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13 Questions: Edwyn Collins

by Ouch Team

23rd October 2008

Orange Juice frontman and singer of the unforgettable A Girl Like You, Edwyn Collins was recording his most recent album in 2005 when he had two brain haemorrhages. Recovery brought him back to his roots as a keen artist and illustrator, and he began to draw British birds. Those drawings hang in London's Smithfield Gallery right now.

Edwyn has loads to say, and plenty of stories to tell, but due to dysphasia, communication isn’t easy. He and his wife and manager Grace answered Ouch’s 13 nosy questions together on speaker phone from their lounge.

Uppermost in my mind today is...

Edwyn Collins
My art exhibition. It’s good news. Fifteen drawings have already sold. My agent helped me to organise it. I’m being introduced to the art world for the first time.

People think I am ...

I don't know, an artist, a musician, a songwriter.
Grace: He's quite self absorbed. He’s not fussed about the judgement of others. The lift of the Royal Free hospital where Edwyn was was always crowded. He had a huge bandage on his head and looked like someone who had suffered a brain injury. Everybody tried to look away. The lift voice would say “going up” and he would repeat it. People couldn’t ignore that. I joined in.
Edwyn: It was a laugh!

I want to ban ...

Therapy. They had an obsession with trying to teach me to make a cup of tea again. They would say, “So you boil the water and then what do you do?” I’d ask Grace or have coffee. I still have a personal trainer, speech and language therapy, physiotherapy and Yoga. You should try everything.

The best piece of advice I would pass on is ...

Edwyn's drawing of a Lesser Black Backed Gull
Be positive, don't be frightened of everything and be attentive to other people. I am a lot more understanding with people now. I used to be a pretty arrogant person, but not anymore.

I struggle with ...

My stroke. Sometimes I can't cope with things but never to the point of badness.
Grace: instead of planning ahead or avoiding things, we get there and then say oh s**t, but then we have to do it.
Edwyn: lost in the dark.
Grace: oh yes. Shortly after Edwyn got out of hospital we went for a walk and got lost. I only had one tiny bar on my phone. It took us an hour and a half to get off Hampstead Heath.

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I excel at ...

Performing on stage. Never Met a Girl, Falling and Laughing, Poor Old Soul, Home Again. At first it was difficult, take it from me. I relearned the songs one at a time. I love it!

My ideal dinner guest is ...

My favourite guitarist, John Fogerty, from the Creedence Clearwater Revival. I presented him with a Mojo award.

I couldn't live without ...

Edwyn Collins
My Apple Mac. It's my lifeline to the world. I’m an absolute internet addict: MySpace, YouTube ... I persevered with things.
Grace: Edwyn’s reading and writing were completely wiped so he had to relearn. It’s thanks to the computer and correspondents on MySpace.

If I didn't live in the UK, I'd live in ...

Grace: You just made that up!
Edwyn: I hate the French. They ripped me off.
Grace: A radio station stole the backing track from A Girl Like You. We took them to court. The judge accepted that the radio station didn't own the track, but said that it wasn’t proven that Edwyn really existed. We think they were all in the Masons together!

My first job was ...

As an illustrator for the parks department in Glasgow. I designed nature trails for school kids.
Grace: Kids used to ask him if he was a punk, and he’d say "Yes, I'm nature punk". He told me that he used to have a caravan called the nature trailer. It got stoned once in Bridgeton near the West End.

When I come home in the evenings, I ...

Watch Deal Or No Deal. I like Noel Edmonds, even though he is a bit smarmy.

Drawing birds during my recovery was ...

Edwin's drawing of a Dotterel
Something Grace encouraged me to do.
Grace: He was stuck drawing this cartoon man and I thought, "God, I have to get him out of that". I suggested that he think about drawing birds the way he used to. Back then, there were lots of people and therapists working with Edwyn, but with the drawing there was nobody guiding or steering him. He was really in a world of his own. It was a blessed thing.

Being on stage after my brain hemorrhages

Wasn't easy to begin with. At the first show at Dingwall's I was nervous. I cried, for example. It was just too much! I enjoyed it. I remembered all the words. I’m ready to tour again.
Edwyn’s sketches will show at the Smithfield Gallery in London until 20th November.

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