Exclusive Rock interview with Colin Blunstone of The Zombies including hilarious anecdotes
- Celebrity Interviews
- Published on Friday, 17 March 2023 11:10
- Last Updated on 16 March 2023
- Monica Costa
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Colin Blunstone and his Rock & Roll Hall of Famers The Zombies, are back on the road (literally) with a Different Game. They have released a brand new track and animated lyric video, “Dropped Reeling & Stupid”, on streaming services ahead of a full album CD, vinyl and digital release 31 March 2023 worldwide on UK indie label Cooking Vinyl Records.
I have caught up with Colin Blunstone for the third time. I had so much fun listening to his rock anecdotes from the world of rock ‘n’ roll. I hope you’ll have fun reading this interview.
MC (Monica Costa): New song Dropped Reeling & Stupid from the album Different Game has the classic Zombies vibe mixed with new age rock sounds and even contemporary blues. How were you inspired to create this tune that I’m sure it will become a new classic?
Colin Blunstone: Yes, it’s all there. Rod (Rod Argent) wrote this quite sophisticated song musically. It certainly was a pleasure to sing it. Right from the beginning you know the songs that are going to be probably easier to sing, songs that are right for you and this was certainly one of them. And I didn’t choose it as a single but I’m really glad this is the single.
MC: I think it’s going to become a new classical Zombies song. I have already listened to it 10 times. Even under the shower. It’s going to be appealing to a new generation. Plus, the video animation is fun and you can sing along with the lyrics on the screen. And I believe there’s a little anecdote behind regarding your American tour, right?
Colin Blunstone: That’s right! The album cover for Different Game exemplifies the independent and hard-working spirit of our band that refuses to rest on the laurels even after 60 years on the road. It from a photo taken by Rod during a touring misadventure in the Arizona desert last Summer.
We were on a really long drive across the desert from Southern California to Tucson, an absolutely burning firey desert. Suddenly, our tour van’s engine suddenly caught fire!. The temperature outside was 107°F. Of course, we had to turn the engine off and so we had no air conditioning. We were stranded by the side of the road for about five hours. It was a harrowing experience, dangerous, but also beautiful and surreal.
By the time we were rescued it started to get dark and there were only miles and miles of desert. I looked down just by the van and I noticed all these holes there. I asked an American what these holes were for, and he said they were snake holes. It started getting dark and I was worried the snakes would come out. We could be in real trouble.
There were 7 of us in the bus and we had some gear and merchandise in the back so it wasn’t a matter of getting just one vehicle coming to pick us up. A big pick-up truck came to get the stuff and then we had to wait for another bus to pick up us up. The Merch and the gear went into a secondary truck behind So three trucks had to come and sort things out.
It was incredibly complicated but our amazing lady manager in America was unflappable and got it sorted. She phoned the promoter and said: “We need a 12-14-seater bus and we need it driven into the middle of the desert.” Once she found the van driver they needed to find the bus to drive three hours out into the middle of the desert. It was no easy task. It was a real experience and the sleeve of the album is just a photo of the truck being picked up.
What happened was quite dangerous. The team was talking about all sorts of art directors coming in with ideas for the sleeve. But I didn’t really like any of them. We just got this snapshot taken by Rod on his phone and it just fitted so well. This shows me that if you go through your own photos everyone probably has an album sleeve waiting there to be used. You don’t need a professional photography.
MC: That image can trigger interesting conversations…
Colin Blunstone: This can also make people think about what is involved in touring. People only see us for two hours when we’re on stage. This, of course, was an extreme event but there are little dramas happening all the time during these long drives. A lot of our rides last five and six hours a day and there’s always something happening. It keeps you on your toes.
MC: Over the years and many interviews we covered so much about your career spanning from the 60s (the band’s first trip to America was in 1964) until now. I’d love to know another juicy Zombies’ anecdote from the world of rock music.
Colin Blunstone: It’s 62 years since the band got together for the first time. We were 15-years-old outside a pub in St Albans. Now there is a blue commemorative plaque on the wall of the pub Blacksmith’s Arms in St Peter’s Street.
We had to meet outside because we were too young to go inside. When we met there, most of us didn’t know one another. The band came together because Rod Argent’s cousin, Jim Rodford, who later played in the Kinks and The Animals, was in a local band called The Bluetones. Rod went to see them and thought that he wanted to have his own band. While he was at school there was a folk club and he picked the best guitarist and they had an army cadet corp. He picked the best marching guy with a snare drum. He never played a set of drums but he played inside drum in marching band. He asked one of his neighbours who was making an electric bass guitar in woodwork – never played one.
I sat next to that guy who was making a bass guitar and he said to me: ‘You’ve got a guitar?’ and I said yes.
