Aug 2018 13

The legendary and prolific Chris Connelly speaks with ReGen about his latest musical endeavors, telling us about the fun he has making music and being a belligerent and Revolting Cock!
 

 

An InterView with Chris Connelly

By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

To say that Chris Connelly is one of the most revered and prolific artists in modern music would be something of an understatement. Over the past three decades, he’s built up an impressive catalog that has seen him collaborate with some of the heaviest hitters in industrial and alternative music; one need only look at his list of credits to see the extent of his involvement in the very history of underground music since the mid-to-late ’80s, with his placement in MINISTRY and Al Jourgensen’s numerous side projects during that period standing as some of his most beloved among fans. And then there is his output as a solo artist, often veering away from the grating and incendiary noisiness of the industrial scene toward a more melodic but no less punchy style of rock that transcends description as it incorporates elements of electronic, folk, and even ’70s glam rock. Besides that, he also fronts Sons of the Silent Age, a tribute band in which Connelly’s predilections for the sound and style of David Bowie are presented most purely. Never a man to sit musically still for very long, 2018 marks not only the release of his latest solo endeavor, The Tide Stripped Bare, but will also see the arrival of his third album as vocalist for Cocksure, Be Rich, and the long awaited full-length debut from Bells into Machines. The year also brought about an event many thought would never occur as Connelly, for the first time in 25 years, joined his former band mate Al Jourgensen onstage during MINISTRY’s performance in Chicago on the AmeriKKKant Tour, making for a truly history occasion for the industrial music scene. With his upcoming performances in Cocksure taking place at this year’s ColdWaves events in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles, Chris Connelly was gracious enough to take the time to speak with ReGen Magazine about his latest creative endeavors. Here, we discuss his numerous musical partnerships, his approach to songwriting, the fun of collaboration and performing, and lets us in on just what it means to be a Revolting Cock!

 

Cocksure is about to release its third full-length album, Be Rich. What can you tell us about the partnership between you and Jason Novak? In what ways has it developed since you first started working together into what it is now?
Did you have any particular goals in mind for Cocksure, and if so, in what ways do you feel your work together has achieved or surpassed them?

Connelly: Well, on a practical level, since Corporate Sting, Jason moved – we used to get together and record, but now I do it by myself at home – so we collaborate via correspondence, short cryptic texts to each other, file sharing, and then suddenly, voila! We have a whole album. So that is a development, and it’s a fine way of working. I don’t know when inspiration will hit, and I can record anytime I like.
As far as goals go, personally speaking, my goals are to have fun writing and for other people to enjoy what I do.

One need only listen to the music to hear what each of you brings to the table, but what is the songwriting dynamic between the two of you? In what ways do you feel working with Jason differs from your other bands/collaborations?

Connelly: Because he only delivers instrumental tracks to me, I can’t see his fucking face when he does it; it’s like he gets some guy in a dark suit to drop a brown envelope on my doorstep and walk away. So, this is a very good thing. The way his sound hits me is just that: it’s his sound. I get to make of it what I like. Is it deadly serious? Is it slapstick comedy? It’s unbiased, neutral ground, which I love.

When Cocksure first emerged, there were statements made about how you felt you had ideas that you felt you had yet to explore in the Cocks, and that Cocksure was a chance to pursue that. Of course, you’ve also collaborated with several of your Cocks band mates and toured and performed much of the older material live since then too. What exactly does the Cocks mean to you as far as your creative process?

Connelly: That’s a great question because the Cocks was something that occupied my life intensely for a period of time when I was very young, when I was just starting to learn what I may be capable of, and when I was impressionable, and the sound being created was in its infancy to many ears. But the Cocks was always open ended; we would try a lot of different approaches. I think when we went on tour recently, it was good for me because it was nostalgia and it helped me compartmentalize a very important part of my life and give it context that I couldn’t when the original band stopped doing stuff in the early ’90s.
As far as my creative process goes with the Cocks, it’s all about the humor and the characters, the debauchery and the context of the debauchery, the misdeeds, the incredible and impossible situations the characters create and find themselves in – they are usually all very stupid with terrible ideas and godawful decision-making skills. But this is a world, my world, that I created over the years. So, when I write, I get into character and this belligerent asshole comes out… or maybe I am a belligerent asshole with a low I.Q..

In touring with the Cocks again, did other ideas emerge that affected your outlook in Cocksure? Or how about vice versa, since you’d been working in Cocksure, did it affect how you perceived your work in the Cocks as you performed it now?

Connelly: Maybe I answered that… but it was a great exercise in reentering the Chris that stomped the stage in 1990 wearing a homemade toga or whatever, but it proved to me that it was a character. I was a character and I had to reenter that character every night, and yes, there is no doubt that having done Cocksure, that helped tremendously. I have to be able to switch it on and off or I might die. I honestly prefer being in character – it’s so fun not being me! It helps so much with writing. You have to realize that you can write anything, be anyone. It’s a bit like developing your own superhero alter-ego, but instead of having superpowers, you’re just a fucking dick!

