Real Drool Time: An Interview With Part Chimp

As Part Chimp announce their latest album Drool, due on June 4, the band's singer, guitarist and self-appointed nagger-in-chief Tim Cedar talks to JR Moores about invertebrates and Ringo Starr. Feature contains video for new track, 'Back From The Dead'

Part Chimp portraits by Steve Gullick

Part Chimp occupy semi-mythical status in the canon of heavy, messy British rock. Don’t get me wrong. They are human beings who are possible to contact, have a normal conversation with and purchase merch from at a small table. It’s not like they’re manticores or anything. It’s more in the way people speak about Part Chimp, in such hallowed terms. (Well, as hallowed as they can do because – pre-Covid at least – such people tended to be imparting their Part Chimp fables while sloshing their pint of snakebite around with gesticular vigour, frothing a little at the mouth and shouting over a classic Electric Wizard track before Teeth Of The Sea took to the stage.)

Many of those who know their way around the underground world of sludge-centric festivals and sticky basement venues will insist that Part Chimp are the loudest band they ever saw. Tales abound of concert goers rendered deaf for days, if not weeks, after being foolish enough to attend one of the band’s gigs sans earplugs. Others speak of throwing up due to the head-crushing volume and belly-shaking vibrations. Guitarist Iain Hinchliffe once blew his eardrum mid-gig. Then there was the venue owner (or it could have been a promoter, or perhaps both) who required a neck brace after headbanging too vigorously to Part Chimp’s Sonic Youth-meets-Black-Sabbath-meets-heaving-toxic-slug-mutant cacophony.

One of my favourite stories about them, however, comes from Chris Summerlin (Grey Hairs/ Kogumaza/ Hey Colossus) and it goes a little something like this: "I played saxophone for them a few times. I can’t play saxophone."

The London-based noise rockers are now on their fifth album (excluding a few equally thunderous compilations) and it’s the band’s first studio record not to be released through Mogwai’s Rock Action label. This time Part Chimp have hooked up with the burgeoning Wrong Speed Records, run by everyone’s favourite bass-wielding postman: Joe Thompson of Hey Colossus.

The album was written in a fortnight and recorded, almost entirely, in a single day. It features not one but two bass players. It’s got a guest vocalist on one track for the first time in Chimp history. There is at least one song about worms. The album is called Drool. It’s a word that singer and guitarist Tim Cedar feels sums up his band conceptually, sonically and philosophically. "It is just slobbering, dribbling stupidity and salaciousness," he says. Cedar chatted to us over Zoom about all this drooling, noisy, vermicular monkey business.

‘Back From The Dead’ video by Mike Bourne

Let’s get the loud stuff out the way. Everybody I know, give or take, says that Part Chimp are the loudest band they’ve ever seen. 

Tim Cedar: I still don’t really know why that is. I mean obviously we play quite loud but other bands play just as loud, I think. I shouldn’t be saying that, should I? "Yeah! Of course we’re the fucking loudest!" I have had people, not complain, but saying, "You really fucked my ears up after I came to one of your gigs." We wear earplugs so I can’t really gauge it. It’s stupid not to wear earplugs. Playing loud is really important for our music. It sounds better louder. It really does. It feels better, anyway. That’s for sure. It’s just a happy by-product, being called the loudest band ever. 

You were a drummer before you started playing guitar in bands. Is there something in that, to do with the volume and the physicality of the music? I’m thinking of other drummers who have become guitarists, people like J Mascis, Tad Doyle or Stuart from Mogwai.

TC: I play guitar a little bit like I drum, and I do drum very loudly, so it made sense to go down the avenue of playing extremely loudly and rhythmically. I still really love drumming. In rehearsal rooms you’re basically trying to get louder than the drummer anyway. That hasn’t got anything to do with me being a drummer before. I think it must be the same for other bands, surely. All drums are stupidly loud. So all bands, technically, should be really fucking loud. But, erm, they’re not. Maybe they’re not as loud as us. It’s all a big competition. It’s all a big fight. A noise fight.

People like J Mascis or Dave Grohl, who have been drummers before, have a reputation for being quite hard on their drummers. Are you the same?

