On New Year’s Day 2018, guitarist Mike Hogan and his bandmates in The Cranberries expected a bright year ahead. He and lead singer Dolores O’Riordan had been crafting songs since March. Three months into the year, they would embark on a concert tour of China and then start work on a new album — the seventh since their debut in 1993.
On Jan. 15, everything changed when the 46-year-old O’Riordan drowned in a bathtub at the London Hilton on Park Lane.An inquest ruled her death accidental as a result of alcohol intoxication.
After her funeral, the surviving Cranberries faced some pressing questions.
“What should I do?” Hogan said. “I have all this new music in a hard drive. Do I listen to it? Do I forget about it? I contacted Stephen Street, who had produced so many of our albums. He knows us better than anybody in the musical sense. He suggested, ‘Look, you’re very emotional now. You need to capture that. Don’t leave this album to sit on a shelf for a year. Let’s do it now.’”
Hogan, who turns 47 this month, knew this was the right decision. With permission from her family, he went through the demos he and O’Riordan had worked on. He also acquired her personal hard drive on which she had stored ideas for songs she was developing on her own. Eventually, Hogan nurtured these fragments into material that the band felt comfortable recording behind O’Riordan’s demo vocals.
“This was the first time where an entire album was built up from demos,” Hogan said. “Historically, Dolores would come in on the first day of a session, give us some guide vocals and then leave. A day or two later, she’d come back to critique what we’d done. We did miss that side of it. Instead, we worked from her vocals as a guide to what direction she would have taken.”
One concern was that O’Riordan’s performance on the demos convey the same fragility and strength, intensity and intimacy, of her final mixes.
“We even told the record company, ‘We might end up with only seven or eight songs here, if we feel a vocal isn’t really making it,’” Hogan said. “But she’s such a strong singer that even on an off day she was better than a lot of people were on their on days, so that wasn’t a problem at all.”
This point is confirmed throughout “In The End,” which is set for release Friday. From the thrashing drums and chiming guitars that open the album on “All Over Now” through the string-kissed despair of “Lost” and on to the dark ironies of the title track, O’Riordan’s performance is hypnotic, the empathy of Hogan, bassist Mike Hogan and drummer Fergal Lawler impeccable.
The band understood that “In The End” would be their final bow as well.
“As we recorded the last track, which was ‘In The End,’ I was very much aware that this was the last time the three of us would play together as The Cranberries,” Hogan said. “After that I stayed in the studio with Stephen, finishing bits and pieces. On the last night, the boys came back and we all went out to have a big blowout.
“I don’t really see myself in a band again,” he continued. “That’s behind me. I’m working more behind-the-scenes in music now. But working with Dolores created an immense pressure on us to catch up and to never wing it on anything we do. I feel that even now and I’ll always be grateful to her for that.”
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