We were lucky enough to catch up with Chaos 8 vocalist Beki Straughan, who gave us a real insight into what the DIY scene is really like for bands behind the scenes. Also letting us know what musical sounds inspired her growing up, to her getting the motivation to sing on stage in front of a crowded room.
What were your first memories of music while growing up, family friends etc?
My first memories of music would be of my mam playing music all the time. I heard loads of Janis Joplin, Kate Bush, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and classical music too. My dad had loads of 50’s stuff, my Grandad loved Jean-Michel Jarre and my nana loved Shirley Bassey so it was a fairly wide range. It’s no wonder I turned out the way I did! The charts were full of great stuff and there were loads of record shops to buy it all from! The late 70’s and early 80’s were pretty diverse and there was so much of it I loved, and still do.
The first explosion of Punk gave women a platform to voice their opinions through music as equals, which was unusual in the 1970s. Did you take inspiration from any female Punk vocalists before starting out yourself? Who were your influences punk or otherwise and why were they important at that time?
It wasn’t so much a case of being inspired before I started out, I started singing quite late really. It was more like I always loved certain singers, male and female, punk or otherwise, and I probably appreciated them more after I started singing in bands. I had a totally different perception of the vocals once I started to sing myself. I have always listened to punk music so I was inspired by the whole punk scene anyway, in everyday life.
I suppose if I need to list influences just off the top of my head, I’d have to include Janis Joplin, Kate Bush, Amy Winehouse, Debbie Harry, Jello Biafra, Lux Interior, David Bowie, Marilyn Manson, Jim Jones, Elin Larsson, and there will be so many more. For me, it’s not a case of only being inspired by women, it’s anyone who does something different with their voice and persona. You can’t separate them. They are all still important inspirations to me. I always hear something new in them.
What were your first steps into getting a band together, to you actually getting on stage for the first time in front of an audience?
That was the really easy bit! The first band I ever joined was a few good mates and they were looking for a singer. I said I’d have a go and got the job! I was in the studio recording with them within a couple of weeks. The first gig I ever did though was totally terrifying. I thought I was going to throw up for hours before I went on, the sound was appalling and the room was packed. 2 songs in though, I was fine. Then my stiletto heel got stuck in the floorboards and I couldn’t get off the stage! My dad had to rescue me and my shoe!
Chaos 8 have been going since 2012, how would you describe your music? There seems to be strong messages in all the bands lyrics with a heavy sound?
Our music isn’t easy to describe, it’s got a bit of alternative rock, punk, goth, industrial and electronic. And people often make different comparisons to who we think we might sound like. Some songs are quite strong and angry lyrically – I write all the lyrics and humans can really piss me off at times. Some songs are sad, others are quite joyful believe it or not! (Sometimes I don’t want to write about being furious with the world and I have to write something uplifting or I’ll go mad!) But even the slow songs sound heavy and intense.
How hard is it getting and keeping a band together today, what are the struggles in the DIY scene for music that you have come up against with Chaos 8?
Getting a band together can be quite easy, keeping it together is the hard part! People often have work commitments that prevent them being able to do gigs which slows the whole thing down.
With the DIY scene, the main struggle for any band is being able to afford to get from gig to gig. There is often very little money involved and although nobody expects to get a wage for gigging, petrol stations etc aren’t quite as accommodating!
But keeping it DIY can be a plus. It means we own our own music, we record it ourselves, we get it pressed ourselves, we can do what we like for the artwork, we sell it ourselves and it keeps us on the road. I always sell the merch as I don’t have all the musical gear to set up and pack away. That way, I get to know the fans really well and it’s lovely to see the same, and new, faces at each gig.
DIY isn’t really hard work, it’s just a case of being organised and it’s really satisfying.
Play: Chaos 8 – 4 Minutes
What advice would you give to any young girl wanting to front a Punk band today, what are the highs and lows you face as a female vocalist around Punk music?
It shouldn’t even be an issue whether it’s a woman or a man fronting a band. It’s just a band. I would like to think that there would be more highs and fewer lows for a woman involved in punk, just like there is for a man. If there is any condescending, sexist shit thrown at you, you have to challenge it head on, just as you would do if you were in an office, shop, bar or factory. I haven’t experienced many lows, specifically as a woman in punk. Although I know it does happen and I’ve experienced plenty in everyday life.
To anyone, young or old, wanting to front any band, the only advice I could give would be to be yourself, don’t let anyone steer you in a direction you don’t want to go, musically or otherwise, sing with your own voice, learn your craft and be the best you can be, not everyone can be trusted, ignore the haters, and make sure your bandmates are your friends, you’ll be spending a lot of time with them in cramped vans or less-than-4star conditions so you might as well enjoy their company!
Can you describe the organisation involved for Chaos 8 in regards putting a tour together or putting out an album? Is it easier now the band has a reputation from when you first started?
Booking gigs is so much easier now that we have built the name up a bit. It can still be frustrating at times but more people contact us with offers to play now so that’s great. The gigs for the mini tour in Germany in September is being booked for us so that takes a load of pressure off, all I have to do is book the transport. Putting out the next album is going to be easier than the last one. Last time we recorded it in a studio and Paul, the guitarist and songwriter, took the tracks and remixed and mastered it in his attic studio. So, the next ep and album we’ll all record our parts at his house, drink all his coffee, then he’ll mix and master it, he does all the artwork and I take it to be pressed. Piece of cake!
What would you say was the finest achievement of Chaos 8 so far?
We’re very proud of many things we’ve done so far, but a recent highlight was probably playing the Introducing stage at Rebellion in 2017. We had a great crowd and that’s when we started to get more offers for gigs. I think the finest achievement of any band is to have a great set of fans who come to as many gigs as they can and are always really supportive and we’ve got some great friends among them.
Play: Chaos 8 – Rebellion 2017
What have the band got planned for 2018 ?
We’ve got some really good gigs this year. We introduced our new drummer in February in Stalybridge, we played a fantastic alternative night in Newcastle last week and we’re supporting Syteria in Newcastle on 21st April. We’re recording a new EP in May for CD and vinyl. Then we’re supporting the Skids in Newcastle 16th June, headlining a Love Music Hate Racism gig in South Shields on 30th June.
We’ve got a Rebellion pre show gig in Manchester on 29th July, Rebellion on Sunday August 5th. The Festival des Kultures Alternatives in Chalais, France on 17th August, Hard Drive Festival in Coalville on September 9th, German tour 19-22nd September and we’ll have loads more to add to that list before the year is out. Maybe even another album!
Can you name the Punk songs that have been the most important throughout your life for whatever reasons, and your favourite song of all time and why?
Haha, that’s an almost impossible task! Where on earth do you start with that one? I’m going to end up missing loads out but here goes…Punk songs: anything from It’s Alive- Ramones, Bodies – Sex Pistols, BataMotel – Crass, Most Exalted Potentate of Love – The Cramps, Tomorrow’s Girls – UK Subs, Love In Vain -Ruts, Holiday in Cambodia – Dead Kennedys, Like Clockwork – Boomtown Rats, Sound off the alarms – the Generators, Search and Destroy – Iggy & The Stooges, I can’t even think now, there are so many to choose from!
Play: Crass – Bata Motel
As for favourite song of all time, there are plenty of those too! Whole lotta love – Led Zeppelin, Stand by me – Ben E King, Moonage Daydream – David Bowie, and the list goes on! A favourite song makes you feel good no matter what mood you’re in but I could never pick just one.