In these apathetic times we need a band like Chumbawamba more than ever. While people are coming together on a mass level to protest and show this disenchantment with Government Bodies and Multinational companies, the music scene remains as conservative as it's ever been. Our so called Alternative Icons are simply pilfering from times past and saying nothing and yet still the likes of Chumbawamba, ADF and more recently the New Wave Of New Angry scene have displayed there's more important things to say. We caught up with Alice Nutter to find out about the bands new album "Readymades" which takes folk samples and places them in a contemporary setting of break beats and synths.
Q: You've got the new album "Readymades" out now. The
concept is very much about looking back to history and realizing were still
making the same mistakes now. Would you like elaborate?
A: We wanted to make an album that was steeped in history, but that said relevant things about contemporary culture. But we also didn't want to make it too obvious. We tried to make an album which was much more plaintive and we wanted to use folk samples...because a lot of British Working Class History is being preserved by people like Martin Carthy that are taping folk songs. Well Folk Music is Pop Music isn't it. It's like what Louis Armstrong said "All music is folk music. I've never heard a horse sing a song". Loads of the stories of what happened to people's life's have been preserved by folk music and a lot of stuff that was used on that album was taped in pubs in the 50s.
Q: So it started off as a concept album then?
A: Every single album we've ever made has started off as a concept. We've never made an album which hasn't been sat down and talked about as an idea. And we've never made an album where we've not jumped halfway through and said ok it's not where we want it to be. And one thing we do dare do is throw things away.
This one started off with folk samples, but we weren't
being brave enough. We were still using shouty choruses and it was like
no we have to get rid of them. You can't just do the same thing over and
over again. We've done this sort of thing before, we've done an acapella
folk album in 87, but we've never done it so completely.
Q: When you first started off you could barely play
an instrument. Do you think over the years you've got more muso?
A: In all aspects of Chumbawamba we learn to do what we have to do. We've always love music but we've never ever had a jam. But that doesn't mean to say that you don't hear or play a piece of music and get shivers down your spine at something emotive. In fact it's the one art form which operates subconsciously. It's not an intellectual thing like looking at a picture, it plays on your mood.
In some ways were actively punk. Regardless of how well
we can play, were never going to spend a long time looking in music shops!!!
Q: Do you find there are any bands around like you
at the moment?
A: Alabama 3. Their attitude is they do what they do for the enjoyment of it. They are actively awkward and they write songs which are engaged with the world and yet they've got a sense of Hedonism about it.
I think there is a conscious media IPC thing not to write about politics. I don't think the NME's changed to writing about Destiny's Child because it loves R&B. It thinks that that's the biggest market and it's lowest common denominator. In the same way that big record labels have stopped nurturing individual talents and gone for manufactured bands. It's easier to have a Popstar or a Pop Idol on your books because when they're gone replace them. F**k it, they're disposable!!!
I think it's always been unfashionable to be political
because even in 93 / 94 there was always a general sense of you're not
supposed to be doing this. All art forms should be engaged in the world
outside itself otherwise what is it. What is it for? There's a quote that
say's "The job of art isn't to change the world. It's to change our perception
of it". Whether it's in sound or ideas people should step of of the little
box of whatever's fashionable at the time.
Q: Do you always find that personally putting an idea
down into maybe a 4 minute tune is too hard to do. So you use the sleeve
notes and quotes as way to put across the ideas with more clarity
and offer somewhere else to go after the listener has played the records?
A: We decided a while ago not to try and explain the world in 3 minutes because poetically it f**ks you up. It's really limiting. And part of doing what we do is we just like the poetry of it. I think some people think if you've got politics you've no metaphors or no poetry or no love of language. And we have a love of language in the same we have a love of sound. It's a definite decision were not going to write manifesto's.
Without the sleeve notes you'd probably have no idea of
what was going on in "Readymades". I'm quite happy for people to take them
as tunes - it's like sex, music - pleasure for pleasures sake. And that's
great. Whatever you can grab to make your life better grab it.
Q: Last time we spoke your kid was about a year old.
Do you find there are conflicts between your life as a member of Chumbawamba
and your life as a mother?
A: I hate it when people say are you making music that is more mellow now you have a family. Absolutely not at all. Me and Boff went to Genoa last year and when I came back I thought thank god this is still in my life. Thank god that I can meet up with other people and there is this world-wide movement going on and it's not this thing that as you get older - that being part of something bigger than yourself as a social movement to change the world isn't something that goes.
There was a woman on the radio the other day who had wrote a book about how difficult it was in meetings once you're a working mother. She was like "Oh, You have baby sick on your business suit". Most people don't have a bloody business suit!!!
The idea for me is to try and include her in the things I want to do where possible. So for instance, there were this No Borders conference in Strasbourg this weekend which is a meeting for internet stuff and radical ideas. And me & my partner said shall we go over and include her in it. All I want for her is to be a nice person and to feel loved, but I'll let her find her own away as long as she doesn't become a copper!!!
"Readymades" is out now
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