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CLINIC Interview, Melody Maker, 2000

Melody Maker, 25 October 2000


"WE HAD TO think about it."

Yeah, I bet. Ade Blackburn, singer with Liverpudlian avant-pop meisters Clinic, is recalling the band's first reaction when offered the chance to have their new single, 'The Second Line', featured on a new Levi's ad. You know the one — pretty young things getting wound up on a Tube train — and you've doubtless wondered where the supremely cool soundtrack comes from. Well, now you know. And it's from the even-better album Internal Wrangler (no jeans pun intended), already in line as the best UK album of the year. But critical acclaim doesn't buy you your first fag of the morning. How long did you have to "think about it"?

"We had a lot of discussion about it cos we all find the use of music in advertising dodgy, and it can also totally ruin songs you like. Look at Moby. But the music in the advert isn't exactly screaming out that it's hip and you should therefore buy the product, it's more kind of used for the visuals. And beyond all that, if you make the kind of music we make, you'd be an idiot to run away, when there's at last a chance of getting something back."

Anything you wouldn't advertise?

"We didn't advertise a thing. We made a noise that fitted somewhere."

He's right. I'm looking for trouble.

SKULKING IN their surgical masks and gowns in woodland just near the M25, Clinic look seriously unhinged, like mass murderers with a grudge against society. But Ade insists Clinic's career has been informed by love as well as hostility.

"It was our mutual love for rock'n'roll that brought us all together," he opines. "Excitement is really important and it's like it's been written out of music at the moment. People think it can be replicated with volume or craft, but you can't artificially create it, it just has to happen. So at the same time we felt totally divorced from what was going on at the time, the whole Oasis/Blur thing."

Clinic's first three singles, 'IPC Sub Editors Dictate Our Youth', 'Monkey On Your Back' and 'Cement Mixer', were nigh-on perfect transmissions from a lone voice against contemporary blandness. They're a good introduction to Clinic's natty mix of agit-pop sentiment and phantasmagorical sonics. But it's new album Internal Wrangler that'll really spin your propeller.

"We just kind of travelled the world, and made use of whatever we could," explains Ade. "The album's really varied, but I suppose our grand unifying theory is that you've got to keep things concise, don't let ideas get stale. So many bands now just seem so pleased with the one idea they have, they just flog it to death and it gives them a good excuse to be totally indulgent musicians. We always try and keep things moving. There's no fanny. And if there is it's good fanny."

It's an approach that's winning them fans at a pace you'd not associate with music this f***ing good. If the Levi's ad is introducing them to a new audience, their current Europe-wide support-slot with Radiohead is bringing sick twists to the Clinic for treatment at a dizzying pitch.

"It's weird, nobody's booed, nobody's told us to f*** off, and we've had all that in way smaller places supporting way smaller bands," laughs Ade. "The thing is, Radiohead are so down to earth when you meet them, you kind of forget during every day that you're playing to such a big crowd. Then you realise you're stood in front of God knows how many people who've never heard a note you've played before. It's good not knowing who your audience is. I have no idea what kind of people are into Clinic at all."

WITH THE four surgical-masked men of Clinic destined to leave a large stain on the national consciousness, you can already feel the underground hackles rising. If Clinic really do attain the level of success people are predicting for them, it won't just be one of those moments when good weird music gets popular, it'll presumably leave Clinic's current fans in an elitist fit they'll never recover from. Good.

"We make sure that when we're in England we're up in Liverpool," Ade insists. "There's always a mate there to tell you if you're becoming a wanker. The jury's still out as to whether we were all c***s in the first place, I grant you, but we're not gonna let anything go to our heads. We've met most people in the music business and we know exactly what kind of people they are. So long as we keep that hatred there, I don't think we'll ever go too far up our own arse."

Get a dose of Internal Wrangler down your neck now. Depression at the rest of pop might follow.

© Neil Kulkarni, 2000


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