Following an early career which saw him work as part of a trio and release three albums in the space of ten years, guitarist RM Hubbert has become prolific. Now solo, but famed as much for his award-winning collaborations as his ‘post flamenco’ guitar, he’s a regular face on the Scottish gigging scene.
Here, Betty Mayonnaise cornered him following a show in her local venue…
1. Betty was at your quite wonderful recent double-header at the Glad Cafe with Kathryn Joseph. How did that show come about and how was it for you?
I loved it. Really enjoyed sharing a stage with Kathryn and playing each others’ songs together. She’s a great collaborator and one of my favourite people.
I think that Joe at The Glad Cafe suggested the format. We’ve done a few shows in the past where Kathryn has supported or come up to sing with me so it seemed like a natural progression.
2. You visibly flinched when Kathryn requested onstage a song that you “hadn’t practised recently”. It sounded great, but how much time is required on the guitar to get these intricate riffs and twists right?
Haha, didn’t realise that was so obvious. It depends on the piece, I usually just need a couple of runs through them to get it right again. I hadn’t played much at all for a couple of months before that show though so I was a little rusty.
3. You appear to be a generous and easy collaborator – why do you think that is and who is your next target (preferably someone who doesn’t know yet!).
It’s part laziness, I think. Also, I don’t really see the point in collaborating if you’re just going to try and get them to do what you want. The whole point for me is to work with the other person’s ideas. Seems weird to me to ask someone to collaborate because you love their work then try and chance what they do.
My next album is in collaboration with Aidan Moffat. We’re still writing it, should hopefully be out next year though.
4. You are relatively quite prolific in your musical releases – do you ever think you might be diluting the product?
Not something I’ve ever thought about or care about, to be honest. Each album serves a singular purpose outside of the musical aspect. I make them when I need to.
5. Betty remembers seeing your old band El Hombre Trajeado at the Mitchell Theatre for Arab Strap and The Delgados in something like 1998 or 99. How did it feel more recently playing again as a band, was it just a one-off or are there more plans?
It was weird! Good though. I’m not used to being in a band anymore, it’s a lot easier being the sole decision maker. We’re doing a show with one of my few heroes, Mike Watt in October. I wouldn’t be surprised if we did something else after that.
6. Do remember much about El Hombres supporting Nick Cave in Princess St Gardens, again so long ago. Seem to remember Jock Scott being almost booed off!
Most of what I remember about that show is the shitty bits. Nick Cave deciding to potter about on the piano for two hours, meaning we didn’t get a soundcheck. Being given strict instructions that under no circumstances should we go within ten feet of said piano whilst onstage. Jim White was playing drums for him that night and was really nice to us though. Gig was pretty surreal, as you’d expect.
7. One of Betty’s highlights of the Glad gig was hearing your vocals on the Aidan Moffat collab ‘Car Song’. Can you describe the processes that happens in writing a song like that, for example is it a straight one guy music the other words or is it messier than that?
That one in particular was a straight collab. I sent Aidan the music as it ended up and he added words. The stuff we’ve been doing for the album has had a bit more back and forth. We’ve been adding a lot of other stuff to it.
8. What for you are the best and worst aspects of touring and what is the worst venue you have played?
Best is easily the time onstage. Worst is the travel, loneliness and crappy diet. I once played in the basement of a live ridden squat in Milan to two people. That was pretty fucking grim.
9. Give us a couple of musical influences/heroes.
Minutemen, Fugazi, Alice Coltrane, Bjork, Sabicas. I’d probably give you a completely different one tomorrow.
10. So what is next for Hubby (go on plug the October Glasgow gig at least) live and releases/products?
El Hombre Trajeado at Mono in Glasgow with Mike Watt on 4th October. I’m planning a Scottish tour for RM Hubbert in November too. Should be getting announced soon.
And most recent long-player ‘Telling The Trees’ – featuring the aforementioned Kathryn Joseph – is still available, on Chemikal Underground. More at rmhubbert.com