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