Robbie Williams, living legend, will receive a Brit Icon Award next week. Huddled outside the V05 NME Awards in rainy Brixton, we gave him a call to see how it feels. He also did a thing with Mastercard where he surprised a fan by turning up to a cinema to hang out with them, but we forgot to ask about that.
What’s up fam! I just thought I’d try that since you’re with the NME.
That time with Dizzee Rascal obviously rubbed off on you. Speaking of grime, What’s happening with you and Big Narstie?
We went into the studio together and we did a song. It was great but it didn’t make the album. The song is with Basement Jaxx and I was going to get Shirley Bassey to sing on it, but then Big Narstie comes in and we have the best day. The he does an interview with The Sun and tells them that Shirley Bassey is on it! Then Shirley Bassey’s lawyers get hold of us saying that Shirley’s really upset and it has caused a oproblem. I’m like, “Oh, Big Narstie, don’t do that.”
When was the last time you had it like an oligarch?
My life is sort of oligarchic but if an oligarch was on a budget. But listen, compared to where I was from and the socio-economic background I was born into I’m a fucking oligarch.
Do you buy the stuff about Putin and Trump?
I like a conspiracy of any shape and form. I kind of believe and not believe everything at the same time for the entertainment purposes and the soap opera of every day life. It’s interesting and entertaining. Is it true? Maybe. Is it not? Maybe. By the sounds of it, Moby knows.
Speaking of conspiracy theories, I loved the UFO documentary you made with Jon Ronson. Are you still into that?
Yeah, if I have any downtime I’m on the internet looking for new stuff, but all is quiet on the UFO front and it has been for a long time. There have been no major sightings or anything that’s gone on for quite a while.
So, ‘Rudebox’ is a banger but nobody knew it at the time, people kind of took the piss out of it. But I’ve got this theory that if it came out now, people would absolutely love it. I think it was just ahead of its time.
No, I still think it would be a bit pants. Weirdly, last night before I went to sleep, I turned to my wife and out of nowhere I said, “I stand by ‘Rudebox’, you know,” and she agreed. Then I went to sleep. It’s an absolute shame because I love that song and I’ll probably never get to perform it in a stadium near you.
Maybe I should. Do you know, it wasn’t greeted so badly anywhere else other than the UK? It was just sort of like, “Here’s a pop star and he’s doing this now” and it was only the UK out of everybody that just went fuck you, die you bastard – that’s what it felt like. I was only trying to make words rhyme. Inevitably, in the UK, if you’re really successful you get a kicking at some point. There was a chink in the armour and it was my time for the major kicking and I got it. There isn’t anybody I can think of who hasn’t or might not get a kicking, apart from Ed Sheeran.
Just because he’s genuinely the nicest guy ever. I’ve got edges and I’m annoying – he’s not annoying and he’s really nice. There’s something about Ed where I just don’t think he’s going to get that kicking.
How come pop stars aren’t as fun as you were in the ’90s?
We were a different breed back then, cussing and dissing and needing to say things in order to be interesting. I don’t think people do that now. It was expected of everybody to be drunk and off their face on cocaine. As people don’t do that now it seems so fucking weird, it’s not acceptable and great. If people did that now it would look a bit sad. I think it depends what drugs are out there at the time. What’s out there at the moment? Ketamine? Or am I out of date on that?
It might be legal highs now
Well, that’s probably why everyone’s wank – because of legal highs.
There’s a quote where you said watching your wife give birth was like watching your favourite pub burn down. It received some backlash. How do you feel about that quote? Do you regret it?
No, it’s great because just recently there’s an off-licence that’s been opened round the back.
Oh my God
Boom, right? Smashed it. I’ve been waiting for somebody to ask me so I can say that. No, but really, I’m an over-sharer, my wife’s an over-sharer. She enjoys that kind of banter. We both do. Nobody really had a problem with it. People mainly laughed and those that didn’t can go fuck themselves.
You’ve won a Brit Icon award. How does it feel to receive the same award as Elton and Bowie? Does that feel like an elevation of status?
It depends who they give it to next. Maybe I’m just devaluing the brand. Maybe it’s like the heavy descent. Maybe it’s S Club 7 next. I don’t know. Look, it was a cracking bit of promo, I’m glad they gave it to me. But there’s so much in my career where I look into the abyss and the abyss looks back and goes: “I don’t know, I don’t have a fucking clue”. How have I got 18 Brits and Paul McCartney hasn’t? Something weird has happened. It’s like Leicester winning the league and Trump being president. Me having 18 Brits – it’s like there’s a glitch in the Matrix. But, you know I’m not going to give them back and I’m glad it’s happened to me.
Are you going to do anything special for the performance?
With the Brits and other awards shows if you don’t fall over or your tit doesn’t flop out nobody remembers it, which is why if you’re in show business and you want to entertain people and you have a limited creative mind, you go and offer to fight Liam Gallagher so at least there’s a memorable moment. Because nobody cares about the people that you’re thanking and the performances are always pretty boring. Do something weird or offer to fight somebody or fall over or brandish a tit.
Were you surprised the backlash when a video emerged of you using hand sanitiser after touching a fan?
Yeah, I was really surprised. It was only a bit of panto and then people go, “Oh, he fucking hates the general public.” I didn’t realise until the next day that it was a thing. It’s only a couple of weeks later when I’m listening to Talk Sport and people will reference it and I’m like, ‘Oh it’s a thing?” It’s always weird and mind-fucking.
When was the last time you saw Liam Gallagher?
Backstage at the Brits in – I don’t know – 2009? He was just walking past the dressing room. He’s got an album coming out and primarily I have always been a fan of Oasis and him. I’m looking forward to his album coming out.
It would be amazing if you did something together…
It would, it would be fucking amazing! But I don’t think he’s got it together enough to allow himself to do that. He’s not gonna work with fucking Robbie Williams. It’s really unfortunate for me because I’d fucking love it. And it would shock the world for a day.
Do you still get a kick out of that? Making people talk?
You know, I like to entertain. That’s my primary function. I do have limited creative skills and I find myself saying things that, at later inspection and later dates, I probably wouldn’t have said. I’m just trying to entertain and be funny all the time. I’m not really trying to be controversial but if what I say is funny and controversial at the same time then so be it and great. I just think there are so many boring PH7 neutral artists out there that it’s not very difficult standing out.
I’m standing outside the NME Awards right now, Robbie. Come on down!
No, thank you, I’ve got a bad back and I’ll probably end up doing cocaine and losing my wife.