TC: Nooooo. Yeah. I can be. Jonny [Hamilton]’s brilliant. We’ve been playing in bands together for about 25 years so we know each other pretty well by now. I still hover behind him sometimes in the rehearsal room going, "Hmm… not quite what I mean. Move off! Move over. Let me show you." I can be a bit of a wanker like that. It gets to the end result that we all wanted. 

That YOU wanted. So you don’t sneak in and re-record his parts like Dave Grohl does?

TC: Does he do that? 

I don’t know if he still does it but that’s the reason the first Foo Fighters drummer quit. He found out that Dave was sneaking in and redoing all the drums without telling him, because they weren’t good enough.

TC: Haha. That’s awesome. I haven’t done that… yet. I have sneaked some of my drumming onto albums before, a couple of times, but I’ve never redone anything of Jonny’s. Oh, maybe once. On one song I think I did it instead of him. But he knew about it! I didn’t sneak behind his back. What kind of a cunt would do that? I told him to his face he was shit! (No, I didn’t.)

The other "loudest band" that everyone mentions is Swans. They got sick of being called the loudest band so they started doing gothic folk stuff instead. Why haven’t you done that?

TC: I wouldn’t know how, to be honest. We haven’t really changed anything we’ve done in the 20 years we’ve been playing. Don’t fuck with the formula, as they say. Maybe we should fuck with the formula. That’s why we’re still where we are, 20 years later. Gothic folk has never really crept into our repertoire, ever. We couldn’t change. If we tried something different, it would just feel wrong. We haven’t got any other tools in our toolbox. They’re all the same shape. For the same job. 

Is there a subtler evolution going on?

TC: Erm. No. I’m afraid not. It’s quite funny working with Joe Thompson, who’s putting out the record, from Hey Colossus. We’ve been playing with those guys for so long and they’ve changed a lot. They’ve changed personnel quite a lot as well but they’ve gone in different directions and I think that’s a great thing for them to do. They’re really pushing themselves to do different things.

It works for some bands but I don’t think it would come out right with us. Writing songs is a weird process for us as well. It’s all such a band thing and the core of the band has stayed the same for so long. When it did dry up a little bit and we gave it a rest for a while, it was because the songs we were writing were becoming a bit too thoughtful. It was just getting harder to play. Why would we do that to ourselves? So we went back to simplifying things a lot more and it came out more natural, and that’s the main thing with us anyway. It can’t be forced. I don’t think our music needs anything else. It is what it is. It’s got to be fun. I know that’s a bit of a trite or boring thing to say but the main point of playing our tunes is that it’s a good laugh. It makes you feel good. It’s a shit load of fun to play our tunes. When it’s not fun it’s like, "Fuck that. That’s way too tricky. I can’t possibly play that and sing it at the same time. No. I quit." I don’t think you’ll see us changing too much in the future… if there is a future. 

So you’ve read Joe’s book? [Sleevenotes, 2019]

TC: Yeah, that’s kind of why I said it. He talks quite a lot about how it’s really important to change. It’s like, "Why would you do the same thing forever and ever? It’s vital that you push the boundaries!" Maybe not in our case. 

He says bands that don’t change are bands that are lying to you. 

TC: Yeah. I can’t agree with that. We’re definitely not lying to you when we play our stuff. We’re not pretending to try to do something different. It really is us, you know.

It’s honesty, then. It’s the opposite of lying. 

TC: Exactly. We’re the opposite of… Liars. 

Why are you releasing this one through Joe’s new little label?

TC: Because he asked. But also… Being on Rock Action for so long was brilliant. There were no questions asked. It was just, "Do another album." Brilliant. You couldn’t really ask for more. They looked after us really well and everything, but I think we needed a bit of a change. This is the fifth album so if we’re going to play the same fucking music, let’s change one element of the process and make it not us. What’s behind us, let’s change that and see what happens. Joe’s so cool and I love the idea of his label. He did it before with Jonson Family but I think now is a really good time for Joe to start a label up and I couldn’t think of anyone better to do a record with and to work with on that front. Basically it was, "We need a change. Let’s do it." Joe asked. It made sense. 

