Rare Bloom

from Dublin Event Guide, 3-16 December 1997

After an absence of far too many years The Hothouse Flowers make a welcome return, with live shows this Christmas and a new album early next year. The Event Guide talked to Liam, Peter and Fiachna about their exciting new future.

Here you are, back on the block. How have you prepared for this new start?

While we were hanging out with each other after having had our lengthy break, we began writing songs both individually and collectively, and it became apparent that we were reaching a new plane together, as a three piece. We wrote a whole load of new songs, and did a few very low profile gigs in West Cork, in Connolly's of Leap. Because there was a PA and instruments available, we didn't have to bring too much away with us. We had the venue to rehearse in all day and it gave us a chance to jam away together and be a band once more. It worked out really well.

You must feel very close to each other, having been through so much before, and yet now you are sharing a unified vision for the future.

We have had the strength of character and the ability to be honest with and trusting enough of each other. In the face of a lot of fear we have been able to transcend our differences though we had to embrace the fact that we might have had to split up if it didn't work.

Was there a moment when you had to decide to change the band's name, that you should be starting completely afresh?

No. The Flowers has been good to us. There is a momentum that has been set up, and, through the records and songs, there are promises that the band still have to fulfill. That would be the rationale behind keeping the name.

You never let anyone down, sold out nor even became boring, but there was always the tantalising question about what happened to that earlier momentum. What is different now?

The 'Risk' influence is back (a reference to the magical nights that the band used to create in Risk Inc. night club in the mid to late eighties). That atmosphere is something that never really made it on to our albums. After the deals were done we probably became convinced that there was a formula to be adopted, to a certain degree one that was imposed on us, and to a certain degree accepted by us as well. Looking back on that time we completely take responsibility for what happened. But if there had been a bit more imagination around the Risk time, if there had been a multi-track recording set up in that club any or every night we played we might have held on to some of that atmosphere. Anything in that vein however was almost discouraged. We were encouraged to bring the music to a different level, a more managable level. I don't think we understood at the time how much of the magic was lost. We had different perspectives as to what was happening at the time, and that became very painful, became a great burden. Some of us saw it, others didn't. (Laughs peel out as the boys swap knowing glances. Fiachna graciously acknowledges that he was the one who swallowed the bait, and that Liam was stoically shut up for ten years.)

The album will be out next March on London Records. How did your relationship with the label sustain itself over the intervening years?

It wasn't really an issue. Pete Tong, our A&R man, came over to check and was still satisfied that there was still something very good there. We did make three good albums and those who didn't know what we were like before that were completely satisfied with those albums. The interesting thing about shutting up for seven to ten years is that we, and especially Liam, were able to avoid the intense nightlife traps that you can drift into. But there is good value to be had from every single situation, and that is what was learned. There is much to be learned by just sitting and watching and waiting. You can develop a little more discipline and adopt a little more caution. Had we gone straight through to huge success we have to ask, at what expense?

Was it a good experience working individually with Michelle Shocked and with Tim Finn and Andy White over the last few years?

It gave us a chance to go off and do a lot of new things, and a chance to reflect on the last ten years. It helped raise important issues, and helped us deal with them and it lifted a huge lead weight of dependency from Liam's shoulders as the singer and central focus of the band. Touring with Michelle, and with ALT was important. You can't knock something that brings you all around the world. But this led to certain self discoveries. It made us kick ourselves up the arse, and start to concentrate our minds on the things we really wanted to do.

Re-emerging at this time, though with no sense that The Flowers have ever failed, who do you expect your audience to be?

We always played to a very wide variety of people. That was the genius of the Eurovision triumph, that we captured so many hearts without ever compromising ourselves. For these upcoming shows it's really a case of whoever comes comes. The set will feature a combination of material from a lifetime within The Flowers, and the short lifetime of our rediscovering and finding the new strengths that have grown since we started writing again. The songs are tough and fresh, created in a very hands-on way. There will be some of the old material, but not too much, and on the night we are promising to give whoever turns up a very, very good time.

The Hothouse Flowers play in the University Concert Hall, Limerick on Tues 16th and the Olympia Theatre, Dublin on Wed 17th December. Their fourth album is due out next March on London records

This interview supplied by Claire