Simon Hinkler

  1. Simon, thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview for our magazine. It’s an extreme pleasure to be able to spend this time finding out what’s going on with you these days. In the past couple of years, you have found yourself writing and even playing a great deal many more shows than you had even anticipated back eight years or so, yes? To what do you attribute your renewed desire to “tread the boards”?

Thanks. I returned to the UK 18 months ago after living in the States for 14 years. One of the things I had always planned on doing here was to get back out playing again. My time in the US was just never conducive to having a serious band life. Soon after I’d settle-in back here, I started putting a band together.

  1. I would be remiss if I didn’t state for the uninitiated that you have played in the vaunted English bands Artery, Pulp and The Flight Commander before joining up with the band most people associate you with, The Mission UK and that’s not even mentioning your other project Mindfeel, all great bands in their own right. Most musicians would give an appendage to even be a part of one successful project, but you have found yourself in several projects that weren’t only successful, but in some cases have now become legendary due to their groundbreaking and innovative styles. What do you attribute this fact to?

Hmmm. I guess I would start answering that by saying that I happened to grow up in a time and place where originality was of paramount importance. (I still attach great importance to originality, and to being genuine.) Sheffield in the late 70’s and early 80’s had somehow come through the punk years without ever being much of a punk scene. Instead, there was a fascinating collection of people doing whatever came naturally. Cabaret Voltaire had been doing their experimental sound manipulation thing for some years, and in a way their very presence gave everyone else license to be creative without fear of being derided.

I joined Artery around 1980, soon after their first single. Artery were generally revered as being unique and the best thing in town. It was a very intense band to be in. I joined up with Pulp simultaneously a year or two later – working on the arranging side of the songwriting for the first album period. The way I ended up in the Mission was quite odd, but in short I was contacted by them because I’d expressed an interest to a mutual associate - I guess Leeds people knew of Artery’s reputation – and I went on to pass the audition.

  1. Most people associate you with the guitar as your primary instrument but you are well versed in other instruments as well. What was your first instrument and at what age did you realize that music was what you wanted to do as a career if in fact that’s the way it happened

I messed around on the family piano as a kid – and started playing pop tunes on it around age 13. My mom wanted me to do lessons, but I whined and got out of it. I often wish she’d made me learn properly though. I bought my first guitar aged 15 for £5 off a neighbor, and taught myself barre chords, then got a crappy electric which I played through our old tape recorder…trying to play Hendrix and even John McLaughlin, but not surprisingly I never thought I’d be any good. It was only when New Wave happened, about 3 or 4 years later, that I realized I already had plenty of ‘chops’ to play in a band and make original music...even if I’d never be a virtuoso. I soon decided that just being a virtuoso was pretty lame anyway.

  1. A great deal of musicians had been influenced either positively or negatively by their parent’s choices of music and what was played around the house as they were growing up. What did your parents introduce you to musically and what kind of impact did it have on you?

I grew up with music in the house. My parents are WW2 generation. My mom used to sing in concert parties, and has a great passion for music, whereas my dad started out tinkling the ivories in the Sergeant’s Mess…or rather the ebonies, as he had this self-taught way of playing on all the black keys. Anyway I take my passion from my mom and my do-it-yourself attitude from my dad.

  1. Were your family and childhood friends shocked when you ended up becoming a “rock star”?

I guess it was one of those “well we might have know Simon would end up like that,” as music was pretty much my whole life since before leaving school. My parents were certainly very proud – though quite concerned with some of the reports in the press about the infamous debauchery.

  1. Speaking to the young musicians out there who are trying with all their might to achieve what you have done, is there anything that you have gleaned that may be words of wisdom for them to heed?

If you’re serious about music as a means of expression, an art form if you will, then don’t be distracted with ideas of fame and fortune. Do what you feel – make the music you have in your head; music you would want to hear but which nobody has done yet. Any success you achieve is a bonus, and will be on your own merit, with a good helping of right-place-right-time.

If, on the other hand you just want fame and fortune and think that being in a band would be a fun easy way of getting it…..I dunno….blow somebody or something.

  1. What were your goals when you started playing music if any, and do you feel you have achieved, exceeded or are still working towards them at this point?

In my early teens I first started to be in awe of certain songs/artists/music. There were moments would send a shiver down my spine – a feeling of “wow THAT is beyond brilliant.” I was fascinated by what it was that could have a physical effect like that. Once I’d started making my own music, I guess my goal became to try and achieve that feeling – be able to create that effect, first on myself, and hopefully then have a similar effect on others…then I would have succeeded. I hope I still manage to achieve that often enough to warrant keeping-on making music. There is no better reward for me than when other people really seem to ‘get’ what I do.

  1. Do you enjoy the recording aspect over the live performance experience? I realize there are positives and negatives in both, but overall which do you prefer and why?

I mostly like the writing process. I still derive pleasure from the fact that something just appears in my head in the middle of the night, and through a combination of obsession, concentration, some trial and error, and various frustrating equipment issues, that idea ends up being played in someone else’s living room/car/whatever, and maybe, HOPEFULLY they’re sitting there on the other side of the world getting that same feel from the idea I had.

