by Keith Valcourt | photos Marivi Valcourt
Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before. A former Smith and a previous member of the Happy Mondays walk into a pub…It’s not a joke. It is what happened in Los Angeles recently when I met Andy Rourke (legendary bass player for The Smiths) and guitarist KAV, formerly of Happy Mondays, at a bar for this interview. What do the two have in common? Besides a pedigree of being in some of England’s finest bands? Andy and KAV have recently teamed up to create the blistering and brilliant new group, Blitz Vega. No small feat in today’s music climate. The first hurdle, getting old band comparisons out of the way.
Andy, let’s get the question you get asked in every interview out of the way first so we can talk about Blitz Vega.
Andy: The Smiths reunion question?
Yes. Do you think a Smiths reunion will ever happen and is there any reason it should?
Andy: I’m pretty sure it’s not going to happen. I don’t know if you saw Johnny’s (Marr) retort about who would play guitar for a Smiths reunion?
He said it would be Nigel Farage, the Brexit leader. Making fun of Morrissey’s politics.
Andy: As to the reunion? I think that ship has sailed.
Is it frustrating that, while you are trying to launch a new band, people are still focused on your previous group?
Andy: No. It’s not frustration, but it can be an irritation. Sometimes. Just, you know, the same old fucking questions.
KAV: At the same, it’s something you’re still proud of.
KAV: We talk about it all the time.
Andy: It comes with the territory. It’s unavoidable not to speak about The Smiths.
Let’s talk about the here and now. How did Blitz Vega come together?
Andy: Our paths kept crossing. It was kind of meant to be.
KAV: We first met when I was seventeen. I was in a band from Leicester in England, and we were playing up in Manchester. Several of our favorite Manchurian bands were coming to watch us. This was in 2001. Manny from Stone Roses invited Andy. Members of Oasis and New Order were in the audience. That’s when I first met Andy. He was so humble and so nice. Just really kind. For a young band coming up at the time, to meet people from your favorite bands. That left a long-lasting impression on me.
Then I had some parties in London called “Get Loaded.” Shaun Ryder (Happy Mondays) was presenting. Every month we would invite our favorite bands to come and guest. We had Mike Joyce, people from Primal Scream. Peter Hook. People from that whole music scene. Andy came down and played. Then we bumped into each other at Coachella in 2007. Andy was DJing and I was playing.
Andy: You were playing with the (Happy) Mondays.
KAV: Yeah. That was it.
Andy, was Blitz Vega a way for you to deal with the unexpected death of your D.A.R.K. bandmate Delores O’Riordan?
Andy: Yeah. I couldn’t really do anything for six months after her death. I was a bit traumatized. I realized I needed to get back into something. The timing was great because KAV was free to work. I started making trips over to L.A., and we started recording.
You also recorded at Abbey Road?
Andy: An EP.
KAV: That was the live thing separate from the album. We wanted to record a completely live six song EP with no overdubs or anything. We just wanted to get in the Abbey Road studio and just play. Capture it. Mistakes and all. That’s what the band is about. We’re a live band, and we wanted to capture that energy and feeling. We started shooting a film thing around that same time as well.
Andy: It is still going on.
A documentary about the band’s formation?
Andy: A rockumentary. (Laughs)
Is recording in Abbey Road just like any other studio or is it as special as we’ve read?
Andy: Completely magical. Even like the smell of it when you walk in the studio. You can feel the history of all the magical music that was made there. It was an honor and pleasure to record there.
KAV: He’s right. It’s magical. Sounds like a cliché, but you go in there and feel so at home. Really strange because you’ve heard about it for all these years. You’ve grown up knowing The Beatles and Pink Floyd have been there. You’re aware of everything. The piano was there they used.
Was it intimidating to know that was the piano John Lennon used?
KAV: It was very exciting.
Andy: It was fascinating. You just want to fucking touch everything. Smell everything.
Do they encourage or discourage that?
KAV: Andy was sniffing everything. (Laughs) We had to say, “Stop sniffing the carpet Andy.”
What does the carpet at Abbey Road smell like?
Andy: Kind of musty. It’s got history. Musty history.
Much was made online of the fact that Andy was sitting down in those sessions.
Andy: Well, I’ve never been much of a dancer. Why not sit? I am fifty-five. In my head, I wasn’t sitting still.
KAV: It was a relaxing vibe there in studio two.
That was the live EP. Is the album done?
KAV: We are about twenty plus songs in. But it’s not going to be a twenty-song record. We will probably release a ten-song record then a couple of EPs. Then tracks that we will release as singles.
Andy: At the moment we are sorting our singles.
When will the album come out?
KAV: We know we do have to release the album in 2020. By no later than September. Before that, we must release one EP and a few singles. Just to be able to play live shows. Playing live shows is the most important thing.
Andy: We are trying to keep momentum and get people interested. We’ve released three singles in six months. We got a lot of songs and will keep releasing them. We just want our music out there.
Because you are playing all new original material, many songs people are hearing for the first time. What is the audience reaction?
Andy: We understand it can be difficult for an audience to see only new material. But the reaction and energy has been great.
KAV: The L.A. show was brilliant. They came really wanting to hear this band. As soon as we went into the first track, “Hey Christo,” you know everyone wanted to be there.
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