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Interview Simon Juni 2006

Simon Hinkler

Interview mit Simon Hinkler

Simon & Jackson 2004 by Simon

Q & A with Simon Hinkler
October 2004, by Petra

Rechts Simon mit Söhnchen Jackson
im Sommer 2004, Foto: Simon

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Musical Career

Simon mit Jackson 2001

Q: Simon, how`s life and what are you currently up to?

A: Life is going acceptably well at the moment. To understand why I'm doing what I'm doing these days, I'd have to tell you a long story, which maybe I'll tell some other time... if anyone cares that much. The situation now is, I'm involved with a company in New York. It's all about preservation of historic video, audio, and film...something I've become quite passionate about. I deal with planning media preservation projects... for example, taking a film collection of 1950's documentary footage and transferring it to contemporary formats... broadcast video, digital media. That takes up most of my week. When I'm not working on that, I steal whatever time I can to be musically creative, and devote as much time as possible to my son, Jackson who is now 3 years old.

Q: You run your own website and the last thing we could read was about the delay of your long awaited album. Any news about the release date?

A: Well... if anyone feels this album is overdue, it's me. I feel guilty of making promises about its release date for over a year. The truth is, I have been somewhat overwhelmed with the responsibilities of parenthood... and of the realities of life in 21st century America... so progress on the thing I really want to be doing with my time - writing music - has been slow. But to answer the question, I cannot hold this release back much longer, because I have so many more ideas I want to realize... I guess I just need to find a way to work faster in future.

Q: Can you reveal anything about the album? What style of music can we expect?

A: When I moved to New York I was in a situation I didn't want to be in. I hate being in crowded cities, and NY is about as bad as it gets. Soon after moving there, I realized the only way to cope with it was to write about it. In turn, it became clear that I needed to get back to my music and hang on to what's left of my sanity. This was the first time I'd put my writing and my music together. At first I thought about finding a singer to work with, but I've never really believed that's valid... I believe a singer should sing their own words, so I decided to sing myself.
The music is guitar, bass, drums... lots of guitar. They are "songs" with verses, choruses etc... I mention that because I've done lots of music in the past that doesn't follow that kind of structure. While reaching the decision to do this project, it occurred to me that one thing I hadn't done (musically speaking) was to write the music AND the words AND sing them. It has been a great experience for me. Cathartic, one might say.

Will it be published under the name of Simon Hinkler or will you use a pseudonym?

A: I thought about using a psudo band name or something... for about 2 days... then I thought, how stupid is that? What would I call myself? "Despiser of Dumb Bastards"? Nope. S**** H****** it is. Whether I like it or not.

Q: I read that you wrote and played everything on it and also did the singing, so how many instruments do you play and did you ever take lessons to learn them?

A: I picked up the guitar when I was 15, and started taking an interest in the family piano about the same time. I can't QUITE say I never had a lesson in my life. There was one time when I was about 30 I actually paid someone to show me something. Other than that, I just play what sounds good to my sensibility, using a collection of techniques I figured out along the way. I'm one of those people who will pick up anything and get music out of it... but I'm certainly not what you'd call 'technically accomplished.' Wouldn't want to be. Music shouldn't be so much about dexterity. It's about expression, communication.

Q: Is there any chance that you`re going to do some gigs to present the album?

A: In a word, no. It's not logistically viable...because I live in the desert.

Q: Possibly also because you´ve got bad memories of touring?

A: Ohhh, not so much that. I would never want to do those l-o-n-g tours again but I've had some great times on the road. Really great. What most people don't realize about touring is just how deathly boring it gets. One long succession of hotels, dressing rooms, airports, and soundchecks. You spend 90% of your time hanging about. The only things that keep it interesting are the shows themselves and the drunken debauchery afterwards.

Mindfeel Promo

Q: You played guitars and piano for The Mission and Artery for example, with your band Mindfeel you started working on some ambient / electronic music, so do you see yourself as a guitarist or more as a musician in general?

