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Hobbit - 2001 very first interview
INTERVIEW: Hobbit (Jul 2001)
Pomp and circumstance, according to Texan pompsters Hobbit.

This is the 'In The Spotlight'page. With all the talk and attention being given to the upcoming Lord Of The Rings trilogy, we talk to a band who are steeped in the tradition of all things Tolkien. I mean, even the bands name for goodness sake! Yes, people, Hobbit have been around for ages, but are now making a remarkable comeback. We trek on over to the great south east Farthing of Texas, where Gdazegod catches up with the guys from Hobbit, namely Gene Fields (vocals, guitars); Paul 'Turk' Henry (bass, vocals); Richard Hill (guitars) and Rusty Honeycutt (Drums). Ales and scones anyone? Merryment all round as the words flow like the very best brew. (July 2001)

Thanks for finding some time to talk to us guys. Who would think that after all these years that Hobbit has finally reached critical mass of interest and support. This must bemuse you somewhat?
Turk: Great to be with you George, and Heart of the Rock (GLORY-DAZE and LOTR, hmmmmm?). And thank you very much for this opportunity to get some things out there. Hey, I like that 'critical-mass-of-interest' thing! Bemused, surprised, very excited, and very very happy indeed, to say the least. But, yes, although we've always had faith that our music was viable, back in the 1st Age, we had no idea how it would be accepted in Y2K. So far, so good.

Gene: Well, it is a great feeling to finally see our music get out, and the reponse has been a bit surprising. With CD's and the internet, things are quite different after all these years. Sometimes things happen for a reason, and we're really enjoying all this.

Rusty: Yes, thanks to the perseverance of Turk, and the special fans and friends!

Certainly the musical climate has changed in 25 years, but you know, melodic rock still has those similar elements today which made it so popular back then. This still holds true for Hobbit then?


Turk: Well it seems, luckily for Hobbit, that melodic rock has not lost it's following after so many years. And I think classic rock radio stations in Europe, and web-zines like GLORY-DAZE, can be thanked entirely for keeping it alive! Yes, it still holds true with us.

Rusty: Yes, and we all had certain common influences which led to our particular style.

Lets wind the clock back a bit. Mid seventies era, Texas location, and I suppose a style which could best be described as being non Texan. Having pomp tendencies does that mean you were influenced by the UK scene at the time? (ie: Yes, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull etc).

Gene: Absolutely! We never really got into southern rock, even though we emerged from it's center. For me, the British influence goes all the way back to the Beatles. Both Turk and I were big fans of Yes, Zeppelin, Tull and others. Hobbit's writing style was always more influenced by that type of music versus 'Texas' rock.

Turk: Ohhhhh yeah, it was a very interesting, and fun time, trying to 'sneak' in our, what was 'coined' as Fantasy Rock, style back then in Texas. And definitely, a HUGE U.K. musical influence.. .Yes, Floyd, Queen, ELP, Beatles, early Bowie, early Kate Bush, and my personal all-time favourite, Jethro Tull (the list could go on a while!), and over here Kansas, Styx, and Canada, Rush. Don't know what we would have done without the U.K. bands!

Rusty: Most definitely, a lot of U.K.

What was the Texan scene like then? We hear of bands from the region like John Nitzinger and Bloodrock, and of course Houston favourites ZZ Top, but I can reassure you.. not many back then would have heard of Hobbit..

Gene: It's true that bands like ZZ Top, Lightnin', Blackhorse, and Bugs Henderson were very popular with the more gritty blues/bar room rock. There were many really good bands with this style. In fact ZZ recorded their first several albums in Tyler, where we also recorded. However, even in Texas, there were a lot of kids that wanted a deeper type of rock 'n' roll ... something a little different. In that time period, Hobbit had a very unique style for the environment. Fantasy Rock and the unpredictable theatrics in the live shows became a trademark for us, and set the band apart from the more typical scene. We generally preferred to play in the concert format, but some clubs around Texas and the south were a blast. We used that feedback in later songwriting. To play clubs with all original music was risky and rare, but it caught on, and with the help of some radio stations, all made possible.

Turk: The Texas scene was just as you put it, let's also add Savvy, 1st State Bank, and Steve Miller to the list. You're right though, aside from our East Texas following, no one had heard of us, until we got on a Q102FM Texas Crude LP, a Zoo(FM)berry Jam LP, and a live studio/radio broadcast, all 3 in the Dallas/Ft.Worth metroplex. Those, followed by the connection with Mikel Leff/Beaver Prod, led to some great opening act gigs with Cheap Trick, Nightranger, Loverboy, Axe, and Quiet Riot to name a few, and this really helped get our name out there and in the loop.

Rusty: We just wanted to do something completely different from the typical Texas rock scene, and were pretty stubborn about 'stickin' to our guns'.

