Stellar Q &A ROBBIE WILLIAMS
Singer “Depression is less of a stigma now. Ten years ago it was a case of, ‘Get on with it!’”
You’ve said “42 is 1042” in pop-star years. Yet you owned up to having arthritis... I’ve got a bit of arthritis in my back, sometimes it’s painful. It’s all right; I’ll go on tour, I’ll dance about. I had a football pitch in LA and I never warmed up and we played on hard surfaces. Maybe it’s something to do with that. I suppose yoga and Pilates would help, but I don’t do a lot that helps me out! You’ve admitted to using Botox and struggling with how you look and perceive yourself. Are you more comfortable with it at 42?
obvious answer is no. I was so happy when a psychologist told me I was body dysmorphic. I thought, “Yes! I’m not f*cking fat! It’s in my mind.” There’s a perverse joy in finding out I had a mental illness revolving around how I look. How do you keep the weight off? I’m still trying to find something that suits me. I’m combating a biological need to eat a lot of stuff, and it’s hard. It’s a daily thing and I haven’t got it quite right yet. But I’ve got it way more right than I ever have. You were one of the first pop stars to open up about anxiety and depression. It’s less of a stigma now. That helps. Ten years ago it was a case of, “What’s that person got to be depressed about? Get on with it!” Which isolates you, too. It wasn’t until I moved to America, and they had adverts on the telly for depression, [that I] saw it was normalised. See, it is a thing, you wankers! It’s like having a cold or any other ailment. If I get enough food or sleep, I’m good. If I don’t, I’m not. Do you still get anxious going onstage?
I take the responsibility of being a conduit for a good time for people really seriously. My real sense of being is I’m agoraphobic; I’m in my bedroom and I don’t leave. So, the setting of being onstage is unnatural for me. But when the communion between the two of us is there, it’s more than a religious experience – there aren’t words for it. When it isn’t and I’m doing it myself, it’s traumatic, but it’s my job.
Your job involves trauma? Yep. When I come and do TV in Australia, I’ll be entertaining because of the trauma it produces for me at the time. I do my job. My job is the best job in the world. But it causes me trauma. Are you at the point where you can see how good you are at your job? Not really. I’m not in the place where I allow myself to have that truth. I don’t know if I’ll ever be in that place. That sounds very LA therapy-speak. Therapy-speak is my speak. Especially when you’ve had to confront something that’s debilitating and derailing your enjoyment of life. It’s probably the same as going to uni to learn accountancy when you want to be an accountant. I want a mind that works in my favour, and the therapists are the accountants. Is there a positive to these negative feelings? The neurosis and the hard time I give myself propels me forward in my career. That’s why I’m still here.
Your wife, actor Ayda Field, has talked about your celebrity exes on TV. That’s an understanding partner. She’s got that comedic sense of being incredibly honest for humour and finding the humour in anything. She’s just unique. I can point at the TV screen and say, “Her”, and she knows it means I’ve slept with her. [Ayda] doesn’t have that reflex that makes her feel bad about herself. She’ll just go, “Her? Really? Was she fit in the ’90s?” and then I have to Google what they looked like in the ’90s. Why I’m in love with my wife is that she’s a beauty, but her dysfunction is beautiful, too. It’s that Leonard Cohen thing: you have to be cracked for the light to come in. Where she’s cracked, there’s a beauty there and we dovetail. We share the same sense of humour, which is so good. That allows me so much room in interviews, where I can say sh*t other people can’t say. Like about sleeping with four out of the five Spice Girls? I introduced [Take That’s] “Back for Good” and said, “I’m very fortunate, I’m the only person in the world who can say I’ve been in Take That and four out of the five Spice Girls.” It got a laugh. [I] later regretted it because it has followed me. For mischief, I embellish it. Rightly so, boyfriends and husbands aren’t happy about that, and I understand that and I regret that. It’s just me being a frustrated comedian. What’s the truth? It’s not four. Make of that what you will. It’s unfair on the girls, we’re all older now, we’ve all got children; the joke’s not funny anymore. Which ones did I actually sleep with? I’m not telling. I’m not a sociopath. When I’ve said something that hurts somebody, I feel really bad about it. Although there’s an energy around saying something that is funny that’s addictive, the energy of regretting saying it is worse. You’re mates with Adele. How’s she coping with fame? Adele’s way more together than I was at her age. I’ve spent a bit of time with Harry Styles; he’s way more together than I ever was. And so it is. It’s not a one-size-fits-all, fame. It does different things to different people. I’ve got a raging addictive personality. Do you see a part of yourself in Harry – the boy-band star enjoying all the perks of the job? He’s in a different realm than I was. My options were whatever was at the hotel when I got back. He goes out. That’s smart. I had a good time with my dalliances. I gave it a good crack. Robbie Williams will be appearing at the ARIA Awards on November 23.