Roger Hodgson Interview
With Anthony Servante
Thanks to Harmonic Management,
Especially Linda Tyler and Linda Gianotti.
Roger Hodgson Today
The Servante of Darkness Blog is proud to welcome Roger Hodgson during his 2012 Concert Tour by presenting the most popularly asked questions since his departing Supertramp for family and solo projects. As a fan of Hodgson’s solo work, I often find it disheartening to hear so much old Supertramp music on his tours of the past few years and not enough song-play from his personal works: Sleeping with the Enemy, In the Eye of the Storm, Hai Hai, Rites of Passage (featuring saxophonist John Helliwell), and Open the Door, a wealth of music enough for many solo concerts. But after hearing how Hodgson considers the majority of the hits from Supertramp, the band he co-founded, his own songs that he himself wrote long before joining Supertramp, it’s understandable how he feels their inclusion in his shows reflects his song-writing history from his early days as a musician to today. Still, there is a side of me that would love to hear an all Hodgson playlist from his four solo works, but that’s just me because every time I go to a Hodgson concert with my family and friends, they’re there for the older classics; however, it does my heart good that they can hear the recent classics as well.
For those of you who are interested in learning more about Roger Hodgson, here are some links to a wealth of information, music and chat. Enjoy!
So, let’s get to the interview: Welcome Roger Hodgson to the Darkness.
Anthony: Please tell us what we can expect from your concerts.
Hodgson: I began my 2012 World Tour in Southern California. This year I am performing with an excellent band of four very versatile musicians
You will hear songs that I have written on my life journey – of course I’ll be performing all the songs people want to hear from my time with Supertramp. You can expect to hear The Logical Song, Give a Little Bit, Dreamer, School, Breakfast in America, Take the Long Way Home, It's Raining Again, Fool's Overture, etc., as well as some of my later material – In Jeopardy, Lovers in the Wind, Death and a Zoo,…and others. I don’t play Rick Davies’ songs – only the songs that I wrote and composed.
Anthony: I hear that you have a new album out.
Hodgson: For years, fans have been asking me to put out a CD of my live concerts because everyone tells me I'm singing better now than I did when I first recorded these songs with Supertramp 30 plus years ago. So, on our 2010 world tour we recorded a lot of shows and picked the most magical performances – from Norway, Brazil, Germany, Canada and put together “Classics Live.” The first 10 tracks are available digitally on my website, www.RogerHodgson.com and on iTunes and you can find physical CD’s at www.RogerHodgsonStore.com and at my concerts.
Hodgson: The guitar was my first instrument. My father used to play folk songs on an old acoustic guitar that he would never let me touch. When my parents divorced, it was his parting gift to me. I was 12 at the time and the moment I got it into my hands, my life changed forever. I took this guitar with me to boarding school in England where a teacher showed me three chords. After that, every spare moment, even between classes, I would go and practice. I started writing songs almost immediately and within a year, I actually put on my first concert at school of all original songs.
I started playing piano when I was 16. I was primarily self-taught and developed my own piano playing technique. I have always experimented with different sounds. My original demo for Dreamer, for instance, was recorded on a two-track. I was at my mother’s house and did not have any percussion so you can hear me banging boxes and lampshades on there.
At 17, I don't know why, but I was driven to find a pump organ or harmonium as they were called. It's like an organ that you play with your feet. Many churches used to have them before electricity arrived and organs went electric I found one covered in cobwebs in the backroom of this old lady’s house. I bought it for 26 pounds, took it home, cleaned it up and proceeded to write many songs on it – Breakfast in America, A Soapbox Opera, It’s Raining Again, Two of Us, even part of Fool’s Overture and The Logical Song. It has a very magical quality to it – it’s very easy for me to lose myself in the sound of it and go to that place where magic and inspiration happens. I still have it at my studio. The sound on the recording of Breakfast in America is this harmonium and a grand piano combined.
Anthony: How did you get started in the music business?
