When Cocteau Cometh

I can’t quite recall what kind of business I had being in the studio that afternoon, hovering over Pinkie Passion’s on-air interview with Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie. I’m sure I made up some excuse about needing to alphabetize CDs or check on commercials, but I know I wasn’t the only one. We were all Cocteau fans at Radio Free Hawaii and a number of staffers halted their day’s work to cram into the DJ booth, soak up the star power and try, in futility, to stay out of the way. I had even brought a camera and a blank cassette with me for documentation. Now, all these years later, I thank my foresight for this recorded interview and accompanying photos.

Robin Guthrie autographs a concert poster in the Radio Free Hawaii studios

It was the day before Cocteau Twins’ 1994 Honolulu show when Guthrie, in dark shades, strolled into the studios of Radio Free Hawaii and took a seat at the guest’s microphone. He spoke softly, displayed a dry wit and seemed to wade through the interview with good humor and a measure of self-amusement. Pinkie, true to form, was a brilliant hostess, generating rapport from the get-go. “Robin seemed to ride a familiar wavelength, which I felt when he stepped into the studio,” recalls Ms. Passion, when asked what she remembers of the exchange. “It was a cozy interview, like welcoming a friend into my personal hale for some tea time.”

The audio track provided here remains largely intact, save for a few minor edits to which a too-short cassette and audio glitches are to blame. A number of Cocteau tracks were played during that hour, along with some Radio Free Hawaii chartbusters and a request, by Guthrie, for the Birthday Party. Zealous fans conversed with Guthrie on-air and one even managed to finesse a spot on his personal guest list for the concert.

I very much liked the Cocteau Twins in ‘94, though I was an even bigger fan of Lush at the time, which Guthrie also famously produced. He was, and still is, the king of shoegaze. Everything he touched seemed to have a beautiful, magical sheen over it; a gossamer veneer of sound no one had ever successfully replicated. I had long desired to know the alchemistic details behind his signature sound and vowed to ask him at the first break. Upon my solicitation, I remember him thinking about it for a quick moment, then shrugging and simply offering me a humble “I don’t know — there’s really no secret.” So much for unlocking the great enigma of Guthrie’s sound. Years later, I’m still no closer to an answer. Heaps of flange and chorus effects, maybe? Beyond that, I’d still love to know.

— Shawn “Speedy” Lopes

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