Trailblazers or Shoegazers
Since STEVE SUTHERLAND innocently coined the phrase The S**** That Celebrates
itself, CHAPTERHOUSE reckon they've been scene but not heard. Stung by press
backlush of vicious proportions, they tell the hapless hack how they're
determined to wreak their revenge.
Pic: Joe Dilworth
"TARQUIN'S IN THE WARS AGAIN. MUMSY'S RANGE
Rover gat a flat on her way to drop off Gemma atprep school so the
Chaptenhouse singer had to stand in the rain for, oooh, at least five
minutes waiting for her to pick him up from the library. It's a wonder
the poor dear didn't catch his death of cold but at least he had the
good sense to wrapup warm and not to talk to any strangers
offering him sweeties. As a precaution against the sniffles, mumsy
confined him to his bed until Thursday so the naughty boy was late
returning his Jane Austen to the library and ended up having to pay
a wacking thruppence fine. What a scamp eh readers!"
Stephen's laughing at the spoof True Stories. "Lucky we like you,"
he chuckles, "or we'd smash your f***ing face in."
IF Chapterhouse didn't know before that all journos are complete
and utter bastards, they do now. Oh, they're putting on a brave
face, trying their best not to whine or sulk but it's obvious they're
reeling from an astonishing backlash. They're stung that they've
been singled out to suffer the ridicule of a pop press that, only a few
months ago, was happily lauding their debut LP, "Whirlpool", as a
signpost for others to follow towards a bright new future. Writers
who championed their breakthrough "Pearl" single have suddenly
token great delight in changing their tune and the Chaps find that,
instead of trailblazers, they're now called shoegazers,
underachievers, Southern softies, Tarquins, university flops who led
such sheltered, affluent lives that
they can't possibly have experienced the
physical and spiritual deprivation that is
apparently a necessary prerequisite to
making valid music. They are amazed
this has happened, utterly bewildered,
but they insist their spirit won't be broken.
Chapterhouse are fighting back
In Dedicated's Kensington office, Andrew is reading a letter. As he
sees me enter, he begins to read it alaud. "Do you think being
lumped in with The Scene That Celebrates itself will do you any
harm?" He stops reading and frowns at me. "See what you've
done? This is from a girl in Philadelphia!"
How was I to know, on that fateful day back in May, that the
phrase I used in a Moose review to describe the coterie of bands
who were habitually attending each other's gigs around London
would stick to Chapterhouse like shit to a blanket? It's no use now
reminding the Chaps that, at the time, I was saying how great it was
that there was this Scene That Celebrates Itself, how encouraging it
was that for all the inherent dangers of incestuousness, there was a
shared vision where noise and melody collided in songs that
promised to gatecrash the Gallup Charts. The phrase immediately hi-jacked, imitated, and warped into a criticism of Ride, Slowdive, the Chaps, Moose, Revolver, Lush... it
was as if people were just waiting for a focus for their inexplicable
Why the f*** did it happen?
"I don't know," says Andrew. "I know it shouldn't but this whole
Seene backlash thing is actually pulling bands apart. Y'know,
there's these friends of yours in a band but you can't talk about them
and you can't go and see them play. It's nonsense. Like, I went to
school with Hamish from Revolver so I went down to see them one
night and when the papers cameout, it was, "Chapterhouse were
down there, taking notes...' F***, I just went to see my old mate
play bass in this band! What's the big deal?
"We don't just listen to our friends' records and completely
dissolve ourselves in them. In fact, we go to great lengths to try and
get completely out of this so-called Scene. We're listening to music
which is totally diverse - Black Crowes, Nirvana, Jane's Addiction,
Beatles, Nancy Sinatra, Chiffons, Shangri-La's, Neil Young,
Buzzcocks. . and occasionally we'll listen to Slowdive or Moose.
We're notlike people think we are."
"I was talking to someone about football last night and they were
actually shocked," soys Simon. "They were going, 'You know
about football!" and I said, "Yeah, and I know about boxing as
well!' It was as if they were expecting me to be sitting in my room
reading Chaucer every night or reciting latin before I go on stage!"
Chapterhouse simply can't believe that their social backgrounds
are being used as a bloody big stick t obeat them with.
"We've never considered it important, we've never even thought
about it" says Stephen. "I thought we were entering a world where
music was the important thing but obviously it isn't. A band's music
is judged upon their personalities which is wrong. You've only got
to look at Robin Guthrie and Liz Fraser to see that's rubbish. They're
completely different people than you'd imagine from their music.
So we're pictured as fey, ailing young laddies sitting around in our
bedrooms, going to art galleries when the blatant fad is that most of
the time we're out for a beer."
