After reviewing his latest album B steps into the leather FnS interview chair and talks to RM Hubbert about his latest album, what it’s all about and of course, crisps.
Hi there, after listening to your new album it is a genuine pleasure to be able to interview you. How are you?
Thank you. Glad you are enjoying it. I’m good. Just back from a short English tour. Was a lot of fun.
“Thirteen lost and found” for me is a body of work that draws you in. For me a very emotional album that forces images into my head. Where do you think the drive for you to write comes from?
It primarily comes from an inability to communicate clearly using more conventional means. I find it a lot easier to write music than to sit down and have a completely open, honest conversation with those I love. It is a major failing.
The prevailing theme I get from the album is bravery. From the way the songs are constructed, arranged and recorded. Would you agree? If so why? And if not, why?
It’s interesting you get that. I’ve heard a lot of different theories on . They’re all correct. That’s the beauty of instrumental music, the listener gets to interpret it themselves.
How did the collaborations on this album come about?
I wanted to reconnect with a lot of old friends that I hadn’t seen for a long time. I figured that it would be easier, not to mention a lot of fun to do it be writing music together. It was! After I got started, I realised that it would be a good way to get to know some of my own friends better too.
I particularly like the approach to the recording of the album it’s not so much warts and all as just plain honest. Was this a conscious decision?
Very much so. When Alex (the producer) and I sat down to talk about how we should record, the first thing we decided was to do it all live with everyone in the same room. We wanted to try and capture the relationship as much as the performance.
I noticed in a recent FB post you said you couldn’t read music and were self-taught. Who inspired you to pick up a guitar and develop your own style?
I started playing electric guitar when I was 15 after seeing The Buzzcocks on tv. I played electric guitar in bands up until around 2004. I decided to learn how to play flamenco in 2005 when my father died. It was an arbitrary decision, I’d heard that it was very difficult to learn and I needed something to take my mind off of what was going on. I quickly got bored of the melodic structure of flamenco so I started playing about with flamenco rhythms and more contemporary melodies.
When did you discover and decide to develop the percussive elements of your playing?
I really like the idea of constraints in music. It forces me to be more inventive. I wanted my music to sound fuller than just an acoustic guitar when I was writing the music that would eventually become First & Last but I had a rule that I could only use my guitar with no overdubs. This meant that I had to figure out how to play a beat or bass line over the main melody at the same time. It took fucking ages to learn that stuff.
Is writing an integral part of how you deal with your own emotions?
Aye. It’s the primary part. As I said before, this isn’t an ideal situation. I’m getting better at it though.
Are there any touring highlights you are particularly looking forward to this year?
I’m really looking forward to going back out with Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat. I’m doing a show with The Twilight Sad soon too. That’s always a lot of fun. Other than that, I’m looking forward to getting back to Europe.
Who is your musical guilty pleasure?
Adam and the Ants. Don’t feel guilty though, they were fucking awesome.
Are you creative in any other media apart from music?
Nah, one trick pony. Although I do build websites occasionally, my own website included.
What would be your 5 desert island tracks?
Minutemen – Joe McCarthy’s Ghost
Black Flag – Depression
Sonic Youth – Teenage Riot
Sparklehorse – Someday I Will Treat You Good
Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat – If You Keep Me In Your Heart
What’s your favourite flavour of crisps?
Peanut butter. Can’t get them over here though. Which sucks.
Thanks very much for answering my questions and good luck with the album.
All good. Thanks for taking an interest.
Seriously though, congratulations on a timeless album which I will enjoy for the rest of ma puff! Cheers again, B
Also a couple of questions from myself (Still Burning).
I need to know, why the RM and not your name?
It is my name! Robert McArthur Hubbert is too long to fit on posters though. Besides, no one has called me Robert for over 25 years and I didn’t want to encourage it.
What is the path of your songwriting creation Hubby? Do you get the ideas, then set the music and mood to suit, or…?
The music always comes first. I like to use music as little documents of what is going on at the time so I never sit down with an idea of what it will be it, it just is what it is.
Reading about the thinking behind each track on your previous album, there’s some pretty heavy stuff in there, do you use or perhaps need music as `a way out` like some people would use drugs or alcohol?
I don’t think it’s escapism, quite the opposite. It provides a more comfortable way for me to deal with what is going on. It’s more like catharsis than a way out.
Having seen you in the past I sometimes struggle to see how a song (without lyrics), beautiful though it is, can tell a tale about what it represents, is it just me or have others challenged you to put words to those hallowed pieces of music?
Yeah, people have asked before. The simple answer is that I couldn’t find the words to express what I wanted to. It diluted the pieces when I did.
What are your own thoughts on the final version of the album, does it `say` what you want it to?
It’s a weird thing. The whole purpose of the album was to connect with these people and that was done by the time we came to record it. Saying that, I’m very proud of the record. I think it captures what we set out to do.
And finally, when can we see you back in Aberdeen?
17th April, I believe. Just waiting for the final confirmation. Looking forward to it!
Thanks for your time Hubby and hopefully see you in April.
Interview by B and pics by Still Burning from his recent gig at The Lemon Tree with Aidan Moffat and Bill Wells.
RM Hubbert Website