|- 2nd Aug 2013 -
On the night of 2nd August 1973 fifty people lost their lives and eighty were
seriously injured in a fire that destroyed Summerland leisure complex in Douglas,
Isle of Man. Opened in 1971, this climate-controlled pleasure palace built to
accommodate 10,000 tourists was heralded as a more affordable alternative to the
European package holiday promising a place “where it never rains and never gets chilly”.
It proved immediately popular attracting half a million visitors in its first season alone.
At the time of the fire an estimated 3000 people were inside. For a number of
reasons including poor building design and inadequate fire regulations,
a seemingly innocuous blaze that began in a disused fibreglass kiosk left
outside beside the miniature golf course, spread quickly to engulf Summerland
and produce the conflagration that had such tragic consequences.
To mark the 40th anniversary of the disaster and in memory of the victims,
Quarter-Pounder are releasing a new collection of songs on 2nd August 2013 entitled “Summerland”.
|-2012/13-Moving To London (Again)
In August, Robert said he wanted to visit Summerland. Douglas is on the other side of the island,
a twenty minute drive or a three hour walk. Robert, who doesn't own a car, wanted to walk. I said
I'd drive him. It would sort of be his goodbye to the area - he plans to move to London (again),
with Charley. Given Robert's vulnerability no-one thinks this is a good idea, but he is neither
young enough to be malleable nor old enough to be scared, and so he will go. We set our visit to
the capital for 2 August, a Thursday. I am supposed to be working, but I take the day off to accommodate
Robert, which requires me spending the previous day and evening with him, up until five o'clock in the morning,
watching the entire contents of an Arnold Schwarzenegger box set he has recently purchased, and smoking through
several dried banana skins, which Robert has heard suggested as a palliative for depression.
When the dawn is breaking and I am unable to distinguish the television set from the wall behind it, and
am overpowered with an urge to vomit which my body will not accede to, Robert suggests we set off.
The drive, which I have undertaken several times before, I remember little of. We arrive in the capital
about six, having thankfully seen no more vehicles, and park up on Port Jack, opposite the bay.
The air is still sharp, and I would prefer to stay in the car, but Robert bounces out. All that remains
of Summerland is the east wall, across the rail tracks on the side of the cliff. Robert points out the
diving board, still proud against the rocks, and enlightens me on how many people died here, all those
years ago. I know the history of course, but I listen to him. After a few minutes he lapses into silence
and begins scratching himself. I have been scratching myself for the last two hours, so I pay him no attention.
I do however pay attention when he crosses the road to the bay, goes down some steps to the water and disappears
from sight. I shout, run to the steps and see him in the water swimming, fully clothed. Fucking swimming.
I shout again but he ignores me. He is not swimming away, which would I suppose have necessitated me going
in after him, but just around in circles. I still don't think it's a good idea, but I'm fucked if I'm going
in after him. I know it's irresponsible, but I just think Fuck him and go back to the car and start the engine.
Turn the heat on and wait.
By October, Robert is living with Charley in a squat in East Ham, as dire an area as I can remember visiting.
The flat, which they share with an elderly black American who has taken such a shine to the boys he has begun
calling himself Bubba Peacefull, has no carpet or hot water, and a section of ceiling has collapsed near
Charley's bed, allowing the ingress of rain whenever the weather is inclement. Charley, with characteristic care,
has chosen this exact spot to store his sole electric guitar, which as a result has warped and discoloured
significantly, resulting in an aesthetic Charley claims to prefer. The improvement, if any there is, does
not carry over to the instrument's timbre - when plugged in, the guitar generally resists all attempts at
amplification, and only when played most insistently will it produce a sound resembling that of a stylophone.
Not that Charley plays it much. His time is taken up with a Belgian prostitute of advancing years who will
accommodate most of his wishes except those involving Bubba. Robert has got a job in a call centre based in
Ealing and sets off every morning at 7.30am.