You were in Hey Colossus for a bit. In the book Joe says he’s the member who nags and irritates everyone. Is that true? Who is the equivalent person in Part Chimp?

TC: I am the only person who nags anyone in Part Chimp. That’s for sure. What would happen if I didn’t nag anyone?! I think Joe’s probably in the same boat, although when I was playing drums in Hey Colossus I was really impressed with the way everyone actually communicated with each other a lot. With the six or seven people who were in the band at the time, there were a lot of emails going on. It’s quite different from the Part Chimp world where I’m lucky to get a grunt from someone at some point.

With Hey Colossus, because everyone lives miles away from each other, everyone would get together for one day and fart around for hours, go up and have a beer and fags and what have you, but Joe would just stay in the rehearsal room grinding out basslines. Then everyone would come back in and start playing along to the basslines that Joe had been grinding out for ages. It’s good system. I liked it.

How does the Part Chimp system compare?

TC: Just a lot of breaks. More breaks than action. We don’t rehearse a whole lot. We’ve got a new bass player called Robin [Freeman], who’s brilliant. Joe [McLaughlin] moved to New York but technically is still in the band. He’s on the record as well. So we’ve got two different bass players, at the same time, playing on the album. It’s great. I think both Joes and Robin would agree that you can never have too many bass players. We got the idea from Ned’s Atomic Dustbin… I think. 

Andrew Falkous (Mclusky/ Future Of The Left/ Christian Fitness) rejects the term noise rock as applied to his music. He says they’re just pop songs "only fed through the filter of self-respect". Is that something you identify with?

TC: I guess that’s all it is really. It’s a tag for someone to label what we do. I think he could be right to a certain extent. As I said before, it’s fun. FUN MUSIC. That’s what I call it. 

That sounds like something for a children’s birthday party.

TC: It could well be. I know maybe one child who would like us to play at his birthday party. Noise rock? Yeah. It’s noisy. It’s rock. It’s noise rock. Who cares? It is what it is. I hate that expression as well. Don’t quote me on that. I have no further thoughts on that subject. Fun music. That’s what we are. Yay! [Puts thumbs up like Paul McCartney.] Fun music! 

The Leeds-based band Thank tweeted this the other day: "It will never stop being hilarious to me how many noise rock dudes fucking hate nu-metal when it is quite literally the same genre of music." They elaborated by saying, "Clattering basslines, shite guitar tones and vocalists who sound like professional wrestlers."

TC: I don’t think I sound like a professional wrestler. I’m an amateur wrestler. Again, I don’t know what genres are these days. Nu-metal? Is it? No. I disagree. I think nu-metal is far more, erm, organised. There you go. I think they have an idea of what they sound like. They know what they’re doing and know how to get that sound. We haven’t got a clue. We just play what we play and what comes out is more accidental and experimental than anything else. It’s mostly happenstance and falling across something we really like the sound of and turning it into whatever it is we do, whereas with a lot of music they have a better idea of where they want to go with it. Maybe noise rock bands do the same thing but we’ve never had the idea of what we want to sound like.

On the last album [2017’s IV] you were singing about Japanese slug monsters, satnavs and Bouncer the dog from Neighbours. What are the topics this time?

TC: We’ve got more invertebrates. We’ve got worms this time round. A little worm soap opera. Boy-worm-meets-girl-worm-meets-asexual-worm. Then it’s the end of worm society. What else have we got? ‘Back From The Dead’ isn’t a song about zombies. Not really. It can be construed as that but it’s not. It’s just about life after death. That’s a bit deep. ‘Drool’ is about, just, waves of drool. A silly, post-apocalyptic dribbling mess. They’re all really daft. I’ll think about what they mean later on, once they’ve sunk in a bit.

Why are you so drawn to invertebrates?

TC: They’re great! What’s wrong with them? Some are furry. Most are slimy. They have weird worlds. They’re fun. The slug thing came about because a Japanese friend told me the Japanese word for slug is "namekuji". It’s such a great word that it took over. And worms are just fucking worms. They’re amazing. Where would we be without worms? We’d be fucked, mate. We would be fucked.

You say Part Chimp don’t change. I reckon the vocals are gradually getting higher in the mix and we can hear what you’re singing more clearly than on your earlier output.

