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Chalaque interview with Nick Mitchell

November 23, 2013

Chalaque interview with Nick Mitchell

Live, loud, raucous, raw and yet inexplicably driving and
intriguing Chalaque is charting new territory in the psychedelic space
scene.  Distorted, gnarled and fuzzy
guitar exploding over tight driving drum rhythms drop the listener into fifteen
and twenty minute long explorations of the psychedelic sound-space; a territory
oft ignored and even more so underrated. 
The stream of consciousness collected in whatever ways possible by
Chalaque often prove that while there are certain merits to heading into a
studio and planning every section of an arrangement, a warts-and-all live
approach is truly the test of an ingenious band.  Nick Mitchell the mad genius behind Chalaque
has only been releasing twisted tunes since last year and has already managed
to chalk up an impressive six releases, spanning cassettes, 7” singles and a
recent 12”, in that short span.  I have a
soft-spot for such impressive musicians and Chalaque easily claim their place
among the likes of Earthless, Black Bombaim, Shooting Guns, Samsara Blues
Experiment, Electric Magma and KRANG as one of the most interesting and
engaging instrumental, improvisational bands out there.  I recently had a chance to talk shop with
Nick about Chalaque as well as his absolutely awesome record label Golden Lab
Records.  From limited cassettes and
albums to unreleased material, the history of the band and where Chalaque is
headed from here Nick made sure to get everyone the answers they want, so take
a seat, kick back, put on some tunes and enjoy a good old Chalaque-ing!
Listen
while you read: http://chalaque.bandcamp.com/
I know that
Chalaque was a solo project for you when it started but that you have since
recruited at least one other member to play drums with you.  Who else joins you when you are recording
music?
It’s still
theoretically a “solo” thing.  Although I
pretty regularly play with Pascal Nichols who’s also in Part Wild Horses Mane
on Both Sides and there’s a list of go-to bass players we’ve jammed with; Dylan
Hughes and Kate Armitage locally here in Manchester, and Eric Hardiman out of Albany,
New York when he was living in the UK briefly. 
I’d like to jam with Eric again, he has a good understanding of the
maxist concept that the Chalaque idea is based on.
How do you handle
performing live?  Does anyone else help
you out?  If so do you mind sharing who
they are?
Well, I’m
headed out on tour tomorrow and it’s gonna be me, Pascal and Kate in the UK and
then just me and Kate in the rest of Europe. 
Then there’s a little Korg Monotribe, and that’s like another
relentlessly yammering member of the group. 
There’s a vague plan to go to the U.S. again in April next year with
Phil Donnelly from Burnt Hills playing drums and then there are three bass
players to be confirmed who might be involved too.  Essentially, I don’t really want it to move
beyond the basic power trio at any point.
Are any of you in
any other bands at this point?  The more
I talk to people the more I realize it’s common place for people to be in
several very active bands simultaneously these days.  Have you released any music with anyone
else?  If so can you tell us about it?
The only other
active project I’m in right now is Desmadrados Soldados De Ventura with about
seven other local friends, some of the very best people I know.  That was a project born out of hanging out in
Albany, New York watching Burnt Hills do their thing; very wild group.  We emulate them in spirit but it’s a distinct
identity.  We don’t sound anything
alike.  Joincey came up with the name,
means “motherless soldiers of fortune” in what I think might be bad
Spanish.  I don’t know how tongue-in-cheek
it is.  Hard to tell with Joincey, he
likes a lot of stuff I can’t get my head around, ha-ha!
Was your home very
musical growing up?  Were your parents or
any of your relatives musicians or extremely involved or interested in the music
scene?
My parents
weren’t musical at all in terms of playing when I was living there.  My mum listened to Motown, The Rolling Stones
and The Platters records, anything that “sent” her, which is her big
thing.  Being “sent” by the music, as she
calls it.  My dad listened to fairly
anodyne country records, like Don Williams and Charlie Pride.  But then I had a cousin who was five years
older than me who got me into punk and Oi! records when I was like six years
old.  We would save up our pocket money
and our nan would take us to the Wool Exchange in Bradford and we’d by 7”s by
Cockney Rejects, Angelic Upstarts, 4 Skins and then earlier “skinhead” music,
which was basically Trojan label ska and rocksteady.  My mum read some article in the Sunday People
when I was around thirteen about neo-Nazi skins and at that point she coerced
me into selling all my records at a record fair at Bradford St George’s Hall,
worried that I might be listening to the “wrong” kind of music.  It was totally overzealous because it was all
pretty much leftist music, if political at all. 