First Thursday in November. Robert is at work, and Charley is in Bubba's room. They call it a 'room'. In reality,
it is a mattress in the hallway outside the toilet. The toilet, like everything else, is broken and leaks fetid
liquid across the floorboards where it soaks into the mattress upon which Bubba and Charley now sit.
They have previously made it clear I am unwelcome in Bubba's 'room', but on this occasion, as I am leaving the toilet,
Charley bids me sit. I choose a spot on the mattress furthest from the cistern and gingerly lower myself. Bubba
has one of those miniature Martell's bottles and Charley is unpeeling the cellophane from an item of undoubted narcotics.
'Ever done crack?' asks Charley. His standard conversational gambits centre around drugs, drug users or autopsies,
so for him this is a fairly orthodox way to open a dialogue with someone he hasn't seen in five years. 'No,' I say. 'Why?'
Charley ignores me, continues unwrapping the drug which I now assume to be crack. The more crack gets unwrapped, the
more excited Bubba gets, until at the last wrap he is audibly gurgling. They proceed to place the grains on the lip
of the Martell's bottle, which I now see has been set up as a crack pipe, with gauze at one end and a hole in the base,
and smoke it up. Bubba passes the pipe to me and after unobtrusively wiping his saliva from the rim, I take a hit.
We are thus engaged when Charley's girlfriend enters. Charley's girlfriend is not the Belgian prostitute mentioned earlier.
No, Charley's girlfriend has no knowledge of Belgian prostitutes (except as an abstract idea) and even less of crack cocaine
or the milieu of its users.
Some ten minutes later, this omission in her cultural awareness is filled in, and the situation is resolved. She leaves the
house as Charley's ex-girlfriend, bumping into Robert on the way in. He has been sacked. He joins us on the mattress and I
pass him the pipe.
There is a series of gigs which get better as they go on. All feature Bubba on percussion. The first few are truncated
generally by Charley's inability to recall the lyrics to his own songs, or the chords to Robert's. The first of all takes
place in the pub opposite their squat, procured by Bubba, who is a regular there, and whose landlord loans Robert a bass
guitar for the occasion. Robert doesn't really know how to play bass, and it soon transpires Bubba doesn't really know how
to keep time or if he does the ability deserts him the more crack he imbibes. The gig could kindly be described as 'loose',
a few of Bubba's drinking mates amusing themselves by flicking lit matches at him, the remainder of the clientele amusing
themselves by leaving. At the end, Charley gets into an argument with a barman concerning payment, or lack thereof, and
things get a bit hairy. I am not a man built for confrontation, so I swiftly take my leave of the premises as the bouncers
circle. I am woken from a pleasant sleep two hours later by Charley , who is sitting in Bubba's 'room', nursing a thick lip
and painting patterns onto the fretboard of the landlord's bass, unconcernedly painting over the strings of the instrument
until Robert shouts at him.
By February, the gigs have taken some kind of form. Bubba has been restricted, by Robert, to two cans of Okocim, two rocks
of crack and one snort of heroin per gig and seems to be the better for it, capable if not of steadiness then at least of
some kind of dynamics which suits the music. Charley remembers all his chords, but is still shaky on arrangements, which
Robert says is negotiable. Robert himself is occasionally of good voice - he tells me a recent trip to the doctors involved
a lung-capacity test wherein which he discovered his lung capacity is greater now than when he was twenty, something he
attributes to inhalation of crack cocaine. They open their set with a cover of Always Crashing In The Same Car, and follow
up with three of Robert's songs, one of Charley's (Charley doesn't like singing in public) and finish with a cover of Street
Fighting Man, an excuse for Bubba to pound his kit and Charley to solo (something Robert generally discourages).
