Dave Rowntree is the drummer of Blur, a computer wizard and a qualified lawyer. In December Blur plays the closing party of the F1 Grand Prix season in Abu Dhabi after launching what he describes as “a celebrity car boot sale” to help Syrian refugees.
TME: Hi Dave, thank you for agreeing to do a Q and A for our web site for The Middle East Magazine.
Dave Rowntree: My pleasure.
As well as having a new album, “The Magic Whip” out and touring with your band Blur this year, you are organizing a charity event to raise money for refugees in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Greece – please tell us about the event and what inspired you to get involved in the project ?
Many of my friends and I were shocked by the pictures of the refugee crisis in the media this summer. I was trying to think what I could do to raise money to help, and came up with the idea of a celebrity ‘car boot sale’ [UK equivalent of a US yard sale] backed up by an online memorabilia auction. We’ve called it the Star Boot Sale. The online auction starts on the 26th November at 9pm and runs through to 6th December at 9pm. We’ve had an amazing response from musicians, actors, sports people and comedians in the UK. As well as the more usual gold discs and signed instruments, we’ve got all kinds of personal items, clothes and even an ice cream van!
I’m planning to hold the physical car boot sale in the spring when the weather improves and musicians are back from touring.
Why did you decide to raise money for the IRC charity ?
I know [IRC Chief Executive] David Miliband from my campaigning work in the Labour Party. I called him to ask where the money we hope to raise would be best spent, and he offered the support of his charity in setting up the event.
The IRC are incredibly impressive. They have 3000 volunteers and staff on the ground in the Middle East and Europe – not only helping with the current crisis but also trying to give displaced families a future.
If you could take just one of the online auction items home which one would it be?
Composer David Arnold has donated a signed copy of the score of James Bond film Casino Royale, as well as the baton he used to conduct it (see below), I’d love that on my wall!
Besides bidding on the auction items what are other ways people can support your event?
I see Blur are playing in Abu Dhabi this month, are you looking forward to it?
Yes! We’re playing at the closing party of the F1 Grand Prix season. I’ve never been to Adu Dhabi or a Formula One race, so I’ll probably struggle to see all the sights in the time we have.
A few places that are on my agenda though is to visit the Sheikh
Zayed Mosque which I’ve heard is incredibly beautiful and I will also hopefully have time to watch the F1 race which will be a new experience – our head of security , Smoggy, who has been with us for 25 years is a huge F1 fan and one of the reasons we decided to end the tour in Abu Dhabi was that he is having a big birthday this year and we couldn’t think of a better present or a more fun way to celebrate. I’ve also heard that there is a hospital for Falcons – and being an animal lover I hope I have time to visit that too.
I understand Blur’s seventh album “Think Tank” was recorded in the countryside outside of Marrakesh, besides Morocco and your forthcoming trip to the UAE have you visited any other countries in The Middle east / MENA region ?
I’ve visited a few places, but I’d like to travel further afield if I ever have more time! Jordan was a particular highlight, especially visiting Petra and Mount Nebo.
What are your memories of recording in Morocco and how did that come about ?
We decided that we wanted the album recording session to be an adventure, so we rented a farmhouse about an hour outside Marrakesh and moved our recording studio into one of the outbuildings. It was a wonderful experience which infused the sound of the album with all kinds of Moroccan textures.
I heard you speak some Arabic ? Is that true ?
I’d love to read and write Arabic, it’s such a beautiful script. I’ve tried buying a self-study course, but I didn’t get on too well. I think I need to be taught!
Finally, for those people going to see you in Abu Dhabi who may not have seen Blur live before what can they expect ?
We’re playing at an event we’ve never been to, in a country we’ve never visited, so I expect some of us are wondering the same thing!