Chris laments struggleto get his music heard
BIG brother Mick packs out huge stadia around the world with The Rolling Stones; meanwhile younger brother Chris freely admits he’s banging his head against a brick wall.
Sir Michael has conquered the globe with the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band; Chris is kicking off a new series of music nights in Chichester.
The music business is a tough, tough place to be, Chris says.
In a varied career which has seen him act as well as write, Chris has also appeared on a couple of Rolling Stones albums. But when it comes to his own music, it’s a struggle to make headway.
Take the most recent album, The Ridge, the first record Chris has made away from his band Atcha. He paid a guy for publicity which didn’t happen. The only breakthrough was that the album was made record of the week on his local radio station in Somerset.
“I paid a guy for the PR, but you just end up doing it yourself, just going from gig to gig,” Chris says. “What you can control is doing things on the internet and you can put up videos, but our music business is in such turmoil that it is hard to know what is going on. It keeps getting steered in different ways. I just don’t pay any attention to it. You can do records and downloads, but the pubs are closing down. It’s hard to know really just how to make it work.
“I did the album here in Somerset in my barn. I had a little studio, and it was a really nice sound. I thought it was a good story. The musicians played beautifully. I thought it was a good album, but with the powers that be in radio, you are banging your head against a brick wall because they are just not interested.
“You know these people that are rather worthy like Jools Holland or Whispering Bob, but what is the point. I can’t even see any point in trying to contact them. You need to get stuff on national radio. If you don’t, it’s such a lot of effort to get a national profile. You get absolutely nowhere. The only worthwhile way to pursue is the internet. I don’t know what the hell you have got to do. You have got to die and then they will discover you.
“I have just been playing in Germany and Austria. That’s quite a nice market and the people are quite appreciative. It’s much better than over here. I have got more of a following over there than I have over here. They look to England as a cultural Mecca for a certain kind of music.”
Chris still does a little bit of writing: “I have to write a piece about Canada. I went there last summer. I still haven’t written the goddamn article.”
He has also acted: “You remember your lines and you don’t bump into the furniture.”
But the music is a tough game - and not because Mick is his brother. Chris is adamant: “I don’t think that is relevant any more. It is just so hackneyed. There are a few people that try to make a big deal of it. But so what?”
He’s just got to carry on doing what he is doing: “I did a few shows in Canada more or less as a solo player. It was interesting. I found that they were quieter when I was talking than when I was playing. They really enjoy you talking. They enjoy you telling the stories about how you came to write a certain song. If you’ve got a band with you, you can’t really do that. You can feel them getting impatient behind you.”
But in that sense, it’s like theatre; it’s entertainment: “You are telling a story, and the song is also story-telling. And I have done a lot of different things. I don’t really like name-dropping particularly. But if you can say ‘I remember John Lennon told me something’, then people’s ears will prick up. The older you get, the more experienced you are, the more stories you have got to tell.”
What about dropping Mick’s name?
“If I want to drop Mick’s name, I will drop it. That’s my prerogative. It’s a bit like the Queen. You don’t actually ask her a question, but if she wants to tell you, she will!”
For Chichester, Chris will be joined by Eliet Mackrell (fiddle) and Dave Hatfield (bass) for an evening of country, hillbilly and blues (The Chichester Inn, East Street, Wednesday, January 26).
“I have got a nice little group from around here and we play acoustically. It’s quite a nice intimate, woody sound - though we get rocking a bit! In some ways, it’s a better vehicle than having drums which can drown things out a bit.”
The last time he played the area was in Bognor Regis with boogie-woogie piano maestro Ben Waters and Stones drummer Charlie Watts - but nothing really came of it, Chris laments.
“It just seems to go nowhere. It’s hard to say that you are making any solid progress. That theatre in Bognor was very nice to play. I would like to play places like that more often.
“But we lack promoters and entrepreneurial support from people that will make the music happen. This is one of the problems. You have got to do it all yourself.
“You have got to organise everything. You can spend all day in front of a computer organising things and then when it comes to five o’clock, you have got to go and play and you haven’t played all day.”
Chris, however, will keep at it: “You don’t know what else is coming. But it is difficult. You’ve got to organise the gigs. You have got to get there. If people say that you are on door money, then you don’t know what money you are going to get and you’ve got to spend time getting people in. And then maybe you’ve also got to set the sound system up.
“You need people to do what (Chichester series organiser) Mark (Ringwood) is doing. You need that entrepreneurial support because without it, it has all got terribly corporate. The whole pub thing is going to the dogs.
“We played one place with a really nice couple in Oxford, but they said they just couldn’t do it anymore. It wasn’t worth it. Pubs are closing all the time.”