A: As a musician on a stage I have been a guitarist, a pianist, bass player, drummer... even a tin whistle player. I've been a studio engineer, a producer, a programmer. I've played with anything I could get my hands on that makes sound. The whole point to me has always been creativity, and music as communication. I think I'm more comfortable as a writer/composer than anything else, but I'm happy to step-in as a guest, or lead a sing-along at a party.

Q: You emigrated to the United States back in 1996 and after some years in Seattle and New York you`re living in New Mexico now. Have you ever considered to move back to England?

A: After 8 years of ups and downs over here, I've had plenty of opportunity to consider moving back to England as an option, but less and less nowadays. Being back in Taos (for the second time) is as close to ideal as I could wish for. I fell in love with the southwest the first time I toured over here. The scenery is breathtaking, with mountains on all sides of the high mesa, and a vast sky that looks unreal... as if it had been painted there. They call New Mexico 'The Land of Enchantment.' People like me who have moved here from elsewhere, call it the land of entrapment - because even if you leave, you always come back. And everyone refers to it as the land of mañana (land of tomorrow) because life moves at such a laid back pace... which suits me just fine.

Q: Do you miss anything, being in America?

A: I miss my family of course, and my friends. The unique sense of humour I shared with my mates back home. I miss the pubs... particularly the country pubs in Derbyshire, where you stop-in for a pint or three of Tetley bitter and roast beef with Yorkshire pudding after a walk on the moors. I miss having a huge choice of Indian restaurants (there are only 2 in Santa Fe which is 90 minutes drive away, and they're both bunk.) Apart from that, I don't miss a thing.

Q: Do you visit "good old England" every now and then?

A: I think I've been back to Blighty 5 times in 8 years. I used to really enjoy getting back for all the reasons I just mentioned, but the last time was for my dad's funeral, which was awful. That was 2 years ago, and I have no immediate plans to go back... although it's probably time I did.

Q: You played with The Mission until May 1990 and a lot of people liked the original line-up very much. I really don`t want to start again with the old stories but due to the fact that the interview is for my Mission website, please allow me some questions about that time:

A: Of course.

Q: One thing I always wanted to know: Back in April 1990 I did several Mission gigs in France and Italy. The show in Lyon were cancelled due to illness. Two weeks later in America you left the band. So was it just a fine excuse or was it the truth?

A: It is absolutely true. I fell ill with scarlet fever. I've never felt so ill in all my life. I remember lying on the floor in some airport or hotel lobby or somewhere - just wishing I was dead. At first I thought I'd overdone it the night before, and I was promising myself "never again." But when I finally arrived at the next hotel and the doctor came he told me it was scarlet fever. He gave me some major medication and I went home to Sheffield the next day. I think it was only about 2 weeks before the American tour, and I was dreading it because I really didn't feel right. As for quitting the band on that first night... I'm sure my state of health didn't help, but it wasn't the main reason.

Q: After leaving the band you played again with The Mission at Finsbury Park Festival 1991 and then in Seattle November 1999 during their Resurrection Tour. Do you have any memories of these shows? And was it the first time that you met Wayne and Craig again after the Finsbury gig?

A: What year did we do that Metal Gurus record? I think that was before Finsbury. We did some rehearsals in Leeds and a couple of warm-ups before Finsbury. It was a blast being back with the guys again. We had a lot of fun that week. There was a lot of speculation as to whether I'd rejoined... in fact I remember doing an interview for MTV just before the show. But no... I had no intention of going back to it full time... I was working on the Flight Commander album at the time, and really enjoying the freedom.

As for Seattle. I'd spoken to Craig on the phone a week or two before they came to town, and said I'd come down to the venue in the afternoon. I know it had been a long time since I'd seen Wayne... probably since Finsbury. But I'd spoken to Craig on and off, as his wife and mine were close friends - still are.


Q: Was it planned that you`re joining them on stage in Seattle 99? I`ve got a recording of that show and it sounds very...ahem...rough ;-)

A: Yeah I'm not surprised. Bloody diabolical I bet... haven't heard it. I'm sure it's embarrassing. When I arrived that afternoon, the general feeling among everyone was that I was going to get up and have a bash that night, but I didn't get to try anything out at soundcheck.
I borrowed a guitar from the support band, and got up to do a couple of encores... plugged into a Fender amp which only got a clean sound... no good for Mission songs. I couldn't hear myself, and Wayne chose to do "Like a Hurricane" which I wasn't ready for... and to make it worse he nodded at me to take the solo. I bet it sounded like an out-of-tune banjo.