  1. Who was your favorite record Producer to work with and why?

It would have to be Tim Palmer. He got right in tune with what The Mission were up to, and between us all we came up with all sorts of ideas and techniques which defined the band’s sound on record.

  1. Since this article is going to appear in an Ultimate Fighting magazine, I have to at least ask you one related question. Does Simon Hinkler watch, follow or have any interest in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)? I am especially interested because of the recent explosion of great British fighters coming onto the world stage like Michael Bisping and Dan Hardy to name just a couple

I’m afraid not. The nearest I can claim is to have been into boxing when I was a kid. I remember getting up in the middle of the night with my dad to watch the Ali fights on fuzzy live satellite. Now you’re going to tell me you can’t use this interview in the magazine, right?

  1. In 2005, you released your solo album “Lose The Faith” which both critics and fans hailed as brilliant, myself included. Did you enjoy the process of recording this particular album and did you encounter any unexpected challenges in the recording and releasing of it?

It was a labor of love. A catharsis, as is all my solo work. I had moved from Seattle to a job in NYC, and to cut a long story short, life was just throwing crap at me left right and center. I suddenly had so much I wanted to say, and very very little time to work on music. In the end it was nearly 3 years until I finally got it out. I did everything on it. It was recorded late nights and weekends - variously in my father-in-law’s garage and his Airstream trailer, a friend’s cabin in The Catskills, and my dining room on headphones. It was 100% homemade, home financed, own label, the lot.

  1. On “Lose The Faith” some of the songs lyrical content deal with your obvious disdain of organized religion. When you were growing up what was your personal experience with religion or church and how does it play a part, if at all, with the way you view this issue today?

I remember being about 9 years old and beginning to smell a rat with what I was being told to believe. Then in my teens and early 20’s I read a lot on anything concerning the big questions: “what’s it all about?” Anything from the major religions and philosophy, to stuff like astrology, scientology etc. and I came to the conclusion it was all just babble; people no better than me or anyone else, trying to explain existence, but invariably putting 2 + 2 together and making 5. Then I became quite Nihilistic for several years…did loads of drugs and drank all day every day. After that I became drawn more to science, and interested only in facts. I strongly object to being expected to treat people’s unprovable, groundless, preposterous beliefs with kid gloves – particularly when they have such a low opinion of me and wish me to burn in their imaginary hell.

  1. You recently moved back to your native England after living here in the United States for quite a long time, Do you ever see yourself living in the United States again in the future?

Yes, I think so. I did love living there. Over the 14 years I lived in New Mexico, Seattle, New Jersey, and then back to NM. I particularly like the wide open space. I miss driving my ’67 Chevy across desert highways. When people ask me about America I always say you don’t know much about it ‘til you’ve got in a car and driven across it…which I’ve done several times.

  1. What is different about the Simon Hinkler of today up matched up with the Simon Hinkler of say, 1988 when you were touring the world with what was arguably one of the biggest and most successful rock bands of the time, The Mission.

I have a saying: “what’s the point of growing older if you don’t grow wiser?” I was incredibly irresponsible in 1988. Spoiled really. I intentionally left that Mickey Mouse world behind because it had taken me over. Then spent a few years coming to terms with having quit on success. Then I married, moved to the States and started a completely different life. Largely reclusive really.

  1. What bands do you feel are doing something worthwhile these days? Do you see any new ground being broken musically and if so, how and with whom?

Since about 1985 I haven’t been a fan of anything. I know I’m not alone in this. I’ve heard a lot of musicians – writers – who say they only listen to what they are working on. It’s as if I can’t listen as a fan anymore because music has become something different to me now…something I imagine, analyze, dissect and try to perfect. Having said that, I am aware that there is still inspired stuff out there, which I hear - here and there.

  1. What do you do to decompress in your down time? Do you have any hobbies or things that you like to do other than music?

My 9 year old boy has health issues and I have to be there for him a lot. When I have time, I work on my music, enjoy cooking, and go to the pub at every given opportunity.

  1. Do you have any favorite television programs at the moment?

Not really. My wife and I have been watching reruns of Frasier ‘cos it reminds us of when we lived in Seattle. I tend to watch stuff on YouTube. I wish we had the new Louis CK show here in England. That guy is fuck funny.

  1. We’re about out of space here and there is absolutely too much ground to cover in this one article, so I would very much like to do this again in the near future. Would you please tell the readers of any and all of your upcoming events and projects so they can check them out

So far in 2011:

I have some shows playing keyboards with Spear of Destiny here and there.

For the early part of the year I’m setting up dates playing my songs solo acoustic in Europe and the UK. Amongst all of this I want to put an acoustic album together.

I’m moving house in the summer, then the focus will be on the Mission reunion shows…first we’re holding drummer auditions, then rehearsals, culminating in select major dates around Europe and UK in the fall. There’s only been a couple announced so far.

I had hoped to have my own live band together by now, but it’s looking impossible ‘til 2012.

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