“Excuse me, can I speak to Mr McDonald. Is he working today?”
“Erm… I’m sorry, what’s his first name?”
“Ronald. You know, Ronald McDonald. What? He’s not here? Well, it’s his fucking abode! HE SHOULD BE HERE!!” Exclaims a childish and slightly hyperactive Charger vocalist at a spotty, pasty-faced berk in one of York’s more frequented fast-food restaurants. I’m sitting next to bassist Jim who’s proceeding to maniacally stuff a whole packet of (Mínus guitarist) Bjossi’s King Size fries into his mouth, giving a wide-eyed evil cackle before releasing said contents all over the table. Tears of laughter are streaming down my face when Tim rushes over to a group of giggling girls and proceeds to sardonically chat them up, using his trademark wit and charm (ahem).
The comedy show continues as we leave the restaurant (bumping into none other than Mr Jack Dingle) as Jim shouts ‘Bonjourno!’ in a ridiculous Italian accent to random passers-by and poor young girls are subjected to Tim’s pitiful chatting-up technique. To those who’ve been in contact with the Stoke quintet it’s quite clear, but to the uninitiated the otherwise fearsomely intimidating force behind the UK’s loudest and heaviest musical juggernauts are pretty much the exact opposite in their real life demeanours. Just previously, when confronted by a group of 10 yr old youths yelling grebo at us (a situation most band members would just shrug off) Tim grabs the bull by the horns, runs straight for a young scallywag on his bike and lets out an almighty roar inches from his face before calling him a homosexual! Awesome.
Once back at the venue that is to host tonight’s maelstrom of musical delights I pull up a pew with Vocalist Tim and guitarist Jim to get beneath the scary public image of Charger and discuss just what it is that makes em tick. Growing up in the small Midlands town of Stoke-on-Trent the Charger boys found their inspiration lurking within the 70s and 80s prog-rock and metal of Yes, Thin Lizzy, Captain Beefheart, Angus Young, Roger Walters, Eric Clapton and, of course, Mike Patton, the simple reason being that they’re all ace and in the words of Jim, “they make fucking good music!”
At school, when confronted with the careers advisor Jim apparently told him to “fuck off!", telling him he was "not gonna be a babysitter!” However, unlike many musicians who always dreamed of being in a band and becoming famous Tim developed an interest in a more rewarding vocation.
“I always wanted to work with people with learning disabilities and that’s what I do now, apart from music.” Both he and Jim also come from a work-hard mentality where if you work at something and believe in doing it hard enough then you’ll get there.
Tim: “It’s not hard to find what you wanna do. You’ve just got to search for it. People who sit on their arses all day and say ‘oh, I’d love to be that, I’d love to do that’, I’ve got no sympathy for them really. It’s so easy to go and do it, you know what I mean.”
Jim: “You’ve just gotta have the nonce to go out and actually try and do whatever you have to do.”
Tim: “It’s not hard, at all.”
Jim: “I mean, tours we’ve done we’ve literally lived in transit vans and fuckin’ ate nothing for days & days on end. And at the end of the day we’ve done it because we wanna do it, and the same with any other job. If you wanna go out and do something go out and do it anyway, and you’ll get there. Simple as that. And if you’re fucking dole-dossing scum who say they’re fucking… I mean, I’m not saying that everyone on the dole are dole-dossing scum but those people who say ‘fuck it, I’ll live off everyone else’, that’s fuckin’ shite. If you wanna do something you go out and do it, and eventually you’ll get there.”
Tim: “That’s right. But on the opposite side, those people who say ‘I’d love to go to Ireland’, but it’s, like £60 on the fucking ferry, you know. Just go and do it, get weekends off, it’s not hard. What’s your fucking problem? People sit there saying ‘I’d love to do this, I’d love to do that…’”
Are you going to Ireland on this tour?
Tim: “No, but I’d love to go!” (laughs)
Listen to the scorching sludge-core racket that is unmistakably Charger and you’ll find little comparisons to this music that formed the soundtrack to their youth. So, who’s to blame for the inspiration behind the Charger monster?
Tim: “Nobody is. We’ve all got so many influences we’re throwing them all into a pan at the end of the day. It just comes out like that, it’s not deliberate in the slightest.”
Jim’s personal description of the band is, “loud, noisy, messy” and it’s a formula that landed them a record deal in January 1999 with Midlands based Undergroove Recordings - an offshoot of the hilarious and mighty fine Undergroove fanzine - on the strength of their, now extremely rare, Haulin’ Ass demo, from which one track can still be heard on Lockjaw’s ‘Helping You Back To Work’ Vol.2 compilation. Over the past year Charger’s unique sound has found a place in the heart of heavy-music lovers around the country who’re sick to death of the pap that’s currently masquerading as metal. It’s a common link that Charger empathise with just as strongly. Ask them about the current state of metal in the UK and you’ll get some pretty frank answers.
