Music | Interview | The Chessmen

By Kieran Webber

The Chessmen are a Leeds based, three piece band heavily influenced by 60’s garage, mod and British beat consisting of, Luke Holdsworth – Vocals/Guitar, Ryan Walker-Bass Guitar, Scott Parker-Drums.

Having only been around for a shot while they are making a huge dent on the northern indie scene due to their ferocious energy and infectious songwriting. Their latest single ‘Gonzo’ is but proof of this and boasts the bands hook laden tunes that scream infuence of early Who.

We caught up with the rising Leeds band to discuss a plethora of subjects ranging from their influences to what we can expect from the debut album.

CLUNK : Thanks for taking your time to answer our questions! How have you been?

RyanNo problem at all, and yeah we’ve been ok thanks really busy gigging and writing and getting the boots re-heeled, bit impersonal this so I’m gonna put a picture of Debbie Harry on my desk and pretend she’s asking the questions, that cool? Nice one.

CLUNK : How did The Chessman come to be and what was the influence behind the name?

Ryan : The Chessmen came together when myself (Ryan, bass and backing vocals) and Luke (lead vocals, guitar) effectively found Scott our drummer. The band generated from the ashes of a previous Leeds based band, and after coming up with the idea of a total reconfiguration about what the band should be, we just changed the name. We were already writing tons of really strong songs, there was a similarity in the sound but it was our own thing from the off, so a rebranding was much needed, it feels fresh and new, bit retro, better than the one word thing that the slack-army wear……..think Chess was lousy, and Men was even worse. Me and Luke were playing chess (we can’t play but were both highly intoxicated and feeling childish). I always say ridiculous things to Luke that more often than not become lyrics or songs and he does the same to me. I said to him wouldn’t it be awful if these pieces we’re playing with were real people, like women and men, and he said, what like a Chessman? There you go, genesis with a bigger bang and less commotion.

CLUNK : As a band do you have a shared influence or is it varied ?

Ryan : There’s always going to be differences in the influences of a band because it’s made up of three very unique individuals that play different and have different versions of what a song could be. Scott enjoys all kinds of music, he’s into the whole scooter mod pop casual agenda so he’s big on Specials, The Jam…must ask him who he actually likes because I haven’t a clue. Luke’s very much a psychedelic garage fuzz funk pop head, big on his Motown…..and then I’m into more punky, jagged new wave pop stuff….I’m not a punk, but bassists like Foxton from the Jam, Jean-Jacques Burnel from the Stranglers, Andy Rourke from the Smiths or Alex James from Blur all leave their mark on the noise, something only we can do, raw power, melody, magic. So when we come together, I’ll play a bass line, then before the session ends we might have 2 tunes ready. The shared influence is loud, catchy, energetic and adrenaline spiking 60’s licked pop madness, bit weird, bit wacky, bit dark and primal, it has balls, but also a beauty, an atmosphere.

CLUNK : You are going to be hitting the road for a pretty heft tour this year, is there a particular show you are excited for?

Ryan : We’re always excited to play London, our Birmingham gig should be fun too.

CLUNK : What is the attraction to playing live for you?

Ryan : An excuse to drink for a vocal warm up…….that and breaking a sweat in a bright blue suit and playing original songs on the bass.

CLUNK : Anything weird or gnarly gone down and one of your shows?

Ryan : I can’t show you so no point in explaining what cannot be seen, felt and experienced first person. Sorry.

CLUNK : What are your top 5 records and why?

Ryan : We get asked this a lot, it changes each day. My top 5 would be, Blur’s Parklife, The Clash Combat Rock, Joy Division Unknown Pleasures, Ian Dury New Boots and Panties, and Blondie Parallel Lines………..tomorrow it will most likely be The Jam Setting Sons or Buzzcocks Another Music in a Different Kitchen, Manic Street Preachers or Stone Roses or The Specials or Echo and the Bunnymen or Smiths. I’ve only just noticed, apart from Blondie they’re English bands. I suppose the English thing is important, it has a romanticism and a poetic nature to the albums listed, but something hard-hitting, clever, considered and intimate about them, a poppy charm and intelligence. They all helped revolutionise and revitalise something, introduce something new in a cool, classic way that makes them great masterpieces of musical ability and skill. There’s something about a debut album, it’s more like a time-capsule than a bunch of songs, it has the power to change lives, truly inspire and consume.

CLUNK : Do any of you have any particular habits that others would consider strange?

Ryan : Not really. Scott can’t have old boxers and new boxers in the same draw, touching the older pairs, as though it poisons the freshness in a new pair of boxer shorts. He has to buy a specific pair from a specific shop otherwise he explodes.

CLUNK : What can we expect from the debut album?

Ryan : You’ll have to wait and see because not even we know yet! When we know, we’ll let you know too.

CLUNK : Apart from the album release what else is planned for this year?

Ryan : We really want to get working on some new tunes and slot them into the shows. We’re in the position of having too many songs, which is great but we need to really focus on them and carve them down and make them how we want them. If we manage to debut some new tunes on this tour and some other shows beyond, I’ll be very happy. I think some recording time is much needed to get something real out there that we’re all satisfied with… times.