From what I heard, the new album is a bit different from your previous works. Aside from the fact that an artist can (and maybe should) change anytime, Why was the change?
Well, as you say, artists can (and probably should) change, if only for their own sakes - to keep themselves interested in what they're doing. So that's one reason - perhaps we've got a low boredom threshold! But also, folk music is something quite a few of us are into in the band - there's always been folk elements in our live performances and we liked the idea of using samples of British folk music and weaving them into songs. Folk music tells the stories of ordinary people too - you can get a country's whole social history from its folk music - so that aspect of giving voice to ordinary people's lives also interested us.
The idea of looking at the past is interesting because if nothing else it shows how little has changed - the specifics may be different but the basic idea of people being exploited and treated badly is still the same.
How this album relates to English Rebel Songs?
I suppose it continues the idea but instead of simply singing the original version, this time we've decided to take a sample from a song and then write a new song around it.
The name of the album is inspired in Marcel Duchamp. How much of his are in the album? and How much "readymade" are the songs?
I suppose the songs are 'readymades' in the sense that they are bits of folk music put into a different context. So the spirit of Marcel Duchamp could be said to be in the album.
On the promotional postcard you put a Hans Richter phrase "Laughter is a reaction against rigidity". Tell me about your past and present reactions against rigidity.
Chumbawamba has this false reputation of being ultra-serious and po-faced, whereas for us, laughter, dancing and generally having a good time is as much a part of us as our politics. They're not mutually exclusive in our minds. So yes, we react against rigidity. There's been a number of pranks over the years that are evidence of that.
Going to the past: What is truth and what is legend about you being squatters and living in community?
In the early days Chumbawamba did live together in a big squatted house in Armley in Leeds. I don't know what else you've heard - I imagine there's all sorts of stories about both the spartan dietary regime we followed and the sexual depravity of the whole thing. But really, living together like that for so long is probably one of the reasons that core of people all get on so well now.
I guess it is a myth after she wears a habit on stage but, Is Alice an ex-nun? Aside for this fanboy question, organized religion seems not to be in the "love" list of Chumbawamba but, which is the position of the band (and each member) about religious beliefs?
Alice is not an ex-nun.
We're not fans of organised religion because it always ends up being about power. And the thing about power is it only works if some people don't have any. So religion, which is supposed to be about some sort of spiritual enlightenment and finding peace with yourself and being good, ends up being something that is used to oppress people and to keep them in their place.
In all these years what changed in you and what is still the same?
We've got older, lost some of our hearing, some of us have lost our hair, some of us are fatter than we were, some of us have had kids. But the punk spirit that originally inspired the band is still there today. And we're still in a band because we want to be and we still do it to have a good time.
An stupid question: What the name Chumbawamba means?
Oh there's a million stories about that. Here's one: Danbert had a dream where he was stood outside some toilets, and over one door it said Chumba, and over the other door it said Wamba. The words obviously meant men and women but he didn't know which was which. He's always a bit vague about just how that dream ended!
You were a rather underground/uncommercial band till Tubthumping hit the charts. How did you feel about becoming such a success in mainstream music?
Being successful in mainstream music with Tubthumping was interesting. Although some people slagged us off for our commercial success we were happy to reach a wider audience. I never saw the word 'anarchist' appear in newspapers and magazines so many times as it did when we were interviewed. It felt like an opportunity to do something positive with all the sudden access to the media that we were getting - hence the decisions to sing about Mumia Abu Jamal on David Letterman, and to do a big benefit gig for the sacked Liverepool dockers.
Do you care about being called "One hit wonders"?
Being labelled 'one hit wonders' never really bothered - we were 'no hit wonders' before that, and we're still here five years on from Tubthumping - we haven't disappeared just because we haven't had such a big hit since.
Was WYSIWYG composed with the intention to be another best selling album or, on the contrary, with the intention of making it a commercial failure (as it turned to be) and not being said of having sold-out?
WYSIWYG, like all our albums, was the album we wanted to make at the time. I don't think you ever set out to make a commercial failure but I suppose we did want to do what we wanted rather than what record companies might have expected of us. I mean I think it was a potentially commercial album - very pop (ok - it did have 22 songs on it which is a bit unusual!). We could have gone a lot weirder if we'd wanted to.
But it had a bad reception
I don't think it had a particularly bad reception, I think it just wasn't marketed properly (by that I mean at all). We still get letters from fans in the USA saying 'when are you bringing out another album' which is shocking really.
None of your songs is credited to any member of the band. I guess this is because the collective philosophy of the band, so everybody is "author" of the songs for royalties and fame purposes but, Are there defined roles in the band when it comes to get the building material of the song or it is all the eigth of you composing it collectivelly?
The songwriting process is an interesting one - especially when a band works collectively, as we do. Basically, different people have different areas of expertise that they bring to the songwriting process. Some people have a talent for writing music, some are good at coming up with lyrics, others contribute something unique in terms of performance. But it's not all working separately. The whole process starts with lengthy discussions about what we want the next album to be like, both in terms of musical style and overall theme. When we've agreed on something then people go off and start working on musical or lyrical ideas, and then we have another meeting, and discuss how we think it's going, and then people go off and carry on, and then we start recording stuff, and then we have more meetings to assess how it's progressing and whether we're happy with the direction it's taking and so on...and eventually this process leads to the creation of an album that everyone is happy with and everyone has contributed something to.
