DATE OF INTERVIEW:
31st October 2015
METAL DISCOVERY: I gather you’ve been playing some of the new songs live for a while now, so do you feel you need to test drive songs first, before recording them, and have they evolved in any way from when first written, played live, then recorded?
(Chantel McGregor on future directions for her music)
"...I would love, somewhere down the line, to do a full-on prog album."
Chantel McGregor - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2015 Steve Howdle
Interview by Mark Holmes
CHANTEL: This is always a kind of awkward one because the answer should be no…
Official Chantel McGregor Twitter:
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CHANTEL McGREGOR DISCOGRAPHY
Like No Other (2011)
Official Chantel McGregor Website:
Lose Control (2015)
CHANTEL: And the answer for the next one should be no! Because everybody had heard them by the time the album came out, which was a real shame, really. So, I think, for the next album, we’re going to test them in soundchecks; develop them in soundchecks; have tons of rehearsals to develop them; not tour them; go into the studio; still not tour them and, when it’s released, we’ll tour them. I think that’s going to be the way to do it next time because it was just a bit… not a flop, but everybody had heard them, so they knew what they were getting for the album.
MD: When you do test drive the material live, do you see certain reactions and think you have to tweak certain bits, because maybe people aren’t engaging with a particular passage?
CHANTEL: In a way, yeah. But you kind of think you’re tailoring it to something it wasn’t meant to be. So, I’m kind of shying away from that and nobody’s going to hear these until they hear the album. It kind of makes you think, well, at least now they’re out there, you can’t change it, but they’re out there with the intent they were written with.
MD: Absolutely, definitely. Alice Cooper played 'Take the Power' a few days ago on his show… apart from the wide exposure you’re getting there, does it feel good when your music gets some attention from legendary icons like that?
CHANTEL: Absolutely. The thing is, when I’m at home… I can’t do it on tour because I’ve not got a digital radio but, when I’m at home, every night I go to bed, I listen to Planet Rock, so it’s five nights a week with Alice Cooper. So, I have that on when I go to bed every night. I’ve not heard him play it, but yeah, it was like, “ohhh, I wonder what he said about me!”
MD: Have you tried to get in touch with him?
CHANTEL: I tweeted him a couple of times, but I’ve not had a reply.
MD: The video for ‘Take the Power’ is great, a really effective video. The song’s about social and religious cults and control, and loss of control, but how is that represented in the video? To me, it almost seems to be representing the power of female sexuality in a kind of mystical way…
CHANTEL: We used tarot cards in it so… it’s a bit weird, a bit creepy, but what it is, is I’m the high priestess with the tarot cards and I’m controlling what’s going on with them two people. And she’s the woman in red or whatever it’s called on the tarot cards, and he’s the… I can’t remember what he was called on them. I’m controlling what’s happening with both of them and she’s, basically, trying to kill him or something.
MD: Nice and happy!
CHANTEL: Of course! And I get to blow the candles out at the end!
MD: Do you see any parallels between cults and devoted fans of musicians and bands?
CHANTEL: I think there is in some ways, yeah. Because, I mean, some bands, their fans are wonderful although they’re bordering on obsessive and, sometimes, that can be a little bit too close for comfort. But I suppose it is kind of like a cult thing. You get into a band, you buy into it, you buy the t-shirt, you buy the CDs, you buy the… beach towels, I don’t know! Every bit of merch that’s going, they buy it and buy into it, so it is kind of like a cult and they’re spreading the word of your music and stuff. So, it is, but not in a sinister way.
MD: Hopefully not!
CHANTEL: Unless they’re stalking you and want to murder you, you know!
MD: Start selling voodoo dolls on the merch stand, and this kind of thing!
MD: Do you ever feel control or loss of control in the context of what you do in the public eye? Is it a mixture of both those things, sometimes?
