The Chapman Family set out on a UK tour earlier this month and frontman Kingsley Chapman kept a diary for Gigwise.
Check out highs and lows (and Twitter bust-ups with strangers) he and his bandmates encountered along the way.
It took nine hours to get to the opening gig of the tour. Nine long hours. In a sh*t van with no workable radio (until we hooked up Paul's iPod speakers in the second week) and nodiscernible form of air conditioning and a dodgy sliding door. It was the usual start to a tour really: lots of people in bands milling about being initially timid until bonding over subjects such as football and amplifiers. It was fairly uneventful apart from talking to some punters about the merits of Motley Crue and Poison, putting the world to rights with my friend Matt from the band Rapids! about the dire state of the music industry (this is the norm) until I ended up huddled on the floor in my duvet in the Travelodge reading the Bible (it's the only thing that's there and that Revelations bit is f*cking wacko) to myself whilst the rest of our brave little soldiers went out and blagged what they could from the Bournemouth nightclub scene. Being an ex-hotel porter I sometimes feel it's my duty to make sure the bedding is all sorted and hospital corners are in place for the return of my well oiled comrades. They'll thank me one day...I'm so caring sometimes.
On the way up to Bristol we had the first signs that the SatNav was a sarky bastard as it sent us on the "scenic route" to the lovely cider soaked dwelling that is Bristol by diverting us through the countryside and Bath city centre at rush hour. After a long discussion about the pronunciation of "Bath" (as opposed to "Barrrth") we arrived at the Thekla. The thing about the Thekla is that essentially it's a boat on a dockside and the gig area is mostly underwater and at certain points throughout the vessel there would appear to be evidence of leakage. Hey ho. There's also a decking area outside that doubles up as a smoking area (a bit like a cut price Titanic, but not at the bottom of the Atlantic) and a bouncer was telling me that someone jumped off it into the murky depths the previous night. I mostly liked the fact that my bouncer chum mostly blamed "dub-step" for the diver's actions, (it should be noted that the potential Olympian in question was unharmed, if a little wet). A big thank you to "Big Jeff" too for bobbing away up and down at the front of the set throughout the night - like he ALWAYS does in Bristol, bless him.
In the morning our crappy funmobile rumbled off to London to do a session for Jon Kennedy on XFM. London eh? What a f*cking laugh London is: it took 45 minutes to travel 3 miles, (unless the SatNav was once again taking the piss) and the real joke is that you have to pay for the privilege - cheers Boris. Our reward for finally getting to the studio (near enough on time) was to see XFM Breakfast DJ and Mr Sugababe Dave Berry wander past us looking every bit the same as what you would imagine. I don't know what it is about seeing "famous" people but I just turn into a bit of a jibbering wreck - my heart goes a mile a minute and I lose the ability to speak. I once walked past Kris Akabusi in a street and nearly fainted. True story.
OK. Rock band on tour rule number one: if you don't give us an adequate rider we will start to improvise. The gig up in Birmingham on the night was fine and we even managed to throw in a Beatles cover (we're so damn contradictory I realise this, no need to point it out!) but it was afterwards when things started to get a little messy. For "whatever reason" Pop and Paul and The Airship Boyz decided that it would be a smashing idea to put a full bottle of vodka (donated by The Joy Formz) into a two-thirds full four pint plastic keg of milk. In some circles you may think that this was a cheapo white Russian but the general consensus (verified by a couple of Airshippers and the Joy Formidable drummer) was that it had a taste akin to "petrol". This naturally didn't stop our pissed up little trooper Paul, buoyed on seemingly by his very own peer pressure (from himself), to down the lot in one go - resulting in having to be dumped into the tour van like an off-season footballer until we eventually found him wandering around the Travelodge car park like a pissed up Bambi on ice clutching onto anything that wasn't melting into the grass. He doesn't even drink that much milk at home really, I'm beginning to think he's allergic to dairy products.
A largely incident free leg of our excursion really. Before soundcheck we signed 500 copies of our debut album (out on March 7th pop pickers) because we're so f*cking rock and roll and after quite a bit of a barney between our brilliant sound man Ben and their not quite so brilliant crew we eventually played a pop concert. Pop's guitar decided not to work in the second song so we had to halt proceedings until it got fixed (with much thanks to the Joy Formz guitar tech Brian) and I embarked on a largely unsuccessful stand up routine to the waiting crowd about Paul's milky incident, our van that was falling apart, and their "rich, arrogant, bastard" football teams. Note to bands: this is not advisable, it's not cute and is not to be copied. Unless you're Bill Hicks stand up should best be left alone - and he's dead.
