24 February 2011 (released)
24 February 2011
Numerous bands claim to have broken the late 1980s Indie Brit-pop mould, but few have weathered the last two decades like The Charlatans. And if 11 studio albums, and 17 Top 30 singles haven’t yet convinced critics of their rightful place in music history, their new album out on March 21st will.
Tim Burgess and the crew are back, this time with a double deluxe version of their 1999 chart-topping Gold album, 'Us and Us Only'.
The new and revised edition features remixes from Lionrock and Jagz Kooner of favourites such as 'My Beautiful Friend', and live footage taken from the band’s much talked about performances at Reading, Later with Jools Holland and Mark Radcliffe and The Evening Sessions.
The original release of the album 12 years ago marked a poignant move from their old record label, Beggars Banquet to Island Records. It was also The Charlatans first album following the death of long-term keyboardist Rob Collins, who was tragically killed in a car accident in 1996.
Music News’ Victoria Dillingham caught up with founding member and bass player, Martin Blunt ahead of the album’s release.
Music News: With a back catalogue comprising of 11 chart-topping studio albums, what made you decide to re-release & to some extent re-work ‘Us & Us Only’?
Martin Blunt: We were approached last year to revisit the album and add some key tracks we’d been playing at gigs and festivals with a view to compiling a B-side. We thought it was a good idea as we’ve been asked the same by numerous people and fans over the years who have tried to download or watch some of our sessions online. It’s great to finally release a CD that enables us to share it with everyone. I think it’s our live performances over the years that sum us up best.
Music News: As a band how did you go about selecting the tracks you wanted remixed such as ‘My Beautiful Friend’?
Martin: Again that was something that happened years ago. Jagz Kooner was a name emerging at the time, and is pretty well known now. He was keen to remix 'My Beautiful Friend' and we were happy for him to. It’s a very different sound to the original and we really wanted to include it on this album.
Music News: The revised album due for release later this month features 2 remixes by Lionrock of ‘My Beautiful Friend’ and one by Jagz Kooner in addition to the original. Would this suggest the new album is designed almost as a greatest hits for your most dedicated fans, or do you hope it’ll appeal to new listeners?
Martin: Throughout the years and our albums we’ve always managed to garner some new listeners who will probably have heard of us but aren’t aware of all of our work. It’s not uncommon for new listeners and younger fans to think our first album was Telling Stories, but it is of course our 5th. It’s great to attract new listeners, but at the same time there still appears to be a collection of fans who have continued to identify with us over the years and have remained loyal, so we must be doing something right.
After the tragic death of our keyboardist, Rob Collins it took us a good 12 months to think about our sound as a band and discuss how we progressed as The Charlatans to include Tony Rogers (now on keyboards) and establish a sound and direction we were all happy with, which I think we now have.
Music News: It’s great the way you’ve included live versions from Reading, Later with Jools Holland and Mark Radcliffe & The Evening Sessions. How important is it for you to be recognised for your live presence as it is your studio success?
Martin: At the end of each album we’d start to perform the tracks live at events and festivals and would often find they’d take on a whole new dimension, which I think is fairly common. I still think a studio album sounds great, but there’s something new to be discovered from playing and hearing a track live, it’s a whole different experience and I hope we can emulate this to a degree for those who both came to and couldn’t make some of the live performances featured on the deluxe edition of Us & Us Only.
Music News: As the founding member of The Charlatans, how different is the band you initially started 22 years ago in terms of sound as oppose to members/make-up?
Martin: I think we’ve encouraged each other to push ourselves. I think between us we’ve produced some fine musicianship in our time, but I think it’s fair to say that in our earlier years we were somewhat naive musically. You find that you improve as a musician and also a group the more you play as a band and with others. You pick up so much working and playing alongside other bands. I think we’ve definitely blossomed, but we are also a work in progress.
Music News: How do you think the music industry has evolved and changed during this time?
Martin: When we first started out you bought your music at a record shop and then along came CDs and now MP3s. During 1990-95 music shops were in a position to stock a larger selection of music and in various formats giving the listener much more variety. Then we had downloads. I personally still think music sounds better and is of a higher quality on CD rather than MP3 and through ear plugs. You tend to see a lot more hard-core music fans investing in and wearing the larger, quality headphones which emulate a similar sound to that you’d get from speakers, which gives you the full effect of the bass and helps define every instrument. I think record companies have panicked a bit with the increase of downloading, but it’s a bit like Pandora’s Box, it’s out there now and I think bands just have to try and embrace it and use it to their advantage to reach as many people and listeners as possible.
Music News: What bands have inspired you most over the years?
Martin: Me and Jon Brookes (drums) tend to listen to a lot of late 1970s soul. We’ve always been very lyrically driven and so the types of bands and singers we have focused on have been more so lyrically. Mark Collins (guitar) is still a huge fan of Johnny Marr and I think we all have a huge respect for some of the classic legendary British rock bands such as Deep Purple. We keep an eye on bands that proceed us and listen to a variety of music. We are always finding inspiration in different music forms and enjoy listening to new and up & coming bands and artists too.
Music News: What distinct qualities or sounds do you feel separate you from other popular bands of your time?
Martin: I think we’re quickly recognised especially by fans, but we still like to explore different sounds and influences and I would hate for us to be typecast with a particular genre.
Music News: During your 22 years with The Charlatans, what live gig/performance stands out most and why?
Martin: Ooooh that is a hard one, there are so many. I think the 1992 Reading performance. We were actually asked to headline the festival and it was the year we really had to take check. Having been out for just 3 years out and with only 18 songs to our name we didn’t feel we were ready to take the lead at such a huge and well respected music festival. It couldn’t have gone better. It was brilliant! Glastonbury in 1995 was also memorable, it was so hot that year and the atmosphere was fantastic. We love performing live and it adds a whole different layer to our music as a band.
Music News: Your ability to sustain a loyal following more than two decades and 11 albums on is something else, how do you continue to keep motivated and inspired as a band to produce up to the minute and fresh material?
Martin: We’ve learnt to take time off and away from it all to recharge and reassess, which I think is very important as it stops you getting jaded. Whereas in the past we’d meet maybe three times a week and write or rehearse, we now block the time out and get away from it all to totally focus. During that time we might spend 3 days building camp fires and fishing, which is great as it means we really bond as a band. It gives us a different vibe and enables us to work better creatively as a band to produce new material.
Music News: If there’s one thing fans and listeners absorb and take away from this album what would you ideally like it to be?
Martin: The feedback we’ve had so far has been really positive, with some saying it is our best album yet. I think above all else it summarises nicely the journey we’ve taken and even more importantly where we are now. We’re proud of it and think it adds to what people have heard from us so far.