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THE CHEFS INTERVIEW
The No Class squad having gone to the depths of Kilburn, with a tape recorder so temperamental that it finally packed in , found itself in the presence of The Chefs, to do another world-killing interview.
NC: No Class / CE: Carl Evans (guitar, vocals) / RG: Russell Greenwood (drums) / JM: James MaCallum (guitar) / HM: Helen McCookerybook (bass, vocals) / JC: Jon Crisp (manager)
CE: We're the Chefs and we moved to London eight months ago. We lived in Brighton before that and we got nowhere, so we came to London.
HM: We got as far as we could in Brighton because in Brighton there is a very big, small-bands scene, but you can only get to a certain stage and then you've played every venue and got your following and because bands play so often in Brighton, playing about two or three times a week you don't have time to write new material and it stifles your ambitions a bit. You get to play to so many people all the time, particularly in summer you get a lot of foreigners down there, people on holiday and tourists that pack out the sea front venues and you never really have to go very far away. So we decided to get out of it and moved up to London, en masse.
NC: Has it been better?
HM: Much better, it's made us be more professional as well. If you're on the South coast, you're right at the end of England, and for me anyway, it felt that there wasn't anything you could do being based in Brighton. You have to go through London to get to anywhere else, so the obvious thing was to live in London, and then you can sort of work outwards from it. You've got more directions to go in really.
NC: Do audiences exploit you for having a girl in the band?
HM: No. They used to shout "Get your pants off".
JM: And you knew who it was anyway, so it was just a joke.
HM: I don't wear dresses on stage, I just wear the same as the blokes. I don't sort of push my femininity.
CE: And we share the vocals, so the spotlight's taken off her.
NC: Would you do Rock Against Sexism Gigs?
NC: Rock Against Racism?
HM: Yeah, we're doing one in Brighton on the 30th May with the Pirahnas.
JM: We did an Anti-Corrie gig as well, you know when the Corrie Bill was going through.
HM: But Rock Against Sexism is a bit peculiar. I used to live in a house with a lot of feminists and I found out they were being sexist. They were very sort of feminist that they wouldn't allow a bloke to live in the house, and they used to not speak to blokes if they came round and things like that. I just thought that was stupid. You have to be careful because sometimes these things are really good ideas and then when it boils down to it , they are just as bad as the 'causes' they are supposed to be fighting against.
NC: So why did you do the CND one?
CE: We knew one of the people organising it and she asked us to play.
HM: We are doing some other CND ones as well: a medical one, Doctors Against The Bomb. It's sensible doing that. It's not particularly political is it, to do CND things? It's just an obvious thing to do for anybody young, nobody wants the bomb, do they?
JM: That was a bit too political, that Dollis Hill one.
CE: We really did it just for publicity. We didn't disagree with it but I think we just did it for publicity. The more the people can see you the better. I mean, what good can a march do?
HM: I think it's nice to be identified with something like that.
JM: I think it does affect people's opinions, because they see somebody else shouting about it and they might shout about it and do something when the time comes. It's limited because it's true to say that it's a certain kind of people who are going to march and that's the sort of people who hate the idea of getting blown up.
CE: It was quite good playing through the streets and everybody looking out of their windows and staring at you.
HM: Every time the band practices you have to think about not disturbing people and not making a noise. It was really good to just go out on the streets and make a hell of a racket.
NC: Do you live off the band?
JM: No, we're not making any money at the moment. We spend a lot of money.
HM: We've bought a phone and a van. That helped us to become more professional too, because we never had a proper phone number. Whoever was working, that was the phone number that people had to ring up. Quite often, if you're working, your boss really hates you using the phone. So we got a phone, put it in here, and we bought a van as well because we worked out it cost such a lot of money to hire a van. Even this year I suppose, we've probably saved as much money as we would have spent on the van just by not having to hire one.
JM: We are not really out for money at the moment, we're out for gigs as we want to get known. We're not really terribly fussy about money, to say the least. We rarely get paid much for gigs. We got a few bob for doing the John Peel session but that's all been spent on something already and there's no chance of us doing that until we've got everything we need and paid all our expenses. Then we might start making money.
CE: You make money when you sign up.