TC: That’s true. Okay. I think the early albums are a bit grottier, and we made them even more grotty when it came to the mix and the mastering. The vocals were a bit more buried. Maybe that is one thing that has changed. The singing has become more… What’s the word? Audible.

Is that a confidence thing, maybe, on your part?

TC: Possibly. It’s probably about confidence and maybe having a bit more time to spend on doing the vocals. Also, after this amount of time I’ve just got better at playing and singing at the same time so I’ve become a bit more adventurous. In the early days it was more about making a noise that sort of represented singing. It became another instrument. It kind of still is that way. When it comes to asking about song subjects and stuff, again it’s more words as sounds that fill space. It’s not a cop out. That’s the way we’ve always worked and it’s embedded in our music. It’s getting words that fit and feel right, more than the subject matter. That’s never been a big factor for me, personally. Even in the music I listen to, I listen more to the music than words. I always have. Plus, I’ve got a terrible memory. It’s getting worse and worse as I get older. I can barely remember the words to my own songs, let alone anybody else’s. It’s embarrassing. So often it just does become noise that resembles words. It’s vocal… drool. 

Someone says "onion Ringo" at the start of ‘Up With Notes’. Why?

TC: That was an outtake from one of the tunes. It was one of those things. "Jonny, give us a beat." It was a bit of a Ringo beat, I suppose, and he was eating onion rings. That was it. He’s a drummer. He had a mouthful of onion rings. He was doing a drum intro. Onion Ringo. It was a perfect moment. 

Are you an admirer of Ringo’s drumming style?

TC: Yeah, hugely. He’s amazing. I think he’s a fucking great drummer. My favourite drummer, probably. He’s a fucking drumming genius. They say he never does the same fill, or the same drum roll, twice. Everything he does is different. I think he’s a really intuitive and clever drummer. And funny as fuck, as well. I don’t know any drummer who wouldn’t want to sound like Ringo. The sound he got with his style and his technique, everyone loves that. Every drummer has a bit of Ringo in them. 

What’s going on with the vocals to ‘It’s True Man’?

TC: Oh yeah. That’s not me. I played that song to someone recently and they were asking, "What the fuck is going on with that song? It’s mental! It’s brilliant!" It’s like, erm, what about all the other songs [that I sing on]? It could be a nice little competition. "Guess who’s the guest vocalist?" I’ll give you a clue: it’s not Mark Lanegan.

No, it was my good friend Timothy Farthing [ex-Hey Colossus/Henry Blacker/Reigns]. It was one of those songs where I couldn’t get anything going so I asked him to see if he would do something. He sent that back, not very long after I gave it to him. Fucking hell! Yeah. That’ll do! He wrote the lyrics as well, if that was your next question. I think it’s about an acid trip. He took acid at Christmas once and everything went a bit loopy. It’s the first time Part Chimp have had anyone else on the record and it’s pretty cool. I like it a lot.

What’s the weird soundbite on ‘I Feel Fantastic’?

TC: When we were in America last, Jonny and Joe went thrift-store diving in this junk shop near Joe’s place in Astoria. He got this cassette and it’s basically a psychiatrist session where you put it on and he asks you to lie down, relax and then he does the whole session without any response from you. There are just some gaps. He will say, "Mm-hmm", "Okay" and "Why do you think that makes you feel like that?" Big gap. "Mm-hmm. Uh huh. And why do you feel that way?" For two sides of the tape! 46 minutes each way of a psychiatrist’s session. We took out all the gaps and put it together. It’s a rare find. I can’t remember what it’s called. I should’ve thought about getting the name of it for the credits. Whoops. I don’t think anyone else has got a copy, ever. 

I ought to try that with interviews. Next time I’ll just send you a cassette with some gaps in it and me going, "…And how does that make you feel? Mm-hmm. Uh-huh. Okay."

TC: It’s a good idea. The JR Moores Interview Cassette.

Could be a big earner. It’s not going to be a big earner.

TC: No.

Drool by Part Chimp will be available on black/ clear/ purple vinyl, CD & DL and can be pre-ordered from Friday March 5 hered

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