BLONDIE drummer Clem Burke is in York tomorrow, playing with The Split Squad, “one of the finest all-star you might never have heard before”.
New Jersey-born Clem, 67, will be on sticks duty at grassroots music venue The Vaults, alias the Victoria Vaults, in Nunnery Lane, with support from Johnny Seven and Indignation Meeting from 7.30pm.
Here CharlesHutchPress drums up some questions for Clem.
How come you are playing York as the only venue outside London, Clem?
“The offer to play The Vaults came through our UK agent and we’d heard it was a great venue, so we thought, ‘why not?’.”
When did you last play a venue as small as The Vaults in York?
“We often do club venues in the States as well, and it’s always fun to get together with my mates in the band. We’ve also done quite a few festivals around the world.”
What do you like about venues such as The Vaults by way of contrast with the big arenas and concert halls for Blondie?
“I do enjoy playing smaller venues but I enjoy the arenas as well.”
What’s the story behind the formation of The Split Squad in 2011?
“With The Split Squad, we’re a group of mates who enjoy each other’s company, so when the opportunity for a few gigs comes up, provided time allows for everyone’s schedule, we go for it.
“We all have similar musical influences, Motown, New Wave, power pop, garage rock, R&B, so it’s always a gas to get together and do some gigs.”
Aside from you on drums, who else is in the line-up?
“The Split Squad was put together by our lead singer, bass player and main songwriter Michael Giblin, who was a mutual friend of all the other group members.
“The other group members are Keith Streng, from The Fleshtones, on guitar, Josh Kantor on keyboards and Eddie Munoz on guitar.
“Mike wrote some brilliant songs and gathered us all in the studio to record our first album. After the record came out, we began to get some radio airplay and then the offer for some gigs started to roll in.
“It wasn’t really supposed to be a ‘real’ band, but we’re almost ten years on and have two albums out [2013’s Now Hear This… and 2022’s Another Cinderella] and an EP [2018’s The Showstopper].”
How would you describe The Split Squad’s music?
“The sound of The Split Squad is the sound of the history of rock’n’roll. Our various influences are diverse but always rockin’.”
What do you recall of Blondie playing to 25,000-30,000 people on a race day at York Racecourse on July 22 2011?
“I do recall that gig. It was a beautiful day with a great reception from the fantastic crowd. With Blondie, we’ve played a few racetracks, as we call them in the States, a few times over the years. Most famously in Yonkers, New York State, when Parallel Lines was first released.”
What do you think of Britain right now? Grate Britain rather than Great Britain?
“The UK is like a second home to all the members of Blondie. We all love visiting and gigging there as often as possible. Like the rest of the world, the UK is going through some trying times, we can only be optimistic and hope for the best.
“It’s very important to have hope and to be nice to one another. We have to stop the hate. Peace & Love, Clem.”
The Split Squad play The Vaults, Nunnery Lane, York, on Thursday (10/11/2022). Tickets: theyorkvaults.com; wegottickets.com/event/561001; seetickets.com/event/the-split-squad/the-york-vaults-venue/2396633
Who’s who in The Split Squad?
The band’s resident legend. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame drummer, and Blondie
founding member, is still bashing away with the same passion, fury and timing he has had since before he first walked into a Blondie rehearsal session.
Constantly moving and always playing, Clem is still highly in demand as a session musician, having worked with Pete Townshend, Bob Dylan, Eurythmics and, more recently, with The Tearaways, The Rockats and Echo & The Bunnymen.
Working from his laboratory deep in the centre of Pennsylvania, Mr Giblin, the
well-dressed bass player, singer, keyboardist, producer and connoisseur of fine cuisine, is the glue that keeps the band together and the fuel that keeps it moving ahead.
A member of 1990s’ power-popsters Cherry Twister, he assembled The Split Squad after his current band, Parallax Project, encountered the other band members on various tours and recording projects.
Michael has seen his stock rise as a producer and engineer, having his hand on new releases from The Fleshtones, The Cynz, and Stupidity.
Eddie might be best known as the lead guitarist of ’80s L.A. legends The
Plimsouls (and he keeps the name alive by touring occasionally), but any attempts to pigeonhole him with terminology such as ‘’power pop’ or ‘New Wave’ pop are futile.
One of the four handsomest guys in rock’n’roll, an uncrowned king of pop and
soul, Keith and his glitter boots have trodden on stages all over the globe the past four and a half decades as the guitarist and co-founder of one of the most enduring bands of all, The Fleshtones. These days, he also can be found recording with other acts, from Radio Birdman legend Deniz Tek to Swedish garage fiends Stupidity, Strengsbrew and The Vacuum Cleaners.
How many people in the biz can say they played with four Rock and Roll Hall-of-Famers (Clem Burke; Peter Buck and Mike Mills of R.E.M.; John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin) and at least one future Baseball Hall-of-Famer (and maybe more)?
When not playing with The Split Squad or The Baseball Project, Josh is the long-time organist extraordinaire for the Red Sox. Yes, those Red Sox, the ones up in Boston. From his perch at Fenway, Josh dishes out arguably the wildest array of songs in the history of the game, many by request, and has been on board for three World Series titles.
Latest album Another Cinderella also features an all-star cast of guests: Jason Victor (The Dream Syndicate); Brian Hurd (Daddy Long Legs); David Minehan
(The Neighborhoods/Aerosmith/The Replacements); Scott McCaughey (R.E.M./The Baseball Project/The Young Fresh Fellows); Joe Adragna (The Junior League) and violinist Deni Bonet.
Michael Giblin on Another Cinderella
“This generation of Cinderella Men can take a punch and give one back that’s just as hard, if not harder. And they skilfully mix up a variety of punches. They come to the centre of the ring in a hurry and a flurry of relentless power-pop beats (Hey DJ, Another Cinderella and Sinking Ship); rope-a-dope with some deep-fried blues (Palpitation Blues); counter with psychedelia (Taxi Cab and Bigger Than Heroin), then unload a romper-stomper (Invisible Lightning), assault you with a combo of late ’60s-style soulful rock (Showstopper and Trying To Get Back To My Baby); a jab of ’70s hard rock (Not My Monkeys); set you up with a gentle ballad (As Bright As You Are), before catching you and sending you to the canvas with a full-on uppercut to the jaw (Hey (Soul) DJ). A TKO.”