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July 2, 2011

Dave Rowntree - "There are always plans for Blur" - July 2011


Beyond Britpop: Whatever happened to the class of '95?

Pulp are just the latest Britpop band to re-form. What happened to the other musicians who defined the Nineties? Alice Jones from The Independent meets the retired rock stars
DAVE ROWNTREE
Then: Drummer, Blur. Blur have released seven studio albums, including the Britpop-defining No 1 albums Parklife and The Great Escape which sold 2.15 million copies worldwide. Having effectively split up in 2003, they reunited in 2009 for a run of successful gigs, headlining Glastonbury and playing to 100,000 emotional fans over two nights in Hyde Park.
Defining Britpop Moment: Winning the 'Battle of Britpop', beating Oasis to No 1 in August 1995 with "Country House".
Now: Trainee Solicitor. Having worked as an animator for several years, setting up his own company, Nanomation, and producing two series of Empire Square, Rowntree enrolled at law school and is halfway through his training contract at Kingsley Napley, a London firm.
Lives: East London with his girlfriend, a music publisher. He is 47 years old.
'Around five years ago, I was having a mid-life crisis. I lay awake at night thinking, 'Haven't I wasted my life? Hasn't it all been rather trivial? Hitting things for a living, isn't that rather stupid?'.
Then I talked to a friend who was a lawyer. He said his grandfather had sent him to the Old Bailey, saying 'Go and sit there for two weeks and, at the end of it, you'll know if you like law or not'. So I did that and it was brilliant. Everything that my mid-life crisis was telling me I needed, I found in that courtroom.
The space between things with Blur was growing quite wide so I went to one of the leading legal aid criminal firms in east London and did a bit of work experience. I fell in love with it. It was everything I was looking for – genuine hands-on helping of people with serious crises. I went to law school, passed all my exams and in a year I'll be a qualified solicitor. Now I work five days a week. Crime is what I love but I'm unusual in that I quite like tax law, too.
Around the same time I started to get more involved in the Labour party. I'm a local activist and helped David Miliband on his leadership campaign, which was very exciting. I also stood for parliament in Westminster at the last election, though I had no hope at all of winning. It's all part of trying to bring some kind of meaning to my life, arranging it so I'm a giver rather than a taker. What stuck in my craw was the feeling that my life was selfish. I was turning into somebody that I despised.


The band wound down without my permission, because of Graham and Damon falling out. It wasn't being in the band that I hated. I still love doing that and I'm pretty sure that if I could still do it full time, that's what I would be doing. It's all speculative, because to be able to do it full time you have to be a bit younger.
At the time, it was very hard to gauge the scale of what was going on. First we were a tiny indie band and suddenly we were the mainstream, at number one. We became pop stars which wasn't in the plan. Some of us accommodated that better than others. At the height of our success, I used to fly the band around on tour in my plane. It was brilliant – proper rock-star behaviour. These days I share a plane with a few friends. It's an incredible luxury, really, my one nod to stardom.
Otherwise, I felt about a mile from being involved in any kind of movement, even Britpop. The idea that we were involved in a movement, especially one with such a terrible name, definitely wouldn't have appealed to us.
The Hyde Park reunion [in 2009] could have been a disaster. When Graham and Damon put their differences to one side we decided to go into the rehearsal studio and see if the old magic was there. It was clear immediately that it was. But we all had misgivings. I was very surprised at how quickly the first show sold out. It was really nice that people still felt that way about us.
We keep in touch with each other and there are always plans for Blur. But it's quite fragile. We're grown men now and we don't want to ruin anything. If we do anything else, it's got to be interesting. There has to be a good reason."

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Interesting read, and in particular the part that caught my attention was the bolded red paragraph. At least that's nice to hear, good news for us fans! But we still don't know anything about their plans. 
Here's Justine Frischmann's part in the article. For those who don't know, Justine was the ex-girlfriend of Damon Albarn and frontwoman of Britpop band Elastica. Read below to know what's going on with her.
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JUSTINE FRISCHMANN
Then: Lead singer and guitarist, Elastica. Britpop's cool head girl who dated Brett Anderson and Damon Albarn. Elastica's eponymous first album entered the charts at No 1 in 1995, then the fastest-selling British debut in history. They split up in 2001.
Defining Britpop moment: Starring on an NME cover alongside Thom Yorke and Brett Anderson in 1994, before Elastica had released an album.
Now: Artist. A graduate of the Bartlett School of Architecture, Frischmann co-presented a BBC series called Dreamspaces. She also collaborated with her old flatmate MIA, co-writing songs on her first album Arular. Last year, Frischmann had her first solo exhibition at the Michelle O'Connor Gallery in San Francisco and this year showed her work at New York's Sloan Fine Art.
Lives: North Bay, San Francisco with her husband, a climate scientist and professor at the University of California-Davis. She is 41 years old.
'Music never felt like a sustainable career to me in the emotional and physical sense. I was never that comfortable in the spotlight. I'm actually a pretty quiet kind of person who needs a lot of peace, calm and stability around me.
When I think of Britpop, I remember how exciting it was to see friends breaking through in such a short time. At first the media's attempts to pigeonhole us all together seemed forced. But the concept of 'Britpop' soon gained momentum and it became clear that it had become an entity in its own right. That redefinition of English music and identity felt important at a time when so much of the popular culture seemed to be coming from America. There was a desire to make work that celebrated where we were living, using our own imagery, vernacular and humour. There was also a softening of boundaries during that era – in a way, Damon working with Phil Daniels had some parallels with Tony Blair representing the Labour party... a reappropriation of traditionally working-class iconography by middle-class intelligentsia.

I left the UK in 2005 to study Fine Art at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. I was ready for a total change, I wanted to leave the UK and go back to school. When we were touring I loved the land in the American West and felt drawn to come back. Naropa is the only Buddhist university in the US. I thought it would be interesting to look at the creative process from a contemplative point of view.
I have a parent who is a Holocaust survivor and the Holocaust is something that, I think, has driven me all of my life. My love of Modern design and aesthetics also comes from my parents, who were influenced by the Modern movement, partly, I believe, because we had lost our family history on both sides.
The only Elastica member with whom I'm in touch is Donna. Last time we spoke she was working as a music therapist. Brett [Anderson] is still a good friend. In terms of the music scene today, I still think that Maya's work [MIA] is interesting. But I'm the wrong person to ask. I live in rural northern California where there are coyotes wandering in the streets. And I don't own a TV."


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