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Pearly Gatecrashing

Yesterday Reading, today the charts, tomorrow the world. STEVE SUTHERLAND celebrates the emergence of CHAPTERHOUSE as 'Pearl', their third and finest EP, looks set to take them higher than ever before. Pics: TOM SHEEHAN

STEPHEN ASKS ME IF I SAW GEORGE MICHAEL ON "THE Jonathan Ross" show the other night?

I say no.1 didn't know he was on,

"Yeah. He's got this really weird haircut now and his band are all like Hare Krishna or something."

Hari Krishnas? You sure?


George Michael?


"That wasn't George Michael," says Andrew. That was Boy George."

"George Michael. Boy George. They're all the f***ing same aren't they? Ican't tell the diference. I can't tell them apart."

A F***ING big hip hip hooray for Chapterhouse. And Ride. And Moose. And Slowdive. And.. the list is growing by the day. Their ignorance is bliss. Their year dot is "Psychocandy". Their favourite band of all time is My Bloody Valentine. They can't tell George Michael from Boy George. Wow!

All of a sudden, at a strake, all that Mantovani, parent-friendly let's-pretend-we're-all-on-Motown crap is consigned to history. It's over and done with. It's gone.

As I write this, Ride are Number 14 in the Gallup Charts and Chapterhouseare about to release "Pearl". If there's any justice in the world, it too will chart HIGH. This is it. This is the breakthrough. This is the best time for British music since.,. well, God knows when, There hove been more great records released in the last few weeks than in the whole of the last five years. Curve's "Blindfold" EP, "Ride's "Today Forever", Moose's "Jack", Swervedriver's "Rave Down" ...Suddenly all the kids who picked up a guitar because of The Jesus And Mary Chain have started to arrive. Ain't no stopping 'em now. Ain't no bitching, ain't no backbiting, ain't no petty jealousy gonna break this new thing down.

Go see Ride, you'll meet Chapterhouse in the crowd. Go see Slowdive and you'll meet Ride and Chapterhouse and Blur... Everyone's rooting for everyone else everyone's real excited, This is their time and they know it.

How did it happen? Why? When? This is Stephen's theory: "In the Sixties, music was really together in a lot of ways. Otis Redding was doing dance music with real soul to it yet he was playing alongside people like, the Stones - he even covered 'Satisfaction'. Everyone was bouncing off each other, everyone was into each other. But in the Seventies, music diversified. People started hating types of music so there was disco miles away from progressive rock and then punk came along and said, 'We hate everything'. But in the Eighties, it gradually started to cometogether again (Aerosmith and Run DMC etc), and now there's a feeling that they're all pushing in the same direction. Bands are bouncing off each other again and, hopefully, this will push everybody higher than they would go otherwise.

Stephen beams a cherubic grin: "I feel pretty good about today to be honest. I get the feeling there's a new type at music coming through."

Andrew sweeps his hair from his eyes and steps down from a Rossetti canvas: "There's a feeling of calm at the moment, a feeling that the whole thing's poised. It could be great, but so often that's dangerous because people expect too much and then the whole thing comes tumbling down. We mustn't let that happen."

I CAN barely wait for "Pearl" to be cast before the swine at Radio 1 , can just see their faces as they struggle to get to grips with a record that owes as much to The Cocteau Twins and Valentines as it does to The Stone Roses. Chapterhouse are a band who listen to Sonic Youth for inspiration and Betty Boo for kicks. When he was little, Andrew's favourite band was Abba. Then heard The Stooges. Now he's trying to prepare a tour and complete an A-level course at a London college and relax to Deee-Lite and not make too much sense of it all.

"Everything we listen to has an influence on us. That's the way we like it," he says.

Oh yeah Rock's rich tapestry's them to be f***ked with good and improper. The CD revolution and the depressingly conservative record company policy of rereleasing old material rather than championing anyhing new has paid an unforeseen dividend. Bands like Chapterhouse are snaffling up the influences, sorting the sweet from the naff and coming up bursting.

"We've got the advantage of retrospect in that we can lok back and pick out the best stuff from the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties without being hindered by the attitude," says Stephen who looks all of 14 years old. "Like, I'm sure punk rock was very exciting at the time and the energy probably carried it through but listening back to it now, much of it sounds like pub rockers rehashing The Stooges."

