New Interview With Tony: New Album Writing Put On Hold

tony

So, Tony gave a really good new interview with The Aquarian and talked about the upcoming tour, the families on the road, and writing material for the new album is on pause right now. He feels that the band jumped into writing prematurely, and felt they needed to go out and recharge their batteries, since they consider themselves a live band. “Every time we’ve made a record in the past, we’ve always been playing shows at the same time.” Tony says that the reason ND are starting the tour off on the east coast cause Bamboozle sounded like a great opportunity to start off in a big way. They have been writing new material since Gwen went solo back in 2004, and have not scraped anything along the way. There is no clear theme or direction for the new album as of now. “I think we’re still finding ourselves on this record and that’s why I think this summer is going to be hugely important for us.” Plans for writing have been put aside at the moment just due to the huge amount of preparation for the upcoming tour kicking off this weekend. The infamous traveling recording studio will be in Tony’s tour since he has the extra room that the other’s do not. He’s looking forward to finding out the dynamic of the group since everyone’s families will also be on the road with them.

The band has been rehearsing everyday for the past three weeks, 2 PM – 8 PM. Wow. They are now heading into production rehearsals in New York. The band has also been working out together and getting into shape for the tour. No Doubt have been diving into a lot of older material for the tour, and they are finding putting the set list together very exciting. Tony states again that the winning song in the fan survey was “Sunday Morning,” then went into well known singles, then deeper cuts (which I’m *hoping* “Squeal” or “Doghouse” was one of them!)

So, with all this news of a South American tour… Tony does say that they plan to head straight into writing and recording after the North American tour. “Actually, we had this enormous meeting yesterday, five and a half hour band meeting before a three-hour rehearsal. And we’re trying to figure out where we’re ending. At a certain point, we just have to dive in. That was the balance we’re trying to find now, because once you’re up and running, it’s so easy to keep adding shows, especially when they’re being offered. I think that as soon as this North American tour is over we’ll be full blown into making this record.”

Regarding progress—as you said you were doing some stuff I think sans Gwen last year when you were working on material for a new No Doubt record—have you scrapped that material or is it on the side?

No, it’s all there, and there’s a ton of ideas. We also started some new stuff with Gwen, and we also took some of that older stuff and worked on it with Gwen and added some of her stuff to it. It’s just kind of all there, and it was maybe two or three months ago during the writing process, we were like, ‘It’s time to play shows.’

To be honest with you, we’ve kind of tabled the writing, because getting ready for a tour of this size is an enormous amount of preparation. So all that stuff’s been put on hold, but I’m actually in the process of putting a small little studio together for my bus, because by default, since I’m the only one who doesn’t have kids in the band yet, I’m doing the studio in my bus so we can keep the writing process going on the off days and stuff like that.

I’m actually pretty excited about that, to kind of merge the two, to take the excitement and that high that you get when you get when you’re playing a show and be able to convert that into writing music instantly or within the next couple of days. So I’m really excited about having the studio in my bus and keeping the creative writing process going.

After you go through your summer tour, you’re winding up in California for a few dates, and then what’s the plan?

Straight into the record. Actually, we had this enormous meeting yesterday, five and a half hour band meeting before a three-hour rehearsal. And we’re trying to figure out where we’re ending. At a certain point, we just have to dive in. That was the balance we’re trying to find now, because once you’re up and running, it’s so easy to keep adding shows, especially when they’re being offered. I think that as soon as this North American tour is over we’ll be full blown into making this record.

The live show. I read something about the look for it being inspired by A Clockwork Orange. Is that the idea?

I would say that’s probably one of the inspirations. Usually when you go out and you do a tour of this size, there’s an album theme that you’re working off of that you kind of incorporate in the set design and the way the set unfolds and the way the set list unfolds. Because we don’t have that this time, I think it’s more about minimalism and simplicity and just really stripping it down and letting the songs speak for themselves. Without giving away too much, that’s really what it comes down to. A Clockwork Orange is one of the half dozen things we’re kind of looking to for inspiration, putting the set together, the lighting system, every part of it.