Lyrically, Cocksure seems to take a very sardonic and sarcastic view toward age old themes of corporatism, problems in society, oppression, economics, etc., all of which are not new topics for you or the industrial scene at large. Do you ever have a feeling of ‘same shit, different day?’ Or to rephrase, is there ever a concern that the messages you try to convey aren’t being heard? As you see newer generations coming up and dealing with the same issues, what are your thoughts on their potential to bring about positive changes? Or do you think we’re doomed to keep repeating the same mistakes?

Connelly: Mine are observations, and my view is written from inside the machine. I don’t know if I can change anyone’s mind, and I am not being preachy. I think Cocksure takes themes and blows them up into ridiculous caricatures – the scenarios are impossible. I mean, look at a song like ‘Klusterfuck Kulture,’ this whole scenario from robbing a pharmacy to driving a burning car and everything else in between happens in five minutes. It’s humor; it’s a bunch of douchebags fucking shit up. All my characters are so fucking stupid. Perhaps people get some message out of it, but I think it is too unproportioned.

 

 

There is the WaxTrax! documentary, ColdWaves, bands both new and old revitalizing interest… what are your thoughts on the way newer artists and bands are approaching or progressing from the sound and ideas of the WaxTrax! era?
Over the years, and ColdWaves is a huge part of this, we’ve seen a plethora of legacy bands coming back for tours and albums. In your estimation, what is it about this time now that makes it ripe for this sort of resurgence?

Connelly: I am pleased to hear people being influenced and then moving in their own direction. I can’t say that I actively seek out new artists too much, but I am constantly delighted, and I hear so much new life being brought to the table. I also think it keeps us dinosaurs on our toes! Can I plug a band here? I made friends with this band Dead Dog from Montreal, who opened for the Cocks in Toronto… best new band I have heard for years. I cannot deny that the singer Frances has definitely informed some of my approach on the new Cocksure album.
It’s probably time for a resurgence because young people are just now realizing how fucking cool and smart I am; handsome too, and they want to, if not be me, at least have the chance to share a dressing room. (Winks)

Moving on to your work outside of Cocksure, you released this year The Tide Stripped Bare, and you’d spoken quite a bit about the various influences in ’70s art rock – Bowie, Eno, Roxy Music, etc.. As they do seem to be rather prevalent on this album, how do you approach these influences in your creative process in a way that doesn’t diminish or overtake your own voice and what you have to say lyrically and musically?

Connelly: My inspiration was also gathered from the writings of Martin Amis, particularly from the books Lionel Asbo and Yellow Dog. Amis has been a constant source of inspiration for me over the years and I have a natural affinity with his characters.
As for the influences… oh, they are just there. I don’t summon them; the melody and lyrics are me, but the backdrop, the canvas, if you like, is soaked in my influence. It’s the music I connected with as a kid and continue to connect with, so it won’t go away, but I don’t try to shake it. I love the production values of these records, and of certain records from the early ’80s. Ultimately, am I having fun? If the answer is yes, then I keep walking down that path!

The album was dedicated to Jackie Leven, who I’m sad to say I was unfamiliar with until this album, and he was an artist who also traversed between different styles – i.e. new wave in Doll by Doll and the folk songwriting of his solo work. Can you tell us about Leven’s impact on you and what you feel you most identified with in his music that you feel has carried over into your own?

Connelly: It’s his soul, plain and simple. I connected with it very young. I saw his band Doll by Doll open for Devo in Edinburgh on the first U.K. tour for Are We Not Men – this would be 1978. Anyway, they (Doll by Doll) was not well received; however, they opened with the song ‘Butcher Boy,’ which after the intro, is stripped down to Jackie’s voice. It hit me like a silver bullet to the heart, and something happened, so it transcended just being a fan of the band. Then, after he disappeared for years and came back with a solo career, it just felt like it was in my veins. I felt so close to the man, and still do.

 

 

On a similar note, you’re often compared to Bowie as you have a similar vocal range, and he’s clearly an inspiration on you as you front the tribute band Sons of the Silent Age. I’m sure you’ve spoken about this numerous times before, but as we now live in a world without him, what was it about him that touched you personally, as an artist and musician? What did David Bowie mean to you that has carried you through your own music?

Connelly: I connected with Bowie very young, and in a way, it’s the same as Jackie, but the brilliant thing for a generation weaned on Bowie was the way he opened up so much – in the way that his brother Terry did for him with Jazz, literature, and art, he did that for us by incorporating in such a tasteful way. He also made it fine to be different in a time of less tolerance, he united so many… I don’t need to tell you this, but at the core of it, his melodies and lyrics were breathtaking until the end.

Also, in 2017, you not only released the Art+Gender album, but also Further Days – a rerecording of Private Education. What keeps you so energized that you are able to maintain such a prolific pace? Working on so many different projects… obviously you just do what you do, but as each band or project has its own character and approach, how do you keep it all straight in your head and adapt your style to fit the requirements of each?

