CHAPTERHOUSE are now seen as the leading lights of the new rush of guitar hands and have been widely tipped us the next group to follow Ride into the charts. JIM ARUNDEL joins them on the road In Manchester and
discovers how the hand are adapting to
such acclaim and why they stand apart
from The Scene That Celebrates Itself.
Pics: STEPHEN SWEET
INTO THE DRESSING ROOM OF THE MANCHESTER
International comes a figure in tight yellow tartan flares. "The
chicks love these strides, man. Ha ha. An one seen my supply of
johnnies?" Much raucous deprevity an fifthy hub-bub follows as
five boys lewd abaut tarts, booze, haemorrhoids and the
rockest, rollest ways to take to the rood. "Waargh, we're off to
shoe them birds we met in Bradford. Cor, talk about satisfaction!"
Chapterhouse are on tour. And this is Spitfire, their support
band, living it up to the limit just in case they never get another
chance. If they carry on like this they probably won't.
Chapterhouse area bit embarrassed; this isn't the impression
they wanted to give the Melody Maker.
"Hurry up, before you ruin your career," says guitarist Simon
Rowe as Spitfire bundles out of the venue.
"They've swallowed the whole rock' n' roll handbook," someone
says. It'ss quiet in here now.
THE truth abaut touring is tedium: interminable travel, inedible
food, the same video rewound and watched over and over until
it's too snowy to see, compilation tapes ofyour favourite music that
you never want to hear again once the tour's over.
Touring is a form of alienation technique. Amnesty International
should be looking into it.
How are Chapterhouse coping?
"It's a lot more comfortable now we're at this stage," says Simon
in a plush room atthe Romada Renaissance hotel.
Have you taken to heaving TV's outof the window yet?
"No, but I can see how that would happen," says Russell Barrett,
bassist and butt of in-lakes as The Band Idiot. "We've seen each
other almost every day for the last three years, so if we didn't get
on I could see that causing trouble.
"We're becoming a bit more sensible," he continues, reaching
for the Honey Roast Bombay Mix. "We're not like Spitfire, it's their
first tour so it's all, 'wooah, let's get pissed and shag!"'
Do you feel any kind of pressure or responsibility to behave in a
rock'n'rolI way; always being off your faces, going on stage
stoned, all that carry-on?
"I think we care too much about what people will think ofthe
gigs," says Simon. "People have paida lot of money to come and
see us, that's where there's a responsibility."
"We're always being told we're too nice," admits guitarist
Andrew Sherriff sheepishly. "That's become a bit of a in-joke too.
When we finished our degrees it was a great relief to be able to
concentrate on being in a band. But I don't want only to be in a
band, living out the rock lifestyle. When I see some heavy metol
guy getting out of a limo I don't respect him at all, I just think there's
more to life than that.
"There's something about being in a band that's like being a child
again. Especially on tour, that's where it's heightened because
everything is done for you, your whole life is portioned out. You get
told off by the tour manager if you' re late down to the lobby..."
SOBER NIGHT SENSATION!
FRANKLY, I'm relieved. I'm fed up with reading about bands
who've pencilled in a Date With Cirrhosis in articles where band
and hack weave around in the county in some kind of chemical
stupor, can't stand up for falling down, determined to burn rubber
and leave their mark on The Road.
Instead, this is a quiet conversation with some warm, modest
people, music fans who found themselves on a stoge almost by
accident. They started by macking about in a rehearsal room, high
on playing favourites like old Stooges songs and garage classics
like Kit & The Outlaws' "Don't Tread On Me". The guy that ran the
practice rooms offered them a gig. They called themselves Incest
and played most covers. Two dates later they were Chapterhouse,
supporting Spacemen 3 in London.
"Actually participating in the music industry, you begin to see it in
a different light" says Andrew. "we did start off as fans but now
it's difficult, partly because you've seen how corrupt the business
actually is, and partly because every piece of music in the same
area, ie guitars, you just analyse and pull to pieces. That's why it's
refreshing to listen to music away from what we're doing, like Betty
Boo orJohnBarry. We're really into those strings."