Hodgson: My first single was released under the made up band name Argosy. It consisted of two of my original songs - Side A was “Mr. Boyd” and the flip side was “Imagine.” I was 19 and pretty fresh out of school when a producer heard my songs and signed me. He put me in a studio in London, which was my first time in a recording studio, with some session musicians. One of them was a man called Reg Dwight, who later became known as Elton John. It was an incredible band - actually, most of the members of the band that he toured with later, Caleb Quaye on guitar and Nigel Olsson on drums, and they did an awesome version, obviously, of my songs and then I sang vocals on top. “Mr. Boyd” actually came very close to being a hit in England. It was played a lot on the radio but never actually charted.
Roger Hodgson Early Years
Anthony: Please share about your process of composing music and writing lyrics.
Hodgson:I do realize I have written some wonderful songs and have an ability for writing great melodies, but I think the reason these songs have stood the test of time so well is because they came from a very pure place and were not contrived. I never sat down to try and write a hit song. Music was where I went to be alone to express my deepest emotions, my deepest longing, my deepest pain and joy and questions. And I think that is why my songs have endured so well over time.
Anthony: Please reveal more of your Spiritual connection with your songs.
Hodgson: For me, music was where I went to express my longing to know God, to know true love, my longing to feel truly at home inside myself. I put this inner quest into my songs and I believe, because they came from such a deep place, this is one of the reasons they have such an enduring quality. They touch that place in everyone who is searching for true happiness, belonging, for God - whatever you want to call it.
So, yes, a lot of my songs have a spiritual theme to them – when I write music, I am always alone and it’s very much an inner communion for me. It’s not generally known that I never wrote with the band, and the other members of Supertramp didn’t share many of the spiritual beliefs that I wrote about – so all my songs – new and old - are all very personal expressions for me.
Anthony: Can you share about the part you played in making Supertramp a success and international phenomenon? What role did you play in arranging the music of Supertramp and producing Supertramp albums?
Hodgson: Supertramp was my dream and passion for 14 years. When people hear my songs they think of Supertramp because my songs were most of the hits that people love, and they are still played on the radio around the world today.
In many respects, I was the musical driving force of the band from the time Rick and I started it until we parted ways in 1983. I was responsible for much of the producing of the albums and tours. It was very important to me back then not to create just a hit single, which most bands were focused on. I wanted to create a whole listening experience where people were taken through a range of emotions -where at the end of the album they really felt like they had been taken on a journey and had a full course meal, if you like. I'd spend days and sometimes weeks choosing the right songs and the right order of songs so one song flowed into the next and the next. I did this for the concerts as well as the albums, and I still do this today.
Roger Hodgson awhile back
Anthony: Tell us why you left the band.
Hodgson: When I left Supertramp in 1983, it was to follow my heart, which was telling me it was time to make home, family, and spiritual life my priority. I wanted to be with my children as they grew up. I’d given 14 years of my life to Supertramp and at that point I chose to have my primary focus be my family and not my career. I also pretty much left the music industry and took my family to a healthier place to raise my kids - up in the mountains of Northern California. I moved out of Los Angeles and built a home studio so I could continue to create music and although I made a few albums, I never toured behind them.
Anthony: It is great that you are back touring again, will you be playing Supertramp songs?
Hodgson: I don’t think of my songs as Supertramp songs- they’re my songs. In fact I wrote and composed a lot of them years before I recorded them with Supertramp. I wrote them when I was alone, not together with Rick or jamming with the band. A lot of people don't realize this because Rick and I shared the writers credit on all the songs we recorded together as Supertramp. But some of the biggest hits I recorded with Supertramp were songs I’d written in my late teens before I even met Rick and formed the band with him. Songs such as Dreamer, It’s Raining Again, Breakfast in America, Two of Us, A Soapbox Opera and even the beginning of Fool’s Overture, were all written during that time period. These songs are my babies – pieces of my heart and I still love playing them in my concerts today.
That having been said, I still get so many people telling me that when they come to my concerts they hear and feel the sound and spirit of Supertramp.
Anthony: I notice that you have a lot of young fans in your audiences.
