INTERVIEW: The Chisel’s Cal Graham On New Album ‘What A F***ing Nightmare’

Fresh from the release of latest album ‘What A Fucking Nightmare’, The Chisel vocalist Cal Graham chats with us about the creation of their latest punk collection.

The Chisel

RS: How did you feel going into your sophomore record? Did you feel any pressure following up the debut?

CAL: “Musically, there was no real pressure because when when we recorded ‘Retaliation’, we didn’t stop writing music. So the whole album has been recorded for over a year now. When we finished ‘Retaliation’, we just kept writing and all the songs were pretty much done by the time we even decided to talk to Pure Noise and the like. So basically, it’s just a continuation. We’re all mates in London outside of this as well. So we used to just get together to play music and just have a laugh. And that includes practising and stuff. Then once we practice, we jam out a couple of tracks, record them on the phone, and then that becomes a song. So it’s all quite natural. There’s no focus on ‘right, we’re going to write this next album now’. We’ll just end up having 16 songs, which is why we came up with this.”

RS: Now that you are adding these new songs into your setlist, what has the live reaction been like?

CAL: “With ‘Bloodsucker’ and ‘Fuck ‘Em’, we’ve been playing those two live for about a year now so people kind of knew that they were in the set but without hearing the actual songs. Then on this recent UK run we’ve been doing, we’ve been seeing a lot of the younger crowds now that are coming in, which is absolutely great to see, but they know all the words. They don’t know all the words to all the ‘Retaliation’ stuff from before but on these new singles they are down the front singing along. It properly took me by surprise, to be honest. Because the album’s been out, like a week and a half now. So it’s been really nice. It’s even better to see the young kids doing it as well.”

RS: It is great to see younger crowds coming to this kind of music. It really feels like there has been a bigger commercial revival of punk and hardcore music which has certainly widened the audiences.

CAL: “It just keeps growing. We toured the UK with The Chats last year and I think the average age then was probably about 18 or something and what we were used to was probably more mid-40s to low fucking 60s. It’s been all these kids, vibing off the band. When we’ve done this UK tour, a lot of the crowd there came to see us on that The Chats tour too. The fact that they took us on tour was such a privilege as well.”

RS: You already mentioned ‘Bloodsucker’, was that always the obvious choice of single for you?

CAL: “It was a weird one because, in the past, we’ve just gone for what’s the catchiest song, which I guess we kind of did, because we put ‘Cry Your Eyes Out’ like half a year before we put the rest of them out there. With ‘Bloodsucker’, we just felt like there was gonna be a track that took in all of the influences, it’s got a catchy little bit about it, it’s still got that rawness of punk. But it’s also quite accessible in a way as well. It’s something that people can relate to, it’s not necessarily completely specific to what I’ve been through.”

RS: ‘What A Fucking Nightmare’ is such a great choice of album title, where did that idea come from?

CAL: “It was the obvious choice. Basically, when we finished all the tracks, we had an overarching theme on a lot of the tracks, maybe personal things in terms of ‘Bloodsucker’ or more political aspects of it, it all relates to living within a nightmare. So that’s basically where the album title came from. So we never had the title and then wrote the songs around it. I thought, ‘what is the overarching theme of the tracks that we’re recording?’ and it just seemed to work out and there seems to be a lot of tracks that do relate to it and gives it that feeling. you know, so that’s basically where the title came from. Yeah, definitely. The label for a while did not want us to use the title but we got our way in the end and I do think it kind of paid off.”

RS: Last year, you did a cover of Elton John’s ‘Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)’. Why did you choose that song?

CAL: “That track has always been known within the glam scene, it is a standout track for people, Elton John’s finest moment, the most relatable moment to the scene. So when they asked us to do this covers album, we had a few obvious choices of just doing the standard punk songs. But then we thought why not give it a go, you know, it was a great song to do. It took so long for us to actually record it. We play it live now and again, and I’ve got my vocals sorted in terms of the way that I sing it. It’s a great track. We didn’t want to do anything that was too obvious.”

RS: Obviously this latest album has only just dropped but given that you seem to like to keep writing, are you already thinking about what is next?

CAL: “The original lineup that wrote and recorded ‘What A Fucking Nightmare’ has changed since then. So our bassist now lives in Belgium so it’s not as easy to do that as we used to. We’d love to. But if I’m completely honest, I need a little bit of a break. At this point, it’s been since 2020 when we did the first EP and we have not stopped. I just need a bit of time to refresh or I’m just gonna end up writing something fucking mental lyrically.”

‘What A Fucking Nightmare’ is out now via Pure Noise.

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