Later, Charley and Bubba take us to a great 'hang-out' as Bubba calls it. This turns out to be a kebab bar with a backroom
in which a saxophonist is blowing over a karaoke tape of 'My Funny Valentine'. Robert sits at a table while Bubba disappears
into the toilets for an extended period. Charley orders kebabs for everyone, including the saxophonist, who dedicates the
next song ('Lazy River') to him. Spirits are high. The gig did not pay, but no-one got into a fight and the landlord
from the first pub has not yet tried to reclaim his bass. Bubba reappears, faintly sick looking, and Charley plonks down
a mixed shish in front of him. The evening degenerates and at five in the morning, all I remember is being in a flat somewhere
with the saxophonist and Bubba shouting at each other, and I realise I have vomited and slink out without being noticed. When
I get back to the squat, Charley is in the kitchen, staring at the sunset. When he hears me he looks round guiltily and I
see that he has been crying.
The last gig I see before going back home in April is the most successful. It takes place in a pub in Green Lanes, but the
highlight of the night for Bubba is visiting a Costcutter at Manor House tube, on the Seven Sisters junction. I assume it
is because Bubba is stocking up on Okocim, but no, he tells me this used to be a hot music venue where the Stones, Beatles
and Hendrix played. Back back back in the day. Bubba knows his history, so I trust him, but it is hard to imagine standing
in the brightly lit minimarket that you may be on the same spot as John Lennon.
The gig has started when we get back. QP are playing third on a bill of four - first act being a folk-singer whose only
discernible lyrics concern the 'minorities' and who fails to engage anyone's attention. Musicians exposed to such disregard
tend to assume one of two poses: a) That they are poets unappreciated by the morons to which they must perform or b) That
they themselves are useless and they know it and now you know it too. That latter is more endearing, but the folk-singer
chooses attitude (a), which is a shame as it blows his last chance of a redeeming quality.
The second band are so dull you can't even tell who their influences are. They just play clean, major-key songs without
any syncopation, effects, arpeggios, fills, solos or flourishes of any kind. It is so boring, it is as if someone has made
them play in this band as a punishment - instead of writing out fifty times 'I will not fart in class,' they have to play
fifty of these stupefying gigs.
Perhaps set against the preceding fare, or perhaps just because I have gotten to know the songs, the QP set has a shimmer
about it from the first note. Charley sets into his guitar for As Easy As It Comes, channelling Gram Parsons via Kevin Shields
and producing something really quite engaging. The audience (which for the first time includes Charley's Belgian prostitute
and an unsmiling muscular man of Turkish appearance I take to be her pimp) sense it too, and the band have a little attention
directed to them by the time they plunge into Shirley's Misdemeanours, a new song that can almost lay claim to a groove, even
fermented as it is in Bubba's Polish beer rhythms. Street Fighting Man ratchets things up a notch and gets the biggest cheer
of the evening. Robert thanks the audience with that olde-worlde old-beanishness he has picked up from repeated viewings of
Jon Pertwee Dr Who episodes and the boys plough ahead with Charley's hoedown Hole In My Socket and end on a plangent guitar
version of The Cuckold's Open Arms, actually one of my favourite songs of theirs. The final harmonica rings out and people
clap and Charley says something no-one hears, and then straightaway they have to unplug and pack up because a band that sounds
like the Wonder Stuff is waiting to go on.
Robert is speaking with Charley about Summerland and Charley nods. They agree to visit in the summer. It will be forty years
since the fire. It will also be forty years since Charley's birth, Charley having been born the day of the fire itself,
something which precludes him from being blamed for it as he drolly notes. Before then, there are more gigs to play. They
still dream of playing a gig in their hometown, something which, excluding house parties, they have never done (Charley asks,
'Does the Creg Malin still put on bands?' Robert : 'It closed down ten years ago.'). There is also more music to record.
Charley has some songs, Robert has lots and even Bubba has a couple of ideas he wants to chip in. For now, there is peace,
and creativity and they know they have to change a lot of things but they are still together and still recording.
|- 19th Jan 2008 -
The 3rd Album!
