The Zombies hungry for morehttp://www.torontosun.com/2011/09/08/the-zombies-hungry-for-more
By Darryl Sterdan
September 08, 2011
The Zombies are still hungry.
Half a century after springing to life -- and more than a decade after rising from their premature grave -- the U.K. pop-rockers haven't lost their creative appetite.
"Honestly, it feels the same as it did when we were 18 years old," says 66-year-old keyboardist Rod Argent, who leads the band with original vocalist Colin Blunstone. "And the fact that there were so many years between our breakup and our reunion means it's still fresh and exciting for us. So it's a huge privilege to be our age and get up on stage."
It was a privilege denied them for more than 30 years. After forming in 1961 and making their name with originals like She's Not There and Tell Her No, the band amicably split in '67 -- only to watch their posthumous (and more ambitious) second album Odessey and Oracle take off thanks to the chart-topper Time of the Season. Argent (who wrote all those hits) found success with his eponymous '70s outfit -- known for the single Hold Your Head Up -- before moving to production and film scoring. Blunstone, after a failed attempt at a day job, carved out a solo career. And so it went until 2000, when the duo ended up onstage at a benefit gig, had a blast playing their old hits and decided to revive The Zombies.
But Argent insists they've also breathed new life into the band by continuing to write and record albums, including this year's fittingly titled Breathe Out, Breathe In, which finds the band augmenting their organ-drenched psychedelia and punchy blues-rock with everything from Beatle-pop to Steely Dan-style jazz. They bring that same restlessness to the stage, he says.
"People shouldn't expect a band that's just trying to make a living regurgitating our old hits. We're not just about that."
Fans can hear for themselves when The Zombies -- which also includes former Kinks bassist Jim Rodford, his son Steve on drums, and guitarist Tom Toomey -- return to Canada this fall. In the meantime, here's what Argent had to say about his fabulous name, the first song he wrote and trying to outlive Golden Earring.
Had you known in 1961 that you'd be in The Zombies 50 years later, would you have been horrified?
Well, even back then, I didn't want to do anything else but be involved with music, in whatever form that took. So I wouldn't have been horrified. I would have been amazed, though.
Well, with a name like yours, you only had a few career choices anyway: Action-movie hero, rock star or race-car driver.
Thank you very much! I have to say, there have been some quite funny misspellings over the years. I've had letters addressed to Rock Agent.
If you could go back and talk to the 16-year-old you, what would you tell him?
I would say to him -- or to any 16-year-old -- to stay true to yourself. Don't just go out there trying to get a hit record and be famous. So many kids today just want to be famous. That should come as a byproduct of being the best you can be.
And what would the teenage you say?
'Go talk to somebody your own age,' probably.
Was She's Not There really the second song you ever wrote?
I've always said that, but I didn't realize until recently it was actually the third. A few months ago, someone came up with a recording of the first song I wrote. I was absolutely amazed. It was a song I wrote for a semi-pro band when I was 16. It had more chords in it than anything I've ever heard. But it worked, you know. It sounds OK, very Merseybeat. It's called The Lonely One. So that was the first song I ever wrote. The second became a Zombies recording called It's Alright With Me. She's Not There was, in fact, the third.
You guys were way ahead of the zombie curve with that name. Were there zombie movies in 1961?
Absolutely none. When our original bass player suggested the name I loved it because no one else was going to have that name, and it sounded vaguely exotic -- I knew it had some sort of connection with Haiti, but that was it, really. But Colin hated it. And I remember meeting Manfred Mann backstage at the first television show we ever did, Ready Steady Go! He said, 'Oh man, I love your record! But you've got to change that name!' So not everybody loved it.
Golden Earring, who also started in 1961, are regarded as the longest-running rock band. Is outliving them part of your goal?
(Laughs) Well, my dad had his own semi-pro dance band from the age of 17 to 83. He died about six years ago at the age of 93, so I reckon I've got a few years left in me. Of course, life on the road is pretty draining, particularly as you get older. Getting by on three or four hours of sleep a night is tough.
So you're walking around all day like a zombie from lack of sleep?
There you go! See? The name fits us after all!