Interview: The Chakras
Published on February 8th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Dublin five-piece The Chakras are set to release “Build Me a Swan”, the superb title track from their sky-scraping, psych-tinged and epically inclined debut album of last year, so Rocksucker caught up with the band’s guitarist Gordo Whittaker for an entertaining chat about working with legendary producer Chris Potter, being personally hand-picked to go on tour with Ian Brown, and why, contrary to reports, they are not in fact a “pack of ruthless pricks”…
“Build Me a Swan”
What was it like working with Chris Potter? He must have some good stories…
Yeah, it was brilliant working with him. He’s an absolutely gentleman, and I really mean that; sometimes you read that stuff in interviews and wonder if it’s true, but it really was an absolute joy working with Chris. We’d kind of had a relationship for about two years before we mixed the album with him; we went in and did some demos, but then The Verve got back together and they booked into the studio for eight months to a year or so, and we didn’t want to hang around that long. So when it came to mixing, we already knew him well.
When we toured in Russia a few years ago, there was a football tournament for artists where they flew over bands and DJs, and each team had an ex-professional. [Former Chelsea centre-forward] Kerry Dixon was our ex-pro and we became good mates with him. We were out in Russia for three weeks, drinking vodka pretty much the whole time, and we stayed in touch with him afterwards – when we’re over recording, we’ll go to his house or to the match with him – and Chris is a hard-core Chelsea fan, so we got Kerry to sort him out with tickets and get him into the player’s lounge with all the ex-pros. Chris was sitting there like (excitedly): “We get to meet Kerry Dixon!”
It was brilliant to work with Chris on a professional level because he’s been there and done it, worked with the likes of The Verve, U2, Blur and The Rolling Stone, and our manager was the head of Hut Records back in the day so he had a brilliant relationship with him as well. There was no stress, no arguments, no fuss, just everyone on the same page, including our manager and A&R; seven people in a room, all with a clear idea of what we wanted to achieve. It was a lovely environment to work in, really nice.
How did you get Storm Thorgerson to do the album artwork? (Rocksucker says: previous clients of Storm’s include Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and 10cc!)
We basically sent him a CD and said, “Please take a listen, see what you think,” and he got back to us to say that he absolutely loved it. We went to meet him and he’s hilarious, probably the most eccentric person I’ve ever met in my life. I think all those really creative artists have that touch of craziness!
Let’s face it, if your name is Storm then eccentricity is practically demanded of you.
You’ve hit the nail on the head there! But he was brilliant, a really nice guy as well. We’d be sitting at a meeting waiting for him and he’d walk in and say (adopting an elegant/eloquent speaking manner), “Hey boys, I’m very sorry I’m late, I was meeting with David Gilmour.” We’d be like, “Fuck, really??” (Laughs) It was a bit of a dream come true for us, and we couldn’t quite believe our luck when he got in touch with us saying he’d love to do the artwork for our album. That was a nice kind of pat on the back.
Which have been your most exciting gigs so far?
We’ve had two great ones in the last six months. We were asked to play at Kasabian’s after-show party, and we played at around half-one in the morning so the place was absolutely pumped and ready to go, which made for such a good atmosphere. The other one, we headlined Club NME at KOKO…
That’s a great venue.
Yeah, it’s absolutely unbelievable. That’s probably been my favourite gig; again, we came on at about one o’clock/half-one in the morning, the curtain came up and there were four balconies and twelve hundred people going mental. We were like, “Holy shit!” It was a real adrenaline rush, something I’ll never forget.
You’ve been on tour with Ian Brown. How did he come across you guys?
It was kind of the same thing as with Storm, basically. We heard he was coming over to Ireland so we asked our agent if we could get a CD to him. MCD, who are kind of like the Irish equivalent of SJM or Live Nation, they put forward fifteen or twenty bands, he heard our one and he said he loved it. We love The Stone Roses and have been to pretty much every gig he’s played in Ireland for the last fifteen years!
We then went on tour with him, and before the first gig he came up to us while we were standing around the stage waiting to do our soundcheck, and said, “Are you in The Chakras?” I was actually stuttering, I couldn’t believe it! He said, “I love your music, and you got this tour because I picked you, and I believe in you. You’re reaching for the stars and I love that, man.” I almost shit myself!
I was lucky enough to get to interview him the other year and I was quite taken aback by how nice he was…
He’s an absolute gentleman. You hear all these stories about him, but we did six or seven shows with him and every single night we came offstage he was there saying, “Boys, brilliant show, thanks a million, I really appreciate you doing this for me, you’re legends.” You know, we should be the ones thanking him! It’s above and beyond what I think 99% of bands do; it shows a touch of class and we’ve always tried to replicate that whenever a band supports us, because it makes you feel so welcome. That’s passed down from Mr Brown himself! And obviously we’ll be there front and centre for the Stone Roses show at Heaton Park on the Friday.
Your biog mentions that the band dropped everything back home to move to London, including “long-standing relationships”. That sounds like it must have been quite turbulent…
It’s total horse shit! I get asked about that in every single interview; I don’t know where it came from, got no idea who wrote it, don’t know if it came from one of our PR people or if someone else made it up on Wikipedia, or something. But it’s total and utter nonsense. Don’t get me wrong, we sacrificed a massive amount, left pretty much all our mates back there and that, but every single one of us is still going out with the same girl as we were in Ireland. Some of them are living over here now, and the others are over here every second weekend, or the lads go back when we’re not gigging.
I’ve asked our manager a couple of times to try and find out where that lie came from, because it makes us sound like a pack of ruthless pricks! We’re actually a nice bunch of guys! If I read that about a band, I’d think, “What a pack of wankers.” So it’s not true, and I’d like to quash that one!
Consider it quashed. Are there any other up-and-coming artists that you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to?
Yeah, there’s a Northern Irish band whose sound I really like called Cashier No.9. David Holmes produced their album that just came out. They’re signed to Bella Union, the label Fleet Foxes are on. I think they’ve got something very, very good, but they might think I’m a bit of a weirdo because I’ve never met them but I keep mentioning them in interviews! Their song “Goldstar” is amazing, got that kind of ‘60s, West Coast, happy vibe to it. It’s really great stuff. (Rocksucker says: click here to check out our ensuing interview with Cashier No.9.)
Finally, if you were forced to spend the rest of your days in solitary confinement, but were allowed to bring the entire works of five different artists along to tide you over, whose would you choose?
The Beach Boys, Bob Marley, The Stone Roses, Radiohead and the fifth is a toss-up between The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. I’ll go with The Stones.
Gordo, thank you.
The band also continue their touring schedule with gigs at:
This Feeling, London – February 24th
Heroes, Camden, London – March 17th
Half Moon, Putney, London – April 26th
…with regional dates to be announced soon.