"And anyway," Andrew continues, "people like Everett True are
always glamorising these American bands who've supposedly had
such a tough time but we've just been there and the standard of
living in America makes white middle class England look like a
slum! I mean, these bands like Dinosaur Jr, coming from around
New England area, they're f***ing rolling in it. J Mascis' dad
supported him. They're from a very moneyed, carefree society and
they're still making rebellious music so that proves our point really
"It's just that some people really want that negative side of
rock'n'roll - y'know, all attitude and no substance. Well, we're not
Like that or not the Chaps are being forced to adopt a stance
thev're uncomfortable with. It seems that at this noint in their
career, their music alone just isn't enough. And
sowe address the topics that all bands must
sooner or later address, starting with everyone's
"WE'RE confident enough about our
masculinity to not have to stand there trying to
prove it all the time but because we don't we're
made out to be a bunch of asexual fey twats."
Stephen's getting a cob on. "Just because we
don't go, 'Hey chick, get down on your knees
and suck it' doesn't mean our songs aren't
sexual. They are! Sex is one of our more
pleasurable pastimes. I mean, when we were in
America.... no, we're not gonna start listing off
how many girls we shagged and how many
drugs we took because it's not relevant"
"Well, one of our road crew got a blowjob in a
lift because he was wearing a laminate and he
told this girl he was in the band."
Andrew shakes his head and sighs: "People
think if you're in a band you've got it made as
far as girls are concerned. But if a girl comes up
to you and says, 'Oh, I
really loved your show',
you just don't wanna know."
"Depends on what
you're after!" Stephen insists. "If you wanna
shag, then, yeah all right, it's there. But sometimes you just get sick of how
surface it is and how little it means."
Do they ever just get cynical and use these people?
"Yeah, but that's nasty. I've tried it. I don't
wanna do that again. There's nothing worse
than being depressed in LA, I'll tell you."
This is a story I'm not gonna get isn't it?
Stephen tells me Chapterhouse did a Spinal
Tap-style in-store signing in LA and 400
screaming girls turned up. It was embarrassing,
he says. They were there forthree hours, the
poor devils, kissing and cuddling and signing
parts of young girls' anatomies.
"People go on about how we're little cutie boys.
We know that! F*** me! We look in the miror!"
says Andrew. "It's just a matter of how little it
means. Y'know, we're not pinning our musical
career on the fact that we're five guys that girls
That's as may be but the video for
"Mesmerise", the new Chapterhouse EP,
features the Chaps in a state of uncommon bliss,
flooting around a swimming pool on lilos with a
bevy of beautiful girls. There's not a lot of
shoegazing going on I can tell you. Dovid Lee
Roth would be proud of them
"I think a lot of people will be shocked," says
Stephen, though he denies they did it tof *** with
their winsome image. "We did it because we
wanted to lie around with some beautiful chicks
Andrew, who's worried he'll get grief from his
girlfriend when she sees it, agrees: "we did it
because we' re just so bared with the traditional
indie video - y'know, playing in a room with a
smoke machine looking rough broken
windows or whatever. We thought we'd make a
bit of a fun video, a bit of a joke... Uh,
unfortunately it's a lot of a joke as it turned out!"
The Chaps aren't happy with the vid. It's too
tacky, too cheesy and they were too out-of-it to
keep it steady on the right side of kitsch.
"We were just skinning up all day and, by the
end of it, everyone was like 'Yeah!'," laughs
Stephen. "I mean, imagine' you're on a lilo all
day and all these models are pushing you to the
edge of the pool so you can get a blowback. I'm
well into that!"
"But it doesn't do what it was meant to," says
Andrew, who's worried the video will cheapen
the song." "'Mesmerise' is abaut a complete
union with someone, bady and soul. Sex doesn't
just go on between two bodies, it goes on
between two minds. But people seem to be
obsessed with the physical side of life whereas
we're obsessed with the spiritual side because
that's really what matters, that's what makes it
more than just a bestial thing."
"You're born alone, you die alone and in
between there's shagging," says Stephen.
There's not a whole lot you can say to that so
we move swiftly on to...
"WE don't like to talk about it much," says
Stephen. "I mean, the Happy Mondays can go on
about every drug they've ever taken and maybe
get some credibility out of it but the fact is, we don't
want to because our mums might read it."
"And anyway, there's nothing more boring than
talking to people about drugs. it's so pointless. I
mean, someone was telling me about how they
took a load of tranquilisers and went to the
George Pompidou centre in Paris and spent the
whole afternoon there asleep! Then they went and
hod something to eat and threw up because you
can't eat on codeine. And they were saying it was
great. Y'know, throwing up was the most
pleasureable experience they'd ever had. Yeah?
"And listening to someone telling you about the
acid trip they had last night-y'know, how there
were all these patterns on the pavement. God,
that's the worst!"
"Having said that," says Stephen, "you should
have seen us in the middle of the night in San
Diego, lying in a Jacuzzi surrounded by palm
teees smoking joints! I mean, was that like
outrageous rock'n'roll behaviour or what?
Y'know, and we're like this indie bond from
"But people don't see that side of us and I'm not
gonna start naming all this crappy rock'n' roll shit
that we've done just to prove our credibility. The
fact is that we're not what people think we are but
I'm not gonna go on and on about shagging
chicks and doing loads of drugs to prove it."
