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BunChakeze

Interviewed by Gary Hill

Interview with Colin Tench of BunChakeze from 2011

MSJ:

Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music – both individually and as a band?

I started my career in music very late and finished very early. Or so I thought!

I didn't pick up a guitar to try to learn until I was 21. I was in Sydney at the time and joined my first band while I was still learning. It was a good thing I did, as the other guitar player in the band was the guy that mastered the Odin and BunChakeze album. We did covers of stuff that other's didn't...Alex Harvey, Santana, Love Sculpture for example. Our own music was 100% instrumental and that’s pretty much the way my musical mind has continued to this day.

I arrived back in London in 1980 and joined Odin.

Odin was conceived by Gary Derrick in 1980. I met them in 1981 because they were auditioning guitarists. Although not their aim, they took two of us and the other guy was John Culley, formerly of Black Widow, Geno Washington's Ram /jam band and Cressida, so I was a little in awe of him.

I had twin neck and I guess and that impressed them. Although we didn’t ever get a second guitarist in BunChakeze, we continued to write for two lead guitars as we love that sound.

Odin wrote, rehearsed and gigged in London. We were a six piece and felt pressure to keep it simple, in order to get gigs. “Prog” was a very bad word by then. During the first year we upgraded the drummer and Cliff Deighton joined us. This was bad because Cliff was totally influenced by Rush and all things prog. It was good because he took Odin to a much higher level.
Odin were a true band. All influences allowed. We were a rock band with two lead guitars, keyboards, big drums and long songs. We were doomed.  We have now digitally released “The London tapes” by Odin on CDbaby.com.

Odin ended in 1984 and three of us formed BunChakeze but only with the aim of recording. At a late stage in the recording process we found our singer Joey Lugassy, who was on a four month visit to England.

We thought that we should produce a whole album without financial help from anyone and then go to the record companies. We did exactly that but it still got us nowhere. Recording an album was very expensive in those days. The record companies really should have given us a fair hearing as we had proved we were serious and in my opinion, damn good!

We were ahead of the times in a way, as we made the album but didn't plan to gig unless we got support. Many work this way now and it makes perfect sense.

I stopped playing at all in 1985 but the Cliff Deighton (drummer) and Gary Derrick (bass) joined other bands in London and continued to play locally. Joey went back to LA and eventually recorded and released an album which was a rock opera. He continues to sing and write music with various people there.

I re-entered the world of music in 2010 and we were encouraged to release Whose Dream? and after a couple of fabulous reviews on progarchives, we did. I am now picking up where I left off!

MSJ: If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?
I'll answer this in a different way. I stopped being involved in music after 1985. I don't chase rainbows, so moved on and decided the best move was to aim to retire very young and work hard to achieve that. I did! That has now given me the opportunity to be 100% involved in music at a much better time. I've never had a passion for anything as strong as my passion for music.
MSJ: How did the name of the group originate?
We started rehearsing under the name “DDT,” our surnames. A practice piece had a few key changes in it, so we called it “bunch of keys.” We converted that to Bun Chakeze and later BunChakeze (one word) and named the band after it. Always aware of the problem of naming a band and finding there are three others in the world, like Odin! Nobody ever called themselves BunChakeze, so we got that right. People seemed to like the name better than DDT. (laughter)

It was also a dig at the mainstream music business because they were so dismissive of any music that wasn’t simple and short. Being good had become unimportant!

MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences?
Our influences at the time we made this album: Mine were the obvious 70s bands: Led Zeppelin, Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd and Beatles. Also, lesser known bands: Uriah Heep and Focus for example. Cliff was very much the same but he also loved Rush. Neil Pert is a hero of his. Just listen to the way he plays!

Gary listened more to Deep Purple, Rush and Whitesnake and that made us a good team. You never want to be the same as the people you work with or it could lead to very boring results.

In recent years, there has been a wonderful resurgence of good music, lead by bands like Dream Theater, Spock’s Beard, Ayreon and Porcupine Tree etc. That has made me very enthusiastic about the future of music. They are my new influences!

MSJ: What's ahead for you?
Our greatest dream is to play this stuff live, as we never did. That is tough because we are spread all over the place. It will take time but I do intend for it to happen.

Also, I am working on a few new things at last. The internet makes everything possible now and I am already recording with a Andres Guazzelli from Argentina, plus I am in discussion with others about future projects.

Joey Lugassy has never stopped and regularly gigs in LA plus runs Yoga retreats in California. He is a very talented guy!

Gary is currently gigging and recording with his London Band Release the Peach. That will continue but he also wants to move forward with BunChakeze when it is viable.