Connelly: I approach much of what I do as a role, especially Sons of the Silent Age. I remain energized because I am always curious, and it really is a lot of fun. I love collaborating, and I love having that blank canvas. I think personally speaking, as an artist, you are always trying to paint what you see and sometimes you might get close, but you never nail it. You never reach the top of the hill, and you never will, and it is not frustrating. You just keep rethinking your approach. My biggest and only fear is not being able to do it through illness or circumstance. I will take death over that, truly.

You and Paul Barker also collaborated recently in Malekko, performing at ColdWaves and releasing an EP; as well, it shares its name with Paul’s company creating synths and guitar pedals, so it does seem in some regards to be a showcase for their creations. Is that true to some extent? What was the mindset for this particular project – musically and lyrically – and what would you say differentiates it from your other collaborations with Paul? Will we see/hear more from Malekko the band?

Connelly: I was really excited to do it because the music had such a beautiful, degraded, and deteriorated quality to it, like it had been left abandoned in a field somewhere for a year like a broken down car. It brought something out of me that I felt was new. The thing about rock is that there is an expectation to continue something… maybe this was a onetime collaboration, who knows? But it was a lot of fun.

And then there’s Bells into Machines, with the debut album and a remix companion coming out in September. Can you tell us about how you came to be involved in this band and the experience of working with that particular group? Are there any plans in place or in the works to take Bells into Machines on tour?

Connelly: No plans, who knows? But it was a collaboration from quite a while ago that I did my part for alone in Chicago. Again, the journey is the destination. I like doing the stuff… doing the stuff is a timeless creative forum where you are reacting to the sound around you. Often after I write something then record, I get depressed because the fun part is over, right? I loved fucking you, I just don’t really want to take you out for dinner after… (Laughter) We’ll see.

A post you’d made on Facebook that garnered quite a bit of attention was about the new MINISTRY album, saying something to the effect of being glad that Al is staying true and continuing the fight against the ultra right wing, racism, sexism, nationalism, etc. You then joined the band onstage for the first time in (I think it was) 25 years. Can you tell us about that experience, what was going through your mind as you sang ‘So What’ and stood beside Al again?

Connelly: I realized that day, after being reunited, that he is family to me; always has been, and I have a very deep love for the man. It was euphoric to be onstage again and it felt natural. Plus, everyone in his band and organization is a real breath of fresh air – lovely people.

 

 

What are your thoughts on the presence of ultra right wing, sexist, racist, and nationalist ideologies that seem to be coming out of the woodwork, especially in the industrial scene?

Connelly: Heartbreaking, truly heartbreaking! I have been shocked by people I was acquainted with showing their true colors. But we can only fight against it. That’s why I felt such relief at the new MINISTRY record – as well as thinking it sounded so fresh, we do have to try and educate the young, yes, but we have to speak tour own generation too, the over 50’s! This behavior is just disgusting! It’s like no one has learned anything.

Live shows and tours more so are a huge undertaking, and some of the artists I’ve spoken to are under the impression that they’re not as important to fans as they used to be. I can understand what they mean when it seems that concert attendance is fighting more of an uphill battle than before. And economies always tend to suck when creativity is at its height… but I’m old school and tend to think that a good live show is always worthwhile as an experience, both for artist and audience. What would you think should happen to motivate audiences to come to a show, any show? What do you see as the future of live music?

Connelly: I don’t know. Let’s look at a couple of practicalities… I think club shows should be earlier. I am a parent with three jobs; if a band hits the stage at 8:00pm, I am more inclined to go. We are a generation who still likes music!! We just have other commitments. Also, they are expensive. But I don’t go to many shows, so I can’t really talk about it. I used to live for it. Also, there are so many distractions for young people these days. I hate when people like me grumble about the younger generation. People like what they like. We know in our hearts that there is nothing like seeing a great live band take flight, but will my children? Probably won’t mean that much, and I could look at them incredulously and say, ‘Are you kidding? This is fucking amazing!’ and they may say, ‘Whatever dad.’

You are one of the fixtures of ColdWaves, right from the beginning in Pigface/Damage Manual, Cocksure, The Cocks, Malekko, etc. Now in its seventh year and expanding to N.Y.C. and L.A., not to mention showcasing a huge variety of acts, what are your thoughts on ColdWaves and what it has achieved, not just as a memorial to Jamie Duffy but as a celebration of the scene? What do you feel has best distinguished it from other similar festivals that you’ve seen or participated in?

Connelly: A really amazing sense of community – I had kind of shunned my old job up until the WaxTrax! Retrospectacle and ColdWaves. Then it became vital and fun again for me. I reconnected and made tons of new friends; overwhelming positive experience for me.

What’s next for you? Any other collaborations or projects – musical or otherwise – currently in progress that you’d like to let us know about?

Connelly: I have a new solo album coming out later this year, and I continue to collaborate with many depilate characters!

 

Chris Connelly
Website, Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, Bandcamp
Cocksure
Website, Facebook, Bandcamp, YouTube
Malekko
Website, Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, Bandcamp, YouTube
Bells into Machines
Website, Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, Bandcamp, YouTube
ColdWaves
Website, Facebook, Twitter

 

Photography by Derick Smith and Eileen Moloney – courtesy of Chris Connelly
Live Video by In The Loop Magazine

 

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