Heel to toe to hair and hoof and it's head over heels and it's all but an ark-lark...

Interview with Simon Raymonde

  • By Michael D. Fellows
  • Ink19
  • Aug 1998

Having enjoyed the Cocteau Twins’ music for many years, it was a honor and complete surprise when Simon Raymonde agreed to do an interview with me to promote his new solo LP, Blame Someone Else. Recorded during a lull when the Cocteau Twins were still together, the album has a freshness and aliveness that I have learned to love over the past several months. The one thing that shocked me was hearing his voice for the first time. Simon can sing! I was used to hearing the remarkable Liz Fraser, but hearing him sing made me wonder what it would have been like if they both had been vocalists in the Twins. I can only hope and dream that Simon continues his love of music for years to come.

How is your wife and family?

All well. Healthy and Happy. Two small boys (ages 6 and 4) can be a good laugh, and at times a right pain.

How did this album come about? How long had you been planning it? As far as songs written?

It just sort of happened. One minute I had nothing, the next, an album. No, seriously, I had a few thoughts on tour [‘93] that I should really do something on my own. I certainly never intended to sing! But after a few spliffs one night, I thought I would give it a go.

How long did it take to record?

Ages. I was working on Cocteaus during the day and then through the night on my stuff. So probably took a good couple of years to get it all to a place where I was happy with it.

How was your wife involved? I know that she is credited with the artwork…

Karen came up with all the ideas for the sleeve, and I just acted as a filtering service, to give opinions and such. She’s an incredibly talented artist!

Do you have any key influences on the record that you were dying to get on records but could not with the Cocteau Twins?

Well, not really, but there’s certainly styles, arrangements, instrumentations that I wanted to use.

Who formed the Bella Union label?

Robin [Guthrie] and I, though I have to say that I’ve been pushing for this since we left 4AD. But it’s the right time now, especially as were all doing different things.

Tell me about Dirty Three, the new signing on the Bella Union label.

An Australian three-piece instrumental band that are working in an area of music that will not guarantee much exposure. Emotive, sad, haunting, beautifully delicate music.

Could you describe the new videos for your songs “Muscle and Want” and “In My Place”?

“In My Place” was supposed to be a parody of the movie Night of the Hunter (with Robert Mitchum) and I got to drive a beautiful old red American car. “Muscle and Want” was really Leesa’s idea (who wrote the lyrics to this song), and I just went along with her to see what she could come up with.

The first band you were in was called Drowning Craze, anything like the new record?

Hardly!! I’d like to think I’d come on a bit since 1979!

When did you learn to play bass/piano?

I never really leant anything much. But my dad was a big influence. He was a famous songwriter/arranger in the ’60s, working with Dusty Springfield, Bowie, Walker Brothers, etc.

Growing up, who did you first listen to?

My first record was Breakaway by the Beach Boys.

How was your childhood in England?

I had a very comfortable childhood, went away to boarding school from 12 – 18 years old.

Do you still love it there?

I like England and English people – quite a unique breed.

Ever visit the States these days?

I visit the USA quite a lot, but generally only on business!

Will this album ever be released in the US? Any chance of a tour?

I’m trying! Touring is rather dependent on the label happening in the USA.

Do you miss gigs?

Yes, I would certainly miss not playing again.

The Twins separation? You want to move on, you say?

It’s inevitable, there will be difficulty in the break-up but I suppose well better things eventually. Robin and I will be running the label together and writing music occasionally, but for the near future we all need to do our own thing. There are some personal reasons that are behind the separation that I cannot elaborate on.

Will you and Robin still work together as far as Bella Union and September Sound?

Of Course. The two places would not function without us. We work together each day in some small way, and will be recording and releasing an album together soon.

What inspired the lyrics to “It’s a Family Thing”?

Well, the dysfunctional family and its idiosyncrasies. I needn’t go into details as to the specific model I base this on!

The song “Worship Me” is a duet with you and Liz Frazer, what was it like recording this?

It was fun. She was very vibed up to do the track, and threw herself into it with great gusto.

I fondly remember the cat in the video for “Aikea-Guinea,” whose was it?

It belonged to visual artist Russell Mills… cat will be dead now, this is over 12 years ago.

Could you describe the recording process of the Cocteau Twins, how do the songs come about? Is there a particular way that they come about?

All ways work if the end result is good. “Touch Upon Touch,” for example, we all were there at the same time, so that can affect the structure or the way it may sound. Then again, “Calfskin Smack” came from a tune I’d written on the piano, which we then worked into a band thing. “Bluebeard” was something Robin came up with wholly on his own, so there are no set rules really. Whatever works.

What are you producing now as far as projects?

Nanaco Love LP called Luminus Love in 23, out at end of August on Bella Union. It’ll change your life—she’s quite incredible!

What is next for Simon?

God! Everyday something new. Too numerous to mention. ▣