KG: Can we talk about specific works of him? To me the HYPE album sticks out a bit of the whole body of his work - not only because it features lot of autobiographical background, but also because it seems to me a much more mainstream record than the other albums he did. Was that intentional, did he also attempt from time to time to get into the sort of mainstream, to get finally out into the public?
JC: I think two
things are true here. I mean he actually
I was not with him when
he wrote Hype. He was married to Pamela (Townley) at the time, and
I think probably that was the period of his life where he was trying
to be the most mainstream. He was trying to be a rock star, or he certainly
was early on, about the time he married Pamela, trying to be a mainstream
KG: Talking about the Lucky Leif album - wich wasnt very well received when it actually came out in 1975. Which is surprising, looking at it now, it seems so vivid, so full of life and ideas, featuring so many different approaches. How did Robert saw that work himself in later years, was he kind of miserable about that?
JC: No, I think he liked it and that was good enough. I mean, he was always kind of incredibly fond of that, that particular idea behind that album, the Vinland sagas. It brought together a lot of things that he really liked and he was happy with it, and that was good enough.
you know how great the influence of Brian
Eno was on that album?
JC: Well I actually happened to be there quite a lot when it was recorded, and it was incredibly impressive, because Robert in his kind of eclectic way had got a lot of different people together to work on the album, and they werent necessarily working happily alongside each other. And watching Brian Eno work was wonderful, it was absolutely magical, because he managed to really get the best from everybody, and (as far as I was aware at the time) pick up on exactly what Robert wanted and exactly what would work. He produced it brilliantly, he orchestrated it brilliantly. It was actually really a pleasure to watch him working, and you cant often say that about being in a studio because its normally a nightmare.
KG: Do you know if there were plans to work together again - or why they never collaborated again?
JC: I dont really know. It would have been good, I think they would have worked very well together. Maybe it would have happened. It just was one of those things that didnt happen quickly enough maybe.
a thing surprised me when I listened to the tapes you gave me yesterday*,
because Robert pointed out in a few interviews that he was
not exactly *proud* of never having written any love songs - but he
pointed it out from time to time - and then yesterday I've heard five
or six of them on these tapes, which took me really by surprise.
JC: They are, yeah. It was another time when he was specifically working with different genres. I mean I was amazed when he wrote those, because it was the last thing I ever expected him to write. But he did. Again, I think it was just his love of playing with different genres. I think he wanted to write some sort of pop songs for fun.
KG: Did he intend to put out a lot of the material which is on these tapes?
JC: Yes, he did actually. He was writing some of those songs were written with specific people in mind. He wrote OVER THE MOON, he very much wanted Captain Sensible to do that one. And he had somebody else in mind for SATELLITE OF LOVE, thats one of the (love) songs, but I cant remember who it was.
you know if he intended to go into a specific musical direction with
his later works? Because I have to say I am most attracted to his more
experimental tunes like YOUR
PURPLE LID (audio)*
which I find very interesting, very intense.
JC: Yes, Id
like to think that he would, because I do know that he really enjoyed
writing those songs. The other one that he really enjoyed working on
was UNDERGROUND LOVE AFFAIR.
KG: Can you tell me about of some of his other later projects he was working on?
JC: There were so many of them. There was The Box, which youve now listened to.
KG: Was he intending to perform that himself?
JC: No. Léonie Scott-Matthews and he had an actor in mind whose name I cannot recall but Léonie will know. He was making another attempt to get into kind of mainstream fiction. He had a couple of ideas and actually started working on one novel.
KG: A sort of fantasy novel?
JC: Well there were
two. There was one that I described to you about the Kabal which was
I think he probably would have written it a bit like The
Thirty-Nine Steps in Egypt or something because theres a song
Egypt and that one had very much the feel of the book he was going
to write. There was a project about Stonehenge, and he discussed that
with various people. I dont really know how far that had got or
how far it would have gone.
KG: As always?
JC: As always.
KG: Was he ever interested in going into the visual media like film or videos, doing something with that, or writing for that?
JC: What he had always wanted to do was to write comedy for television, ideally a kind of sitcom, and he had various ideas. And I think he sketched out quite a few, played with bits of script, bits of dialogue here and there. He would have loved to have done that, he loved David Nobbs(?). And again, going back to craftmanship, he had a lot of admiration for some of the good TV comedy writers.
KG: Was he watching a lot of television?
KG: It also cropped up from time to time that he was kind of proud or liked to nurse his appearance as a sort of stylish English gentleman - I think he was very aware of his appearance, of the style he wanted to bring across, wasnt he?