For your pleasure we are pleased to anounce the release of the third
colllection of songs by Robert and Charles entitled "The Forgotten Wings That
Brought Me Joy", it was recorded in Dublin during the Summer of 2007. A special
thank you to J.P and Lenny for their help in the recording process, and to all
of you who have sent such kind messages of support over the year.
|- Sept 2007 -
The Dublin Recordings
Robert and Charles have been recording some new songs at a fan’s house in
Dublin. I went with them to help with the carrying and offer moral support, and
thought it would be fun to try to write up some of what happened at the
Tuesday 7.20 p.m.
|Charley’s in a foul mood. He’s spent three hours this afternoon trying to
tune a banjo he bought in Grafton St for €70, and every time he gets close,
Robert tells him it’s not in concert pitch. They’ve got the tuning from some
website, but the banjo pegs are sliding every which way, hang on tone just long
enough for Charley to finger a chord, before glissing atonally. Robert’s not
even looking, clicking random boxes on Cubase with the expression of a man
who’s asked for a haircut and ended up with extensions. I almost feel sorry for
him, even though he made me carry the amp from the airport, on the bus (no
money for taxi). Charley lives in Dublin now, working on one of the dozens of
construction projects going on all around the city. But we’re not at Charley’s
place – he lives in some squalid dump out in…well, I don’t know where it is,
but I know I’m not going back there. Went yesterday. Up eight flights of
chipped stone stairs that stank of piss, to Charley’s front door, from where I
discovered the stench was actually coming. Glance inside – crusted jeans
hanging from the light bulb, curtain of flies, some shape on the sofa that
could’ve been one person or could’ve been two very close together (difficult to
tell), but either way was in urgent need of some Persil. Charley does in fact
possess a box of washing powder – it was the specific reason we had returned to
his flat in the first place. He keeps his plectrums, screwdrivers and snooker
chalk herein. Also some Mars Volta CDs, which he insists on playing before we
Compared to that, today is almost fun. Robert has calmed down from his flight.
Charley has got most of the guitars strung and tuned. And girls are popping in
and out of the house on various errands. To say Charley has a way with women
would be distorting things – none of them appear to be past or putative sexual
partners, and for some reason he has them running round doing favours for each
other. All the while Robert Googles ‘banjo chords’.
Bobby’s own personal life is a crossword without clues. He’s lost weight, yes,
but doesn’t even talk about women, or men for that matter. It’s almost like
that adolescent thing where you don’t talk with your friends about sex if you
aren’t getting it and they are, and get so used to not talking about it, you
don’t say anything even when you are getting some, because it feels strange to
be participating in the conversation. Yes, with Robert you wouldn’t even know –
nervous with pleasure. Never happier than when he’s got something to be unhappy
Thursday 3.00 p.m
|And now, how many, twelve, thirteen takes of some slide part Charley’s
attempting to record whilst watching Wimbledon with the sound turned down, not
trying to be nonchalant (he’s not a good enough musician), just genuinely more
interested in some zeroes hitting a ball over a net. Takes get blown by mobile
phones ringing, guitars slipping out of tune (not one instrument here worthy of
being even a My First Guitar gift for some eager virgin-fingered 12-year old
who doesn’t know his Zoot Horn Rollo from his last Rolo), the Cubase crashing,
being asked to hold far too much information than its geriatric memory can cope
with, the computer anyway stuffed mostly with Asian porn, a little corner of
RAM tucked away for the Peacefulls, but not a take goes by without error
messages flashing agitatedly. Robert (who knows nothing about PCs) curses,
sweats, prods, pokes, shouts, kicks and shakes the machine, take after take
after take before exploding ‘fuck it’, giving up, going to the pub, coming
home, listening to Lester Flatt, trying again, and for some reason the computer
accepts it this time first try. In such a way, sessions proceed
Friday 1.40 p.m.
