Chron Gen are punk legends. They were huge in the ’80s before disbanding, leaving an impressive legacy in its wake. But the call to make music was too great and they are back for their first album in over 28 years called This Is The Age. Getting the chance to speak to the legendary Glynn Barber from the band, we got to talk about the band’s history, punk music, the charts and Jeremy Corbyn and more in one of my favourite interviews from the year.
Jack: Hey, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. How are you doing?
Glynn Barber (Vocals/Guitar): No problem – it’s a pleasure and thank you for taking the interest in Chron Gen. We’re doing great thanks. We’ve had a really great time this year, with some great gigs, the release of our new album This Is The Age, which we are really proud of, and we have just issued our very first video of the opening track on the new album – ‘Jump’.
Jack: Firstly, how did Chron Gen form?
Glynn: The band was formed in early 1978 when we were still at school. I was the drummer then, and JJ (now the drummer) was the singer. We started by playing covers of Sex Pistols, The Clash and Damned numbers, then I started to write songs, which was when JJ and I switched. Our first gig was at a school disco in 1979. During 1980/81, we gigged a lot around Hitchin, Stevenage and Luton and built up a big local following. In 1981, we got the break onto the national circuit when we played the Apocalypse gig at the Lyceum in London, which was taken on a UK tour.
Jack: In 1981 you toured with Anti-Pasti, The Anti-Nowhere League, Discharge and The Exploited as part of the legendary Apocalypse Now Tour. Do you have fond memories of the tour?
Glynn: Very fond memories. It was our first tour, so we were very excited about it. It was summer and the van was full of kit and Puppets of War singles (our first record). We had a few friends along with us, and it was just a great adventure that lasted 3 or 4 weeks. We got to know Anti-Pasti, Discharge and The Exploited really well and became good friends. We all shared the same backline (ours), and there were no egos. The Apocalypse tour was compared to the Pistols, Clash and Damned tour. I’m not sure about that, but it was definitely a huge success and a great event at each venue. It was probably the birth of what is now called “UK82”
Jack: All these bands are still around and Anti-Pasti have just released their first album for 35 years, how does it make you feel knowing a lot of bands from the original days of punk are still going strong, releasing new music and playing live?
Glynn: We are good friends with many of these bands so it’s great to see them still having the passion and energy to keep gigging and the inspiration for new material.
Jack: Nowhere to Run was your debut album, do you have fond memories making this album?
Glynn: Nowhere to Run was actually our 2nd album (the first was Chronic Generation). The recording of Nowhere to Run was great fun, even though it was plagued with technical problems. John Porter (ex Roxy Music) produced it and due to the technical issues, we covered 3 studios during the making of it (including Ringo Starr’s private studio in his mansion). We finished the guitars, vocals and final mix at an all night session in a studio under Waterloo Bridge.
Jack: Does it feel weird knowing your work has been in the UK charts?
Glynn: Very much so. I grew up with Top of the Pops being the most important music show on TV, and it was of course totally driven by the UK charts. We never had a TOTP appearance, but it was very surreal to see our album and 2nd single listed in the National Charts in the record department of Woolworths.
Jack: Are the charts still relevant for music today?
Glynn: I think that in the early eighties, the charts meant a lot more than they do today, and you certainly had to sell a lot more records to make a dent than you do now. Our first single sold over 40,000 copies and the first album over 30,000.
Jack: You’re about to release your first album for 35 years called This is the Age. How does it feel to have new music out after such a long time?
Glynn: It feels great, not only because it’s a privilege to still be doing this, but also because it just felt right to release this album. We are very proud of the songs and the quality of the recording – we think we have created something of value. Recording the album has motivated us to do more gigs, and we have just finished a video of the opening track – ‘Jump’ that you can find on our YouTube channel.
Jack: Was it hard writing for Chron Gen after such a long period of time?
Glynn: I found the writing process really enjoyable, so it wasn’t difficult at all. It’s also easier having home recording technology, which meant I could quickly shape ideas into songs and then demos which became the guide tracks for the album.
The songs have a wide range of inspirations; world events, personal emotions and some off the wall observations. I obviously have my own personal thoughts behind the lyrics, but have avoided being too literal. Instead, we hope that listeners will find the songs relevant to their own personal experiences. Some are a bit more specific: ‘Jump’ is about making the most of what we have and not being brought down by negativity around us. ‘Imagination’ relates to the events following 9/11 and ‘Ready to Overreact’ is based around the UK riots of 2011.