Then I auditioned for the band. When we turned up, the only guy I knew was the one I sat next to at school. He was late. I did not know anyone else. I used to play a lot of rugby when I was young and unfortunately, that week I broke my nose and had two big black eyes. I had strapping across my face. I was standing there with these guys who I didn’t know and I looked like a zombie. I think they were hoping I wasn’t there for a rehearsal because they were a bit frightened to begin with.
That was the first rehearsal. I’d like to think that the name of the band came from seeing me but no. It seems trivial but a band has to have a name. We had two bad names when we were amateurs: we were The Mustangs for about a week and then we were the sundowners for about a week then what was sundowners The Sundowners for about a week. There was a film with Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr.
Then the bass player who sat next to me at school out of the blue came up with the name The Zombies. I had no idea what a Zombie was. I am not so clear what a zombie is even now and I probably was the least enthusiastic. All the others loved it. It was very snappy. Although I wasn’t that keen we became the Zombies. I like it now but I’ll be honest I wasn’t that keen then.
People don’t really of little insects when they think of the Beatles. They just listen to the Beatles’ music. I am not comparing us with the Beatles but it’s the same with us. People don’t analyse what Zombies means. It’s just our music.
But the name came from the guy who left the original band, Paul Arnold. He wanted to become a doctor so he was studying very hard and he couldn’t give the time to rehearsals. He became a doctor and he now lives in Edmonton, Canada. We often play nearby and he always comes along to the gigs.
He always gets a spotlight on in the audience with a round of applause because he was an original Zombie.
MC: Has he ever regretted not staying in the band?
Colin Blunstone: I don’t think so. I believe he thinks back on it quite fondly. It was fun. We were literally kids. We met when we were 15 and we rehearsed for a solid year and our first gig was when we were 16. He would’ve been on that first gig. He stayed with us for about a year before realising that he could not fully commit.
We were playing for fun with no outside pressures. We were playing mostly to the rock ‘n’ roll greats: Chuck Berry and Little Richards. We built up our local following. Locally we were quite a big band and then we won a really big rock ‘n’ roll competition which really surprised us and as a result of that we got a recording contract with Decca.
That first session we recorded She’s not there which was a huge hit all around the world and so we’ve gone from playing little and teenage clubs to playing major venues just over a period of weeks. But it’s funny when you’re young, with the innocence of youth, you just accept all these things that happen. In actual fact it was pretty staggering what happened to us in just a short period of time in the summer of 1964.
MC: I remember also Rod and yourself at The Boisdale Club in Canary Wharf ….
Colin Blunstone: Oh boy! I remember. That night, the audience was all over this stage but it was one table right at the front with a guy who was very drunk. He was grabbing hold of my trousers and was like talking to me throughout the concert as if the concert was between me and him. Because he was so drunk and quite persistent, it felt like two concerts were going on: me and him and me and the audience.
Another few inches and he would have been in the band. I quite enjoyed it. I like the variety of playing in very different kind of places. And then another time you’re playing to 20,000 people and it’s a different atmosphere.
In the more intimate venues certainly I’m more inclined to talk more. If we are playing to 20,000 people normally it is a lot more straightforward with the music. We try and keep things going and keep the energy levels up.
MC: I enjoyed The Rolling Stones gigs as much as the Zombies gigs. There must be something in the original bands like a rock ‘n’ roll bands like you and The Beatles, The Rolling Stones in and that is peculiar for the 60s bands.
Colin Blunstone: We all come from the same blues roots.
MC: Tell me another juicy anecdote.
Colin Blunstone: Our first recording of She’s not there. We were in a recording studio in West Hampstead, we were booked to start at 7 o’clock at night because in those days it was considered more artistic to work through the night. Not so much these days.
When we arrived at the site the found a problem: The recording engineer, a very good recording engineer for many years, had been at a wedding all day and was absolutely blind drunk. But on top of that, he was very aggressively blind drunk. After being half hour in the studio I felt a heat, I had headphones on, and he was screaming. Half an hour into my first session I thought: I don’t think this recording business is for me. Then we had a bit of luck and he passed out. The four of us had to carry him out of Decca Studios – two flight of stairs – stop a Black London taxi, waving goodbye and we never saw him again.
His assistant Gus Dudgeon took over. He went on to be one of the most famous important producers in the world. He produced all of Elton’s early albums, David Bowie and many others.
But his first session ever was with ‘she’s not there’ with the Zombies. Sadly, he is no longer with us but he never forgot his first session with us. We never forgot our first session with Gus Dudgeon.
So maybe if that guy hadn’t collapsed, it may not have happened.
In support of the new album release, and a forthcoming feature documentary, the band will resume their UK tour this Spring, and more extensive touring planned throughout the year.
