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CLINIC: What's Behind Those Surgical Masks?

Taking the pulse of the cool British export

Interview Yancey Strickler Photography Brendan Colthurst
Ade Blackburn

Ade Blackburn: "You find if you do try and repeat a sound or stick to a formula, it's usually a dilution of what was good originally, and it gets progressively worse."
Strickler: Do you have to hide your influences when you write a song?

Blackburn: Yeah. If you've got an influence that isn't obvious then it's good to play that up. But with the more typical comparisons people would make, you always try and make sure that that's combined with something to keep people guessing. Also, maybe the worst time is where you come up with an idea, like a melody, and you think, 'I can't believe this.' Then you realize that it's something that's already famous.

Strickler: Is there a specific song where you've discovered that after the fact?

Blackburn: I can't think of specific ones, but a lot of the time you come up with stuff that you think is really good, and when you find out what it's a rip-off of, it's usually really shit. [Laughs] That's the worst.

Strickler: On two of your early songs I hear blatant rips. "Monkey on Your Back" — when I hear that I hear "Old World" by the Modern Lovers. The organ riff is the same.

Blackburn: That was deliberate. [laughs]

Strickler: Then the quiet second part in "D.P." sounds like the Velvets' "Pale Blue Eyes."

Blackburn: There's a few songs with the more bluesy side of the Velvets' guitar playing. I just like that guitar style. That guitar style is like bluegrass or country. I thought, in that way, it was slightly acceptable to do something, even though secretly I knew everyone would say it sounded like the Velvets.

Strickler: Is there one songwriter in Clinic?

Blackburn: It's different for every song that we do. Quite often I'll have an idea for the melody or the structure of something. The way we do it, quite often, is to start with a distinctive rhythm. So it can go lots of different ways.

Turney: We can go from one different style to another. There's always endless demo tapes of versions and versions and versions. It's an ongoing thing, until this one point we can never get past where you're finished. There's nothing else you can do.

Strickler: Were you inspired by someone to feature the organ so prominently?

Blackburn: It has to be '60s influenced. The usual, "Sister Ray." But also, some of the more Nuggets-type stuff as well. I just like distorted keyboard, as opposed to that clean '60s sound. You know the Inspiral Carpets? I don't like that clean organ sound. Sounds too tame to me, and also a bit too clichéd '60s sounding. If it's quite dirty it can sound almost electronic as well, a bit more like Kraftwerk.

Turney: Some crazy frequencies that you never expected when you hear it droning away. It makes ambient noises that are impossible to create without really turning it up. It's just an extra dimension that it gives to it. When you do a loop of a sample, it's got that bit of atmosphere on it that loops with it, that [is better] than what the actual instruments are doing. There's a sort of atmosphere there, and it's quite exciting when that happens.


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