Chapterhouse began their career at the beginning of the 90’s releasing several singles of pure pop genius, heavy on the atmospherics and guitar effects. Music fans looking for something new found videos on MTV’s 120 Minutes. Today you can hear echoes of Chapterhouse in such bands as Airiel, A Shoreline Dream, A Place to Bury Strangers and in the electronic works of Ulrich Schnauss who will be appearing on their short U.S. tour, postponed from early summer thanks to a certain Icelandic volcano.
I‘m happy to see you back together and giving fans new and old a chance to see you in the States. What was the process to even get back together? What was the first show and how was the reception?
Stephen Patman (Vocals, Guitars): We’ve been asked to reform numerous times over the years but never really took it seriously. It was always something that we planed to just leave in our past. We’ve remained good friends so nothing has stood in our way but we had no imminent drive to do it.
The initial spark came when Ulrich Schnauss did a cover of our song Love Forever and asked Andy and I if we would like to contribute to it. We did some vocals and guitar for the track and it came out on a Sonic Cathedral compilation. A few months later Sonic Cathedral were curating a stage at Truck Festival in Oxfordshire and asked if the two of us would like to join Ulrich on stage at the end of the night to perform the cover live. Since it didn’t really involve a lot of work to get one song together we asked Simon to join us and did the gig. This gave us a little insight that it was quite fun to play together again but we took it no further. Then last year we were approached by Club AC30 (a record label and club that specialises in what is now termed ‘Nugaze’) who asked us to play their yearly 3 day mini festival ‘Reverence’ in London. We had a chat amongst ourselves and for some reason it felt like the right time to do it. This was the first show and it sold out. The fans were really enthusiastic, it was a surreal but fun show. You can see 3 songs from it on our website www.chapterhouse.info
How have you all been getting along on the road? Who is the biggest joker, the most serious, etc?
Stephen: We’ve all remained good friends and see a lot of each other anyway so there has not been any kind of adjustment. We just get to do something a bit more fun together than sit in a pub and drink, although that is fun.
Andy Sherriff (Vocals, Guitars): We all had a rehearsal together to make sure that the music still sounded good and we enjoyed playing it. It did so we went ahead. We spent a lot of time at the US Embassy bonding. Stephen is the most serious, but I’m not sure we have a joker. If pressed I’d say Ash.
Ashley Bates (Drums): I think we’re all a bunch of jokers:^) Its all good times so far…. Ask me again at the end of this next tour.
What have you all been doing between the reuniting and when you decided to end Chapterhouse pt. 1?
Andy: We have mostly been working in the media.
Stephen: Simon joined the Slowdive spin off Mojave 3 (he recently did some shows with them on a mini reunion of their own), Andy went on to make dance music with Biocom, Ashley put together his band Cuba and I went into music production. For the last 10 years Andy, Ashley and I have been composing music and sound design for TV and Film. Russ (Barrett, Bass) is working with Sundial and Ashley has been playing with Tunng for the last 5 years.
Simon, will Mojave 3 reconvene? I read that you were initially invited to join the band because you sounded like Robbie Robertson? Is this true and if so have you met him? How has your playing evolved since starting Chapterhouse, Mojave 3, all the way through to now?
Simon Rowe: Actually, I’m pleased to say that Mojave 3 already have reconvened. Rachel (Goswell) has recently had a baby & so she wasn’t part of the recent reunion but earlier this year I got a message from Neil (Halstead) asking if I’d like to play a few shows in the UK supporting Jack Johnson on his short tour of huge UK areas. It was great fun to play again & the rehearsals down in sunny Cornwall fell together very quickly. I’ve since been asked to play in China with them but couldn’t make it to this one. There is also quiet talk of recording something again & I would find it hard to say no if this happened.
As far a sounding like Robbie Robertson goes, I think I’ve got a bit more homework to do before that dream comes true. I will admit to wishing I sounded like him in his Dylan years, but the truth is that Andy (Chapterhouse) was a friend of Neil’s (Mojave 3) & when Chapterhouse was ending, Andy recommended me to Neil. I have seen Robbie Robertson once at a studio in London: I’d received a call from friends Gomez to sing backing vocals on a track called Devil Will Rise & he was recording there too. I was too much in awe to say anything to him though. What would you say anyway, I’m sure he already knows he’s talented?
I do think my playing has got better over the years, but I’ll never be amazing. I really don’t mind that I’ll never be the best because, for me, it’s more about fitting in with & enhancing what people are playing around you. Music should just be about finding your own style & having a good time with it. Initially it was a scary challenge moving from Chapterhouse to Mojave 3 because I realized that I relied on distortion, delay & reverb to hide onstage. When Neil asked me to play with only a slightly overdriven sound I felt very exposed but the experience, as frightening as it was back then, has made me more confident over time. Coming back to Chapterhouse I think we are all better musicians & I truly believe that the shows we have played over the last year have all been better than any we played years ago. We now know what our strengths & weaknesses are now & have tried to adjust our sound & playing to get the best outcome. We were pretty young when we did this the first time around & I think we all had reservations about some of what we did & how we did it. This time we are delighted to be able to play the songs we love the most in the way they deserve to be heard live & we are really looking forward to sharing the experience in the States.
