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. It’s kind of…it’s honing something to it’s kind of basis, it’s skeletal frame, and he saw that. And I think it’s true to say that it was - and still is, great craftmanship. That’s what a lot of poets are all about, just honing something down to perfection, to a kind of minimalist perfection. And that’s what he became really interested 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 audience anyway.
He always made a great kind of play about being a minimalist, and it’s very true, he loved the skill involved in working like that.

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 wasn’t 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 don’t think it did. I mean, I’m not saying that if the opportunity had arisen again he probably would have done it and he probably would’ve 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. It’s not the same even now I don’t 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 didn’t 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 weren’t 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.
I think, off the top of my head, I can only remember one time where he did not have an audience on his side. But then we ganged up on the audience and it was a joke, because it was one evening at the Arts Theatre and it was a terrible night. Rat Scabies will remember this. Because we booked the theatre and then there was really heavy snow, and there was a rail strike or something, none of the trains could get through, so there wasn’t a large audience there anyway. And it happened to be the night that all the critics were coming, people like Morton Childon(?) were there. And we sent our spies out, at some point, I don’t know, in the interval or whatever, and the spies came back reporting snippets of conversation that they’d heard from those people which was sort of the most awful criticism of what we were doing, I suppose because it was tongue-in-cheek. I mean it wasn’t…we weren’t being serious enough for them maybe.

KG: Was Robert affected by criticism like that?

JC: Yeah, I mean, not unduly, but who isn’t, you know?

KG: Whose opinions mattered to him most when it came to his work? Which opinions from which persons did he value most?

JC: That’s a hard one. I’m tempted to say his! (laughs)
He would bounce of whoever he was working with. Yeah, I think it’s true to say that. Me, whoever he was around he’d bounce off and get feedback from, and probably then dismiss all of it and carry on anyway (laughs).
I don’t think he ever had any kind of relationship with any other creative person who could’ve overridden any idea he had of his own work.

KG: Talking of people’s opinions and people he worked with, did that sort of develop of it’s 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, he’d 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 he’d 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 wasn’t 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 wasn’t 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 don’t 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 don’t think Robert was… It served his purpose. He wanted to do the Test Tube Conceived album. He wasn’t 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 it’s true to say that it just served Robert’s 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 doesn’t, I think he was offered the Queen Elizabeth Hall gig and very much wanted to do it.
(note: The Queen Elizabeth Hall gig in 1986 was indeed a prestigious one for Calvert - it has been recorded by his friend Rodney Henson and was released posthumously - feat. the Fred Reeves, Steve Pond and Mary Cason line-up.)

...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 wasn’t 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 don’t know, that’s another hard question, because in a way he yearned for a return to simpler technologies. I mean there’s 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 miner’s 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 didn’t 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 miner’s 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 WORK SONG, which is simply about Robert I think, sort of happily working with his machines.
So that’s the kind of the good side if you like, and then all the kind of technological nightmares that are possible. And somehow he managed to gel the two together, the whole idea of work, what’s work for, it’s necessary to us maybe as human beings.

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 don’t know whether he would have vocalised or intellectualised that, he just did it. And that’s 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 wasn’t 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?

JC: Yes, Brecht was one of his heroes. He loved Brecht, he loved Brecht’s plays and, probably even more, his poetry. So yes, he was a major influence.

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 couldn’t 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 I’m being terribly wrong here, but I don’t think he would be so much willing to talk about the content, but you can’t know Eliot without knowing deeply what he was writing about, and you can’t know Brecht without knowing deeply what he was writing about.
But again it was very internal. Those kind of issues weren’t issues he really, really talked about. Craftmanship yes, the way people worked, their style of writing. He would talk for hours about different poets and the metres they liked to use and stuff like that, but his understanding of what they were writing about… it wasn’t something he really discussed a lot.

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 I’m 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 it’s 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 that perhaps.

end of part III


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