It was always a matter of time, but it became a matter of when. The long-awaited reunion of Gwen Stefani, Tony Kanal, Adrian Young and Tom Dumont, who last toured in 2004 before an extended hiatus, has finally arrived, almost 15 years after No Doubt’s landmark release Tragic Kingdom and a bewildering 22 years into the band’s eternally youthful career.

Even now, with all of No Doubt sans Kanal married with children, the vivacious foursome embody a wide-eyed and innocent spirit that has perhaps more than anything endeared them to an incredibly wide range of followers. Well, that and one of the most beloved and enduring albums of the ‘90s. There’s always that.

And the approach is just as honest and heartfelt as it was when No Doubt was struggling in the late ‘80s with endless lineup changes. The reason for being in a band and creating art has always remained the same, and it’s taken them across genres and continents to please the fans that have grown up with them.

Bassist Kanal took some time to talk about the band’s reunion, their forthcoming album and their current frame of mind as they embark on this latest chapter in their history.

The question I have to start with is: Why now and what took so long?

When we went on a break, I don’t think we ever thought it was going to end up being five years—it’s actually a little more than that, but we did the Greatest Hits tour in 2004—I really don’t have an answer, it just kind of ended up being that long. Gwen did some projects and we all went off and did our own thing. We started writing last year and it felt like the right time, but it felt like we were just jumping into writing a little prematurely, and that’s when the whole idea of doing the tour came up, the whole idea of reconnecting with ourselves and reconnecting with everybody who supported us for all these years, so it was just like, ‘Let’s go play shows.’

Every time we’ve made a record in the past, we’ve always been playing shows at the same time. We started off as a live band, and we always had that live component going on and we haven’t had that for so many years now, it was time to do some shows and get on stage together because that’s how we started 22 years ago, and it’s just such a big part of our band. And it was missing.

The last album came out so quickly after Return Of Saturn; it was all done basically while you were touring that record (Saturn).

Making Rock Steady it was incredibly—I don’t want to say easy. It just kind of came naturally. Every day was like a new adventure. We take a long time to make records and Rock Steady we started in January 2001, and it came out in December 2001. That was kind of groundbreaking for us to be able to write a record and release it in that same year.

I’m curious as to why you chose the Bamboozle festival as the first show to announce your return, considering you’re a West Coast band.

You know, it just worked out that way. We looked at all the options, and that was one of the good ones, and we decided to do it. Playing in front of that many people is always an incredible thrill. I guess when we do stuff, we jump in big, and when we start talking about the tour, we’re talking about, ‘Yeah, let’s do a few dates,’ and here we are now with I think 55 shows announced and on sale. It’s kind of the nature of our band; when we do something, we go big with it. Might as well start off big, go big with this festival and make it the first big show.

Regarding progress—as you said you were doing some stuff I think sans Gwen last year when you were working on material for a new No Doubt record—have you scrapped that material or is it on the side?

No, it’s all there, and there’s a ton of ideas. We also started some new stuff with Gwen, and we also took some of that older stuff and worked on it with Gwen and added some of her stuff to it. It’s just kind of all there, and it was maybe two or three months ago during the writing process, we were like, ‘It’s time to play shows.’

To be honest with you, we’ve kind of tabled the writing, because getting ready for a tour of this size is an enormous amount of preparation. So all that stuff’s been put on hold, but I’m actually in the process of putting a small little studio together for my bus, because by default, since I’m the only one who doesn’t have kids in the band yet, I’m doing the studio in my bus so we can keep the writing process going on the off days and stuff like that.

I’m actually pretty excited about that, to kind of merge the two, to take the excitement and that high that you get when you get when you’re playing a show and be able to convert that into writing music instantly or within the next couple of days. So I’m really excited about having the studio in my bus and keeping the creative writing process going.