JC: Oh yes. Oh enormously, oh god, yes, he really was. He loved it - it was one of his sort of costumes. I think it became probably the main one, the English gentleman, it was becoming more and more so, but he played with lots of other ones. I mean there was the kind of German sort of whatever it was, that uniform and the jackboots and things. There was the English cavalry officer from the First World War, there was that one. I think we actually buried a pair of his boots in the garden. He found a pair of First World War officers flying boots in a junk shop in Devon, and loved them and nursed them for years. And the day he could no longer wear them was a very sad day. So, yes, he was very, very much into his costumes.
KG: What did attract him especially to these kind of war or guerilla figures he often performed on stage, also with Hawkwind. A lot of these were kind of militant figures.
JC: Well I would actually say military rather than militant. I think maybe it was just that we all like doing it when were children and we probably still like doing it. Its really sort of dressing up, and I think it just happened to be one of the things he thoroughly enjoyed dressing up as. Apart from the connection with what we were talking about, the kind of solitary figure in combat maybe, thats the connection there. But other than that, I think he just loved dressing up and all these appearances. I remember getting the props and the costumes together for the Krankschaft Cabaret, and it was a nightmare. I think I had to go back to the costume hire people three times just to get three different flying helmets for him.
then again somehow at a certain point when these personae's met his
particular mental stage - when it all came together - he tended to stick
to a certain personae. Like during the famous Hawkwind-in-Paris
episode when he just decided to stay in the combat gear during daytimes,
frightening the hell out of everybody during the high time of the RAF*
in Germany and all the terrorist ongoings in Europe.
JC: Yes, absolutely. I suppose you could say that and again - if you'd get him on the couch here.... - he did have a fear of being him. He always really liked to hide behind a character in public.
KG: And yet also seemed to have a tendency to be in these solitary figures as the kind of "tough guy" as well?
JC: Yeah, well I mean I told you the story about the suit of armour, when in one of his relationships he actually came home wearing a suit of armour. But I think you could take that in a very kind of Freudian way if you like as well. And thats maybe why they were tough guys or military guys, as a kind of protection.
KG: But he wasnt really? Thats what Adrian Shaw also told me, about the time when they were on this tour (which ended up in Paris) - and the one time when Robert was grabbing him by his head saying "Listen to me, listen to me, listen to me!" and thats the one thing Adrian couldnt stand any more and said "Do that again and Ill flatten you!". And Adrians really the nicest, easiest-going guy you can imagine - and I thought "my God, that must take a lot". And then he said he was actually a bit surprised himself that Robert backed out quite quickly and never did that again. Adrian said as well that Robert wasnt the tough guy, that he was a kind of gentle, soft
JC: He was, very soft.
KG: So you think that was also what he tried to hide?
KG: Can you tell an anecdote that gives a glance of the typcial "Calvertian" day-to-day humour?
JC: Yes, I had this puppy, King Charles Spanial puppy called Charlie, and there was a door in the house which always had to be closed because of the dog. And Roberts typical sense of humour, this became a kind of standing joke, about if he was the last one to leave behind me to close the door. And we were leaving one day, and I looked round and said "Did you close the door?" and, as I said, I could see behind him that the door was open. And he said "Well basically, yes". - "Basically yes" (laughs). I dont know, it was just sort of off the wall humour .
KG: Any other anecdotes from the family-side-of-life?
JC: Typical Robert
humour is the story about when he and Pamela were married, they lived
in a flat in London. And they got a male kitten and Robert says that
Pamela sat him down one day and said: Look, we've have to make a decision
here. If you want the cat to go out we will have to have him neutered.
Or if we gotta keep the cat totally in the flat then we'll leave him
as he is. And Robert apparently sat and thought about this for a minute
and said: "Well, can't he just have one off and go out sometimes?"
KG: How was Robert in his - let's say "role" as a father?
JC: He was wonderful.
KG: Was this something he missed with his other children?
JC: I think he did.
When I first met him he lost touch with Alex and Helen and Darren*.
And very much wanted to get back in touch with them. I think he had
heard somewhere that Darren at one point had tried to get back in touch
with him. And I had the feeling that they would find him - which is
exactly what they did. And so from then on which was about 1982 he spend
a lot of time with them. They all come back down to Ramsgate to live
from Oxford where they have been. So, he had the chance to make up for
it - a bit for that.
KG: You told me that especially Darren came a lot after Robert.
JC: Yes, and I think Alex as well. You could see in Robert and Alex together... painfully, I suppose, the tragic elements of Robert's life in Darren. In a funny sort of way Darren went off and did what Robert wrote about doing - which was to go off and join the foreign legion. That's probably how he contracted the illness that killed him.
KG: Would you say that there are a lot of things that are tragic about Robert's life in the whole?
JC: I think it probably
depends where you are when you ask that question. Obviously for me -
ultimately yes, because he died so young. But probably for Robert: no.
Because he lived it to the full - as much as he could.