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Eugene Robinson Explains Why Oxbow Can’t Just Dial It In

Eugene Robinson is known for a lot of things: being the howling singer of Oxbow, being a writer in forms from journalism to spoken word and being a competitive fighter. Robinson, who contrasts the ring and stage saying, “[Fighting] is more intimate and less presentational. Oxbow is clearly presentational.

“The immediacy of a fight is something that I like to have carry over to the Oxbow world,” he illustrates to Noisecreep. “Otherwise I’m just a guy on stage doing poetry while a band plays. In other words, being in the moment like I need to be in fighting just to not get my teeth kicked in is very much what I need to do when I’m on stage performing songs that we’ve done in a very private form at the studio without just jerking off.”

For Robinson, that mindset is one of the most important parts of performing. You can’t play the “too cool for this show” card and pull that off. “When we go to a place like [South by Southwest], it’s always weird to be in a town with all these bands that are stuck in that one gear of cool, and cool is this kind of semi-ironic detachment from life. There is no semi-ironic detachment in the Oxbow oeuvre. I’m pretty much happy to be here, and I’d like to be here as long as humanly possible.”

Being in the moment, and loving the moment, is what separates many bands from those that live their art and the ones just punching a time card for a paycheck. Two shows that came to mind for Robinson were the bands merely just in a departed motion. “I remember seeing a band play, Pantera — and this was a while ago, so we’re perfectly fine — and I liked them on CD, but I was really unhappy with the show,” Robinson relays. “I went to see Faith No More in the same time period, and I was also very unhappy with the show and I couldn’t figure out why. Finally I figured out that I had just seen two bands do covers of their band. It was like I was watching a Pantera cover band covering Pantera or watching a Faith No More cover band cover Faith No More.

“And I said, ‘That’s what happens. Guys who are not emotionally invested in this process, it’s a job.’ They could be in a grocery store at that point. These guys maybe had life problems that made them unhappy, but the shows that I saw were clearly — for me as a singer, performer, artist — were exactly what I didn’t want to have happen. I didn’t want to be a guy on stage doing covers of Oxbow songs.”

That just won’t suffice for Robinson. “I could have mailed you the money and stayed home and done something more interesting,” Robinson laughs. “Don’t drag me out and put me through that; it shortens my life. I think every step of the way … and Oxbow doesn’t play enough for this even to be possible, but you don’t find people leaving the experience of the Oxbow art saying stuff like that. ‘They we’re just dialing it in’. If I want to start being a jerk off on stage I’ll start doing ska music.”

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