Friday, 22 May 2009
CURATOR'S QUESTION TIME - BOB COLLINS
Before I go on with the show I would like to point out that I snagged these pics from Bob's MySpace page. If anyone objects to me using any of these pics let me know.
1. is of Bob and his wonderful £10 guitar
2. is a shot of Bob at CBGB's in 1991
3. is Bob in full flight shot by Sweet Fanny Adams who's magnificent work can be found on flickr.com
4. is Bob in rehearsals for The Dentists in 1985
Thanks to all for the pics.
So....the Medway Music Museum is proud to present the interior of the mind of Bob Collins.
Andy Export Questions...Bob Collins Answers
Q. Bob…to start with the basics…at what age did you first pick up a guitar?
A. Age 15 and I started with a bass because I thought that must be easier - fewer strings obviously.
Q. Which bands made you want to play?
A. Everything good that was around in 79/80. The Jam, The Clash, Joy Division, the Bunnymen are the ones that spring to mind first.
Q. It’s clear that the guitar is a passion for you but what else enthuses you in life?
A. Football, Cycling, Maps, Films, History, Politics
Q. How do you feel about the fact that there is now low-cost recording technology available…has this affected the craft of song writing?
A. The availability of low cost recording technology has got to be a good thing. If nothing else it has hopefully punctured the myth that you have to spend tens of thousands in a posh studio to be credible. Having said that it doesn't matter how sophisticated or primitive your technology is, you still have to know how to use it right. I really don't know if it's affected the way people write songs. Never thought of it that way.
Q. A producer once said that you were one of the best 3 guitarists he worked with. Can you throw light upon that one, please?
A. The producer was Mike Hedges and I wasn't there when he said it so it's second hand, but I think he said that Gary Moore was the best, followed by me, Bernard Butler and John KcKeogh as equal second. That made me very chuffed because I admire those two chaps immensely. On the other hand he may have been pissed and talking out of his arse :)
Q. So…what are you doing now?
A. As far as music goes I do what I can in between working for a living and raising a family. I've just started to perform as a solo artist. I've got a huge backlog of half written (and some complete written) songs that I've never used. And I'm still writing new ones. I've always thought I must do something with them but have not got off my arse and done so until now. I don't have a master plan and I'm very happy to keep it low key but I'm still thinking about whether I want to do something radical like make an album!
Q. Out of anyone/any band in the music scene at present…who would you crave to work with?
A. Tough one. I don't really crave to work with anyone particularly. I want my own way too much!
Q. What have been your favourite and least favourite venues?
A. Least favourite. The one that sprang to mind was this place called Bottoms in Folkestone, which was so very aptly named! A dank sweaty cellar at the arse end of everywhere! Favourite? From the Dentists days the basement of the Hammersmith Clarendon was our home from home in the 80s. Always a fantastic gig. The majority of other London venues were pretty dire.
Q. How do you compare being in a band to being a solo performer?
A. There are lots of plus points about being solo. Write and arrange songs exactly how you want them. No arguments about who drives the van, no humping of gear, no arguing over set lists etc etc. On the other hand you're very exposed and 'out there'. It's very weird to promote yourself as a solo artist. You're effectively saying "come and pay money to watch me sing and play" which is very different from just saying "come and see my band". You have to think "what makes me so special, what do i do up here to justify myself? what is my 'act'?". Not sure I know the answer to that yet :) I also enjoy the fact that I'm stretching myself. My comfort zone is playing guitar in a band and contributing some tunes. But singing and being a performer is something I have to work much harder at.
Q. Do you think it is difficult for the independent record companies and publishers to establish themselves in the music business today?
A. I honestly don't know. I'm way out of touch with the music business. And quite happily so. It certainly shouldn't be difficult. The internet still hasn't revolutionised the music business anywhere near as much as it should have done by now.
Q. The Dentists’ first single “Strawberries Are Growing In My Garden” was named runner-up single of the week in Smash Hits magazine. Any other low points?
A. I think the guy that did the singles that week (William Hurt) wanted to make it No 1 single of the week but the editor wouldn't allow that accolade to go to an unknown unsigned band. God I can't remember what it was that pipped us, but I do remember that it was also the same week as Raspberry Beret by Prince came out and he said we pissed all over it (not the exact words).
Q. How do you look back on the American adventure? (2 Albums…many live shows)
A. With great affection. Fantastic memories, fantastic adventure. Met lots of good people and good friends. I absolutely loved New York City especially. And we discovered that we had fans over there that had been waiting 5 years for us to play to them. That was quite astounding. Also I found the whole music scene over there so far far healthier than it was back home. That goes for bands, venues, press etc. etc.
Q. When Eastwest and The Dentists parted ways…was this a major sway on your decision to leave the band?
A. Yes, in that it was at that point that I knew we'd peaked and that it would be downhill from then on. If it was ever going to happen for us big time then that was our moment, and it passed.
Q. What do you think about being a big part of the Medway Music Scene for so many years?
A. Well it's been a good thing to be part of. But I don't really feel like I've played a big part other than just turn up and play. In the early days of The Dentists Mark was the one who had all the energy to make things happen and to put gigs on and start a label etc. The rest of us were pretty passive. It's only in the last 3 years that I've actually promoted things and made any effort to do anything other than my own music.
Q. Any big local influences?
A. When we were first starting out The Milkshakes and The Prisoners were massive massive influences, not so much musically but for the instilling of the Medway mentality. First because of the raw energy that they put into their performances, and secondly their whole attitude to equipment and recording. Stuff like recording drums to sound live, using valve amps, which was anathema to most people in the 80s but now widely accepted.
Q. When a stranger asks “What kind of music do you play?”…what do you say?
A. I make a face like I'm trying to get a pineapple out of my bottom and say "er..... i don't know..... kind of... indie guitar rock" then go and wash my mouth out.
Q. What’s your ringtone?
A.The one that sounds most like a 'proper' phone.
Q. Are you resigned to staying solo now (nothing wrong with that) or is there a chance that we could see Bob Collins in a 4 or 5 piece rock band again?
A. I'll never say never. I really enjoyed playing with Groovy Uncle last year. Gary Robertson is talking about us doing something together and there's constant chatter about reunion gigs for other bands I've been in.
Q. How can fans-to-be gain access to your music? Any web-sites, pages, links etc that you can share with us? (you-tube, MySpace, Medway happenings etc)
A. My solo stuff is on www.myspace.com/thebobtapes
Q. Is the national music scene as exciting as it once was?
A. No idea. I think these things go in cycles, you have periods where things are shaken up a bit and then get a bit stale. There are certainly a hell of a lot of popular bands at the moment who are very dull, derivative and with very little character or originality. Honourable exceptions School of Language/Field Music, British Sea Power, Comet Gain.
Q. Any last comments?
A. It's 1.10am and I'm going to bed.
The Medway Music museum would like to thank Bob for the chance to use him as a guinea-pig. Please feel free to leave comments about the "interview"