There’s no fear of burning the candle at both ends?

If it feels like we’re getting burnt out, the first thing everyone’s going to do is sleep. It’s going to be interesting to see what the dynamic is going to be on this tour, ‘cause it’s the first time we’re touring with a lot of kids, you know.

It’s the family tour.

It is the family tour (laughs). There’s something kind of beautiful about it. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, especially when you’re doing interviews and you’re reminiscing about all the things we’ve experienced as a band. We started in high school, we went through everything between playing in the garage together and struggling for many, many years before Tragic Kingdom had some success, we’ve got to see and experience so many things together that only the four of us could ever relate to.

We have all our families now and this No Doubt family keeps growing and it’s a blessing to think that we got to experience so many different facets of being in a band over all these years. I think this is another cool experience we’re going to have, having the kids out there is going to be a different dynamic. What was the backstage party room with the bartender and the DJ is now going to be a romper room with a lot of bouncy toys for the kids. It’ll be interesting to see how that all plays out this summer.

Have to watch your language.

Yeah, exactly (laughs). I guess we do, huh? I didn’t even think about that. I guess Kingston [Rossdale] and Ace [Dumont], they’re both around 3-years-old. I guess they would know. I didn’t even think about that.

From what I can ascertain, the band’s personal experiences have largely dictated the sound and feel and lyrical direction of the records. Is that family aspect what’s moving the band lately?

It always has been the case. We’re in such the early stages of actually putting this record together that I don’t know if that’s going to be the thing that dictates this record. Usually, we find some sort of muse to kind of take the reins and take the direction of the album in a certain way.

Rock Steady was obviously our reconnecting with Jamaican music and especially at that time dancehall music. And it was this weird blueprint that was unfolding in front of us every day when we were making Rock Steady, going back to what we were talking about earlier about how quickly that record unfolded.

I don’t think we’ve found that yet for this record. I don’t know what the running theme is going to be. The one thing we’ve realized is we don’t force things, we don’t push things. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. I think we’ve done this long enough to know that for all of us to be on the same page, if that’s not there, it’s not ready yet, and I think that’s why all four of us were like ‘we need to get out there and play shows again.’ I think we’re still finding ourselves on this record and that’s why I think this summer is going to be hugely important for us.

Still finding yourselves 22 years on.

Yeah, exactly. But I think you have to do that for each record. I think there has to be that moving thing that really inspires you and makes you want to make the best record you can and go into it thinking this might be the last record we ever make. We’ve always been that way, and I think that’s always kind of pushed us into trying different things and also pushing ourselves into making the best records we can make.

Well if you don’t, why bother?

Exactly.

Exactly. Have you been rehearsing?

We have been. We’ve been rehearsing a lot (laughs). It’s been pretty intense. Our schedule is usually 2 p.m. – 8 p.m. every day. That may not sound like a lot, but it is, because we’re working out every morning, getting into shape, interviews, those guys have their kids… We’re delving into some of the songs that we haven’t played in a long time. Putting the set list together is always exciting. We’re about to switch from musical rehearsals into production rehearsals in a couple of weeks.

I’m wondering what your perspective is of how Tragic Kingdom has aged. I’m thinking many of the kids on this upcoming festival and forthcoming tour were the age of these children you’ll be touring with when that record came out. How does that feel when you’re thinking about these songs?

It’s a weird thing. It’s almost impossible for us to really put our finger on it because we’re so close to it. You kind of gauge people’s excitement or their relation to it by reading stuff and what people tell you. I’ve been doing a ton of writing sessions for the past couple years, and without fail, every one of the younger artists that I’m working with, they always cite Tragic Kingdom as the first record or one of the first records they bought.