Ashley, please tell us about Tunng, how you joined and how playing drums for Chapterhouse is different or the same as guitar and banjo for Tunng.
Ashley: My mate Phil and I had been discussing how we missed playing live in bands and he decided he was going to go and find us one. A couple of weeks later he said he had. Shortly after, we were in a bar in London and Phil pointed out Mike (Lindsay, from Tunng ) across the room. A little merry, I barged through the crowd up to Mike and adamantly insisted that I was now in his band. Although taken back at the time (never having met me before), Mike eventually came round to the idea and that was that.
Playing live for me is always very similar whether you’re playing the drum, a ukulele or BC Rich Warlock. I must say though, sitting behind a drum kit I feels a little more at ease. Whether that’s because I have something larger to hide behind, or I’ve been doing it since I was 15 I couldn’t say.
Andrew, you’ve worked as a sound engineer? What are some of the things you’ve worked on? How did that come about and what are some of the rewarding aspects of your work?
Andrew: I suppose working with people like Andrew Weatherall and Alex Patterson have been highlights. I enjoy working with sound, manipulating it is what I enjoy most (if we are talking about non physical enjoyment).
What was the sample (if there was only one) on Blood Music that caused all the ruckus? Why were samples necessary?
Stephen: It wasn’t really a sample as such. We were recording an instrumental for Blood Music called Deli at the producer Youth’s (from Killing Joke) studio in Brixton. An American poet friend of Youth’s had recorded some of his poems at the studio and the guy we were working with on the track pulled a tape out and suggested we put some of this recording into the mix. He assured us that the guy would be cool about this but as it turned out he was not. There were further issues that he had with Youth and, basically, he used this situation to get back at Youth and we were caught in the crossfire. Somehow the guy got legal aid and halfway through our last American tour we received a lawsuit that informed us that Blood Music had to be withdrawn from the record stores. SonyBMG/Arista, or whatever they are called now, pulled the plug on the album and effectively said ‘lets forget this one, go write another’.
Andrew: At the time we were recording Blood Music using samples was the experimental thing to do. Thankfully, people have woken up to the fact that they enjoy a unique, not a borrowed form of music. Using samples gave you a mainline into emotion, perhaps in retrospect that was lazy. We were using all available tools that were available to us. Weirdly enough, songs like Everytime despite being drowned in beats and production are still naively indie songs and as such have a charm.
How will these songs sound live? Which songs do you particularly enjoy playing live?
Andrew: Apart from Pearl and Love Forever all the songs will be performed completely live. Those two have special free from P.E. notes. I have enjoyed playing all the songs equally, which has been a surprise.
Stephen: We’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to readdress some the songs we weren’t happy with the production of on the records. Our later stuff got a bit overblown with technology and we decided to strip things back and approach the songs in a more straightforward ‘band kicking some ass’ kinda way. We’ve also had the ability to cherry pick our favourite songs and do them some justice. I think people will be surprised at which songs we have chosen as we always preferred our B-sides and less ‘radio friendly’ material. We don’t have the pressures of trying to sell anything so we have the freedom to do what the fuck we like. We think we are better than we’ve ever been live and feedback from the shows has backed that up.
Ashley: I love playing them all! (Although as a petulant teenager that was not always the case ;^)
Did you have any input in choosing your tour support? I enjoy Ulrich Schnauss’s albums and just got the Engineers new one. Airiel always get to open for the best bands that come through Chicago and after opening for Swervedriver are now opening for another of their heroes in Chapterhouse. Their album is incredible!
Andrew: We wanted to make the shows special, so did have quite a say in their makeup.
Stephen: Ulrich has been with us on all these dates and he has been a real help in suggesting bands that would compliment the shows. There seems to be a lot of them around these days.
Are there some bands you’ve enjoyed over the years that we might be interested in?
Stephen: Too many to mention here, sorry.
I think Blood Music is still an excellent album. You were progressive and had many voices dictating the sound of your album, but I enjoy listening to it every few months due to the immediacy and passion I hear in every song. Plus, I got the Global Communication remix album and I love those two, who, like yourselves, only put out a few albums before going their separate ways. Have you heard their Jedi Knights album? Quite good fun.
Andrew: I am a big fan of Mark (Pritchard) and Tom (Middleton) and have the Jedi Knights stuff. The brightest stars …
Stephen: We were really happy with the way the Global Communication remix of Blood Music came out. I don’t think that anyone had had their whole album reinterpreted before at that point and it was really interesting to see what they had done with all the elements. We really liked their Reload work so knew it would be good.