September 5, 2018 Interview – Simon Hinkler of The Mission
“At the time that life’s happening, you don’t necessarily realize the relevance of any given moment,” insightfully says The Mission UK’s Guitarist Simon Hinkler. A truthful and thoughtful statement, Hinkler has been fortunate enough to live a life in Rock-n-Roll that has lasted three plus decades and counting. Begun his journey with the likes of Post-Punk act Artery and a stint with Pulp, he attained mass success as lead guitarist of The Mission in the late 1980s.
Going from a struggling musician to international Rock fame can be a whirlwind, but Hinkler has landed on his feet, officially returning to The Mission UK back in 2011. Wiser and grateful for all that he has done, Hinkler recently took the time to chat about his time with The Mission, working as a solo artist, his latest solo EP Moving On, plans for the future, plus more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been involved in music professionally four decades now. From your early days with bands such as Artery and Pulp, to The Mission thereafter, briefly tell us, what has the journey been like for you?
Simon Hinkler – At the time that life’s happening, you don’t necessarily realize the relevance of any given moment. One of the great privileges of being a recording artist is that you preserve parts of yourself, like time capsules. Writing or playing on piece of music is better than a photograph to me. It’s a snapshot of who I was, where I was, and how I felt at that moment. I’ve felt this way since my first ever record – in fact before then, when I used to mess around at home with tape recorders. I still have most of those tapes. Regardless of how successful or famous it becomes, making music in any capacity remains one of those things they can’t take away from you.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and you have done a great deal of memorable work over the years. Speaking of success, You were initially a part of The Mission between 1986 and 1990. What were those early years like for yourself and the band?
Simon Hinkler – It all happened so quickly. One minute I was unemployed, often hungry, and living in a cold bedsit, the next I was on TV. After the success of the first single it all took off. We worked extremely hard with barely a break, and before long it felt like normal life, only occasionally stopping to remind yourself it was far from normal, more like a cartoon. It’s well publicized we used to live hard in those days. Inevitably something had to give and in the end it was me who said “enough.” The strange thing, in retrospect, is that period of the band/my life was only five years, but at the time it seemed eternal. Conversely, since reforming in 2011, it’s been seven years, and that has felt much shorter.
CrypticRock.com – It sounds like it was a very memorable time. It is also good that you knew when to say enough and preserve your own health for the future. In your absence from The Mission, you worked on various musical projects including your own solo material. How would you compare working as a solo artist opposed to a band format?
Simon Hinkler – There’s nothing quite like getting up on a stage with three other guys knowing it’s going to be good. All that loud energy. I enjoy the camaraderie of a band. That’s why it’s so important to get the chemistry right. One of my first bands, Artery, definitely had that, and so did The Mission in a very different way, but so many bands don’t seem to. On the other hand, I derive more satisfaction from working alone. Everything takes a lot longer, and you have to question yourself a lot, but in the end there’s only yourself to answer to. If you choose or reject an idea it’s because you decided to, not someone else.
CrypticRock.com – That is true, and in the end you decide the destiny of the music you are creating. Speaking of solo material, you are set to release a new 5 track solo EP, entitled Moving On, as of September 7th. A mix of styles, what was the writing and recording process like for this collection of songs?
Simon Hinkler – When working with other people it’s usually just a case of mess-around until you find something you like that fits with what they’ve done. I have a whole different process when working alone. For many years, I’ve carried a Dictaphone everywhere I go – nowadays it’s my iPhone. Whenever I get a new idea for a melody/lyric/guitar line/sound, whatever, I take out my phone and either sing it, hum it, la-la it, or describe it.
Sometimes I sit at the piano or with a guitar and mess about for half an hour and record it. Then when I find time to start a new piece of music I listen through my ideas, choose one to expand on, and get it going in the studio. Then I’ll go around with this tune in my head all day every day, and record into my phone ideas for instrumentation, arrangement, lyrics, etc as they occur.
Because I’ve done this for so many years, and kept all of it, sometimes I might work on something I hummed while, say, driving around or making dinner, probably in a different country 15 years ago. To me this is exciting and makes every piece of music I do a highly personal thing to me. The Moving On EP is very much like this. The opening riff of “It Isn’t You” for example started as a Dictaphone of me playing around on a Ukulele on vacation in Kauai in 2001.
