“PLATINUM BLONDE – ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC” COVER STORY
by: Tim Knight
So many of the memories of Platinum Blonde are intrinsically tied into the ’80s, which was arguably one of the most stylish periods of the last century. Along with the music, people automatically think of the hair, the neon colors, the tight leather pants. But for lead singer Mark Holmes, it’s always been about the music, and doing something new.
Platinum Blonde achieved the lofty heights of international success, and then suddenly . . . they were gone. Now they’re back with a new album, and will be playing Kitchener’s Chrysalids Theatre on Mar 2. We caught up with Holmes, over the phone, as he was preparing for a show in Halifax.
VR: Right now the ’80s nostalgia is at an all-time high. What’s your take on that, seeing as you guys would have to be considered as one of the touchstones of that era?
MH: There was so much of the style of that era that I think was rubbish, but it was what it was. I’m hearing a lot of the music today, and hearing how our sound influenced them, hearing our guitar sound, etc. So we think we’re relevant to today’s music fans.
VR: It’s been nearly 30 years since the first smash release, and you are set to release a new record this year. What can you tell us about this record? What’s changed in your sound?
MH: For me, I have to be doing something new. I can’t be someone that just goes out and trots out all the old hits, so it was vital that we have new material before any reunion was going to happen. The record is a natural bridging of the gap; it won’t alienate our current fans, but it’s not an exercise in nostalgia either.
VR: It’s interesting you say that, because when I heard you guys were coming back, I thought that it made sense. I thought of other bands from the ’80s like Duran Duran, or Depeche Mode, who also had a very distinct signature sound. That sound was something that only needed a small tweak here and there in order to stay contemporary, and also not alienate the long-time fans. They’ve done it successfully, and I thought that you guys had a sound that is similar, where it wouldn’t be difficult to accomplish the same thing.
MH: Thanks mate, we think we’ve done that too.
VR: How is it, going through the writing and recording process with these guys again? Is it difficult to get back in step or is it natural? It’s been 22 years since your last studio record!
MH: Nothing’s really changed. Back then, it would be me writing songs, and demoing them, and bringing them to the group. And once the group played with them, and adjustments were made, that’s where the Platinum Blonde sound came out of. And now, with the home recording technology I have at my fingertips today, it’s much easier to put those songs together. But the sound still comes from the group playing them together.
VR: Do you continue to identify as a band now, or more as an individual musician? In other words, if asked about your “work” would you immediately say you’re “Mark Holmes from Platinum Blonde”, or would you discuss more contemporary achievements, and mention Platinum Blonde only if prompted?
MH: Well, I’ve never really stopped playing, or writing. When Platinum Blonde disappeared the way we did, we were pariahs; no one, and I mean NO ONE, wanted anything to do with us. That’s one of the reasons I got into DJing; I have whole bodies of unreleased work that I think is great, but I never did anything with because I didn’t want to fight a losing battle.
VR: Kenny Mclean was an important addition to the band, as it allowed you to focus on being a front man. Are you going back to playing an instrument, or are you going with another bass player?
MH: I am still playing, but Kenny’s addition brought me out as a front man, and the audience really enjoyed that, and that’s what we’re going to do.
VR: Were you two still close when he passed?
MH: [long pause] He passed right after a show he played at The Mod Club. He was very interested in doing a Platinum Blonde reunion, and that night I had agreed that I thought it was a good idea too. And he was really, really excited. So, that makes me happy, that I know he was really happy and excited about the future when he left us.
VR: Are any of the profits from the new music going to Kenny’s family? A trust in his name, etc?
MH: We were going to put one of his songs on the new record. We’ve decided that that’s something we’re going to do on the next record.
VR: Are you aware of the Crystal Castles/Robert Smith cover of “Not In Love”?
MH: I actually did the remix. I love it! I’m a big fan of The Cure, so to hear Robert singing lyrics that I wrote when I was a kid was special.
VR: Your last studio album, in the ’90s, was released under “The Blondes”. Why the name change? And why is there no mention of this album on platinumblonde.com?
MH: Platinumblonde.com is a fan site; the official site we’re hoping to launch to coincide with the release of the new record. As for “The Blondes”. . . I was never a fan of those songs. I think they’re rubbish.
VR: Has your experience as a touring musician helped you in running The Mod Club?
MH: I don’t run The Mod Club. I’ve hired top-notch people to run it, which is why it’s so successful. I created The Mod Club because I thought it’s what Toronto needed; a top-notch club where people would want to see a band, listen to a DJ. One with terrific sight lines and acoustics. And I think we’ve done that.
VR: I promised someone I’d ask you this: How uncomfortable were those pants?
MH: (referring to the photo shoot for the Standing In The Dark album cover) [laughs] Ooooh, it was so cold that day, it was super uncomfortable. But that’s the thing; for things like that, they had stylists. We’d never worn leather pants before that.
VR: Finally, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned on this journey?
MH: Believe in yourself. Don’t give up. If you think your music is the shit, it’s going to be. If we can disappear the way we did, and then come back? Then absolutely anything in the world of music is possible.
wsg Drew Leith and the Foundation & Mary 5e
Friday, March 2; Chrysalids Theatre