Growing up in the 1980’s in Canada was a wonderful time for music, even though some might be inclined to argue the merits of this statement. For me, the mid to late 80’s were all about Platinum Blonde. The group was larger than life to me and even though I am now closer to 40 years old then the pre-teen I was back then, I have always had a soft spot for the group.
The great news, for me and many others in our fair country, is that Platinum Blonde is back with a great new record, Now and Never. It is their first album of all new material in 12 years and it sounds as though they haven’t missed a beat. Featuring original members Mark Holmes (Vocals) and Sergio Galli (Guitar) with Robert Laidlaw (Bass) and Daniel Todd (Drums), the ten-track album was written by Holmes and produced by Murray Daigle, Holmes and Laidlaw.
Last week, I had the extreme pleasure of speaking with Platinum Blonde vocalist Mark Holmes. Over and over, I had to tell my 11 year-old self to play it cool. Luckily, I think I pulled it off.
Before we get into the formalities of our interview Mark, I have to share with you that Platinum Blonde was the first concert I attended while you guys were touring Alien Shores in 1986. New Regime opened the show.
Holmes: I loved that show in Moncton at the Coliseum! It was on that tour that I realized just how big the Atlantic Provinces are. The first time we played Moncton was before Standing In The Dark came out; the second time we played a show on the University of Moncton campus while we were promoting Standing In The Dark. So the show you saw was the third time we had played the city. I have always really enjoyed the time I’ve spent in Moncton; it has a very European-inspired environment to the city. And in a wonderful twist of fate, our current bass player used to play bass for New Regime.
I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for you to live through Kenny MacLean’s passing. How difficult was it to be in the studio making Now and Never without him?
Holmes: Kenny was my partner in crime and I had always thought we’d always be together in some ways. It was hard to avoid thinking about Kenny during the process of making this record.
Perhaps one of the most difficult things to replay is the fact that I saw him hours before he left us. I told him I was going to call him the following Monday to begin planning rehearsals but just hours after that conversation, he was taken from us.
Not only was Kenny a great backing vocalist but we intuitively knew what the other was going to say or going to play. It took quite a little while after Kenny’s passing to get back into the frame of mind that we needed to be in to make this record happen.
What is it like being a part of Platinum Blonde in 2012 compared to the success you saw in the ‘80’s?
Holmes: This is a really exciting time for the band. The reviews for the new record have been more than we could have ever hoped for. With Crystal Castles having covered Not In Love a couple of years back, they helped expose us to a completely different generation of people. I believe that in 2012 that we are probably bigger on an international level than we were in the beginning. It seems as though there are people from all corners of the earth asking about the band and that is amazing.
It’s not too often that bands are given “second chances”…
Holmes: Absolutely and that is not lost on us, because it doesn’t happen often if at all. Platinum Blonde was never a band that ever got favourable reviews back in the 1980’s. Now though, that tide has completely changed and it is pretty remarkable to see. We didn’t want to have to rely on nostalgia to get back on the road. Our mindset was no new record, no tour. We made this new record out of love for what we do.
Do you feel that because you’ve seen such great success in the past that you have to go the extra mile to prove yourselves now?
Holmes: I was well aware that the cards were stacked against us in some ways. When we started to get back into doing this, the reaction from agents and others was less than favourable. We stuck to our guns though. I know what I’m doing [laughs] and knew that the band was into these new songs and that once we put our stamp on it, people would come around.
When you have success at a young age, you don’t have a truly developed sense of purpose in life. You end up feeling entitled to everything and at one point, everything was taken away from us. People wouldn’t have anything to do with me because there was such a negative stigma attached to me and the band.
Really though, I never knew how we’d get on the radio but thankfully, our fans found us a way to get back on the radio. The people in the industry that despised us and refused to support us have all moved on, retired, etc. There was a stigma attached to Platinum Blonde for such a long period of time but now, those in charge are open-minded enough that they want to hear what the band is doing. It’s taken a long time but can’t even begin to describe the feeling it has evoked in me. The music is getting to the people who want to hear it and that is what matters.
If anything, Now and Never sounds current and modern without sacrificing what made the band so big in the 80’s.
Holmes: I really do think that we captured the best of all spirits. When we make music, it is inevitably going to have an electronic / indie rock sound to it that is going to sound like Platinum Blonde. We are not a band that ever stopped growing; we simply hit the pause button. If you stop growing as people and as a band, you’re going to arrive at a point where things are not going to work.
Even though Platinum Blonde has not been putting out a record every two or three years for the past decade or whatever, my work as a DJ and a remix producer helped keep me a part of the music scene and definitely played a part in the progression of the band.
Do you feel somewhat vindicated given the strong reaction that fans have shown to your new single Beautiful?
Holmes: The word that keeps popping up in reviews is “relevant” and that is wonderful to hear. The reviews have been so universally positive, you’d think I had hired my mother to write them all.
We have been playing Beautiful live and people know every one of the words. It’s incredible. To look out from the stage and see a crowd comprised of young and older people jumping up and down singing every word of the song is amazing.