The album has been described by others as how you would expect Chron Gen to sound like 30 years on. It is faithful to the Chron Gen roots (melodic and catchy), but has a modern feel, with thought-provoking lyrics – songs we are proud of. The production is our best yet – a natural, live feel with the guitar sound we always wanted.
Jack: What was the recording process like and was it different to how it was done in the ’80s?
Glynn: In the ’80s, all recording was analogue – it was very exciting and done over a very short time on a very tight budget. We recorded This Is The Age ourselves, switching between my house and Roy [Horner]’s (with good quality recording equipment). We were able to get to what we were looking for without being limited by budget, and it was a much more relaxed process. We learned a lot as we went – I’m looking forward to recording the next album now.
Jack: This is the Age sounds very fresh and modern. What modern bands did you take influence from?
Glynn: I listen to music old and new across a wide range of genres. Some of the music that has grabbed me over the past few years includes Marilyn Manson, Muse and some great classical stuff. I can’t put my finger on anything specific that has consciously influenced the album, although some recent reviews have drawn comparisons with Iggy Pop and Billy Idol (co-incidentally I’m a big fan of both)
Jack: The album is to be released on Westworld Recordings, what was it like working with them?
Glynn: Really easy – the guys are very cool. The contract process was very easy – 3 pages instead of 30 as it was in the ’80s. We went to them with a fully finished and mastered product (with artwork), which obviously helps speed things up, but they do a great job and crack on.
Jack: What makes Rebellion Festival so special?
Glynn: Rebellion is basically a 4 day party that brings 10,000 people together from across the globe to see their favourite bands. It is a friendly atmosphere with so much going on that you can’t catch it all. It’s great meeting up with the other bands we have worked with over the years as well as fans of Chron Gen. This year we met up with quite a few from the U.S. that had been to see us in California and Vegas. It’s also exceptionally well-organised.
Jack: How did your recent sell-out tours of California and Las Vegas go?
Glynn: It was absolutely amazing. The crowds were incredible – the merch flew off the stalls, the crowds knew all our songs and went absolutely crazy when we played. There is a great scene in California, and some amazing people.
The most striking thing was the age range of people that came to our gigs. They were mainly in their late teens/early twenties, so there is clearly a healthy influx of new generations that are into us. Judging by the reactions we got, there is a bigger appetite in the US for the rock based / melodic style of punk that we are known for. We are looking forward to going back in 2017.
Jack: Do you think there are any divisions between the punk and metal communities?
Glynn: No I don’t. Many of the punk bands out there now have clearly been influenced by metal (including ourselves) and vice-versa. Metallica and Guns ‘N Roses are examples of this. Billy Idol and Marilyn Manson fit both communities and I also think that Goth music has a place in the triangle
Jack: Do you listen to any metal music?
Glynn: Sure – my first loves included Deep Purple and Thin Lizzy, but I listen to loads more besides (gotta love Metallica). I buy music I like from any genre – one of my favourite albums is Electric Purple Violin Concerto by Ed Alleyne Johnson – a fusion of classical and rock.
Jack: What are the upcoming plans for Chron Gen?
Glynn: We are headlining the 100 Club in London on 4th November. We have a string of UK shows confirmed for the first half of 2017, and are in the process of organising a US tour in the second half of the year, along with a trip to Marseille in the spring.
Jack: What are your thoughts on Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election?
Glynn: Nothing against the guy, but my view is that he shouldn’t have stood for re-election. It is clear that he doesn’t have the support of the parliamentary party, so what chance is there of a credible challenge to the conservatives? That can’t be good for democracy.
Jack: Is punk music too unfairly associated with protest and politics?
Glynn: Interesting question. We live in a world where abuse of power, greed, injustice and oppression is part of life – fact. Punk rock hit the tabloid headlines in ’76 as a very angry, anarchistic movement. In that sense, it is the perfect vehicle to express anger and frustration about the inequities of the world, but it’s not exclusive to punk – protest and politics have inspired loads of music, including [Bob] Dylan, [John] Lennon, the Blues and countless other artists and genres.
I love a lot of punk music that has little or no protest/politics association to it – sometimes it is just about good songs with a great sound – bands like the Damned and the Stranglers come to mind. So my answer is yes – it is unfair to stereotype punk as being all about protest and politics – true punk doesn’t have a uniform or a prescribed subject matter – that would defeat the whole point?
Jack: Finally, what album best captures the essence of punk?
Glynn: For me . . . . . . Rattus Norvegicus – The Stranglers
Jack: Thanks for your time Glynn.