“I REALLY ENJOYED THAT, BUT DID WE TALK ABOUT COCTEAU TWINS TOO MUCH?” ASKS ROBIN GUTHRIE, AS WE WIND UP RECORDING THIS EDITION OF THE MOUTHCAST.
“I don’t think so,” I offer. “It wasn’t all focused on the band. We had to talk about it, of course, but it was only in the context of everything else”… and the guitarist seems satisfied, reassured even, as I click the recorder off. “Aye, maybe so…” Guthrie says, stroking his beard and giving me a gentle smile.
We’re in a coffee house in York at almost nine in the evening, and the recorder is long gone but softly spoken Guthrie is keen to carry on our conversation so we stay sitting where we are for another ten minutes. He asks how I feel about the sleeves of his records, and I answer that they nudge towards the mood of each album. He’s happier these days, he says, to photograph them himself and remain in control of the overall tone projected, revealing that he and Liz Fraser felt the majority of Cocteau Twins’ covers didn’t capture what the band was about, having more to do with the designer‘s agenda.
Guthrie laughs when I ask what the particular meaning of the red dice on the cover of his recent album FORTUNE might be. His explanation is far more prosaic than I expect: “I was playing Yahtzee with one of my daughters, actually. She threw the dice and, the way they landed, I thought ‘ooh, I like that!’ so I recreated it”… He grins back at my smile, adding “… though all the numbers on the dice do mean something”… He won’t say what, of course, and I tell him I’ll be in touch after I’ve come home and studied the CD and figured out my theory.
I mention the close-up shot of an albino sunflower which appears on the cover of SUNFLOWER STORIES (2010), and his face lights up as he describes how much he loves this particular plant. I tell Guthrie, who relocated to the North-West of France in 2000, of one of the most curious sensations I’ve felt in my life: an unanticipated and overwhelming combination of joy and sadness as I passed through a field of kilometre after kilometre of sunflowers, during a train journey from Toulouse to Carcassonne one summer day. “They’re so beautiful. Did you get photos?” he asks, and I laugh and reply “… after I wiped away a tear, yes”… I offer to send them to him. “Lovely. Oh, yes please…” and we’re both lost in thought for a few seconds…
I burst out laughing at the ridiculousness – two mid-life men sitting in a UK city-centre coffee shop briefly dreaming of French sunflowers: even more ridiculous because one of us is an artist who has created some of the finest music of the last three decades, whether in the curveball of Violet Indiana, through collaborations with composer Harold Budd, by driving 1980s indie darlings Cocteau Twins, or in a series of albums released as a solo artist during the last decade.
Out on the street, as I walk Guthrie back down to the venue where he’s due on stage in quarter of an hour from now, it’s rather touching when he tells me he particularly enjoyed being interviewed in a coffee house as his eldest daughter currently works in one.
We make our goodbyes at the venue’s front door and he’s off, round the corner to the tourbus to gather up his band for the show. During the interview Guthrie described the business around his music as “a job” – but a few minutes later, listening to him tease a succession of profound emotions from his guitar, it’s clear that the music itself is something else entirely.
Photo : Nataworry Photography