Gimme Your Answers: An Interview w/ The Zombies

The Zombies
The Zombies are a band who don’t really need an introduction. Since 1965, the English rock legends have shared some of the most iconic psychedelic-pop to have ever been released. Serving as a follow up to their 2011 record Breathe Out, Breathe In, The Zombies released their sixth studio album Still Got That Hunger on October 9th. To learn more about the record and what they’ve been up to, AMBY gave the band’s frontman Colin Blunstone a call to discuss vocal chops, controlling nerves, favourite records of all time, their massive influence, the importance of writing, and making records for over fifty years.

AMBY: Hey Colin! How are you doing?

The Zombies: I’m great, thank you.

AMBY: Thanks so much for speaking with me today. I’m pleased we could make this happen.

The Zombies: Oh it’s my pleasure!

AMBY: So you’ll soon release your first record in four years, Still Got That Hunger. A nice little surprise on there is how the album features a remake of 1968’s I Want You Back Again – out if all Zombies songs, why did the band decide to go and revisit and remake this track rather than any others?

The Zombies: It was the first track which was recorded for the album. It really came about because Tom Petty did a cover of the song and we thought he did such a great cover, we introduced the songs into our live sets and it got a great reaction. Step by step, we thought it would be a good idea to record it [laughs]. It’s a really good song – it really was because when we heard that Tom Petty version, we thought we’d have another go at it! It’s a lovely song and it’s a great song to sing.

AMBY: The artwork for the new album has been created by Terry Quirk, who was the original artist of your iconic record Odessey and Oracle. How did that collaboration come about once again? Was it important to you to have him create this new album cover?

The Zombies: Terry is an old friend. I actually went to school with Terry Quirk and I’ve known him all my life. I think, really, the idea of getting him to do the artwork on the sleeve came from our management company in New York. They thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to work with Terry again, and he’s come up with a really good piece of art for the sleeve. The idea really came from our management, although we’re really pleased with the idea as well.

AMBY and The Zombies: [laughs]

The Zombies: I wanted to give you the idea that I have seen Terry since 1967 and he’s someone I see quite regularly. I was quite pleased that he was brought back into The Zombies team to do the artwork.

AMBY: Ah, that’s excellent. One of my favourite parts about the record has to be your vocal performance, especially on songs like Edge of the Rainbow and Maybe Tomorrow. I read that you wanted to get that sense of enjoyment that you get live on stage, so you sang live on the album. For other artists reading our interview, what advice would you give them on keeping your vocal chops on point?

The Zombies: What I would say is… Well, I can only tell you what I did as I think everyone has to find their own path in singing and performing. I went to a singing coach about ten or twelve years ago, and he taught me a little about singing techniques and he gave me some vocal exercises. While we’re on the road, I do those vocal exercises twice a day; I do them once before soundcheck and once before the show. I think it helps to make your voice a little stronger. Obviously, I’m singing for two hours in a show and if your voice isn’t strong you won’t last very long. It makes my voice a bit stronger and hopefully a bit more accurate as well. I would say it’s a good idea to see a good singing coach. Find one that’s right for you and develop a bit of technique. It definitely helps, especially as you get older. What you can do when you’re eighteen or twenty-five is not the same when you’re older and you’re trying to sing.

AMBY and The Zombies: [laughs]

AMBY: In support of the album, you’re going to hit the road this winter for the live debut of Still Got That Hunger. Do the nerves still ascend for live performances? Especially with music you’ve yet to actually perform live?

The Zombies: I think you’ve got to learn to control that side of performing. If you’ve been performing for a long time, I think everyone finds a way to control that. You have to use your nervous issues as a force to help you with your performance. It certainly helps to focus the mind, let’s put it like that.

AMBY: You’re bringing along a fantastic support group on this tour called Josh Flowers and the Wild, who I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing before. Did you specifically hand-pick them for this tour?

The Zombies: No, but I’m really looking forward to seeing them play.

AMBY: I have to note that they’re a really great band. You’ve of course seen artists in the music industry come and go over the years. What are your thoughts on popular music now?

The Zombies: I think that most of my listening is probably the people I grew up with, to be honest. I do try and listen to as much as I can of younger people, but if I was listening to younger people, it would be more singer-songwriters. For the most part, I tend to listen to the singer-songwriters that I grew up with like Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, James Taylor and stuff like that.

AMBY: It’s obvious that The Zombies’ influence on other artists has definitely not gone unnoticed. Massive acts like Paul Weller to Beck to Tom Petty take influence from your music. Has there ever been a band where you were surprised to find out that they take inspiration from you?

The Zombies: Yea, I’m always pleasantly surprised and it’s always a huge compliment when someone says that they were influenced back in their early days by what we did. I think it’s a real thrill! It’s one of the best things that can happen, especially when it’s an artist that you can really appreciate. I think that’s absolutely brilliant. It’s the best thing.

AMBY: It’s also amazing to see all of the indie bands we cover who state you as inspirations. What advice would you give to fans of yours who want to pursue a career in the music industry?

The Zombies: Well, there’s a couple of things. Do try and hone your craft at writing. I think writing is so important; firstly from the point of credibility, and secondly from the point of longevity, and thirdly from a financial point of view. If you have a long career, you’re going to have ups and downs. If you’re a writer, the royalties can really help during those periods when things aren’t going so well. I think the other thing I would say is remember, it is possible to have a lifetime career in the music business.

AMBY: Did you know that when you were younger?

The Zombies: I wish I’d taken it a bit seriously when I was younger. Looking back, that’s a slight regret. There was a wonderful two-three adventure when I was younger and I didn’t realize you could have a lifetime career in the business. Of course I do now, as I’ve been making records for over fifty years. I think that’s something to remind your readers about. It’s important to become a better performer, a better writer, and to understand a bit about recording and the business. Try and find as much as you can about the whole business if you intend to make a lifetime career out of it.

AMBY: That’s fantastic advice. Going back to Odessey and Oracle, the record was hailed by Rolling Stone Magazine and NME to be one of the greatest albums of all time. To you, what are your personal greatest records of all time?

The Zombies: Gosh.

AMBY and The Zombies: [laughs]

The Zombies: One of my favourite singles of all time is Fragile by Sting. I think that it’s just a fabulous song. There’s also a great cover out there by Stevie Wonder which I’d advise everyone to go listen to. It’s absolutely beautiful. In terms of albums, I’m looking at what I’ve been playing today! I’ve been listening to Blue by Joni Mitchell, Tapestry by Carole King, Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, If You Wait by London Grammar. These are the kinds of things I’ve been playing today. There’s nothing really new there as I’m playing my own favourites – they’re albums which give me huge pleasure.

AMBY: To wrap everything up, is there anything you’d like to say to all of your fans who have been supporting you over the years, and will be reading our interview?

The Zombies: Of course. I’d like to say how much we appreciate their support over the years. A band like us who have been playing for such a long time could never sustain a career without such loyal and supportive fans. I want to thank them and hope they’ll come and see us when we come over to America!

AMBY: That’s perfect. Thanks so much for the chat today, Colin!

The Zombies: Thanks so much. Bye!

***

Thank you The Zombies, for giving us your answers!

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Interview by Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout

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