Roger Hodgson On Yes, Ringo And Supertramp: ‘The Time For A Reunion Has Passed’
Did Supertramp fit into any genre? Were they rock? Pop? Prog-rock? Perhaps prog-pop? It’s tough to put a label on them that anyone will agree with. But what almost anyone would agree with is that the band’s music has stood the test of time, never really fitting in, but always sounding great. The band’s main songwriter and singer, Roger Hodgson, left the band three decades ago, but still tours on his own playing his most well-known songs. But it’s been 13 years since his last solo record. We thought it was about time we asked him about that, and a few other issues: namely, will Supertramp ever ride again, did Yes really ask him to join and what’s it like playing in Ringo Starr‘s band. Hodgson, by the way, is currently on the road (get tour info here) and is preparing to put out Classics Live 2.
People must ask this a lot: but it’s been a long time since you’ve released a new album. Do you have any plans to do a new album?
Obviously, I have many songs that have not been recorded yet – over sixty at the last count. But to tell you the truth, I feel I can do more good performing rather than taking six months in a studio to record an album. For the fans who really want to hear new songs, I try to introduce one or two during my concerts.
When you started out, did you have any idea that your music would stand the test of time as it has? In the ’70s, could you ever have imaged touring and playing these songs in 2013?
I really feel my songs have stood the test of time so well because they did come from a very pure place and were not contrived or written with the musical trend of the day. My songs were always a very simple expression of what was going on in my life and in my heart and questions that I sang about, the longing and yearning for meaning and longing for love, the hopefulness and optimism that many of the songs have really strike a chord in so many people around the world who have experienced similar challenges in their life or have similar questions. I never tire of playing them and the day I do, I’ll stop.
In 2001, “Give A Little Bit” was used in a Gap commercial, which started airing around the time of 9/11. It seemed to give the song a new dimension and new gravitas. How did you like the way the artists in that commercial interpreted your song. And did you feel that the song has taken different meanings over the years?
“Give A Little Bit” is a wonderful song with a very simple message about reaching out and giving and caring. It has definitely taken on a life of its own, and every night I see the audience light up when I invite them to sing it with me in concert. I feel its message is even more relevant and needed today than when I wrote it at age 19. The artists who recorded the song for the Gap commercial all put their own flavor into it. Interestingly enough, one of those artists, Johnny Rzeznik later did a full cover of the song with his band, the Goo Goo Dolls – revitalizing their career and giving them a hit song on their next album.
What is your favorite song that you’ve written?
It changes every night. “Lord Is It Mine” is one of my favorites. But I enjoy them all, really. “Dreamer” is a wonderful song for celebrating. “Fool’s Overture” is always thrilling to play. Every song is unique and expresses different emotions. Every concert feels like a journey through my life.
You obviously have a lot of huge hit singles – but do you have any songs that you feel are underrated? Which ones and why?
Ironically, the songs that so many say is their favorite was not even a hit. The song “Hide In Your Shell” was a song I wrote at the height of my confusion and loneliness and alienation. It is a song that so many people have said has helped them through a dark period or a diffi]cult period in their lives. To me, the true power of music is bringing comfort to others through an understanding of shared challenges.
Are you still a vegetarian? Why did you become one in the first place?
I am still very much into health and eat organic food wherever possible. I am not strictly vegetarian. I do eat fish and some chicken which I found was necessary to stay healthy while traveling. The original reasons I turned vegetarian were multiple. We are what we eat. The vibration of the food that eat has a direct impact on how we feel and how sensitive we are and even the thoughts that we have. A vegetarian diet made me much more sensitive and aware in my being.
You worked with former Yes member Trevor Rabin in the past – how did you guys originally meet? Is there stuff that you worked on together that has never been released? Is it true that Yes invited you to be their singer?
Yes, Trevor Rabin contacted me to see if I would like to join Yes. Even though I did not think that was a good idea, he and I really hit it off and we did spend quite a bit of time in the studio and, yes, there is music that we did together that has not been released.
When you played with Ringo Starr in his All-Starr Band, what did that mean to you ? Any great memories from that tour?
That was quite a kick. I never imagined that I would be doing that. The Beatles changed the face of music and changed my life and inspired me in many ways in seeing what I could do to express my music in the world. It was wonderful to hear the man share some of the stories from his perspective and not the way the media portrayed it. And actually, I had a lot of compassion for him because it’s very hard being a Beatle, even to this day. I mean, he can’t venture out of the hotel room easily. As wonderful as that degree of fame is, you do become a prisoner so much. It was great playing “The Logical Song,” “Take the Long Way Home,” and “Give a Little Bit” with Ringo and feeling Ringo playing the drums behind me. He has a pocket like no other drummer. It was a great experience. He’s a wonderful guy and it was a lot of fun and it was a great experience for me.
What does the term “progressive rock” mean to you – do you feel that Supertramp were progressive rock?
I actually think the Beatles were the most progressive band of all time. The broke down more barriers and took more risks than almost any other band. I did think the same, maybe to a lesser degree, with Supertramp. I never paid much attention to what was in fashion in the music world. I think in many ways the music I made with Supertramp was progressive.
Finally – and you must get this all the time – could you foresee any occasion where you would play with Supertramp again?
No, the time for a reunion has passed. Neither Rick (Davies) nor I have any desire to recreate the past. It was a wonderful time back then and it worked. I don’t go along with the romantic notions that the magic of the past can be recreated 30 years later. The connection I am having with audiences now is very deep and wonderful. Most fans, when they see the show I am doing, they let go of any desire to see a Supertramp reunion.