Robyn Hitchcock does what he wants. Colin Meloy knew this when he gave the legendarily whimsical British singer/songwriter carte blanche to fiddle around on an instrumental track on The Decemberists' new album, The Hazards of Love. And I learned it myself when, while researching for Paste's May cover story, I emailed Hitchcock a few questions about his experience collaborating with the band. How and when did he first come across this relatively young Portland group? What was it like making music with the band, and especially Meloy, who'd so often cited Hitchcock as a major touchstone in his own artistic development? What did he make of their rather unusual recent musical direction? Pshh. Hitchcock tossed my humdrum queries to the wind and, between tour dates and flu recovery, wrote me the most wonderful 339-word, wildlife-invoking, punctuation-damning reply I could have never asked for.
Subject: Dr Meloy - by Robyn Hitchcock
Date: March 6, 2009 6:28:56 PM EST
FROM Dr Hitchcock's Academy:
Ah, yes, young Meloy....Colin, isn't it? Yes, yes...jolly good. I must say he is a springy lad...most flexible...hewn of wands, you know...they splice them down by the river...he was part of a group that lost contact with the main tribe, and drifted to Montana. I found him in the bushes, whistling to a frog. He later said it was me, perhaps he was right. A majestic performer, at ease with himself, his audience and his material in away that makes me quite...envious. He is...well, he's not old, you know...still green of leaf and...always springy, did I mention? Oh yes, well, the thing is: he's young but he goes back a long way. That's right - he leads from the old path. The deeper your roots, the broader your branches, I always say. Especially if you're a tree. Colin has magnificent roots, he showed me them in a forest. What did you say? Prog Folk? Or Fog Polk? In San Francisco, probably, I know he was there...or was I there?...yes, we were both there, but not at the same time. I get confused with the other chap...not Dr Partridge...he's sitting over there, I think it's him...no, Colin is very...to me he's the ultimate British rock star...in a way that he couldn't be if he was from Britain, because he's have to come from some sector of society that the other sectors would resent him for....(Canon Morrisey, that's the fellow - or is he dean now?)...no Colin has it in perspective and can be it in a way that only an outsider can. So he has the brogues, and the lamps, and the canvas...the pavilion...the lashes and the brand...although he's most careful with them both...and most of all, he has the voice. With a little technological help, he could yet be duetting with Sandy Denny - if he hasn't already. Hmmm? Did I say he was springy? Ah yes...young Meloy....
- Robyn Hitchcock