The Chills story is as much the story of Martin Phillipps. The group was dogged by an ever changing line up, with Phillipps being the only permanent member. At times it seemed that the end of The Chills had finally arrived but Phillipps' strong motivation and ambition for success wouldn't allow this. The Chills achieved the success they deserved and were one of the top bands to emerge from New Zealand.
It all began in late 1978 when Martin Phillipps was the crisp age of 15. Inspired by the punk movement, including local band The Enemy, he teamed up with Jeff Batts (vocals) and Craig Easton (guitar) one weekend and began to make noise.
Soon after Paul Baird (drums) and Gaynor Propsting (bass) joined up and The Same was formed. Phillipps played guitar and following the departure of Batts took over as the principal songwriter and vocalist. Their few gigs included support for Toy Love and a Telethon '79 appearance, and it was quickly becoming obvious that Phillipps possessed a rare talent with a great sense of melody.
Others to pass through The Same were Alistair Dunn and Monica Hales, but in early 1980 the band dissolved, with the final line-up of Phillipps (guitar and vocals), Paul Baird (drums), Jane Dodd (bass) and Phillipps' sister Rachel (guitar).
Peter Gutteridge and the Kilgour brothers had been influential on the young Phillipps, introducing him to a lot of west-coast experimental and psychedelic music. Phillipps and Gutteridge decided to have a go at playing together, and later in the year the first phase of The Chills was formed with Phillipps and Peter Gutteridge (guitar/vocals), Rachel Phillipps (keyboards), Jane Dodd (bass) and Alan Haig (drums). They played their first gig in Dunedin at the Coronation Hall as support to Bored Games and The Clean on 15th November 1980.
While Gutteridge respected Phillipps as a musician and friend, they deviated on musical direction and this led to his departure in late 1980. Gutteridge went on to play in a number of bands including The Great Unwashed and Snapper.
In June 1981 Dodd left for overseas and Rachel Phillipps left for the good of her education so The Chills was put on hold. Subsequently Phillipps toured with The Clean, as well as playing keyboards on their recording of `Tally Ho' in Christchurch on the way back south.
On his return to Dunedin in July 1981 Phillipps reformed The Chills with Haig along with ex-Bored Games players Fraser Batts (keyboards/guitar) and Terry Moore (bass). This line-up was one of the most powerful, and playing throughout the year they became very popular. During a visit to Christchurch late in the year, Roger Shepherd of Flying Nun offered them a place on the proposed recording debut in Paul Kean's living-room on Chris Knox's Dunedin Double EP. Thus in March 1982 they made their Knox's 4-track with 'Kaleidoscope World', 'Satin Doll' and 'Frantic Drift' which came out later that year.
Unfortunately in April before the release of the EP drummer Haig left to join The Verlaines, being replaced by Martyn Bull, and soon after Batts departed. Rachel Phillipps was hurriedly taken on as the band were just about to depart on a North Island tour as support to The Clean, though once in Auckland she returned to Dunedin so the last gigs there were played as a trio. Further recordings were made with Chris Knox and Doug Hood while in Auckland, later coming out as the 'Rolling Moon' and 'Pink Frost' singles. The release of the had the immediate effect of giving them big Dunedin Double EP during their time in Auckland audiences and in June they victoriously returned to Dunedin.
Martyn Bull was suffering from leukaemia and had continuing relapses, and rather than replace him Phillipps and Moore decided to put the band on hold. Bull's health was a critical factor at this stage, and although Peter Allison was recruited on keyboards during a temporary improvement, further relapses led to The Chills effectively being halted.
In November the 'Rolling Moon' single was released to a receptive public, though the band was unable to tour to promote it. A short-lived band named Time Flies was formed with David Kilgour of The Clean but never played in public. With Bull's health deteriorating further Alan Haig rejoined as drummer in June 1983. Martyn Bull died in Masterton on the 18th July 1983, aged 22.
The band was devastated and ground to a halt, and for the next five months Phillipps' appearances in public were limited to the occasional solo performance. In December 1983 the band was reformed with a new line-up, Martin Kean having replaced Terry Moore on bass with Phillipps (songwriter/guitar/vocals), Alan Haig (drums) and Peter Allison (keyboards). Feeling that The Chills was a thing of the past they debuted as A Wrinkle in Time, but soon after reverted to calling themselves The Chills.
The band joined the Flying Nun Looney tour in early 1984, along with Children's Hour, The Expendables and Doublehappys, though they were having trouble working as a unified band. One of the problems was the effect of the high profile of Phillipps and the misplaced idea of some that The Chills were his backing band.
Long after being recorded, the single 'Pink Frost' was released in June 1984 and dedicated to Martyn Bull, who along with Phillipps and Terry Moore had recorded it two years earlier. The eerie melody and accompanying video of the song gave the band their first hit and firmly established them as a band with prospects.
During the year they recorded tracks later to appear on recording 'The Lost EP' and a third single 'Doledrums'. The 16-track and stronger production gave the single a more poppy sound compared to their previous releases. In November they played the high-profile support on the Split Enz farewell tour in the South Island, and soon after moved to Auckland. Sadly, Kean's bass playing was a problem, and Phillipps had to ask him to leave, reinstating Terry Moore.
In July 1985 came the release of 'This The Lost EP' which had been begun a year earlier, shelved, exhumed then is the way' is magical, the most fulfilled thing on the record, with its soft atmospherics and brain-entwining slide guitar; nothing else gets as close.
Their goal was to reach England, and in order to raise funds they toured extensively throughout 1985. In October they finally reached England but the long journey to get there had been rough, resulting in Allison and Haig deciding to leave the band once they returned in December. Aware of the upcoming departures the trip was frustrating for Phillipps but the band still managed to achieve some success. Along with sightseeing, they played a number of gigs around London, as well as one in Brighton, receiving good reviews in the music press.
