The guitarist and producer on the Cocteau Twins, The Gun Club and his latest project with Mark Gardener

“I’m suffering from old git syndrome at the moment,” Robin Guthrie admits to Uncut. “I’ve been suffering from it since my twenties…” Guthrie is at home in a small village in the north west of France. He is, he explains, in the throes of repairing a piece of furniture in his daughter’s bedroom when Uncut calls. “I meant to tell you that I’m sitting composing some sort of grand thing,” he laughs. “But alas…”

Guthrie has lived quietly in France for almost 14 years now. He continues to make music in his home studio; though of course the circumstances have changed greatly since his days with the Cocteau Twins. Guthrie was then only 20 when the Cocteau Twins released their debut album, Garlands, in 1982. “My complete life ambition was to make a record, like Garlands,” he admits. “And after that there’d never been a plan B.”

Fortunately for Guthrie, a plan B was not required. Although he claims he “wasn’t happy with Garlands at the time”, he never the less persevered. In tandem with his commitments in the Cocteau Twins, Guthrie found time for extra-curricular production work; including Felt’s Ignite The Seven Canons and the band’s single, “Primitive Painters”, AR Kane, Lush and The Gun Club. “A couple of bands I’ve produced, I’ve produced really old records for them,” he reflects. “The Gun Club album that I produced [Mother Juno] doesn’t sound like any other Gun Club record. But they loved it. That’s what Jeffrey [Lee Pierce] wanted; he wanted to move his roots to the next decade as it were. I learnt to take my foot off the gas pedal later, producing people. I probably grew up a bit, I felt less needy. I felt less needy of getting all the attention, that kind of thing. But it’s true, when a young man sets out, he does seek approval and praise for his stuff. A little bit later you do find the confidence and you do find that other people can go fuck themselves.”

Since the Cocteau Twins disbanded in 1997, Guthrie has continued to keep busy. Alongside his five studio albums, his website lists instrumental releases, film soundtracks, production, remixes, guest appearances and collaborations. These range from ambient pieces with Harold Budd (a regular collaborator since 1986’s The Moon And The Melodies) to project with Ultravox’ John Foxx and, more recently, an album with Ride’s Mark Gardener. Guthrie admits to being wary at the idea of “a bunch of old blokes getting together and being whimsical about the past. But I get sucked in to that. It’s exactly that going on in my life at the moment by making this record with Mark Gardener.”

The album, Universal Road, foregrounds Gardener’s strong ear for melodies with Guthrie’s tremulous guitar work. “I had a lot of apprehension that people that listened to it were of a certain age and would like it to be a shoegaze record,” Guthrie admits. “Well, I’m sure there are people who would like that. But the most unlikely two people to make a record like that is obviously me and Mark, 25 years later. But it’s worked out, I call it evolution. Music, and the media really likes to keep you pigeonholed in your one place that you made a little mark for a little moment that’s you damned for the rest of your life.”

Both Guthrie and Gardener are aware of the respective legacies that continue to overshadow their ongoing projects. Guthrie specifically identifies one “sort of autobiographical” song on Universal Road, “Yesterday’s News” which he claims addresses the vicissitudes of success as experienced by both men. “We’d go out and play little shows to 25 people, whoever bothered to turn up,” he explains. “Yesterday’s news, it was all our big stadiums and shit like that. It’s quite strange. The album comes out at the time where Mark’s decided to do the nostalgia thing. It’s a double-edged sword. He wants to be taken seriously and pursue new work, but at the same time you kind of owe it to your fans to go back. I know the Cocteaus never quite managed to get it together. It’s not for everyone, but when you go out, you’re going make a lot of people really happy. These people have been supporting you all your life, buying your records over and over again. Give them something back. That’s always been my way of looking at it. I’m totally in two minds about it. I grew up in the 1970s. During the Eighties you’d see all these Seventies tours going around with Slade and Showaddywaddy playing. I found that to be kind of tragic, and then fast forward, move yourself on a few years and it’s like, shit if I do that, it’s gonna be like that!”

Guthrie is adamant there are no current plans to reform the Cocteau Twins. “I was just talking about this with one of my kids the other night,” he muses. “We’d been to see Ennio Morricone. It was amazing. I thought, I saw Frank Sinatra, Morricone, I saw this, I saw that. All these grand names. They’ve been working all their life and they get to the point where they deserve to be playing in these great big places. But on the other hand, if you were around for a little blip, 15 or 20 years ago, on the front of NME once, played at ULU quite a lot, that doesn’t to me make you deserve to come back and have the reputation, the glory, of a lifetime’s worth of work. Going to see Ennio Morricone made me want to come back to my studio and burn all my instruments. Let’s just quit while the going’s good! No, it’s one of those things that middle-aged men do. You wonder where the value is.

“I’m still Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins): I haven’t got rid of those brackets yet,” he continues. “If somebody’s totally hung up on our records and thinks Treasure is ‘the greatest thing he’s ever done’, its like, well what’ve I been doing for the last 30 years? I should’ve just taken 30 years off. I would’ve been in the same place. But that’s just me. I’m just not in a band that’s getting back together any time soon.”

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YOU CAN READ ABOUT THE MAKING OF FELT’S “PRIMITIVE PAINTERS” IN THE NEW ISSUE OF UNCUT, IN SHOPS NOW

UNIVERSAL ROAD IS AVAILABLE TO PURCHASE FROM http://www.robinguthrie.com/shop.php