CHANTEL: I think it’s a mix of both. It depends on your mood. I know that sounds strange… for example, this week, with the shows we did. You do a gig where it’s maybe not received how you want it to be received because it’s not been represented in a way you want it to be represented, and you go, “oh no, this is awful, why am I doing this?” And then, the next night, you play a sell-out gig and it goes amazingly, and you go, “this is why I’m doing it!” So, sometimes you feel at a loss with it and then, the next night, you go, “yeah, this is amazing.” It is a real rollercoaster, but it is that loss of control of thinking, well, I’m doing this and I’m not really controlling what happens with it.
MD: As this album's heavier, darker and more progressive, can you see yourself going further down that path in the future?
CHANTEL: Yeah. Hell, yeah!
MD: Will you see how the mood takes you when you start composing, or will you purposefully go down that route?
CHANTEL: I like the dark route, I really do. And I always have, that’s the thing. I’ve always been into rock, and I’ve always been into the heavier side of rock, as well. And grunge; I’ve always been into grunge since I was a kid. So, bands like Stone Temple Pilots and stuff, I was obsessed with them in my teens. It’s like, well, why have I really not been playing that sort of thing? And now I’ve got to this age, I’m going, “well, you know what, I’m gonna play what I want to play now.”
MD: Exactly. But why do people still call you a “blues guitarist”? I’ve read it in reviews for the new album. I’m like, have they listened to the album?!
CHANTEL: Exactly. The thing is, we’ve never really been that bluesy. There are blues influences because I listen to bands like Zeppelin… who, at the time, were heavy metal, not blues. Now, they’re called a blues band. It’s all labels and fitting in boxes and what makes it easier for people to digest.
MD: Exactly. Labels are, ultimately, a load of old rubbish.
CHANTEL: It’s music. There’s two labels to music - good and bad.
MD: Yeah, that’s what I’ve always said - two genres: music you like and music you don’t.
CHANTEL: Yeah, so I don’t know where the blues thing’s still coming from.
MD: ‘Walk on Land’ seems to have become a pretty popular track on the album...
CHANTEL: Everyone loves it. It’s very strange.
MD: Have you ever contemplated making a record that’s more swayed towards the progressive side?
CHANTEL: Yeah! [Laughs]
MD: So, like an out and out big prog concept album?
CHANTEL: Well, the thing is, you know how obsessed I am with Porcupine Tree and Steven Wilson…
CHANTEL: So, for me to do a prog album would be amazing. I mean, this was kind of bordering on that with the theme and the concept but it was also the thing of, okay, I need to make something that is digestible and radio-friendly. Because, if I want anybody to hear it, it has to go on the radio. Hence, the three minute, short rock songs like ‘Burn Your Anger’ or ‘Take the Power’. But I would love, somewhere down the line, to do a full-on prog album.
MD: So, reel ‘em in with the three to four minute accessible tracks and then hit ‘em with the full-on eight minute epics…
CHANTEL: Yeah, exactly. I want a ‘Raven that Refused to Sing’! That’s what I want!
MD: The final thing I was going to ask is we talked about your mammoth guitar collection a year ago, which you said was close to the 50 mark, and how buying guitars, for you, is like buying shoes for someone else. So, has your guitar or shoe collection expanded more during the last 12 months?!
MD: Oh, okay!
CHANTEL: Yeah! I think I’ve bought about six pairs of shoes in the last two weeks!
CHANTEL: They’ve all been really practical, though. We’re doing a European tour next week and it’s like, okay, I need things that are gonna be warm and I won’t fall over in and all this. I was gonna buy some UGGs because I’ve already got some UGGs but they’re a bit manky and old. So, I was like, I’m gonna get some Crocs that are fur-lined and all this, so I bought two pairs of them because they were buy one, get one half price. And then I fell over in them in Glasgow!
CHANTEL: So, it was like, okay, these are not non-slip, I need some more shoes. So, then I went and bought these Skechers last week, that are waterproof and fall-over-proof and everything!
MD: Do you try and colour co-ordinate them with your guitars, though?!
CHANTEL: No, they look hideous! These look awful… but I’ve not broke my ankle in ‘em, so it’s good!
MD: Always a bonus!
CHANTEL: Exactly, yeah!
MD: Right, that’s all my questions, so thank you very much.
CHANTEL: Thanks so much.