Blur drummer Dave Rowntree has shared his debut single ‘London Bridge’. Check it out below, along with our interview with Rowntree about a new record on the way, politics and what the future holds for Blur.
Released on Cooking Vinyl and produced with Leo Abrahams (Wild Beasts, Brian Eno, Ghostpoet). The emotional synth-led track was inspired by the drummer’s childhood growing up in Colchester before moving to London with Blur.
“There was a stage in my life as a kid where the number 126 would pop up everywhere,” Rowntree told me NME† “I lived at number 126 on my road, I would take bus 126 every morning and I kept seeing the number everywhere. I know it’s just the brain working out its pattern recognition trick that allows us to thrive as a species, and I get all that — but it’s funny when that happens to you and how powerful it is.
He continued: “When I first moved to London with Blur, something similar happened at London Bridge. Things would happen there that suddenly made the place seem bizarrely meaningful in my life – like the universe was trying to yell ‘LONDON BRIDGE’ at me!
“The genesis of the song was, ‘Isn’t it strange that this sense of place can take so much of your mind’. It really just ended up about me. This is from an album about me – sorry! It’s a solo album and in the end I have to tell my own story.”
Rowntree admitted the song isn’t representative of the rest of his solo material and revealed that the song’s sound came from the same synthy spot as much of his work composing music for film and TV – with credits including Netflix- series The one and the BBC technology crime thriller The catch.
“It started out as a guitar track, but I was never really happy with that, so I started over and turned it into a synth track,” Rowntree told us. “It was that period of my life in the late ’80s and early ’90s when London Bridge memory happened, so it seemed like a natural route to go down and get all my old analog synths and drum machines out and start over that way.”
Rowntree started working on solo material about four years ago, writing songs for himself in his home studio between his “day job” hours as a composer. “During my downtime, I started writing songs, meeting and collaborating with other people, coming up with ideas,” he said. “We did that with Blur and that part of being a musician was something I’d really missed.
“I was just messing around, had ideas and things and then of course the lockdown happened. I suddenly noticed that I had a lot of time on my hands. I was talking to my producer friend Leo and we were both locked up in our studios, so we decided to work on these songs together.”
In order to put down his ‘bank of solo songs’ that he had built up, Rowntree had to get used to the idea of being at the front of the project, in his own words.
“It’s hard when you’re writing your own songs from scratch,” he said. “You seem to have a crisis of confidence. You’re halfway there and you think, ‘Ah, this is terrible, why am I even doing this? This is a disaster! Why am I even doing this?’
“For me, music is about collaboration, and that’s what I’ve tried to do here with a lot of interesting people. I just tried to fight my way through the fear of a blank page.”
And is he ready to take to the stage as a frontman instead of a drummer?
“That’s the £64,000 question!” he replied. “It’s pretty easy to get used to being at the back of the stage, protected from the screaming hordes by your drum kit. At these performances – when they take place – I stand in front of the stage with a microphone. I think I’ll be fine with that, but you won’t know until you do it.”
With a solo album due out next year, Rowntree said the record’s songs were written to be played live while still being “textural and evocative.” Beyond that, there’s also hope we’ll see a Blur comeback soon — especially after guitarist Graham Coxon teased more activity from Blur and frontman Damon Albarn claimed the Britpop legends had been talking, and “had an idea” about how they could return.
Asked about his bandmates’ comments, Rowntree told us: “The problem as with all bands was that there was a willingness to do it, but no opportunity to do it. Now there are opportunities again, so we have yet to see. We are all looking forward to it; I can give you that exclusive: we are completely ready!”
He added: “It would be lovely to have a party and get out into the fresh air again. That would be great. It’s a tough time for touring right now, with several issues making locations and crews unavailable. It’s not as simple as saying, “Let’s just book this show in the garden!” as we would have done in the pre-pandemic and pre-Brexit days.”
Music aside, Rowntree has also spent much of the 21st century working in politics – going so far as to be elected a Labor councilor in Norfolk, among his other achievements. When asked about the scandal surrounding the current Tory government, the drummer and songwriter described the actions of Boris Johnson and his party as “incredible”.
“I can’t remember a time when politicians have had such a lack of accountability,” he said NME† “All of these individual issues would have ended the career of virtually every other prime minister in history. That is both the advantage and the danger of large majorities – the ultimate arbiter of a prime minister’s behavior is parliament, and if the prime minister controls parliament, the prime minister is unaccountable, except every five years when there are elections.”
He continued: ‘I can’t think for a moment since I first started learning about politics that there has been such a lack of accountability and lack of public interest in that fact. Everyone just shrugs and says, ‘Ah, that’s him! We knew he’d be an asshole if we voted for him” – and voila! A rain of shit! It’s just all taken into account.”
So will his upcoming solo debut album be loaded with politics?
“It’s not a record about politics, but it’s a record written in political times,” he replied. “The songs I’m working on are definitely set against that background. I remember the 1970s, and it was a terrible time, but now we seem to be nostalgic like it was some kind of golden age.”
Dave Rowntree’s ‘London Bridge’ is out now.