CrypticRock.com – Wow, that is quite a wonderful way to absorb the music and let it become you. As mentioned, the EP is pretty diverse musically; you have songs that are more dark such as “It Isn’t You” to the upbeat-vibe “Friends.” Do you enjoy the ability to explore different styles as a songwriter?
Simon Hinkler – There’s never really a plan to write a collection of songs like this or like that. Each one grows in the way the ideas take me. Same with singing. I sing the way I think each set of lyrics and music should be done. There’s also a large element of staying within my range and capabilities! We all have our own tastes in music, and I think that comes across in each person’s writing. It also works very much the other way round, insomuch as when you hear a style/sound/way of playing/singing that offends your ears you make sure you never do anything like that.
CrypticRock.com – Right, you learn from experimenting. Well, this is a very strong collection of songs, do you have any other material in the works. Perhaps another EP coming?
Simon Hinkler – It was always my intention to follow up with another EP, possibly two, before we reconvene The Mission next year. I dunno. Doing the whole thing alone is a lot of time and effort, and having to think of business type things (which I really dislike doing). I do have some complete songs plus loads of ideas, and I’d certainly like to release more material. So I suppose I’ll keep doing my thing and when I have a handful of finished songs that I think belong together then I’ll do it.
CrypticRock.com – That will be something to look forward to – both your solo and the potential of new The Mission material. With Moving On set for release, can we expect some solo gigs announced?
Simon Hinkler – As of now I do have just one acoustic show booked in December, supporting Chameleons Vox, and have been offered others in the interim, but playing solo live is not my favorite thing. I dunno. Maybe. I would like to be able to go out with a band and make a big noise, but finding the right people and the chemistry takes time.
CrypticRock.com – Hopefully we can get a chance to hear some of these solo songs live in the future. The Mission recently completed a 30th anniversary tour. Additionally, you released an epic 5 disc live album, entitled For Ever More, back in March. How did the last tour go, and is it possible to see the band return to North America again soon?
Simon Hinkler – It was great. Being on tour with The Mission is almost invariably a good time. As far as coming to The States again, I believe it’s all a case of logistics. The word is that it’s increasingly difficult (and expensive) for non-US acts to get the visas. I know that last time we toured there a few years ago I almost didn’t make it because the INS messed me about so much; sent me through a pointless process of medical exams, police certificates, and more paperwork and more fees and more delays and more personal expense …and I was a green card holder and resident for 13 years. Kinda puts you off, which I believe is the idea.
CrypticRock.com – That is very unfortunately. It can be quite difficult for outsiders to tour the USA. Hopefully it will not be as much of a challenge in the future. You have shown you are very diverse as a musician. What are some of your influences as a player?
Simon Hinkler – Well, I was a teenager in the seventies so that period of guitar bands set me on my way. From Hendrix to the more stripped-down guitarists like Paul Kossoff, Ronnie Wood, and particularly Mick Ronson. Through Punk and New Wave, which is when I started playing in bands, and then on to Post-Punk. I like loads of non-guitar based music too. Soundtracks, experimental, older Jazz, Folk, ethnic; anything that is pleasing to my ear. To be honest, it’s mostly 20th century until around 1990-ish. I particularly like great writers like Tom Waits, Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed…
CrypticRock.com – All great selections! Last question. We also cover Horror and Sci-Fi films on CrypticRock. If you are a fan of either or both genres, what are some of your favorites?
Simon Hinkler – Yes, I’m partial to a bit o’ that stuff. Preferred Star Trek: The Next Generation to Star Wars. Time travel is always good. Mostly though, I’m something of an old movie buff which would include the old Horrors – Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and all. My favorite directors are Hitchcock, Kubrick, Gilliam. A couple of favorite films (of the very many) would be Vertigo (1958) and Time Bandits (1981). The first for the twisted plot and the glorious Technicolor cinematography around San Francisco. And Time Bandits because it’s mad, clever, poignant, hilarious, and full of incredible creative imagination.