The following news story appeared on the T&M homepage
CHARGE 69 - New Album Featuring Charlie Harper
FANTASTIC INTERVIEW IN THE PUNKED ONLINE 'ZINE
The latest online edition of the wonderful 'Punked' fanzine includes a fascinating interview with Charge 69s' Caps concerning the new album 'Much More Than Music' which features Charlie Harper on vocals amongst other punk luminaries.
"Maybe the singer who influenced me the most is Charlie Harper as I bought ‘Another Kind Of Blues’ in ‘79 or early ‘80. I have met him so many times since ‘82/’83 and had the honour to play quite a lot with the UK Subs. But all of the other vocalists have a very big place in my life and in my culture too. Punk changed my life and gave me the opportunity to make it exciting for more than three decades now. What more could I say but, THANK YOU!.."
Full interview is also archived on T&M below
Much More Than Music: Part Two By Johnny Heartbreaker
Back in May of this year France’s finest punk musical export, Metz based Charge 69 (C69), released what is already now considered to be one of punk’s all-time classic albums - ‘Much More Than Music’. Unquestionably - most argue - its release created punk history by combining a C69 ‘Best Of’ with cherry-picked legendary punk vocalists like the Adverts TV Smith, the Boys Matt Dangerfield, the UK Subs Charlie Harper and the Lurkers Arturo Bassick to take over singing duties. Punked caught up recently then with C69 bassist and long-term band member Claude ‘Cap’ Chervet to discuss the merits, and let’s be honest, the sheer brazen audacity of releasing punks very first such concept album, three decades after first getting together as angst-ridden youths to take on the world by (musical) storm... Can you tell us what first motivated/inspired C69 to record ‘Much More Than Music’, as a ‘Best Of’ with a little bit of a twist i.e. cherry-picked legendary punk vocalists taking over the singing duties? We wanted to make a kind of ‘Best Of’ but we wanted to make something a bit special, a bit different than the usual stuff so we thought it could be great to make it in English. As we also play a lot in foreign countries, it could maybe attract a wider audience. Unfortunately, our English accent is awful and there is nothing worse than listening to a song with a shitty accent. So we decided to ask all our heroes from ‘77 to ‘83 if they would like to give us a hand and sing on one of our songs. The first ones we asked were Charlie Harper and TV Smith. They agreed and the adventure started here. How would you say that this little bit of a twist then marks ‘Much More Than Music’ out as punk’s first concept album; and what concept - in your mind at least - is being promoted and seen for the very first time here? I think that a few bands covered songs from their favourite artists and asked that particular band to participate on the recorded output, like “Learning English” from Die Toten Hosen; and some bands had a few guests on their albums. But our idea was to have all of our tracks sung by our youth heroes. It’s a bit crazy and megalomaniac I admit - but so much more enjoy full. You can’t imagine the state that we were in during that conception! It might come across as a little pretentious but I think it was - and still is - a great idea. What criteria did C69 use to decide just which of its songs (i) would actually appear on the album and (ii) which particular vocalist would be best suited to each? (for example: I personally couldn’t imagine anyone other than the UK Subs Charlie Harper ever having been chosen to sing “Birth Of A Century - 21st Century Rockers”). That was not easy. As you said for a few it was totally clear i.e. Charlie for the reggae style of “Birth Of A Century - 21st Century Rockers” or Colin GBH on “The Eighties” – I couldn’t imagine someone else singing that one. For the others, we tried to compare their vocal styles with which of our songs we felt it might fit best. So we just tried to imagine what it could sound like with ‘this particular’ singer on ‘that particular’ song, and then we proposed the song we thought was the best for them. Most of them agreed but some preferred to change and choose another song; and it was good as the final result pleased us so much. There is not one song which disappointed us. Which particular problems did C69 experience in bringing both album and vocalists together ‘under one roof’; especially in terms of the physical logistics of distance between the recording studio and individual vocalists? We didn’t make it under ‘one roof’ at all. We couldn’t afford that, so we went back in to the studio and re-recorded our own personal favourite tracks. When we had chosen which songs would fit which singer best we then made a rough copy of it and sent it to them, along with the original lyrics. Then they had to rewrite and adapt the text as they ‘felt’ it, with their own words, to make it physically fit alongside the music. After that I had to find a studio in their area where they could record their vocals. Then, after I had received all the vocal files back, everything was sent on to Jon Caffery who mixed it all. We then checked if the singers were happy with their particular track or wanted to make some further modifications to it. When everyone was happy with the final result, we then had to decide an order to get an interesting track listing. - 3 - (Continued on page 4) Once that was done I then had to arrange all the artwork, promotion etc. It wasn’t easy (!) but it really was worth all the effort I think. Do you think that the concept behind ‘Much More Than Music’ which you detailed earlier - and also its overall vision - were as equally shared by its guest vocalists; or was it just a simple case that each saw it as yet another opportunity to ‘sell their (respective) wares’ to a wider audience? I couldn’t answer for them of course. Some were maybe more enthusiastic than others. But then they all took time out to do it and that’s amazing: and I don’t think they need us to get themselves a bigger audience. They didn’t make it for profit so I really think they put their energy in this project because they liked the idea and/or appreciated us as a band. Their involvement has gone straight to our heart and we are so happy about it, as I’m not sure that this kind of record could have been possible in any other kind of music scene. Was there a particular point or moment during the whole process of putting the album together where you personally had to stand back and ‘pinch’ yourself in disbelief that, not just one but TEN, of your favourite punk vocalists were going to be singing YOUR songs; and how did this realisation make you feel on both an emotional and creative level? For the creative part, I think that the songs took on a whole new dimension; and personally, on an emotional level, I was in a dream - and I still can’t quite believe it! A dream turned into reality. What else could I say? It’s certainly one of the greatest moments of my life. Again, what criteria did C69 use when deciding to use Jon Caffery as a producer and to release the album on UK Subs specialist label, Time & Matter Recordings ? We met Jon Caffery (I think) in 2010. We had a new line up comprising long term friends at the time, and we just thought it would be great to work with someone who has the same point of view on music as us. We wanted some one who could get involved in a record with us, someone who was more than just a sound engineer. I’ve been a big DTH fan for ages and I’ve always been impressed by the quality of their records, especially the production, so we decided to get in touch with Jon. We met someone (Jon) who was very interesting, very passionate and he took the project like a kind of challenge as he had never produced a French singing band before. First we made a 4 track EP ‘Retour au Front’ together and after that a complete album called ‘Resistance Electrique’; and we were more than happy with the results on both. This way of working was also great. Jon came to see us practice a few times and gave us some opinions and advice. It was the very first time that someone outside the band had told us anything about the construction of songs or the way in which to play them. It was a bit strange but he made it a brilliant learning curve i.e. no stress, just simple discussion. Like two different ideas going in the same direction. We liked the recording sessions with Jon so much that it would have been impossible to make ‘Much More Than Music’ with anyone else. Initially ’Much More Than Music’ was released in France via my own label Combat Rock in CD and white or black vinyl formats. It’s also licensed in Germany to Sunny Bastards who produced it in red vinyl and CD formats. There is also a licence in Poland via Lou and Rocked Boys, but just in a digipack CD format. It was quite evident for me to choose Time and Matter for UK distribution as we love what they do and their devotion to the UK SUBS is something that we share, so it was an easy choice. As it was their 20th release they decided to make a limited edition in blue vinyl, to remember the very first UK Subs classic album ‘Another Kind Of Blues’. ‘Much More Than Music’ is also distributed in Northern Countries, Spain and Japan. We’re still searching for a licence for US or South American distribution. Certainly one of the more endearing elements to ‘Much More Than Music’ in my opinion is its (almost) youthful exuberance and sheer unadulterated joyous celebration of still playing punk music 25 years on, as a band and as individuals. Where then does this sustained energy and passion, both as a musical collective and as individuals, continue to come from? That’s right we are teenagers of 40/50 (!) and we still love (punk) as much as we did on the very first day. (Continued on page 5) - 4 - You know, I’m still running to my letter box in the mornings to check if I received the new records I ordered, and I’m still excited to go to gigs and meet new people. Can’t tell you where it’s coming from - in fact I think I’m really lucky to have that passion inside of me still intact. Sadness and loss seem to constitute part of the lyrical content on the album. Not least in respect of friends you’ve known who have not - for whatever reason - lasted the ‘punk course’ as so many of us have. In some ways then is there also an element of present day catharsis in the songs C69 chose? A way of coming to terms in some small way with shared paths once taken, but now travelled alone in 2015? We’ve known each other a few decades now so - and like everyone else - we’ve shared both good times and bad times together. We’ve been through tragedies, sorrows and great fun moments. It’s a vast period and we talk about it all on ‘Much More Than Music’. But we don’t travel in any ‘exclusive’ direction lyrically i.e. complaining only about negative topics or being just a ‘fun band’ or giving political lessons: we just talk about and share experiences we had and, sometimes, when we play an old song, it helps us to remind ourselves - and to commemorate - the things we went through. It’s also a way of never forgetting our past too. What was the reasoning behind a ‘Best Of’ being released at this particular point in the bands career; and why the decision to follow it up with a ‘Best Of’ Volume Two, rather than with an album containing brand new material? As I said earlier, I’d had this idea in mind for ages. At first I wanted to make ‘Much More Than Music’ a 20 track album. But it took around two years just to compile these 10 songs and would have been both expensive and time consuming. So I then thought it would be a nice idea to record it as two separate volumes (!). Deciding to do so also gave me time to breath. Not least as we are also working on (that) totally brand new album of original material. We have a lot of new songs already: but we want to take our time, make some demos and record it maybe next year (we always have a lot of projects in mind. We even have another idea for a release after that next album. But will see if time allows us to concretize those projects. We keep our fingers crossed!). Are you able to share with us the next batch of songs and legendary punk vocalists C69 might have already chosen for ‘Best Of’ Volume Two; or is it still ‘a work in progress’ with details yet to be confirmed? No: in fact we prefer to keep it a secret so that it will come as a bigger surprise. However, three British singers should be recording their vocals this summer. But I can only tell you that two of them are not living in GB anymore and that Volume Two will take all the time it needs. We just want it to be as good as Volume One. Once Volume Two has been released, where do C69 go next as a musical collective? (It would strike me that expectations to follow ‘Much More Than Music’ with something as equally as special, will be extremely high to say the least: and not just for C69 fans, but also for the band members too). Musical collective is not the expression I would have chosen. But I like that kind of idea. In fact, a band is a certain number of people who want to make a certain type of music together and share moments, emotions, all that. So, some musicians sometimes leave the band, some others join the band, some come back, some not: and after all those years some want to give it up, and some want to go on. Although I think it’s not definite that people who ‘talk the same language’ and who are on the same wave length can always remain in the same band, as long as we’re having fun whilst we’re together that’s all that matters to us. Lastly - and rather than put you on the spot and ask if any one track on the album particularly stands out above any of the others for you (but feel free to answer this question if you want to!) - can you briefly sum up what it’s meant to you to be part of a seminal French punk band like C69 for the last 25 years? You can easily imagine that I cannot take one song out of that album – all of them mean so much to me. Behind each track, there is a story, lots of memories and a full feeling of happiness for the result. - 5 - (Continued on page 6) - 6 - Maybe the singer who influenced me the most is Charlie Harper as I bought ‘Another Kind Of Blues’ in ‘79 or early ‘80. I have met him so many times since ‘82/’83 and had the honour to play quite a lot with the UK Subs. But all of the other vocalists have a very big place in my life and in my culture too. Punk changed my life and gave me the opportunity to make it exciting for more than three decades now. What more could I say but, THANK