Back in the late ’80s, new-wave four-piece The Blow Monkeys were looking pretty good. Not only did they crop up on the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, they also enjoyed a period of considerable chart success over the course of five studio albums, peaking in 1987 with UK number five hit single, ‘It Doesn’t Have to be this Way’.
Having called it a day in 1990, they reunited in 2007 with a new album and slightly less flamboyant dress sense. Their second effort since the break, Staring at the Sea, is imminent. But first they’re playing a one-off show at the Crowne Plaza, Yas Island.
What did you guys get up to during the 17-year break?
I can’t really speak for the others, but I know they’ve stayed in music. Myself, I’ve done nine solo albums. I’ve done lots of gigs, played bass for Paul Weller, produced for Beth Orton; done all sorts of things. I don’t think anyone in the band has had to get a proper job yet, which is quite an achievement. Mind you, the bass player’s quite lucky because his wife’s a top surgeon. I think he became a house husband for a while.
Did people still recognise you during the split?
Yeah, sometimes, but I moved to Spain where people don’t really have a clue who I am. Through the website there’s been a real hardcore little army who have followed me through the hiatus, which is great, but I just fancied getting back into the band situation. There’s something special about being in a band. But the main thing was that, if we were going to get back together, we had to do a new record, not just be a nostalgia act. There’s a good feeling about the new album, too. It’s on a good label, it’s getting a good reaction. The first one, we financed through the fans. We floated the idea on the website to see if there was a demand, and it was a popular enough idea. So everyone paid in advance and got a signed album when it was done, so it paid for itself. Which nicely set up this second album. I didn’t really want to go cap in hand to record companies. We just wanted to do it ourselves.
How is the music industry different now to when the band was together in the ’80s?
It hasn’t changed as much as people say. It’s still just about having a good song. The rest of it is just the way people sell it. Obviously, the whole downloading thing has changed the way people buy records, and the way people listen to them now is not so much in terms of albums but rather individual tracks. Same rules apply, though. You’ve just got to have a good song and something to say.
Are you finding you’re making less money now because of piracy?
Yeah, I suppose, but the live situation is pretty healthy, and people make good money playing live. To be honest, artists didn’t make that much money on big deals in the past. The major record companies had it pretty sewn up. So the internet has changed the distribution side of things and given people the opportunity to do it without going to major labels. Everyone’s had to downsize though, and that’s not a bad thing. There was a lot of arrogance and overspending in the past, especially in the ’80s.
Has there been anywhere you’ve played that was really weird?
We played a gig in Reykjavik once, which was a bit strange. It was the time of year when it didn’t get dark. I looked out from the stage and I could see hundreds of very drunk people, with buckets and mattresses down the side of the venue, waiting for them to pass out or throw up, which was quite a strange vibe. I imagine it’ll be a bit different in Abu Dhabi.