Hi ‘Heads, 40 years in the business, that’s quite an achievement, congratulations. How do you compare the beginnings of the Blockheads 40 years ago to new bands starting out now?
The Blockheads were all motivated originally to follow musical paths because of the culture we grew up in throughout the 1960/70s. Essentially our teenage years.
Looking back, those two decades were a renaissance in the Arts.
Film, Literature, Fashion and Music were the mediums that ‘spread the word’ and determined lifestyle back then.
Now we have TV Talent Shows and Twitter!
Although technology has brought huge benefits and freedoms to musicians it has also changed the face of the industry in which we thrive.
The rout, back then, was to form a band of brothers and hone your fledgling skills in local dance halls and small clubs which were in abundance. Sadly now they have been in steady decline since the advent and progress of the computer age and home entertainment.
The next step was to get good enough and original enough to draw the attentions of a Record Company who could give you patronage, put you in a recording studio and get your songs out to the public by way of record shops and record pluggers.
Record Companies had access to the fleets of vans necessary to distribute throughout the market place.
Again, technology has changed the face of distribution.
You no longer need a van to get your stuff out to the public.
A great freedom on the one hand, but by taking that revenue away from Record Companies the culture of ‘sustaining record deals’ and patronage disappeared for artists who were not in the mainstream.
Granted, new opportunities for young musicians to develop have opened up but it seems to be a different journey now.
New bands developing today depend on social media to get their profile and funding up and running . A whole load of new skills and responsibilities are now in play. It’s no longer enough to be able to write and perform original and inspiring work, you have to be able to market the result yourself.
I wouldn’t know what advice to give to young bands starting out today other than turn up on TIME and bring your share of rehearsal MONEY. It’s still the first step.
Have there been any standout memories for you across the 40 years?
Obviously, in 40 years, there have been many standout memories. The problem now is being able to remember them in any sort of detail through the distortion of time.
Our years with Ian were peppered with incident and outrage in that ‘Incident and Outrage’ were an art form and inspiration to Ian.
Risque banter and ‘wide-boy’ wit, often alcohol fuelled , could quickly lead to contention and confrontation usually resulting in Ian and anyone with him being ejected from the premises. A particular incident comes to mind when our bass player Norman, the artist Peter Blake and Ian were asked to leave a London eatery after an escalating exchange of pleasantries between Ian and Omar Sharif resulting in Ian receiving a black eye from an Omar right hook.
Ian was very proud of that ‘shiner’ and continued to paint it on with makeup for stage performances long after it had physically disappeared.
I’ve always felt like the Blockheads have never received the full credit they deserve for their originality and influence they’ve had on popular culture. I appreciate it’s a difficult question to answer but would that be a sentiment the band agreed with?
We received plenty of credit in our ‘glory days’ when we were relevant and our hard core fan base is still testament to that. As to influence. Every artist hopes in the back of their minds that what they do can in some way positively influence the decisions and lives of others. The ultimate accolade is to be able to inspire and motivate your peers and contemporaries. I think The Blockheads have done and still do this. That we are constantly working as a creative unit with new songs being written, recorded and released as a must and the enthusiasm for live performance never waning we tend to inspire and influence ourselves these days.
Instead of shouting the changes in popular culture today we are content to pass on acute observation and humour in our songs which in itself is an enduring legacy of The Blockheads.
You’ll be out celebrating your anniversary and bringing the party to Stockton’s ARC on the 2nd June. You’re still releasing new material, so what kind of set list can we expect?
A compromise of old favourites and newer material is always a tricky business when it comes to live performance but I think we have it right for the moment.
A core of old favourites and hits from yesteryear with a smattering of tunes from our current album ‘Same Horse Different Jockey’ and at least one track from our upcoming fortieth anniversary album ‘Beyond The Call of Dury’, to be released in September 2017.
There will be something old, something new, nothing borrowed and perhaps something a little blue!
From right back since you started, you’ve always put on a very energetic live show. Do you enjoy this reputation or does it provide a difficult reputation to live up to?
The adrenaline and fun generated by performing live is emotionally and physically enjoyable. The band immerse themselves in this intoxication every night and the energy and enthusiasm displayed in a performance is the result. When this is applauded by an audience, then that’s a lovely cherry on the top.
Any plans for after the 40th celebrations?
The 41st?…. We don’t have any plans yet .We tend to take things a day at a time now.
There is some talk of the band going back to Japan next year and maybe even Australia but that remains to be seen and is subject to everyone’s commitments and availability. Organising The Blockheads is like trying to herd cats!
Finally, what’s today’s reason to be cheerful?
It’s a difficult question. Seems to be a case of ‘Greet every day with a smile and get it out of the way’ in 2017…. but bearing in mind that, in life, sometimes you’re the dog and sometimes you’re the lamppost there are still reasons to be cheerful. Music for one.