Interview by Kris Griffiths
Clinic are a Liverpudlian guitar and keyboard based quartet, but they have no similarity to any other Liverpudlian quartets you may think of. In fact, Clinic don’t really sound like any other band at all. If one had to pin down their distinctive musical style, I would place them somewhere in the American 60’s/ 70’s Velvet Underground/ Doors psychedelic scene. With the frontman sounding at times like Lennon, and at other times like Brian Molko of Placebo or Mark Morris from The Bluetones, his band emit a sound that is truly unique. Clinic first surfaced into the indie scene in 1997 when their debut single IPC SUB-EDITORS DICTATE OUR YOUTH reached the top 10 of John Peel’s top 50 singles of that year. In the last two years they have been invited to support Super Furry Animals and Radiohead on their ‘Kid A’ tour. February sees the release of their excellent forthcoming album WALKING WITH THEE which is co-produced by Ben Hiller of Blur and Elbow fame. I had a swift chat with softly-spoken vocalist Ade Blackburn about the band, their new offering and their past touring-partners.
Has anyone ever told you that you sound like Brian Molko?
Yeah, I know what you mean… occasionally people have mentioned that. I think that it’s only in certain songs that I sound like him. (laughs) It’s definitely not intentional.
Would you say you were happy with your new album?
Yeah, I am happy with it. I think that when you’ve finished an album it’s always hard to be objective about it, and you always go through a spell of not really knowing what to make of it, but I am happy with it.
You also play guitar as well as sing on the album – do you play lead or rhythm?
Well I started off playing rhythm but now I do a mixture of both really. I played about a third of the guitars on the album, using mainly a Gibson and Fender semi-acoustic. We tend to use mainly semi-acoustics for its warmer, more rounded sound.
How did Clinic first come together as a band?
We’d sort of known each other already cos we all lived in the same suburbs of Liverpool and played in different bands and had loads of mutual mates of mates, and when we got talking we realised that we all had similar tastes in things.
What is your average age?
About 28, 29.
Do you still wear medical costumes and masks when you play live?
Yeah, we still do. With each different set of gigs we usually accessorize and try out other costumes. We’ve tried Japanese gear and some pearly king and queen outfits. It’s good to have a bit of mystery.
It must be well stifling to wear those masks on stage though.
Yeah, especially for Carl the drummer. With the lights blazing down on everything it can get a bit suffocating.
Who are you playing with at the NME shows?
And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead and a band called Faint who I’ve never heard of. We did the Astoria gigs for the NME London shows a few of years ago… they’ve always got a good party atmosphere and they’re also good cos of the way they’re varied and broken up so you don’t have really long sets.
What was it like going on tour with Radiohead?
It was really relaxed and enjoyable cos it was such a contrast to playing small club gigs. They were really down to earth and treated us with respect… they didn’t behave like big stars and act all aloof.
Were you much of a Radiohead fan before you went on the road with them?
Not really. I hadn’t really heard much stuff off their albums… only their singles really. I prefer their new stuff over their earlier guitar-based material. I think that with KID A and AMNESIAC it was more fitting to have a support band like ourselves whereas we wouldn’t have fitted in a few years ago with THE BENDS.
How did it compare touring with the Furries?
Well it was a lot different. It turned out to be quite a struggle, not so much because of the Super Furry Animals but cos we ended up not having enough time to do soundchecks and stuff, which was probably just down to the organisational side of the tour. But when we actually did play, their audiences were pretty good.
And do you dig the Welsh boys’ recent offerings?
Yeah I do… they’re definitely one of the most innovative bands around today. I like the way they’ve brought out the pop side of themselves and gone for a bigger production, and the way they’ve gone about the promotion of their material, like the visual side of it. I think nowadays a lot of bands are lazy and can’t be arsed with thinking about that side of things.
What do you reckon were the best albums of 2001?
I think The White Stripes’ album and RINGS AROUND THE WORLD.
Did you not get sucked in by The Strokes’ hype machine?
I actually saw The Strokes when they played in Liverpool last year and thought they were really powerful and a good live act… I haven’t actually got their album although I’ve heard it enough times. I think that it’s definitely good – along with The White Stripes and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – that the music has got such a rock ‘n’ roll basis to it, but I think it’s a little bit too derivative.
What kind of music did you grow up listening to?
When I was really young I was listening to things like Teardrop Explodes (70’s Scouse psychedelic band led by Julian Cope) and then went on to loads of American stuff like Sonic Youth, and then on to Pavement, but I managed to avoid going through a Goth phase.
Are you a Liverpool, Everton or Tranmere Rovers fan?
Liverpool – we all support Liverpool. I used to go and see them a lot but not that much recently. I was hoping they’d find some kind of form this season, but they seem to be wavering a bit at the moment. They still haven’t quite got that consistency that they need.
Looking forward to the World Cup?
I haven’t actually seen much of the other sides that are competing this year so I’m not too sure how it’s gonna turn out, but I know that England are really up against it in their group aren’t they? It’s always entertaining watching England, whether you love them or hate them. I don’t think they’ll make it past the first round.
It’s nice to see so much optimism from Liverpool fans, especially when Liverpool players form the backbone of England’s main team.
Clinic release their new album WALKING WITH THEE on the 4 March 2002 and the title track as their first single on the 11 February 2002.
Their British tour kicks off at the end of January 2002 and culminates at the London Astoria for the NME show. I strongly advise you to buy their album or go and see them