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?

Neil (guitar): "People talk about us as though we've just discovered electronics, but on 'Bible Of The Beats' which
was our second ever single and cost about £600 to make, we had synthesisers on that but we didn't shout about it. We've always been into technology and we've always wanted to use it. Now is the first time we've been able to afford to do things in the correct way."
And the New York way is the correct way?
Neil: "Well hip hop and rap is like the cutting edge in music today. It's not like we're bandwagon jumping."

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."

Age 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'.
It was neck-on-the-block stuff when you consider that Prince was the golden boy of the moment. Since then, whatever AOC have produced in the way of music has always carried their trade mark . . . 'BIG'. Why are AOC songs so BIG?

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."

Neil: "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 the houses."
So are AOC running with the pack or kicking against it?

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."

Geoff (bass): "Yeah, I think it is, there's a lot of angst involved in what we do."
Neil: "Oh God, say anger please. Don't say angst."

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."

Age 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?
Do the band really believe in the power of the slogan?
All: "Oh yeah!"
Geoff: "It's as direct as you can get."
Neil: "It beats as it sweeps as it cleans."
Jan: "Despite its brevity, its dullness and its directness you cannot deny that the slogan communicates with people."

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."

'Leeds, Detroit, Berlin, New York' shouts the Age Of Chance motto. Sense of humour or a sense of pride?
All: "A bit of both."

There they go, hedging their bets again. Still, you leave nothing to chance when you're preparing to conquer the world.