Excerpt from "Coversations with contemporary musicians",chapter on Robyn Hitchcock
Death is the last present that everyone unwraps. It's the one that they leave till midnight on Christmas day, but you have to unwrap it sometime. You can't leave the room without unwrapping it. It's the gift that everybody has to open but nobody asks for.
I would have thought all songwriters would be writing about sex and death -- those are the two main concerns. Romantic love can be enduring or it can be fleeting. Love isn't a gift, whereas sex and death are gifts. Whether we love each other is a moot point. What is certain is that at the end of everyday we are one step closer to our own oblivion. We're all going to be kicked through that door, and no one has ever come back through it. Maybe Jesus did, but maybe he was something different when he came back, maybe it wasn't Jesus anymore. Who knows? Either way, that's not enough to make me get down and worship Jesus. I used to see all these pictures of wars in books my parents had lying around, these cartoons depictying skulls everywhere, and Hieronyus Bosch and stuff like that. I grew up in the shadow of the skull. But I think the other thing that you have to emphasize is that of all the musicians you have talked to, I have had the easiest life. I've probably had only one person who was close to me die in forty-three years, I've never been punched out, I've never been badly ill, I've never been financially destitute. i've had a very comfortable existence
Stuff just filters through, doesn't it? You live and it comes out in your work. It's in your handwriting. But what really matters is your state of mind when you die. You might have lived quite an evil life but never realized it; you might die a contented person because nothing has ever challenged your way of behaving. Or you might have been a good person, but you still are dissatisfied with yourself. So I'm interested whether there is some point where you pass through the vale and they show you what you really were like. I've always thought that when you die perhaps your consciousness is played back to you and you have to judge it.
My theory is that humanity is doomed unless we make some kind of evolutionary leap. I can't see us going around and around in the same agonies indefinitely. As technology improves, sooner or later the whole thing will rub itself out, or we will rub it out, in which case we'll probably take everything else with us. I believe that the earth is a form of intelligence. It's Gaia, which is life, or God, if you know what I mean. It isn't a moral sort of thing; it's just that generally life works itself out. Gaia is the idea that the whole world is a living intelligent organism. Nature generally manages to regulate itself, but every so often some thing crops up like the human that doesn't really fit in. I think something will physically evolve in us. In my story, i suggest that its a third eye opening -- that the skin on your forehead rips open and new eyeball pokes through, and with that new eyeball you can really see and empathize with other people. It's kind of what everybody thought they were doing with drugs, although in fact, the drugs are only making them more remote, more selfish, more paranoid. If the true empathy were made manifest, then when somebody cut their knee, everybody would feel it. It wouldn't be complete loss of identity, but people would start to buoy each other up. They'd be able to sympathize with each other a lot more, and maybe cure each other's cancer.
I've got a song where I say, "We are all different versions of the same thing." I'd love to believe that, but there are many people who are so hostile I can't even believe that they are the same species as me. I look at a fascist kid or something, and I think these creatures are not my species. I think there has got to be a physical change, and when this happens most of our art will become irrelevant. Things like Shakespeare's and Dostoevsky's writings won't mean anything because we won't be in that same kind of pain that humanity was in when those words were written.
I think that the more brutality I'm aware of, the more I appreciate what beauty is. Does that mean we need insane extremes to keep us upright? I don't really know. If I am disturbed by sex, or revolted by the body, maybe it's because I was shocked for such a long time by even being in a body. For the first thirty-five to forty years, it was quite a shock; you know, what am I doing in this incarnation? Maybe I have moved beyond that existentialist phase now, but we don't really know if there's anybody in our body or not. We don't know if we are supposed to exist or not. Our bodies may be valuable condos that we've queued up for millennia to inhabit, for which we've given some cosmic realtor so many karmic credits. So maybe we did ask to be born, in which case we should have some respect for the existence that we have. It's certainly worth it to value what you've got, even in the midst of bewailing what you have.
I'm a very religious person, I just don't worship at any particular shrine. I think specific gods are a substitute for your parents. When you're little, you can hold up your hand and someone big will reach down and hold it. As you get bigger, there's nobody to reach up to anymore, and this has freaked people out over the generations. So they've invented Jehovah and Christ and Allah and Odin and Sol and Hecated and God knows how many of them, and they try and placate these gods, just like kids try to please their parents when they're mad at them.
But the sacredness that's implicit in religion is very important. Although it's inevitable that most of the world's major religions are in decline except for fundamentalism, the sense of sacredness is really important. Life is sacred, life is magical, life is beyond our understanding. Life comes from something we don't know and is going somewhere we cannot get to yet. But humans, if anything can be said for us, have got prying minds, and we'll keep jumping up and down until we can see over the fence and find out what's there.
I don't know what I'm really doing with my life as a musician. Music just points you somewhere and you have to follow it. It used to be just entertainment, and then this stuff came up in the sixties about singers being philosopher kings and shamans. They were supposed to be so much more than just singers. I grew up in those times, and although I knew that ultimately they were just sexy looking guys in tight trousers who had a way with words, I felt that people like Dylan and Lennon and Jim Morrison still stumbled across the truth in some way.
I never wanted to be a god, because I don't think humans can stand that. Humans are mortal, they exist in time and they crack. If you achieved godhood, it wouldn't be through becoming a pop star, because in the end you will fall, just as they've all fallen. You know, rock stars are all here on sufferance. They're there because they're making billions for The record company and the management and so they're allowed to have a few million for themselves. They're allowed to exist because they generate money for the business.The truth is I'm not sure if I'm a philosopher or a comedian, but I love music, and little bits of my philosophy must drip through into what I play. I should probably meditate and get the third eye going, but I think i'm evolving some understanding of the universe, I think I'm beginning to get an idea. I think you crash into things and by crashing into things, you realize where they are. Eventually you realize where Everything is and you avoid falling out of the window every time you want to go to the bathroom.