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Spiritual Orgasms

"We play guitar, and we formed a band, and music is our chosen field to express ourselves. We maybe could have gone into other fields - and we are interested in other art forms - but music is more challenging. So therefore it is our way of purging ourselves, and on a musical level we've got no other ambitions other than that."

Chapterhouse's Steve Patman is ruminating over what this year has meant to his band. 'Whirlpool', their sensuous, delicious debut LP went straight into the National Charts at Number 13; gigs were packed with an ever growing legion of entranced worshippers, and the press, as a result, have been banging their thesauruses with glee, in the anticipation of finding that perfect phrase to express the realms of beauty from which Chapterhouse have come.

It's all been a mite confusing for the Reading based longhairs whose first, grittily psychedelic EP 'Freefall' came out less than a year ago. But Chapterhouse have always been wise beyond their years.

"Well, we kind of knew to a cenain extent that it was all coming together quite well, but getting that far up the Charts was quite a surprise, "Steve admits. "Then, when it did happen, and people started raving, we soon found out that meant absolutely bollock all; and that sucess as far as selling records is no reflection of a band's talent.

"We know how good the record is. We know how bad it is. We can do a lot better than that. But it's taught us that the more praise you get, the more irrelevant it becomes, and the only thing you should have aims towards is the music."

Nonetheless, the success of 'Whirlpool' has proved one of Steve's pet theories wrong. He once claimed that no one would recognise the importance of Chapterhouse until long after they'd split up.

"Well, yeah," he considers, flicking a hefty lump of fringe out of his eyes. "Even so, I still feel that I wasn't talking about being recognised as successful, I was talking about being recognised on a real level, for what we were. And we're still not recognised, cos I suppose it's gone to the other extreme now, people are complimenting us more than we deserve. I suppose people will never realise what we're capable of musically until we get there.

"We're kind of glad that it's taken a while to happen, though," he continues. "If it had happened on our first couple of EP's, we wouldn't have been in a position where we could have wholeheartedly backed up what we were doing. As they came out, we were almost immediately dissatisfied with them. Although we're still in that position with the album, and, to a lesser degree, 'Pearl', we do feel a lot stronger as a band, and a lot more definite about our aims. We've laid a solid foundation to work on now. Now we feel we can go anywhere."

The first few bars of the aforementioned 'Pearl' were what it took to convince the world of Chapterhouse's worth. Here were a band who could quite easily have stuck to a safely commercial formula, but who, quite simply, were not interested in that. Chapterhouse grasped new ideas, new technology with a passion, working them into a limitless vision of what they knew they could achieve.

"Definitely," Steve agrees. "We've only got musical ambitions, and we want to be in a position where we can be constantly challenging ourselves, pushing ourselves further. We don't ever want one of our records to be the be all and end all of Chapterhouse.

"I don't know if we will ever achieve what we feel we're capable of," he says, eyes misting over at the prospect. "I almost pride myself on my under achievement! And we've always said that if we reach a level when we're not going to improve any further, we want to split. As an idealist, I'll say that and stick with it. Because ultimately, we are doing this for ourselves."

However, Chapterhouse's music has always stemmed from a power to create atmosphere, without you even having to understand the words. 'Die Die Die', from their first demo, was a rage in intensity, just as 'Pearl' is a swooning aura of bliss. They may be on a personal trip, but the effect a Chapterhouse song can have on a person is not to be underestimated.

"Yeah, well, that's great, and that makes that personal achievement more worthwhile," Steve responds. "If you have done enough to move people, then that's nice to know...and to know what you could be capable of doing to people is outrageous!

"We once said that ultimately, one day, we'd like to make a record that is orgasmic! And there are records that exist that you can put them on and have, like, a spiritual orgasm, in the mind."

This said, though, Steve is a bit afraid of his audience getting too fruity.

"It's easy to get a false impression of the kind of people who are into the music, cos, unfortunately, the ones who want to come and meet you after a gig aren't the ones that you really want to meet. We do get a lot of girls, and we do try and be nice. Russell gets all of them, really, cos he's got the Neanderthal look that girls apparently go for!

"We've never been rude to anyone," he goes on, "but I'm sure there is a point where you can't deal with it any more. Because these people are in such awe. And, firstly, you feel that you don't deserve that from anybody, and on top of that, you feel indebted to them, cos they've gone through so much for you. There's people that have slept in bus shelters after gigs, and people that have travelled all the way from Glasgow to the ULU and then not had a ticket," he recounts, in genuine awe.

"It leaves you in a position where you feel indebted to them, but through no fault of your own. But it does your head in, cos you wouldn't do that for anyone."

It's because you are filling a void in these people's lives, though. That's why your music is so potent.

"I hope so," Steve nods. "Really, we do just experiment in various emotional landscapes. We do try and create atmospheres. Our songs aren't created to say anything. Basically, music is just escapism, and we want to create a beautiful place to escape to. That's why, when we come out with a song, we'll write all the lyrics last, to enhance that idea. The music can inspire certain emotions, and if you write lyrics that are an extension of that, then no part of the music has greater importance than anything else. It's all there."

What makes Chapterhouse so special is that they realise the power of what they are dealing with, and know how to put it into positive effect.

"The thing about music...," Steve begins, "I think it was James Joyce who said, out of all the arts, music is the only one that can effect you immediately, without you having to read anything into it. Not like looking at a painting and seeing what it does to you, or reading a book and having to analyse what is said. Music is the only art form that can go straight in there. So, therefore, I feel we're dealing with the most powerful artform. Although, in a lot of ways it's been trivialised to the point that in a lot of ways it's the most meaningless artform, from most people's perspectives, to me it is the most powerful.

"To use that to its full is what we're about. And to try and lift people to somewhere that is a good place to be. We don't want people to live in a dreamworld - but we would like to create some good places to go when they feel like it!"

Dream on.

Orignally appeared in Siren Issue 1. Copyright © Siren