There’s all these great reference points which to me, not only makes me really happy, but it’s exciting that there’s a whole new group of people that can relate to that record. You’ve also got the people who are our age who came to the Tragic Kingdom tour who could be bringing their kids for the first time. I know Gwen was experiencing that on her solo records, where people are bringing their kids, and you’ve kind of got everything in between, which is good.

Am I wrong in saying that you guys did a survey of what people wanted to hear on the tour?

We did. We did.

How did that turn out? Was it surprising?

It was good. The one thing that kind of surprised me was that ‘Sunday Morning’ was the song that was most requested. I guess it was kind of interesting to us, I don’t know if it would be interesting for anyone else, the order of which the songs kind of played out. For the most part it was what you would expect, most of the singles kind of at the top, and then got into the deeper cuts. It’s probably just exciting for me, maybe nobody else (laughs).

It’s interesting to know what sample that is too; that’s generally gonna be your more dedicated fans.

Yeah, absolutely. People who are going to take the time to complete a survey.

You’ve been doing other production and writing work. Have those experiences of working with other artists fed into how you approach material?

Absolutely. I realized for myself that if I’m not working, if I’m not being creative, it just doesn’t work for me and I don’t feel like I’m doing anything. So I force myself into some somewhat uncomfortable situations that I didn’t have to be in, because when you’re a comfort zone of writing with your bandmates for so many years and you step out of it and start writing with other people, there’s always going to be road bumps, there’s gonna be moments where you’re gonna be like ‘why am I doing this?’ But I kind of worked through that and I got to this place where I really like working with a lot of different types of artists.

I think that I’m able to bring a different perspective to stuff they’re working on, especially with people who aren’t used to working or collaborating with one or two other people. I feel like I can bring something, and I feel like I take something away from all those sessions too.

Everybody writes differently, everybody gets motivated in different ways, but the one thing I found that runs though all the writing sessions is that for a song to really be real there has to be an emotional connection to what’s going on musically and lyrically. I think I’ve gotten to a good place of being able to find that we’re writing a song. I would say I probably learned that mostly from Gwen because she’s so good about being very sincere and kind of wearing her heart on her sleeve when she does lyrics. I feel like I’ve been able to take that to other artists, and also feel like I’ve learned so much from other artists and been able to bring that back.

As well as trying to maintain that golden ear where you know what works.

Yeah I think so. I think it’s all about just trying to be as honest as possible as uncomfortable as that may be sometimes.

Totally. It’s sometimes no fun telling somebody exactly what you think about what they just poured their heart and soul into months.

Right. And the one thing you also realize is that it’s all subjective. What I think is the greatest thing in the world some people may go that’s the worst pile of shit I’ve ever heard. It’s all about what moves you and that’s kind of the thing you have to answer to; otherwise you’re just kind of losing yourself.

The live show. I read something about the look for it being inspired by A Clockwork Orange. Is that the idea?

I would say that’s probably one of the inspirations. Usually when you go out and you do a tour of this size, there’s an album theme that you’re working off of that you kind of incorporate in the set design and the way the set unfolds and the way the set list unfolds. Because we don’t have that this time, I think it’s more about minimalism and simplicity and just really stripping it down and letting the songs speak for themselves. Without giving away too much, that’s really what it comes down to. A Clockwork Orange is one of the half dozen things we’re kind of looking to for inspiration, putting the set together, the lighting system, every part of it.

So no ultraviolence or milk plus?

No (laughs). Don’t forget the kids are coming out too.

After you go through your summer tour, you’re winding up in California for a few dates, and then what’s the plan?

Straight into the record. Actually, we had this enormous meeting yesterday, five and a half hour band meeting before a three-hour rehearsal. And we’re trying to figure out where we’re ending. At a certain point, we just have to dive in. That was the balance we’re trying to find now, because once you’re up and running, it’s so easy to keep adding shows, especially when they’re being offered. I think that as soon as this North American tour is over we’ll be full blown into making this record.

0 thoughts on “New Interview With Tony: New Album Writing Put On Hold

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.