Hobbit - Live at the Agora

The name Hobbit.. Obviously some J.R.R Tolkien influences here. Who is the big fan then? and did you all come together with the admiration of Tolkien's works being a pre-requisite to join?

Gene: Turk, Richard, and I had each read all of Tolkien's works around the mid 70's, myself influenced by some of Robert Plant's lyrics. So, there was a common bond when we all met in '77. In the beginning this was all we thought about. Later we began to expand to other themes, and coined the style as 'Fantasy Rock'. And no, there were no pre-requisites. Few others, at the time had even heard of Tolkien.

Turk: After Gene and I had met, we found we had a mutual love for Tolkien's Middle Earth.. and the most reverant awe of LOTR, having both read it countless times. Then when Richard joined the band, he too was an LOTR fanatic like us, so the magic was already in place. Funny thing is, when we were trying to come up with a name for the band, it was Rusty (who has never read any of the books) who said... 'since you guys are so into hobbits, elves, wizards, Mordor, etc., why don't we just call us Hobbit'!! You know the rest! But again, being a Tolkien 'freak' was never a pre-requisite for fellowship.

Rusty: There you have it! The least expected member to come up with the name..! Since I still haven't read the books, I am proof it was not a pre-requisite, or I wouldn't have been in there playin' from the beginning!!

Also, did you originally want to keep the theme of the bands' music close to Tolkien roots, or were you a rock band first and foremost?

Gene: It was the musical bond that made Hobbit.. not really the Tolkien influence. In the first few years, many of our songs were either directly about, or suggestive of Middle Earth. Above all, it was fantasy rock; with no desire to be commercially accepted on pop radio. We home recorded an entire sort-of-concept album called 'Join The Celebration-- An Adventure In Fantasy Rock', with possibly Hobbit's most 'unique' music. However, as the popularity of Hobbit grew, things began to change. We were given some strong advice by the guy that recorded the first few ZZ LP's... 'quit singing about imaginary stuff if you really want to make it....nobody cares about that.. go write a hit song about boy/girl situations'. For better or worse, that's kinda what we did. However, some good songs came out of that; like 'Love Is Forever', 'Takin' Your Heart Away', 'Til I Get You Back' and 'Need Your Love'. Probably most bands go through a similar struggle over being individual vs. following a preferred strategy for success.

Turk: Well, we had all been in rock bands prior to our 'fellowship', but it just seemed so natural for Tolkien to 'creep' into the song writing, and originally, almost all the music was Tolkien related.

Rusty: Rock band first, ties kept with Tolkien's work second.

Tell us about your dealings with labels back then, and why the material which surfaced on the 'Two Feet Tall' album' was effectively put in the can for all those years.

Gene: We had several very close misses with major labels during the early '80's. The most powerful was Columbia. We showcased a gig in New York for Al Teller et. al., but missed out. They only signed one act that year.. Men At Work. Basically, Hobbit never agreed with it's management on how to project and sell the band. The more popular the band got, the more disconnected the strategy got. Still, we had some very good exposure and some legitimate chances with Columbia and some other major labels. Something must have been missing?? When Hobbit did split up in '85, the recording of 'Two Feet Tall' went into a bank vault. There it stayed until recently.

Turk: We did have some label interest for the project, but let's just say, our management had a different, and un-yielding, idea on how to 'sell' the band. I doubt we'll ever know the whole story, or any of the reasons for doing things the way they were done, but bottom line is.. it didn't work! After our contractural split, they vaulted the master tape. We should probably just leave it at that, if you don't mind!! Finally, after many, many years of pestering our ex-manager, he gave us the OK to 'do whatever we wanted with the recording' .. so we did!!

Rusty: I had left the band way before that, so, from personal experience, I really can't answer that one.. my apologies!

In all those intervening years, you watched the scene move from radio oriented rock, through to corporate rock (a la Journey, Foreigner), to grunge and now into popular alternative. What was the timeline of Hobbit through all of this?

Gene: During the time after Hobbit split up, we each lived through the disappointment of not being successful, in our own ways. We stayed in touch, but didn't play together again for many years. We never had problems amongst ourselves, only with management and the overall demise of our dream. Some of us continued to play over the years, and some didn't.

Turk: Hobbit was born in the wee hours of the morning, one night in '77, when a friend and I woke Gene up by throwing pebbles at his second story window, to see if he wanted to start a band?! The last separation was in '85, so we were listening, writing, and playing during just about all the different music scenes you just mentioned. After '85 I played in a band called LIX until '90, and have played with Rusty and Tony Marsh, on and off in the remaining years, until the Hobbit re-formed last year.

Many artists are now using the electronic age to make a comeback of sorts. How have you found it so far?

Gene: This electronic Age in music offers some incredible opportunities in recording and distribution.

