Blink, the Irish band who took on their namesakes from the US and won, and released some classic albums, including ‘A Map of the Universe’ and ‘Inside the Sound of Sadness’, are reforming for the release of a compilation CD, ‘Catch that Moment’.
Simon Proudman caught up with Dermot Lambert of the band, and talked about the new release, the perils of travelling with three mates across the US in a small van for two years, and how he managed to pick arguments with two of the biggest bands of recent times.
Louder than War: Why reform Blink now?
Dermot Lambert: Well it is actually the twentieth anniversary of our first album, ‘A Map of the Universe’ which came out in August 1994. We haven’t played together for nine years, but we still hang around together. We talked about coming together to celebrate the album, but did not do anything about it until recently when we noticed that this year is coming to an end, so we had better get on with it.
We have done seven rehearsals so far, initially we thought it would be really easy. I forgot how complicated the songs are to sing and play. I was even typing up the lyrics, I did not have copies and went online to get some of them, and for others I ended up doing what I did as a kid, I put on a Blink CD and then I was pausing it to write down the lyrics!
We have another ten rehearsals planned, so we are going to get it right. There is only one date at the moment, but lets see where it takes us. A lot of work has gone into just one show so if someone was to come along and say ‘Would you like to do these gigs’, the band is sharp and we would likely be up for it.
Why did you break up in 2005?
We literally ran out of time, ran out of money and ran out of interest. We had done so much touring, and we were totally broke, and owed money to record companies. In hindsight I don’t regret anything. There is only one song I don’t like on all the albums we released, it was called ‘Baby you broke my heart but you know…’ and I utterly despise it. I rattled that off in 3 or 4 minutes, like you do with your best songs, and all the band loved it when they heard it, as did the record company, but by the time we did a final demo I hated it.
Still, the point is that over the course of the lifetime of the band I am proud of our total creative output. Although in the reverse situation if I had lots of money but had produced a load of really bad music, I would probably still be as happy!
What is on the compilation ‘Catch that moment’ CD?
This is the bands favourite songs, the ones we loved playing. There are also a few unreleased tracks and demos. There is one song on the album that is possibly the best thing we have ever done, the first track ‘Never too late to start again’ a recording from a good few years ago that for whatever reason we did not release, but its just an epic. How do you say something without blowing your own trumpet too much? It’s the best thing we did. If that track had gone on the second album (‘The End is High’) instead of the track I hated, we probably would be millionaires and have a 100% track record of greatness!
It is going to be released in October on Garage records, my own label, and is only licensed for Ireland at the moment, but anyone who wants to take responsibility for releasing it in their country can make us an offer, anything more than $10 and you’ve got the job!
Although you released some great records, Blink did have a great reputation for live shows and constantly touring.
I would say only Bob Dylan toured more than us. We were on a never ending tour of America for two years. Supporting bands first of all, and then headlining, driving from Texas to New York just to perform the next gig. Travelling around America with your mates in a tour bus, bits of that is hard, but it is also a lot of fun. I would never have been able to afford a holiday like that, and we still often say to each other that it was the best holiday ever.
I am amazed you did not knock each other out living together in such a confined space
We did! We had these things called ‘incidents’. If an incident happened, that meant something had occured that was so bad that we would never talk about it again. And we would add a letter to each incident, so we went incident ‘A’,’B’,’C’ and got as far as ‘H’. That’s not bad for a few years touring non-stop. It was also pretty effective as I now can remember only one of them.
What was that ‘incident’?
Well I shouldn’t tell you, as ‘What goes on the road, stays on the road’ but I will become a whistleblower on Blink. We were playing in some beachside place in Virginia and Robbie, our guitar and keyboard player, went missing after a gig. The thing was, he went missing with the van and had gone off to some party. We were left in this club, we did not know anybody, did not have any money as we were always broke, and had to walk ten miles back to our motel. When he got back in the early hours of the morning, we wouldn’t let him in, and he ended up kicking the door in and we had a fight. We became one of those bands who get thrown out of motels. That was incident ‘E’ or ‘F’ I think.
One of the biggest controversies the band had was a fight with Blink 182 over the right to use the name ‘Blink’
Our drummer Barry came up with the name from a Cocteau Twins song, and we went with it. Although I thought it was the worst name on Gods earth. It was a sort of name you would get for a bad cabaret band. Really I could not care less. We only knew about San Diego Blink after a fan bought the ‘Cheshire Cat’ album to a Birmingham gig, but we did not think much about it. When they signed to Warners their lawyers starting sending us letters and stamping their feet, and even then we still did not take it seriously.