Anyway, I think I got about £50 for around two hundred records.  I got ripped off.  After that, I didn’t really know what to be
into.  I missed out on hardcore at the
time because it followed on from punk, so I started listening to metal.  That was like two years.  I listened to all of it, all the hair metal
crap included.  Then Nirvana played at
Bradford University and that pretty much changed everything.  I went in wearing a Skid Row t-shirt and came
out wearing a Nirvana t-shirt, and that felt like a very symbolic thing.  After that I started digging into the
American independent scene and Royal Trux had a massive impact.  Neil Hagerty’s guitar playing and the fucked
production values of the first few records mainly.  Then it was everything I could afford on my
late teenage part-time job money from the Fisheye catalogue.  Like Shadow Ring, Inca Eyeball, Good Horsey,
Dead C, The Clean, Low, Alastair Galbraith. 
I started listening to older stuff, classic rock and psychedelic rock
and what have you, later on.  Santana was
a revelation at about age twenty-four.  I
don’t really know how that particular “journey” began.
When did you
decide that you wanted to start writing and performing your own music?  What brought that about?
Since I was a
little kid.  We used to dance with tennis
rackets in the mirror to “Sunday Stripper”. 
I got a red, no-brand Strat for my thirteenth birthday and had about a
year of lessons with this chopsy shredder guy called Graham who was a local
session dude in Bradford.  I started
being in bands soon after.  Indie music
as it was known at the time.  I tried out
for a band called Windy Miller, ha-ha-ha, but they didn’t want me ‘cause I
wanted to play blues scale solos and they thought I sounded like one of their
dads.  And then we started Summum Bonum
when I was seventeen and made a couple of records that I felt really
embarrassed about throughout my twenties, but when I hit my thirties I realized
I didn’t give a shit anymore.  It was
just a cheesy rite of passage and I was pretty much a child.  My mind wasn’t developed at all.  I was still a hero worshipper and an
overcompensating loudmouth.  It’s okay to
make crap music when you’re a kid, so long as you don’t get famous doing it,
because then you remain under the impression that it’s good.
Where is the band
currently located at?
Manchester.
How would you
describe the local music scene where you are at now?
A very cool
town in terms of the people making music right now, but very cynical in terms
of the way people appreciate music.  Very
money and style driven city where people would rather go to a DJ night than a
show, but I still love the place.  Like I
said, there’s a sweet music making scene, people/bands like Tom Settle, Jon
Collin, Part Wild Horses Mane on Both Sides, Irma Vep, Dave Birchall…  There’s a show practically every night, but
that can have a negative effect in that people can’t be bothered to go out to
them all and so smaller, weirdo shows don’t really do so well here.  I know a lot of traveling bands feel a bit
let down with the place, but then that’s offset by the really amazing shows
that happen.  Mad Nanna were here the
other week and that was bloody magical.
© Mike Griffin
Are you very
involved in the local music scene?
Yeah, pretty
heavily now for around eight years. 
Promoting shows mostly.  Some
people still think of me as a promoter but that’s something I was never
interested in.  I only started doing it
because people asked me to and I never enjoy that element of it.  I just think, if no one else is gonna do it,
I’ll do it because I want it to happen. 
I give all the money to the bands. 
I don’t treat it like “work”.  But
it’s still an easy way to lose sight of who you are in relation to music, so
I’m trying to do less and less these days.
Has the local
scene played a large role in the sound, history or evolution of Chalaque?
Oh not at
all.  I really love Jon Collin’s guitar
playing but there’s a subtlety of touch that I’ve never dreamed of shooting for
there.  The heavy shred concept comes
from listening to Neil Hagerty, Santana, John McLaughlin, Eddie Hazel and
Takashi Mizutani.  I mean, I’m no good at
it.  I just spent twenty years learning
the scales and going nuts.
What led to the
formation of Chalaque and when was that?
I was in a band
called Beach Fuzz with Tom Settle and Fliss Horrocks, earlier with Barry Dean
too, and we went to the U.S. and met some cool people.  After the dissolution of that band, I wanted
to go back and tour solo and I needed a name. 
Obama had just been to the UK and Scotland Yard had given him the
codename Chalaque, which was possibly done as a kind of subtle insult, because
its Punjabi meaning is ‘smart aleck’ or a person of cunning.  It could be taken either way.  I later found out it’s also an early
Dutch-American settler spelling of Cherokee. 