Although they may be a bit phased by all the attention they're
getting, Chapterhouse are certainly not smug or vain or strutting
about believing all the publicity about The Scene That Fancies Itself.
Russell looks pained. "It's really awful to be categorised like that.
It's upsetting. Now the album's out I hope people will see that we
are our own thing."
Critics of the newer bands say that the music is stotic, polite
somehow. Punk was cathartic, The Stooges were reacting against
flower-power. What are you reacting against?
"Slagging people 0ff," says Russell, only half-kidding.
"It's not appropriate any more to have that Mary Chain attitude
problem," says Andrew. "We're not consciously trying to be
chummy with other bands and being part of a scene. We don't all
sitdown and listen to Slowdive, Lush and Moose all the time, that's
nonsense, but I'd rather say good things about bands."
But rock audiences have tradition ally equated arrogance with
glamour. It's that Last Gang In Town, WiId On Our Behalf thing
that the fans look for, isn't it?
"It's always been the music first for me," asserts Russell to assent
from the others. "I used to hate all that slagging..."
The door bursts open. It's Stephen Patman, the other singer and
guitorist who has been absent since the gig. It's about 3am. He's
been out, er, "researching the fanbase".
"What's that on your jacket?" asks Russell, noticing the red marks
on Stephen's back and collar. "lt's blood!"
Andrew's closer. "Upstick!" he shouts. Uproar ensures.
Just the man to ask. Is this an anti-glamour generation, Stephen?
"No, I don't think so," he says, once he's settled on the floor. "I'm
sure the public go for glamour and presentation. In our set we play
some slower songs and the crowd don't know what the f**k to do,
they've come to get a charge from the uptempo tracks. Indie fans
are ruled by the same criteria as people who listen to mainstream
music, they'll buy Carter or Ned's Atomic Dustbin for the
"Yeah," says Andrew, "you're attracted to a band's aura."
So have you felt the need to cultivate an aura?
"It's got to be natural or people don't believe it. Iggy Pop puts on
an act but he does it so well it's believable. But most people
admire are just being themselves and happen to be cool bastards."
How do you read to criticism then?
"We usually agree with people who slag us off," says Andrew,
too nice to be true. "But it's awful when people fabricate things to fit
in with some preconceived theory, like those stories about us
supposedly hating Curve because they used samples. 'Falling
Down' and 'Pearl' use just as much sampling as Curve do. We
think Curve are brilliant we're not musical snobs, wallowing
around inour own scene."
"We get angry about the rubbish that's written about us," he
adds, going on to mention a totally spurious story in that morning's
Daily Mirror. "We sometimes feel we've got a profile without much
foundation, and until people are seeing the truth you feel fragile
and transient. Peaple see us as a comfortable, middleclass band,
but doing this is away of shaking off our backgrounds, we don't
want mortgages, nine-to-five jobs and gardens. We're rebelling, I
And then, I say, pointing at his trousers, your mum
goes and irons a crease in your jeans."
"That's a cross you have to bear," says Stephen.
WHAT do you say to the charge that the buried
vocals and walls of guitar are a way of disguising lack of
emotion? Do you stand for anything?
"Escapism," Stephen concludes. "Escape from the
physical side of life. It's hard to say exactly. I don't write
them. Something in here does." He points at his head.
"When they come out I recognise them, but they're
images and emotions of the experience without actually
talking about the experience itself."
"We've never set out to write a song that is as plain as
day," Andrew confirms. "All the songs I like the most
are the ones that have been the hardest to get into.
Suddenly you'll see behind the masks. They grab you
more because you've had to delve into the song rather
than have the emotions thrust upon you. You can let it
wash over you, but there's something there to grasp if
you need it."
What's wrong with Chapterhouse?
Andrew pauses for a few seconds. "I think we should
be more graspable."
"I'm all for that," says Russell, faintly lecherously.
Orignally appeared in Melody Maker July 20, 1991. Copyright © Melody Maker