|Charley, just out of bed, bacon sandwich in hand, recording one of the
lamest, polyester vocals this side of Travis and insisting that that is the
take, the perfect version. Robert, not slept much I don’t think, plunking
guitar most of the morning, or at least when I staggered up from couch to
toilet he was there, not tuning the thing, not even properly playing it, just,
well, fucking plunking. The sort of thing that musicians do in between takes at
rehearsals, when their fingers are bored, in no way compositionally or
harmonically directed. He uncharacteristically yells at Charley – “I fucking
want it to sound boring”. Apparently he has this idea (that Charley has
contemptuously christened “MeTwee”), the essence of which being endless songs
about that girlfriend that wasn’t quite a girlfriend, or that trauma that
wasn’t even quite a trauma, or that cock up that wasn’t anywhere near being a
cock up, hmmm. According to Bobby the only way to even bother to attempt to
perform MeTwee is not to try to project out, you know, the
listen-to-the-artist-suffering approach of countless sobbing simperers, but to
accept that it is all so far inside that it is utterly uninteresting to anyone
but your own self, no not even to whichever poor female unwittingly prodded
your creative juices into life. Hence the plunking. Fine. Great. Whatever. But
does he have to be so deliberately dull?
Saturday 9.05 p.m.
|It should be noted, if not obvious, that the Peacefulls are not precious.
They would say they are just victims of circumstance. Take Robert’s vocals.
After a week of trying to record and mix and write and eat and sing and reboot
the computer, Robert gives up and takes to his bed. Charley busies himself with
watching highlights of tennis matches that he watched live earlier in the day,
and adding outlandish digital effects to guitar parts already on the Cubase,
most of which will be removed later.
|Strange and unsettling. Following over three days in bed Robert emerges from
his mini- retreat, glassy eyed, baggy faced, string haired, greasy cheeked,
rind lipped, blackhead nosed, dirt nailed, scab skinned and grubby necked, pads
past myself zonked on sofa as usual, lights up computer, sets up microphone by
VDU glow and – slumped in chair with mic in hand – zums through vocals for all
six of his songs, before snapping off the PC and returning to bed without
Friday 4.15 p.m.
|Titles. Robert is brooding over the merits of ‘The Getting Low’, for him as
much a statement of fact/intent as a gentle broadside towards the recent Bonnie
‘Prince’ Billy recording. Charley wants to call this set of songs (he refers to
them charmingly as an LP) ‘Plunderphonics’, but I know for a fact that’s just a
fancy name for ripping off other people’s stuff, that Charley got from reading
about Neoism. It’s appropriate though. The squeaks and slimy retainers of
blatant theft run through many a tune put down, either a lyric, or a chord
progression or a whole piece of someone else’s recording that the brothers have
haplessly lifted. When our house host raises this with Robert, he (R) actually
has the effrontery to claim permission for the stealing, going into some
blather about having emailed LaMonte Young and received the great man’s OK for
the unadorned wholesale relocation of one of his pieces into the Peacefull
corpus. Charley, equally bizarrely, chips in that he himself has recently
assented to a QP sample being used by The Books.
They will make even odder assertions. A process of removal, or reframing as the
NLPers might have it. If you nick a chord sequence from musician A, mix it with
lyrics from musician B and adorn it with recorded segments of musician C, is it
still possible for your own personality to come through, and what does it say
about a personality that is more accurately expressed by this form of
sewn-together ‘creativity’? And then, within this melange, you jumble things up
even more by dropping displaced fragments of your own compositions into the
slop without rhyme or reason, appearing incongruously inside tunes they were
never intended to fit, the whole plethora resembling nothing so much as random
tunings across an FM band (a sound which actually appears in one of the songs).
It’s an extension of Charley’s stance on boredom – the Peacefulls have such low
attention spans, they channel surf in their own songs, with no intention of
assuaging or (God forbid) entertaining the listener, instead replicating the
bored lassitude and thumb-flicking remote control restlessness that is Robert’s
standard evening and, one suspects, is often Charley’s lot, too. It is music as
soap opera, a complete patchwork of million times told stories, glossily put
together (glossy never being an adjective previously applicable to QP, but
they’ve gone and got ambitious on this set), a background which becomes a
foreground when the vicissitudes of ‘lived’ life offer up no other meaningful
I don’t know whether this is good or bad. A virtue out of a necessity? Well, QP
music has never had much of either virtue or necessity, except inasmuch as it
keeps Charley out of trouble and Bobby on an even keel (an ample ‘ish’ to both
of those). A load of old bollocks? More than likely, but whose to say?
