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Q&A with Cranberries’ Noel Hogan

Q&A with Cranberries’ Noel Hogan

Having recently released their first album since 2001, The Cranberries are in the midst of a worldwide tour.

With Roses, the seminal Irish rock band has captured the classic Cranberries sound of shimmering folk-pop melodies and Dolores O’Riordan’s confident vocals.

Before hitting the road, guitarist Noel Hogan chatted with Fender News to talk about getting back together as a band, the Roses recording process and the Fender Jaguar he’ll be playing on tour.

Read the full interview below:

Fender News: When The Cranberries went on a reunion tour in 2009, there were a lot of warnings that it didn’t actually mean a full-blown reunion. How did an actual album come about?

Hogan: “Even though we hadn’t seen each other in six or seven years, I had kept playing with other people, but I starting writing some stuff that I said, ‘You know, this would work really well with Dolores singing that.’  So, I got in touch with her and said, ‘I’ve got a couple of songs.’

“Since about 2005 until last year, I’d been sending her bits and pieces of songs, but it wasn’t a Cranberries project initially.  We were just writing stuff and just seeing what might happen with it.”

Noel Hogan with his Fender Jaguar. 

Did the tour light a spark, though?

“When we did the reunion tour, it went really well and we were jelling together and had a nice vibe – with no record contract or anything.  We were free agents.  But, we had all these songs. We were just going to see what happens. It was a natural thing.

“I had stayed in touch with [producer] Stephen Street since the first album, and we’d become good friends. I rang him and asked if he’d be interested, and he said for sure.” 

Were you surprised how smooth the recording process was?

“We went in, and in five weeks, that was the album.  We didn’t think that was going to happen. We thought we’d do five weeks and then we’d come back later in the year and maybe do another five weeks, but we were done. We didn’t need to go back.

“It was a very natural, relaxed kind of thing. I think the fact that we didn’t have a contract to be filling lifted the pressure.”

How has your songwriting process changed since the early 2000s?

“When we finished in 2003, I wanted to do something different, so I started working with a programmer in London that a friend of mine introduced me to. He taught me how to use a computer in production during my downtime with the Cranberries.  The one thing that taught me was how to use a studio as an instrument as well. That taught me how to write differently. It’s still you writing it, but now you can add in stuff that you were never able to do before. So I could send Dolores fuller sounding tracks.

“Before, it was a cassette off a Dictaphone and you see what works. But now, everything’s programmed from the moment you start. It helped us to enormously progress as a band. The chemistry still stood there as the Cranberries, but we were also able to collaborate more from a distance.”

What feelings do you have knowing that you’ll finally be playing new material to a live audience? 

“It’s kind of scary, but exciting. We did two years during the reunion tour, and it was a bit of a no-brainer what you could play, because you had five albums to choose from and there was a track record there. You could play the first bars of a song and people would go mad. Now, you have all these new songs. Most of the gig would be this album, even though you’d obviously play those hits.

“For us, it’s exciting, because we haven’t played these new songs in a year, because it’s been that long since we recorded the album. You don’t think when you’re writing and recording if anybody’s going to like it. You just have to do it. But when you start touring, then the hope exists.  You don’t want people staring blankly at you.”

You’ve recently picked up a 50th Anniversary Jaguar for the tour. What are your early thoughts of the 50-year old guitar?

“Straight away, it sounded unreal.  I’m using it with my setup – the Vox and the Twin – and together it sounds great. For the style of guitar that I do, it has that nice jangly thing going on that cuts through. Over the years, I’ve had problems with that from time to time, trying to get through the rest of the band. This seemed to work… without a lot of work at all.”

What does Roses and this tour mean for The Cranberries moving forward?

“We don’t have plans, and I don’t know what will happen, but bit by bit, this is the way it happens with us – I get an idea, write, and then she writes. You know, the one thing we don’t want to do – and we did end up doing it around 2002-03 – was that we have to have stuff.  We don’t want to do that again, because I think the writing suffers because of it because you’re rushing through it and not giving things enough thought. 

“We’re not saying it won’t happen, and we’re not saying it will. We’re doing this tour, and if things fall into play, we’ll see how things progress.”

For more information and to get a full list of tour dates, visit The Cranberries’ official website

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