Williams’ lack of Guy Chambers nearly killed him

Pop star Robbie Williams almost died after a perilous addiction to low-grade electronic music coupled with voice synthesizers almost rendered him completely obscure after the acrimonious departure of his songwriter Guy Chambers.

The Angels hitmaker spent three years battling asphyxiation as he struggled without the oxygen of publicity and is now gradually cutting down his use of the absurd electronic beats which compromised the Robbie Williams brand over a number of years.

“Knowing Robbie as I do,” says journalist Tim Minns, “I know how hard it was for him to cope when Guy left. He struggled without the killer chord sequences and sing-along choruses which Chambers ably provided him with. One evening at my house he confided to me that he was on the verge of quitting music altogether. I told him that he still had a lot to offer and that he shouldn’t rush into making such a big decision. He said he was fed up with being hounded by the press and that it wasn’t worth all the hassle just to make music. He was a bit worse for wear by then so I said he could sleep in the spare room.

“I’d completely forgotten that I had left an old keyboard in there, which was given to me by Guy-Manuel De Homem-Christo from Daft Punk in 1996 for my involvement in the promotion of their album Homework. No-one had heard of them until then, but that album went on to break them internationally and I will always have fond memories of working alongside both Guy-Manuel and Thomas, who were both really nice blokes. The reason I mention that keyboard is because Robbie started messing around on it that night and by the next morning he had transformed completely. He said he’d worked out a few sequences which could form the basis of a new album and was genuinely excited about getting back in the studio. It’s amazing to think, looking back now, that most of the tracks on his Rudebox album were written in my spare room and I was pleased that he’d found his passion again, as he’s a really genuine bloke and a good mate.”

Unfortunately, due to his addictive nature, Robbie Williams was unable just to dabble in strange electrical soundscapes and soon became hooked on what he believed at the time to be a newfound musical freedom.

He recalls, “It was damn serious. Robbie Williams does not just go into electronic music if his life gets a bit out of control. I’d lost everything – my chord sequences, my choruses, the hooks. I became addicted to blips, squeaks and pulses – along with the vocoder, which nearly destroyed everything. I knew I’d hit rock bottom one morning last year when I was trying to sample the opening and closing of my bathroom window. I spent hours trying to get that sound right and after a while I really had to step back and ask myself where my life was going. I felt physically sick as the extent of my electronic binge gradually began to dawn on me and I ended up sat on the floor for hours, just staring at the wall.

I started to become paranoid that electricity was out to destroy my soul and steal my personality to the point where I eventually unplugged everything in the house. I sat in darkness for days before calling my manager and pleading with him for a way out. He eventually got me into a programme which was specifically tailored to musicians who had lost their way to the dark arts of electronic music. He said that this place had a good record and had cured the likes of Radiohead and Goldfrapp through a prolonged period of gradual withdrawal, as opposed to going cold turkey. I was willing to try anything by this point, so I went along to a meeting. I’ve never looked back since, and, although I still use electronics in my music I am now in full control of the amount and I can stop using them at any time.”

His former manager Kevin Kinsella explains, “Electronic music came very close to destroying the Robbie we all know and love. He was so out of it. At the height of his experimentation he was layering as many as 10 or 12 different samples in a day. That’s no exaggeration. He was out of control.”

‘Reality Killed The Video Star’ is released on 9th November.

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