Sunday 7.50 p.m
|The last day of recording (Charley’s fortnight off work is up), everyone is
unusually clear-headed, and they manage to pull out a song I can there and then
appreciate. Nailed on the first take (after apparently several abortive
run-throughs the previous night, when I was down Temple Bar), piano-tinkling,
wistful cuckold epideictics that each brother claims is about his situation. I
can say now, I don’t know if it’s Robert’s Korean girl or Charley’s Spanish
one, or even if it’s about a girl. To cover up, I flick mashed potato at the
piano after the song finishes. Bobby closes the lid, and conscientiously
removes the food globs from the carpet. Charley cuffs me around the head.
There’s a moment of silence. I can hear the TV coming though from the next-door
neighbours. The cuff was not a gentle one. I have become the centre of
|- 3rd Dec 2006 -
We are pleased to announce the arrival of the second collection of songs from
Quarter-Pounder. It is entitled "You Seek It Like A Dream But When You Find It
You Become Its Prey" Recorded over two days in early September it is now
available for free download. The Peacefull brothers would like to say a special
thankyou to the Mile End boy for the use of his unique recording facilities, so
making this collection possible
|- 1st June 2006 -
Interview with Robert
On the 20th May this year, I travelled up to Peel, on the Isle of Man, where
Robert is staying with his parents, to show him this website and the one at
myspace. The conversation was recorded and is transcribed below.
Q: Bobby, how are you?
A: I’m OK. How’s London?
Q: The same. I think they’re about to extend the congestion charge zone.
A: Glad I failed my driving test [laughs]
Q: You heard from Charley at all?
A: Not recently. You?
Q: I think he’s in Peckham, or Camberwell, or somewhere like that…
A: Only Fools and Horses country? [laughs]
A: I think he got Mayumi [Shuoko, Robert’s ex-wife] to ring up, see if I
was OK. So he knows where I am.
Q: Fair enough.
Q: So what do you think of the website?
A: Great, really good. I mean, it’s basic, but there’s not much to say
about us, is there?
Q: You’d be surprised. You’re getting lots of good comments.
A: Oh really? Such as? [some of the comments posted on the myspace page
are read out] Jesus. Is that real?
Q: I guess so.
A: Well, at least it seems they like my stuff more than his [laughs].
No, fuck, that’s amazing. I don’t want to get too, you know, excited about it,
but it sounds great. Thank you.
Q: You’re welcome. Why not get excited?
A: Well, fuck, if I look at myself in the mirror and think, “You used to
be a musician,” it depresses me. If I look into the mirror and think, “You used
to be a meat packer,” it cheers me up. That’s how I like it. Ex-meat packer.
Q: They haven’t got websites for meat packers.
A: Oh come on. I’m sure they do. Some chatroom or something.
Q: Can I ask about songs?
A: What songs?
Q: The ones I put on the website. Butchered Sweetness, Chet Carter all
A: Oh, them. Do we have to? I mean, it’s nice people are saying nice
things about them, but I just cringe when I hear them. Acoustic wrist-slitters
about the ex-wife. Yuk!
Q: …So, have you been writing any new stuff?
A: Yeah. Acoustic wrist-slitters about the ex-wife [laughs]. Well, what
else am I going to do? Write techno?
Q: Is Charley going to play on them?
A: We had a bit of a sit-down a while ago. He’s got a number of
wrist-slitters of his own [laughs]. Better than mine, to be honest. Far more
likely to make you want to top yourself. [laughs] We played a bit, I dunno
what’ll happen next. I’d like to record some more, but the problem is where.
Sometimes, Charley can be more trouble than he’s worth.
Q: Come on. You wouldn’t record anything without him.
