Renowned pacifist Tom Robinson is suddenly all in favour of senseless violins!
After a 20-year wait, the human rights singer and broadcaster is back with a new album and a new sound.
Only The Now is due out in October and is very different to anything the singer has done before.
The biggest change is the addition to the band of violinist Gerry Diver (pronounced Divver) who is adding a whole new dimension to the music.
Robinson said: “Having always hated strings on albums this has given us a new lease of life. It is very aggressive.
“I happened to meet Gerry who is a virtuoso violin player with an incredible punk attitude to the piano and fiddle and he was keen for us to work together.
“The noises he makes are wild and radical – and very unfolk in some ways. People need to hear his work.
“He will be with us on tour and has phenomenal energy. He makes the violin sound like a chainsaw!
“We are now a six-piece band and he really enhances the standard TRB line-up to cover all songs… for instance War Baby now has a very different sound.”
Gerry’s input has added extra richness to the album which has been painstakingly put together.
He added: “It took seven months to record 11 songs which gives you some idea of the attention to detail. The style is a lot denser than anything I have ever done.
“I had a stockpile of songs written over the years and Gerry got involved and the result was this new album.
“It is quite a spikey album, very lush and very dense – both musically and lyrically.
“I have worked really hard on the lyrics so there are no spare words. It is not packed at all. Every track counts, every word counts.
“It has the standard 10 tracks and then one cover with Martin Carthy singing the Beatles song In My Life because we have both depended so much on our life partners and it felt seemed to say what we wanted.
“It is called Only the Now because it is about seizing the moment – looking back on how we did not seize the moment back in the day. It is not an exercise in nostalgia.
“You can’t regret the past – that is the whole point of the album. What matters is what you can do with this energy now. This is the first day of the rest of your life.”
It may have taken 20 years to come to fruition but Robinson is moving with the times, embracing social media and the current trend for crowd-funding with more than 160% of target reached already.
But he stays true to the campaigning ideals which saw him embrace such worthy causes as Rock against Racism as well as the pursuit of peace and equality.
So which matters more… the music or the message?
“It has to be the music first – absolutely,” he said. “The music is more important than the message. Without the music, people don’t give a stuff about the message.
“I just concentrate on making the highest quality songs I can for the album. And it has been funded by the fans which is amazing.
“The pre-orders made it possible to make this album and the fact that we have exceeded our target means we can now afford a decent promotion campaign.
“One thing the world is not waiting for is another Tom Robinson album so we have to make sure we get it to people’s ears so they have the option to like it.
“There is such a tsunami of music now that it is hard to get it noticed. People have got to know about it. I don’t mind if they hate it as long as they hear it.
“People like and share it and that is very, very important. Getting streamed counts more than radio. If you offered me one play on Radio One or 1,000 hits on YouTube, I would take YouTube every time.
“I write my own blog too. I don’t see why people should have to pay to hear inside secrets of the industry. This way I can say what I want in the way I want to say it and know it is reaching the fans.”
Although he hosts his own show on BBC Six, Robinson will be resisting the temptation to play his own album not least because he is a passionate believer in the independence of the BBC.
There is a slight irony that he feels so strongly in his support of the Beeb given that Radio One effectively banned his anthem Glad to be Gay in the mid Seventies when times were very different.
He added: “The BBC did not ban Glad to be Gay – they just did not play it. They realised if they banned the song it would get more publicity so they issued a directive to leave it off the playlists. John Peel defied it but apart from that it did not get played for seven years.
“I am passionate about the BBC. It has to be seen to be impartial but it has a lot of enemies.
“For what it costs per head it is a world-class broadcaster. It is thanks to the BBC World Service that so many areas of the world know what is going on. They get information out to oppressed nations.
“People in Burma only know as much as they do about the outside world because of the BBC. To cut that to save a few hundred thousand pounds does not make sense.
“The rest of the world appreciates the BBC a lot more than some of Britain’s most influential people.”
So now it is back to the day job of promoting the album which involves a major UK autumn tour which calls at the Brook in Southampton on September 17.
First though Wickham fans have the chance of a sneak preview of some of the new material as well as the old favourites.
Robinson added: “I have done a lot of gigs for Peter Chegwyn and he is a top man so I was delighted when he invited me to play Wickham.
“There is nothing like playing live on a festival stage to reach people.
“Festivals have a strange intimacy where you can talk to 1,000 people as one; at somewhere like the Brook you can see the individual expressions and share private jokes.
“I am looking forward to it. I have not done a lot of gigs in recent years but that has all changed now. I turned 65 this year, the kids have grown up so I decided to get off my ass and do something.”
Tom Robinson Biog
Tom Robinson is a British songwriter and broadcaster born in 1950. His music career began
with the London acoustic trio Café Society, whose 1975 album was produced by Ray Davies.
With the Tom Robinson Band (TRB) in the late seventies he was a vocal supporter of Rock
Against Racism and LGBT rights – enjoying chart success with Glad To Be Gay, 2-4-6-8
Motorway and Up Against The Wall. TRB’s debut album Power In The Darkness went gold in
the UK and Japan, and after the band broke up in 1979 Tom subsequently wrote songs with
both Peter Gabriel and Elton John.
His third band Sector 27 was unsuccessful in the UK, but in New York they played Madison
Square gardens with The Police before splitting in 1981. After further solo hits in 1983 with
War Baby and Atmospherics: Listen To The Radio, Tom was offered his own regular radio
show on the BBC World Service.
His broadcasting has subsquently won two gold Sony Academy Radio Awards, and Tom has
hosted programmes on BBC Radios 1, 2, 3, 4, 4 Extra, 5 Live and 6 Music – where he
currently presents three shows a week. In recent years he’s become known as a champion of
independent musicians – both through BBC Introducing and via his own new music blog at
Fresh On The Net.
In 2015, inspired by the vibrancy of today’s new artists, Tom has returned to the recording
studio with award-winning producer and multi-instrumentalist Gerry Diver to make his first
new album in almost 20 years. The songs are as vibrant and edgy as any he’s ever written:
the sound of a veteran craftsman – drawing on his long, rich fund of experience – with a
renewed energy and purpose.