Hodgson: Yes, I am finding everywhere I go that my songs are popular with multiple generations. Breakfast in America, Give a Little Bit and The Logical Song have recently returned to #1 in the charts again. Gym Class Heroes had a worldwide hit with my song, Breakfast in America, which took them from an unknown garage band to hitting the top of the charts. Before that, it was the Goo Goo Dolls with Give a Little Bit and Scooter with his techno version of The Logical Song. It’s amazing to me how my songs have stood the test of time
Anthony: What motivates you as an artist?
One of the things that I like most about making music is how it has brought people together from all over the globe and how many lasting friendships have been made through a common love of my songs. It is a very special and personal connection I have with many of my fans and that the fans have with one another. I feel it's because my songs came from my deepest longing and joy and pain and touch those same places in the hearts of the people who listen. At my concerts I’m now seeing three generations singing along with me and it’s wonderful to see more and more young people discovering my music.
Anthony: “Breakfast In America” is a great name for your tour and a great album. What are your fondest memories of recording that all time classic album? Did you have any idea it would be such a phenomenal global success?
Breakfast In America is a great collection of songs. My songs, Breakfast in America, The Logical Song, and Take the Long Way Home, all became hits, as well as Rick’s song, Goodbye Stranger. While we were making it, I felt it could be a big album and spent hours and days trying to come up with the right combination of songs that would all fit together to take you on the best musical journey.
I fought really hard to get it right even though the other guys and the record company were getting very impatient. I was in the studio seven days a week for so long that I ended up parking a motor home in the parking lot right outside of the studio and living in it, even though I had a home 40 minutes away. I was working 16 hours a day every day of the week trying to complete it. I knew we had something good and I could not rest until every song was just right. Talk about being married to your work - I was definitely married to this album, I slept with it, ate with it, and lived with this album until it was completed.
I composed the title track to the album, Breakfast in America, when I was in my teens just after leaving boarding school, before I met Rick and co-founded Supertramp. It was written on an old church pump organ, which my mother and I found in the back of someone’s garage in England. I bought it for 26 pounds. I did not have a girlfriend - I was a late bloomer when it came to girls. I was dreaming of going to America, going to California. Funnily enough, Rick didn't like the song and didn’t want it on the album and even wanted me to change the lyrics. I couldn’t, I liked it and the other guys all liked it, so we went with it the way I wrote it.
Anthony: I heard that you had an accident and broke both of your wrists.
Hodgson: The week my second solo album, Hai Hai, was released, I had a fall and shattered both of my wrists. I could not tour and support my new album, so it wasn’t that successful.
The doctors told me I would never play again. You can imagine how that would be being a musician all my life. At first I was devastated and then I decided not to accept their prognosis. I started working on myself through Spiritual practices and prayer as well as physical therapy, strong will and determination. Now I’m back playing as good as ever. I hope I can be an inspiration for anyone that has been told that they are not going to be able to do something again. When you put your mind to it anything is possible.
Top Ten List of Roger Hodgson Songs:
1. The Logical Song
2. Give a Little Bit
5. Breakfast in America
6. Take the Long Way Home
7. It's Raining Again
8. Fool's Overture
9. In Jeopardy
10. Lovers in the Wind
Thank you Roger Hodgson for gracing the Darkness with your presence. Continued success on your current tour and join us again soon. Ladies and Gentlemen, Roger Hodgson!
Anthony Servante has just released his new novel, EAST LOS. Set in 1970 East Los Angeles, a serial killer known to police as the Azlan Assassin is killing young boys dressed like gang members. A drunkard sobers up to look for the killer with the help of a Sheriff's Deputy. As the community deals with student protests and walkouts, a rally that will draw thousands of people approaches. County deputies join with city police to try to stop a potential riot. As the drunk detective closes in on the killer, the memory of the events that drove him to drink begin to surface. Social turmoil, murder, gang violence, racism, and demons in a bottle are set to collide. Read EAST LOS by your host, the Servante of Darkness, now available at: