Robbie Talks To Q Magazine
Following the reunion everyone had been waiting for for 15 years, Robbie and the rest of Take That gave their first print interview since they got back together to Q magazine for their December 2010 issue. They also appeared on the cover. Shortly after the magazone hit the streets Q published additional transcripts from the interviews; this is Robbie's…
Q: When did you think I'm going to do this?
Robbie Williams: "The boys came to Los Angeles to mix The Circus album and I think Mark was in email contact with me. He asked me to come down and see the boys. At this point I'm a hermit anyway. Not leaving the house, not doing much... Not anti-social but not social. They've been together for three or four years again, got to know each other very well. At some point, as the song goes, I'd thrown everybody underneath the bus so I didn't know how they were going to greet me, whether they were going to greet me at all. You know, I wasn't in the best frame of mind to meet anybody, let alone the band used to be in.
I woke up that day and I had a throbbing toothache, I'd just taken some Vicodin or something... I was pretty groggy. I nearly didn't go. Nearly didn't go. It was Aida, my missus, that said I should. So off I went down to meet them at the Pretty Woman hotel... Wiltshire Boulevard. Got in the room... It was great and shit. Great bcause there was obviously a really good vibe going on between the boys themselves - and great because I could feel part of it. But shit because I'd got words with Gary that I needed to be spoken. So I kind of left that evening going, yeah, it was brilliant, but there's a guy in the room I can't even look at. So I was buoyed by the spirit of what used to be there, but kind of ruined by the fact that some thoughts had to come out of my mind. I didn't know whether I wa brave enough to do it - to say what the problem was. But I knew I had to. So the boys came up to my house the next night, and I'm on my own territory then and not out my comfort zone. We all sit around, nice conversation, five boys stretched out around this quite big living room. That's when I said that I'd got some things that I wanted to get out with Gary... All day I'd been having the conversation, getting together the greatest hits of where I thought I was hard done to. Picked out the best and put them together..."
Q: What was number one?
Robbie: "No, when it gets to one it kind of melds into the Top Five really. So I sat down and said, I loved yesterday but for me to have closure I need to tell Gaz what I think about him. the boys asked if they should leave the room and I said no. I wanted them to validate what I was saying - that these things actually happened. Cos years pass by and sometimes you think you're making them up. Because you've told the stories so many times that the myth grows stronger and you have to support your own hatred. Which it was when I was 21 years old. So we had the big chat and it went back and forth, and we wholeheartedly apologised for our wrongdoings and we were genuinely sorry that we'd upset each other. It was one of the most amazing nights of my life. Because I went from literally having a real problem with this person to 10 minutes later falling about laughing in the kitchen with him. Literally rolling on the floor. Can't remember what made us laugh."
Q: You're polar opposites?
Robbie: "Yeah we are, and still are. He's very black and white and I'm several shades of grey. He's a solid man. A well-rounded grown up. There's still a child in him but he's a grown up. He's sort of like a consingilierie. he knows how the industry works better than me, he knows the people in it better than me, but he also knows what should go in the right box emotionally. A - Don't worry about that, is really genuinely a don't concern yourself. He isn't caught up in the same sort of shit that I'm caught up in - you know, vendettas, and over sensitive. he's meat and two veg."
Q: What are you?
Robbie: "I'm meat and two veg, a Mars bar and maybe a cake, all put on the same plate. He has a vision. I refer to him as The Captain. Because I've been sort of floundering for a few albums in Oh fuck, what now? land. not really knowing where I was going or what I was trying to achieve. Who I was trying to be and what music I wanted to make... There was no definitive, this is where we're going. He's The Captain because he has that definitive idea of where a project should go. I'm a massive fan of his."
Q: Your huge solo succes - you must've had a period when you were like, Yes! have that!
Robbie: "Not really. I can remember doing a Q interview and the front of the cover of the magazine being, I won, didn't I? Even though I disliked Gaz or the regime we were under, I didn't want him to hurt. I did want to win, but I didn't want him to have the fall from Grace that he did. The record company dropping and all that kind of stuff, that didn't make me happy. I wanted to sell more records than him, but I didn't want him to be wiped from pop for the length of time that he was."
Q: Escapology, and wanting to kill 'Robbie Williams'...
Robbie: "I've been wanting to be in a band since Escapology... it must be this band. But I had to wait for the starts to re-align and be shown a different painting to the one I'd seen before... yeah, Escapology - I was done. It was like, I've done Come Undone, I've done Feel, I've done Angels... that's not what I want either."
Q: The last two records seemed like perhaps the fun went...?
Robbie: "Well what happened was... Intensive Care did really, really well, it's my biggest selling album. But it was back to a huge tour... and then, while I was recording it I'd kind of gone on to Rudebox. You can't fuck about when you're that big... or you can, and hope they won't come with you... Basically I know what happened... Rudebox came out, my audience as a whole went, No! And I went, but... that's what I want to do. I wanted to go from there with the next album to wherever Rudebox was leading me. I feel as though I'm onto something, I'm happy... it was the most amazing, fun time when we created that record. then when my audience went no... You experience that kind of... You're not at the top of the tidal wave anymore. The imperial phase is definitely over. You start to panic..."
Q: And there's only one way to go...
Robbie: "Absolutely. I wasn't necessarily ready for it to be then (laughs). I don't think you ever are for something like that. Then you're left to compromise basically, becaue you're schizophrenic. Which the last album was. It was like, i'll put Morning Sun becuae I know they like it... I like You Know Me, we'd done something interesting with a sample..."
Q: Bodies is a great track...
