"Experimental" seems to be the key buzzword that The Cranberries have been throwing around as of late, pertaining to their future plans, and more specifically, to the band's inevitable sixth album.
You may recall our Album 5 Preview that we started and maintained for more than a year before the release of "Wake Up and Smell the Coffee." This section is built in the same vein, to compile every delicious scrap of information that is known about The Cranberries' forthcoming studio work, with periodic updates.
"You're always experimenting, you know?" Dolores told French music channel MCM in May 2002, discussing some of the new material they've written since "Wake Up." "Like, today, we just wrote a new song [presumably "New New York"] and it's really cool. And it's exciting, just something to look forward to, and the excitement is still there... [along with] the happiness."
The first real concrete statements about the band's future album came during June 2002 in a series of several press events in Mexico, include a full-scale press conference.
Noel expressed the need to continue to compose songs with some social focus in mind, saying, "It is important to compose serious songs, although we know that these will not change anything, but it will help people to find out about things that happen and therefore, we can wake up consciences. That's something we can do." But the band clarified that they will not resort continuously to this type of theme, since they could bore their fans. Meanwhile, Fergal told the press of the band's interest in pursuing a "new sound," one that relies on individual band members' input rather than on the collective group.
The Cranberries at the Mexico City Press Conference, June 2002
In another press conference held in Madrid on September 12th, Dolores gave her thoughts on the band's newly-developing material. After the current "Best Of" tour, The Cranberries will return to the studio "to work hard on a new sound. After five albums, I think we have achieved our own particular sound. Now it is time to find a new one," Dolores told the press. But don't worry -- the change may not be as drastic as it seems. She hinted that the new material may bear some likeness to the songs "Stars" and "New New York."
But the time to go back to the studio is heavily dependent on the current "Best Of" tour and also the success of "Stars: The Best of the Cranberries 1992-2002." Dolores noted that if the greatest hits compilation is received well, they will tour throughout 2003. However, once the world tour is over, the band will immediately head to the studio for their sixth offering (and presumably the last on the Universal label).
Also during the press conference, she denied the previous Spanish-based rumors that she would be singing in Spanish on the new album (a language that she doesn't speak anyway). However she did comment that if she were to sing in another language other than English, she would choose Romance languges like Spanish, French, or Italian rather than Germanic languages like German or Dutch.
The most recent word on the next album came directly from Fergal himself via the Cranberries Official Website. He writes, "We were planning our new schedule yesterday for 2003 and we are going to be touring until the beginning of April and then we will be doing some shows with some other artists in June and July to wrap up a great 2 years on the road. We also have been discussing our next record a lot lately and everyone is of the opinion that if we record in the normal way then it's going to be very un-exciting and stale so we have decided that Dolores and Noel will go into the studio in May  with a producer and play around with some ideas, then when we finish touring, we will all go in and play around with some different ideas. We want to do something that really challenges us and push ourselves into unchartered territory. Normally, we have the songs written and ready when we go into the studio, but it's going to be frightening and exciting to write in the studio. If none of us did things we were frightened of, then we would never advance in life, so here we go!!"
Judging from this, it appears that we can expect a release of the album in late 2003 at the absolute earliest, or perhaps into early 2004. It seems far off, for sure, but hopefully the peroidic updates here on the Album 6 Preview special will help tide you over.
So the Irish Sunday Independentnewspaper describes one of Dolores O'Riordan's newly-written songs. Dolores played the new piece, sitting behind a piano, backstage in Milan, Italy. Here's an excerpt from the article:
She would also like to record -- at home -- an album of left-of-centre songs. She played a snatch of just such a number behind the big white piano at soundcheck earlier in the day: it is ethereal, surreal, sad, beautiful and trance-like. And decidedly unlike anything we've ever heard Dolores play before.
"We were in school when the Cranberries took off, so that's all we've ever known," she says later. "We've never really fully experimented and tried different things."
A scan of the interview is available in the Magazines Gallery while a a transcription is available here.
Dolores' prospect of recording her own "left-of-centre songs" has been mentioned elsewhere -- most infamously in the December special edition of "Hot Press," where she said:
You've just come back from playing Turkey. Listening back to "Dreams" off the Greatest Hits album in that context, there was stuff going on in your vocal that was suggestive of Eastern European sacred music.
