In September, Alternative Press connected with the Zombies’ Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone. The duo spoke to us ahead of the release of their Veeps performance, Live From Studio Two. The concert was recorded at the legendary Abbey Road Studios, which played host to dozens of artists from the Zombies, the Beatles and Aretha Franklin to Kanye West, Lady Gaga and Architects.
While much of our conversation focused on the livestream, we also had a chance to discuss a wide range of happenings connected to the Zombies. In part two of the conversation, Argent and Blunstone brought us behind the scenes of their upcoming studio album, detailed the significance of their recent induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and the prospect of getting back to touring.
They also spoke about Blunstone’s acclaimed 1971 solo debut album One Year, which recently was announced to be receiving a 50th-anniversary edition. Due November 5, the release will have 14 previously released recordings and 9 unrecorded compositions.
I know you’re working on a new album. Can you tell me a bit about the project?
ROD ARGENT: I’ve written most of the material for it, eight of the songs. We’ve yet to record a lovely song that Colin has written. It was important to me that it shouldn’t be too introverted. It was important to me that we should have some real grooves on the album and some really exciting tracks, along with tracks that are intimate, too. I’ve actually got a small studio here where we’ve recorded the whole album. I wanted to really make sure that this way of recording worked. So, we completed three tracks, finished them, mixed them and had them mastered by one of my favorite mastering engineers in America to see how the whole process would turn out.
They turned out absolutely brilliantly and we’ve had some fantastic reaction from America, from people inside the business. We’re very, very excited. That combination of things which are very soulful in an intimate way and also very soulful in a groove way. And, to get some of the excitement of playing live, which we’ve done so much of in the last few years. We’ve got a great live band and we wanted to capture some of that whole band recording together. So you get the interplay between Colin’s voice, even if he’s just doing guide vocals at that point. And maybe the drummer and me listening to what we’re doing and subtly changing how we play by what’s coming across from different people. That in itself is very exciting.
Strangely enough, the guy that did the acoustic design for my small studio here turned out to be the same guy who did all the acoustic design for Abbey Road in the control rooms. So there’s a connection, which absolutely knocked me out. I thought I would never be able to afford him in a million years. He did it because he wanted to do it, which is absolutely sweet of him. We’re very excited about it. In a way, that’s the thing that gets us still most energized of anything. The process of getting a new song started recording, hearing it start to sound really good. That’s so exciting.
I’m not putting down all the millions of plays that “Time Of The Season” has had. Every time it’s played, I think it’s fantastic. But nothing beats hearing for the first time something that you’ve just done coming over on the radio waves. It’s a very special experience. To work out the first track that we’ve done, actually worked in that way. We did what the Stones used to do so many years ago. We sneaked out a copy of the first mix that we had and we gave it to a DJ that we know that’s on a regional radio program down here in the south of England. He played it on the air. We tuned in and we made sure we talked over the intro and the end so people couldn’t record it and copy it out or anything like that. We just wanted to hear how it sounded on the radio. It sounded great and I was so happy.
COLIN BLUNSTONE: On the last album we recorded, we played live, all of us in the studio together. We enjoyed it so much. It isn’t done that often, all the band in the studio at the same time. We enjoyed it so much on the last album, we made sure that we’ve done it again on this album. It’s been slightly complicated by the fact that our bass player, Søren [Koch], actually lives in Denmark. Of course, the COVID situation has made it a bit more complicated, but it does seem to be a thing that works for us. As Rod said, we’re working off of one another. It’s different if you’re all there together listening to what the other person’s playing. You will perform differently than if you were just there on your own and your singing to a track or playing to a track.
One of the other major somewhat recent things in the Zombies world is your 2019 induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. What did that milestone mean to you?
