Tim Robbins: the interview: Part 2

Hollywood legend talks fame, folk and flesh biting

Tim Robbins: the interview: Part 2

Presumably then you're someone who will go into a bar and allow people to approach you?
I never avoid contact. I never accepted the idea that it made me special to be famous. I never accepted the idea that I had to have body guards or be protected – I just thought that was a horrible way to live a life. So, from the very start, I just went out into it and dealt with it as I would. Sometimes it's a little uncomfortable, most of the time it's fine.

So you don't find yourself having to wear disguises?
No! Why would you wear a disguise? I think people like that draw more attention to themselves, and they get more and more distant. I remember running into a friend of mine who was a friend before we were both famous, and she became pretty famous and I remember seeing her at an awards show, and she was surrounded by people who were pushy. I thought, 'What the fuck?' I said, 'When was the last time you were on the subway?' She said, 'Oh, I couldn't go on the subway!' I said, 'Trust me, you can go on the subway!' It's all in your head, you know? If you walk down the street with people around you, people will notice who you are. If you walk down the street by yourself, a few people will notice, but you're not going to draw trouble to yourself. I guarantee it, no matter how famous you are. And I've tested it out with super famous friends of mine [laughs], in Manhattan, walking down the street.

I suppose people just assume it isn't you.
No, they see you and they say, 'Hey! I like your stuff!' You know? That's all they wanna say. They don't wanna bite your flesh or anything! [Laughs] They are who they are. Some of them get a little crazy, but it's just out of joy. It's a positive thing.

You said before that you were influenced by punk. That doesn't come across much on the album. Who were you listening to back then?
The Pogues, The Clash, The Sex Pistols first, of course. I remember '77 as being a seminal year. There was the first Talking Heads album, the first Elvis Costello album, Lou Reed's Street Hassle, The Sex Pistols, The Ramones… they all kind of burst out in that year. Although Elvis and Talking Heads weren't punk, it was a fresh way of listening to music. It was a necessary, liberating year, because up until then it'd been all this terrible disco and Bee Gees… though I have to admit I did like some of the Bee Gees' songs. But they were the better end of it. There was an awful lot of bad. It needed to be done. Music needed to get grounded in saying something again.

So I became a fan [of punk] in '77, and I kept listening and by the time I got to Los Angeles in '79, I started listening to a lot of LA bands that were coming out around then – X, Fear, Black Flag – all based in the idea that music is important, you know? It's not frivolous. It's one of the reasons that I waited a long time before I recorded. I got a lot of offers in '92. I did a satire called Bob Roberts, and I played and sang in that and co-wrote the songs with my brother. I got a lot of offers that year. It was the year that I won a bunch of stuff – Best Actor at Cannes, Golden Globe award – it was a kind of 'World is Your Oyster' kind of year. Anything you want, laid out in front of you. One of the things was, 'Do you wanna make an album?' and I was like, no, I don't think so because I don't really have anything to say and I don't want to do a cover album, and I came home too many times from school to see my dad hunkered over music composition paper, writing out eight, quarter, sixteenth notes. I had too much respect for the process. If you wanna do music, it's got to be something you care about, and there's got to be something you want to say. It's not something you take lightly. It's not karaoke!

You've had this album out since autumn 2010, and you've taken it on the road… are you going back into the studio again, or is acting still your main career?
Well I'm going to do a movie in the fall, but I do want to get back into the studio. I've been trying some new songs out on the road. I feel much more confident now. Even the songs on the first album feel so much more rounded.

Is the new stuff you're working on in a similar vein? You're not attempting to break new Tim Robbins ground?
Sure, I wanna break new ground, but I'm not going to go all atonal or go Indonesian on the next album, although I love that music! Who knows what might happen.

When you set about making this album, was there never a nagging thought about actors who've tried to make the leap to becoming singers in the past?
No, that nagging thought was from '92. I had seen how other people had done it, and I thought that was just disrespectful.

Do you think that leap has ever been made successfully?
I think Zoe Deschanel made a nice album with She and Him. I like Tom Waits' acting. I think certain people can do the crossover well. And I certainly don't believe that because you are an actor you should not do it. It's just a matter of how you approach it, and why you're doing it.

You know, I've been judged so much in my life that I don't feel I wanna judge people. If you're following a passion and it's making you happy, just do it. There are so many people in life that tell you not to do things… from a very early age, by the way. I was remembering this the other day, being seven or eight years old, clowning around on the New York City streets. Prototypically in a bunch of kids there's going to be the one that laughed at what you did and encouraged you, and there's always gonna be one meathead who says, 'Hey, you're not funny. What are you, a clown?' Someone trying to belittle you for stepping out of your little box, and that never changes. There's always going to be someone who'll belittle you for stepping out of your box, no matter what your box is, whether you're supposed to be a comedic actor, as it was when I first became famous, or whether your box is… 'Ok, yeah, we'll let you be a writer and director, too, but don't try and be a theatre director now.' Ultimately these people are people who don't do anything themselves, so why do we even listen? Probably the easiest thing to say is, 'Don't give up your day job'. Fuck you! [Laughs] You have a day job. I'm living free!

Tim Robbins & The Rogues Gallery Band are currently on tour. Check their official website for upcoming dates: Tim Robbins

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By Jon Wilks
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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