Much like many of their contemporary counterparts, The Chameleons first revealed their up and down sound to the world with John Peel more than 35 years ago. Since then Mark Burgess has collected an impressive repertoire of impassioned expression that would make most songwriters content with their accomplishments.
When choosing your live band, do you have a personal rapport with everyone or are they more like hired guns?
Mark Burgess: Well Neil and myself first worked together over 20 years ago on the Sons of God project, as did Yves who I've made a few records with too over the years, and Chris has been with me for about six years, at the origin of ChamVox so we're all friends and they feel as passionate about Chameleons music as most of the audience do and that comes across I think.
There are a lot of dynamics in your song structures. It’s almost classical in style. What influenced your writing?
Mark Burgess: Difficult to say. I've been listening to all kinds of music from a very early age and writing for me is a very natural organic thing so I can't really answer that question.
Your lyrics seem very personal. Have any of your songs been used commercially? Would you ever lend them to a political campaign?
Mark Burgess: We've had songs featured in movies once or twice and the odd TV snippet, such as Top Gear the other year but that's about it. No I wouldn't want our music to be used politically.
I’ve been trying to pick up your book “ View From A Hill”. Had you always planned on putting your experiences on paper or was it something you decided later on in your career? It’s a little bit difficult to acquire in the US. Any plans to sell some copies on tour or have more worldwide distribution?
Mark Burgess: The book began back around 1989 when I got my first Mac and it was just an exercise to learn how to use it then, nothing more. Then around 1994 I was asked if I'd consider writing one and let it slip that I had begun work on one. In the wake of that a lot of people urged me to finish it, but it wasn't until my father became terminally ill that I got my arse into gear and published it. U.S. distribution is there now, in fact I'm doing a book signing in Phoenix on this tour.
Do you agree with categorizing bands in genres or do you think that’s more of marketing tool?What are your thoughts on the “post punk” label stamped on a lot of music coming out today?
Mark Burgess: Well I accept the labelling of music but I don't like it, no. Punk was able to happen because of the relatively simplistic boundaries that existed then so as an influential scene its impact was huge. These days it's fractured into hundreds of sub genres and I see that as being very divisive. I can't see how you'd get any kind of unifying revolutionary cultural scene together anymore given that tendency. I personally don't think that Chameleons are classifiable but I suppose that's as good a tag as any.
There is an overwhelming list of artists and musicians from Manchester. Are there any of your favorites who might have been overlooked?
Mark Burgess: I don't know 'cause people that are interested in Manchester music tend to know a lot about the more obscure side to it anyway but for the record yeah, The Passage were definitely up there for me, Grow Up who were the brainchild of one of the members of Spherical Objects, Norman Gamma who fronted Gamma and his Familiars, Steve Miro and the Eyes. To name a few.
I see Tony Fletcher Walked on Water (once a rare item) is on Spotify. So many artists have opted out of that streaming service. Do you think it’s a great tool for fans to access your music or a giant ripoff of the musicians?
Mark Burgess: Well I've liked using it. They want to opt out it's their rightful choice. All I'll say is that in the days before streaming and YouTube I never got paid for hardly anything from record labels and the like so it makes no fuckin' difference to me. And we've certainly had more people at our shows due to Internet exposure and that's my bread and butter right there so I won't be whining to have our music pulled any time soon.
Have you heard any interesting covers of any Chameleons songs?
Mark Burgess: The Something or other Brothers in New York did a ballad version of Up The Down Escalator that I really liked some years back. Other than that I've heard some noble efforts but they tend to fall down with the vocals for me.
Any plans for another solo album?
Mark Burgess: Yeah eventually all these fresh ideas and songs I've been writing with friends will emerge as a new record and I'm hoping it will be sooner rather than later.
Since this interview was conducted Mark's book, "View From A Hill" is easily available on AMAZON and other distributors. Catch him on tour this fall.