The Charlatans found success in 1990 with their debut record Some Friendly. The album charted at number one in the UK and featured the indie anthem The Only One I Know as well as Then and fan favourite Sproston Green. Since then The Charlatans have released twelve albums, most recently Different Days which fans called “a new classic” touted as their “finest effort since 1996’s Telling Stories”. Along the way they have built up an impressive catalogue of most excellent songs including One to Another, Northern Country Boy, Just When You’re Thinkin Things Over, Weirdo, Blackened Blue Eyes and loads more. I had a great chat with Tony Rogers about the upcoming tour.
Australia almost seems like a second home for The Charlatans these days…
Oh yeah, it is great to be asked to come back and tour and we have always enjoyed ourselves in Australia, we’re really looking forward to it. It will be a heap of fun again.
There’s some absolutely staunch Charlatans fans here in Australia, does that continually amaze you?
I don’t know, it is always nice to go further afield than our own doorstep to play and see the reactions. We don’t know who will turn up to be honest! I don’t know if it will be a full house or an empty house and one thing is for sure is that it will be a ball of fun. We seem to be a roll with the later stuff and it would be wrong not to play the new album on this tour and push those songs. I think we always try and throw in a few cheeky new ones in there and we’ve just recorded a new EP, which we’re showcasing that as well. To be fair it is our fans are the ones who want to come and see us and pay for tickets, we do obviously like playing the old stuff as well. It will be a mix of new and old stuff.
Was the EP planned or were these song leftovers from the album?
No, these songs were specifically written for the release. When went in to the studio in January of this year, in to our studio Big Mushroom and we set out what we wanted to release in June as an EP. We wrote a bunch of songs and picked four just in isolation and has nothing to do with the LP really. They weren’t songs that were written for the LP and no body had heard them up and until the release. We would be playing those I would imagine.
Has it been easier to keep the momentum of song writing going rather than stopping?
I guess it really depends heavily on what is going on in our lives, we’re all really good friends and that helps a lot when we are writing, we gel, we get on well together and we’re on a bit of a flow at the moment, which makes a difference. Right throughout our career there have been highs and lows and I think you can hear that in the writing. Definitely at the moment we are enjoying it.
Do you think that over the more recent album releases that The Charlatans sound has changed a bit?
I think we’ve changed on every album and we have never been ones to sit back and plagiarise our own songs. That is a no, no for us and there is new ground to adventure on to and we definitely like the adventure as well as the excitement of exploring new ground in music. I think sometimes you get it right and sometimes you get it wrong. I think the last two albums we have got it right. Also, I think this is where we have found that new sense of karma in the band where we are getting on a lot better than we have in the past. May that’s because we are getting old! I don’t know what it is but we are enjoying ourselves at the moment.
Has that made the recording process easier and more enjoyable?
Definitely, in the past there might have been only one person writing songs and then you have to go in to the studio and try to translate that. Now, we’ve gotten together in a rehearsal room after writing a batch of songs ready to record them. That has made a big difference, our friendship has allowed that to happen. It does help enormously, you can kind of gauge what other people are thinking as well and you can sense where the song can go. Everyone seems to be in that same ballpark. It allows the song to develop quickly and the way we want it to go.
Do you generally end up recording more songs than you need or go with just enough?
We start recording them but we don’t finish them, we start recording seventeen or eighteen songs and then work on those that seem to be working out the best. We’ll either leave those ones for b-sides or extra tracks or not finish them at all or go back and write new stuff. It is different every time but we do tend to start recording more tracks than the album holds.
Being more wiser, experienced and all of that is harder to let songs now?
We have a lot of experience in the studio, we have been going twenty eight years but I think each time you approach a song differently one for reason is that it keeps the excitement there. We don’t approach things in the studio the same way as the last album or the time before. There’s always new toys to play with and new elements to the recording process. We tend to get through them pretty fast as we are ‘veterans’ of the recording industry! It is so exciting for us, we have been going for a long while but it is exciting to go in to the studio because you don’t know exactly how it is going to turn out. Then you have an idea and something happens and it is like wow I never thought that would happen or I couldn’t imagine that song turnout like that. There was one song on Modern Nature called Let The Good Times Be Never Ending, that was two songs, actually two ideas. Then we thought why not put the two ideas together and we did. Both songs were actually written at the same time and it was one idea that could take it in this or that direction. In the end we it together and that’s how that song developed and that shows you just don’t know how a song will turnout.
Are there any special plans to commemorate the 30th anniversary of The Charlatans?
Not yet, when we get to thirty we’ll think about it! At the moment it’s twenty eight nearly twenty nine so we’ll leave it there. If we make thirty we’ll think of it then!
Interview by Rob Lyon
Catch The Charlatans on the following dates…