Attacking From the Appalachian's
An interview with Chum
by: Adrian Bromley
Huntington, West Virginia isn't exactly the first city you think of when you mention hard music. But to some, Huntington's loudest export, Chum, may be the next hard-grooved outfit to watch out for. Speaking from his home in Huntington, singer/guitarist John Lancaster is a bit nervous about the interview, seeing that this is the first interview he has ever done. Ever. The topic: The band's much anticipated debut album on Century Media, _Dead to the World_.

Begins the twenty-three year old with a small sense of humour and in the process cautioning the interviewer, "This is my first interview I have done, so if I sound stupid, it's because this is my first interview." The initial jitters he has of the interview subside and Lancaster opens up about the intensity and hard work that went into the emotionally strong and well-balanced groove of _DttW_. "We wanted to be able to go into the studio and make an emotionally full and musically tight record. A sonically good album that showed off the emotions and moods of every song. We achieved that with _DttW_. I think throughout the whole record we have a driving mood of realism and the lyrics that I mostly write are personal about my life," states Lancaster. "I think throughout the record the mood stays the same level and that makes the record sound strong and focused. Having that same feeling throughout the record makes the record seem true to life."

The record was produced by longtime friend Dave Barrick, who also produced the band's two earlier demos. But before Barrick was chosen to produce _DttW_, the band had been approached by King X's Doug Pinnick and Ross Robinson (Korn, Sepultura) to produce the debut. About the sound of the band and the interest in the band they had created, Lancaster says, "We've been told we have a different sound but it is hard to look at it this way. We never tried to be different. I listen to a lot of different types of music, both heavy shit and I also love a good melody in a song, you know? Stuff that will either move you musically or lyrically. It was basically bringing those two things as one, but wasn't really an effort to do so. Maybe that is why those people were interested? Maybe some of these people think the music is somewhat different to what is out there."

An interesting story about the band, other than the fact that they come from such a small, unknown town is the method they went to getting signed to Century Media. Accounts Lancaster, "We played a showcase in New York and we had some people come out to see us. Monty Connor (president) of Roadrunner was there and I guess he wasn't interested in us for Roadrunner but he is good friends with the A&R guy from Century Media and he recommended us to the label. They checked us out and we went from there. From what I understand," finishes off Lancaster, "that is the same way Stuck Mojo got signed to Century Media too."

The band is comprised of longtime friends Mac Walker on guitar, Chris Tackett on bass and new drummer (since February) Elliot Hoffman. Since the band's inception a few years back, the band has formed a small fanbase with their live shows. "The earliest formation of the band dates back to 1992 and 1993," starts Lancaster about the early days of the band. "I used to jam with the bass player and the other guitar player in another band when we were 14 or so. I hadn't heard from them in a while and then they called to say that they were jamming with this drummer and they needed a singer. I played guitar and asked them if I could play guitar too. So I joined. Then in 1994 we got a new drummer and then our style started to show and it became quite apparent where we were headed.

"When we first started to write songs (on the early demos) it wasn't focused and we were whipping out songs. Our material was just there, nothing special. But once we got the new drummer it started to form into what Chum was to become with our music."

Talking more about the overall sound of the band he notes, "I love a band that can incorporate heaviness and intensity and have that combined with good melody. Singers that can mix it up a little bit, a good example being Faith No More. Mike Patton (singer of FNM) can sing with a soulful voice and have an intensity as well. It is great to see how he uses his voice as an instrument and how he can transform his voice to suit a song. As for our sound, we just brought together all the music we were listening to and any other contributions."

Listening to the harmonic power of _DttW_, many of the album's tracks have their own character. There is the sheer intensity of "Stepping On Crack" or "Kindling Kind" and the melodic stance taken by "Angels In The Snow" and "Untouchable". One song that does stand out is the album closer, a cover of Prince's (The Artist Formerly Known As Prince) "Darling Nikki". "We always played that song live, it was usually the show closer and while in the studio we decided to record it. When we heard it in the studio we wanted it so bad on the record and the record company people liked it a lot so we included it. It made us happy to see it make it onto the record."

Another thing that would make the band happy right now would be to tour the United States in support of their debut. The band has only been able to do small amounts of touring in the last little while, with stops in New York City, bits and pieces of the East Coast and some of the surrounding states of West Virginia. Lancaster is asked: Are you worried about touring? <laughs> No! I am worried about not touring. This guy was to book us for a few weeks solid and then just backed out on us. Just like that... gone! We are still trying to get something together in regards to touring. We are kicking around a few ideas here and there but nothing concrete yet. In some shape or form we need to go out and play. As far as I am concerned, touring is the biggest part of promotion for a band. We want to do this and do it now." Seeing that this is their debut album, has the band experienced the 'give and take' ideology of the music business yet? "I heard all this stuff about the music business so I guess I was ready for it. I mean we haven't experienced much yet but we also haven't been involved with it too long. I'm prepared to do this and this is something I have always wanted to do and I am finally doing it. I tell people this is like a big rollercoaster ride. You get excited about it and then something bad happens and then something good will happen after that and keep you high on that for a bit, etc... It goes up and down and I guess I got to get used to it?"

About success and growing with the industry and doing things their own way without having to compromise too much, he says, "I don't want to get to a point where the music is not real. I always want to keep it real. Whatever happens happens and I just want to make sure our music isn't changed by people telling us what to do. You gotta have fun doing this while you can 'cause it isn't forever."

(article submitted 9/6/1996)


ALBUMS
4/18/1996 A Bromley 9 Chum - Dead To The World
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