The Zombies' Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent on 50 Years of History and Their New Album
When a legendary band comes out with a new record, it's easy to get nervous. Such was the case when I received a copy of Breathe Out, Breathe In, the new record from The Zombies, a band celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Could the new songs live up to classics like "Care of Cell 44" and "Time of the Season?"
Perhaps it's an unfair criteria for the album, which is full of pleasant, AOR melodies and deft instrumental work, even if it doesn't quite reach the high water mark of their classic early work. Singer Colin Blunstone still sounds great, and Rod Argent's songwriting (you may have heard KISS do his "God Gave Rock 'n' Roll to You") is still sharp.
Up on the Sun spoke with both original members about 50 years worth of history, the new album, and playing together live in the studio.
The Zombies are scheduled to perform Friday, September 30, at Celebrity Theatre.
On the new record, Breathe Out Breathe In:
Colin Blunstone: A lot of them [the songs] are fairly new. The exception are the two songs that were originally recorded by Argent in the seventies. Rod had always wanted to revisit those songs, and one of them is, to a large extent, rewritten. But the other songs are brand new. It's quite funny, because a couple of years ago, we played some concerts with the original Zombies lineup. We played Odessey and Oracle in its entirely. I think in a way, it did influence how we approached this album. Firstly, we realized how much we enjoy playing together as a band, onstage in and the studio. Most of the tracks were recorded live, with the band playing in the studio, which is not as common as it was in the early days. We thought it would be nice to return to an emphasize on vocal harmonies.
Rod Argent: I thought it would be great to really enjoy exploring harmony, the way we used to in the early records. Also, I thought it would be good to respect some of the criteria that we always use to use [to return to] the way we used to do things in the old days. For instance, when I wrote "She's Not There," and "Time of the Season," I often used to write some of the instrumental parts that were integral to the song....I thought it would be really good fun to do that again. For this record, on the songs that I wrote...I would work out the bass part and all the harmony parts. It was very prepared, in the way that we used to prepare the old stuff. We were looking back in a way. I really wanted every one to record together, as much as possible. We put the rhythm tracks down usually in three hours. We tried to make it as organic as possible.
On working together for 50 years:
Colin Blunstone: It just seems to work. It's just one of these things. There's just certain people you seem to get on with. When we get on stage or into a recording studio, it just seems to work...We both enjoy it. We've worked off and on together for about 50 years. The original Zombies got together in 1961 and here we are in 2011. There have been gaps when we weren't working together, but usually, every two or three years we've been working on projects.
Rod Argent: There's a real cross section of our whole history [in our sets] but loads and loads of Zombies stuff. Which we adore doing. I've grown to like doing that more and more. When Colin and I first started, we didn't really want to look back so far, and do all the old Zombies thing. But we embraced it more and more, and I've started to enjoy it more. I started to explore some of the early Zombies stuff and realize we didn't play some of it [live] in the first place.
There was a period of about 25 years, from '75 to 2000, when Colin and I weren't working together, we were doing other things in music. But we've been able to come back fresh to it. Whereas, a band like The Who --who are fantastic-- but nevertheless, have been playing nonstop for almost as long as we have. The are fantastic, but the break was good for us.