One of your most peculiar characteristics are the notes accompaning the lyrics, sometimes giving more meaning to the song and saying things that can't be said in a musical format. But a lot of people would listen only the song (in radio, TV, parties, record stores, etc.) and never read the notes and, so, never getting the whole message. Is this something that bothers you?
It's not something we lose any sleep over. Obviously it's great if people understand the whole thing and have read all the sleeve notes and learned the lyrics off by heart and so on, but really, if you're a band and you play pop music, then you have to accept that there are going to be many different levels on which people will appreciate you. And if that means they just think it's great music and they like singing along to it, then that's fine. Rock 'n' roll is about having a good time, let's not forget. However, people have only got to read an interview with us, or look at the website etc., to realise that there's something else going on with.
Your first album was made as a reaction to "Live Aid". From this on, you were very critical with some of the Rockers-with-conscience (Bono, Sting, Geldof, etc). I can imagine the reasons you could have had but it would be nice if you write them down.
Our main criticism of Live Aid was that it was being sold as a solution to the problem of famine in Africa ... if ordinary people in Britain and USA give money them we can 'save the world' meanwhile the British and US governments and multi-national companies (as they were called back then) could simply carry on exerting an economic stranglehold over much of Africa, (and still do so today). Whilst all the pop stars of the day (and Live Aid resurrected U2's then flagging career) and corporate sponsors got the biggest free advertising bonanza across the world the millions of dollars raised amounted to about the same as the world spent on Arms every two and a half hours, and their was no criticism of the whole capitalist system which made famine happen and still makes it happen.
Tell me a little bit more about "Pictures..." and how much do you feel represented by it today.
Our first album from 1986. It was a huge leap forward for us at the time, musically and in terms of being able to launch a complex set of arguments, some bearing the 1980's trademark anarcho-punk shouty anger, but also we had begun to throw satire and humour in there, and we had the sweeter folk based tunes as well. As a highly politicized album it was very well received, and we were very proud of it. It was very representative of us at the time, but with every album since we have tried to move on and change in some way, so it is more like a chapter of history for us now, even though some of the issues involved we are still talking about (in different ways) eg Sewing Up Crap from the new album Readymades comments on the modern incarnation of economic globalization.
If I'm not mistaken, you started in 1982, when the Falklands/Malvinas war was on. Since I belong to the other involved country I am a little bit curious of your position about this war, now and then. Maybe you wrote a song or more about this conflict (I don't have all of your albums, I must confess) but if you didn't, Do you think it could be suitable material for Chumbawamba?
We did have a whole set of anti-war songs and theatre going on in 1982. It was and remains a stupid war, which catapulted Margaret Thatcher to a second election victory at a time when she was struggling to stay in power. We only made cassette tapes at the time so none of those songs we did ever made it onto albums or singles, though it was totally suitable material for Chumbawamba at the time and part of what defined us in the early years. The anti-Falklands War movement was very small in Britain and almost underground, and we got sometimes violent reactions from pro-Thatcher people in Britain, but we felt we had to challenge the situation and the way the British government, made sure the war happened (by sinking the Belgrano when it was travelling away from the islands) and we had to confront the lies, propagands and absolute lack of information coming from the government about what was actually happening. We are in avery similar situation now as Bush, and his main supporter Tony Blair seem determined to attack Iraq. As with the Falklands War this would be total overkill, and soley to satisfy their own political and economic ends, with no moral justification at all.
In Enough is enough you encourage to "give the fascist a gun shot". Don't you think it is fighting violence with violence? What reactions had this song? Were you threatened for it by fascists groups?
It would be nice if you didn't have to fight violence with violence, but sometimes you do, and that's that really. Being reasonable only works if the other side is playing fair too.
In the download page of one of your websites there are two songs that are not performed by you. One is a "tropical" cover of She's got all the friends... and the other a song from an Anti-Chumbawamba album. Can you tell me the stories behind these two songs and why are they in your site?
The cover of she's got all the friends is by a band called Black Lace. They're a kind of party band, they had a big hit with a song called Agadoo which was the sort of song that people dance to at parties and weddings when they're really drunk. Anyway, we kind of know them a bit - we used to record in the same studio as them - Neil Ferguson, who plays bass with us, used to run the studio where we (and Black Lace) recorded, and we thought it would be a laugh to get them to record a version of the song. Some music journalists, who don't like us, have compared us to them - ie. you're all stupid northerners, so it was a way of taking the sting out of that. We wanted to put it on the b-side of the single, but for various boring legal reasons it would have been too complicated to do so, so we put it on the website instead. Just so people would have a chance to hear it. The same goes for the anti-chumbawamba song - it's just good to give people a chance to hear these things - and especially when they're funny. And to show we're not upset or offended by people slagging us off.