Friday, November 13th, 2020
The Cranberries on Dolores O’Riordan and “No Need to Argue”
Came Up On a Sunday
Nov 13, 2020
By Jake Uitti
If you’re of the right age, chances are you have a favorite song from the ’90s Irish rock ‘n’ roll band The Cranberries. For many, it’s “Zombie,” the aggressive, buzzy track that talks about bombs, guns, and war inside your head. For others, it’s the jangly “Dreams” or sticky “Linger” that have become personal favorites. Whatever the song, the lasting impact of the band, which was founded in 1989, is astounding. A quick YouTube scan will show that the songs above boast hundreds of millions of views—or, in the case of “Zombie,” one billion, despite the fact that these songs were released upwards of a decade before the streaming platform was even conceived.
To commemorate the band, which sadly lost its lead singer, the indelible Dolores O’Riordan, just a few years ago, in January 2018, The Cranberries will release a remastered and expanded version of the band’s seminal 1994-released hit album, No Need to Argue, on November 13. No Need to Argue was the band’s sophomore album and is their best selling one, moving over 17 million albums, in part fueled by “Zombie.” The reissue, out today, includes B-sides, demos, remixes, and live tracks.
We caught up with founding members Noel Hogan (guitar) and Fergal Lawler (drums) to talk about the early days of the group, O’Riordan’s passing, and much more. The band also featured Hogan’s brother, Mike Hogan, on bass.
Jake Uitti (Under the Radar): How did you first find music as young people?
Noel Hogan: Just, I guess, like a lot of people. Your parents would have it on in the car. The radio would be on at home. The big thing we used to have in our house was watching—there was a program that used to be called Top of the Pops. It was on here on Thursday nights and we’d all sit around watching that. So, from, I guess, as early as I can recall, that was just it. And then you obviously grow up, become a teenager and you start getting your own interest in your own music. It just developed from there.
Fergal Lawler: Same as that for me. The radio, initially. I always had the radio in the house. My dad was big into opera and classical music. He had a room, like, with his records and we weren’t allowed in there. But you’d hear music coming from there. He would put on classical records and stuff, you know, for special occasions. So, yeah, I got into it at an early age.
How did you two meet one another?
Noel: Breakdancing. We were breakdancers at, like, 13 or 14 years of age. There was a big breakdance scene. It would have been about 1983-84. We met through that and started breakdancing and listening to hip-hop. Then, as time went on, we grew out of that and got into The Cure and The Smiths and bands like that.
That’s really early to be breakdancing in ’83 or ’84.
Fergal: That’s when it took off here, yeah.
I’ve been to Ireland one time, and it was a terrific, musical place. But I also don’t know a ton about it. How did the country or the area where you grew up influence you or affect your creativity?
Noel: The one great thing about this country—it’s a small country, small population—but nearly every second person plays some kind of instrument or does Irish dancing. We’re famous for poets and writers. It’s a very big part of the culture here. And you don’t realize that as you’re growing up. You just trot along like most kids. But you are probably soaking that up from a very early age. I think it has a massive part to do with the sound of The Cranberries that everybody knows now. Particularly, I guess, Dolores and the way she sang. Her style of singing, there were definitely traits of old Irish music in there. So, it definitely played a part. It wasn’t obvious to us at the time because, as teenagers, as Ferg said, we were into more English indie bands. You do your version of that and, obviously, the Irish influences then are in there in the back of your head somewhere.
How did you meet Dolores?
Fergal: It was through a friend of ours. There was a guy that sang in the band for a while and then he was in another band so he was concentrating on that full-time. So, we asked him if he knew of any singers and his girlfriend at the time was in school with Dolores. He got a message through to her that we were looking for a singer and then, you know, she was looking for a band that did original stuff. So, she came up on a Sunday afternoon and we rehearsed. She played a few songs that she had and we played some music we had. We had music for “Linger” and a few other bits. We gave her a cassette tape, she took it away with her and came back the next week with lyrics. So, that was the start of it.
What was the immediate chemistry like?