The album Different Game
The Zombies began work on the album, titled Different Game, after their 2019 induction into The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and a USA tour with Beach Boys auteur Brian Wilson. The band, which features founding keyboardist Rod Argent and lead singer Colin Blunstone, along with drummer Steve Rodford, guitarist Tom Toomey and bassist Søren Koch, hoped to finish writing and recording the follow-up to their Billboard-charting 2015 album Still Got That Hunger during a busy 2020 touring schedule, but COVID-19 had other plans for them. As primary songwriter and producer Rod Argent relates, “the band was not content to record remotely”
“Making this album has been a joy from start to finish. Post-lockdown, we were absolutely determined to come together and record in as “live” a way as we could – to capture that magical, fleeting quality of energy and immediacy of performance.….“Dropped Reeling & Stupid” is our first streamed release …… Can’t wait for you to hear it!”
Despite the Pandemic, The Zombies made the past 3 years productive, finishing the album, and giving fans previews of their new songs with a live-streamed concert from Abbey Road Studios London in 2021, and 65 concerts across North America and Europe in 2022 for the launch of their “Life Is A Merry-Go-Round” Tour. Along with Rockers like “Dropped Reeling & Stupid”, Different Game will also feature tender acoustic ballads with classical string arrangements, and is produced by Rod Argent together with the band’s long-time live audio engineer Dale Hanson.
The animated lyric video for “Dropped Reeling & Stupid”, produced by Animind Studio, is inspired by the band’s desert mishap. The album is being released in advance of a new feature documentary entitled Hung Up On A Dream, directed by musician and filmmaker Robert Schwartzman, and co-produced by Schwartzman’s Utopia Films, The Ranch Productions, and Tom Hanks’ Playtone, slated for release later in 2023.
Full album ‘DIFFERENT GAME’ – RELEASING WORLDWIDE 31 MARCH, 2023 – track listing:
You Could Be My Love
Love You While I Can
I Want to Fly
Got to Move On
The Sun Will Rise Again
UK Tour dates:
April 05, 2023 – Wimborne Minster, UK – Tivoli Theatre
April 06, 2023 – Emouth, UK – Exmouth Pavilion
April 07, 2023 – Fletching, UK – Trading Boundaries
April 08, 2023 – Fletching, UK – Trading Boundaries
April 09, 2023 – Fletching, UK – Trading Boundaries
April 12, 2023 – Pontardawe, UK – Pontardawe Arts Centre
April 13, 2023 – Bristol, UK – The Fleece – SOLD OUT
April 14, 2023 – London, UK – Islington Assembly Hall
April 15, 2023 – Bury St. Edmunds, UK – The Apex
April 18, 2023 – Norwich, UK – Epic Studios
April 19, 2023 – Felixstowe, UK – Spa Pavilion
April 20, 2023 – Harpenden, UK – Eric Morecambe Centre
April 21, 2023 – Harpenden, UK – Eric Morecambe Centre
April 23, 2023 – Kinross, UK – Backstage at The Green Hotel – SOLD OUT
April 24, 2023 – Kinross, UK – Backstage at The Green Hotel
April 26, 2023 – Glasgow, UK – Òran Mór – SOLD OUT
April 27, 2023 – Holmfirth, UK – Picturedrome
April 29, 2023 – Taunton, UK – Brewhouse Theatre & Arts Centre
April 30, 2023 – Bury, UK – The Met
May 03, 2023 – Stockton-on-Tees, UK – ARC
May 04, 2023 – Carlisle, UK – Old Fire Station
May 05, 2023 – New Brighton, UK – Floral Pavilion
May 06, 2023 – Milton Keynes, UK – The Stables – SOLD OUT
Facts about The Zombies
The second UK band following The Beatles to score a #1 hit in America, The Zombies infiltrated the airwaves with the sophisticated melodies, breathy vocals, choral back-up harmonies and jazzy keyboard riffs of their 1960’s hit singles “She’s Not There” and “Tell Her No.” Ironically, the original lineup disbanded just prior to achieving their greatest success – the worldwide chart-topping single “Time of the Season,” from their swan-song album Odessey and Oracle, ranked in the Top 100 of Rolling Stone’s ‘500 Greatest Albums of All Time.’ To this day, generations of new bands have cited The Zombies’ work as pop touchstones, and the band continues to be embraced by new generations of fans.
Following the break-up of the original band, Blunstone went on to develop an acclaimed solo career, while Argent rocked arenas in the 1970’s with his eponymous band ARGENT, but the legend of The Zombies continued to take on a life of its own. By the start of the new Millennium, Blunstone and Argent were inspired to resurrect The Zombies, which has led to several critically-acclaimed new albums and 2 decades of worldwide concert performances.
Album pre-order link: https://thezombies.lnk.to/differentgamePR
THE ZOMBIES SOCIALS
Monica Costa founded London Mums in September 2006 after her son Diego’s birth together with a group of mothers who felt the need of meeting up regularly to share the challenges and joys of motherhood in metropolitan and multicultural London. London Mums is the FREE and independent peer support group for mums and mumpreneurs based in London https://londonmumsmagazine.com and you can connect on Twitter @londonmums