Cheetah Chrome - Uber Rock Interview Exclusive Print E-mail
Written by Dom Daley   
Sunday, 20 July 2014 03:30

When you get an email giving you a number for Cheetah Chrome and saying give him a call, you can't really ignore an offer like that. What you do is thank the person then make sure you get the time right, pick up that phone and call.




Hi Cheetah, how's things going?


Good man, thanks for calling.


Let's kick this off with the present and you've just self-released a new album: well, not a new album but your debut solo album. Why wait until now?


Well now seemed a good time as the songs were sitting here gathering dust and I figured why not just put it out, you know ha ha!


You must have had plenty of offers over the years to put out a solo album, or one that featured your name in the title?


Um yeah sure, the thing is I have a huge mistrust of this industry so that's always going to be an obstacle when it comes to putting out a record.


You put that across in the book.


Yeah, so it was difficult trying to figure out how I could do this ha ha!


You're obviously pleased with the end result then and how it turned out and actually getting it to the public?


Oh yes, I'm real happy with it, you know.




I think a lot of people on hearing you'd put out a solo album were going to expect an album that would sound along the lines of the Dead Boys: they might get a surprise that there are acoustic guitars and instrumentals on this record.


Well yeah, the Dead Boys were a long time ago and even though a lot of those tunes were written on an acoustic guitar it wasn't the band to probably use them on the record. So it's always been very natural instrument for me, you know. As far as other people's expectations go about how this record should sound, I don't really care ha ha!


You should always please yourself first, it's no good writing stuff that people can see through, right?


Always. I think if I tried doing that first it would seem fake and I wouldn't be interested anyway.


Did you set out intending to do the singing on your own record?


Not really. I never ever considered myself much of a singer. I tried a lot of people after Stiv and I never found anybody I was comfortable with so I guess I kinda did it by default.




You've cropped up on some pretty good records over the years by people like Jeff Dahl and you did Batusis with Sylvain Sylvain: I think there are some of us who always rooted for you to get back into it and make some music. You were certainly good at it!


Yeah, those guys were great to work with and it was always real fun. Working with Sylvain - we both sing and play so when we just play guitar it's nice to do both: it's a break during the set and it's nice to sometimes be the lead singer. I don't know, with a singer in a band they always end up becoming the frontman and the leader of the band and that's not always the best, you know ha ha! It's not always ideal to have the singer as the leader either, ha ha!


Where are you and Sylvain with Batusis now? Is that still a going concern or is it consigned to the history books as derailed by some dust cloud from Iceland?


Yeah, we have talked about it and I guess Sylvain has a different concept of what it is than I do but we do want to do something else because we had a lot of fun doing the last record and a tour behind it but, as you say, that whole no fly thing sort of derailed that because we were going to take it on the road in Europe but, hey, you know maybe some day it'll happen ha ha.


What's the process for you: do you stockpile songs or just keep ideas stored for when you get into a studio?


There's a lot of stuff sitting around especially studio stuff that maybe I'd do differently now or stuff that maybe was fleshed out differently and I'd do it another way now maybe. A lot of things come out when you playback - maybe it's too fast or you're not happy with the lyrics so you want to change them a bit, that type of thing. So there is stuff there that I will probably put out at some point when I can get them finished I guess.


Are you someone who likes to use modern technology or not?


Like right now I'm working on brand new stuff rather than stuff I have had lying round, you know. There are things that since I've got back involved in the record industry: singles seem to be making a bit of a comeback. It can either be digital or vinyl 45 so you don't have to wait until you have like sixteen songs to put on an album. For a long time it was pretty dark and people would expect a really long album or forget it.


It seems a lot more instant now with technology and you can use your computer or iPad to get some decent results finished and you don't even have to be in the same time zone as your bandmates which might be a blessing or a curse, ha ha!


Yes, ha ha, I wouldn't dare release anything from my iPad I did in garageband or something. It's nice to use a studio and create the right environment, you know? I personally like going into a real studio rather than a virtual one but for ideas it's whatever works right but for me it's about the right environment.




