Blow Monkeys Back On Tour In The UK – Robert Howard Interview

To support the release of their new album If Not Now, When?, The Blow Monkeys will play Cardiff Globe this Sunday (April 19) as part of their current UK tour.

Synonymous with the international hit songs from the 1980’s Digging Your Scene and It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way, the Blow Monkeys split in 1990 before reforming in 2007.

They released their tenth album If Not Now, When? on April 6, which is their fourth long-player since the reunion and have released a new single from the album entitled OK, Have It Your Way.

Andy Howells recently chatted to Blow Monkeys vocalist Robert Howard AKA Dr Robert.

Were you from a music background?
Not really, there was not a lot of professional musicianship in my family but there was a lot of music in my house. I had two older sisters and they went through the whole 60s thing. I was exposed to a lot of music.

How did you get into the music industry?
I caught the bug when I was very young. I guess the first thing I did was busking. I lived in Australia as a teenager and I grew up in the generation that was turned on by punk, although not a fact or in our music that was the beginnings of making me want to be a musician.

You formed The Blow Monkeys in 1982.
I met Neville, the Saxophone player and we just gradually built up the group over the next couple of years. We struggled really hard to get gigs because I didn’t know anyone in the industry but we had fans straight away and with a combination of playing and song writing we just ploughed our own furrow. We weren’t part of a movement or anything when it all started off but in the end that’s what put us in good stead.

What was it like when you got your first taste of success with Digging Your Scene?
It was lovely. I’m not complaining at all. It put more pressure on us, but it was pressure that we wanted. That was a game changer for us and another big thing was it opened doors for us internationally. We hadn’t really played abroad very much and as we had a hit in America that really changed things for us.

You went on to collaborate with Kym Mazelle (Wait!) and Curtis Mayfield (Celebrate, The Day after You), what was that like?
I was a massive fan of Curtis Mayfield and it was areal honour to work and play with him and did some gigs with him as well. With Kym that was a House thing but found that kind of took off.

The Blow Monkeys went their separate way in the early 90s, did you all remain friends?
There was no nastiness, court cases or anything. We were friends and just decided to stop. Seventeen years later, all our kids had grown up and we just wanted to be a group again. There was no question about it really but we wanted to make new music. Obviously when we play live we play the old songs as well and mix it right up but I don’t want to go on a 80s nostalgia trip, it isn’t about that. It’s all about making new records, obviously a different level to what we’ve done before but at the same time being really enjoyable. I still think we’re moving forward and the new re record, If Not Now, When? is new territory for us.

Can you tell us about your forthcoming Cardiff Globe show?
We’ll be mixing it up playing songs all the way back to 1982 up till now.

Are there any songs you enjoy performing live?
We have a song called Choice which I enjoy doing and the new single Okay, Have It Your Way, I’m looking forward to doing that live.

Finally, how did you become known as Dr Robert?
Its one of those things when you are young and you’ve got to have a name. I just used Dr. Robert. I’ve got no reason for it. I could have been called Sting or something!

I always made the connection with The Beatles song from Revolver.
That’s not such a bad connection!

  • For tickets to see The Blow Monkeys live visit
  • Find out the latest news on The Blow Monkeys via their official website
  • A version of this interview by Andy Howells was published in the South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on April 17, 2014

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