The van started to hate us further when the sunroof decided it couldn't take anymore and wanted to abandon ship somewhere between England and Scotland. Luckily gaffer tape - the glue that keeps the British Music Industry together - came to our rescue and kept us rolling until we got to King Tuts. King Tuts does the best veg chilli in Musicland by the way, just saying, I don't want a sponsorship deal or anything...much. Anyway, it's Superbowl Sunday and the gig was mostly fun - oh apart from Pop decided to sacrifice his now completely noiseless bass guitar to the Scottish Guitar Gods by snapping it in two and I almost came to blows with a punter about something that was written on Twitter but nevermind - this is all fairly standard really. After driving down numerous one way streets the wrong way and undertaking many a u-turn we eventually made it to our industrial estate Travelodge by a dock: we got hammered on wine; watched some meaningless American version of rugby played by men in tights on the telly when there was probably something better on; slagged off the Black Eyed Peas FROM SPACE; waited a billion years for a pizza and I went and found a fox outside to play with. Pretty good night all in all.
The Chapman Family - 'Anxiety'.
Quite simply one of the weirdest places on earth. After nearly nacking my iPhone during a game of pool we got to the venue to find we were in fact playing in some bizarre karaoke sex club. I think. Sometimes "Academy" shows can become so samey that you can only differentiate them by the surly-ness (or not) of the staff which essentially means that the non-Academy shows stick out more in the memory. Good show, (I think), made even better by having TV screens with video of FIRE behind us. I felt like Matt Cardle. Woah yeah. On the way home SatNav decided once again to take the piss. If you want to know what it feels like to get from Edinburgh to Newcastle without using that big ol' A1 main road punch yourself in the face with a haddock and keep doing this for approximately four hours. In the dark. In a fridge. That's almost what it was like. "B" roads are not the future of travel. The sooner we sort out teleportation the better.
I'll be honest with you I was f*cking knackered in Newcastle. I build up the local (ish) shows (WE'RE NOT GEORDIES) so much and expect the world from them and then manage to completely f*ck them up thus making my nerves and the rather predictable onset of misery even worse. Having to carry a drum kit up four flights of stairs didn't help mind but... Anyway, I sat in the van and pretended everything was alright telling myself the world was a nice place to live while shaking from side to side chatting to Jon Kennedy about our session tracks live on XFM. I didn't swear but due to my nervousness (and a few cans of Tennants I found lying about) I really wouldn't shut up. Mr Kennedy is a lovely chap for putting up with me.
As we were playing with the Young Knives the next day in "That here London" we had to drive down the tried and trusted M1 for what seemed like an eternity until we finally reached Leicester services for some well deserved shut eye - all four fucking hours of it - before we were once again bundled into the Sh*ttip Enterprise for the relatively short drag down to the Big Smoke.
The Champan Family - 'All Fall'.
London London London. London has a tendency to f*ck us up. We've done some great gigs there and we've done some god awful ones. Usually the bad gigs are infront of important "music industry tastemakers" (whatever they are) which probably explains as to why my invite to the BRITs never arrived. Oh a-boo-hoo-f*cking-hoo. Anyway, our great capital has bankrupted me more times than I care to remember but you have to learn to take the rough with the smooth I suppose. The streets aren't paved with gold my northern friends, they're covered with fagends, chewygum and puke. Don't believe the hype.
Here's what we did in "That London" :
- Got through the usual mountain of ploddy-plod traffic relatively unscathed but managed to go around a stupid square roundabout three times in succession. Dizzy.
- Heard lots of swearing from our driver whilst trying to prod our big tour van into a tiny space near the Highbury Garage.
- He swore even more when some sh*t poncey cabriolet nicked the aforesaid space.
- Went off to photoshoot number one: in a pretty park near the Garage. It made a change for us as we weren't posing in front of some derelict industrial sh*thole as per usual. I remember being concerned that I was a bit spotty for photos today. Bit late by now though. Click click click.