A: Actually, nearer to the truth is that I couldn’t record anything
without him. You know, that guy only let us record at his place because Charley
threatened to break his legs?
Q: I think that’s an exaggeration.
A: Fuck you what you think. I was there.
Q: He was a friend of yours.
A: He was a friend before the session started. I haven’t heard fuck all
since. This is why we haven’t got anything ready to put on the site.
Q: Hang on, you said session? Just the one?
A: Yeah, just the one session. What you think? We’re not exactly Pink
Q: Hmm. You know I could almost believe that crap about Charley
threatening that guy. I’ve seen him do some stupid stuff before. Thinks he’s
out of The Sopranos.
A: Minder, more like. Yeah, I envy him that – if someone calls Charley a
cunt, he thumps them. Someone calls me a cunt, I go home and think about it and
figure they’re right. I envy Charley his knuckles [laughs].
Q: Maybe you should get him to teach you some moves?
A: Don’t need ‘em here, do I?
Q: I was going to ask about that. Here, I mean. Peel. How much longer?
A: Will I be here?
A: …I dunno. The older I get, the more nervous crowds of people make me.
Thinking about all the clubs we used to go to, way back when, I can’t believe I
did that shit. It’s like I was a mountaineer, or something, you know, a
different life that I was trained for then, but could never get back in shape
Q: A mountaineer…?
A: I know. It’s the first thing that came into my head [laughs].
Q: I like that bit about training.
A: Well, fuck, I hate people who go on about age, but it can seems
sometimes that once you get past thirty, you gotta train for everything all of
a sudden, things that came naturally, before: Fucking, dancing, jamming, even
eating, in my case.
Q: How are things with that? You do look a bit slimmer.
A: Very kind. I’ll keep the razor blades under wraps for another day
[laughs]. Actually, when a fucker as fat as me wants to top himself, he doesn’t
do it with razor blades, he does it with cheeseburgers.
A: [laughs] Very good. There’s some tonker-toy psychology there
somewhere, isn’t there?
Q: Somewhere. Let’s leave it for someone else.
Q: Can we talk about influences? Some people are mentioning Daniel
A: I’ve met him, you know. I don’t mean to suggest there’s some secret
society of fat, musical fuck-ups that we both belong to [laughs]. No, he does
his thing, but I don’t think we sound like him.
Q: You met him?
A: Well, “met” is probably too strong a word. I saw him play a gig in
New Orleans, and it was just gobsmacking. I went up to him afterwards and asked
him to sign a CD and he did.
Q: What did he say?
A: Fuck all. [laughs] I said something to him, I don’t remember what,
but he didn’t say fuck all back. He was just surrounded by girls. About the
only famous person I’ve spoken to, if you can call him famous.
Q: Well, they just made a film about him.
A: You’re joking! About Daniel Johnston?
A: What, with actors?
Q: No, no, a documentary.
A: Fuck, when’s it out?
Q: Now, I think.
A: Jesus. D’you think people’ll go and see it?
Q: I guess so.
A: Jesus. I suppose I should get it when it comes on DVD, or something.
Q: Come to London and see it.
A: Yeah, I should do. If for no other reason than to try and get some
sex. They don’t even have whores in Peel, or none that I found. [laughs]
Q: Do you see Mayumi much when you’re in London?
A: Not much. No. She works in an office, or something like that. I dunno
Q: What about Paul [Goswell, Robert’s longest-standing boyfriend]?
A: No, he’s trying to be straight again. You know, he’s got a family,
kids and all that? I met ‘em once, nice kids. He veers around, you know what I
mean? When I met him, he’d veered into queer. [laughs]
Q: Anyone else?
A: One or two others. Mainly girls. I stay in touch with them and say
nice things, and they think I’m nice, but I just want to fuck them. I mean, I
am nice, and I say nice things to lots of people, but with them, I say nice
Q: It’s nice to be nice.
A: Yeah, but strategically? I mean, some of the Nazis were probably nice
to the people they were taking into the ovens.
Q: That’s a heavy analogy.