"When I was out in Turkey, at the Mosque at five o'clock in the morning, through the PA system they have this chanting every two hours -- the day we flew out of there was the first day of Ramadan. And for me, I'm so taken with that, if I do a solo project I'm definitely going to go into that kind of stuff, ethnic music. I'm definitely going to mess around now after the Greatest Hits, I'm definitely not going to go back and do another Cranberries album. I need to do a different project completely, and the boys need some freedom for awhile. I'd like to do a little bit more work in the studio, or a little bit more flying out to places like Turkey or Africa and recording some different ethnic things and bringing it back for inspiration. Nobody might ever listen to it or get it, but these are things in life you have to do for yourself."
You touched on that area before with Jah Wobble's Invaders of the Heart, and it was mooted that you'd work with Brian Eno at one stage. Is that still a possibility?
"It would be, yeah. The reason we didn't at the time was because Brian likes to experiment in the studio, he likes to go in with pretty much nothing and just write in there. And we were like, 'Aw, but sure we've everything written!' So with The Cranberries we have a format and we write a certain way and that's that, so I think it's important for us to go and experiment now."
Do you think the boys are capable of stretching as players?
"No, I think Mike's a bass player, Ferg's a drummer and Noel's a guitarist and that's it. I don't think Noel's gonna suddenly take up the piano or double bass. I think if he was going to he would've done it in the last five years, I think that's his gift and his talent and he likes to stick with that. He likes time off to be time off. As regards people playing different instruments, you would have to pretty much hire those."
And unforunately her words had gotten her into trouble around New Year's. One source had misinterpreted the quote as saying that she would be leaving The Cranberries permanently, a report that spread like wildfire, being shamelessly copied and pasted all the way up to big wheels Yahoo! and Rolling Stone. The report was finally dampered by a denial posted on the Official Website, and later, one from the Editor of "Hot Press."
But no source, not even The Cranberries themselves, has refuted the fact that Dolores may soon start on her own side-project. As the notice on the Official Site read, "The band have expressed their desire to change their approach to songwriting, and this could see them writing separately, initially. Dolores has performed solo before (e.g. 'God Be With You', Pavorotti Charity Concert) and no doubt will in the future." To further support this statement, Dolores has recently and repeatedly voiced desires to compose music for a film soundtrack. She even revealed the shocking fact to "Sunday Independent" that she has been asked to both act and compose music for the 1997 mega-blockbuster Titanic, but refused both offers due to the birth of her son.
And about the band writing for their sixth album, there has been much of that lately. Dolores and Noel travelled to London in mid-January to start recording demos there, and wrapped up at the end of the month.
A startling but not unexpected development broke through on January 21st, when The Cranberries Official Website posted a press release that The Cranberries were cutting off their contract with Universal Music. The Cranberries had been publicly complaining about Universal off and on since 1999. Excerpts from the release read:
"Since we were signed in 1991 by Island Records, we have gradually seen our label dissolve from a pioneering independent spirited label into a corporate monolith that completely lost touch with the group's creative vision" stated singer Dolores O'Riordan. "All of the people we have worked with over the years (in America and England) have been fired or left the company, so the band felt it was time to move on to new opportunities."
"We have had great fan support throughout the world for many years" added guitarist Noel Hogan. "With little effort from our label, we have been pleased to see top 10 sales in many countries. The band is excited about the prospect of a new beginning , starting fresh, and looking forward to another ten years in the music business."
The following day, Dolores held a telephone interview with Pat Kenny on RTE's Radio One. "At the end of the day, we decided that we'd be better off just to walk away and do our own thing, and we were kind of advised [by our lawyers] to walk away" from what Dolores felt was a very neglectful relationship at Universal, she told Kenny.
Dolores said that the band had made several written attepts to MCA to state their interest in leaving the company. MCA's first response, months after the first letter, stated that they wanted to hold on to The Cranberries. After yet more letters and poor response on MCA's part, The Cranberries' management sent their last letter on January 20th, stating the band's resolute intent to leave company. As of late January, MCA had still not sent an official reply.
In the interview, Dolores also stated the band's strong desire to form their own label, citing that they now have plenty of their own money to fund it. Days later, it was announced via the band's official site that several major labels were in negotiation to sign the Cranberries, the results of which have still not been revealed. Regardless of what label The Cranberries find themselves on for their sixth effort, they will still be looking for several international distribution deals.
