Blur have spoken about recording their surprise new album ‘The Ballad Of Darren’.
The 10-track LP, was announced earlier this week and is the band’s first since 2015’s ‘The Magic Whip‘. It was produced by James Ford (Arctic Monkeys, Foals, Depeche Mode) and recorded at Studio 13 in London and Devon.
Speaking in a press conference at Colchester Castle ahead of their gig at the town’s Arts Centre last night (May 19), all four members opened up about the recording process of their ninth studio album.
“There were moments of utter joy,” enthused bassist Alex James. “The new song we open with [‘St Charles Square’] I just thought, ‘Oh my God, we’ve pulled it back’. I had a little moment. I did most of the bass lying down on a comfortable sofa and it made me stand up, jump up and down. I kind of lost it. It was wonderful.”
He continued: “The fact that we all go off and go down our rabbit holes and come back up again and when we do get back together, we’ve all learnt something. Because it doesn’t happen very often it feels fresh and special and it’s almost like that right from our first rehearsal. There’s always been something very special about when we play together. It’s there right from the get go. I feel fulfilled and blessed.”
The band started recording sessions in January and completed the LP just three weeks ago, according to Damon Albarn.
The frontman revealed that he wrote demos for the album in hotel rooms on the last Gorillaz tour.
“I recorded in a lot of conference rooms but I did actually have a wonderful moment in Montreal. Opposite my [hotel] room was this fantastic mural of Leonard Cohen,” Albarn said. “I just didn’t think about it, I wrote from the heart. When I got back we just started and we crashed into the studio in January.”
He added: “I think the most amazing thing is we managed to write a record, rehearse it and put a tune out two weeks after finishing it. And then put an album out so close to the whole thing. That’s how I kind of dreamt it should always be. Sometimes I have to wait years. Obviously during Covid there was unmitigating circumstances and realities making it very difficult, but it’s really nice to be able to do something with that condensed spontaneity for me personally.”
Albarn also revealed the story behind the album title, explaining that Darren is a real person.
“The song [‘The Ballad’] is one that he wanted me to finish for 25 years. He was always telling me, ‘When are you gonna finish that song?’ So when I finished the song it could only have one title – ‘The Ballad Of Darren’ but then it felt like the song isn’t really about him although he is referenced in it. The song is about something else. But for the album ‘The Ballad Of Darren’ felt like a perfect summary of what the album is about. It’s quite a family affair this record.”
The artwork for the album features an image of Gourock lido in Renfrewshire by British photographer Martin Parr, with the story of the image featured in The Guardian in 2014.
Speaking about the image, drummer Dave Rowntree said: “There’s quite a bit about that image which is about overcoming some sort of physical situation. There is something about the safety of this lido which can get worryingly rough, which it does, and there are stories of this place where this guy would go down and exercise and there would be sharks washed in by the sea.”
Following the press conference, the Britpop icons played an intimate warm up set at Colchester Arts centre ahead of their huge Wembley double header in July.
The two-hour set saw the band pull from across their back catalogue and air two songs from their forthcoming new album.
Blur will now play Eastbourne Winter Gardens tomorrow (May 21).
Check out Blur’s upcoming tour dates below, and visit here for tickets and more information.
21 – EASTBOURNE, Winter Gardens
26 – WOLVERHAMPTON, Civic at the Halls
28 – NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, O2 City Hall
1 – PRIMAVERA SOUND, Barcelona
8 – PRIMAVERA SOUND, Madrid
10 – PRIMAVERA PORTO, Portgual
24 – MALAHIDE, Malahide Castle & Gardens
30 – ROSKILDE, Denmark
6 – BEAUREGARD , France
8 – LONDON, Wembley Stadium
9 – LONDON, Wembley Stadium
14 – VILLES CHARRUES, France
22 – LUCCA, Lucca Summer Festival, Italy
23 – VILLES CHARRUES, France
8 – OKERSE FESTEN, Belgium
9 2023 – ØYA Festival, Norway
10-12 – WAY OUT WEST Festival, Sweden