Hugh Cornwell
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Interview - Hugh CORNWELL
Friday 29th March 2013
Scandiano - Italy


(c) Copyright Hugh Cornwell (c) Copyright CORALLO


  1. Hello Hugh, it's a pleasure to welcome you again on rock-interviews.com
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    Yes.

    AM : You have released a new album called Totem & Taboo on Cadiz Music and what a wonderful album!

    Yeah, I think the last time I spoke with you we were working on these songs before going to the studio. It has come round and now it's finished, it's ready and it is out.

    AM : There is a black and white, what do you call it, a coat of arms or in this case maybe you can call it, a coat of art or a coat of heart?

    Yes, I like the coat of arms, it's quite nice. I stole the Warner brothers' shield, which is a famous shield. I thought that's probably not a copyright, so they can't copyright that. So I took that and put my own thing inside. I think symbols are very important, it makes a nice symbol.



  3. Could you please open it?
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    Yes.

    AM : Let's have a look at the photos. Why did you choose to shrink you and the musicians?

    I don't know, well it's a small CD. If people are tall, Steve, Chris and me, we are quite tall, 6 foot. If you put us on the inside of the CD cover, we are going to be very small and I thought what are the important things of a person? You want their face, you want what they do and their feet, and the other bits are unimportant, not so important. So we made these photos, the important things, the face, and what you do and then your feet, we made them like that. I think actually Chris looks like a troll who lives under a bridge in the countryside somewhere, jumps out and barks at children that walk across. Steve looks like an insect and I don't know, I just look like a complete idiot I think. It's nice, it's like we're making fun of ourselves you know and Chris loved it, Steve wasn't so happy, but he is now. (both laughing).

    AM : That's great!


  5. The album is called Totem and Taboo. Tell me Hugh, what is taboo for you?
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    What is taboo for me? Well hopefully nothing. I try to, I think you have to make a conscious effort to open your mind to everything, and not have anything that you cannot talk about. I tell you what I don't like. I don't like eating, we call it in England tripe, T-R-I-P-E, it's the lining of the stomach of a sheep I think, so that for me is taboo, I do not want to eat this, and I don't want to eat bollocks, you know the balls of bulls, I mean, I was in Spain and they said, do you want these and they were cooked, sorry I don't want to eat balls. You know there are certain food things I don't like, they are taboo for me, but talking about, I like talking about anything, I talk about my taboos, I talk about your taboos, everybody has taboos and I think the difficulty is that we don't talk about them, then they become worse, so it's a cleansing, this record is a bar of soap.



  7. You are going to play the songs which are on your album Totem & Taboo tonight. There are 10 tracks on this album. Could you please tell us in a few words what is each song about?
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    So, Totem & Taboo.

    That's just a little bit about my own personal situation. I became very quiet for many years after I left The Stranglers, and now I'm becoming active again, so that's about my personal situation, and just, you know. you go out in the street and you see people who are angry and you wonder why they are angry. There doesn't seem to be so much communication these days. We have a very connected world, everybody is connected, but nobody communicates, that's ironic, it doesn't make sense, so in that song I wanted to highlight the fact that something that I find, that I like, it doesn't mean that you have to like it, but you have to respect the fact that I like it, and I would respect what you like, so it's about tolerance and intolerance.


  9. The Face
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    The Face is about a party I went to, which was for Madonna, many years ago in London. I joined the queue, which I thought was to go to the toilet, and it was very slow. I said to the man next to me, why is it taking so long? He said, she is spending 10 minutes with everybody. I realised that I was not in the queue to use the toilet, I was in the queue to meet Madonna. I left the queue. I am so glad nobody saw me, (laughing) not that I have anything against her, but I thought this is a funny story, so this is about, she is a totem for people, but not for me, but everyone can have their own things. It's very interesting though, because I am obviously not as rich as her and don't sell as many records as her, but I am in a similar situation where people like what I do, they follow what I do, but I don't know if I can put myself in a situation like that, where I am in a room and people knock on the door and they come in, like a king you know, and you bring gifts and you sit at their feet, I mean I couldn't do that, it seems a bit silly to me, but whatever turns you on


  11. I want one of Those.
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    I can't tell you about that, it's a very naughty song. It's about the people wanting things, a lot of their lives these days is driven by wanting to own things, and I don't think that's properly very healthy to own things. Owning people, people want to own other people, you're mine, it's crap, it's not good.

