The Interview: Mark Burgess

Mark Burgess of Chameleons Vox
Mark Burgess of Chameleons Vox
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Mark Burgess of post-punk icons The Chameleons (now with added Vox) tells TONY DEWHURST he is happy but surprised to be bringing a 30-year-old album to Lancashire next week

It was arguably the song that introduced The Chameleons to the world, the incendiary sound of In Shreds.

Now known as Chameleons Vox – and still led by legendary singer and co-founder of the band Mark Burgess – the Mancunian four piece return to Clitheroe’s Grand Theatre this month (June 9) to feature fan favourite album What Does Anything Mean? Basically.

Stand out songs from that album, including Tangiers, Perfume Garden, One Flesh and In Shreds, defined their sound, so taking it on the road again has proved to be a special and emotional experience for Burgess, who has hinted that the end of this tour could provide the band’s finale.

He said: “When we made it the ideas were flowing in torrents, friends were calling round and getting involved in one way or another.

“Everyone was getting on and the mood was good.

We didn’t have a name, and Peel said get one quick lads

“I thought we’d made a good record but I honestly never imagined people would be wanting me to perform this music 30 years down the road.

“Folk have said to me over the last couple of months that it has stood the test of time.

“That’s special, you know. We’ve had an amazing reaction.

“Coming back to Clitheroe, a great venue, to end the European tour is a nice way to finish it.”

Chameleons may not have enjoyed the same level of commercial success as some of their peers but the band’s valuable legacy survives and remains an influential one.

“We were always outsiders, I suppose, but I was always comfortable with that.”

Burgess added: “The great John Peel kicked the door open for us. We waited outside the BBC for him for five hours and gave him a cassette.

“We didn’t even have a name then, and Peel said, ‘You’d better get one quick lads.’

“The following day he played three tracks on his radio show and it went bonkers. Two weeks later we were supporting U2. Can you believe that?

Chameleons’ fans formed an intense attachment to their songs due to the depth of emotions they draw from the listener.

“It is a bitter sweet feeling really because while I appreciate the depth and love and passion there is for Chameleons music it can get a bit freaky.

“Sometimes the fanaticism borders on the religious and that kind of freaks me out a bit.

“I’ve always made sure, though, that the people I’m working with or are in my life are the kind of people that keep you grounded.

“I’m flattered when people praise our music, but I really don’t take it seriously at all.

“I’m just grateful for the amount of freedom this work has given me over the years and to go pretty much where I like.

“If people dig the music and support the band by buying a record or come to a show, then that’s enough for me.”

Chameleons Vox with support from Urban Empire. Clitheroe Grand Theatre, June 9. £15. Box office 01200 421599.