Just after finishing their latest tour of the U.S., Clinic’s Ade Blackburn talked with QRO. In it, the singer/guitarist & keyboardist discussed their latest record, Do It! (QRO review), their last tour, the band’s longevity in line-up & label, their ever-interesting and ever-changing outfits, ‘voot’, and more…
QRO: How was your recent tour of the States & Canada?
Ade Blackburn: It was a good tour. Plenty of dancing from the audience.
QRO: How do you fight ‘tour burnout’?
AB: Each night we played two sets. The first was the Do It! album and the second a mixture of older things. So it was something new. That prevented any ‘burnout’ or done it all before feeling.
QRO: How did this tour compare to previous North American tours, like last year’s?
AB: It was more fun basically. We played for a lot longer, it felt more surreal.
QRO: Did you notice the strong pound/weak dollar on this tour, or when you came back (like with tour receipts)?
AB: Slightly. But everything still seems so expensive everywhere, both Europe and America.
QRO: When I saw you last year at Gramercy Theatre (QRO venue review), the band was all relatively removed from the front-center of the stage (especially when you were on keys), and there was a lot of fog machine. But it seems like, on this tour, you’re closer to the crowd, with less smoke. Was that Gramercy show set-up just an unusual one, or have you changed your stage set-up on this tour?
AB: The Gramercy was unusual. I remember that felt really distant. Normally we’d play close for cues/communication etc. and to the audience. I prefer as little gap between the band and the audience as possible.
QRO: Where did the idea of wearing matching scrubs and other outfits, plus surgical masks & hats, come from?
AB: That was something based on bands like The Monks, The Residents and Crime. Something with humour that was different from the typical jeans and t-shirt band identity.
QRO: What other get-ups are did you sport on this recent tour?
AB: On this tour we had Hawaiian shirts, in keeping with the time of year and some of the more mellow songs on the LP.
QRO: Does Carl [Turney] ever take his shirt off while on stage, like many other drummers, or does he have to keep the complete ensemble on throughout, no matter how hard he’s working?
AB: Carl is very athletic and recently did a marathon. So he’s never had much problem drumming in the outfits. So sadly no nudity from Carl!
QRO: How are things like scrubs and surgical masks to wear at outdoor festivals?
AB: Outdoor festivals are usually cooler (temperature wise) which makes it much easier playing in the outfits.
QRO: You’re going to be playing some festivals this summer in Europe. Do you do anything differently musically when you play outdoors?
AB: Festivals are less serious. We generally play more pop music and singles.
QRO: Do you notice anything different between the audiences in America vs. Europe?
AB: People who watch us are actually quite similar in both. Because it’s not mainstream, the people are usually big music fans and don’t slavishly follow trends.
QRO: How did making Do It! compare with making previous records?
AB: Do It! was the easiest LP we’ve made. We recorded it ourselves quickly and more spontaneously. I think that shows in the music. It’s more colourful and playful.
QRO: Why do you like to use vintage keyboards & organs?
AB: A lot of vintage gear just sounds more human and raw. The tones are far richer.
QRO: How do you make sure such equipment isn’t broken or lost when you fly across the Atlantic Ocean?
AB: They’ve broken countless times and can be a nightmare. So you learn to become fairly expert at packing.
QRO: To celebrate Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture, BFI released footage of the city from a hundred years ago, and used music from Do It! as the soundtrack. Do you think your music is particularly fitting as such an accompaniment?
AB: I was unsure at first. But playing it next to the images made sense. Again because the music is quite human and the rhythms fitted the scenes.
QRO: What was making your recent videos for “The Witch (Made to Measure)” and “Free Not Free” like?
AB: They were both very relaxed. We did them in our studio in Liverpool with the directors Nick Brown and Ali Moretti who are both friends from Liverpool also.
QRO: Where did the idea of Hawaiian shirts & playing in front of a film projector in both videos come from?
AB: We wanted them to get away from the darker or medieval images in things like “Harvest”. Basically to add a lot of warped colour, which suited the songs.
QRO: Have you written any post-Do It! material?
AB: Yes, one song in particular sounds like “If” by Telly Savalas/David Gates. But nothing live yet. We’ll start more recording next month.
QRO: You’ve been together for over a decade, and have been on the same label, Domino, for almost a decade. Why do you think you’ve been able to keep such continuity, when so many other bands haven’t?
AB: I’d say a lot of bands and labels only look at the short term. Their main goals being money and/or fame. For us and Domino the music always was the priority, which obviously gives it a stronger foundation.
QRO: Where does the ‘voot’ added on to the end of ‘clinic’ on your website & MySpace urls come from?
AB: The voot comes from Slim Gaillard, who I’m a fan of. He used his own ‘language’ and ridiculous expressions, e.g., a cigarette would be a ‘cigarooni’ and voot was part of that made up language.
QRO: Are there any songs from Do It! that you particularly like playing live?
AB: From Do It! I like “Free Not Free” and “Corpus Christi” for the mixture of fuzz and gentle sections.
QRO: What about from previous records?
AB: I still like playing the really early songs we did, like “Kimberely” and “Monkey On Your Back”. Which we’ve done this time. They still stand up.
QRO: Are there any songs that you can’t play live, because of the arrangement, don’t like to play live, or just don’t play anymore?
AB: Yes some songs we’ve never played live because they’re either too quiet or too complex to work, such as “Visitations” or “Distortions”.
QRO: What cities or venues have you really liked playing at?
AB: I like San Francisco a lot and Austin has always been really good. The less conventional cities are always best.
QRO: Is there any other places that you haven’t been that you want to?
AB: We’ll be playing South America soon, that’s somewhere I’ve always found inspiring and wanted to see.
QRO: Finally, do you have a favorite tour story, either from this last tour, or in general?
AB: My favourite is crashing the tour bus into the front of a venue on our first U.S. tour. Unintentionally. But that seemed a good indication of what to expect from touring.