The Zutons reunion: Dave McCabe gears up for Liverpool tribute gig
Interview by Mark Langshaw
The Zutons hit the heights when they arrived on the scene early last decade, winning hordes of fans with their infectious brand of saxophone-enhanced indie rock and achieving chart success with the hit singles ‘Why Won’t You Give Me Your Love?’ and ‘Valerie’.
The Merseyside act have been on hiatus since 2009 but are set to reform for a one-off fundraiser show at the Liverpool Guild of Students next month in memory of their late friend and fellow musician Kristian Ealey, who passed away in May at the age of just 38.
With the concert fast approaching, Your Move caught up with The Zutons frontman Dave McCabe to discuss the forthcoming reunion, his solo projects and all things rock ‘n’ roll.
Why did you feel The Zutons reunion was the best way to honour Kristian Ealey’s memory?
Kris loved music; that was his main thing. He had a bar called Cahoots and that was basically a way for him to have a drink and hang around with his mates, but he also used it as a rehearsal room. He just loved music, it was his life. Throughout the time I knew him, he’d always loved blues, Chess Records and those artists from the 1950s to the 1970s.
It’s being billed as your final show. Does final really mean final?
I’m not sure if the five of us will ever share the stage under the Zutons name again, but I’d like to potentially do gigs with my old bandmates in the future. I’m not against doing gigs as The Zutons, it’s the others who don’t want to keep doing it, and I understand why. With two of them it’s personal issues and Russ plays with Noel Gallagher, so I can see why he doesn’t want to take a step backwards. Right now, I just want to try and enjoy the reunion. I’m nervous about it, to be honest.
What is it you’re nervous about?
It’s mostly the rehearsal room the week before. Stepping back into it with my old bandmates. It’s exciting as well, like with any gig, but it’s been a while since I played to a packed-out house and I don’t feel I’m used to that at the moment. I used to do that every day, but this is a one-off treat for the fans and hopefully a good fundraiser for Kristian’s family.
“I’m not sure if the five of us will ever share the stage under the zutons name again… I just want to try to enjoy the reunion.”
Did it ever cross your mind to get the band back together before now?
We almost did it a few years back to mark the 10th anniversary of the first Zutons album, but I don’t think anybody was ready. If The Zutons were ever to reform properly, I don’t think it would be the original line-up. It did cross my mind to get the band back together in the past, but it’s taken something like this to make it happen, which is a shame, but that’s life.
You returned to music with your solo album ‘Church of Miami’ last year. Where did its sci-fi themes and electronic elements come from?
There was no point trying to make another Zutons record. I’ve liked electronic music since I was a kid, from Yazoo to Depeche Mode, but it’s not even like them. There’s elements of Beck and Aphex Twin in there. My solo work has always been about trying something different. This is something that has excited me and I didn’t think that was possible.
Science fiction is something that’s always interested me. It’s about the unknown, something that takes you off the couch and into other worlds. It’s the closest thing you’re ever going to get to meeting aliens in your lifetime. While it’s fun before they actually cross paths with mankind, it’s nice to be in the dark ages and imagine what alien life might be like.
Are you working on any new material at the moment?
I’m writing a kind of psychedelic country record at the moment. I’ve always enjoyed just sitting there and playing guitar on my own and I’ve always loved the likes of Neil Young, Beck’s ‘Mutations’ record and Johnny Cash, so I wanted to do something like that. I don’t think there’ll be a big concept behind this album like there was with the last record.
Has your motivation for making music changed over the years?
Yes it has. There were times when The Zutons felt like a massive hangover and I just wanted to be normal again. We were touring constantly and that takes its toll. This might sound like a cliché, but you run out of things to write about. After taking some time out, I felt like I wanted to start making music again just because I can and it’s what I want to do. It’s not easy making music, but I’ve got more freedom to do things my way now. What we had with The Zutons was very special, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever be involved in something that big again.
“I’m from Knowsley and I think that always inspired me because I felt like i had a point to prove. You’d come to town aiming to show that people from the country can rock out.”
How has the music industry changed between now and then?
It’s tougher now because more people can record at home and there’s less money coming into the business from the major labels. To make it these days you’ve got to be really good and keep chipping away at it. You need to be proactive at all times and that’s a side of things I’m learning about.
Has being from the Liverpool region helped in your music career?
I’m from Knowsley and I think that always inspired me because I felt like I had a point to prove. You’d come to town when you were 19 aiming to show the city gents that people from the country can rock out, sing and play the guitar. Where I’m from has had a big influence on me, good and bad, but I’ve always been able to turn it into a positive thing.
What the most rock ‘n’ roll thing you’ve ever done?
I once flew from Japan, stayed in my mum’s house for one night, then jetted off to Canada the morning after. I travelled from Tokyo to Toronto which took about 48 hours. I ended up walking out of the Toronto gig and got heckled for it by one guy. I gave him an earful back and we ended up being mates after that and kept in touch.
The Zutons will reunite to perform at the Liverpool Guild of Students on 30 September.