John Earls talks egos, celebrity mates and Smiths reissues with Andy Rourke and former Happy Mondays guitarist Kav…

Blitz Vega

One of the ultimate Manchester hook-ups, Blitz Vega unites The Smiths’ former bassist Andy Rourke with ex-Happy Mondays guitarist KAV. The duo’s wild and celebratory music has been a long time coming, as they tell Classic Pop of finally finding a band where the singer doesn’t have an ego.

How did you two meet?

Kav: When I was 16, around 2003, my band A.K.A. Weave didn’t go anywhere commercially. But some of our fans were members of our favourite bands, like The Stone Roses, Oasis, New Order and Primal Scream. One night, Mani brought Andy down to a gig. I’d see Andy around after that and, when I moved to Los Angeles five years later, Andy was living in New York. He started DJing at some of my club nights.

Andy: We talked about doing something together, but our schedules never matched up. Then, in 2017, we spent Christmas Day together in LA. It’s happened very naturally, because we enjoy the same music.

Your material is generally very energetic and upbeat. Was that deliberate from the start?

Andy: We didn’t get into it that deeply, it’s just happened that way. What was important is there were no egos in the room. That’s never happened to me before. I’ve always worked with singers with egos.

Kav: I sing these songs, but really I’m a guitar player. We connect on that level, and we’ve worked in amazing studios. We’ve recorded on the studio desk where David Bowie made Ziggy Stardust.

Andy: We’ll go, “That’s Mick Jagger’s old mic!” We’re like two big kids, though eventually we realised we had to get our heads down and stay focused.

Andy, your previous band D.A.R.K. ended tragically when Dolores O’Riordan died. How ready were you to start something new?

Andy: It was a weird, horrible period. I didn’t feel like doing anything for a while after that. But there’s only so long you can stay indoors and play acoustic guitar on your own. It was time to get back out there, and I wanted it to be in a band. I hate session work, it’s soulless. It was different if it was for a friend like Ian Brown, but if it was for ‘a session’, I’d feel weird at the end of it, waiting to get paid.

Kav, Pass The Gun is the song most like Happy Mondays. How did that come about?

Kav: It’s the only song that we didn’t write together, funnily enough. I wrote it when I was 16. I’m from Leicester, and the original demo was engineered by Kasabian’s bassist, Chris Edwards. I’m still mates with their singer Tom Meighan and he’s kept on at me, going, “Will you ever record Pass The Gun?” That’s the song which freaks me out that I’m in a band with Andy, because it’s so old. If you’d told me when I was 16 that I’d have Andy Rourke from The Smiths play on my song, it would have blown my mind.

Andy – what happened with the Classical Smiths tour of yours and Mike Joyce’s that got cancelled as soon as it was announced?

Andy: The promoter got ahead of himself and sent out a press release when I’d asked him to hold off. Mike was a bit put out initially, but our friendship goes much deeper than that. Me and Mike are fine.

After the boxset for The Queen Is Dead did so well, could there be more Smiths reissues?

Andy: I’ve not been asked to be involved and it’s not something I’ve any control of. I do know there’s no unreleased stuff and everything has been out a few times already. But if you put anything in a box and write the word ‘deluxe’ on it, people will buy it.

LA Vampire has a Smiths feel to it…

Kav: I agree. When Andy came out with that bassline, I thought. “That’s the most Andy Rourke bassline he’s done so far!”

Andy: That’s fair. I’ll take that.

Kav: LA is a bubble. There are loads of venues, so it’s a great place to be as a musician, but there’s a weird energy to some people who’ll try to suck you dry.

Andy: LA is a choice, you can take the positive or the negative. It’s like anywhere – you get out what you put in.

John Earls