INTERVIEW: Dave Rowntree (Part 1)

I had the pleasure of interviewing Blur’s very own Dave Rowntree recently, and we discussed a number of Blur and non-Blur related topics. The first part of the interview is as follows with the second and final part coming after Blur’s new album, The Magic Whip, is released.

Blur did sessions with Bill Laswell in 2000. Two of those tracks, “1” and “3”, appeared on the 21 box set in 2012. What other songs did the band record and what were the aims of the sessions?

The aim of the sessions was to try working with a new producer to see what would happen. Unfortunately it didn’t work out for one reason or another, and we didn’t do much recording.

In 2002 you became a member of the Labour Party, what was it that attracted you to politics at that time?

I felt that I was becoming more of a ‘taker’ than a ‘giver’ and I wanted to redress the balance.

In 2005, Blur supposedly recorded a punk EP and were scheduled to play a few pub gigs around Christmas of that year. Both never materialised. Could you tell me a bit more about the EP and ultimately why it (along with the gigs) was cancelled?

There are always ideas knocking around. If they don’t happen it doesn’t necessarily mean they were concrete plans that were cancelled for some specific reason. Just that they didn’t happen.

I heard that one of the songs Blur recorded for the EP was Sub Species Of An American Day which Damon released on his demo album Democrazy in 2003. Is this true and if so what can you tell me about the Blur version? Also many Blur fans consider the 2005 EP the holy grail of unreleased material. With it being left off the 21 box set, do you think it will ever be released?

As far as I remember, we didn’t record an EP in 2005. Googling reveals that Damon did an interview with XFM in 2005 and talked about that sort of thing. We certainly did do a tiny bit of recording when we got back from the Think Tank tour, but I don’t think our hearts were really in it, and we didn’t get very far.

Could you tell me a bit about the formation of The Ailerons? How did you guys meet and what was your motive behind putting the band together?

Mike and I started The Ailerons as something to do during the long drives on tour.

The Ailerons are considered a favourite band amongst Blur fans and the material you did release was excellent, as were the live shows. Obviously you’re firmly in Blur mode at the moment but could you see yourself ever starting the band up again at some point?

I suppose we should have put the album out at the end, but the project kind of ran out of steam. I hope that Mike and I will make some more music together soon – we’ve certainly talked about it. I’ve had more time recently to do some more songwriting, so who knows?

Aside from the three songs Blur released since coming back in 2009, The Magic Whip features the first real bulk of songs as a four piece since 13. Are you nervous to play these new songs and was/is there any pressure to live up to previous Blur material?

It’s always a challenge to translate an album into a live performance, and you never quite know which songs are going to work. We’ll have to see which ones fit into a festival set. We have some more rehearsals before the summer shows to nail down those sorts of things.

You got an incredible reaction from the crowd at the MODE show after playing the album for the first time, that must have been a special moment for the band?

I loved the show – it was great seeing the reaction of the audience hearing the tracks for the first time.

Reviews of The Magic Whip have been nothing but positive so far, what does that mean to you and the band so long after releasing your last album?

You can’t please everyone, but I’m glad that people feel the album was worth waiting for.

As it stands you have a bunch of festival dates booked for this year but a lot of people want to know if you’ll properly tour the album as well. Are there any plans for a tour and if so can you share any information?

Because we kept the album a secret, we couldn’t book many shows until the announcement, so we’re playing catch-up at the moment. When shows are confirmed we’ll announce them.

A lot has been made recently of Blur not wanting to tour or at least play shows in the US. There are a lot of American fans who would love to see Blur but is it all depending on how the album goes down? Do you see Blur playing shows there?

I’d love to play in the USA. We’ve got a small but dedicated group of fans there, and I’d hate to see them left out.

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