An audience with Roger Chapman: “I could sing my arse off when I was a kid”

Chapeau to Chappo! The former Family frontman looks back on a long career spent dodging spivs, scallywags and hypnocrats to hobnob with Jimi, Elton and the Stones

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“I’m just moving inside,” says Roger Chapman, as a sudden thunderstorm batters the conservatory of his home in Southwest London. “I don’t wanna get sparked out, I’m too young!”

Chappo may be 80 now, but he still has plenty to give. Last year’s invigorating Life In The Pond set, created with the help of his old Family bandmate John ‘Poli’ Palmer, found him snarling colourful warnings about “two-faced hypnocrats”, “loudmouths craving limelight” and a “devil on your shoulder”. He’d love to play the album live but needs to overcome a couple of health issues first. “Since the album was released I’ve had two or three operations,” he reveals. “I had Covid twice! And I need another op before I can think about going out on stage. Things need to be tidied up, so to speak. Spinal problems, neuro stuff, so it gets to be quite difficult at times. But I’d love to go on stage again, for sure. I can still sing!”

Indeed, he got together with Poli just last week to workshop some new material. Despite not having any kind of set songwriting routine – “I never have,” he admits – the lyrics are still flowing, with the hypnocrats certainly giving him plenty to rail against. “Sometimes it gets too stroppy, so I have to be careful!”

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Your new album sounds pretty fired up, especially on “Green As Guacamole”. Is that kind of anger at ‘the state of things’ a good spur for making music?

Malcolm Taylor, Kettering

Yeah. If I sit down and think about these arseholes on the news, I do get pretty fucking twisted. To be honest I’ve never really written songs like this, not for many years anyway. And I’m really pleased I did, because it gets it out your system. And maybe it’ll pull somebody else around to seeing what a phoney bunch we’ve got. There can’t be many left out there believing in ’em, can there? Jesus Christ. I’m off already, you see! I don’t want to preach too much, but basically they’re my thoughts. A lot of the delivery [of the songs] depends on how angry I am. Or how not angry I am. If I want to, I can make any kind of melody sound aggressive, but I hope I’ve also got the know-how to make a track sound gentle.

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