If rules exist, say Chapterhouse, they're there to be broken if songs exist, they're here to be assimilated, lived, made your-own. Andrew sees Chapterhouse in same ways as Jack Nicholson's Joker graffiti-ing those old masters in Gotham City Art Gallery

"We deface music by adding certain things to it. We could have made 'Pearl' a real radio-playable song but we didn't want to, so as far as the establishment's concerned we defaced our own creation by making it not as accessible as it could have been."

Stephen agrees : "Over the last Few years the predominant sound has always been seif-desttuctive because prospectively really beautiful songs have been defaced with something really ugly. But I think that IS the beauty of it because you're exposing people to something they wouldn't usually listen to."

Chapterhouse are aware there's a cliche there too, so they called in Robin Guthrie to help out on a couple of album tracks, to beautify the ugly if you like. It's fun and games and Chapterhouse are reaping the benefit of history...and feeling the burden...

"I think we have alot more to live up to," says Andrew. "As time goes on, bands are rated a lot less and considered a lot less important because less is new and people are less taken aback by the music. The past is overglamourised and the frustration nowadays is being compared with other people instead of people just listening to the songs on their own merits."

"The main characteristic of this band is that the songs are experiments in all directions and they're very diverse. If we were ever pinned down to one track, it would be very limiting. We want people to get the whole picture of our music before they start judging us," says Stephen.

"We enjoy our freedom and to be tied down to one formula would be really frustrating," says Andrew. "We don't have any singular direction for people to latch onto though . . we're a bit too wishy washy for that."

"All comparisons are irrelevant," says Stephen. "Some have been just laughably inaccurate. I mean, when we first started, someone reviewed and said we were a cross between The Cult and the Mary Chain. What the f*** was that person on? Did he go to our gig or what?"

"It was just the haircuts," says Andrew. "The haircuts get us compared to Loop a lot."

"And we've been described as sub-Spacemen 3 rockers or something like that which is quite derogatory and demeaning," says Stephen. "I mean, we spent time and effort writing tracks and to just have them written off as sub somebody else is an insult,"

"We're well aware that we are a product of the last 30 years of music, as most people are, but the inaccuracy of the comparisons annoys us because we're a lot wider than that," says Andrew. "People should just give us time. Look at the Stones and The Beatles they sounded more Chuck Berry than Chuck Berry when they first started and they ultimately got their own identity from it. We're just developing in the same way.

"PEARL" is the third Chapterhouse EP, after "Freefall" and "Sunburst" and, although it will seem like the dawning of a bright new day to Joe Public, to those already under the Chapterhouse spell, it may cameos something of a shock. There's that dancebeat for a start, and the drumloop sampled from Led Zeppelin's "When The Levee Breaks" and the swooning harmonies courtesy of Slowdive's Rachel.

The band claim any abrupt change of tack is purely accidental. "Pearl" should have been released after "Whirlpool" their debut album that was recorded last year but doesn't come out until late April. Listened to chronologically, they say, it all becomes crystal clear.

"The reason some people might think 'Pearl' is a departure for us is because alot of people haven't grasped what we're about. It's only a departure from what people perceived us as rather than what we actually were. We have been a bit misunderstood. When the whole picture's out, once people see us for what we really are, then they'll start taking us seriously," says Stephen.

To what end?

"Well, obviously success would be nice but ifs not really a motivation as such," says Andrew, "In away, it would be a disaster if 'Pearl' was a hit, because people would expect a lot from us and put pressures on us that we don't want at this moment. We'd rather continue recording good records over a long period of time at our own pace which is what we've been doing so far."

CHAPTERHOUSE quite like The Charlatans and love "The Only One I Know" but wouldn't want to be in their shoes for a million pounds. The group is too precious to them to let it get out of hand, to let it get trivialised into a sex thing. Has it always been this way?

"Well, we are pretty intense about it. Girlfiends and such like always say, 'Oh, you're alwas going on about the band blahdeblah', but it's just omething we can t help," says Andrew. "It just kinda takes over in a way. I mean, when you're doing other things, it's always in the back of your mind, it always nags you."

