To mark the 40th anniversary of ‘2-4-6-8 Motorway’, Tom Robinson will pay tribute to the original Tom Robinson Band by performing his entire ‘Power In the Darkness’ album at select venues across the country. Damian Robinson caught up with Tom before his gig at Riverside, Newcastle on Saturday 28th October.
You’re about to start your 15-date tour for ‘Power in the Darkness’. How are you feeling?
I’m a little nervous at the minute (laughing). We’re playing 15 dates in 21 days of an album that’s very fast and is made up of high-pitched tracks. I’m not the young man I was when we wrote that album so it’s going to be a huge challenge, but I’m really looking forward to it.
So how do you go about relearning the tracks?
We played the album, in full, a couple of years ago for a compilation released by EMI so we know we can play it. What we have to do now is re-learn our parts, which we’ll do by rehearsing the songs in my front room at a slowed down pace, then going to a rehearsal space and plugging the electrics in and going for it.
It’s not Garageland anymore, is it?
It’s not. Back in the 70s our equipment couldn’t do anything but be played loud, now you have various pieces of technology and filters which let you play the songs at a reduced volume. It’s great.
Almost two years ago to the day you released your first new album in 20 years in ‘Only The Now’. Did that have an effect on your touring?
It did, yes. That album gave me permission to come back. I made a promise to myself that if the critics were giving it 8’s and 9’s out of 10, when no one had really heard from me for a while, I’d not be afraid to come back and perform.
As a member of the punk community who always prided themselves on being liberal and understanding of all diverse issues, how did you find being an openly gay man in a time when being gay often came at a price?
At the start of punk, the whole scene was incredibly open and welcoming. It may be one of the most liberating periods in musical history – bands like the Banshee’s and X-Ray Specs had never been able to thrive and be welcomed before. Punk was a real rebellion against conformity and anything went. I remember once when John Lydon said to me: “Tom Robinson, don’t you ever give up.” He was sick on my shoes immediately after mind. Unfortunately, though, it wasn’t too long before the scene changed and it became about uniformity, Doc Martins, and masculinity.
40 years on from the album, what’s changed, do you think, in society?
Despite Brexit, we live in a fairer, kinder, more tolerant society. Forget what anyone my age says about the good old days, the 70s were full of casual racism and sexism. We still have issues, of course, but it’s infinitely better now. I was listening to a girl from the North East the other day, Holly Reece, and her track ‘Toast’ and it floored me. It was so brave and created by someone who was really, truly, being themselves. Don’t believe anyone who tells you there is no future in music – there is. All you have to be is good.
Finally, after the tour, what’s next?
I’ll give you an exclusive – we recorded an album at the Sage, Gateshead a couple of year’s back which we’re trying to put out very soon.
Tom Robinson will play Riverside, Newcastle on Saturday 28th October. Tickets, priced at £20.00 in advance, are available at riversidenewcastle.co.uk.