Noel: I think we just clicked straight away. Dolores wanted to be in a band that did original songs. At the time, it was quite popular—there were a lot of original bands around Limerick but there were also a lot of cover bands that did weddings and bars and things like that because, obviously, that paid. Whereas being in a band where you sang your own songs, not so much. So, there was that. We, like her, wanted to do our own thing, create our own sound and songs. And we found that she just became our sister all of a sudden. We’d never met her or seen her around before and then very quickly there was just a bond there. It grew between the four of us. It just seemed effortless. Dolores grew up with a lot of brothers, so it felt very natural for her to just be there in the room with us. At the time, a lot of our friends would hang around where we rehearsed, as well. So, there were a lot of males floating around the place. But it never bothered her. Then we went in and recorded the first demo with her. I guess, for us, it was the first time we heard her singing properly because we didn’t have the best gear. We could kind of hear her—we could hear the melody more than the lyrics. But when we went into the studio for that first time, it was really one of those moments where the hairs on the back of your neck stood up. It was amazing. And then it just—especially those early years. It went from strength to strength. We believed in what we were doing.
What was it like after recording those first demos—was it like, “Wow, I can hear you now!”
Noel: We were very excited to actually hear that it sounded professional, I suppose. Because it was done in a recording studio and you could hear everything clearly. That was our first time hearing ourselves, The Cranberries, the proper sound. In rehearsal, it sounded rough enough because the equipment was so bad. I think we were very excited.
How did the bond amongst the band solidify?
Noel: I think we all grew. Dolores definitely had been playing music and singing since she was very young. Whereas, the three of us, we bought instruments and started a band, more or less. For us, it was a massive learning curve. But I think the more we played live we all started to know that it was clicking better. Especially when we did the long tours, you’d come and we’d go back into the studio. And we would get stuff down really, really quickly compared to the, you know, the first two times we went in when we were learning how to play, use the studio. So, it was great and we, as the years went by, you could walk into a room and you may not have been in the same room for years but after an hour it was like we never left. It just clicked together and it’s always been amazing to have that between the four of us. You know no matter what you can go back to that at some point—then. It was great that we all grew and at a certain point we all started to grow at the same pace. Obviously, being thrown into the fame side of it was a bit bizarre for us, being so young, as well. But when you love what you’re doing it doesn’t bother you. You’re just happy to be there all the time, being allowed to do what it is you want to do.
What was fame like for you?
Fergal: Yeah, the fame thing was strange. We tried to avoid it as much as possible. But, I mean, Dolores, being the front person, being a girl in a band with three guys, got more attention. We’d try and support her as much as we could, you know? But we tended—when we were on the road, especially—to bunch together and stick together as a family. The crew guys that worked with us were there from the start. We were like a family heading around the world playing gigs. We were in the bubble, almost. That protected us, I think, to stay in that bubble and not go off to after show parties or anything like that. We didn’t really do that kind of thing.
Do you remember writing or recording any of your hits like “Dreams” or “Zombie”?
Noel: I think we remember “Zombie” more because it was different to everything else we had done to that point. “Dreams” was one of the very early songs. And there were a lot of songs at that time. So, I think we thought it was a good song but we didn’t think it would go on to be what it has become. Whereas with “Zombie,” at the time we had moved to a smaller rehearsal space and it was so cold in this room that Dolores brought in this song and you kind of always remember how cold it was. She got to playing and said, “This is a track I have.” We were doing what we would have normally done, the same kind of style. But she said, “No, this one is an angry song. I want the sound to be heavier.” I think that’s why it stands out to us. It was the first time we had gone from the “Dreams” or “Linger” sound to this heavier, harder sound. I don’t think any of us had any idea that any of these songs were going to be as big as they were. To us, they were just songs in the set that we liked. You know, you play them and you get this amazing reaction from the crowd and it’s amazing that, you know, I guess 30 years later and these songs are still on the radio constantly.
When she brought in a new song or new sound, was that jarring at all?
Noel: No, it was more like a natural progression because we had been touring a bit at that stage, and when you play live, you’re a bit louder and more aggressive anyway. It’s a natural way to be, the adrenaline is pumping. So you’re hitting it a bit harder, playing a bit louder. But at the time, she suggested getting heavier with that song. It suited us perfectly. We felt it was natural.