    AM : Stuck in Daily Mail Land.

    I mean to a lot of people in the United Kingdom, we have a newspaper called the Daily Mail, a lot of people think this is the truth and it is their totem. It is almost like a religion for them, so I was thinking what it would be like if you were a reader of the Daily Mail, how you would present a defence for someone who says I don't like your newspaper, what would they say? It's an idea.

    AM : Bad Vibrations.

    I don't know why that's in there really. It's just a Totem and Taboo, it's about a woman who is a taboo, because this woman, she was mad but I knew she was very difficult, so she was like a taboo for me.

    AM : And she was bad vibrations also for you.

    And there is a song by the Beach Boys called Good Vibrations.

    AM : Yeah.

    And I like to change things from something that works, to something that doesn't work.



  13. God is a Woman.
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    I could speak for a long time about this. I think it's a bit crazy that the Bible has decided, the people who wrote the Bible have decided, in religion they have decided that woman was made from a rib of a man. Where does this come from? And that she is the bad person, she was the one that made the mistake in the Garden of Eden, it's all a load of rubbish, it really is, absolutely rubbish, and I found out that in early religion when there was no link between the sexual act and the childbirth they didn't realise that they were connected, so suddenly a woman would give birth to a human being, so they thought she was God. That's quite interesting. It's just about the taboo of religion and so on. I am very fascinated by religion, so I thought well maybe God isn't a man. It's such a stupid idea. God created man in his own image, that's what they said, what a load of rubbish, most religions are based upon this, I am really sorry, but for someone with any brains how could you accept that, it does not make sense, I am sorry.

    AM : Yeah, you can't.

    I am not really a religious person. I don't follow any religion, but I believe that there is some sort of force, an energy force or something which is driving things, I don't know if we quite understand it, but I don't want to start inventing some gobbledygook 'whatever', it's like something very primitive, so primitive, it doesn't really show human beings' intelligence in its best way. I think we deserve more.

    AM : You're right. And the Bible was written by men.

    Of course.

    AM : If it was written by women maybe it will be another book!

    It will be slightly different.



  15. Love Me Slender.
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    Well Love Me Slender is an observation about beauty and who says what is beautiful and what is not beautiful, it's down to the individual, but then a hundred years ago if you were fat, you were beautiful because you had money, so there we go it was about money, it is to remind us that even hundred or two hundred years ago, it just highlights the fact that the world has changed but people do not change, the play of human emotion is the same now as it was when Rubens was painting and when the men were in the caves. It's just a realization about that. You know this song is not really for the public, it's working things out for myself and hopefully I am able to make a living out of it.



  17. The three "Gs", Gods Guns and Gays.
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    It's just an observation about America, again totems, you know they put up, freedom of speech is a big totem in America and that's good, but freedom of speech is very difficult to put into a song, so I thought I'd use the word gays because if you're gay, the gay pride march they started, in America, is very very good, so their fierce, determination to defend free speech is a very good point about America, but at the same time they are obsessed with violence and carrying guns and they are obsessed with religion, so it's a paradox and that's why America fascinates me, it's always paradoxical.



  19. A Street called Carroll.
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    It is another reference to America. I was fortunate to stay in California, in Los Angeles for a few weeks, when I was writing, these two songs surfaced when I was there, influenced by actual situations, things that I noticed when I was there. They are the product of a stay in America and reflections about America really, and their attitude to totems and Taboos.



