5 minutes alone - Rich Robinson: “All of my gear was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy in 2012. I lost 70 guitars”

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(Image: © Will Ireland / Future)

The former Black Crowe turned Magpie Salute wingman Rich Robinson ponders narc nightmares, divorcing his gear and the wisdom of Neil Young.

Got my first real six-string…

“My dad was a musician and he had two really beautiful guitars around the house. One was a 1953 Martin D-28 and the other was a custom-made guitar by these brothers in Tennessee. As we started to get more interested, my dad was like, ‘Enough of this! Leave my shit alone!’ He bought me a Lotus Strat copy in black and white.”

This old guitar

I think it was Neil Young who said, ‘Every guitar has a song in it’ and I feel that

“I think it was Neil Young who said, ‘Every guitar has a song in it’ and I feel that. I’ve had times where I would get a guitar and I would be able to write some great stuff on it and some guitars would just sit there and I couldn’t connect with it. [In recent years] I got these really cool Martins that were designed by this guy George Gruhn. He had gotten these two Martin guitars made that were based on two 40s models that he had. They’re great guitars and I was able to write songs on those.”

Like a hurricane

“All of my gear was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy in 2012. I lost 70 guitars, all of my amps, my sitar. I got divorced and I lost guitars in the divorce. But you go through life and you have to deal with life. Those were great, but they’re wood with pieces of string on them. Sometimes I feel like my relationship with the instrument ran its course and now it’s time to move on. It gave me an attitude where I can be like, ‘You know what? There are a million great Teles and 335s and Les Pauls out there.’ So, I’m alright!”

Break on through to the other side

“I was never the type to sit in a room and practise scales. I kind of forged my own way with writing, to open up these tunings that I’ve played with and translate that into a song. Through that, every time I would write a song, my ability would grow. To me, the end of everything is a great song and that’s the reason I play guitar. It’s cool to add accoutrement to a song and play solos, but the ultimate goal is for a song. All of my leaps that I would go through were from pushing myself as a songwriter.”

Blue Moon Of Kentucky

We had to cancel the show and a riot broke out and people ran outside and turned over cars. That was pretty fucked up

“One of the worst shows we ever played was in Kentucky on Southern Harmony. We were in this arena and it was sold-out. It was one of the biggest headline shows that we’d done to date. We were touring with this big banner that said, ‘Free us! No narcs!’ And it had a big pot leaf on it. When we played, these [guys] busted backstage and beat the shit out of everyone. [We think] they were undercover cops. They wouldn’t show their badges. Our security guards went up to them and said, ‘Hey man, you can’t be back here…’ and they were beaten by these guys. We had to cancel the show and a riot broke out and people ran outside and turned over cars. That was pretty fucked up.”

Hard to handle…

“The toughest time I had was pretty much the whole time I was in the Black Crowes! It was just so negative. [To be able to] make these records and play these songs was amazing. We had virtuosic people in the band: Marc Ford, Eddie Harsch and my brother was a great singer. But it was so bogged down with misery and in-fighting and pettiness that I don’t look back on it with fond memories. Luckily, with The Magpie Salute, everybody’s been through that. We’re pretty vigilant about not falling into those traps!”

The Magpie Salute’s new album High Water I is out now via Provogue/Mascot.

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