KG: I am sure he was a perfectionist but he often had to work - especially in his later years - on a minimum scale of equipment and finances. Did that worry him?
JC: No, he loved it.
KG: He loved it? Die he tried to utilize that - take advantage of it?
JC: Yeah. I mean,
again, that comes into the whole business of being a poet.
Its kind of
its honing something to its kind
of basis, its skeletal frame, and he saw that. And I think its
true to say that it was - and still is, great craftmanship. Thats
what a lot of poets are all about, just honing something down to perfection,
to a kind of minimalist perfection. And thats what he became really
in doing in theatre, working on a kind of shoestring budget. He
really enjoyed the challenge of communicating with people without a
huge kind of budget which ultimately I think seperates you from your
KG: During the years he was with Hawkwind he had this kind of stardom - Hawkwind had quite a big following and he was very well known. Did he miss that later on? He performed for smaller audiences, he wasnt anymore the rock star on big stages, with a lot of costumes, and part of this sort of legendary band. Was that something he missed in his later works and performances? Did that bother him?
JC: No, I dont think it did. I mean, Im not saying that if the opportunity had arisen again he probably would have done it and he probably wouldve thoroughly enjoyed it. But I think he was in a sense I think a lot of people kind of grow out of that. And that was the 70s, a whole different kind of thing. Its not the same even now I dont think, is it?
KG: No, - but I think though he loved to be in the limelight.
JC: Oh yeah, absolutely, yes.
KG: Maybe even being adored?
JC: Yes he loved that. Yes he loved attention and peforming and having an audience. Maybe ultimately it didnt matter to him whether it was the large audience of a rock star or you know I think he enjoyed the smaller audiences, say at Theatrespace or wherever he was working.
KG: Could he get angry with an audience? When he had the feeling they werent really aware of what he was offering, or was he just persistent and trying to finally get them on to his level?
JC: I think largely
speaking they were. He really did know how to manipulate an audience
and get them, you know, laughing or whatever, get them on his side.
In that sense he was a
real natural performer.
KG: Was Robert affected by criticism like that?
JC: Yeah, I mean, not unduly, but who isnt, you know?
KG: Whose opinions mattered to him most when it came to his work? Which opinions from which persons did he value most?
a hard one. Im tempted to say his! (laughs)
KG: Talking of peoples opinions and people he worked with, did that sort of develop of its own, did he just bump into the people with whom he worked, or would he really choose? I mean, especially the period after he split with Hawkwind he worked with a lot of different people over the years. Was that consciously chosen or did it just happen?
JC: Well, when he was in his gregarious persona, he attracted people to him. You know, he did have a magnetic personality, hed go out a lot, talk to anybody and everybody. And so he was the kind of person who could, within the space of a week, if there was say a project brewing that he wanted to kind of involve people with and get funding for, get actors or get musicians or whatever, he would sort of keep going out and making forays into various areas, talking to lots of people, put a lot of energy into what he was doing, and within a week hed have the good fortune to meet people who were right for that. How can I explain it It was like, he could just put himself out there and get what he needed, because he had the energy to go and do it and talk to people.
KG: Do you think he always made lucky choices with whom he worked?
JC: Creatively speaking yes, I think he made the right choices, and fortunately the right people seemed to turn up. He always worked with good musicians, by and large at any rate, and with good actors, good directors. What he wasnt very good at was the kind of business side of things, but as far as his craft, his job, was concerned, yes.
KG: Personally I think that the band's line-up he had with Fred Reeves and Steve Pond wasnt really a good suitable band for him - and the line-up with Dave Anderson (like his antics or not) and Martin Holdcroft was a much better one, but that was only together for a very short time I think. That surprised me a bit. Maybe it was just of money reasons or so, I dont know.
JC: What you mean the Dave Anderson band, why that was so short-lived?
KG: Yeah, because I think this was a much better line-up for his music.
JC: Various reasons.
I dont think Robert was
It served his purpose. He wanted
to do the Test
Tube Conceived album. He wasnt at that point very interested
in touring with a band or anything like that. Martin, who he worked
very well with, was not particularly interested in putting too much
into working in a kind of band situation at that time. So really I think
its true to say that it just served Roberts purpose to get
the album done and get a bit of publicity for it, and that was that.
And as for the Steve Pond and Fred, if my memory serves me well which
it probably doesnt, I think he was offered the Queen
Elizabeth Hall gig and very much wanted to do it.
...after a short break...
KG: Would you say that Robert had sort of Utopian ideas or ideal visions of the future? was he a sort of a pessimist regarding those things?
JC: Well again, going back to the other question you asked, It was very, very interior. If he had a kind of crystallised vision, whether it was optimistic or pessimistic, it wasnt projected as a whole, it was only projected in facets. So ultimately I suppose anyone has to form their own judgement of that from his work. It probably too simplistic, to see either a Utopia or some kind of technohell in the future. I think he probably saw both sides.
KG: Do you think that he would have gone into, would be very involved by now with the computer-side of things, like Nicholas (his son) is?
JC: I dont know, thats another hard question, because in a way he yearned for a return to simpler technologies. I mean theres a song, NED LUDD, and Robert really was a Luddite I think. He was fascinated by technology, but ultimately he was very pleased to achieve something without the use of technology. So, I think you could say he was a Luddite in that sense.
KG: The FREQ album, I think, came mostly out of the miners strikes, or was at least addressing it to a great part. Was he always kind of sympathetic to labourers movements -was he very aware of such political ongoings?
JC: Yes, yes. There
again, he didnt so much talk about politics or morality or spirituality,
but what he felt was his philosophy - he just worked. He worked it.
But yes, I mean he actually did get very involved in the miners
strike, which was partly I think because at that time we lived in an
area of Kent where a lot of pits were threatened then with closure,
and so in one of his periods of going out and about and meeting a lot
of people he met a lot of miners, and listened to what they were saying
and realised what the social implications would be for them. And I suppose
you could say that that happened also to fit in with what he was working
on, it kind of happened to gel, because he was at that time working
on material and songs... this was the kind of Luddite thing coming up
again. It was kind of "technology
pros and cons", because one of the songs on that album is called
which is simply about Robert I think, sort of happily working with his
KG: Did he also try somehow to close, a bit at least, the gap which is normally there between the so-called lower class or labourers and the so-called intellectual and artist, which is often there?
JC: Yes, very much so. And again, strangely, I dont know whether he would have vocalised or intellectualised that, he just did it. And thats what I think a lot of his theatre was about. He loved the idea of theatre for the people, you know, involving people who never normally would maybe go to the theatre because it was seen as some major event, and you know, for the wrong reasons it wasnt a living theatre for everybody.
KG: Talking about theatre for the people, the great Brecht springs to mind immediately. Can you say something about the influence he got from Brecht?
KG: What other influences he had? You named T. S. Eliot before.
JC: Eliot yes, Ezra Pound
KG: Could you describe in which way those figures have influenced Robert?
JC: I really couldnt
tell you the truth, again because
I think if you asked Robert,
if you had a discussion with Robert about any of those people, what
he would want to talk about again was their craftmanship. And maybe
Im being terribly wrong here, but I dont think he would
be so much willing to talk about the content, but you cant know
Eliot without knowing deeply what he was writing about, and you cant
know Brecht without knowing deeply what he was writing about.
KG: This idea and ideal of craftmanship, was that always something that was an important subject to him or did that arise later on?
JC: I think it was
always important to him, but as he grew older it became more and more
important. I mean maybe, and Im kind of thinking on the hoof here,
maybe it grew more out of a kind of political understanding of the importance
of that kind of work. As I said to you before, going back to theatre,
he absolutely hated the fact that places like the Royal Opera House
or whatever were being given millions and millions in funding, that
was anathema to him. And so maybe its true to say that as he became
more and more aware of that, and maybe more and more aware of say what
you could do in terms of mystery plays you know, two men and a wagon
or something in a marketplace. It sharpened the way he thought about