Life After Dolores
The Cranberries are an Irish rock band formed in Limerick in 1989 by lead singer Niall Quinn, guitarist Noel Hogan, bassist Mike Hogan, and drummer Fergal Lawler. Quinn was replaced as lead singer by Dolores O’Riordan in 1990.
The band rose to international fame in the 1990s with their debut album, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We, which became a huge success with the band going on to sell over 40 million records worldwide.
Dolores was found dead at London’s Park Lane Hilton Hotel last year on 5 January.
Earlier that evening, Dolores had been enthusiastically discussing plans for going into the studio. The coroner described Dolores’ death as “a tragic accident”.
Eventually, The Cranberries confirmed what everyone assumed – that they would not be continuing as a band.
We caught up with the surviving Cranberries Mike, Noel and Fergal to discuss the release of this extraordinary album, which remarkably features Dolores’ remarkable vocals.
IW: These are somewhat unusual and sad circumstances to be talking about a new album. How long did you leave it before going back to the studio to complete the job? It must have been quite painful.
Noel: It has been tough, but you just become more used to the idea rather than getting over the idea. We realised that doing this is part of what we do and that’s how we are getting on with this and just managing it but it is still doing the whole process and the way we recorded this is still very alien to us but this is kind of the end in many ways and it just brings closure.
IW: How much of the album had been recorded and finished before that awful time? Like had all her vocals been recorded or were some guide vocals.
Mike: Nearly all of them were demos with her but we had not actually gone into a studio at all as it was at the demo stage but we were very lucky that Dolores was such a strong singer and it was not unusual, as we have done this before when she had done a demo and then when we went to record we had used the demo. This was not the first time we had done this but obviously this time there were no re-takes. So, we went in from scratch really after she had died as we had the vocals but basically, we pulled all the faders down and then built the new tracks around the vocal.
IW: I guess it would have been your instant reaction in dealing with these circumstances to commit to finishing the album in her memory then to end the group but that must have been emotionally very hard for you guys.
Noel: We spoke about this a few weeks or maybe about a month after she had died and we thought we would have a listen to the hard drives to see what is there and kept finding more and more stuff so we began to think that there could be an album here and we talked to her family about it and they were really behind it and wanted us to finish what she had started really. It was great for us to bring closure to the whole thing to go full circle I suppose.
IW: Was it always planned to start the album with those three tracks All Over Now, Lost and Wake Me Up or was that serendipity? When It Is Over for sure has more significance now and those songs are very poignant.
Noel: I had all the hard drives and knew something was there so I was thinking about it, but I think the boys would feel the same it was just that listening to her and to her vocals it was very painful and hard. Like when you hit solo and heard what you had, just her vocal and no other instruments it was very emotional. That’s what it was like in the studio you were kind of waiting for her to walk in the door in the evening after doing the vocal. Especially as on the end of tracks there was her speaking which was really strange.
IW: Will you carry on playing together as Cranberries?
Mike: No. It would be very hard with no singer, especially one so close to us and as good as Dolores. It would not feel right, and it would disrespect her and how important she was. The Cranberries was the four of us, we don’t want to do this without Dolores. It is strange how some bands can do that by trying to go on with replacement singers or holograms even like I hear they are doing with Amy Winehouse. That’s strange it is weird and does not sound good and there is no way we would do anything like that.
IW: Was it love at first sight [meeting Dolores]? She was an amazing person.
Mike: It was pretty instant, and we clicked quite quickly and of course the main thing was that she could sing, and she had the look. We gave her a tape of what was Linger and she came back the next week with the lyrics to the melody and that was it.
IW: Was the young Irish diaspora in America at that time important for you and over here was an Irish fan base significant?
Fergal: Oh yes very much so. We noticed that a lot. When we did the ‘meet and greets’ after the gig we would get a lot of first-generation Irish people from home who were living there and the fact we were Irish from Limerick was always important for those fans.
IW: What was the first thing that happened to make you think that this was taking off for you?
Noel: It was Linger and it was that when it took off and funnily it was the very first song. It broke through college radio and then from MTV, which back then was new and very significant. They picked up on it so that was also a big boost.
IW: You must have so many good memories what were the best ones and the things you are most proud of?
Mike: When you start a band you kind of dream that one day you will be big but then if you think you are coming from Limerick as well, it does not have a great history for big bands and you think this is never going to happen and most of the big bands come out of Dublin.
Even when we were travelling the States people would assume, we were from Dublin and we would have to say, “Oh no, we are actually from Limerick”.
To go off and do it was a bit of a shock to us. I always remember when we were touring with REM and I was listening to them and we were in these massive stadiums and you’d be pinching yourself and saying are we really here as just a few years ago we were playing to our friends in a tiny club Limerick and now here we are doing this huge place.
IW: So how do you feel about the way it is now? When you started you would make your money from your record deal but now it is live performances that keep bands afloat.
Mike: Yes, that’s right it is completely the other way around now. It’s a completely different world now. My kids just listen to music on their phone now or hear it on YouTube. They just don’t buy records at all anymore. It is very hard, and I would hate to be starting out now. Most bands would bring out an album and if it does not get so many streams or whatever they are just dropped. There is now too much to take in and there is too much content now.
You can upload your stuff to Spotify now so you don’t have to have a label but there are too many people doing it. If there are a million people a week uploading one song maybe you are never going to get through it, as there is just too much. I used to love the journey of an album from start to finish and you would enjoy the whole thing but now it’s down to just the one track. Our kids’ generation now is just to go and look for the one song and move on to the next thing. The whole thing of listening to a full album seems abnormal to them.
IW: Is there a special memory of Dolores you have?
Noel: We have been through an awful lot together the four of us and you tend to remember the earlier days and the fun of kind of trying to make it and get your message out there to try and get people to be in to us.
The first time in a studio, the first time on a tour bus and the first album release or the first time you heard our music on the radio, all those things give you a buzz when you are whatever age we were, 18 or 19. That was the best thing ever.
I’ve found over the last year especially we have started to remember those things far more than even the years of all the big success. They are not as clear as those first couple of years. You are like this little gang, the four of us and a couple of friends who did the sound and a van and you are going off playing holes like, but it is still your thing.
Mike: Even those first tours we did and recording the first album then playing all those small clubs around the UK, that was great fun being in the van and sleeping on people’s floors and Dolores’ uncle had a place in Walthamstow and we stayed there with him. We flew in and got the Tube all the way from Heathrow carrying the gear as we could not afford a cab and he met us. Things like that were funny.
IW: What is the plan for this very special album?
Noel: Well the last year has been predominantly this, what with recording the album and getting it ready for this moment when it will finally come out. so, we have not really had time to think about anything else really. I think a couple of months off when it comes out to kind of re-group your own self a bit and we can then look to the future really. This has been 30 years of our lives and for the three of us, we have played together long before we even met Dolores, since we were at school, so it is a long time to have one thing as a constant that you could come and go to.
Fergal: There is talk of a movie documentary but that has been going on for ages but let’s get this project done first.
In The End: The Cranberries featuring Dolores O’Riordan is being released 26 April on BMG