Interview: Dave Blomberg 02/12/97
Hail, comrades! Ned Ludd here again, this time bringing you an exclusive interview with lithe, whippy guitarist and backing vocalist with NMA, the much admired Dave Blomberg. Dave's tense, metal-style guitar playing and vibrant stage presence has done much to give extra "oomph" to the Army's already dynamic performances and he kindly agreed to share his vision of Army life with us.
NL: Dave, you've got an unusual surname - where does it hail from?
DB: My father's from Sweden, it means "flower-mountain" - it could be worse, I suppose. He's from Stockholm, his parents were head of the Swedish Salvation Army during the War, and they moved all over the world before finally settling in London. My grandparents eventually moved back to Sweden, but my father stayed in England and married my Mum, an English girl, and settled here. One of my cousins got married this summer and my brother and I went to the wedding in Faro, on the island of Gottland. We met up with all our relatives for the first time in 20 or so years - it was really interesting and moving. The wedding itself was brilliant and we all had a really good time, lots of food, lots of drink, lots of talk. I hope to go and see them all again one day.
NL: So, how did you hook up with NMA?
DB: I had joined a band from Reading called Asylum - we'd played the usual pub circuit gigs and sent box loads of demo tapes to record companies, but no one showed any interest so we decided to get a bank loan and record our first album ourselves. Asylum's drummer, Adam Perry, had become a friend of Rob Heaton's whilst he was playing in a band in Bradford and one day, Adam and I went to visit Rob in Bradford and played him a demo tape of some of our songs - he seemed to like them and we kept in touch. Some time later, I spoke to Rob about our plans to record our album and asked him if he could recommend any studios to record in. He very kindly offered to help us and arranged for us to go to a studio called the Sawmills in Cornwall, where NMA had recorded some of "Thunder and Consolation" and "Impurity" and offered to produce the album - it was a lot of fun, the whole session. We were very lucky to have the chance to work at the Sawmills with John Cornfield engineering and Rob producing. In my opinion, it was the best album we did. Afterwards, we managed to get the album released on an independent German record label called EFA and I stayed friends with Rob from then on. I spoke to him on the phone just after NMA had finished making "The Love of Hopeless Causes" and he mentioned that Adrian Portas had left the band and that they were looking for a new guitarist to tour the album. After giving it 5 minutes thought I phoned him back and said I would like to audition. I auditioned 4 times, and struggled with the difficult, unusual "clamp on and wiggle your fingers" guitar solos, as did everybody that auditioned, I imagine! At the final audition, with the first gig 1 week away, after much umming and ahhing, Justin matter-of-factly informed me that I was "probably their best option at the moment" and asked if I would do the gig at ULU in London. Despite this, I said I would . . .
NL: I discussed the whole touring thing with Justin - he said he loves it, but do you prefer playing in the studio or live?
DB: It depends. . . I think the process of recording music is very interesting, and I'd like to learn more about it . . . but saying that, it can get a bit boring if you do it day after day after day. Playing live is much more exciting and can be very satisfying. Touring can also go from being very entertaining to being a complete nightmare, depending on what's happening amongst the people you're working with and how the tour is going. Being away from home for weeks on end can be difficult , but on the whole, I like it.
NL: You put out an "unplugged" style album with Justin, just the two of you playing live at various clubs - "Big Guitars in Little Europe" - how did that come about?
DB: Well, after the "Love of Hopeless Causes" tour had finished, we were all very tired and NMA decided to take a break for a while. Justin had been asked to play some solo gigs and he asked me if I'd like to try doing one gig with him as a duo, just as an experiment. We played in pub somewhere near Manchester and it went incredibly well, much better than we'd expected, so we decided to do some more and spent a quite a bit of time re-arranging some NMA songs in different ways. Some worked better than others, but we soon had a good set of songs and toured round Europe with a couple of guitars and ourselves in Justin's car. His driving wasn't good (!) but the gigs went well, so we decided to record a tour we did of Switzerland and Sweden. .We played mainly in small clubs, for that intimate feel, but we did a couple of open air festivals too. At the end, with some good stuff on tape, we decided to release the album by mail order only, on a label called Wooltown Records run by some friends in Bradford.
