Veteran English rock band, The Zombies, are gearing up to go on tour in June 2018.
In conversation with us, Rod Argent of the much-loved 60s band, tells us about the effect of social media on their music, reveals more about the tour to come, and much more.
Over time, how would say your sound has changed/evolved?
It’s not something I think about. It changes with different personnel because each person brings their own character. The sound has changed and matured. But if you look at our previous album from 2015, it still has the echoes and feeling of the early stuff we did. The voices are a bit more mature, but we still sing everything in the original key, on stage. Colin (and I) haven’t lost any of his age, which is quite unusual for people of our age. I think our techniques have improved over the years, as it should. We can play better now, than we did all those years ago and it still feels just as energetic, now, as it did when we started. The time we are on stage actually feels exactly as it did, when we were 18 years old. And that’s a real privilege because I don’t think that can be true for any other profession. As far as changes, the characteristics of your voice and the personnel changes. From the original line up of five guys, one guy passed away in 2004. We broke up very early on, Colin and I got back together without thinking of anything to do with The Zombies, we put a different band around it and kept that band. But when we decided to do a world premiere, we used the original drummer and bass player – who do sound like themselves, which gives it a slightly different feeling, but that’s inevitable when you have different players.
With the advent Internet and things like streaming/downloading today, how has the way you make and promote music changed?
Yes, and no. The thing is for many years, before Colin and I got back together, I did record production. At that time, I did them all in my own studio. And we used every piece of digital technology you can imagine. The process of recording there was far removed from the original things we did. But with this band, we’ve tried to keep things as organic as possible. In fact, for the last album, we deliberately went back, to a very old-fashioned way of recording. We all recorded at the same time in the studio. We didn’t layer tracks, we were all listening to each other and playing off each other. It was recorded organically and quickly. We were recording almost exactly the same way we did in 1964. In that way, the wheel turned full circle.
As far as promotions are concerned, when Colin and I got back together 19 years ago. Soon, social media was becoming more and more important. Initially, I hated the idea of that. I thought, “Oh people are going to be taking clips of what we’re doing on their phones. It’s going to sound absolutely terrible and that’s what people are going to hear”. But in fact, it didn’t turn out like that. The sound in its own way captured very much the feel and atmosphere of the performance. It actually sort of proved to people that we could still cut it when we played live, and it meant that many people came to see us after seeing stuff on social media, including a lot of young people who may have thought there’s nothing here for them, but then got turned on to it by seeing something posted on social media. So that kind of promotion, in the social media side of things has been really good for us and it’s disseminated what we’re doing to so many people.
Do you think social media has made it easier for newer artists to get their work out more easily?
Yes, but the downside to it is that anyone who plays anything has social media now, so people have millions and millions of things to choose from, so that dilutes the effect of it. When it first came out, it had a really strong effect, and it still can. Things can go viral, and you can be lucky, but it’s much harder to get an effect with social media now. I think it’s still a good thing, though.
Who’s one band/artist who influenced you, when you were starting out? Has that influence evolved or changed?
In a way, the influence hasn’t changed. The things you hear, that knock you out totally when you’re in your early teens, have a very strong effect. I was turned on to rock and roll, by hearing Elvis Presley sing ‘Hound Dog’, and I know I’m not alone in that. I’ve got a jukebox, and I still have the early Presley records on my jukebox. His early records were such an influence, it’s not so much an influence now, but I always remember it. Other influences like the early music from The Beatles will never fade. It’s not something I consciously refer back to, but it’s just there in my makeup. I got obsessed with Miles Davis, when I was 13 or 14 years old, and I still play his songs. It seems to be things from the era, that had the biggest effect on me. I’m definitely influenced by my contemporaries of the time rather than what I’m hearing now. However, I do still like things I hear now. Like the Los Angeles group, Lemon Twigs, who are in their late teens, and I really liked their album- it was like a breath of fresh air. So I do hear things, even now, that I really like, but my main influences are still from the past.
What can we expect from the 2018 tour?And when can we expect more new music from The Zombies?
Well, it’s the mix we always give them. It will be some very early stuff which we’ve never played live. About half of ‘Odessey and Oracle’, which became – so long after it came out – the top 100 on Rolling Stones and various other polls. Some of our solo stuff. Like my ‘Hold Your Head Up’ and Colin’s ‘Say You Don’t Mind’ and ’I Don’t Believe in Miracles’, and maybe 4-5 songs from our last album, from 2015. Surprisingly, whether we perform older songs or songs from our newer album, they all go down well with the crowds and that’s what energises us and fires us up.
Our last album came out in late 2015. In 2017, at fifty years of ‘Odessey and Oracle’, we re-visited it.And now, we’re turning our thoughts to writing and recording another album, which may take a year or more to come out, but I’m excited about starting to think about it now.
If there was one piece of advice you wanted to give new, up and coming bands/artists? What would that be?
One of the incredible differences between young people now and when we were young is that if somebody walked into a classroom and asked, “What do you want to be?”. In those days people – who were involved in music – would say, ‘I want to be the best singer or best guitarist in the world. Or I want my band to be the biggest and best in the world”. Nowadays, something is said that I don’t think anyone would have said then, which is “I want to be famous”. So the biggest advice I’d give to anyone starting out would be to always do what makes you enthusiastic, to always follow that path. Rather than success, it is about being the best you can musically, and do what really means the world to you.