You’re releasing your first album in 20 years and you need the voice of God on one of the songs.
So who do you turn to?
If you’re Tom Robinson, veteran of the punk era and DJ on 6Music since 2002, it’s no less than Sir Ian McKellen.
Tom says: ‘This idea came about because of a guy I’d been playing on the radio.
‘He told that he’d grown up on a remote Welsh farm, and when he and his brothers were broke and had run out of Rizlas, they’d tear pages out of the family Bible. I thought this was hilariously blasphemous.’
Tom’s musical partner on the new album, Only The Now, Gerry Diver ran with the idea: ‘He’s a lapsed Catholic so he thought it was great. He put together this sort of 8-bit Gameboy backing, which isn’t what you expect from a traditional Irish musician, and built it from there.
The new stuff has to stand or fall on its own merits. I hope people will at least listen to it and then will judge it against everything else out thereTom Robinson
‘He said: “What we really need on this is the voice of God. You don’t happen to know Stephen Fry?” And I said: “No, but I do know Ian McKellen”, and he said that was even better.’
The pair knew each other from the days when they had both been campaigning against Section 28 – the notorious piece of legislation designed to stop local authorities ‘promoting’ homosexuality.
‘We needed the opposite point of view, that smoking the Bible is a bad thing, and I know Swami Baracus, who’s a devout Hindu, from playing him on my show.
‘He does this great verse with lines like: “You’re never going to catch me smoking the Gita through a reefer”. So he’s pleading with God to intervene and deal with these stoners, and there’s a clap of thunder and God comes in. He ends up saying it’s absolutely fine by him – carry on.
‘We had a lot of fun making it.’
The album features a stellar cast of guests, also including John Grant, Billy Bragg, Martin Carthy, Colin Firth, Nadine Shah, Lee Forsyth Griffiths, Lisa Knapp, TV Smith and Nitin Sawhney.
‘On the new single Mighty Sword of Justice, Colin Firth is the newsreader,’ says Tom. ‘And he was away the whole time shooting a movie, but he was keen to take part, so I emailed him the transcripts.
‘He recorded them into his iPhone and sent them back and we just dropped them into the album.’
Tom has already started playing some of the new songs at festivals – including at Wickham last month. While he still plays his old anthems 2-4-6-8 Motorway, Glad to Be Gay and War Baby, he’s keen to get the new songs out there.
‘It’s very gratifying the new material is going down as well as it is, we’re playing about 60/40 old to new.
‘I was upfront about it and told them, that’s the reason I’m back here, I’ve got some new songs, and I need your help to find out if they’re any good or not. The new stuff has to stand or fall on its own merits. I hope people will at least listen to it and then will judge it against everything else out there.’
Tom plays at The Brook in Southampton on Thursday. Doors 8pm. Tickets £20.
Go to the-brook.com