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Dave Rowntree announces solo album ‘Radio Songs’

Dave Rowntree on channelling personal experiences into his first ever solo album and whether we'll ever see a Blur reunion

By Nick Reilly

Dave Rowntree, 2022 (Picture: Press)
Dave Rowntree, 2022 (Picture: Press)

Blur drummer Dave Rowntree has told Rolling Stone UK about his forthcoming debut solo album and how his experiences of growing up in 70s Britain inspired the lead single ‘Devil’s Island’.

Today (September 26) sees Rowntree announcing plans to release his debut record on January 23 via Cooking Vinyl, marking an entirely new chapter for the sticksman some 32 years after Blur originally formed. It follows on from his first solo single ‘London Bridge’, which arrived in July.

Speaking to Rolling Stone UK, he explained how his extensive work in composing for film and TV inspired him to finally launch a solo venture.

“My day job had shifted over into film music and in the last few years I’ve built up a decent enough studio to do that,” he explained.

“But I had an idea a few years ago for a body of work, a theme for the album and started working towards that. I changed my publishing company too and they gave me some good ideas on who I should be co-writing with.”

The project was given further attention, Rowntree explained, when he found himself with unexpected downtime during the Covid pandemic.

“The pandemic happened and all my paying work dried up so I was sat in a studio twiddling my thumbs wondering what I’d do for the next six months,” he said. “It was the perfect storm really.”

The album allows Rowntree to show off a personal, autobiographical edge. On new single ‘Devil’s Island’, he opens up on his experiences of growing up in Britain during the economic uncertainty of the 1970s.

“It was a horrible, racist, poverty stricken place, devoid of any ambition,” he said.

“It was full of industrial unrest and just really bleak and grim. Yet that’s far enough in the past that the collective consciousness has been buffed up to a point that people look back on that like it was some kind of rosy place that we should get back to.”

Opening up on modern parallels with those themes, he added: “It does feel similar to what’s going on now, the rise of racism and the far right, xenophobia and the kind of feeling among ordinary people that the country no longer belongs to them. That didn’t end well in the 70s and it ain’t gonna end well now unless we change course. “

Beyond his own solo work, there remains fresh hope for a Blur reunion. Damon Albarn said in 2021 that the group had an “idea” of how to join forces again, while tabloid reports from earlier this year suggested that a Wembley gig could take place in 2024 to mark twenty years of the band’s seminal album ‘Parklife’.

So is a reunion possible?

“There’s definitely willingness to do something, absolutely,” Rowntree said.

“But the problem everyone’s having now is that Covid has meant that three years worth of gigs are all stacking up now on a very small number of venues. Brexit hasn’t helped either, big bands have found their guitars are still stuck on a lorry. It makes the practicalities of it very difficult. But I have always said for years that it’s a matter of when and not if. I’m just hoping the when will be soon!”

“There’s nothing concrete we can announce at the moment, but it would be a great idea wouldn’t it? A band like Blur, what can we do? We can play a venue like Wembley, of which there are a relatively small number, those kind of things, but there’s a small number of slots and three years of tours that are trying to squeeze into those slots. The willingness is there, but we can’t announce anything just yet.”

Check out the track-listing for Radio Songs in full below.

‘Devil’s Island’
‘London Bridge’
‘1000 Miles’
‘Tape Measure’
‘Machines Like Me’
‘Black Sheep’
‘Who’s Asking’