Promo 1988

Q: Did you ever listen to the Mission albums after you left the band?

A: Not for a long, long time.
Occasionally now I'll play a track or two for someone who didn't know me back in those days... it's so funny to see the look of disbelief when they see the photos and hear the music.
If ever I play The Mission for my own amusement...
a trip down memory lane basically... I always play No Snow No Show.
That live album is how I like to remember us. It always makes me feel proud of how tight we were.

Q: It´s a long time since you left the band, but wanna say anything about your time with the band or concerning your departure?

A: Oh, that's a big question. Obviously it was a big part of my life. While I wouldn't have missed it for the world, I don't regret leaving... although the circumstances under which it happened were unfortunate. There were so many reasons, and although I've been asked a thousand times, I couldn't put one reason above another. It was a combination of being tired of life on the road (we toured waaay too much and for too long) - feeling as though I had too little control over my own life - not liking the direction that Wayne was pulling the band in musically, and not being listened to on that subject. In the end it only took a stupid little argument to break the camel's back. As I said earlier, I was exhausted after the scarlet fever, and even more emotionally volatile than usual.

Q: On the last Mission tour Wayne told me that you`re still in contact and that it´s possible that you`re doing some guitar parts for the next Mission album. Any news about it?

A: Wayne got in touch about a contractual issue, and while we were about it, we struck up a very friendly interchange. We talked about what we were up to, and he asked if I'd be interested in contributing a few top lines here and there on the next Mission album - by sending audio files over the internet. I said "sure, why not?" The last I heard from him was kinda "well, I've got to write the bugger first, but I'll be in touch."

Time for a standard question: Last year VH-1 started their „bands reunited“ series in America (quote: „to celebrate the reuniting of many great UK bands of the past“) So if the question ever arose, could you imagine playing with the original line-up again for these purposes? Or maybe for the bands 20th anniversary for example?

A: Another question I'm asked all the time. Here's my answer. I wouldn't hesitate to get together for a week or two with the original band - do some rehearsals - have some laughs - book a great gig somewhere and play the old songs. However, I wouldn't want to do it on a longer-term basis... and I have serious doubts it will ever happen anyway because of other situations
with the other guys that have transpired over the 14 years (!?) since I split. If it never happens, I won't lose any sleep over it.

Q: What do you think about the music industry in general?

A: I've always hated it. I'm a person who is very passionate about my music, and the industry is only passionate about the money. The two don't mix. Money is handy... it means you can eat and not have a leaky roof, but I grew up in a time when prostituting your music - "selling out" - was about the biggest sin you could commit, and that's an ethic I attach a lot of importance to. If only that attitude was still around in such force today as it was in 1977.

Q: What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the music business?

A: If you make music because you feel you need to, then don't concern yourself with fame and fortune. Keep it enjoyable and expressive and you won't be disappointed. On the other hand, if you're in it for fame and fortune, fuck off and spare me from my debilitating distain.

Q: What has been the personal highlight of your musical career so far?

A: That's a really tough question. It's been a long and varied ride. Of course I had a lot of big moments when the Mission were riding high. I traveled all over the world, played to huge crowds, met several rock legends - it was great. But in all honesty, nothing gives me greater pleasure than the feeling I get from coming up with musical ideas, piecing them together and
realizing them... something I still derive the greatest satisfaction from today.

Q: Your favourite band at the moment?

A: I don't listen much to anything other than what I'm working on at that time.
If I do, it's just old stuff.

Q: Is there a band you would really like to play with?

A: No.

Q: Which bands and musicians did you admire as a youngster?

A: Particularly I'd say, The Faces, The Spiders From Mars, Hendrix... but a lot more.
Then moving through the new wave era... The Sex Pistols, Magazine, Joy Division. Actually the list is much too long to write.

Q: How important is the internet for you?