Turk: You could probably say, safely, that if it wasn't for the advances in the Electro-Tech Age, I don't think we would be writing/recording new stuff, or for that matter, releasing our older recordings either! Thank Eru for all the new digital devices out there and the internet. We absolutely love it, and are having a great time with it. Witness, if you will, this internet interview. High praise and thank you!

Rusty: God Bless the Internet!

Lets look at the 'Two Feet Tall' material now. Many AOR/rock scribes have reviewed it, ourselves included, and mostly everybody has given it a thumbs up. Now that we're this far down the track in time, is Hobbit more of a working hobby/project, that can give you and the other guys financial spinoffs and other rewards?

Gene: The fact that 'Two Feet Tall' was finally released 'worldwide', provided a real spark to each one of us. Realizing that there were a lot of people, outside of our own realm, who loved the music, made us get interested in writing again. The material in that CD is actually pretty broadly spread out, possibly to a fault. From 'Intensity' to 'The Christmas Song', and from 'Need Your Love' to 'Faggots In The Fire' is not that typical! At this point, we're glad that it came out that way. Still, it shows our own struggles over the purpose in writing a song.

Turk: We are incredibly pleased, and surprised, due to the fact it has been so many years since the recording, that 'T.F.T.' has gotten the reviews that it has! Kinda does the soul good to know what might have been, and at the same time disappointing, that it took so long to release what we had.. but?? Yes, at this point it is a damn good fun hobby project!! Of course we, like any band, would love to have those financial spin-offs and rewards, but that is not the driving force behind what we're doing. We have nothing to lose, everything to gain, and as Gene always says....'Anything is possible!'.. Someone said.. 'you're never too old to rock'n'roll'....right? I believe 'em!

Rusty: We're back with a new fire and passion, more mature and sober!! Money is not an issue.

There is mention of some other Hobbit material being released on a forthcoming album from the period 1977-1984. How many tracks do you have stored in the vault from that far back?

Gene: There is another CD being compiled and mastered at this time. It contains songs written after the New York, 'T.F.T.' project of '81.. and a couple of pre-'81 bonus tracks. The title of the CD is tentatively, 'The Looking Glass' (inspired by Lewis Caroll), but the overall style is more straight ahead rock'n'roll?! Turk has some killer vocals on this one. As far as the total recordings we have left.. must be about 40! More of these will be released as time permits, but truthfully, we are now much more interested in the new songs we are presently working on.

Turk: Yeah, this next CD, 'Looking Glass', is 1st, 2nd, and cusp of 3rd Age Hobbit. Due for release in a few months, it will probably surprise (we hope in a good way) the 'T.F.T.' fans out there. It's a little more raw and rockin'. We are really looking forward to seeing how it is received.. with great anticipation? After that, there are probably another 30 songs in our library, unfortunately not all are quality enough for release, but there could be another CD in there somewhere for a distant future release. And for everybody's benefit (even though it's a bit late in this interview) we consider what we're doing now as the 4th Age ('Two Feet Tall' being the 2nd Age). This 4th Age began when Johannes/RecordHeaven (many many thank yous to Johannes) in Sweden, asked me if I thought I could get the original Hobbits 'back in town' to do a song for their tribute to Phil Lynott/Thin Lizzy CD, which I managed to do. I knew then, if I could round everybody up to do a cover song, something very interesting and extraordinary just might happen. Although we were constrained by time, logistics (we were all in three different cities, in two different states), and equipment malfunctions, we barely managed to get 'Fool's Gold' fininshed (we're still not overly pleased with the way it came out, but??).

When we were done, I waited with excitedly nervous anticipation (because the magic had definitely not deserted us over the years) to see if anyone would say anything,.. so I wouldn't have to.. and out of a silent nowhere, Richard asks.. 'Well, what are we gonna do now?'.. The 4th Age ushered in with a 'kodak moment' right then. And (whispering) my secondary, underhanded scheme had played out beautifully.. heh, heh, heh.. we've been runnin' in high gear ever since. Would like to add further, that Tony Marsh ( Hobbit's 3rd Age guitarist) was also on the 'Fool's Gold' tribute song, and will be rejoining Hobbit on the new concept project. He will also be featured in one song on the 'Looking Glass' CD. Unfortunately, he was not available for this interview, due to being on the road playing. One more, although Keith Young (2nd Age drummer) is on most of 'Looking Glass', Rusty will be in three of those songs. Sadly, Keith 'moved on' to the big drum workshop in the sky about ten years ago. Rest In Peace Keith. Rusty will be taking care of the skins on 'All For The One', as he did in the 1st Age.

Rusty: A couple of more CD's worth at least!

