Leaving Nothing To Chance
Is this the age of the chance? A philistine era when the musical opportunists and hedonists party their way to fame, while the stolid purveyors of the 'classic' slip ruefully down the bog? . . . Let's hope so!
Opportunity seems set to knock for four Leeds based electro-funkateers. Some would say that all they have to do is reach out and grasp the opportunity afforded them by fitting into the right niche at the right time. But that would be missing the point. Age Of Chance create their own opportunities.
Despite what their name suggests, AOC have left nothing to chance. Age Of Chance are an utterly contrived pop group. 'Contrived'? Dirty word? Hell no! If a lot more pop stars paid astute attention to their image, their career development, their meaning, then the top 75 would not be the harbour for aimless pap that it has become.
For their new album, 'One Thousand Years Of Trouble', Age Of Chance have used the most popular format of the late Eighties. They have used beat boxes, rap and hip hop to act as a popular and accessible vehicle for their uncompromising messages. Are the band afraid that this will be viewed as a nifty bit of bandwagon jumping?
(guitar): "People talk about us as though we've just discovered electronics,
but on 'Bible Of The Beats' which
Steve (vocals): "We're not a rap or a hip hop group anyway, it's just what we used to make this album. The overriding thing is that it's dance."
Of Chance have taken their music to the limit on several occasions, the
most memorable being the hi-jacking of Prince's 'Kiss', which they 'roughed
up a bit'.
Jan (drums): "We've always dealt in absolutes and we're always looking at things in very black and white terms, and if a thing's worth doing then it's worth doing. There've never been any half measures with us."
"We've always believed in giving things 110%; there's no point in
going half way. Right from the beginning we've always felt that. And now
if you look at our sleeves and videos, there's a definite thing that we're
getting together. We use sleeves like other bands use songs, to get our
ideas across in every way available. It's a lot easier to reach people
with songs that go straight to the point. We don't believe in going around
Steve: "I'd say we're running slightly ahead of it actually. We're not reacting. When we first formed it was a reaction against what was happening in Leeds at the time, which was all that goth stuff. But now we've got to live with ourselves and we're more self contained. We see our music through our eyes only."
Neil: "I think we're sending despatches from the front line. The stuff we're doing now, like 'Crush Collision' and Take It', is as hard as anything which is coming out of the Bronx."
(bass): "Yeah, I think it is, there's a lot of angst involved in
what we do."
AOC do not allow these careless slips of the tongue. When you've only got a moment to make your bid for fame no waste is tolerated. But that word 'angst' has sprung a reference point. You immediately think of German neuro-beat boys DAF who, like Age Of Chance reflected their urbanism through rigid, almost regimented dance music. "Free your mind and your ass will follow", raps Steve on the album, echoing George Clinton's famous protestation. Does this point to the fact that, being 'whities', AOC are trapped within their funkless Caucasian frames unable to get a groove going without the aid of technology? In making their music, do AOC not place great emphasis on the mind to the detriment of the ass?
Neil: "Well as regards to us having a mental block about dance music; we go out to clubs three or four times a week and listen to dance music. It's people who don't go out who have the block. Our songs aren't out and out funk songs but they've got grooves to them. We like stuff like Swans because their music is very overbearing with heavy beats; simple beats. That's something that we wanna get across; that the beats are just as important to the music as are guitars or lyrics."
Are AOC worried that the music they make and the visual style they portray (cycling chic is very popular, but for how long?) is essentially state of the art — a commodity for 'now' which may not stand the test of time?
Jan: Ithink it's pointless for any group to sit down and say: "Right, we've got to try to make some music for posterity here. I think it's a redundant activity."
Geoff: "There's been a tendency for people to try to write music in the classic mould and I can understand the urge to do it. But what we do is that we write songs, we put 'em out and it's for other people to say if they're going to endure or not."
Of Chance do represent a radical departure from the classic pop group;
there is no retrospective here, no nostalgic need to rediscover flower
power. These are the cost effective Eighties, why waste time waxing lyrical
when you can say it loud and direct through slogans?
Neil: "We use them as an aid rather than a dead end. They're like clues, part of a bigger picture."
Age Of Chance are very proud of their native Leeds and the format they use (hip hop and rap) is a fairly roots-based medium. So why is it that a lot of the songs on the new album, rather than reflecting the group's background, exude a mid-Atlantic feeling?
Geoff: "I know what you mean by the mid-Atlantic thing and that would be a danger to a lot of bands but it isn't to us, because we've taken hip hop and used it to our own ends. A tot of musical references are American and our song 'Trouble' could have been written about New York but the fact is it wasn't it, was written about Leeds."
Detroit, Berlin, New York' shouts the Age Of Chance motto. Sense of humour
or a sense of pride?
There they go, hedging their bets again. Still, you leave nothing to chance when you're preparing to conquer the world.