Robbie: "It is a great track, but the lyric's fucking gibberish. The chorus is great the bridge is great... But this Jesus stuff I was singing. Who knows what the fuck I was going on about. The song sounds great and it's a great big anthem but you look at the lyrics and go, stop watching documentaries you knob. Fresh from watching a documentary, The God That Wasn't There... (adopts moronic voice) Oh, i'm going to tell them God doesn't exist. That's a good idea. You're fucking stoned, though... The edge is gone, because that's not where your heart is anymore. Half of the last record was electronic and half was kind of old Robbie. i didn't really want to do old Robbie... even down to the sleeve. Me next to a bike. Where's the fun gone? Where's the design gone? I was like, I don't want to upset anyone, I'll just stand here next to a bike... In my head I'd got fucking rabbits heads and blood and guns. It looks brilliant - the photographer's a mate of mine. But the fun had gone."
Q: Where did you listen to Beautiful World and Circus?
Robbie: "I haven't listend much to Beautiful World to be honest - there's bits and bobs that I really like on it. The first listen to The Circus was the playback that they did at my house in LA. That was (clicks fingers) the moment that I was like, this is what I've got to be doing. Because if I write a hit, I do it by mistake. And I was listening to The Circus back to back, and all these verses and the middle eights and bridges were glorious. Gary Barlow writes them on purpose. Feel, for me, happened by mistake. Any of the big ones of mine did. But he actuly sets out to do that. I was gripped by the fundamental... pop of it all. The vibe the lads were having of being in a gang and I've wanted to be in a gang... ever since I wasn't in a gang. I'd come to the end of wanting to be a solo artist before I out Reality Killed The Video Star. I left them in New York buzzing about six songs that wed put together in three days to then come and do The X-Factor..."
Q: That and the BRITS: You didn't seem mentally present?
Robbie: "No... the Mojo had gone for my performances and also for my desires and interests in the business as a whole."
Q: Whose idea was the Shame video?
Robbie: "Mine. You know, videos come and go and they're bland most of them. Every now and then you've got to put something out there that you hope, underneath the official YOuTube version of your video, there's people talking about it - 3000 comments, good or bad. They've taken an interest in it. And it just made me giggle."
Q: You're obviously both gay.
Robbie: "Obviously. Yes. because of the video... We didn't know until then."
Q: Circus DVD: It'd be perfect as a four. Why add the unpredictable?
Robbie: "I don't know why they want me. You think about it in financial terms, they'll be making less with me in the band. There's another ego coming in. It must be just for good reasons..."
Q: The record makes sense of it. Something happened there...
Robbie: "To actually sit in for the first time and Gary bring you a load of backing tracks... to hear that stuff is like, what the fuck have you been listening to?! Then he tells you about the history of electronic pop music in England. And you're like, oh. You know that too... brlliant. And then we're away.
Q: What have you brought to it?
Robbie: "A little bit of grunt. Something a little bit wrong. yeah... I'm proud of what I've done... I'm proud of what we've done above everything but I'm proud of what I've bought to the table. the bit that I have. I really, really became a bit of a lyrical student before this album, more than any other time. Being in a band again... You've got four other people with you that you can't let down and that you really want to impress. hich gives it an extra dimension for your preparation. I didn't want to get in there and be sloppy and be coming up with ideas on the spot, which I can do. I wanted to go in there fully armed. So I spent a couple of months coming up with rhyming couplets, bits and pieces, scouring the internet, listening to people talking in interviews and taking the last bit of the sentence and writing it down... Unless you;ve got a bunch of stickies on your Mac that are full of interesting words and places to go lyrically. I'd never done that before. i was fired up."
Q: What's the plan? Where's your head at for touring these days?
Robbie: "I just went on tour for too long [before]. I'm not the kind of person who can do nine months. I can do two months solid, not a problem. But nine months... I'm not built for it. i go loopy. Mentlly, all I'm projecting is very positive, all I can see is it being healthy and happy and an amazing show. Watching The Circus, which is a fucking awesome show... if we get anywhere near that. That's what I want to be in. I don't have any nerves surroundng it, or negative self-doubts, it's just something that is achievable and will be good to do."
Q: Any fears for it?
Robbie: "Not now. I started working out for it four months ago. I'm in the process of keeping fit and being fit for the tour next year. My life's healthier and happier because it... Plus, I don't want to be the fattest in Take That again. There's a fat-off with me and Barlow. I can't believe they got me an XL t-shirt and hm a large T-shirt for today... that really fucking hurts. It really does. That's how it starts..."
Q: Any ideas where would you like all this to end up?
Robbie: "Not really. It could go until the end of time and just as easily couldn't. I know that when we get together I feel excited and a day like today feels great. Dunno where it's going. I'm not rushing off to be a solo artist."
Q: And how is 'Robbie Williams'?
Robbie: "I don't know. Yeah! We haven't done any performances, so I don't know how that is going to fit in there. Whether I adjust to being a man-band member or whether I get the arrogance out. Hopefully I'll find a happy medium. It'll be reet..."
Q: How's married life suiting you?
Robbie: "I love it. Stability and happiness... alien, but I'm getting used to them. Bliss for a bit and still is.. Two weeks of bliss and one day of, FUCK! Then back to bliss. She doesn't know about the FUCK! day. I've not told her that, no. All of the cliched words people use... It's great having a team."
Q: You have not wooed her to watch Port Vale play?
Robbie: "She's been. Took her to Brentford, Port Vale on Valentine's Day. We lost..."
Words: Q Editor-in-chief, Paul Rees.
Interview courtesty of Q Magazine.