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Cheese e-Interview
By Ben Ohmart
(more articles from this author)
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Behold... the power of Cheese. The name might conjure up pretty pizzas, but there's nothing cheesy about these UK nuts.

[Ben Ohmart] Cheese is how the US refers to - apart from cheese - a substandard, very popular notion. What does it mean in the UK?

Cheese Much the same really: One would, for example, describe Frank Sinatra as pure class, but Robert Goulet as pure cheese.

[Ben Ohmart] Why are you guys called Cheese?

Cheese Personally, I've got a lot of time for cheese in all its ramifications, speaking as a vegetarian with a fondness for 'hip easy listening' in the Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66 vein. Besides, the word makes me laugh for some inexplicable reason...

[Ben Ohmart] You mention that your band's sound is like that of Revolver, and the Lennon-Harrison genre. Are you a great Beatles fans, or do you think, like the punk movement, that ENOUGH ABOUT THE BEATLES, ALREADY!!?

Cheese Hmm...somewhere between the two, actually. I mean, it would be churlish and downright wrong to fault Revolver, which as far as I'm concerned provides an unimpeachably perfect template for guitar pop (and I still hear things in it which no-one seems to have picked up on yet). On the other hand, I'm as fed up as anyone else is with bands who just seem to plunder and recycle the most facile and obvious aspects of Beatle-dom instead of using their pioneering spirit as a jumping-off point. Anyway, as one whose early teens coincided with punk rock, I reckon Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd are every bit as important... not to mention Johnny Ramone, Bob Mould, D Boon/Mike Watt, Frank Black and J Mascis...but I digress.

[Ben Ohmart] How did you band mates get together originally?

Cheese We were all mates anyway, who gravitated together because we seemed to be the only people we knew at the time who liked GOOD STUFF as opposed to the chart fodder, which most of the other local bands seemed to be perpetrating. Rich and Al were both in a great band of teen degenerates called Stonefish, while Chris and his hair came down from Corby in search of sunnier climes. An incestuous musical circle sprang up which persists to this day - as well as Cheese, Rich and Al are in the brilliant Lucky Bishops with drummer Luke and keyboardist Tom: Luke, Tom, Al and I are in a demented psychedelia/loungecore covers band called Gothic Chicken, and Al and I occasionally perform as an acoustic duo called Itchy & Scratchy...Complex stuff.

[Ben Ohmart] Who are your influences? Ain't gotta be in music, either.

Cheese See question 3 for a whole list of relevant reprobates. Otherwise, Big Respect to the following: Syd Barrett (for his unique 'Chuck Berry on Mars' guitar style); The Association (truly cheesy, but any mumsy/dadsy vocal group who can slip out something as subversive as Pandora's Golden Heebie Jeebies gets my vote any day of the week); The Stooges (the only rock & roll group ever: Everyone else sounds like pussies next to them, especially on Iggy's awesome, bloodcurdling remix of Raw Power); The Beach Boys (an obvious choice, but come on! To buck the trend somewhat, I'd take most of Surf's Up and Sunflower over Pet Sounds, although it's a close thing. Let's hear it for Carl and Dennis...); Can (Irresistibly inscrutable: Paperhouse has one of the earthiest grooves imaginable this side of the 70s soft porn divide); Serge Gainsbourg (lush, romantic string arrangements, swooning melodies, obliquely perverse lyrics grunted in bronchitis tones...sublime); Christ, I could go on forever, but off the top of my head, I must mention The Left Banke, The Zombies, Super Furry Animals, Nick Drake, early Soft Machine, Blossom Toes, Pere Ubu, Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band, Peter Cook & Dudley Moore, Patrick McGoohan, Gunter Grasse, etc etc...

[Ben Ohmart] Are you making a living at this yet? (Don't laugh!) What are you doing for cash then?

Cheese For my sins, I'm a sub-editor/music reviewer with the local news rag. We do tend to gig quite heavily in our bizarre covers band incarnation, but the local pubs are stubbornly resistant to bands performing original material, with the result that Cheese gigs are few and far between. I did have a spell a few years back as a fully professional musician but a more secure wage inevitably beckoned, what with the kids to feed and all...

[Ben Ohmart] What are you doing in your spare time?

Cheese We tend to do a lot of walking naked along the side of main roads, for no good reason. I personally frisbee a lot into the bargain (having just read A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius).

[Ben Ohmart] How prolific are you as songwriters? What's the usual method for constructing a song?

Cheese I'm dreadfully unprolific as a general rule, except for hot periods where I manage to rattle off two or three in a week, compared to the more habitual six or seven a year...I tend to get into a certain mood, inevitably very late at night, more often than not warmly drunk, and the genesis of a song will more or less spring into my lap, whether it be suggested by a phrase, a feeling, a couple of chords or whatever. Almost invariably, I'll have the chorus and first verse within minutes: The rest of the song could take months to appear, as I have to attempt to get back into the identical mood. It's not just a case of getting shitfaced again...every drunk interlude is subtly (or unsubtly) different from the one before, as I'm sure you'll agree.

[Ben Ohmart] Doing a lot of gigging now? Where will you be playing soon?

Cheese As I outlined earlier, we haven't played as Cheese in an age (almost a year, by my reckoning), but we keep busy with Gothic Chicken, performing weird shit by bands like Egg, Tomorrow and the Shy Limbs. Plans are tentatively afoot to do some gigs in the new year, but I find it difficult to face the enormous psychic battering involved in bringing your own stuff to heathens who'd much rather hear Atomic Kitten. The trouble is, there aren't any proper venues round these parts. We need to get out and about more, I reckon...

[Ben Ohmart] Any interesting backstage/off mic stories?

Cheese God, it's really hard to remember anything specific...We've done a couple of gigs wearing dresses, again for no good reason. The only dress I could find in the shops which would fit Chris was a maternity dress, and even then it was so tight on him that it looked like wallpaper. My, how we laughed, etc. We did a cover of Wannabee by the Spice Girls once, only in the manner of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and a bloke at the bar nearly choked on his pint when he realized what it was. Someone else actually commented "Oh, I didn't know this was a Hendrix song" if the Spice Girls would do a Hendrix cover for their first single, dohhh... While I think of it, we did a gig as Gothic Chicken the other week in a pub on the scenic and accursed isle of Portland, and a member of the audience tried to order us, thinking that 'Gothic Chicken' was an item on the menu... There's probably a whole screed of intoxicant-related embarrassments which I'm forgetting, but I expect it's for the best if we gloss over them anyway...

[Ben Ohmart] Anything else you wanna share?

Cheese Simply, thanks for your interest. At the time when we were recording the stuff which has ended up on Let It Brie, we very much felt that we were operating in a vacuum, out of step with everything and everyone. Simon at Pink Hedgehog was very keen to release the songs, though, bless 'im, and it's immensely gratifying to discover that there are people out there who like what we did. The new stuff is coming along incrementally in fits and starts: It's a bit more lo-fi and left field than the earlier material, but I'm cautiously and guardedly happy with it, which is rare for me. Now I just need to get drunk enough to sing it properly...

Related MusicDish e-Journal Articles:
» Cheese - Let It Brie - Pink Hedgehog Records (2001-07-24)

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