Tim: “Pile of Shit”
Jim: “Gay. I repeat, (leans over the dictaphone) gay! Metal these days is gay!
Tim: “I’m not a big fan of metal at all.”
Jim: “The metal scene at the moment’s been completely and utterly bastardised and turned into something they can sell in the charts and it’s absolute bullshit. Metal was about being fucking rebellious and going one step extra.”
Tim: “But then on the other end of the spectrum you’ve got a lot of good bands.”
Such as those who don’t care about getting that Gold disc like yourselves and Raging Speedhorn.
Tim: “We make music for ourselves, not for anybody else. It just so happens we’ve got somewhere with it. We didn’t really set out to be big in any kind of way.”
Jim: “Just for the tape, Linkin Park are gay.
Jim: “Nah, they’ll do.”
Jim: “…Lost Prophets – gay.” (laughs) “Very, very gay. I bummed one of them. Sorry, shouldn’t say that.”
What do you think of their massive rise to fame, moving over to America for a while and playing to massive crowds seemingly overnight?
Tim: “Well, that’s cruel. I mean, if they can do that… I mean, I wouldn’t mind doing that.”
Jim: “Nah, they’ve basically used the popularisation of metal to their own use. They wanted to play music so they’ve basically done whatever they need to do to make money out of it. That’s cool, I respect that. But they’re gay.”
Just like Raging Speedhorn and other UK bands such as Medulla Nocte and Stampin’ Ground Charger have experienced that little taste of (well-deserved) success through rigorous touring. Something the Prophet boys have yet to experience in large doses in the UK just yet. They’ve played with the likes of Amen, Napalm Death and Speedhorn over the past year, the latter tour providing much excitement to say the least! Apart from Tim being mistaken for Amen frontman Casey Chaos every time he stepped outside the tour bus there was one incident involving two fat Welsh lesbians inviting themselves onto their tour bus (being shared with Speedhorn) and performing a striptease in front of their very eyes, something they assure me will stay in their memories for a long time to come.
“Well, we’ve got no other stories other than that,” smiles Tim. “Well, none that we can tell you anyway.” (laughs).
The tour was also the last the band would play with portly founding member and chief songwriter Jez. The split was far from amicable and when I spoke on the phone with both Jez and Jim at the time both parties had varying stories to tell, boiling down to poor communication and objectives that weren’t being fulfilled by both sides. Due to these tensions and jeopardising of imminent touring commitments with Rabies Caste label manager Darren panicked and placed an ad in Kerrang! for a replacement bassist, something the band knew nothing about until the 1000+ emails began to fill their inbox.
However, they sensibly ignored the vast majority of these offers, playing the whole tour with RC without a bassist, and deciding to try out a friend of Drummer Pauls from Liverpool on their return. He fitted in perfectly (although yours truly was asked to try out next if it didn’t work out) and the initiation of Tom was in place ready for their trek with Matter and Mínus.
How is the new line-up settling? Do you view this as permanent?
Tim: “Yeah, definitely. We’ve all got a lot more creative since Tom joined.”
Jim: “Yeah, Tom’s baddass, basically.”
Tim: “He’s one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. He fits in well with Charger.”
How do you think the band has progressed since he joined?
Jim: “We’re more of a family, like we used to be. We used to be a family of friends who played what we loved playing and that kind of all went wrong for a while and now it’s just like being a big happy family again.”
Tim: “Basically, we’ve just started being a band again.”
So what do you think the next album’s gonna be like?
Tim: “It’s gonna be a lot deeper. It’s not gonna be as angry. Not in a lyrical way anyway. Musically it’s got a lot more evil, loads more evil. Very nasty.”
Jim: “More evil and melodic, in a good way in the sense that there’s a lot of melodies that don’t work together but when the song’s complete they do work well together sorta thing - a lot of discordant stuff.”
Tim: “Still very nauseating to listen to.”
Jim: “And gay. That’s a joke by-the-way.”
You’re a big fan of Manowar. Can we expect a cover any time in the future?
Tim: “We’re gonna do a cover, it’s gonna be by a band called Joy Division or Captain Beefheart or something prog-rocky. Something like that.”
But would you make it Charger?
Tim: “Oh yeah, definitely.”
OK, I’ll finish the interview with a suitably silly question. What’s the best thing since sliced bread?
Jim: “unsliced bread.”
Tim: “Captain Beefheart.”
What’s the best thing since unsliced bread?
Jim: “Sliced bread. Door knockers, they’re pretty cool.
Tim: “The toilet.”
Jim: “Phone booths. They good, I like them.”
Tim: “You’ve gotta pick one Jim.”
Jim: “Alright then, beer and drugs.”
Tim: “That’s two.”
Jim: “Drugs. Beer. Beer-drugs. Noooo! I’m confused!! Ladyboys. Noooo! Right, that’s it, interview over. Gay."