It’s got nothing to do with the band Shellac or any desire to deride
them ironically, although people keep asking.
While we’re
talking about Chalaque’s history I’m curious to ask who some of your major
musical influences are?
Neil Hagerty,
Sonny Sharrock, Jerry Garcia, Santana, Alice Coltrane, Kim Gordon, Jackson
Wingate, John McLaughlin, Noah Howard, Supreme Dicks, Dead C, Skullflower, Mick
Flower, Eric Hardiman, Bill Orcutt, Yoko Ono, J Mascis, Gram Parsons, Sun City
Girls.  I could go on…
There’s a lot I
love about music but describing it to other people is not one of them.  How would you describe Chalaque’s sound in
your own words to our readers that might not have heard you yet?
It’s a heavy
psychedelic power unit stretching the shred to the Nth degree of limited
capability.
Can we talk a
little bit about Chalaque’s songwriting process?  Is there a lot of jamming and exchange of
ideas in the practice space amongst you all or does someone approach the rest
of the band with a mostly finished riff or idea to work out and compose with
the rest of you?
Oh, there are
no songs.  Just plug in and go, I mean so
far.  I’m currently making a ‘songs’
album, which is taking forever because I’m so out of practice, but everything
out there so far is purely improvised.
Do you all enjoy
recording?  I know that the end result,
holding that album in your hands, it’s amazing and there’s not a lot in the
world that beats it but recording that material can be a little stressful to
say the least.  How is it in the studio
for you all?
So far we
haven’t used a studio.  Everything
released has been recorded at shows, which is kind of the way I like it because
it captures a kind of energy you just don’t get when you’re standing in a booth
with a pair of headphones on.  Everything
has this bootleg quality too, which I’m pretty into; rough and ready.  I guess that brings some kind of punkism back
into the equation.
I know that
Chalaque had a track features on the 2012 Infinite Circles Records compilation
Form Destroyer teaser.  What track did
you contribute to that release?  Is that
track exclusive the Form Destroyer?  Can
you tell us a little about the recording of that track?  When and where was it recorded?  Who recorded it?  What kind of equipment was used?

Oh wow, I
barely remember that at all.  I think
that was my friend Laetitia from Paris’ project and I have no idea what was
submitted, solo guitar probably.  Those
early recordings weren’t up to much, I don’t think.
You also had the
Well Hey cassette tape in 2012 on Golden Lab Records which was two side-long
versions of the title track.  Was that
release limited?  If so how many copies
was it limited to?  When was that
material recorded?  Who recorded it and
what kind of equipment was used?
I made a tiny
stash for the first solo U.S. tour, maybe twenty copies, and sold and gave them
away there.  Yeah, I had “Dancing In Your
Head” by Ornette Coleman in mind with the two versions.  On one, the guitar is in tune with the
backing and on the other, it’s way out of tune. 
I just did it at home to a hand held Zoom H4 recorder.  I think that was the first recording where I
was really starting to loosen up and let my inhibitions go.  Before that, I was a little scared of being
not very good.  At this point, I was
starting not to care so much and that has developed more recently.
2013 has been
extremely busy year for you!  You had the
uber-limited Engram Overmind tape on Golden Lab limited to only eighteen copies
in the entire world.  As it’s such a
limited release I wasn’t able to find very much information about it.  What exactly is on Engram Overmind?  Why such a limited release?
I don’t even
know.  I was trying to find my feet in a
solo context I guess, and I had some recordings.  There’s a cool contact mic’d mandolin jam on
there that I’d be keen to get out there in some other format at some
point.  Otherwise, it was just a series
of dirgy jams with a guitar through a ring modulator as far as I remember.  But yeah, 2013 has been a good year.  I think there’s been some kind of rapid vibe
progression this year where I’m happy with my own playing for the first time in
my life.
Was the recording
of Engram Overmind very different than the sessions for your earlier cassette
tape releases?  Where and when was it
recorded?  Who recorded it?  What kind of equipment was used?
Again, just on
a handheld Zoom H4 in the spare room at home.
Golden Lab Records
also put out your “Helderberg Howl” b/w “FTW” 7” single this year.  Limited to 300 copies this is a seriously
sweet 7”!  If I understand correctly the
tracks were recorded live at a gig in New York sometime last year?  When and how were these songs recorded?  Who recorded it?  Are they edits from a complete show or are
there just fragments?  Do you record a
lot of your live performances?