MSJ: I know artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?
People say we sound a little like Pink Floyd and Genesis but not the same as anyone really. We do produce distinct songs rather than a concept for an album. This is annoying for some as we can’t really be labeled except as “crossover” and I like that. I use a 12 string electric a lot and that gives us that Zep/Heep sound sometimes. Gary used a Rickenbacker bass on the album and that also gives that classic 70s prog sound. We are not virtuosos, so the overall sound is rather melodic with a lot of guitar!

In a nutshell it is all song based but the instrumental arrangements are very strong and it could easily have been a purely instrumental album. I can't personally stand "filler" material, so there is none whatsoever.

MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play with in the future?
That is a difficult question because I have opportunities with a few people and they all live in different countries. My greatest wish is to play with BunChakeze. That is the dream. We never had a keyboard player but just to make life more difficult, I've met a guy in Argentina who would be so perfect. With him in the band, we'd be pretty awesome. I honestly believe we are different from a typical prog band and that is very lucky.
MSJ: Do you think that illegal downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?
That's a tough one. Millions actually do prefer to own a real item, like a CD and they are actually very cheap. Many will download and then buy the real CD if they like the music, so it isn't a negative. The real problem seems to be that there is so much good music to download legally or illegally, that people just don't get round to buying anything at all! Many don't care about quality or can't even hear the difference, therefore they are happy to have the movie or album regardless of the bad sound.

Downloading is bad for the majors and maybe not so bad for the independent artist. It is a bit like free advertising really.

MSJ:

In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?

Recording shows is fine in my opinion. People love all that and of course, it can end up helping a good band because it ends up on youtube and FB etc.. free advertising again!
MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis?
Should I say Simon Cowell? Aargh! Actually it would be BIFF, as I could deal with guys like that.
MSJ: If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?
If it was now, I'd not choose the old greats except Pink Floyd (headline obviously). Ok.. Pain of Salvation, The Flower Kings, Aisles, Star One/Ayreon, BunChakeze, Mother Jane, Frost, G3, Porcupine Tree, Frame Pictures, Transatlantic, Dream Theater, Jeff Beck (Um...Yes, he's old but stayed great), Opeth.
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
I bought Joe Satriani's and Blackfield’s new albums and The Flower Kings' new DVD. I have been listening a lot to many new bands I never knew about, and they have astonished me. Frame Pictures and Aisles are as good as anything I've ever heard in the virtuoso category. Jeff Green and Nine Stones Close make wonderful, moving music, and like us, are working hard to get heard. Too many others to list!
MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
Good timing for this question. I just finished Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy and probably the best books I've read since The Stand and Lord of the Rings - awesome!
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Pain of Salvation last month. They are in my top ten bands of all time.
MSJ: Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”
Well I don't know if you could call it a “guilty pleasure” but Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby are amazing to me. There should be comedy in music (Zappa was right) and those guys have that, plus they were truly great artists and can I even say a rather progressive?

Oh..I love Yanni too. (laughter)

MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
Due to our drummer forgetting his sticks for a gig (and being generally problematic), Odin were forced to hold auditions for a new drummer. Cliff (Odin & BunChakeze) was in the hall setting up his drums while we were trying out another guy. When we went to call him, he had packed his kit away again, saying, “That guy's too good. I won't get the job.”

At our very first gig with Cliff, he arrived with his hand bandaged up. After setting up his kit and doing a sound check he promptly disappeared into the the night. Time came to play... No Cliff. We set off in different directions to look for him. He was found in a Wimpy bar drinking tea.

We got him back to the pub and started to play. During the first song blood started to come from the drum kit. It was turning into a punk gig.

Yep, we had a perfect Spinal Tap drummer!

MSJ: If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?
I would want them to be alive. I just need to say that!

Ghandi, Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton.   No that's a load of cobblers. (laughter)

Roger Waters

Rick Wakeman

Billy Connolly

MSJ: What would be on the menu?
It was have to be Indian food. No contest!
MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
I am personally rather proud of what we did all those years ago. You could say we proved that we had an album that would have done very well. Here we are 25 years later and it is doing well. People love music and there is no formula for what is good or bad really. Music has made so much money for record companies over the years that they turned an art form into a money machine. Why not though? That's good business!

People all over the world are busy with their daily lives and few have an interest in seeking out music they haven't heard of. Sounds arrive on the radio and TV 24 hours a day. People get used to what they hear and grow to like it. Nobody should fool themselves that they make better music than anyone else and should become successful.

Everyone listens to music but very few "listen" to music!

What we are doing is trying to get ours in as many places as possible for it to get heard. We don't promote ourselves as such. It's a lottery really but if our music is liked by enough people, it will keep spreading. If not, it won't. We should all take that view and enjoy what we do. Very few of us will get famous or rich but all of us can enjoy making music and wowing a few people with what we do. The internet has made that possible and the ever growing number of independent radio stations and music websites connect more people together all the time.

That feels good!

MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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