"It's something that we all wanna do but it wasn't a conscious decision - that's what's weird about it. We we all known each other for a long time and one day we just thought we'd go along and do some songs in a rehersal room. We didn't even think about forming a band, we didn't choose a name for months and months and we didn't think about gigs or records or anything. We were just doing cover versions like 'Rain', Byrds, Beatles, garage stuff from the 'Pebbles' album, some Stooges, and then someone asked us if we wanted to play a gig so we thought we'd better write same of our own songs and choose a name and it's just gone onwards from there. We've been quite passive about the whole thing. We've just let it roll."

"All the people we used to know have got company cars and a few grand a year while we're still... eating sandwiches while we can," says Stephen. "I always knew inside that ...I know this sounds pretentious, but that I was going to do something special. I knew I couldn't work in an office for a year and a half and it just tore me apart. I just lost myself. It was a really sad state of affairs. lf you look around and see all these people, can't honestly imagine any of them want to be doing it, unless they just don't think about it."

Perhaps they all just live for the weekend.

"But that wasn't enough because switching off your mind all week just dulls it for the time when you are free."

"I think having a job is almost like away to escape, rust away to occupy your time so you don't have to think about everything the whole time," says Andrew.

Think about that?? The fact that we're all gonna die.

"Yeah," says the pefectly cheerful Andrew.


CHAPTERHOUSE have been playing around town lately and they tour pretty soon, supported by Moose. The queues are atready round the block to see Stephen and Andrew trade vocals in the blast of the Iightshow.

"It's abit uncomfortable live at the moment because we re not really natural performers," says Andrew. "Sometimes it's great, sometimes it isn't and don't really know what that depends on. It's just that sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't.

"I feel more comfortable after having a couple of drinks or something - y'know you can loosen up but then I always make do that so it's a big decision about what counts most."

You're not a drugs band then, not daytripping members of the new acid elite?

"Well,, I think taking acid, going to a club and dancing limits the experience of the thing," says Stephen. "Doing acid is a really personal thing and I aIways treat it with some kind of respect because really it's quite a strong thing to do to your body and you've gotta be really careful with it. Going to a club and dancing would water down the experience because all you'd be using it for is a stimulant."

You might as well take speed.

"Exactly. There's a difference between escapism and constructive escapism. if you know about all the troubles that ore going on and you're just trying to forget them for a while that's a heaIthy thing to do. But when you're doing it to forget about them and you never sort them out and they just grow bigger and bigger, that's dangerous."

Are the songs escapist?

"I think the songs are about themselves really, says Andrew. "We don't just pick a subject and think, 'Riqht, let's just write another one about love or anything like that. I tend to get an image in my head and then construct the song around that. The words, in a way, are only there aesthetically to reflect the mood ofthe music, There's no big meanings that we want people to take out ala Billy Bragg.

"I find it all a bit ungraspable really because normally the first port of writing a song is choosing a chord and that chord evokes a mood inside me and I've got a kind of image in my head but it's cloudy and I'm trying to express it and that's really how the song progresses from there onwards. It's not something that's clear as day in front of me."

"I think your subconscious can do things a hell of a lot better than you can, says Stephen, "and ifyou actually consciously try to write lyrics, they always sound too real, they never have that deeper thin which actually moves you. I think they're like vague thought processes that just conjure up images. Ultimately, no matter how well you write about your own experiences, nobody con ever understand them. You can never really understand anybody else. So, therefore, when you're cuffing across your point of view, it never really touches on anybody else so closely that it relates to them. But a vague push in a thought direction is enough to prompt the person's own experience because ultimately everybody always applies them to their own experience, they never feel the emotions of someone else. they just apply them to their own emotions."

WHAT will it be like when Chapterhouse are on "Top of The Pops"?

It'll be like when the record company takes us to some snazzy restaurant that we'd never be in if we weren't in a band and ther'es this bunch of scruffy bastards in this snazzy resturant and it feels completely alien to us but we really get off on that."

The revolution WILL be televised. Tun on in.

'Pearl' is released by Dedicated this week. Chapterhouse are on tour right now.

Orignally appeared in Melody Maker March 23, 1991. Copyright © Melody Maker