It was recorded
by Ray Hare from Burnt Hills and Century Plants.  It’s two edits from a show I played with
Zaimph, Yek Koo and Jon Collin.  They’re
pretty much complete pieces.  I played
around five improvised pieces at this show and these were the best two.  I try to record all the live shows just in
case they’re worth using for a release. 
Sometimes you’ll hit a vibe you’d be unable to replicate if you were to
play it again.
As I’m writing
this your debut full-length album, Sounds From The Other Ideology is getting
ready to be released on vinyl by Golden Lab after being previously issued on
cassette tape by Feathered Coyote Records. 
I know the vinyl pressing is limited but how many copies is it limited
to?  Is the cassette version limited at
all?  Is it still in print?  When is the vinyl version due for release?
I think the
tape just sold out and there are three hundred copies of the record.  Yeah, I spun it last night and it sounds like
it’s supposed to.
Can you talk a
little bit about the recording of the Sounds From The Other Ideology
album?  Was it a very different
experience than your earlier cassettes and singles?  How and when was this material recorded?  Who recorded it?  What kind of equipment was used?
We played a
show at this annual festival in Salford (Greater Manchester) called Sounds From
The Other City.  Eric Hardiman came down
to jam with me and Pascal.  The bookers
of the stage we played were really uptight about the length of our set.  Bridget Hayden had dropped out so we decided
to play for an hour and fill her space on the bill.  But about fifty minutes in, one of the
bookers walked over and tugged on my jacket to tell me to stop playing.  It was kind of a weird day because the
festival is I guess a little hipsterish, but we spent all day hanging out with
Neil Campbell and Julian Bradley from Vibracathedral and getting drunk and
having a nice time with them and there were some other sweet bands playing, but
the title came from the whole vibe of the event.  It felt like we were coming from a different
place than the people who organized it. 
The event itself seemed to be of more importance than the bands that
made it what it was.  I dunno, that maybe
sounds a little curmudgeonly.  It’s what
I was saying about the Manchester scene, great bands, weird execution of the
scene.
You also have the
Augusts’ Stealie cassette tape on Lonktaar Records coming extremely soon.  If I understand correctly it’s a cassingle
featuring a single track and limited to only fifty copies.  Can you tell us about the recording of that
track?  Did you record it specifically
for the tape or was it something that you had previously done that was looking
for a home?  When is that due for
release?
It’s a
one-sided fifteen-minute tape recorded at the show Pascal and I played opening
for Monoploy Child Star Searchers in Manchester last month.  We did two jams but I didn’t wanna release
the first so it became one-sided. 
Lonktaar e-mailed me to ask if I wanted to submit something for a tape
and I’d just mastered that recording, so that’s what I gave ‘em.  I think it’s out already, just a super short
run.  Like thirty-seven copies or
something.
I know that Golden
Lab in conjunction with Tomahawk Records were in talks to release a lathe cut
12” Live In Ann Arbor earlier this year. 
Is Live In Ann Arbor still in the works? 
Do you have any idea or ball park estimate of a release date for
that?  I know that you’ve released at
least one single previously consisting of live material, are you a big fan of
live albums?

That’s probably
not gonna happen.  I don’t know.  There are newer, better jams coming.  But ya never know.
© Estee Bee
If I understand
correctly you own Golden Lab Records? 
How did that come about and when did you start Golden Lab?  Do you just release your own material or do
you handle releases for other bands as well?
2005, I was in
a band called I Had An Inkling and we wanted to put out a record, I started the
label to self-release it and then other people started giving me stuff, so I
just continued with it.  My favorites
have obviously been the two Howling Hex sets I’ve been privileged to be able to
release.  But there’s been tons of other
great stuff, two MV&EE singles, a Greg Kelly/Alex Neilson LP, a Neptune LP,
Wild Gunmen, Serfs and Pink Reason tapes, Mick Flower & Neil Campbell; lots
more coming up this year.  I’m trying to
operate more like a “proper” label than I have in the past, actually do some
hard work on each release and make sure folks know about it.  I mean, there’s only so much shelf space in
my house.  I can’t be clogging it up with
unsold records.
Does Chalaque have
any music that we haven’t talked about yet? 
If so can you tell us about it?
Well, as of
tomorrow, yes.  We’re recording every
show of the tour for the next three weeks so there’s bound to be something we
like the sound of.
Where’s the best
place for our international and overseas readers to pick up copies of your music?