BLUNSTONE: It’s incredibly exciting. It’s a recognition from the industry and from our fans of our contribution to music. I’m not getting carried away that we’ve contributed more than we have. We had many ups and downs in our careers. We started playing professionally in 1964. At the end of a long period, we get a recognition like this and it does help to validate what we’ve been doing. Particularly thinking of the ’60s really, because when Odyssey And Oracle was released, the album really didn’t get much attention or recognition. To be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame does really help us to realize that our work does have a value and people out there do care about what we’ve been doing. It was absolutely magical to be inducted by the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. The evening that we were inducted was one of the best evenings of my professional career ever. We were working with these wonderful artists like Def Leppard, the Cure, Roxy Music, Radiohead, Janet Jackson and Stevie Nicks. Being on a show with people like that, it’s something that you’ll never forget.
ARGENT: It was great. I remember the night before, there was a little sort of event at our hotel. Quite a few people turned up, a couple of Roxy Music. You had a chat with someone from the Cure who amazed me by saying that we really influenced them and how much they’d loved our stuff. I never thought of the Cure having any sort of influences from us. I can never hear it ever when people say they’re influenced by us.
I have to say the Cure on the night in the hall were absolutely superb. They just blew me away. There was a lovely camaraderie in the evening. Def Leppard asked us up on stage with Brian May for the last song, which was “All Of The Young Dudes” that Ian Hunter was up there singing. They’d done it with him before and I said, “OK, what key is it in?” They said, “Well, it’s in D but we put it down to C#, we’ve tuned our guitars down.” I said “Does that mean I’ve got to play it in C#?” [Laughs.]
I managed it and had a great time and they were absolutely lovely. It was it was a fantastic feeling. Because the thing is, to be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, there is a fan vote, but it only counts for something very small. You have to be chosen by your peers and inducted by your peers. After all these years, we’ve been eligible to be inducted since 1986, I think. It was only in the four years before 2019. I think that was because our career in America once again was really taking off, by the token of the size of audiences we started to play to. We were playing to sold-out places everywhere to our amazement.
BLUNSTONE: We’ve always considered ourselves to be an emerging rock band, I guess just sort of late developers. [Laughs.] But also with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, there really is a connection with them. They’re in touch with you constantly once you’re inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It’s not a one-night stand. [Laughs.] There is a connection. It’s really good to hear the news, what’s been happening, what’s planned for the future. They have a lot of programs that they launch for the public, particularly for people around Cleveland. It’s really good to keep in touch with them and see what they’re doing and how they’re affecting people’s lives.
I think of you as such committed touring artists. What has the COVID disruption been like for you, and are you excited about the prospect of getting back on the road?
BLUNSTONE: It’s really exciting. As you rightly say, we are a touring band and when we don’t, there’s a huge hole in our lives. I don’t know about Rod, but I spent a lot of time sitting around here not knowing what to do with myself because we normally tour for probably half the year.
ARGENT: Three tours of America quite often.
BLUNSTONE: We don’t plan it that way, but it nearly always works out to be three tours of America. And of course, we play in the Far East, Scandinavia and Europe as well. Next year, we’re going to start in the U.K. at the end of February. Then, we’re coming to the States and Canada and then we’re playing in Scandinavia and Germany in the autumn. It looks like it’s going to be a busy year next year, hopefully. Obviously, everything has to be governed by the COVID situation. I’m hoping that the concert life will be getting back to some sort of normality next year.
ARGENT: You plan to do something possibly on the West Coast with to do with One Year, aren’t you?
BLUNSTONE: Hopefully. There are discussions. Not just on the West Coast, actually, but it’s right across the States. It’s the fiftieth anniversary of my first solo album, One Year, which actually was quite successful in the U.K. and in Europe but wasn’t so successful in America, opposite to the Zombies who were more successful in America and less successful in the U.K. It’s the fiftieth anniversary and there is talk of me coming over and playing that album. That will be very interesting because it’s half a band album and half a string quartet, and somehow it works. We have to see how we can make it work on the road. It’s going to be challenging, but it should be really interesting.