Transcribed by Aida
by melody l. goh -section 2, the star newspaper tues.- 9 feb. 99
british band blur is all about changes these days. change in their music, a new producer & quite possibly a change in attitude too. from a phone interview with drummer dave rowntree last month , it's obvious that blur is heading towards the new millenium with a different outlook in life & music.talking about the band's new album,13 ,rowntree seems happy that blur has finally ventured into more serious music. "the days of trying to be light have gone. we're trying to sound a bit more serious,well,not *really* serious, just something that we can relate to seriously, because it is a serious business," said rowntree.
can blur's music be labelled?
"pop's a funny word, it means different things in different countries. if u ask somebody in france, they'd give u some kind of weird arty electronic music. in america, pop is a group like new kids on the block. if that's what u mean, then the answer is no, we're not a pop group," rowntree said.
13 is blur's 6th album since stamping its mark in britpop almost a decade ago. apart from rowntree, the others r frontman & keyboardist damon albarn, bassist alex james & lead guitarist graham coxon. " this is by far, the best thing we've ever done, the most imaginative & the one that interests me most. it's also the best placed & the best produced," said rowntree.
although 13 still exhibits the usual angst-ridden & anthemics tunes for which blur is famous, they're no longer the theme of the album. in fact, some of the songs written by the band r very "out of character" & will take u by surprise. 'tender', for example, is hymn-like & very melodic, while 'battle' & 'mellow song' blend in different types of music styles like trip-hop, rock & pop so much so u can't really label them. yet, like rowntree said, this probably *is* the best album blur has ever come up with.
the name 13, in case you're interested, came about because the band worked at a studiowith the number 13 on it. according to rowntree, it also has something to do with the number of hours the band worked everyday on the album.
one of the changes the band administered was its decision to work with producer william orbit, after ditching stephen street, the only other producer it has ever worked with since 'she's so high' in 1990. rowntree insisted that working with street has been a great experience for everybody throughout the years. however, he added that there were few surprises left.
"we got a new producer hoping that it would change the way we've always worked. we wanted to start from scratch if we had to." "an album, in our case, is very much like a photograph. if we were to make the same album again now, it would sound pretty different again i'm sure.there's no point in remaking the same kind of music," explained rowntree.
with orbit at the helm, the boys were able to get more involved in the making of the album. rowntree said making 13 was particularly rewarding, in a way the other albums hadn't been. "musicians spend all their thime trying to put the finishing touches on their product. that's what i was able do this time...(add) my own perspective, my own work on the album. all the drumming is there for a reason now. i'm actually over the moon by it." he compared this to the production of the previous album, 'blur' (1997), which he felt was more like the band running a marathon , like it was the last race. "it wasn't much fun to do at all"
however, rowntree's excotement over 13 & the fact that the band has matured is apparent throughout the interview. "we've completely improved, in ability & attitude, & we've also become more ambitious to achieve more things, better things."
part of the reason why the band has "decided" to grow up is because of the individual work that all of them have been venturing into. blur had about half a year off to themselves after the promotional tour of ' blur' ended. alex james joined a group called 'fat les combo', & released the world cup single 'vindaloo' in britain. graham coxon formed his own label, 'transcopic, on which he released a solo album entitled 'the sky's too high' early lat year. damon albarn has taken up acting & was seen in 'face', a movie which actually ran in the local cinema for too short a period. meanwhile, rowntree has found a new hobby- computer animation.
"being in a band of 4, we're always relying on the other 3 people. that's why we kind of went off & did things that we could do as a one band operation, that we could do for ourselves." having been together for a decade could have been stifling, but not for blur. rowntree said, "everybody does what they want so it's ok. but it's a very long time indeed. i've never been able to hold a job down for more than 6 months even. i dunno how to put it, it's the best of times, it's the worst of times i guess."
he added that even though each of them r starting to do their own thing, everyone's still happy working together & that there's no sign of breaking up.
blur will be doing little touring for 13 & rowntree says that the best thing anyone could hope for is that "we'll be coming to a tv screen near u."
with 13 already getting rave reviews from music pundits, it certainly seems that the band is getting pretty well this year. "people can really be satisfied with this album i think. i know i am. i dunno, everyone else seems happy, so i guess so. do i sound happy? 'cos i am."