NL: Many people have been very complimentary about your guitar playing, do you have any particular guitar heroes?
DB: Like a lot of guitar players, I'm a big fan of Jimi Hendrix. He was a true natural genius who had an amazing feel for the guitar and managed to get some incredible sounds from what is basically a simple instrument. I also think he wrote some great songs, some exceptionally brilliant music. My favourite album is "Axis: Bold as Love". It's one of the few albums that I've been listening to ever since I was 13; I never tire of it and still listen to it now. I also listened to alot of Jeff Beck when I started learning to play the guitar - along with Led Zeppelin, The Who and Pink Floyd. A few years ago I discovered Neil Young, whose albums and guitar playing I love. When I first heard Neil Young, I thought - hey, he's got to be joking - I mean, that whining voice and strangled guitar playing is unusual, to say the least! But he's made some really good albums, strong and innovative, he's not worried what people think of him, he makes what he wants, not what's fashionable. Radiohead are making some good records at the moment which I like, though I haven't seen them play live yet.
NL: So, apart from music and your life with NMA, what other interests do you have? Hobbies? Passions? Occupations?
DB: I got into skiing a couple of years back when I was in France, but I haven't been recently. I tried Snowboarding last year and really enjoyed it . . . I might have another go at that if I'm not on tour when the snow's around. I do like going to the cinema when ever possible, and one of the things that interests me is the possibility of doing film sound tracks.
NL: What was the most bizarre experience that ever happened to you on stage ?
DB: Well, I suppose it was when we were playing a German festival a few years back - we were sharing the bill with The Cure and were playing to a lot of people, it was really exciting. It was a hot, sweaty day in July and we were on in the late afternoon with the sun shining down on us like a spotlight. We were coming to the end of the set and were blasting through "I Love the World", working ourselves into a bit of a frenzy. Justin wasn't playing guitar on that song, so he was swinging his microphone stand around like a man possessed. We came out the climax of the song, where the band stop playing and Justin has an intense singing, or rather, screaming part and then we come back into a final chaotic chorus. Just as Rob counted us back in again, I felt a tremendous pressure pushing on me, as if someone had jumped on my head and was trying to push me down, then I felt something warm and wet flowing down the side of my face, and I realised that Justin had swung his microphone stand in the air and smashed me in the head with it. He was so carried away with the performance he didn't even realise what he'd done. Luckily it was the last song so I managed to finish the gig and get offstage. While I was sitting down in a dazed condition, mopping up the blood, Justin came up to me and said, "What's happened to you, Dave, your head's bleeding . . ." I told him what he'd done, but I don't think he really believed me. The people in the First Aid tent were brilliant and cleaned me up and stitched my head up for me. Justin finally came round to the idea of what he'd done while he was in his "trance" and apologised a couple of days later. He's on another planet when he's performing.
NL: Wow, pretty intense - have you forgiven him yet?
NL: OK, OK, I think we'll leave that topic for a bit! If that was your worst experience, what was your best ?
DB: Well, that's difficult, it's very hard to choose but I'd have to say I really enjoyed the last gig we played at The Shepherd's Bush Empire, in London, in September of this year. We chose not to have a support band, but instead we did 2 full performances with a break in between. The first set was songs we don't normally do live, acoustic numbers, a few B-sides. It was very close, very intimate and the audience were with us totally and really seemed to enjoy it. The second set was a full-on Army show. The whole thing was very tiring, draining even, but exhilarating - it was a good way to end a year, particularly as we'd been in the studio for most of the time.
NL: What would you like to achieve in the future?
DB. I'd like to continue being involved in recording and performing music and get more involved in the recording side of things. I'd also like to learn about sound engineering and production work. I'd like to do all that for the rest of my life.
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