Forced
Exposure, Flipped Out Records, Feeding Tube in the U.S.
What about our
poor U.S. reader with these absolutely insane recent international postage rate
hikes?  A lot of import releases these
days feel like a carrot on a stick for me, I know about all of them because of
the internet and I can even listen to some of them, but because we can’t afford
paying more than the price of an LP in shipping alone these days we’re left out
of the party…
Nah, I’m trying
to keep the wholesale prices low to U.S. stores so people are able to dig it.
Does Chalaque have
any goals that you are trying to accomplish in 2014?
More jams,
faster shredding, harder fingers.
What do you have
planned as far as touring goes for the rest of the year (2013)?  What about the quickly approaching 2014?
U.S. in April
again, can’t wait.  I’ve been promised
the best Indian food in America in Albany. 
We’ll see.  I’m from Bradford,
curry capital of England.
Who are some of
your personal favorite acts that you’ve had a chance to share a bill with?
Burnt Hills,
Monopoly Child Star Searchers, Joshua Burkett, The Piss Superstition, Yek Koo,
Jon Collin, Zaimph.
In your dreams,
who are you on tour with?
Santana.
Do you have a
music collection?  If so can you tell us
a little about it?
About fifteen
hundred records, not huge.  Healthy
rotation.  Lot more private press since
visiting the U.S. so frequently, which is nice. 
Just bought two Hare Krishna LPs from a car boot sale in Bradford last
Sunday for 50p each, they’re my latest scores.
There’s something
indispensable about physical music to me. 
Having something to hold in my hands, liner notes to read and artwork to
look at provides a rare glimpse inside the mind of the artists that create
them; at least for me.  Do you have any
such connection with physical releases?
Of course.  The juicier the format, the closer you feel
to the music contained within.  I have no
understanding whatsoever of the appeal of downloading music, which just makes
it seem so throwaway and ordinary. 
Records, and the more elaborate the packaging the better, are like magic
spells on your mood.
If you can’t tell
I’m passionate about my music, but as much as I love my collection there’s no
way to take it on the go with me. 
Digital music has not only made listening to music easier for me but
when teamed with the internet, it’s been a real game changer.  I have been exposed to a whole new world of
music that I otherwise would have never heard of.  On the other hand though, like with all
things there are good and bad and it seems like digital music has been
destroying decades of infrastructure inside the industry.  As a musician during the reign of the digital
era what’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?
It’s a
transitional time right now.  Who can say
what’s gonna happen?  I paraphrase James
Toth of Wooden Wand here.  He told me,
“If Bruce Springsteen were just starting out today, he’d be on a label like
Jagjaguwar,” which is cool and everything. 
But that’s what the so-called digital revolution has done for
music.  It’s reduced both the financial
and the mass cultural value of the serious musician beyond measure, and it’s
made the world a littler blander and the hunting down of rare records a little
less exciting.
I spend as much
time as I can every week pouring over the bins at the local shop, talking up
employees and spending more time than I would like to admit listening to and
researching music online.  A ton of the
best tips I get come from talking to musicians like you though!  Is there anyone that I should be listening to
from your local scene or area that I might not have heard of?
Jon Collin all
the way.  Dude is a genius, straight up.
What about
nationally and internationally?
I hear Wovoka
is planning to do a new record, might be coming out on Golden Lab.  That’s what I hear anyway.
DISCOGRAPHY
(2012)  Various
Artists – Form Destroyer teaser – digital, CD – Infinite Circles Compilation
(Contributed the track “?”)
(2012)  Chalaque –
Well Hey – Cassette Tape – Golden Lab Records (Limited to 20 copies)
(2013)  Chalaque –
Engram Overmind – Cassette Tape – Golden Lab Records (Limited to 18 copies)
(2013)  Chalaque – Sounds
From The Other Ideology – digital, Cassette Tape, 12” – Golden Lab
Records/Feathered Coyote Records (12” Limited to 250 copies)
(2013)  Chalaque –
“Helderberg Howl” b/w “FTW” – 7” – Golden Lab Records (Limited to 300 copies)
(2013)  Chalaque –
Augustus’ Stealie – Cassette Tape Single – Lonktaar Records (Limited to 50
copies)
(UNRELEASED)  Chalaque
– Live In Ann Arbor 2012 – Lathe Cut 12” – Golden Lab/Tomahawk Records (Limited
to 55 copies)
Interview made by Roman Rathert/2013
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2013
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