Clinic: Still Doing It

By • May 1st, 2008 • Category: Interviews

A rock band from Liverpool is a lot like a shooting guard for the Chicago Bulls or a Christian in Vatican City…there’s a pretty big shadow overhead. But surrendering to one’s shortcomings can be liberating — and admitting that there’s no hope of meeting such comparative expectations can create a pressure-free environment in which one can be free to simply be one’s self.

With the April release of their fifth proper full-length, Do It! (Domino Recording Co.), Clinic vocalist Ade Blackburn & Co. are close to being at their best — and their most honest. When Chicago Innerview rung up the singer, his candor revealed quite a lot behind the surgical mask that he and his bandmates always seem to be wearing…

Chicago Innerview: The liner notes and web site for Do It! talk about celebrating the 600th anniversary of The Bristol Charter. What does that have to do with you?
Ade Blackburn: Nothing. It was just a laugh. It was something [guitarist] Hartley came up with to fill a down spot and we just like the way it sounded, so we used it.

Chicago Innerview: But reviews key in on that idea, as if it’s a concept album. Has it become a joke to you guys?
Ade Blackburn: Kind of. People fail to see the humor in things. Maybe it’s the Liverpool sense of humor. We like things to be on the sly instead of telling everyone we’re trying to be funny. It’s like wearing the surgical masks. People take it seriously and want to key all the time on how we look, instead of just listening to the music. It’s really just for fun, and surreal in a way that people take so much at face value and classify us as being dark.

CI: You had to know that when you started wearing masks it would become a center of attention.
AB: Yeah, but we did it just for fun and it stuck. I guess people just need a way to classify bands by a genre or a look or whatever, instead of just the music.

CI: Your music is rather high-concept with restraints on how you record, the vintage requirements on instruments, et cetera. Even your new tour restricts the set list to include this album straight through first. Is it exhausting to stay so conceptual?
AB: The music is minimal, but within that we have some completely distorted rock ’n’ roll moments. Plenty of the songs feel like a release. It’s not a straightjacket. When we play live, if feels more energetic and not like a mental concept.

CI: Was there ever a ‘fuck you’ moment when Hartley quit?
AB: No. We had a falling out, but we’ve known each other for some twenty-odd years. And it’s a bit cliché, but we just needed some time apart to step back and ask if this is something we wanted to keep doing. When we got by ourselves, we realized that, yes, the band was a project we wanted to keep moving forward with.

CI: So do you expect Clinic to survive for another dozen years?
AB: Yes. Any relationship has down spots, and maybe we hit that seven-year itch. But we’re committed with the future.

CI: And you’ll still be in the surgical masks then?
AB: We don’t plan to lose our sense of humor. People understate that about us. But look at our new album cover, it’s the Sphinx with a comic book speech bubble. There’s a lot of stuff in [our past] albums that really is quite stupid. I think contemporary music is a bit too serious, and that comes across as boring.

CI: But what if contemporary music all was silly?
AB: You can have both. That gives something a depth to it. I don’t like wacky, or joke bands…A lot of bands are too scared to indulge themselves to put on a show. It’s nice to think that musicians we love are eccentric showmen all of the time, but really most of us lead normal lives. Being on stage, or in a band, is a chance to step out of that normal life…It wouldn’t be fair to ask somebody to pay to see a person they could see if they just looked in the mirror.

Chicago Innerview Magazine, May 2008

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