HM: We haven't got a record company at the moment. We did two singles on a Brighton record label (Attrix) and our contract with them was for two singles so we are now looking for another record company.
NC: Do you have jobs?
HM: Well, Russ is working and the other three of us are signing on. It would be nice eventually to earn our livings (through the band). Even if we got less money than signing on, just being a professional musician means a lot to you.
NC: Will you try and form your own label?
JM: We've thought about it. It's too expensive. It's beyond us because you've got to get things like record sleeves printed which is really an expensive thing to do. If you're going to bring out a single you've got to press a thousand at least and it's just beyond us.
HM: I think in about six months time if we haven't managed to attach ourselves to some record company or another we might. I think it's very important to keep bringing out stuff in a band. We are doing a track on a compilation LP that the promoter of the Moonlight Club is bringing out. That will be our next release anyway, but I think you have to keep producing stuff just to keep yourself writing new songs, apart from anything else.
JM: We like recording things. We've brought out a couple of singles. We may not have been ready to actually do the songs as singles. We may not have got them worked out enough, or whatever, but it was worth doing if just to get the stuff down on tape.
NC: What about the name?
CE: First one we could think of. We wrote a song about food.
HM: Carl and I were in a band in Brighton called The Smarties. We had each written a couple of songs, so we had that as our repertoire. The first song that we actually did with the band was a poem I had written which Carl had set to music, and because that was our only proper song, when we went out trying to get gigs and were asked 'What are you called?', Carl couldn't think of anything else apart from the title of the song which was Ken Wood and the Chefs, so he just said 'The Chefs'. We've spent something like a year and a half trying to live down the fact that we're called The Chefs. Everybody expects us to sing funny songs about food. At one stage people used to come up and they had written songs about garlic and they would say 'I've written a great song for you' and they would come out with this poem. We don't really do that song any more, if we can help it.
NC: Do you write the songs together?
JM: No, those two write the songs separately. It's about fifty, fifty.
HM: We all do the arrangement of the songs, but the actual ideas and tunes and words and things, me and Carl do that.
NC: How would you categorise your music?
HM: Bo Diddley meets Adam and the Ants.
JM: We did this song for the John Peel session and the engineers said it was like Bo Diddley meets Adam and the Ants.
HM: Somebody else said we are a cross between The Archies and the Velvet Underground.
JM: It's a very untypical sound. It's pop music of various kinds. We don't limit ourselves that much.
HM: It's melodic pop with choruses and things like that. It's quite lively music I think. But on stage we are not lively at all. We just sort of stand there. I think it's difficult for people who come and see us because we play very happy music, but we all stand there looking as miserable as sin.
JM: That's probably an exaggeration. We smile sometimes.
NC: What other interviews have you done?
HM: We've done two fanzines. One called Rapid Eye Movement, by a bloke who writes for Sounds now: Simon Dwyer.
JC: And TTFN.
CE: When did we do that?
HM: You weren't there. You went to see the El Trains.
JM: We were in a sort of Rough Trade magazine as well It's only really been since Christmas that anything's been happening at all, like people showing particular interest in the John Peel session, and things like that.
NC: How did you get the John Peel session?
HM: I had been writing to John Peel for a while and one day me and Jonathan, we were quite drunk We had a load of photographs of the band done by this bloke who worked in a studio that photographed food for recipe books, and we went to collect the photographs and he had some food left over, and some punch as well. So we ate all that up and by that time it was about half past nine, so we decided to go and see John Peel and just shake hands with him and we went and sat through one of his shows. He was really friendly and nice and then a couple of weeks later he rang up Jonathan and asked us to do session.
NC: Anybody into astrology, or anything like that?
HM: We are very sort of normal people, as you have no doubt gathered.
JM: I think all that stuff has come in because psychedelia is unfortunately becoming quite hip again, and people becoming obscure about things. It's very straight forward , what we do. I suppose it's our upbringing, 1977 style.
HM: We all started off in punk bands.
NC: Anybody we've heard of?
HM: No, not really.
CE: Who was that band you used to strum for?
HM: Some of them turned into Wasted Youth.
RG: And some of them were The Unwanted, as well.
HM: I used to borrow Poison Girls' bass guitar when they first stated up.