Twenty years ago, in the middle of recording their fifth studio album, The Charlatans suffered an unimaginable hit. Their keyboardist Rob Collins died in a car crash. Three years ago, the loss multiplied. Drummer Jon Brookes succumbed to cancer.
Frontman Burgess calls these “the darkest days” in the band’s 26-year lifespan.
“Rob’s death was sudden and we had no chance to say goodbye. Jon was ill for a couple of years and we made the most of that time together,” he told Gulf News tabloid!.
On Friday, the indie rock band from England’s West Midlands — Burgess on the mic, Martin Blunt on bass, Mark Collins on guitar and Tony Rogers on the keyboard — will perform at Party in the Park at Dubai Media City Amphitheatre, alongside Travis and the Kaiser Chiefs.
And despite Collins’ and Brookes’ physical absence, they’ll be there, too.
“[The] records we made with them will be around forever and each time we play those songs, we can feel their presence,” Burgess said.
“Writing songs is such a subconscious thing — I look back at some songs and realise only now that they were about Jon or Rob or the times we had together.”
You guys have been putting out albums for nearly three decades now. How much has the UK music scene changed in that time? Do you ever get nostalgic for the early days?
Yes, it’s been a while and we always said we’d stop if we didn’t feel that we were making fresh and interesting music. We love what we do, so it doesn’t feel that long. Nostalgia is a funny old thing. I imagine everyone looks back at their younger days and yearns for them a little but I kind of live in the moment. The music scene has changed hugely but the basic building blocks are the same — make the best music you can and stay passionate. Formats and gizmos change but gigs and albums and what people want from bands is a timeless thing.
You’re sharing a bill with Travis and Kaiser Chiefs in Dubai. Are you fans of those guys at all?
Oh I see, this’ll be the headline if I say no and then there’ll be a frostiness backstage! We’re really pleased to be sharing a bill with them, there’s some belters in the set lists from both those bands. Whitey and Simon from Kaiser Chiefs came and DJd at Tim Peaks [Diner] at a festival so extra props to them. I’ll watch them play and have a quick check that they’re watching us.
I read recently that a bit of advice you’d have for aspiring musicians is: Don’t take yourself too seriously. Was there ever a time where you fell into the trap of taking yourself too seriously?
I’m hoping not but I think that’s for other people to decide. We’ve always been pretty cool about things as a band — there’s no stuff like what temperature rooms have to be on our rider. One of the things about people who take themselves too seriously, though, is that they are unaware of it. Maybe you should ask my butler, or my full time vibe advisor — both those are completely made up. A joke like that proves I don’t take myself too seriously, right?
What’s the worst piece of advice you were given when you were starting out?
‘Have some of this, you’ll love it.’
What do you guys have planned for your gig in Dubai?
Festivals are always good for performing big song after big song. We’ve been around a while so we’re confident we’ve got enough in the locker. We usually just have a band meeting on the day and everyone chips in with ideas for the set list and which order we play them in.
What’s your current favourite song to perform?
Mine is Let The Good Times Be Never Ending.
Modern Nature came out last year. Is there a thirteenth album on the horizon?
Yes, there is. We’ve not started work on it yet but we have decided that there definitely will be one. Exciting times ahead.
*Tickets for Party in the Park (2pm-12am) are Dh350-Dh1,200 from Virgin Megastores or platinumlist.net.