Home Forums Robert Wyatt Shipbuilding Wyatt on longevity

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    Here, with Richie Unterberger asking the intelligent question, is Robert just before the release of his last solo album:

    Q: There have been very few people who started in the underground rock scene in the ’60s who have spanned the eras from psychedelia to progressive rock to punk and post-punk, and are still very active in the 1990s. How have you been able to fit in with all the various movements? And, why do you think there have been so few musicians from 20, 30 years ago who’ve maintained that sort of level of participation?

    W: In my case, what keeps me going is a constant sense of disappointment with what I’ve already done (laughs). One of the things that might be a problem would be, if you were really happy about something you’d done##you’d really thought you’d done it at a certain time in your life. It may be, for people who really got on top of what they were trying to do, and articulated it well in a certain era, then they’re just trying to cling onto that, and make it harder and harder, and more and more difficult. But if you’ve never ever felt that you quite got a hold of it, you just feel that before you die, you’ve got to try and get it right once (laughs). And hope that the experience you have makes up for the some of the diminishing energy.

    The corollary of that is, maybe people really feel they had their moment, and it can happen. I don’t think they’re any the worse for that. Going back to pop music, as far as I know, Sam the Sham & the Pharoahs only ever did “Wooly Bully.” But, you know, how wonderful that they just did that! (laughs) And if they went on to become used car salesmen after that, that’s fine. They had their one moment, and I think that’s fine.

    There are some people I know who soldier on. Because I’ve never really been in the commercial world, it’s a funny. Because although I say, I like pop music and I love rock and roll, I’ve never been in the commercial world, never swam in the business end of it, really. I think that pop, and to some extent rock, are like sport and fashion industry in that they’re about the exuberance of youth. That’s the sort of subliminal ideology, really. Whereas the things that I draw on, and the world that I feel part of, aren’t particularly youth culture.

    My heroes are##not people that I hope to emulate##people like Picasso and Miro and people who at last really reach something in their old age, which they absolutely couldn’t ever have done in their youth. I feel I’m more like in one of those kind of art forms, than in a youth-orientated art form. I think the people who did well, or are happy, in a youth industry, where their youthfulness was part of the act, obviously, by definition, they define themselves out of the business after a decade or so.

    I don’t feel that I’m very adaptable, that I particularly go with the flow of new ideas or something. I just don’t feel I’ve mined my own scene properly and fully yet. It doesn’t really matter what era I’m in. Because I haven’t ever really felt quite =in= an era, I don’t feel out of one. There was a certain amount of resentment, for example, in the early ’80s of the new kids on the block at that time, the punks and so on. But since I hadn’t acquired any particular loyalty to the previous generation, to my own generation even, I had no paranoia about anybody else’s. I had no what you might call era patriotism##”that’s my era, right or wrong” kind of thing. I’ve never been any kind of patriot, including not a cultural patriot. So I have no problem with new immigrants bringing new ideas. I’m happy about that.

    Max Gate


    Bel Air


    Thanks Max!

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