The Levellers are taking to the road across the UK this month with their Static on the Airwaves tour. We caught up with Mark Chadwick, vocals and guitar, on the second date of their current tour in the historic city of Lincoln to find out what has been going on in their world.
We meet in the Tower Bar of the University and Mark arrives fresh from a trip around the city. ‘We’re tourists. All of us are. Even if we have been to places a million times we will always find new something to do in a town’, he says catching his breath, ‘For example here we have been to the medieval fair, the castle, I been to evensongs…. We do everything we can. Otherwise, what’s the point? There is no point hanging around in the venue all day watching your iPad’.
This is one of the themes picked up on the new album in the song Second Life. ‘It’s about the digital revolution and how there are an awful lot of people who are living virtual lives. In the same way that people can live a virtual life on cocaine, or smack. It’s not a real life, it is a secondary life. It’s a comment on that really. I’m not slagging it off, it’s just an observation of how that is going on. It’s a phenomenon, a reality. ’
We practice what we preach. It is as simple as that. We practice what we preach. What we sing about is how we live
Another new theme that gets a Levelling on the album is the current plight of small towns.
‘What is interesting about Forgotten Towns is that we have just done a European tour and they don’t have forgotten towns, we do. We have country that tells us we are in a recession, and so is the rest of Europe. No they’re not, we’ve just been there. It’s all good. It’s tickety boo over there. You are lying to us, you are blaming it all on something…. it’s actually your fault. You have ignored these problems and created these problems. There are towns here that have been de-industrialised and disincentivised, and you did that and you are blaming it on something amorphous. Actually out there they look after their towns. Here in this country they sell them down the fucking river.’ There it is, the spark that always sits behind The Levellers songs, there is passion in the way Mark talks about the world and this translates directly into the songs.
Static On The Airwaves
So is it hard to be a band that feels strongly about the issues they write and sing about in the face of a world that doesn’t seem to get any better?
‘We’re optimistic. As a band we are optimists. If you listen to the whole of Static on the Airwaves you should be left with a feeling of optimism, feeling pretty good about things, aware, but good. Issues are boring; we’re not really about issues. We like to think we entertain and inform.’
The new album is the 10th studio album from the band. How has the way you approach albums changed over time?
‘We don’t suffer the pressure of record companies anymore, so we do things in our own time. We wanted to do something that would translate immediately to an audience live.’
‘Having written the songs and chosen the best ones, we rehearsed them like we were playing them live and then recorded them like that, like bands used to. We record them about ten times and pick then best version’.
‘We actually toured Levelling the Land extensively before recording the songs that became that album. This has a very similar feel.’
Together All The Way
Over two decades the band has never stopped working and the line-up has been remarkably consistent. What is the secret of their longevity when so many others have split up or have constantly shifting line-ups?
‘We practice what we preach. It is as simple as that. We practice what we preach. What we sing about is how we live. That is why we are still together. There are tensions, arguments, loads of shit, but it is fine because we practice what we preach. We talk we communicate, we resolve and we share. No-one is higher than any other. I suppose it is quite an achievement. The irony is if we had split-up and reformed it would be amazing, but that has happened. We have just consistently been there. Loads of other bands have split and then reformed because that is what they are best at, we have always known that and cut out the middle man of splitting up.’
The Show Must Go On
Mark had to make his way to sound-check before the evening’s gig at The Engine Shed. The last UK tour saw the band play their Levelling The Land album in total, so it would be interesting to see how they approached slotting in new material into a set with 9 other albums worth of material.
The capacity crowd were not disappointed as greatest hits and live favourites were all there, with a few of the new tracks sprinkled neatly into the set. ‘We Are All Gunmen’ was the stand out live track from the new album and sat neatly alongside ‘Sell Out’, ‘One Way’ and ‘Beautiful Day’ as the big crowd pleasers. The Levellers have certainly lost none of their appetite for live performance and the crowd in Lincoln lapped up every minute of this performance.
You can catch them in our area at the O2 Academy in Leeds on Thursday 22nd November, 2012