Interview:
Chumbawamba

Nutter Chatter

Chumbawamba made a welcome return to the music industry recently with the virtually flawless “Un” album. Always beautifully satirical in their angst-ridden lyrics about a Western world so concerned with its own well being that David Brent would cringe, the band created one of the standout records of the year. Alice Nutter was more than happy to chat to Atomicduster.

AD: First of all, allow me to say what a great album “Un” is – we actually saw fit to give it a glowing 10/10 review on our website.

AN: Thank you.

AD: Anyway, it seems to have a very “Latin American” flavour to it. What were you doing that inspired you to take that direction?

AN: Er…we went to Latin America.

AD: Oh. Um. Well, ask a silly question…

AN: Well ok it wasn’t JUST Latin America that influenced us. We went to Cuba and Mexico, but we also had a Russian style choir arrangement on the album. Then we tried all sorts of weird and wonderful instruments from all over the world as well, like a Polish polka fiddle and the Chinese Ehru. Basically we just opened our ears to artists like Celia Cruz and it all just happened from there really.

AD: One of my favourite tracks is “On ebay”. Now, what have you got against ebay?

AN: Nothing. That’s not what it’s about at all, because that’s just something that serves a function to people. It’s more about how everything is reduced and everyone seems to be in for a sale these days. It was written after a museum in Iraq was looted, which the United States had vowed to protect. The thinking behind it was that we can probably expect half the things – deeply personal possessions and defining historical items - that were taken from the museum to eventually end up on ebay for £1.50.

AD: That’s what I like about Chumbawamba – you’re always making some very good points, and putting it across in an entertaining way…a bit like Michael Moore in his documentaries I suppose. I think that’s quite a good example actually, because you’ve both struggled to get things released in the past…

AN: I was really surprised that Disney even considered putting his documentary out in the first place – after all Disney is such a warped right wing country…did I just say country? Well, actually YES it IS a country really, and I just thought it illustrated how much the powers that be really don’t want the general public to know what went on.

AD: Of course, many people would argue that Moore stirs things up and distorts the truth somewhat…

AN: But you HAVE to stir things up otherwise people don’t take any notice, and everyone’s going to put their own point of view across – most people will try to distort the facts so that the bias is towards their own way of thinking. I mean, we’re at fucking war for Christ’s sake, and due to the actions taken by Tony Blair and his cronies, there is a really good chance of a huge bomb blast going off in London killing hundreds of innocent people. If I had to distort the truth slightly to make people see things how they really are, I would!

AD: I’d imagine there’d be very few people in this country who’d disagree with you. Talking about another favourite track on the album, I love the one about the guy who knocked the head of the status of Thatcher to try to protect his son from growing up believing she was a great woman (“I Did It For Alfie”), but one of my friends believes she WAS a great woman…

AN: I can’t understand how anyone can think that. I remember on the news a while back, I had the television turned down and I saw all these images of “Baroness Thatcher” coming up on the screen. My immediate thought was “Great! She’s dead!” and I was ready to throw a street party, so I was really disappointed when I found out all it was what that she’d been forced to give up public speaking. Hey, if your mate likes Thatcher so much, remind him that she modelled herself on General Pinochet around the time of the Falklands conflict and throughout the miners’ strike. Tell him if he’s a fan of Thatcher, he must be a fan of Pinochet too. Or maybe he just has a thing for old wrinkly matrons.
AD: That’s probably more likely! Anyway, going back to the music, you’ve turned down LOADS of films that have asked to use your music, “Wild Things” being quite a high profile one. Why?

AN: Well I think a lot of film companies think we’re very odd, because we actually ask to see a preview of the script before we agree. If we think it’s offensive we turn it down. We didn’t know much about the one you mentioned to be honest, but what we we DID know was that it was partly about a woman who cries wolf and says she’s been raped, so we turned it down.

AD: I quite enjoyed it actually…

AN: I’ve not seen it, but it may well be really good. We just didn’t really fancy being associated with it. And of course we always turn down Disney. Then obviously if something’s just pure crap we refuse as well. On the other hand, if it’s about a mouse being chased up a tree by a turkey, we’re your band!

AD: Do you judge people on the films they watch, or the music they listen to? I find it hard not to sometimes…

AN: No, not at all. You have to remember that different people get different things out of music. Some people just have it on as background noise; some listen because they want to be moved emotionally by a love song or something, and some people want to listen to other people’s views about the state of the world. It doesn’t make any of them any less intelligent. What I DO judge people on is how well they treat our road crew though – if they treat us really nice and are complete wankers to our road crew, that’s when I know they’re complete morons.

AD: Do you think it’s fair to say that Chumbawamba have always controversy in their lyrics and publicity stunts?

AN: No. Well, maybe the stunts we pulled off we did, but not lyrically. It’s just that I happen to think that ANY citizen living in the UK today is more equipped to talk about the state of the world today than the cretins we have running it.

AD: Finally, I said in my recent review of your album that “Chumbawamba never fail to surprise me. I was half expecting them to come out with an album full of Chinese ringtones, but instead they’ve released their most commercial (and best) album yet”, so what IS next for the band?

AN: Actually you weren’t fr wrong with your guess, because that Chinese Ehru that I talked about earlier – well, that has much the same effect as a mobile phone ringtone! What’s next for the band? I don’t know; we’ll just take it as it comes. As long as we don’t start sounding like Ronan Keating or Atomic Mutton I’ll still be happy.

You and me both Alice! And with Chumbawamba seemingly in such fine fettle, you can bet your life that, even if they release an album that utilises the background noise of a horse manure flinging competition, it’ll still be wonderful!


Interview and transcript; Tone E

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