Dr. Robert of eighties soul band the Blow Monkeys talks to Dave Woodhall.
You’re living in Spain at the moment. Will you be able to get over here when the time comes to play live again?
“We’re touring in October and before that there’s the Solihull gig in July so fingers crossed.”
The whole situation’s getting a bit boring now.
“It’s been boring from the off but it’s something we’ve had to do.”
You’ve recorded a new album, including the single Dust at Her Feet, which I understand is out soon.
“That one’s imminent, it’s coming out later in June then the album is out in September. It’s called Journey to You and it’s our fortieth anniversary. It’s been quite a journey.”
You’ve not been able to do much live work lately.
“The last shows were in December 2019, then the lockdown happened. We don’t know what the outcome will be. A lot of people have re-thought how they live their lives so let’s see how they re-think. Looking at Brexit, and Covid and whatever, it seems the country needs a bit of a healing time and that’s what music helps with.”
Which leads us onto the time when you first became well-known. It was the period of Red Wedge and a lot of social awareness. We’ve a similar situation now but with a lack of political music. I can’t see a Style Council or Billy Bragg coming along.
“It’s hard to get excited by someone like Keir Starmer at the moment. Maybe when there’s some decent opposition they’ll rally people around them but at the moment I think things are changing and unfortunately they keep getting voted back in so what can you do? One of the consequences of the break up of the United Kingdom might be an independent Scotland and maybe Wales. No-one in Scotland voted for Brexit or Boris Johnson so you can see why they feel duped. There are pockets of resistance in England but unfortunately the media are very powerful and very manipulative. They know how to spread propaganda on Facebook and in the tabloids so you’re fighting a big battle. It’s Orwellian, calling him Boris as though he’s some sort of Gummy Bears or something.”
Living in Spain you have a better idea of how we’re now perceived in Europe.
“Spain is very fond of the British, the economy relies a lot on British tourists and they haven’t had a good relationship with people moving here but they’re very perplexed by Brexit. They don’t understand why people should wish for such an act of self-harm.”
The gig at Tudor Grange is probably going to be one where many in the crowd might not recognise the name but will know your songs.
“Who knows? We’ll carry on making music, we’ve made a lot of albums since we got back together ten years ago and at our own gigs we have a mixture of old fans from the eighties and ones who maybe come along with their kids. We’re just happy, we enjoy making music. I don’t know how we’re perceived, we just enjoy it.”
It’s classic summer afternoon festival music. It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way can be an absolute stormer in those conditions.
“I hope so. That kind of festival is not the place to do our introverted acoustic b-sides. The main thing is to bring some joy.”
You’ve played with some greats – Paul Weller, Curtis Mayfield and PP Arnold amongst others. Do you have anything else in that field coming up?
“Not straight away. We’ve done a lot of collaborations over the years. I get involved with something called Monks Road Social which I produce and that has musicians like Matt Deighton and Mick Talbot coming along. Part of the job is collaboration but I never plan these things in advance, they just seem to happen.”
Is there anyone you’d particularly love to play with?
“No-one springs to mind, it just happens. I’m always up for collaborations. Playing with other musicians is like a secret language. I like doing solo stuff, producing other people and I love playing with the Blow Monkeys because we have this history together and we love making music, I love all of it. I treasure these days because I know it’s all finite.”
The last year and a bit has certainly taught us that we have a finite time, a finite number of gigs to attend and if you’re a musician a finite amount of music to play.
“Of course. It concentrates the mind, and the past year has taught us don’t take anything for granted. Live for the moment, as the song says, enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think.”
If all goes well we could be in for quite a hedonistic summer.
“We could do with a bit of that. I don’t think it’s about hedonism and people wanting to let off, I also think that the nature of how people work, what they were doing and what it means to have a career has all changed. It’s sparked a thought process that might end up in a good place where we become more aware of our surroundings and our home life and appreciate them.”
The Blow Monkeys play the opening day of the Solihull Summer Fest 24th-25th July.