How did get you get the news that Dolores had passed?
Noel: We were just—I guess even to this day, it’s hard to believe. Especially on that first day. No matter who it is, if you’re close to anyone in your life and you get a call like that out of the blue—and, particularly, Dolores is such a massive part of the three of our lives. She was the same age as us. So, you don’t—I mean, if we’re all, as horrible as this is to say, in your 70s or 80s or 90s, you know when you get the call, it may not be as surprising. But certainly that was just like another day until that point and then everything, for all of us, changed. It’s kind of hard to put into words, I guess. There are days where you still find it hard to believe. You kind of almost expect her to call you.
What has the aftermath been like for you in terms of releasing new music, trying to celebrate her life, dealing with the sadness?
Fergal: After Dolores died, it was amazing to see the outpouring of love and respect, really, around the world. I think 500 bands played cover versions of “Zombie” on a beach in Brazil. There were images of Dolores up in Times Square. It was just incredible to see that kind of outpouring, you know, of respect. It’s fantastic. I think it was about maybe three or four months after she passed away that we started to look through demos we had made for what was going to be a new album at the time. We listened through the demos and said there’s enough for an album. So, we spoke to Dolores’ family and asked how would they feel if we finished off what we had started. That led to the album, In the End. It was a really nice thing to do. Those songs are really good quality songs and it’s kind of like a parting gift Dolores left the fans and to us. It was really nice to do that, difficult as it was.
Has her passing affected the way you look at music or the music business?
Noel: For us, you see, we’re looking at it from a different angle. Dolores is our friend. The music business side of it doesn’t really come into it. Other than we wanted to finish that last album and do her proud. I mean, that’s as close as we came to the music business side of it. Other than that, we were each of us individually trying to get over it in our own way. It’s not Dolores the public figure that—for us, it’s a friend that we had with us by our side for 30 years. So, you kind of focus on that more, I guess. Certainly during the recording of that album. When you went home at night and you’re listening back to stuff from that day. A lot of memories come back with that as well. The music business is what it is. It wasn’t something that came into play with the passing of Dolores. It was just that you’re more focused on [her death] and trying to get your own head around that.
When you think about music today, what do you love most about it?
Fergal: It’s that feeling when the hairs stand up on your body. You get a shiver down your spine. For me, I don’t get that from anything else. Maybe sometimes movies or an art show, or whatever. But it’s never as powerful as it is from music. A certain song will trigger it off. Or even, for example, listening to The Doors. I’m taken back to the early ’90s when I first discovered them. It’s like looking through a photograph album. Certain songs just bring you back to a certain time. I get that same feeling—it’s an overwhelming emotion, that feeling. It’s amazing.
Noel: Probably much the same thing. You can hear a song that you haven’t heard in 10 years but it takes you back to a certain moment in your life. It’s like a smell. It reminds you of something. There are very few things in life that can do that. It might be happy memories, sad memories, whatever it is. Certainly playing and writing—you get on stage, you start a gig and you get this buzz and you’re jumping around like a mad man for an hour and a half or two hours. You get to release this—you don’t normally go around like that. I’m sure many musicians do it where you kind of go, “I’m kind of done with this. I want to move on.” But you always get pulled back to it again. There’s a draw there. It’s in your blood. I think the funny thing is, the more you do it, the longer you go on in life, you grow to love it more. Not with every job does that happen. We’ve been very lucky that the music that we liked to play and that we wrote for ourselves, that people got it and liked what we did. That’s an amazing feeling. When you hear a song that you came up with so long ago and it’s still being played or the next generation says they love that track. You get surprised because they’re way younger. But it’s a nice feeling. I guess in the past few years, it’s only that we’ve had time to step back and look at it. You realize what it is that we’ve done in our lives. When you’re in the middle of it, like a lot of things, you don’t realize that you’re getting on with it. Music covers so many things. The language barrier doesn’t really exist with music, as well. You can go anywhere and play a song and no matter what country, what language they speak, they know that song. There’s not many things that can do that.