1998 was the year Charger reared its ugly head to the unsuspecting underground with the release of their debut demo ‘Haul Ass’, this was soon followed with their infamous ‘Fuzzbastard’ EP and debut album ‘Foul Year Of Our Lord’ both released on the then newly formed Undergroove Records. Roll on to 2008 and with a revamped line up, new management in the form of Future Noise, talks of new releases in the pipeline and of course, their new website, the Fuzzbastards are back and are once again ready to destroy everything that sits in their path. So read on to see what their guitarist & long standing member Jay had to say when I fired some questions over to him.
Howdy Jay, firstly, how’s life with you and Charger at the moment?
Life is good for me & the guys, we are having a lot of fun hanging out every week in our practice room. Our personal lives are totally cool too.
And for those that don’t know a lot about you, can you give us a brief run down of your illustrious history?
Fuck this could be war & peace, well we formed about 13 years ago, Jez & I wanted to play heavy music with our mates & not take it all that seriously. We started to take it more seriously when we got more attention, gig offers etc, this led to some line up changes along the way as it’s hard to sacrifice all your spare time to music. We have toured, recorded, made some great friends, had some killer times & now we’re left with the chosen few.
Its hard to believe that you’ve been around for over 10 years and a lot has happened since unleashing your ‘Haul Ass’ demo back in 1998, so what’s been the highs and lows of Charger during this time?
Playing & touring with the likes of Today is the Day, Cathedral, Morbid Angel, Amen, Raging Speedhorn, Napalm Death, Eyehategod, Black Eye Riot & working with Billy Anderson. There have been so many highs, really the fact we are still around now is one. The lows are not being able to do as much as we would like with the band, we all have to work to put bread on the table so we can’t tour loads.
Back in your early days you were often (and probably sick of being) labelled with the ‘Iron Monkey’ clone tag, so did they actually have an influence on the Charger sound, have comments like these been a help or a hindrance in the past and who else would you say has inspired you over the years?
Iron Monkey were a great band, all of us saw them play live & bought their records. I think we had as many differences as similarities to them but we were in the same genre sure. I think there were bands that came after us that sounded totally like them though. I class Charger as extreme rock, we love loads of different types of music, we are music freaks man & everything inspires us from Punk, Classic Rock to Country.
I always find it hard to believe that a band with your history and calibre never really became as big or popular as people thought you would and from an outsider looking in, for the last few years, you seemed to have been lost in the wilderness somewhat, although you were still playing gigs and releasing new material which included splits with Black Eye Riot, Birds Of Paradise & The ASBO tour, you just didn’t seem to be getting the coverage or support you rightly deserved, why do you think this is?
I suppose cos we don’t have gay haircuts & clothes, plus we all have full time jobs so its hard to tour & be in the media all the time. We are lucky that all the reviews for ‘Spill Your Guts’ & live shows were great & we don’t have the £££’s to grease the palms of magazines so we know it’s from our own merit. We are all about being lifers rather than flavour of the month that everyone forgets.
Why after only 1 album ‘Confessions Of A Man…’ did you leave Peaceville Records and rejoin with your old cohorts Undergroove Records for the follow up, 2007’s painstakingly brutal ‘Spill Your Guts’?
Peaceville were cool people & we have nothing bad to say against them, I think they had some £ issues & all they did for a while was re releases, they have Gallhammer now though. Darren always had faith in us so it was natural to re join him.
Onto 2008 which started with a shake down of your line up and the departure of vocalist Martin Ives, why did he leave and how did this affect the moral of the band?
Martin is a great guy & still a friend, it came down to distance as he lives in Essex & cant drive so he couldn’t practice, that meant we always jammed as a 4 piece & that is no way to run a band, so we had to let him go. The mood of the band is so much better now; we can write new stuff & get the vocals sorted straight away. We have more fun; it’s back to basics, 4 dudes jamming, sharing a beer & joint, having a laugh. We relocated all our equipment to a new room in the country side too where there are no distractions.
The vocal duties have now been split with guitarist Dan and drummer Paul, but why did you go down this route instead of getting in a new/replacement vocalist, how easy was the transition seeing as Paul & Dan already knew the songs and how did you arrange how the lyrics would be split between them?
It made sense to promote from within, we could not face having another front man that did not see the need to practice or go missing when it was time to load in & out. Paul used to sing at practice anyway so it wasn’t that new to him, we didn’t give Dan a choice but he likes a challenge & the two tones complement each other. We had to go back to the start again, we got Dan in & had to teach him the set as we had a tour to do, then we had to learn the set again with Dan & Paul working out the vox 50:50. They decided themselves who would do what & I think they did a cool job. They made it dynamic & gave themselves time to breath between their parts.
Are Paul and Dan enjoying their new found roles in Charger and what have your fans reactions been like to the revamped line up?
They both love it, we all do, the four piece is stress free, we only rely on each other and we know that we will be never waiting on anyone cos it’s all covered. Loads of people have said it’s tighter & more dynamic, also when we play long, slow parts, we don’t have a spare part. We practice with vox so we are tighter. Alex who drives us produced ‘Spill Your Guts’ & the 2005 demos said it was more intense, tighter & we trust what he says.
You’ve also said that 2008 is the year that Charger will re-establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the underground (OK, they’re my words, not yours, but get my point), this also includes Future Noise taking on the management side of things by handling your PR, Bookings and Merchandise, so firstly, how did you hook up with Future Noise and why did you chose them to handle all your management responsibilities?
