After the breakout success of their debut, Resident Alien, the group followed with a critically-beloved cult classic, The Chinese Album, that failed to catch on commercially, and then The Hogyssey before going their separate ways. Along the way, they experimented with different bands, went over rocky personal paths (including frontman Royston Langdon’s marriage and subsequent divorce from actress Liv Tyler), and generally tried to find their way.
Now older and wiser but still obsessed with glam sweetness, Spacehog are back. They released their long-awaited fourth album As It Is on Earth last month, and they’re currently on the road in support of it. EW caught up with frontman Royston Langdon to discuss his long hiatus, how he nearly became the singer of Velvet Revolver, and how he feels about “In the Meantime” nearly two decades later.
Entertainment Weekly: The Hogyssey came out all the way back in 2001. How did Spacehog dissipate?
Royston Langdon: It was a lot of things. We’d spent a lot of time touring intensely for the first two or three years, after the release of Resident Alien. The Chinese Album came pretty easily and was a similar kind of experience to the first record, and it was pretty critically well-received but not so well-received commercially. So then we spent some time in the wilderness without a label. When we finally made The Hogyssey, there was a lot of creative differences with the label and within the group. I’ve never really been happy with that record, so touring that record in 2001 was hard work. We were pulling in all different directions, which is not good for a band. Our show final show was supposed to be on the eighth of September in 2011.
I remember riding with my brother on a motorcycle to the airport. We got to the airport and the plane had been delayed because of weather in the Midwest. We got sent to every other airport in the New York area and ultimately we never made our flight that was supposed to take us to a festival somewhere in Fargo. It just never happened, and that was just kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back. I remember seeing the guys throwing our gear off the airplane onto the tarmac because we weren’t going to make the flight. It felt poetic. Then September 11th happened a few days later, and it was really destabilizing for everybody. Given where we were at that time, it just really blew us apart. And that was really it, and I went off to work on just writing my own music and met with a lot of almost-ran situations but never really quite got it to work.
So how did you come back around to Spacehog?
I had a group with Rogers Stevens from Blind Melon, but that didn’t really work creatively. He is a great guy and a fantastic creative force, but it was just not the right chemistry there. And then we ended up doing a thing with my other two brothers, Antony and Chris, called Arckid. It was a really great group but for whatever reason, we couldn’t hold it together and it kind of imploded. Right around that time, [drummer] Jonny [Cragg] turned 40 and he said, “I want to get all the bands I’ve ever played in to play at my birthday party.” One of those was Spacehog, so we all got together. That was 2006, so we had a four-year break and everything had kind of calmed down a little bit and I realized that there’s something really magical that I don’t think any of us were able to find elsewhere.
Why did it take so long to make an album?
I wound up going through a divorce and wound up going out to Los Angeles. I had gotten asked to work with Velvet Revolver. They were trying to find a new singer and that was a good way for me to lick my wounds. It didn’t work out with those guys. But it again reconfirmed that there was something to Spacehog. So I was living out in L.A. and Anthony, my brother, was there, and so Jonny and Rich would come out and we started demoing stuff there. That was 2008.
What did you want to accomplish with As It Is On Earth?
I wanted to get this one right, because as I say, I was never really happy with The Hogyssey and I’ve always felt proud of the first two records. They still kind of stand up for me. And I wanted to have a continuation of that, if nothing else. I don’t know if this will be the last record or whatever, but I really wanted to just do this and have The Hogyssey not be the final word from the band. It never felt like it should have been—it always felt very incomplete.
How did Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum end up co-writing a song on As It Is On Earth? Was that from the Velvet Revolver work?
Yes, that was one of the songs that we wrote together during that time. I felt it was really, really strong. It was one of the first things that we worked on together and having gone through that experience with them, it was such a pivotal time for me personally that I wanted it to be documented and recorded. Matt called me up and said he was working with Cherie Currie from the Runaways, and she’d heard it on the Velvet Revolver demo that we did. She loved it and she wanted to put it on her record. I don’t think that record ever got made, but it kind of re-alerted me to what a good song it was. It came together really easily and really took on a life of its own. I think that’s a sign of a good song, and it made sense in the overall jigsaw of As It Is On Earth, so we put it in there.
Are these songs collected from all across your time apart, or are they from brand new Spacehog-specific writing sessions?
They came from a wide swath of time. I wanted that to be the case because it was a little like putting Resident Alien together. Everybody says your first record is your best one or the easiest one to do because you’ve had your whole life to think about it. That’s so true for me as a songwriter. I felt like I was fortunate to be in that position again, having kept myself busy from 2001, when I could see that Spacehog was going to need some refurbishment. This song “Cool Water,” that I did myself, way back in 2002. We tried doing it different ways it came out really well. It really encompasses the whole of my journey from where the Spacehog holiday began to where we picked up again. There’s a lot of other stuff that didn’t make it to this record that may make it onto another one, if we get to do another one. It almost feels like this could have been a double album, and maybe there will be a part two.
Who did the super cool album cover for As It Is On Earth?
My friend Rick Smith has a company in England called Frozen Flight. He’s one of these strange kind of guys, mercurial individuals, who you never really meet. He’s just locked in some room somewhere in Yorkshire, and he just churns these things out. I’d been working on a personal film project in England with my friend who’s a filmmaker, and I had met Rick through him. I asked him,”Would you like to do an album?” He said, “Well I’ve never done one before.” I sent in the record and I told him what it was called and he came up with that all on his own there. He said, “Would you write the lyrics out by hand?” And I said yes, so those are my handwritten, indecipherable lyrics.
A lot of artists I’ve talked to from the same era and scene in the ’90s you came from have complicated relationships with their big hits. How do you feel about “In the Meantime” in 2013?
I don’t think about it all the time. We’re definitely most well known for that song. There’s always been a disconnect between the song and who Spacehog are. We never quite made it over into ultimate consciousness, because we didn’t have any other songs really that connected in that way. So for me, the message of that song and what I was trying to get across was partly that it should be heard and it should be received as a positive thing by the world and beyond. But I couldn’t possibly have anything other than positive feelings about it. Of course it’s kind of painful when people say, “Oh, they’re the best one-hit wonder band,” but there’s nothing I can do about that. But I’m grateful that if nothing else, that’s out there and it’s had a profound effect not only on my life but on the lives of others. So it’s a joyful thing and I’m very grateful for that. How could I not be?