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YOUR MUSIC STORY: “Wake up and smell the Cranberries” (26/11/01)

DO YOU remember the days when you absent-mindedly sang “Linger” while doing your homework, or when you played some air-guitar when “Zombie” came on the radio? It’s hard to believe it has been eight years since the Cranberries first burst into the pop scene. Irish music had never tasted so well since U2. birth of O’Riordan’s and guitarist Noel Hogan’s respective children.

Dolores O’Riordan wasn’t the band’s first vocalist. It was Niall Quinn, who left the band to sing for another group. Today, Dolores makes sure Cranberries fans are as thick as sauce everytime they perform onstage, and this has nothing to do with the rumor that she wears no underwear when she sings.

Back in 1989, Mike Hogan and his brother Noel and their friends Niall Quinn, along with Fergal Lawler, formed a band and called it The Cranberry Saw Us, playing rowdy music at gigs in their hometown of Limerick, Ireland. It was in 1990 when Dolores O’Riordan replaced Quinn (who left the band to play in another group) and rehearsed with the band in front of friends with the music Quinn wrote. After Dolores belted out “Linger,” the band was sold.

Having recorded an EP that didn’t quite sit well with the fans (“Uncertain”), the Cranberries continued playing gigs and rehearsing. Their hard work paid off with their major 1992 debut, “Everybody is Doing it, So Why Can’t We?” After that came a string of hit albums, “No Need to Argue,” “To the Faithful Departed” and “Bury the Hatchet.” Now the Irish band serves up its fifth, “Wake Up and Smell the Coffee,” which is now available under MCA Universal.

For now, it’s not only the promotion and preproduction for its upcoming tour that’s keeping the band on its toes. Dolores and guitarist Noel Hogan became parents for the second time during the recording of the album, which the band agreed had played a major role in the making of the record.

“Having children helps you stop worrying about stupid things,” Fergal says. “And they brought us closer as a band, too. We’re always asking things like, ‘How’s the teething coming along?’”

In August, the band gave US fans a taste of “Coffee” with an acoustic bar tour, wherein fans were asked to send in essays on why they should be given tickets to the shows. Not only have they been getting chummy with US music lovers, but also participated in a charity auction for the Sept. 11 New York tragedy, donating a headband that Dolores wore in the “Zombie” video as well as her favorite “Falcon” guitar.

Now that the world can bite into a fifth serving of delish Irish music, we chit-chat with bassist Mike Hogan about recording, touring and what’s next for the Cranberries.

Let’s talk about you. Did you ever want to be in a band?
I think every kid, at a certain age, dreams of being in a band. I had that dream, but I never really expected it to be like this. I thought being in this band would just be something I could do on the side. When I got my first guitar I never thought I would be in a band like this. It’s just been amazing.

And who were you listening to when you got your first guitar?

(Laughs) Well, I listened to a lot of U2. And The Smiths and The Cure… also New Order.

This is the fifth studio album the Cranberries have released. What separates it from the others?

Well, there’s not much difference. We got Stephen Street (producer) back (he did our first two albums). It brought back something to the band. We sort of realized we lacked something on the past two albums, so we brought him in again. It was definitely a creative experience.

Releasing this album on a different record label while at the same time going back to the past with Stephen Street must have been quite an experience.

Very much. A lot of artists were forgotten after the MCA merger. I think about 50 bands were lost? And to work with Stephen again… He just brought us back on the road, you know. I think we were lost in between the last two albums.

Speaking of producers, you coproduced the last album, “Bury the Hatchet.”

Yes we did, and we’re not looking forward to producing again. (Laughs) We’ve tried it and to be honest, we didn’t really like it. It didn’t work for us. I mean, there are many bands out there who produce their albums and if it’s their thing, good for them. There are too many opinions in the band.

What’s recording like for you guys?

Well, Dolores usually likes having candles around. She likes having that dark atmosphere. As for me, well, I’m fine with anything, really.

Some of your songs, like “Time is Ticking Out” and “Salvation,” deal with issues about the environment and drugs.

Dolores usually writes whatever she feels that very moment. We’re not trying to be a political band or a preachy band. And that’s only a few songs on the record, it’s not like the entire record is about them. I think Dolores having a family of her own inspires her to write about things like these. Like “Time is Ticking Out,” she believes we should really take care of Mother Earth for our children, before it’s too late. I guess family does that to you. And, of course, everyone has his own opinion.

How about touring? Your US tour was quite different from what other artists do.

Yes. We did a couple of shows in Los Angeles, Chicago, Montreal, New York. They were mainly small clubs.

And the tickets couldn’t be purchased.

Fergal posts it on the website. He’s constantly keeping the fans updated. But the tour was more of a “we’re back” thing, just to let them know we’re back with a record out. So it’s the true fans who got to see the show. And not only them but also some working people, you know, people in suits who just got out of work. Mostly from the record company. (Laughs) But, of course, we let them sit in the back and got the kids to sit in the front. (Laughs)

That would be quite unfair to the fans.

I know. We plan to do more shows like that, too. It’s refreshing, you know? To be able to play to a small crowd who truly appreciate your music. It’s good to do small gigs. Around March next year we’re going to have a “normal” tour, playing bigger venues.

Your tour for “Bury the Hatchet” was the biggest the band has done, with 110 shows. Is the next tour going to top that?

There probably won’t be much difference. We like having a simple stage, simple setup. If you have too much that just takes away the music. Right now we’re not really planning the tour yet, but most probably between now and Christmas, they’ll be planning it all out already. We plan to go everywhere this time — take a year or so touring in Asia, Europe and, hopefully, South America.

You do remember that you stopped by the Philippines in ‘96, right?

Yes, of course. (Laughs) We’d love to go back and play a couple of shows.

Having been there and done that, what’s your take on the current music scene?

Hmmm… (Laughs) Well, it’s not really my thing. It’s good to see bands like Travis and Coldplay, though. And, of course, U2 and REM came out with albums, so that’s really good. I guess bands like us just have to put up. What can you do? But people will grow up and change. People’s tastes would change and they’ll constantly want new music.

Any plans of collaborating with other artists?

None really. Dolores does a bunch of those, but I mean, it’s hard enough being in this band, what more if you play for another band? I’d love to open for U2, though. That has never happened and I’d love for it to happen.

So what’s next for the Cranberries?

Promotion till Christmas, preproduction for the tour. March, the tour.

Itching to record a new album already?

Well, during the tour we’ll be rehearsing, and usually songs come out of that… There’s a lot of new stuff and just these things that are floating around. Music just comes.

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