More Monkey business

The Blow Monkeys
The Blow Monkeys

The Doctor will see you now. Or rather, you can see the Doctor – Robert that is – along with the rest of the Blow Monkeys. TONY DEWHURST talks to the stylish singer on the eve of the band’s Lancashire date

Dr Robert recalled: “I was doing an archaeological dig of my own into roots music.

I’d put an acoustic guitar in the boot, then off I’d go

“It was why The Blow Monkeys stopped at that point, in terms of being a band on a major label.

“I needed to get back there, to see the white of the audiences’ eyes again.

“But I didn’t find that hard because I was always a fan of the spirit of early rock and roll.

“I’d put an acoustic guitar in the boot, then off I’d go.

“Fifty quid here, seventy-five quid there, a bar or a club.

“I enjoyed it – it sharpened the senses and I felt alive again.

“I needed to do that because there was an image of me from the 80s, of me being the pretty boy front man, which didn’t do me any favours.”

The Blow Monkeys sound was a dash of jazz, pop, soul and funk, and dressed in well-cut threads and a breakthrough song – Digging Your Scene – they built a successful commercial career at the height of the 80s pop boom.

“Fame as a celebrated musician means zilch and I was never very good at being Mr Showbiz,” he said.

“I could have been bigger if I’d behaved myself.

“But the fame thing was just nonsense.

“I just divorced myself from all the claptrap because it was all bull.

“I lived in a little flat in Brixton. I was just very grounded.

“I had great friends and family and that kept me sane.

“People get sucked into the musical happy club, but that wasn’t for me.”

He contributed to Paul Weller’s Wild Wood (1993) and Stanley Road (1995) and has also co-written material with Dee C Lee, Kym Mazelle and Beth Orton.

“The Manor recording studio was close to my home in Oxfordshire, so I ended up playing bass on The Changingman.

“I really liked that time.”

The Blow Monkeys are now reunited and the original four-piece remains intact, with Robert out in front on guitar.

“I was always very driven and I knew people far more talented, but they didn’t really have that ferocious desire.

“But I did, and I worked incredibly hard at my craft.

“We got a lot of flak, some pretty brutal criticism of us in the music press.

“But I’d use it to my advantage, a bit like a football manager does when he’s under pressure for his job.

“It definitely made me stronger and I’m more comfortable as a musician and a human being these days.”

The Blow Monkeys play the Grand Theatre, Clitheroe, April 17. Plus 1980s disco. Tickets £12 from the box office on 01200 421599.