Interview by Caroline Easton and Melodie Melia
I sometimes come across people on the internet and think ‘HOW has this person not been discovered!’ Chris Watkins certainly falls into this category! I was delighted when he accepted our invitation to interview him. He is enthusiastic to talk about his music and he comes across as a true gentleman. I told Grimnien that when I asked about his plans for the future, Chris had responded with, ‘Work, sleep, work, sleep, work, sleep’ Grimnien -The BIG boss over all things VoiceBox – roared with laughter and said
‘That is the sign of a true creative.’
I didn’t know that – not being a true creative myself 🙂 but if Grimnien says it then it must be true!
Some of Watkins’ influences over the years have been U2, Talking Heads, and Bob Dylan. He is currently residing in Alaska where he continues to write and record music. His most recent album is London Can Take It, which was released in March 2015. On this album he is joined by musician Eric Cobb, who is also one of the original Drunk Poets band members.
The first song I heard by Chris Watkins was ‘London can take it’ the title track from his latest album. It immediately brought to mind Lou Reed so I asked Chris if he had been an influence.
“Yes, Lou Reed has been a massive influence. I consider him to be the most important songwriter of the past 60 years.”
The U2 influence is also very apparent on this track. Chris goes on to say that ‘London can take it’ is about civilization versus anarchy and fascism. Although he has never been to London he has learned about the city from reading a lot of George Orwell – his essays in particular. Chris is an avid reader and particularly likes reading English literature in general.
“I’m a Red, I’m a Fag… love it – brilliantly strange and wilfully obtuse piece of music. London can indeed take it :-)” Tom Robinson
(Fresh On The Net: freshonthenet.co.uk is a music blog hosted by Tom Robinson and Team Freshnet, offering independent artists free insider advice on getting their music heard, plus an open door for new tunes every Mon-Thur)
Asked about the writing process Chris admits that he has to make time to write:
“My thoughts are clear as to what I want to write, an album will be fully composed in my mind. Finding the available time to be alone in silence to write it down is the challenge, life is loud!”.
So what are his early memories of music?
“My father loved music. He played the guitar as well. At one point he turned our family living room into a recording studio. I remember many a night as a child falling asleep to the sounds of him and his friends playing music late into the night. The Beatles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles and Bob Dylan could frequently be heard on any given day at our house”.
Chris was just 16 years old when he formed his band, ‘The drunk poets’They were very influential on the music scene in Alaska during the nineties. Chris says of the music scene in Alaska:
“We are separated geographically from the rest of the United States, as a result we have a very close knit music community.”
Members of the Drunk poets still play on his albums so he has kept the name.
Both Caroline and myself noticed early on in the interview that Chris appeared reticent to talk about his personal life. We pointed out to him that it was unusual to find a musician who didn’t like talking about himself! He responded with:
“Apparently I’m a man of few words. I like to talk about the music, not myself”
Chris has no shortage of words when writing songs and likes to express his feelings through this medium it seems. In ‘Viva la resistance’ from the album ‘Nail it down’ he seems to emphasise this preference with the lyrics:
Seek asylum in the orchestra. Keep your pretty head down low.
When Caroline asked him who would his dream collaboration would be to write or duet with he surprised us both with his answer:
“Dolly Parton because I think we are kindred spirits.”
Chris has released six albums so far and his seventh is due to be released next year. He says his inspiration for this one came from Syd Barrett and DH Lawrence.
I asked Chris about the song from ‘London can take it’ entitled ‘They can’t hurt you any more.’
“The song is about Sean Cobb,” he replies, “who played bass on Empty Rooms and Going Down Slow. He passed away in 2013.”
Sean was a noted bass player in Alaska and a member of the Drunk poets along with his brother Eric who plays drums and still plays with Chris to this day.
Sean died tragically at the age of 42 after suffering from hemophillia and other health problems. Once again Chris shows how he expresses himself through his music.
You can hear the evidence for why Sean was a noted bass player on the track ‘Yellow brick road’ from the album ‘Empty rooms’
Asked about a typical day in the life of Chris Watkins he replies:
“Work, sleep, work, sleep, work, sleep.”
“Sign of a true creative” Grimnien
And his hopes for the future?
“My hopes for the future?………….To stay sane!”
Fair enough Chris:-)
To continue with my theme of comparing artistes to food…………..
Chris is a hazlenut……….. tough to crack but worth the effort when you taste what’s inside
You can buy Chris’s albums on itunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/london-can-take-it/id980321964
Thank you Chris Watkins for taking the time to talk to us.