A couple of nights later I meet stephen having a
smoke in the T&C at The Black Crowes gig. The
Chaps got into the Crowes listening to "Shake
Your Money Maker" in an open-topped Ford
Mustang driving down Sunset. "Make sure you
write I was here," he laughs. "You never know, it
What hasn't helped is calling the new EP
"Mesmerise". The fact that all four tracks are
completely difierent (the title track's very Cure) has
been overlooked because the tide provides ammo
for those gunning for the shoegazers. It's been
suggested they have descended into seIf-parody.
"That's bollocks," says Andrew. "We've never
done anything that's been so druggy or
psychedelic or trippy or whatever. Just because
we'd had a couple of joints doesn't make it fey. It's
groovy and laid back and that's the way we felt
when we did it."
"The thing is, we're making druggy POP music.
You can make hippy shit drug music or you can
make druggy pop music and 'Mesmerise' is a pop
song," says Stephen. "That's what makes it
subversive, that's what makes it an achievement,
precisely because it isn't
preaching to the convened."
"People talk about politics
but we're asking people to
have revolutions within
themselves," says Andrew.
"we're not saying, 'Go and
vote for Neil Kinnock to get a
revolution together' because I think the most direct
way is if people look into themselves. I always
thought Spacemen 3 saying it just takes five
seconds to have a little revolution was great
because they weren't talking about getting up in
arms and going into the street and raiding the
House of Commons. It's about looking into
yourself and, if everyone looks into themselves
and is happy with what they're doing in Iife and
what their achieving, then the wor!d would bo a
much better place a lot quicker than it would
through any kind of external politics."
"I think you can move people more with their
minds than you can by telling them what to think," agrees Stephen
"If you just draw people to their own conclusions rather than drawing them to yours, that's when you affect them. Noone ever
has their mind changed by what you tell them.
They have to come to that conclusion themselves.
"We deal in emotions because they're constant
throughout time. Human beings will always have
the same emotions - they don't change. The
environment around them might change and their
personalities mightchange but emotions are more
deep-rooted than anything and if you write within
that then the music will never lose its relevance."
"I FOUND out just yesterday that the reason
Alan McGee didn't sign us to Creation years back
when he had the chance was because we sounded
too much likeThe Stooges! I mean, how much more
f***ing rock'n' roll can you get?" Stephen's got
another cob on. "It's f***ing ludicrous. Just because
we've developed in what some people see as an
ethereal musical direction, it's
been forgotten what we were.
It just seems ludicrous not to
take everything in context. It's
almost enough to make you
think, 'Right our next record is
gonna be f***ing noise
destroer' - We are perfectly
capable of making some f***king noisy bollock arse
records if we wanted to but why should we? Why
on earth should we do a record of death metal
songs just to prove to other people we're not what
they think we are?"
"You can't really put an act on," Andrew agrees.
"You can't come from High Wycombe and pretend
to be Iggy Pop. It's either in your blood or it's not.
But sometimes something does grab hold of you
that makes you go wild. I went mental in New York.
I'm lucky I've still got my guitar. It was really good. It
purges you. That in a anger. Taking it out on
your guitar can still moke you feel great. And even
though I had massive bruises up my hips and
everything, it just kinda got all that angerand
"We went apeshit in Washington," says Simon,
"but people still call us shoegazers, they still call us
fey! We could strap ourselves naked too go a goat
something and people would still soy we were
"F***! Don't start another one!"
"When we're supposedly shoegazing, we
are in fact looking at our frethoards and trying
to play what we're meant to be playing."
explains Stephen. "We could f***ing leap
around on stage as much as we wantec but it
would sound like an abortion out front.
"That's what people can't seem to grasp - that
the most important thing is the music. The
whole time we're coming across things that are
being said about us that are untrue but they're
being used as a basis to judge us upon. That's
what's really galling."
The story currently doing the rounds is that the
Chaps lost a laminate on tour and/or slept in
late and were fined by their tour manager.
Bobby Gillespie even used this fictitious
incident in a recent Primal Sream interview to
show how un-rock'n'roll the Scene bands are!
"How could a tour manager fine us when
we're employing the bastard?" asks Stephen.
"Y'know, I think our biggest fault is that we're
too bloody nice!"
No more Mr Nice Gys? Apparently
were going to go round and sort out a recent
Backlash correspondent who written he
wanted to kick their heads in because they'd
been to college but they traced the address to
some unnumbered squats and had to give up.
"Never mind," says Stephen, coming over all
philosophical. "Peaple may be slagging us off
now and we may feel irritated by it but in the
longterm, we know our music's good and one
of these days, after our fourth or fifth album
we'll pick out some of the things being written'
about us now and say, 'Look! You were wrong
f***face!' We know that's gonna happen. The
'Mesermise" is out now on Dedicated. The Chaps play T&C on October 20 &21.
Orignally appeared in Melody Maker October 12, 1991. Copyright © Melody Maker