pilot or the spy or whatever characters he was interested in. But the process, the kind of real inner core was very quiet. I dont think he ever really discussed his philosophy if you like or his vision of what he did. That was very, very private.
KG: Did he talk about that romantic attitude he had to certain things, like this pilot thing? I mean, its a sort of really out of fashion attitude, to have a romantic attitude.
JC: I actually dont know. I cant remember whether he did or not. I really couldnt say whether that was how he saw himself. I suppose that he acknowledged that he saw some of these things with irony, with humour. But whether he really acknowledged the romantic in him or not I dont really know.
KG: Where did he get his influences from? I mean, in regard to his themes and subjects, he worked in so many different areas, fighter pilots, and the strange scene of the Vikings discovering America. Thats not exactly the first thing you think about as a rock or whatever kind of an album it is! Its not a subject that springs to mind! And then theres The Kid From Silicon Gulch, the early eighties computer stories.
JC: He just had an incredibly kind of theres a line in Test Tube Bay Of Mine where one of the scientists, I think Virginia, says of Peter in an almost accusatory fashion that he has a butterfly mind. Well that was a bit of self judgement if you like, because he did. He just loved finding out about things. I mean, hed go off to the library and come back with 20 different books all about anything, you know, a bit of a detective kind of attitude to things I suppose. He just loved finding out about things. And as you say there were the recurrent themes, but once something appealed to him he would research it deeply and widely and find the most bizarre connections from one thing to another. That would take him on another step and hed be somewhere else and so on and so on. He would kind of butterfly out everywhere.
KG: I think he must also have fallen maybe then for some strange conspiracy theories and so on, when he had this sort of detective mind. I read somewhere, that at times he was kind of overwhelmed by these conspiracy theories, like Burroughs had them.
JC: Well yeah, but I think that came at sort of the wrong end of his manic periods, out of his paranoia, and I think thats partly why he loved The Thirty-Nine Steps so much. Because I think in his kind of manic phases thats how he saw himself, as a kind of solitary hero, misunderstood, fighting for the reality that he understood, on his own kind of thing.
KG: Talking about heroes and his own attitude - did you see him as being much ahead of his time and being misunderstood in this time? The classical image of the avant-garde artist?
JC: No, I dont think so. And I think Id be quite surprised if any creative person who worked like that had that perception of themselves at the time. I think thats something that other people see. I think its very rare, I think its probably impossible that the creator himself or herself has that perception of him or herself, its kind of paradoxical.
KG: Do you think he had any sort of image of what impact his work had or could have in later years? Did he think about that at all? After all he was very often working on subjects concerning the future.
JC: Thats true. Again, no, I dont think he really looked into the future in that sense. He was too occupied with working on what he was working on to actually look into the future in a different way. I mean its something Ive actually thought about recently, because recently more and more people have actually said to me "wow, you know, he really was quite prophetic". Its only now, 8 years after his death that I think people are actually beginning to see how prophetic he was. But he was just too immersed in prophecying to see it! (laughs)
KG: Would he say he was prophetic in some ways?
JC: He wouldnt, no. No, I dont think he wouldve.
KG: Would you?
JC: Would I? Yeah, with hindsight now. You know, I mean when he did The Kid From Silicon Gulch that whole kind of vision of everybody being hooked into a computer network, that was Science Fiction, and its reality now. And it's the same with Test Tube Baby really. I think when he first thought of working with an idea like in vitro fertilisation, it was at its very beginnings. So yes, that happened quite a lot.
KG: Did he use somehow the terminology of science fiction or would he have described that as a sort of science fiction? Because he always gets connected to that terminology but in my opinion hes far away from the stereotypical Science Fiction.
JC; Yes, well I would agree with you. But there again I dont think he ever really had time for either worrying about labelling himself or worrying about what other people were labelling him as. He just got on with it. He just worked.
KG: It was a bit of a surprise to me when I read a statement of him on the Earth Ritual poems. He described them as a sort of Science Fiction, but very accurately I think regarding his whole work which is concerning the future that it was more of an earthed-to-the-ground Science Fiction, something that is not addressing the spaceship things but focusing always on the individual.
JC: He meant it in a very literal way, yes. Whereas if you say "Science Fiction" people immediately think of the whole genre, which, I suppose, is entirely different.
KG: In an interview session like that, lets say Robert would be still alive and would try to portray himself - what do you think he would ask himself to bring over his character?
JC: You mean if you were talking to Robert and he was ?
KG: No, imagine he would try to do a portrayal of himself, being a sort of host questioning himself.
JC: Well hed just be incredibly funny, you know. And Im being incredibly serious! (laughs) No, he would do it all with immense humour really. Like a Stand-Up-Comedian, I think.