"We'll go off and look for distribution deals," Dolores said. "...our problem is that we were signed to Universal New York, so that was it, you know? We didn't have a record deal in Italy, we didn't have a record deal in France, we didn't have a record deal in Asia. You see, our deal was with America and that was that. So that was kind of a problem as well, 'cos most of our success three or four years has been, like, in Asia, the album went #1 in the Asian charts, and it went Top 10 in Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Brazil, Mexico, places like that, you know? But if you don't have a label there, working, representing you, you're kind of out there on your own doing it. You've got the big guys back in New York just sitting there, not doing anything, and we're out there working really hard and we just feel like they're not supporting us."
Dolores and Noel continued to write new material into February. Mike and Fergal also began rehearsing the new material, as they had previously been uninvolved up until this point. By the end of February, the entire band had moved into the studio to begin a 10-day recording session with classic Cranberries producer Stephen Street. The result of this material is currently being presented to distribution companies to finalize the release details for Album 6, currently set at a First Quarter 2004 release date.
The Cranberries Official Website adds that one song (one which has apparently been chosen already) could be used in an upcoming film or television series. Unfortunately, such attempts in the past have been ill-fated. "What's On My Mind" was originally to be used on the "X-Files" movie soundtrack in April 1998 (a year before the release of "Bury the Hatchet), and "Analyse" was to be used on the "Sweet November" soundtrack in February 2001 (seven moths before "Wake Up."). Both tracks were sadly cut or missing from the final releases of the soundtracks.
The band took a quick break in early March. Dolores writes, "I just got back from Canada; I spent a week there, and the week before we were in London recording. The new material is really experimental which is a really important development phase for us. I hope you like it when it's finished!" After a short break, Dolores is returning to the studio this week in Ireland (presumably Dublin's Windmill Lane Studios, where parts of TTFD, BTH, and WUASTC were recorded). Meanwhile, the entire band is at home rehearsing the new songs. The images look to be taken from the band's secret mysterious red barn, located "somewhere between Limerick and Cork," made famous by the "Beneath the Skin" DVD.
The Cranberries rehearsing "somewhere between Limerick and Cork," March 19th, 2003
Fergal wrote at the end of March, "We hadn't been doing much up until about a month ago when we returned to the old rehearsal room to work on some songs we had been fiddling about with on the road. We are currently in the studio working on those very songs and I am over the moon with how they are shaping up. We have ended up with about seven songs, which are close to finished, and we've only been in the studio for two weeks! We have decided to put the touring on hold for a while to concentrate on recording which by and large is a good idea as I believe if we had continued on the road we would have burned ourselves out again. The Rolling Stones shows in June are still happening though, as well as a few warm-up shows, (there's one confirmed in Bolzano, Italy and one or two more to be confirmed soon) and that will be a refreshing little jaunt, and then we will be back into the studio if there is more recording to be done. In the mean time the plan is to continue writing new songs and recording them when they are relatively together. The results so far are really impressive and I think the band are doing exactly what we need to do, in that the new material is quite different from anything we have done before but still recognisable as The Cranberries."
With Album 6 currently slated for an Early 2004 release, The Cranberries have said that we can look forward to new songs being played on their brief 2003 summer tour in June, which includes opening dates with rock greats The Rolling Stones. Summer never looked -- or sounded -- so good.
Cranberries fans eagerly awaited the band's Summer 2003 European mini-tour in hopes of hearing some glimpses of the band's new material. In that regard, they were not disappointed. But the promised and much-hyped "experimental material" is still nowhere to be found.
On May 29th in Belfast, Ireland, at the kickoff of their brief summer tour, The Cranberries debuted two brand new songs entitled, "Astral Projection" and "In It Together". Dolores told the crowd that "In It Together" had just been finished that day -- so early, in fact, that she had to read the lyrics off of a sheet held in front of her. Fans have described "Astral Projection" as "a dreamy rock song which could be catchy," and "In It Together" as "a very feel-good song creating the same type of atmosphere as Stars." Live MP3s and video clips have been circulating the Internet since their debut. The two songs were co-written by Dolores and Noel.
A long-haired Dolores wore a number of customized T-shirts during the summer tour with front-and-back messages, including "dolores/o'riordan," "astral/projection," "believe/become," and "the game/we play," done in the old-style Cranberries font seen on the first two albums.
"It's a song about dreams, when you sleep and you dream that you wake up and do things," Dolores told the crowd at Bolzano, Italy, days later, about the song "Astral Projection." Bolzano fans were in for a surprise of their own: the ending of the newborn "In It Together" had been reworked to include more upbeat drumming by Fergal.