Hobbit (left to right) Paul 'Turk Henry, Richard Hill, Gene Fields, Rusty Honeycutt

With all the interest in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, and the movie's first installment towards the end of the year, has this sparked your interest even more now with Hobbit? And what about the Tolkien Concept CD you are currently working on. Perhaps a coincidental timing of the release towards the end of the year then? (ha ha).

Gene: Speaking of that, the CD we're working on now is titled 'All For The One', and it is a total Tolkien concept project. At this point, we don't give a shit what the guy with the ZZ recordings said!! Some of the songs are 'Wind And The Way', 'Rivendell', 'Destiny Chaser' (about Eowyn), 'Cirith Ungol', 'Seeds Of Aftermath', and 'Echos In Mirkwood'. We are having a great time writing and recording this, and have many ideas that must have been stored away. The fact that the movie comes out this year makes it even more logical. After all, we have been called Hobbit for almost a quarter of a century!!

Turk: This LOTR 'craze' couldn't have been more timely, and has definitely helped spark the concept CD we're working on now. I must add, though, it has been a dream of ours from the beginning in '77, to do a Tolkien concept project, but yeah, it sure is nice of Peter Jackson/New Line Cinema to help us out, ha ha!! And specifically, and with all sincerety, for Tolkien fans, who haven't found as much 'Middle Earth' music on 'T.F.T.' and the CD to follow it, as they would like or think, by a band calling themselves Hobbit. Almost all our 1st Age music was Tolkien/Fantasy oriented. We took the advice of Robin Hood Bryan, that recorded early ZZ Top, to write love songs and more mainstream rock, which we did, for bad or good?? So, please forgive usses, but that's why there are only 4 songs on 'T.F.T.' that are Tolkien related. 'The Looking Glass' will also only have four4 Tolkien oriented songs, but the one we're doing now is ALL 'Lord Of The Rings' stuff!! Ohhh Yeah, gotta love them roots!

Rusty: We had already begun the re-birth before we even knew about the movies. Coincidental?.. perhaps! Ha.

What would you envisage the long term plan for Hobbit to be now, considering all these things going on impacting on the band, like the Internet, websites, and of course the LOTR thing?

Gene: Take it Turk.

Turk: Long Term?? Man, that's a tough one?! As Gandalf says.. 'Who knows what the future may bring?'.. For now, we will just keep on doing what we've been doing, have a lot of fun, and one hell of a good time doing it.. and see what happens! I can assure you, though, we plan on being around for quite a while yet.

Rusty: Timing is everything, so, we shall see!

Richard: In my opinion, the Hobbit story that evolved from the late '70's throught the mid '80's, has come full circle in Y2K. The music prior to 'Two Feet Tall' was uncompromising.There was no agenda. We played for ourselves, and coincidentally, developed our most 'loyal' following from that period. Although the years that followed were certainly exciting and filled with optimism, it had become a business. A business inspired by a theory that there was only one pre-subscribed formula for success, write songs that appeal to the masses, songs that did not demand the aspect of engaging the listener's imagination. While that formula was successful in attracting investors, it lacked the substance necessary to sustain the band, once it became apparent that management and the band were diametrically opposed to each other. Instead of success being a by-product of the music, the music had become a by-product of the drive for success. As Hobbit re-unites, I feel the innocence that existed in the 1st Age of the late '70's! The need to only fulfill our own desires, and write the remaining chapters in this adventure. If, by chance, we create something with mass appeal.. so be it!! If not, I will not lose any sleep over it.

Well guys, we look forward to more output from you and the guys in the band. And if we are able to lay our hands on some LOTR material you'll be the first to know!

Turk: Sir George, this has been great! On behalf of all the Hobbits, thank you very much, we really appreciated this chance to 'chat it out' with you, GLORY-DAZE, and all your many readers! Thanks also for your review of 'T.F.T.', and a really wonderful web-site, that everyone should visit.. constantly.. your readers will love it so, come on and... DO IT!! Would also like to thank Lee (very Tookish) Bradfield of the SouthEast Farthing, for 'introducing' us! We would like to extend the same invitation to you, as we have to him, that being.. to meet one day in a 'Prancing Pony' somewhere, for scones, an ale or 2 or 3 or.. and some Longbottom!

Yep, I'm sure a few ales will go down a treat. Thanks again guys and we will definitely be in touch during the year. HI-HO!! - George

To venture over to the Hobbit site, you are invited to do so via this web link..

Related Articles:

Hobbit - 1999 Two Feet Tall

Hobbit - 2001 Rockin' The Shire

Hobbit - very first interview (Jul 2001)

Hobbit - 2003 All For The One

Hobbit - Interview Part 1 (Aug 2003)

Hobbit - Interview Part 2 (Sep 2003)

Hobbit - Interview Part 3 (Sep 2003)

Hobbit - Interview Part 4 (Sep 2003)

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