A: Crucial. Without it I wouldn't be making a living the way I am now. Musically it means I can collaborate with someone like my ex-Mindfeel colleague and great friend, James Bacon back home in Sheffield. He's mastering my songs in his studio 5,000 miles away, and I don't even have to leave my room. Then of course there's the thing with Wayne we talked about earlier... he's in Brazil and I'm in the Middle of Nowhere USA, but we can still do things together.

What’s the best rumour you’ve ever heard about yourself?

A: I dunno. You don't necessarily get to hear them about yourself. You could probably tell me more than I've heard.

Most likely, yes... :-)

Rock am See

Q: Your most embarrassing moment on stage with The Mission or any other band?

A: I had a birthday while on tour, and the guys arranged a stripper-gram to come on stage and undress in front of me. It wasn't embarrassing, just completely unexpected, and I didn't know quite how to react.
There was one show - a big one, like Reading Festival or something, when Craig and I picked up each other's transmitters in the dressing room, so when we started the first song (Wasteland I think) my guitar was coming out of the bass stack and his bass was going through all my effects and amps. We had to stop. I ran across to Craig, who still hadn't figured out what was going on, and we swapped back and started the song again.
Oh yeah, and probably the most personally embarrassing moment was in front of a packed little fan club gig in Horsham, when I came to play the opening riff to Serpent's Kiss... and after having played it a thousand times before, I completely drew a blank and forgot how to play it. One of the great things about those days and that band was that whenever shit like that happened it wasn't embarrassing - just really funny.

Q: What makes you mad?

A: An easier question might have been, "what DOESN'T make me mad." I have a life-long hate/hate attitude towards "the establishment." I hate all things corporate, organized religion, politicians. I hate being lied to, preached to, and advertized to. I detest the sugar-coated bullshit that fills all our daily lives. When I lived on the east coast, it was impossible to escape... on a holiday you could drive down to the Jersey Shore for a day away from the city... only to be assaulted by a constant parade of aeroplanes with banners telling you to drink Coca fucking Cola, eat at Burger King, shop at Home Depot. I'm only slightly less angered by the fact that I live among a vast majority who actually swallow all the bullshit without question.

Q: If you had the chance to change anything in your life, what would that be?

A: It's an obvious one really. I'd like to be free to do my own thing without ever having to think about money.

Q: What phrase would you use to describe 2004?

A: The year I got the fuck out of New York.

"The Last Of Simon Hinkler"

Last CD you bought?
"From Gardens Where We Feel Secure" by Virginia Astley

Last book you read?
"The Blind Watchmaker" by Richard Dawkins (do yourself a favour and read this book.)

Last movie you saw in the theatre?
"Bartelby" at Seattle Independent Film Festival about 3 years ago.

Last gig you attended?

Apart from the local bands in bars around here... it must have been Tom Waits about 3 years ago.

Last time you were drunk?

Last time you smoked a cigarette?
Yesterday. I've made progress on the drink and smokes. Now I only smoke when I drink. For the last couple of years that was every day after about 5pm... but now it's more like every other day.

Last time you appeared on television?
No idea. Must have been ages ago.

Anything else you would like to tell the people?
I'd like to say a sincere thank you to all the people who have written, and continue to write to me. People are very kind and it means a lot to me. I can honestly say that the encouragement I've received by email was a big motivation behind deciding to do a new album. And of course, a special thanks to you for listening.

Thanks very much Simon, we wish you good luck with your new album and please don`t forget to tell us when it´s going to be released!

That's not something I'd forget to do! I know I've said this before, but it shouldn't be TOO much longer.

Jegliche Wiederverwendung, auch ausschnittweise oder in übersetzter Form, nur mit schriftlicher Genehmigung der Verfasser.

No part of this interview may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the publisher

Foto Credits:
2 x Simon mit Jackson: Simon Hinkler
Mindfeel: Promo
Simon & Wayne Stornoway 1989: Barbara Stiller
Simon, Wayne & Craig Seattle 1999: MWIS
The Mission 88: Promo Tourbook
Simon 88: Promo
Simon Rock am See: Barbara Stiller