At the end of March, fearing that the breaking point was approaching, Fergal announced that the band has decided to put further touring plans on hold (after the completion of the tour dates throughout Europe in support of The Rolling Stones) to concentrate on their work in the studio. As the small tour progresses, The Cranberries planned to continue writing and recording new material. Fergal revealed that thus far, the new material is quite “impressive”, describing it as “different from anything [they’ve] done before; but still recognizable as The Cranberries.” He added that the new material had him, quote, "over the moon!"
The Official Cranberries Website noted earlier on that the band has been recording new material in London with longtime producer Stephen Street. Zombieguide has now learned that the site of these recordings is the lavish Olympic Studios in the Barnes district of London.
The Olympic Studios website has also been recently updated, listing The Cranberries as one of the studio's recent clients. The listing also shows that The Cranberries have been using Studio 2. According to the site, the Studio 2 room is "the perfect studio for a band... The acoustic of the room can be altered to suit the session by means of variable wall panels. Isolation booths also add flexibility and further options to session layouts. A Classic Bosendorfer Grand Piano is available for use in the studio." The lavish studios are additonally outfitted with a separate lounge, restaurant, garden, tennis court, and soccer field. Photos of the studio are available on the Olympic Studios website.
In an interview published in the February issue of the US verision of "Eres" magazine, Fergal related, "We want to work in a way that's different to what we've done before. What normally happens is that we arrive at the studio with the finished songs, record them, and start to add the lyrics. Now what we're doing in the studio is to compose it there and see how things develop."
A recent stealthy update on the contact page on The Cranberries Official Website shows that The Cranberries may be planning to create a new record label under the same name, Timeless Music. Timeless Music is currently the name of the band's self-owned management company, founded just prior to the release of "Wake Up and Smell the Coffee" by Dolores O'Riordan and husband Don Burton.
As you'll recall, Dolores said in a phone interview with RTE's Radio One on the day following the press release that "What we'd like to do now really is to be independent and start our own label, I mean, we'll go off and look for distribution deals." Days later, the band's official site stated that other labels were interested in signing the newly-released artists.
But the new listing clearly states: "RECORD COMPANY: ... Timeless Music: Future Albums." The link goes to an empty website with the Timeless Music logo, the same that has remained at that site since before the release of "Stars."
An update on the site for The Smoothside Organisation shows that The Cranberries have been working with Music Programmer Matthew Vaughan on their new material since February. Vaughan's past clients include Pulp, Elton John, INXS, Depeche Mode, Jamiriquai, XTC, William Orbit and Texas. A later update on the website for the Smoothside Organisation shows that not only has Vaughan been working on the band's new songs, but on Dolores O'Riordan's solo songs as well, recorded in London in April.
This is, as far as we know, the first time The Cranberries have hired a programmer to assist with their recording, as most basic programming tasks can be handled by the producer. In case you're not entirely sure what the programmer does, here's a description: "A programmer is hired for his collection of instruments, sounds and samples, and is expect to be able to produce exactly the right sound for the occasion, and maybe do a bit of playing on the side... The programmer will also have a fantastic memory for sounds, and when you need a string sound that is just so, the programmer will be able to call up a few patches and demonstrate them to you so that you can choose the best... It is quite common for a producer to regard a programmer as a kind of producer's assistant. The producer will give the programmer an idea of what he wants, then go away for an hour or two and leave the programmer alone with the equipment to see what he can come up with." (For a more in-depth description, click here.)
A short bio on Matthew Vaughan, a listing of past credits, can be found here. The page additionally includes an MP3 sample of his past works (XTC, Jamiriquai, Alabama 3, etc.) so that you can get a taste of both his work and maybe of what's to come.
Dolores on "All Areas Access" on Italian network La7
The band made very few interviews during their summer tour, but Dolores did talk to Italian TV station La7 after the Bolzano show, which was televised in early July. Very interestingly, she reveals that the band is being very selective about what songs will go onto their next album. As an example, she suggests that more than half of the songs they are currently putting together may not end up on the final disc. "We're concentrating on writing right now, taking our time to do a really beautiful album. Even if we write 4 songs, we'll throw 3 of them away and we'll choose 1 [to keep]. We've got to be very selective to be sure that the next album is really good, because it doesn't make sense to make an album otherwise, so we prefer to take our time, to enjoy the period of writing, and time spent at home. Then we can go out with a really great disc and a good tour," she said.
We can see that The Cranberries' sixth long-player is slowly but surely taking shape. As its release date nears, we'll no doubt learn more and more in an escalating manner, but now that you've read this much, you know just about as much as anybody else about the upcoming release -- outside of Limerick, Ireland, that is.
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