A: Yeah, I dunno where that came from. I don’t mean to imply that
sleeping with me is akin to being gassed to death. [laughs] I just want to, I
dunno, make things obvious sometimes.
Q: Is that what this website’s supposed to be about?
A: No, nothing so blatant. Not as far as I’m concerned, anyway. I just
wanted people to hear the crap we do.
Q: There must’ve been a time in your life when you wanted to be famous.
When you were in The Gifts?
A: Yeah, of course. Everyone does, don’t they? I always thought anyone
under the age of 27 who didn’t want to be famous lacked imagination. And anyone
over the age of 27 who did, lacked brains. [laughs]
Q: Is that why you just wanted all the songs put on the website?
A: Yeah, I mean, for me, turning the corner, freeing the shackles,
however you want to put it, is when you stop caring about “making it”. You
know, the record deal, the tour, the TV shows. I stopped wanting that ten years
ago and stopped caring about it five years ago.
Q: . . .
A: So, no stupid shit – no T-shirts, no gigs, no records, no money
changing hands, no mythologies, no photos: just a bunch of songs. In years gone
by, we’d have just recorded them on cassette and played them to friends. But
with this new-fangled internet thing [laughs] …well, anyone who wants to can
listen, make their own CDs. It’s fun.
Q: Do you do much, here?
A: What, writing, playing?
A: A little. Like with Charley a couple of months back, but mainly it’s
uninspiring here. Too quiet.
Q: Yeah, quiet is certainly the word.
A: I don’t like being on the island too much, truth be told. It’s like
living in a pair of jaws, waiting for them to close. That nostalgia thing –
people shouldn’t go back to where they grew up until they’re old. Your memories
blur, and you know that particular bit of street corner reminds you of
something, but you don’t know if it’s from when you were 4 or 34. [laughs] It’s
Q: Do you have friends here still?
A: Yeah, there are people, but mainly I try to avoid them [laughs].
There’s a guy at the supermarket down the road, the assistant manager, I think
– I used to go to school with him.
Q: Friends in high places.
A: Him or me? [laughs] Whenever I go in there, he looks at me like his
football team’s just beaten mine 4-0. I mean, he’s got a pretty wife, pretty
kids, nice house and is probably happy as Larry, so who am I to sneer? He’s
happy – he has won. I’m unhappy for some fucking reason half the fucking time –
I have lost. It’s as simple as that. But I tell you, fat fuck that I am, I
wouldn’t swap my life with his. How can he be happy? I don’t see what he has to
live for [laughs].
Q: People have different priorities.
A: So the doctors tell me [laughs]. Perhaps you should prioritise
happiness, money, that sort of thing. I never did, not cos I’m any kind of
suffering artist or selfless saint, just some prick who didn’t realise that the
people who get on in life are the ones who can be good at things they don’t
enjoy. Fuck that. I’d much rather be bad at things I do enjoy [laughs].
Q: Isn’t loneliness a problem?
A: No, I kind of think loneliness is the solution [laughs]. I dunno what
good the world ever got out of someone being happy.
Q: What good did the world ever get out of someone being obese and
A: . . .I dunno. Fuck. [laughs] To tell the truth, I would swap it all –
but not for a supermarket and kids and a car. Just for silence – the smell of
her hair, after she’s showered. Her waist. Twenty years of that – her hair, her
waist and silence.
Q: I think you’d get fed up of it after twenty minutes.
A: Oh, without doubt. Not twenty seconds and I’d be thinking of the tits
and arse [laughs].
Q: I think that relieves me, in some way.
A: Well, what you think? That I’m some kind of fuck-up? [laughs]
Q: Do you want to carry on, or . . .
A: Actually, would you mind if we cut it short there? I’m starting to
feel like I’m in a job interview. [laughs]
Q: Fair enough. We have been going on.
A: Listen, if you’re going out, could you get me some milk and things?
The mother never buys enough, and I can’t stand to face that smug bastard in
the supermarket any more…