Sing loud and look confident

Zombies singer Colin Blunstone shares the secrets of vocal success.

You have a new album out, called Different Game. How did it come about?

“We started it before lockdown and we’ve discovered that we prefer all recording in the studio at the same time. Most people record their parts separately but we’ve gone right back to how music was recorded in the sixties. We find that there’s an energy in the studio that’s completely different if we’re all performing together. We’re almost recording a live album in a studio environment. But of course we couldn’t record during lockdown at all, especially as our bass player Soren Koch lives in Denmark. Lockdown was very challenging for everyone but when things eased off we recorded it quite quickly. It came out earlier this year and in the sales charts it charted in the UK and in the States, which was fabulous, a wonderful surprise.”

Is it harder to record now, with the new technology? Is there more pressure to get it spot on, or is there a thought that it’s more authentic if it isn’t perfect?

“I don’t know how far we would go. We want to sound energized, what we’re looking for more than perfection is performance. If there’s a notable mistake we might do it again but hopefully there’s not going to be; we’re just looking for the best performance, really. The guys are all great players, we know by the time we get to recording what parts we’re going to play.”

When CDs first came out everyone marvelled about their clarity but after a few years we started to think something was missing, music sounds better with the crackles and pops included.

“I know exactly what you mean. We made sure the album came out on vinyl as well as CD because vinyl does have that warmth. We’re not looking for perfection, we’re looking for energy but we hope there’s nothing there. It’s open to interpretation.”

You’re not going to split up and then find out thirty years later that Different Game is regarded as a lost masterpiece?

“I know what you mean but it’s a bit unlikely this time round. I’ve made that point to one or two people because Odessey & Oracle came out in 1968, Time of the Season got to number one in the Cashbox chart in America a year later but it still didn’t get that much attention, it happened over such a long period of time. Then people like Paul Weller have been very supportive and saying it’s his favourite album ever, Tom Petty was a great enthusiast for the album and always said it was one of his favourites, Dave Grohl, Susanna Hoffs from the Bangles is another one. Gradually over a long period of time through word of mouth it’s has got an aura about it now and it’s hugely respected but it did take a long time. In interviews I do say please don’t discover the current work in thirty years time because I’m not going to be here then”

You’re at Birmingham Town Hall next year. You must have played there many times.

“I have and I always love going back there. It’s on 28th May and we’re really looking forward to this tour. You don’t choose where you play, those decisions are made by agents and managers. We seem to have spent a lot of our careers touring abroad, particularly America. We’ve played maybe three tours a year there and we haven’t played a lot in the UK. Earlier this year we played here and it was fantastic after about eight or nine years. Most of the venues were sold out and the reaction was beyond anything I was expecting. Possibly as a result we’re playing another tour next year.

“I’ve always thought in the UK that there’s a challenge in that if you want to break out of the club circuit there aren’t lot of venues with around a thousand capacity. The clubs hold five or six hundred then above that you’re faced with two thousand-seater halls, which can be a bit of a challenge.”

And the club venues are the ones that were affected by lockdown.

“Absolutely. It’s always sad when a well-loved venue closes. It’s probably always been like that, venues come and go but it’s like losing an old friend when a venue you’ve played over the years closes.”

You’re also playing the Barbican, and you’ve got a few special guests for that one.

“We’re playing there on June 7th and Paul Weller’s going to guest with us. He always says when he’s talking to someone and they haven’t got Odessey & Oracle he will buy them a copy. He really is a great supporter, I know he’s going to play at least one Zombies song with the band, which is going to be a great thrill, but we’ve also got Sarah Brown who’s played with Simple Minds, Roxy Music, Duran Duran. We’re so thrilled she’s going to be there, and Irwin Sparkes from the Hoosiers as well. I’m really looking forward to having these wonderful guests on the show.”

It sounds better than selling insurance, which you did a couple of times.

“When I left school I didn’t have a plan so I drifted in to the insurance business until the Zombies went full-time, then when the band finished I was pretty broke. A band needs a road crew, flights, hotels, there are so many costs to touring so when the Zombies split up we sold our instruments and we had an old Transit van. We split that money five ways and I had a couple of hundred quid. I had to get a job, I got on the phone and the first job I was offered was back in insurance. It was only for a few months until I started making records again.

“We’ve been really fortunate over the past twenty years. We started off again in 1999 playing in the back rooms of pubs and we’ve built up an audience so that at long last – not that this should be a prime motivation in a musician’s life – we are relatively comfortably off now, but we’ve had to work hard for it. You have to have a lot of tenacity to be in the music business. A lot of people have got talent but you needs stamina and tenacity to stay in the business. There’s a lot of knocks and you need to be able to ride them. Sing loud and look confident. And talent helps.”

The Zombies play Birmingham Town Hall on 28th May.