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Chumbawamba «
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Artist Spotlight Archive - Jan. 2004
Best known for their infectious "Tubthumping" hit that was released in the late 90s, this group of self-confessed anarchists yields from the industrial city of Leeds, 2 hours' drive north of London, U.K.

Started in the mid-80's with their first record whose title, "Pictures Of Starving Children Sell Records", is a poke at the Live Aid benefit, Chumbawamba has never stopped being provocative. Whether or not you agree with the issues they address, one thing is for certain... they are hard to ignore!

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» Buy Chumbawamba's CDs

In addition to earning accolades such as "guaranteed to disturb and delight" (AllMusicGuide), "stubbornly and refreshingly upfront" (Q4Music), "intricate and satisfying" (Launch) and "one of the most politically sound bands around" (NME), they have also received their fair share of ridicule and scorn. Perhaps some of the criticisms are based on the message rather than the music, it is nevertheless hard to separate the message from the band.

Never one to be pigeon-holed into a genre or musical style, Chumbawamba has produced records that range from pop ("Slap", "Tubthumper") and political ("Anarchy", "WYSIWYG") to acapella folk ("English Rebel Songs"). The common thread in all of these records are the powerful lyrics which are full of questions, ideas, concepts and issues. There aren't too many bands who would quote Chomsky or Plato in their lyrics.

Ever the anarchist, this is what band member Dunstan Bruce had to say on the current hot topic of illegal file sharing - "If Ulrich, Madonna, and Eminem had never sold any records and were worried about entering a poverty-stricken old age, then their determination to stop their music being passed around would be understandable. But what we're seeing is some of the richest pop stars in the world making the biggest stink about not being able to screw every last penny from their adoring fans."

One last note, you know you've made it when Homer Simpson creates an interpretation of your "Tubthumping" hit with lyrics such as "I take a whiskey drink, I take a chocolate drink, And when I have to pee, I use the kitchen sink."

And in case you were wondering what "Tubthumping" means, Chumbawamba defines it as "Shouting to change the world... then having a drink to celebrate".

If that's the case, then... cheers!

» "Jacob's Ladder (Not In My Name)" by Chumbawamba
» "Sewing Up Crap" by Chumbawamba


Exclusive Q And A
Q:  You were amongst one of our earliest song contributors to the project; contributor #13 - though an unlucky number but it's been very lucky for us to have you. I suppose you saw the potential of this project?
A:  We are always interested in collaborating with, or working alongside people who are engaged with the world outside themselves and using art or pop to make statements or push boundaries. Contributing to songs for peace makes us feel less isolated, and for us its important to feel we are part of a community of resistance. We can see other artists who are breaking the generic mould of pop musicians declaring that they have no politics or opinions other than a desire to sell records and 'love' their 'fans.'

When artists declare that they are apolitical what they are really saying is that they support the status quo and have no desire to make waves. It's ironic that unless you really go looking for it, access to information is limited, and so artists have a role to play because celebrity culture means their views become news. In the absence of real news, lack of information about civilian casualties or real political motive behind this war, an anti war artist should use any media space they can get to present opposing views.

Q:  OK, here's our requisite question... what does "peace" mean to you personally?
A:  It means space. Emotional, physical, intellectual, creative, artistic space which isn't controlled by the demands of capital, fundamentalism or party politics. Peace is not something quiet but a space without inborn inequality, a space where whether or not one eats isn't dictated by geographical accident of birth. Peace isn't an absence of friction but a climate where difference is celebrated or just lived with.

In Britain at the moment, difference isn't even tolerated. The government provokes racism and ethnic hatreds by talking about bogus asylum seekers, and claiming that immigration is a massive problem. Immigration isn't the problem, politicians making political capital out of refugees is the problem. Peace to me would be a climate that welcomed rather than repulsed people. And obviously it is an absence of militarised war.

Q:  At this age of conformity, you have made some pretty bold statements with your music. Do you wish more songwriters would be as bold?
A:  Yes, the most interesting songwriters for me are the ones who are not limited by the demands of the market - cos all the market demands is that artists say nothing too controversial. My favourite artists and songwriters are mavericks who generally have big mouths. I loved Nina Simone and Johnny Cash, and Randy Newman is still producing really interesting satirical stuff.

Generally though, if you combine politics and music you get accused of producing bad art. George Michael was vilified when he dared to write a song about Blair being Bush's puppy dog, far more ridiculed than when he wrote Club Tropicana which is a truly awful song.

Q:  Did you face any backlash from the release of your anti-war MP3, the brilliant "Jacob's Ladder (Not In My Name)"?
A:  No, other than being accused in the press of jumping on the anti-war bandwagon. I wish there was a huge musical anti-war band wagon, we would jump on it without hesitation and ride it all the way to London. Unfortunately, the band wagon seems to mainly consist of manufactured bands re-recording seventies hits.

Q:  With "Sewing Up Crap", you took on the clothing company, Gap Inc. Are they a fair target for your anti-sweat shop statement?
A:  Gap are a fair target because it was only pressure from consumers which made them start talking about enforcing a code of conduct in the factories manufacturing their garments. The realities of globalisation mean that brands go where the labour is cheapest and highlighting what actually happens in factories in Mexico, Indonesia and China is the best way of supporting those who are making the garments. Mexican garment workers don't want to work for less than their counterparts in the UK or US, and its up to us to chase brands and make them realise that we are fighting globalisation by not allowing them to move across the globe, exploiting without consequences.

Gap are a symbol. Missy Elliot and Madonna and the cute kids in the ads dancing to funky tunes are far removed from the reality of the factories. We were just closing the reality gap. Only by naming the brands individually though do you get them to change; they are scared of losing sales. The current campaign in the UK is against H & M.

For more info on anti sweatshop campaigns go to:

Q:  Does your record company have sleepless nights wondering who you're going to offend next?
A:  No, because we release our records on our own Mutt label.

Q:  What's the scoop on your next CD that is due out in a few months? If I am not mistaken, the title of it is "UN"... another political statement?
A:  We wanted to break the mould of what Chumbawamba sounds like; make it un-Chumbawamba and unlike anything people would expect from us. We used music from all over the globe whereas in the past, we have been very colloquial and I suppose very English. We were never small minded but our roots were always on show; on "UN", we are not instantly geographically or musically recognisable.

Q:  Do you have anything else you want to say to our site visitors?
A:  Only that anybody interested in following what's really happening around the globe should use the indymedia sites.

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