Death & Mortality: Peter Hammill

When you had your heart attack just over ten years ago did it change your outlook on life?

At first. Mostly in a life-enhancing way. Quite quickly, though, one’s impression of one’s own immortality returns.

Your song All That Before [on Van der Graaf Generator’s 2008 album Trisector] is all about growing old. Has being older inspired any other songs?

I hope there’s been a constant updating of attitude and inspiration as I’ve grown older. The recent VdGG material in particular has been coloured by the fact that we’re – ahem – not quite as sprightly as we once were.

How did it affect you in 2013 when Nic Potter [ex-VdGG bassist] died?

It led me to reflect on a lot of shared experiences – some wonderful, some not quite so great.

Now you’re older, are you wiser?

Oh, I’m still lacking in common sense.

Do you believe in life after death?

No, I believe that when we’re done we’re done. So make the best use of the time while we’re here.

Are you contemplating retirement?

Absolutely not. Although I might start taking things a little more slowly.

When you started out in 1967, could you have envisaged still being active in music forty-seven years later?

No. There was no blueprint for that at all.

How do you think you’ll be remembered?

I hope, perhaps, that some of the work will still resonate. But I’ll be well out of here.

Geoff Barton

Geoff Barton is a British journalist who founded the heavy metal magazine Kerrang! and was an editor of Sounds music magazine. He specialised in covering rock music and helped popularise the new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) after using the term for the first time (after editor Alan Lewis coined it) in the May 1979 issue of Sounds.