As I've got you on the phone you would seem like the best person to comment on the recent movie about CBGB which has taken a bit of a bashing - what are your thoughts on how it turned out?


Um, you know what, I liked it. It was fun. I know it got a lot of criticism because it wasn't a great documentary but you know a great documentary came out about five years ago and nobody went to see it so why do the same thing with this one and see it bomb? It was just a movie and the guy's heart was in the right place. It was a caricature movie, it wasn't supposed to be serious: I think in ten years time people might look back and think, you know what, it wasn't that bad, and just enjoy it for what it was. Maybe people got an expectation in their head and when it's something different it's hard, you know? I guess people look so fondly on some of the bands and know every last detail it's hard then to see someone acting out their part, especially when they don't necessarily know too much about the guy they're playing. Saying that I thought the Dead Boys were portrayed very well. It was a good representation of us that's for sure.


I was going to ask you what you thought about Ron Weasley playing yourself?


I thought he did great, he's very talented and got me spot on, ha ha!


Did you get to meet him whilst he was in character?


Oh yes, we got to go hang around the set and watch. I was there for a week the same time he was so we got to hang out.


When two worlds collide, eh?


You got that right, ha ha. You know what, it was funny because my son was like seven at the time and he's this big Harry Potter fan and when we got on the set he was like, "Dad, that's Ron Weasley" and he was blown away: it was pretty cool and he was such a nice guy and great actor.




Before we wrap this up I have to tell you that as far as music autobiographies go 'From The Front Lines Of Punk Rock' is right up there with the best ever written and, for me, it's standing alongside Ian Hunter's 'Diary Of A Rock And Roll Star' and Alvin Gibbs' 'Neighbourhood Threat'. I never expected such a warm, inviting and engaging story and you managed to avoid pretty much every single insipid rock star cliché and wrote it with an honesty that was so refreshing. I loved it, I couldn't put it down until I finished reading the lot. I have read it more than once as well, ha ha. How sad does that make me, ha ha!


Well, thank you.


Did you find it difficult to write at all? Being so honest about you as a person?


Um, once I got going I think I stopped worrying about what to include and it just poured out. It was just one of those things I wanted to do. Once I got going a lot of it was just fun remembering. It was difficult at times because of chronology and things like that. I mean I can remember a lot of things happening but as to what order they fitted in (ha ha) that was kinda sketchy at times. I'd go on google and find obscure things that would trigger off some other memory that was great. It's funny you mention it with Ian Hunter's book: when I was growing up it was the book everyone read and it's how I wanted my book to be, or use it as where I wanted to set the bar, you know? It was a really good book and when you read it you felt like you really knew the guy.


I agree. I found a lot of the stories you wrote, especially about your childhood, were really warming. I obviously didn't grow up with you or know the places you lived but it was really emotional reading the stuff about before you were in a band growing up and the honesty really shines through.


Well I think a lot of these rock star types who write books, oh I don't know....


Do it for the money and not because they have a story to tell?


Well I've picked up a couple and let's say I didn't want to write a book like that (ha ha) mentioning no names (ha ha!)




I'm going to let you go now, Cheetah. It's been a real pleasure talking to you. Is there any chance of some live dates in the USA or Europe even over the next year to support the album?


Yeah, it's something that could happen. We're talking to some promoters now and who knows? It's something I'd love to do - it's been a long time since I was in the UK.


I'd say. When was the last time you were here?


I guess the only time would be '77 and I was there in London for my honeymoon and one time we stopped off after going to Spain so I guess it's about due, ha ha!  


Time flies, eh?


It sure does, ha ha!


On that note we said our goodbyes. It was an absolute privilege and an honour to talk to Cheetah Chrome, one of punk rock's most iconic guitarists and the guy that penned one of music's finest tunes in 'Sonic Reducer'. Check out his first solo album and go see him live if he plays your town and for us limeys let's keep our fingers crossed that we can one day get the chance to hear him play the guitar over here. Some days are just better than others, fact!


To visit the Cheetah Chrome store on Amazon - CLICK HERE