KG: I think he was a sort of Stand-Up-Comedian - he had this very entertaining character.
JC: Yes, yes, completely. In fact, I mean when we were doing Krankschaft Cabaret and the other kind of cabaret pieces I think the bit that he enjoyed most was at the end when the script was done and finished, and generally speaking he was called upon just to do a bit of sort of chatting to the audience. And some nights at Theatrespace he would go on chatting to the audience until 2 oclock in the morning and just sort of he loved it, he loved just doing the stand-up comedian routine.
KG: He was good at improvising on stage?
JC: He was, yeah. I mean a lot of it was improvised. I suspect he actually could have done it, I mean, he certainly rehearsed all of his improvisations with me, you know time and time and time again! (laughs) But yeah, I mean he was brilliant at the quick one-liner.
KG: Was there any sort of difference between his on- and off-stage persona?
JC: It depends what kind of state he was in. When he was going into a kind of manic phase he would want to be around people, communicate a lot, and liked to be the kind of centre stage and making people laugh and talking to people and stuff. But then during his quiet periods at home he didnt really I mean he said it in interviews in various ways at different times, he didnt much want to go out or see people. He just wanted to sit in his shed basically (laughs). So there were two sides to him.
KG: Would you say he was a better performer when he was in his sort of manic phases?
JC: I dont think he performed when he wasnt, really.
KG: So even when he had a sort of quiet phase, as soon as he went on stage he became this sort of more manic character?
JC: I think you could say it the other way around. He didnt go on stage unless he was a little way into his kind of manic I mean he wouldnt be in performance mode if he wasnt sort of in his manic mode.
KG: What were the major characteristics when he was in these manic phases? How did he come across? Was it just a lot of talk, just babbling, babbling, babbling or how did it show?
JC: At worst yes. And thats when people found him difficult to deal with because he would just be talking to you all the time, and wanting feedback from you, or whoever, you know, the band, if he was with the band, and that could be extremely tiring for anybody. But at best, you know at the other end of the scale, it just meant that he was extremely sociable, very, very funny, a good performer. So it varied depending on where he was in his kind of cycle. It was very cyclic.
KG: But he never could really control it?
KG: Did he regret it very often that he went into these kind of cycles? I mean he lost a lot of good people and contacts due to that, especially in the field of music I think. He worked with so many good musicians. Regardless if they were nice persons or not, but a lot of them were / are very talented, like Pete Pavli, who couldnt stand it any more as well I think - thats what he told me - and other musicians as well.
JC: Yes, yes thats true.
KG: Was he aware of that and did he regret it, that he just couldnt control himself a bit more to the point maybe that he could get on with people a bit longer if he wanted to?
JC: The truthful answer is I dont know, because its nothing he would ever say. I dont know whether he knew it or not. And thats what I meant when I was talking about denial.
KG: But did he talk to you about what some of these events that happened before some of these splits were about?
JC: Well yes, and thats why I have to say that I cant truthfully say whether he knew that or not because he never gave me the impression that he did. I mean, he did know, he was aware that every time he built up that energy to a certain point, he knew what the outcome would be. But and he did tell me, he did say once in a moment of great truthfulness, that it was something he was not prepared to stop doing, or could not stop doing, because that was his job here if you like, to do the work he was doing. And if, even if he was capable of stopping, what would the point have been? He wouldnt really have worked anymore. So yes, he understood that. But I dont think he was truthful enough to acknowledge to himself the damage that he did to his friendships and professionally. But maybe it was because he couldnt do anything about it.
KG: Well thats maybe the main - lets say - tragic point about him, that the thing that made him such an original talent was also bound to break up a lot of the outcome of it. Thats maybe the major crux of his life and his work. Reg. the question did he knew about it or was he willing to stop it? - I guess he would always have chosen to go further with it just for the artistic outcome of it. I mean, he definitely was aware of his manic phases and what effect they could have on other people. Do you think that he sometimes also utilized this notorious reputation he had for going into these manic phases to motivate people or to get something out of them?
JC: Well he did.
I dont think he was aware that thats what he did. And there
again, I mean, speaking from the times when I worked with him, I couldnt
possibly speak for anybody else, he did in a way bring out the best
in people he worked with because he would
its the old thing,
he demanded a lot of himself and he demanded a lot of people he worked
with. But at the end of the day as you say, a lot of people couldnt
take the pace, resented it, because ultimately he was too demanding,
no one could keep up with him. But it was a very good experience, for
a limited time, to work with him, because he was very aware of everybody
and everything that they were supposed to be doing. He could be very
critical, he could be very rude. But it was all done to achieve
I mean he was a great perfectionist in his work and he expected everybody
else to be the same, and thats a good experience as long as dont
get too much of it.
end of part II