This interview first appeared on Teletext on 25th and 26th June 2007. Thanks to John Earls for permission to reproduce it here.
Robert Forster's mission
By John Earls
When Grant McLennan died of a heart attack a year ago, aged just 48, it marked the end of The Go-Betweens after nine revered albums.
Before he died, Grant and Robert Forster were compiling their best solo work from the 1990s. That compilation, the gorgeous (and gorgeously packaged) 2CD set Intermission is now out.
In the first of a two-part interview, Robert talks about the duo's legacy...
Why did you compile Intermission now?
Grant and I had always planned to take last year off. Our last album Oceans Apart did so well, Intermission was intended to give new fans something to look into and to tide old fans over.
When Grant died, I froze. I didn't know what to do about music. Everyone left me alone to decide in my own time and, at the end of 2006, I felt the best thing to do was to carry on as we'd planned; finish sorting Intermission.
Intermission's packaging is gorgeous...
It had to be. It's the first release since Grant died, so I wanted it to be perfect - simple, but beautiful.
Rather than have separate CDs for you and Grant, was it tempting to alternate your songs like a Go-Betweens album?
Not at all. We enjoyed those years of exploring our songs apart, they helped us grow. They don't sound like The Go-Betweens, and to force them together retrospectively wouldn't be right.
What did you learn about your music in the '90s, not working with Grant?
How to play guitar better. Grant and I always wrote apart, so the craft of writing songs didn't change that much.
But before we went solo, I could take a song to Grant and know he'd come up with fantastic guitars for my songs. I could just let him run off that way. When The Go-Betweens returned, it was wonderful to have such an impeccable guitarist playing with me again.
How do you feel about your's and Grant's solo work, listening back now?
Very happy, apart from my covers album - I don't like that at all, it was made during a dark time for me. Music changes wherever you record, I like the changes from my Berlin to London songs.
Grant's music, I can't help but hear in a different context since he died - it goes for his Go-Betweens songs too. I hear the melancholy in his songs more than I did when he was with us.
Has your songwriting changed since Grant died?
It's hard to say. I don't know if it's changed because of not having Grant around, or because a year has gone by and I've changed naturally anyway.
I'm beginning to enjoy it again. I'm demoing songs with our bassist, Adele. I don't know which other musicians I'll work with, but it's a good feeling that songs are returning to me. They're coming slowly, but they always did.
Robert Forster's future
By John Earls
In the second of our two-part interview, Robert Forster reveals his plans for returning to music after the death of his Go-Betweens bandmate Grant McLennan...
How many songs have you written for a new album?
There are about eight songs in total. I was never as prolific as Grant. Some of the songs I'm making are the final ones Grant wrote before he died. One is called Let Your Light In, Babe.
How hard is it to finish making songs based on Grant's final demos?
Surprisingly easy. There are a couple I can't sing because my voice isn't right - one in particular is perfect for somebody - we'll try to get that done.
Grant never recorded song ideas on PCs. Like me, he'd do proper acoustic demos. I've got those, without lyrics - from his lyric book, he only had titles for them. But his melodies are so strong, ideas quickly suggest themselves.
Do you want a second solo career?
I'm not sure. The record I'm making now is one that I feel has to be done. I see it as making the album Grant and I had planned to make this year anyway.
But I want to write in other areas, as well as music. As Grant and I were taking last year off, I began writing for the Australian magazine The Monthly and that's been very worthwhile. It's a new discipline. It's good to start afresh with new ways of writing.
What's been the biggest benefit of becoming a rock critic for The Monthly?
Hearing contemporary music. I'm not a big White Stripes fan, but it's good to be sent their new record to get a feeling of it. Good albums, Fountains Of Wayne, find their way to me now.
One of the things I miss most about Grant is his knowledge of all areas of the arts. It was extraordinary, and we had that shortcut where we could say what we really thought of something.
Do you think you'll ever find someone to write songs with again after Grant?
Probably not. It's unlikely I'd find someone twice where we complemented one another so well. And it'd be hard on the other person. I'd have the Paul McCartney syndrome, where the other person is compared to John Lennon.
You turn 50 on Friday...
It'll be low-key. I'm not running from the idea of getting old, I'm just not big on being part of a large party.
How do you feel about playing live on your own again?
I've got four shows here in Brisbane in July, one for Go-Betweens songs and one for each solo record. It's a nice way to return to doing concerts again.
The Intermission compilation and the next new record were things Grant and I had already planned. These shows are the first music ideas that weren't part of what we'd already thought of. I've only just realised that, and it's nice.