YOU! In fact I would say that, like everybody else, we went through ups and downs, we had some brilliant periods, some much more quiet ones and our personal lives always paralleled the bands - and we are very happy about what we have accomplished. We know that we won’t be in music books or in dictionaries, that we will never be part of ‘The Legend’ or history. But we don’t mind. It’s not what we are looking for. We have played music that we love and we have met so many ‘heroes’ and so many people. Perhaps summed up best by a letter from a Canadian punk who told me how C69 had been important for him since his early teenage years, and that our music has accompanied him throughout all the various periods of his life since. It really touched me - and receiving that letter means enough for what we have done so far. Editor ‘Much More Than Music’ is indisputably the first concept album of its kind to be released by a punk band; and as such deserves to be judged entirely on its own merits alone. Unquestionably, those merits - a legendary vocal supporting cast, an as equally legendary producer and some of the most infectious and joyous slices of 2/3 minutes of punk music ever written - elevate ‘Much More Than Music’ into punk ‘force de majeure’ territory. This is an album that not only happily rubs shoulders with but can also hold its own against widely acclaimed classic punk albums like The Adverts ‘Crossing The Red Sea’, The Damned's’ ‘Damned Damned Damned’ and The Dead Boys ‘Young, Loud and Snotty’; and this despite it being (technically) a ‘Best Of’. ‘Much More Than Music’ also ensures that C69’s incredible song writing abilities and skills (to date encompassing seven albums, six singles and one shared EP) will now be heard by a far broader audience then even they might have once thought possible. Certainly, the album’s stand out tracks “Phoney Paradise”, “Rockstar Attitude”, “Johnny Good Boy” and “Birth Of A Century - 21st Century Rockers” wouldn’t have been out of place if e.g. Guns ‘N’ Roses had chosen to include them on their seminal 1993 covers album, ‘Spaghetti Incident’. These songs - and band - really are that good! Ultimately though, ‘Much More Than Music’s’ real strength doesn’t and shouldn’t be seen to lie in its cherry picked legendary punk vocalists. Rather, it should always be seen to lie in its ten track snap shot of the journey of a group of human beings who, despite all the trials and tribulations that life often threw at them over the years, nevertheless managed to survive to tell their tale. Albeit a little bloody and battle scarred; and though it is a tale tinged with more than its fair share of sadness (as such tales inevitably are) it is also a tale which offers hope for a brighter future: “Now I realise better times will come / Like a phoenix we will rise from the ashes, and we’ll never die / Now I realise better times will come / And the sadness we’ll leave behind, will blow away across the waves”. (“Better Times”). In ‘Much More Than Music’ then C69 have not only risen from their personal ashes, but majestically soared to heights that few punk musicians or bands have, or ever will, attain. Whether this triumphant and glorious ten tracked manifesto is sustained when Volume Two hits town later on in 2015, only time will of course tell. But for the moment we can safely leave that to one side and just simply sit back, enjoy and celebrate the rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack and narrative masterpiece that is ‘Much More Than Music’: and raise our glasses in thanks to ten vocalists, two record label owners and one studio engineer who fully engaged with C69’s revolutionary and conceptual project and vision, and made the making of this album possible in the first place. Because, and let’s be honest, it’s been a long time since any punk history of any real substance or actual note was last made; and I suspect that, outside of the remaining members of The Clash suddenly deciding to reform with a new singer, it’s going to be virtually impossible now for anyone to match ‘Much More Than Music’s’ value as a genuinely historic punk document and moment, ever again. Punk history then might not be what Cap and C69 set out to make three decades ago, but Punk history is exactly what they’ve made by releasing ‘Much More Than Music’; and remarkably they’ve done so whilst still managing to keep their feet planted firmly on the ground and remaining refreshingly free of anything so mundane or vulgar as arrogance, ego or vanity. A better recommendation then I couldn’t give! “Your name up in lights it’s a phoney paradise / A parody of life underhand and overpriced / Your face on the screen where a million more have been / Where everything looks nice it’s a phoney paradise.” (“Phoney Paradise”). (Where and when possible editing of the interview was kept to a minimum)