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The Chap

Gentlemen Rockers

L'inclassable quatuor anglais The Chap vient de sortir un premier album sur Lo Recordings. The Horse est un surprenant mélange de pop électrique à la Stereolab prenant parfois des tours électro/new wave discoïde réminiscents du duo Adult. mais versant également à l'occasion dans de sombres ballades illustrées de textes absurdes. Sans se prendre une seconde au sérieux, The Chap propose un futur possible aux fusions disco-électriques amorcées par le label DFA et botte élégamment le train à la pop naïve qui sombre trop souvent dans la mièvrerie. Johannes Vonweizsacker lève le voile sur son jeune combo, ses inspirations et ses aspirations.

How was The Chap born ? Why did you chose this name ... was it basically a solo project ?

The Chap started when I asked Panos and Claire to play live gigs with me for my solo project (I was still playing in Karamasov at the time). We then soon developed into a full band, writing all the music together. Keith, the drummer, joined the band about a year ago. We decided to call ourselves The Chap, after a wonderful and weird little magazine,of which we are great fans( It appears every three months and deals with how a modern gentleman should behave and which suits he should wear etc. It's excellent, there's always these chaps with immaculate moustaches smoking pipes on the cover. "Chap" (as you probably know) is an old-fashioned word for "guy", sort of like "fellow".

What are your respective musical background/musical experience/musical training ? You were a member of Karamasov, I've never heard this group ... how would you describe it ?
All of us have always been involved in loads of music. Keith has played drums in various bands, including one with Claire, which is how we know him. He also does loads of his own electronic stuff, which is rather cool, lots of nice fucked up beats and a cool cover version of Bon Jovi's "You give love a bad name". Claire is trained and works as a music therapist, and has played in various bands, too. Panos is doing a PhD in contemporary classical composition and achieved considerable fame in Greece with an Indiepop-Band called Raining Pleasure. I have studied Musicology and Composition for Film and write music for TV and really bad but lucrative corporate videos... I used to play in a loud German Rock group called The Octopus and later in Karamasov, which was an instrumental post-rock kind of thing.

How did you end up on Lo Recordings ?

I met Jon when he put on a gig for Karamasov. I told him I wanted to do a solo project and sent him some four track recordings which he liked. It took a few years for anything to be released and for the whole thing to turn into The Chap as we are now, writing together, but here we are !

What are your musical influences ? The Horse is a very coherent pop album with a loads of echoes - from krautrock to disco, reminiscent of Adult., Addntox , Stereolab, Numbers ... what do you think of these comparisons ? Do you feel more electric or electronic ?
Electric! I guess those echoes could be heard in there, although we don't consciously try to sound like that. I mean, we are great fans of groups like Stereolab and we like a load of disco music but we also listen to loads of other things, more free-abstract improv-based things, contemporary classical music, Jazz (20s/30s Swing to John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis) Prince, Sly Stone, Sonic Youth, Led Zeppelin(oh yeah), NWA, My Bloody Valentine, Faust, Thomas Brinkmann, some Warp records stuff, The Flying Lizards, Level 42 (pure evil genius), I could go on ...We are definitely music junkies. The point is that we are slightly wary of being labelled as this New Wave -Disco- kinda thing, it may be part of what we do, but there are a lot of other things, too. We just hope that what we do has its own identity and attitude and makes people listen up.

Who writes the lyrics ? Sometimes i would be tempted to say, it's in a "glamdada" aesthetics . What are your influences in text writing ?
We tend to sit together and write down words which we like. Then we put them in some sort of order. I like the idea of them making some sort of remote sense in a very vague way. So you can interpret them the way you like. Some of them mean certain things to us, but they shouldn't have to mean the same thing to you. Some of the tracks are love songs. For Dror Frangi, we took extracts from an unbelievably nerdy music technology magazine which feature loads of technical talk about samples and expanders etc which we didn't understand at all. So they had an nice surreal element to them. I think we would have difficulties writing anything which feels too dramatically serious. Really "meaningful", heavy, direct lyrics are, in most cases, intolerable.

It seems that between Fun (the first 10" on Lo) and The Horse, you gain confidence, turned to brighter soundscapes and were attracted by song formats. How would you explain this evolution ?
I think we just got bored with doing only instrumental music. So we tried using vocals, which took us a while to grow confident with. None of us are great singers, so we have to try and find effective use of voices other than straightforward singing . So we talk a lot! Or sing in a really over-the-top way... Fun is the solo stuff I did before we turned into a full co-writing band. It took quite a while for it to get released so although it came out last summer, the stuff on there is three or four years old. I was into doing slightly different things then. The Horse was mostly made between autumn 2001 and autumn 2002. Also, it was four different people writing it rather than one! So it was bound to sound different.

Any more project after The Horse ?
Oh Yeah, we're writing new stuff all the time, Hopefully, we'll be able to release another record in the autmn. It may turn out to be en E.P. or even a Mini-Album. We'll have to talk to our label about it,though!

I saw you were sometimes playing live, what is the Chap like live ?

The thing is that we usually write our songs by recording them and then go to the rehearsal room to try play them live, not the other way round. It took us a while to do the stuff from The Horse live. In the beginning, it was pretty messy, quite funny, though. By now, I think we are quite together, we are quite loud and, well, rocking. In the future, we may turn to slightly more improvised, free ways of playing because we don't want to turn into too much of a rock band!!!

(Christophe Taupin)

Interview réalisée par e-mail en mars 2003.
Remerciements à Jon Tye.