Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Colin Blunstone reflects on The Zombies enduring legacy

Colin Blunstone, seen second from right in this 1960s photo, is
with (from left) Chris White, Rod Argent, the late Paul Atkinson
and Hugh Grundy. Photo courtesy of The Zombies
Groundbreaking British Invasion troupe the Zombies are coming to Southern California to perform a string of dates this month including two headlining slots at the legendary Troubadour in Los Angeles on Sept. 10 and 11, an appearance at the KAABOO Festival at the Del Mar Fairgrounds on Sept. 14, an opening slot for Arcade Fire at the Greek Theatre on Sept. 20, and an intimate acoustic performance at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs on Sept. 21, 2018.

Formed in England in 1961, the Zombies scored some of the most beloved and original hits of the 1960s including "She's Not There," "Tell Her No" and "Time of the Season."

The band's final album of that decade  1968's brilliant Odessey and Oracle  is ranked 100 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time published in 2012. The Zombies' run appeared to be over when quintet dissolved following the release of Odyssey and Oracle if not for a small series of reunion shows staged in 1999.

"We enjoyed it so much that we just kept going," said lead singer Colin Blunstone in a recent telephone interview. "And here we are; originally six concerts and it's nearly 20 years that we have been playing. It amazes me how much in life is just chance. We got together for those six concerts really by chance and it has led to a 20-year adventure on the road. And so what more could you ask for. You go off around the world touring with your pals and playing the music you love. That wouldn't have happened without those six dates."

The Zombies in 2018, from left, Colin Blunstone,
Rod Argent, Steve Rodford, Tom Toomey and
øren Koch.  Photo courtesy of The Zombies
In addition to Blunstone (lead vocals) and Rod Argent (keyboards, backing vocals), the Zombies' line-up also includes long-time members Steve Rodford (drums), Tom Toomey (lead guitar) along with newcomer Søren Koch on bass guitar (who replaced bassist Jim Rodford, who died in a tragic fall in January 2018).

Since reforming in 1999, the Zombies have released a trio of wonderful new albums – including this decade's Breathe Out, Breathe In (2011) and the Billboard-charting release Still Got That Hunger (2015). The good news for fans is there are early plans to record and release a seventh studio album of new material.

"We're just talking about songs now. We're touring now pretty solidly through Christmas, so there's not going to be a lot of chance to record (in 2018)," Blunstone explained. "But what we can do on the road is to is rehearse new tunes and set arrangements and keys and things like that for new songs. So I would hope early next year we will start recording. But for us, because we are a touring band it's quite difficult to get everyone into the studio to record. As soon as there is a gap, I'm sure we'll be back in the studio."

Colin Blunstone performing at The Observatory in Santa Ana, CA
in September 2013. Photo courtesy of Kelly A. Swift
Anyone who has heard the Zombies or seen the band live knows how special Blunstone's voice is; armed with a distinctive and high-reaching tenor, it is as powerful as ever. The collective power of Blunstone and his bandmates makes the band's performances unforgettable.

The Zombies influence has continued to grow with the late Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Beck, Paul Weller, Belle and Sebastian, a collaboration between Daryl Hall and Company of Thieves (on an episode of "Live from Daryl's House"), Jason Falkner and Santana having all covered the band's songs in the studio or on the concert stage. 

The performance of tracks from Odessey and Oracle is always a highlight at the Zombies' concerts.

"To me, I've got to be honest, there is an air of mystery about it because I can't equate the fact that it was fairly ignored when it was released (in April 1968)," Blunstone said of the band's 12-track masterwork. 

Rod Argent performing at The Observatory in Santa Ana,
CA in September 2013. Photo courtesy of Kelly A. Swift
"I can't quite work out how it can be so revered now when it was so ignored at the time. It's a strange concept, so it is a bit of a mystery. But it's a wonderful mystery. And its been really, really exciting that its been acknowledged after all this time as a fine piece of work. Of course it's fantastic that it is held in such high esteem now. It just intrigues me how it slipped through the net when it first came out. I'm not saying that in any bitter sense; I'm just saying I just don't understand it but it's fantastic that it has the acknowledgement that it has now." 

The Zombies' wealth of masterful songs and their top-tier talents as singers and virtuoso players are only a part of what make their concerts so special. 

"I think we play because we love to play, and the thrill is definitely still there playing live. We love it. I think where it does get a bit more challenging is in the traveling. It's tough for anyone to travel in the way a band travels, the distances you know. But as you get older it gets more challenging really. So that side of it can be a bit tough; but we go on remote control, automatic pilot and get that side sorted."

The Zombies' will wrap up their upcoming U.S. tour with a special acoustic performance in Palm Springs. 

"It's just Rod and I doing an acoustic show," Blunstone said of that final date in the Coachella Valley. "We might talk more when there is two of us ...(it's) more intimate and they'll be more stories, and slightly different songs as well." 

The Zombies' acoustic performance at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club will feature an intimate performance featuring Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent, as well as an interview with Joe Wong of The Trap Set podcast.

The event will be held at 8 p.m. on Sept. 21, 2018 at the Ace Hotel, 701 E. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs. 

For more information on any of The Zombies' upcoming concert dates, visit: www.TheZombiesMusic.com/tour-dates.

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