  21. In the Dead of Night.
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    That's really personal, actually, it's obsession with death, and time is moving on, you have to think about what you are spending your time doing. Are you spending it in the right way? Not you, but is one spending ones time in the right way? That's it really.



  23. You are not only a musician and a songwriter, you are also a writer. What is the title of your First Novel?
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    My first novel which came out in the summer of 2011, was called Window on the World, came out with Quartet books. We are trying to turn that into a movie at the moment, and then the second one is called Arnold Drive and that's going to be published this summer in the UK, well internet.

    AM : What is it about?

    This second one is about religion, because again it's another reason for me to write about religion, and to explore my ideas about religion, why it is important. It's about a priest. They closed his church in England because nobody is going to the church, so he has to leave his job and he has to leave the house where he has lived for 30 years and he has to go into the world, and it is what happens to him. It is a bit like that film "Being There" with Peter Sellers, where the man is very isolated and has to go out into the world, but it's not the same results, outcome, he doesn't get involved in politics, my priest.



  25. I've read an interview conducted by John Robb.
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    OK.

    AM: From Louder Than War, in which John Burnel of The Stranglers said: "I will move the Meninblack ballet forward. Originally there was going to be a ballet of the Meninblack. The album was the story and I thought I might have to write some complementary music for it. I might have to speak to Hugh about it". So did John Burnel contact you?

    (smiling) I don't see any point in this whole project, I mean, talk about dwelling in the past, this is something that was started 35 years ago. I am surprised that he is spending the time to even think about it, I mean really time, life moves on, and I've got no intention of turning it into a ballet or anything, it's a great album, it's a Stranglers masterpiece and I think that's how it should stay. If he is thinking about things like that, maybe he's got too much time on his hands, really, he should be involved in other things, he is a smart man you know.



  27. If young people ask you some advice about being a professional musician, what do you think you can recommend them to do or avoid to do?
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    Well it's hard these days. I'm not envious of young musicians trying to make a career from music. I've been fortunate like a lot of people from my peer group. We have a history and we've been lucky, and what we did has took the test of time and people are still interested, for God knows what reasons, in what we did, they are still listening to it, they are interested in it. We have got it easy compared to someone who is coming out of nowhere, with no track record and no history, so why would anyone want to be interested in what they do? They've also got these musical explosions which happened since we did it, you have the dance music, which did nothing for writing songs, because there are no songs in dance music, unfortunately, although the technical stuff is all great, and then you've got the explosion of singers with a fabulous technique who don't actually write, who do cover versions of songs, so these young new people have to live through one or maybe both of these phenomena, it must be very difficult. What advice? If I were them, I wouldn't know where to start, I have no authority on anything, just to say good luck (smiling) and follow your heart you know.



  29. What did you learn, yourself, from your musician career path?
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    I don't think I have learnt anything actually.

    AM : Oh yes, you've learnt how to...

    I've learnt how to play the guitar, I've learnt how to write a song, and I've learnt how to speak to the audience on the stage, and I've learnt how to go into the studio, how to get what I wanted out of it. I've seen a lot of places in the world, I don't know if I've learnt anything else really that I might have not learnt being a postman or a van driver or something else, I don't know if I've learnt anything.

    AM : I think you've learnt a lot of things!

    The learning is very important.

    AM : Learning and meeting a lot of people.

    I think that's the best way to learn things is by meeting people!

    AM : Yeah.

    That's the best way to learn things, because you hear what they say and maybe in a hundred things they say, they say one thing that teaches you something.

    AM : About the different cultures and so on.

    Anything.

    That doesn't have to be anything in particular, learning isn't about anything specific, it's a general thing that people should really be doing all the time, however, whatever their age is, hopefully.

    AM : You're right! I totally agree with you. Thank you very much for your time Hugh.

    My pleasure, always good to talk to you.

    AM : We wish you an amazing gig tonight and the gigs to come and all the best for the future.

    Thank you.

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(c) Copyright Hugh Cornwell (c) Copyright CORALLO