Our label, Parlophone, did not want to get too involved in a legal battle, and a guy in the accounts department called Brian Message, seriously suggested we change our name to ‘McDermotts Blink’! I told him to ‘Go Fuck himself’, we might as well call ourselves ‘The Paddy Whackers’. He did not do that, and went onto to manage Radiohead. The world does move in funny ways.
It was all quite friendly in the end. We had released a track in America before they had even formed. We were asked if we would mind if they kept the name Blink and added something at the end. I actually had to approve the addition of the ‘182’ on a letter from their lawyers, in which it was described as the number of times the word ‘Fuck’ was said in the movie Scarface, which we thought was quite hilarious. Afterwards though it turned nasty, and they were abusive, with name calling, and it was quite horrible and maybe was another reason that contributed to our stopping.
The same year we also got into a big fight with Oasis. We did a gig in Oxford where there were three bands playing to the heads of the student unions from all the universities in England, with a view to setting up tours the next year. It was kind of an audition, there was us, ‘My Life Story’ and ‘Oasis’. We ended up touring and having lots of fights with them, one big one I remember at the Columbia Hotel in London. They were not nice guys to be around.
I have constantly been arguing with some of the world’s biggest bands and now here I am today sitting in my kitchen!
Last year you released your first solo album ‘Tiny’, which I believe has some of your best songs on it.
Thanks. I was aiming for a totally different way to record an album, a much more raw and real sound. So much music today can be recorded digitally so quickly, then be released and sound awful, and I mean really awful. There is a general wearing off of the edges off music. I have a recording of ‘Hurricane’ by Bob Dylan, and in the middle of it the drummer and guitarist fall over and you can hear it, yet they keep going. For me that IS music, with no clever clogs in there fixing with edits.
With ‘Tiny’ I had great freedom to make the album I wanted to make. I had the songs written over the last ten years, and I could have done it all by myself, but I wanted something different. The recording of the album was so special, I had seventeen people play on it, mainly friends and family, and mostly amateur. I ended up holding in my hand an album that is not Blink and yet has gorgeous sounds
I got James Ahern, a friend, in on guitar and I said play along to the ‘Twinkle Twinkle Satellite’ vocal, whatever comes into your head, and he did and it sounded great. He then asked me to ‘let me do it again I can improve upon it’, but I said ‘No the first time was perfect’. My wife Clara even got to sing backing vocals on it, she had never been in a studio before, and I used the first take, you can hear her where she does not get quite get it, but that is what I wanted.
I didn’t get any labels involved and released it myself. That is not to say I won’t in the future. Nobody was going to take a chance on this record, yet it has sold four or five times the number of copies of Blinks last album. It even got into Tesco supermarkets in Ireland. I kept going into the stores and photographing it next to their supposed chart position, which was different in each one so I think they were making it up! I do need to start promoting it outside of Ireland in the UK and US, it is just a matter of time and resources.
‘Tiny’ was recorded two years ago, apart from Blink are you working on other music?
I am working on an album about Ireland. I am Irish, but am having an identity crisis, I don’t fit into that James Joyce kind of Irish thing, I hate Riverdance and Gaelic football, and am not a fan of fiddles, there’s lots of Irish things I don’t like. My first love in life was Dr Who, a program made in England, a cultural import, which was not cool in Ireland, and people still ask me why my first inspiration wasn’t Irish, and I go ‘Fuck You I like Dr Who’! There is a lot I love about Ireland, and I have contributed to a lot here as well, and I need to establish some Irishness, so I was talking to a mate, Pete Holidai from the ‘Radiators from Space’, who said, you should do an album about it. So I will, and I will get him to play on it.
And is the last we will hear from Blink for a while?
Who knows? I have some friends who play in the band ‘The Electric Penguins’ who are endlessly optimistic. They have this idea called the Avalanche Theory, which is that if you keep on putting out more and more good music there comes a day when something, or someone, triggers success and your entire catalogue gets picked up and fame beckons. So you never know what could happen next.
As far as Blink is concerned, after the compilation, we still have about 75 songs that have not been released, original songs, cool remixes, and demos. So we are planning to put these out somehow over the next year, but this will be for the real completists, our best stuff will be on the ‘Catch that Moment’ album.
All words by Simon Proudman. You can read more from Simon on Louder Than War here.