Well to start, we play shows sober, we now have a strict rule that we can’t get wasted till after we play. The Future Noise deal came about as we have known Dave for years, he was into the band so it made sense to work with someone that had our best interests in mind & wanted to help us out, he’s great at what he does. We have a great team working with us Future Noise, The Sleeping Shaman & Undergroove.
You’ll also be playing 3 festivals this year, the first was Heavyfest IV at the 1in12 Club, Bradford back in May, which was an awesome day (even though I broke my camera right before I planned to take some Charger promo shots and Jay had a minor issue with his guitar head!), but how did you feel this went considering it was your 1st gig as a 4 piece?
Yeah a fuse went & it threw me, dumb fuck that I am I had spares in me tool box. It was a perfect setting for the first show, at all dayers people get trashed (we used to when we played em) so we knew it would ease the pressure & we weren’t headlining. Mainly we were excited to see how it would work outside of the practice room. Dan & Paul had the most weight on their shoulders but that was in terms of getting the crowd over, not pulling it off as we all knew they can both play & sing. We came off stage sweating buckets so we knew we done the job & given 100%.
Later on in the year you’ll also be playing Black Swan at Bath Racecourse, a festival I have to say I’d not heard of before and in October, the Doom/Grind 2 dayer, Rottingham in Nottingham, how did you manage to get Charger on these bills, and secondly, are you looking forward to ripping through your set at them?
Notts is always a great time, apart from the last time when it ran over & we played for 20 mins. Notts is a 2nd home for sure, that’s why they asked us. I know as much as you about the Black Swan other than Discharge are there too, it should be fun playing our set to potentially thousands.
You were also on fire in Liverpool the other night, so it must be good to be back to more regular gigging again?
100% right, we all live in Staffordshire/ Liverpool so we can do things we could not before, like playing on a week night, we aim to play as much as we can, before we were very limited in what we could do.
What about new material? How do you come up with the ideas and turn them into songs? And has this been an easier process now that all members live closer together?
Well we always practised as a 4 piece anyway so the main thing is we can start working on the vox straight away. We used to have to send tapes to Martin of the songs then he would work on them at home, now cos Dan & Paul sing we have vox on tap. Usually we will turn up at the room with some RIFFS & we will jam & turn them into songs. Paul is very good at the arrangements, when he hears the RIFF he knows what to do with it, Jez also writes a lot of complete songs, Dan is having more freedom in Charger than I think he has had in a band before. Our new stuff so far has been faster, but we don’t have a plan other than great songs. If something is over planned it can sound too stiff.
And what about new releases? Are you planning to enter the studio any time soon and if yes, how and when will these recordings become available?
We have been in talks with Dave & Future Noise about an EP featuring some new tracks, covers & live shit of the current line up, so we are excited about that. We are also gonna record a Black Eye Riot cover for Darren at Undergroove for a release he has been working on. Then we aim to write loads of new stuff for a brand new record, we don’t rush anything though that’s the Jamaican in us.
You’ve also worked with legendary sound engineer Billy Anderson, firstly, what was the experience working with him like and would Charger ever use his services again if the chance arose?
Billy is a god among producers; he’s worked with Eyehategod, Buzz oven, The Melvin’s, Neurosis, Sleep etc. So working with him was an honour & he approached us which made it more of an honour. We’d love to use him again, budget & schedules willing. When we recorded ‘Confessions…’ it was so easy, Billy came to Stoke & listened to us in the practise room & said you guys are tight, this is gonna be easy & fun. Then we just hung out in the evening getting drunk & stuff. We did all the basic tracks for the record in three days then we alternated guitar overdubs & vox. Then we mixed. I also want to say Alex Jokel recorded & produced ‘Spill Your Guts’ & tracks we did for splits, he is a great dude & producer & I can see us working with him again, he really gets us & he is a great driver too.
We also have to mention your new website as its been *cough* expertly designed by my good self, so firstly, I hope you like the design and it wasn’t a complete nightmare working alongside a control freak like me, and more importantly why did you feel the need to revamp your dedicated website to run along side your MySpazz page when a lot of bands these days just settle for the latter as their main web presence? Do you think more bands should utilise both rather than 1 or the other?
Myspace is cool as a free web site & it sure beats the days of fly postering but everyone has one now, even bands that don’t even play live or release anything so it’s good to have a presence outside of that. If you have a real web site that you have had made it shows you’re committed to being know outside of the myspace crowd. You did a good job of the site too.
Lastly, what else have Charger planned for the rest of 2008 and into 2009?
For the rest of this year we are gonna play as much as we can, mostly weekends & local stuff in the week. We are gonna be writing some material as well. 2009 we wanna do a tour as well as the one off shows & maybe we will be ready to record album no 4. We have been around for a long time & don’t plan on giving up now.
And we’ll finally bring this interview to a close by saying big thanks for taking the time to answer my questions and please use this space for any final words…
Thanks to anyone who has bought our records come to see us play or put us up for the night, we feel lucky that people still give a shit after well over ten years. Thanks to our new management team Future Noise/The Sleeping Shaman & Undergroove Records.
We want shows so contact Future Noise & book us.
More info on Charger at: www.fuzzbastards.com
Interviewed by: Lee Edwards