Coling Hogg is the author of Off the Road – a comedic autobiographical memoir about his life on the road with New Zealand’s prolific poet and lover of red wine, Sam Hunt.
What was Sam’s reaction when he read Off the Road for the first time?
I was a little nervous about that, but he loved it. He’s read it a few times since. It’s full of surprises, he says.
What’s the most outlandish adventure you two have had together?
Just being around Sam is an outlandish adventure. We tend to get a little excited by each other’s company and overdo things a bit, so just sitting around with him is an outlandish adventure. I live in Wellington and Sam lives two hours north of Auckland and we yak on the phone a lot, but we didn’t see each other so regularly until this book came along. It’s built around a series of encounters when I travelled up to see him. The bar bill has been extraordinary.
Did you edit the interviews you had with Sam that are transcribed in the book, or are they the bare bones of your relationship?
I tidied them up a little, but only to eliminate some of the umms and ahhs and exceptionally long pauses. The conversational sections are alarmingly close to the truth of what was said and the state in which it was uttered. There are no overdubs, cover-ups or evasions. Though that claim itself could constitute an evasion.
Is there anything in this book that you both had to think twice about including? If so, what is it?
There was one flippant exchange regarding the apparent chubbiness of a fellow scribe in a newspaper photo we’d both spotted. I’m sure it was a cruel angle. I removed that for fear of starting one of those literary spats, though just saying this might be enough to start a literary spat anyway.
Does writing about Sam rather than Sam writing about you have any effect on the dynamic of your relationship?
In the midst of the writing of Sam Hunt: Off the Road he sent me a poem, saying “this isn’t about you”, which made me feel like it might have been. We’d recently had a slight falling out and the poem had a bit of a punch in it. Bloody good poem though (it’s all in the book), so there’s a slight element of things flowing both ways. But very slight. This is a book about me writing a book about him, Sam Hunt, the well-known national treasure. I’m just the bank teller in this situation. He’s the treasure. At best, I’m a dodgy Boswell.
Out of all the stories Sam has shared with you, which one shocked you the most?
I was pretty much unshockable when I first got to know Sam 30 years ago, having been in newspapers and specialising in writing about rock music and bands and having met the likes of Iggy Pop and Rat Scabies. But in the chapter in Off the Road entitled ‘The Drinking Life’, there’s a story that did shock me a bit when he mentioned it.
Do you and Sam have any dreams or goals to achieve together in the future?
If, as has been suggested, we make loads of money from the sales of this book, we could fulfil our dream of buying a beachy old motel in a sleepy part of Northland we’ve had our eyes on for years now. We’re not entirely sure if we’ll open it to the public. There has also been talk of a TV talk show, where we don’t have any guests. It’s just the two of us sitting and talking. It’s a post-modern concept. Possibly post post-modern. We’ll have to shoot it at Sam’s place because he won’t leave home.
What’s your favourite wine / beer to enjoy in each other’s company?
Sam favours robust Chilean reds. So robust, I won’t risk them, though I’m sure they’re jam-packed with essential minerals and vitamins. I stick to the punchy craft beers, especially pale ales and especially Parrotdog and Garage Project. Quite coincidentally, Parrotdog have just launched a beer called Colin. And I hope someone from Parrotdog reads this.
Describe what the ideal night of Colin and Sam looks like. Where are you, what are you doing, and what happens?
Well, we’re at Sam’s place and I’ll attempt to cook an early dinner, something I prepared earlier – probably roast lamb or a curry. It’s probably going to be early to bed, unless we revive suddenly and Sam puts on Bob Dylan at top volume and we have a little nightcap of some sort. Which might lead to another one, which is about as wild as it gets really.
Can you both recommend a book that you think everyone should read?
I’m not sure there’s a book everyone should read, apart from the rulebook. And you need to write that yourself. Off the Road is a rulebook really. And it would be lovely if everyone read it.