- Then we were carted off in a taxi to somewhere posh in East London that didn't used to be posh apparently it used to be a right sh*thole but it's posh now innit, (I think...I'm not sure...I don't speak cockney). They sold jellied eels in a cafe and it felt like I'd meet Dick Van Dyke around the next corner. (I didn't).
- We did more photos with a cool guy called Gavin Watson (a pwoppa diamond) who not only was knocked over by a bus the previous day but also shot the photos for a famous book called "PUNK" which is essentially everything that the This Is England film was ripped off from (kinda, don't sue me...) and a book that I've looked at a fair few times whilst waiting to get my haircut in a lovely barbers in 'Boro. SMALL WORLD INNIT GUV. LAAVLY.
- We did photos near a grim looking canal and a big massive industrial tower and I did a solo shot of me strangling myself. Back in our comfort zone, result!
- We then took a taxi back to the venue after getting lost walking around some little London toy town to put some more money in the meters for the van and Phil's car. Phil had drove down to London himself so he could get a flyer home after the gig as he had work the next day, the poor lamb. All of which made it all so fucking predictable when he went to pass me his keys and they flew through the air and proceeded to plummet nearly five foot below street level IN SLOW MOTION down a fucking drain - not just resting on the top in the leaves, nope, no siree, in the f*cking murky depths of the dark stinky drain. Plop. F*ck. He only lives over 250 miles away, it couldn't be that hard to get the spare set could it? Could it? YES.
- After over an hour of dangling Phil by his ankles into a sewer some clever bastard from over the street brought us a litter picker upper thingy which plucked them out of the darkness in approximately five nanoseconds.
- Covered in, ahem, "rainwater”, Phil dusted himself down and we soundchecked. We all embraced. It was beautiful.
- After ANOTHER photoshoot (and a shower) we eventually got to play a gig and despite - or possibly because - of all the day's shenanigans it went really well. High fives all round from the Chapman Dudez. Finally a really good gig in London. Huzzah.
- After the inevitable billion cigarettes post-gig, the Chapmanmobile (minus Phil and Paul who were now heading northward) raced through the bustling streets of our stinky capital towards Radio One to talk on Huw Stephens' midnight BBC Introducing show. FAME.
- An observation : the "world famous Live Lounge" is not as big as you think.
- Another observation: DJs stand up when they present their shows these days. It's a bit weird especially when you're sat clutching your chair in the studio trying not to dribble.
- Yet another observation: Huw is a lovely man and knows his shit.
- We chatted. We didn't swear or anything and once again we were off in the trusty van to Pops-girlfriends-uncles-house where I decided it would be a grand idea to play pool and put the world to rights until the very early hours with anyone who would listen while drinking some very expensive whiskey.
- I sleep on a floor.
I was a bit grumpy in Sheffield as Sean Bean didn't turn up (he never does the swine! and I've watched every episode of Sharpe too, it's such a one sided relationship! grrrr) but we were given chocolate cornflake cakes and a little carton of milk from some people via the magical power of twitter. Amazing.
A gig in a church. It felt like a pub gig at times due to the close proximity of the crowd and the complete lack of any stage whatsoever but it was immense fun regardless. Pop invented a Berocca/Lager cocktail backstage which was rather predictably disgusting. I blasphemed wildly like a possessed member of the Jesus Christ Superstar cast on stage; Pop tried to do bunny hops in a wheelchair that he'd found round the back (probably left from the healed members of the congregation) and I may have accidentally stolen a Bible as a memento. Best fun we've ever had in Cambridge. Which sounds like I'm taking the piss but it's actually a compliment.
And so onwards to the last night of the tour and the inevitable tears before bedtime. The van was just about holding together by this stage even if our patience with it wasn't. It turns out Leicester University(which houses the Academy) is very futuristic what with it's Starbucks and modern bollocks every-fucking-where and could probably double for the Starship Trooper Academy if it wanted to. Pop and The Airship Boyz came up with a frankly disgusting song at the post tour afterparty which is not printable, Joy Formidable doubled our booze rider, Rhydian Joy Form nicked loads of my fags and the neck fell off my dad's guitar. Fairly standard stuff really.
We partied all the way home up the M1 to Queen's Greatest Hits Volume 1. During 'Flash' we almost hit the central reservation.
The Chapman Family are on tour with O Children from March 8. Their debut album 'Burn Your Town' is out on March 7.
The Champan Family Tour Diary Photos