Interview: Former Chameleons Frontman Mark Burgess on His Spontaneous US Comeback, YouTube and Pirate Bay
Mark Burgess, former frontman of cult-favorite The Chameleons, was simply taking a vacation. He had traveled to the US to meet a friend in Maine, ended up in Boston through a twist of events and was asked to play with some musicians who were also fans of his old band. Word spread and people from cities across the US were asking Burgess to come to their city and play with them. The singer/bassist, who had previously thought he would not play live again, obliged.
"It's good for me because they know the material, which excites me and gets me to the place I need to be to perform it. So, these are some of the best performances I've done in years," says Burgess of these unexpected gigs. "It's really been fun and that's what it's about. It's such an exciting communication to touch base with people who have been inspired by what I do and who want to play to help me out to keep the wheels of my little adventure moving."
Sunday night, Burgess will be playing material from The Chameleons catalog at The Echo for an event co-sponsored by the venue's resident party Part Time Punks and website Post-Punk.com. The show was arranged by Post-Punk.com founder Andru Aesthetik, who also maintains The Chameleons' MySpace page. Aesthetik (The Aether, Sleepmask) will play as part of Burgess' band along with Justin Lomery (Jesse Malin, The Distortions), F (The Distortions) and Charlie Woodburn (Vibeslayer). War Tapes and The New Room will also be on the bill that night.
LA Weekly had the chance to speak to Burgess by phone while he was stationed in Florida.
When was the last time you played Los Angeles?
It was a long time ago. I'm not sure when it was. The last time I came to America, I didn't play LA. I played in San Francisco.
That's interesting because songs like "Swamp Thing" and "In Shreds" and "Less Than Human" are still very popular at clubs in LA.
Yeah, I went to a place in Philadelphia and they played our stuff in there. It was kind of a darkwave night. They didn't know that I was in the place. The same in Portland.
I know people are still playing it and that's great. It's passing on from one generation to another.
The Chameleons "In Shreds"
With The Chameleons, a lot of the popularity stems from the songs being played at goth clubs for so long. Was that a scene you ever felt you associated with when you were originally playing?
When we made a lot of these records, not so much the Strange Times album, but a lot of the earlier ones, there wasn't any such thing as a goth scene. You had the Banshees, they were doing their thing, but it wasn't until the mid-'80s really.
We tended to attract a whole mix of people at our shows. There were people from the goth scene coming in and you would have football fans coming in as well. It was a really mixed audience. We seemed to be able to cross a few different genres. At the time, we kind of rebelled against [goth] because it was all very black and we weren't. We didn't have a goth image. We didn't have any kind of image at all, really... People didn't have any idea what we looked like and then they would go to the gigs and see us. Some of them would go "What?" because we looked so ordinary.