Interview – Ade Blackburn of Clinic November 15, 2010

Clinic is pretty sweet! So is Ade!

Originally appeared in Beatroute Magazine.

Even through the thickest experimentation with static and noise, one could hardly call Clinic abrasive. They have, however, experimented with different types of abrasion, waxing thickly into extended guitar explorations that could sink less experienced bands. It’s for this reason that distinctly gossamer, glossy textures of their latest release, Bubblegum, come as much a surprise as the name of the record.

“We saw that it was a poppier, easier sounding album, but not approaching bubblegum status. It was a bit more accessible,” says Ade Blackburn, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist for the long-running Liverpool quartet. The shift in sound is no accident. The statement made from the first seconds of album opener “I’m Aware” sends ripples through its runtime. Though each Clinic album has faced accusations of pop sensibility, this time it was intentional. “I think it was more conscious on this album because that feel is consistent throughout the album. On previous ones it’s probably more abrupt. Static changes from one song to the next.”

That new sound required a drastic retooling of the creative process, says Blackburn. “I think that we started off doing songs on acoustic guitars, very simple kind of way. It didn’t feel like the starting point of any previous records. I think our previous ones we started around drums and rhythms. This is the first one where we really didn’t.”

The result is the band’s most contemplative and methodical to date. It puts distance between Bubblegum and the rest of their discography, but loses none of the potency. To break up the tone, tracks such as “Evelyn” act as up-tempo shots in the arm, compared to the acoustic picking and sultry vocals of Bubblegum crooner “Milk and Honey.”

“We could have just included all the acoustic and more ballad type songs on the album, but I was thinking about it and if we’re gonna play this line then we’re also going to want some edginess to it, something more up-tempo. It seemed like the right thing to do to include ‘Evelyn’ on the album.”

While always taking steps outside their comfort zone, from the spoken-word experimentation on “Radiostory” to the synth asides in “Freemason Waltz,” Clinic’s identity is one which Blackburn says the band comes upon naturally. “I think because we’re not technically great musicians, there’s always a roughness to it, which I like. We don’t try and give it too much polish. I think keeping in slower songs, something more melodic, they still have sufficient twists and turns to it, a kind of pace to them.”

Deep into their career, Clinic has an output that would drive many bands to contemplate the limitations of longevity. Blackburn is relaxed about the opportunities Clinic provides. “I’d say that it’s really important that if you use the exact same instrument and same approach each time, you would be limiting yourself. At the same time, you can’t completely escape the types of music you like yourself.” That satisfaction with longevity is self-perpetuation, with Clinic lasting into the near future. “The way things are, we’ll do at least a couple of albums. It’s still really enjoyable for us to do. But also, I think I’d like to do something quite ridiculous, like join a metal band. Something completely stupid like that would be quite good.”

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