Through interest shown by DJ John Peel they managed to get a four song Peel session at the BBC studios which consisted of a re-recording of 'Rolling Moon' along with 'Night Of Chill Blue', 'Wet Blanket' and 'Brave Words'. Martyn Bull had bequeathed his leather jacket to Phillipps, inspiring the penning of 'I Love My Leather Jacket' which was also recorded while in London as a double A-side single with a live-version of 'The Great Escape'.
Two versions of 'Oncoming Day' were recorded, intended for the double A-side single, but instead later released in 1987 on a flexi-disc with the Bucketful of Brains fanzine issue 21 backed with a version of 'Dan Destiny And The Silver Dawn' recorded by Phillipps and Moore in 1986.
The band's return to New Zealand in late 1985 marked a sad change for The Chills. The British music press were raving about The Chills as the band to watch but the band had lost half its members. Things were made worse by the departure of Moore in mid-1986 who chose to pursue a career in sound engineering. Although the momentum had taken a plunge and many thought that the end of The Chills may have come, Phillipps was keen to achieve the success that was finally within reach and began looking for a new band. In an interview he stated, "It's got to be magic this time - I'm not going to be satisfied with anything less than a miracle."
In March 1986 Flying Nun released a compilation entitled Records' Kaleidoscope World in Britain through Rough Trade subsidiary Creation Records, as well as in Germany through Normal and in the USA through Homestead. The 1987 release of the album by Normal and Flying Nun NZ/UK included a reworked live single 'I'll Only See You Alone Again' backed by 'Green Eyed Owl'.
It was in October 1986 that Phillipps brought together the tenth line-up of The Chills: ex-Smart Russians and classically trained Andrew Todd (keyboards), ex-Big Sideways and Coconut Rough Justin Harwood (bass) and Caroline Easther (drums), a longtime friend of Phillipps. Easther had considerable drumming experience through playing with a number of bands including Beat Rhythm Fashion, The Verlaines, Spines and Circus Block Four.
In December the new line-up's debut came with the release of 'I Love My Leather Jacket', which reached No. 4 in the New Zealand charts and No. 3 on the NME alternative charts thus providing them with a genuine chart hit.
This latest configuration relocated to London in February 1987 and began a five-week tour of Europe taking in Belgium, Holland, Sweden, Norway and West Germany followed by two dates in Athens before returning to London. With producer Mayo Thompson they recorded the long-awaited debut Chills album entitled Although the producer had the right idea of their Brave Words. sound he tended to leave the technical decisions to an engineer who was a ■clean-sounding dance remix person, and further problems resulted from the fact the band had only been together for three months and had not fully gelled.
After the recording sessions they played to their largest ever crowd of 60,000 at the Glastonbury festival in July then flew to America to play in New Jersey and at the New Music Seminar in New York. Their success in Europe had filtered across Atlantic and their gigs were attended by capacity crowds and received rave reviews.
They returned to their London base and made further European and UK tours, as well as recording another four tracks for the John Peel show. The release of the album in mid-1987 was preceded by a European release of the twelve inch single 'House With A Hundred Rooms'. Their final tour in October covered West Germany, Holland, Switzerland and Italy, while a gig in East Germany was a memorable highlight as The Chills were only the third western band ever to play a concert in the country.
In late 1987 back in New Zealand they played sell-out concerts around the country and in early 1988 made a tour to Australia. Alas, Caroline Easther had to depart the band due to ear troubles and after auditioning 25 drummers, 17-year old ex-Bygone Era James Stephenson was chosen to replace her. Shortly afterwards they travelled to the States for a tour and there attracted the attention of American company Slash records and a few months later signed to Slash/Warner brothers, making them the first Flying Nun band to sign to a major overseas label. In New Zealand they were still represented by Flying Nun.
In early 1989 they were based in London, writing and rehearsing new material, then in August went into Jacob's studio in the Surrey countryside with Pixies producer Gary Smith and spent seven weeks recording their new album Submarine Bells . With the exception of Stephenson the band had been together for nearly three years and were working well as a band, with all four contributing to the songs, Todd's classical training being of special help. American producer Gary Smith's experience and expertise was also very helpful during the recording sessions and the resulting album was brilliant, receiving large amounts of well-deserved praise.
Following the album sessions the band immediately left on a European tour and in early 1990 began a two month tour of the US, during which time the album was released to a welcoming public, reaching number one on the college radio charts. The single release from the album `Heavenly Pop Hit' was as perfect as a pop-song could be and focused fame and attention on the band even more.
Returning to New Zealand in July they were treated as national heroes, including being welcomed by an official mayoral reception in Martin's home town of Dunedin. All their concerts on this 'homecoming' tour were sell-outs with the album number one in the charts, buoyed along by the success of the 'Heavenly Pop Hit' single. At the end of the tour Andrew Todd departed the band, followed soon by Justin Harwood, leaving Phillipps with fame but no band. Harwood went onto play with successful New York band Luna. Terry Moore rejoined for the third time and with Phillipps and Stephenson made the twelfth Chills line-up.
From July to September 1991 the trio made some demo recordings at Lab studios in Auckland for their next album, with Phillipps looking for a producer. The decision was eventually made to record at Master Control studios in Burbank, Los Angeles with producer Gavin MacKillop who had produced the Church, Shriekback and Straitjacket Fits' 'Melt' album.
The band was looking for a keyboardist to play on the album and decided on Peter Holsapple, but this prompted Stephenson to depart due to personality clashes and homesickness. Eventually Phillipps and Moore decided on three Americans met through friends and in January 1992 with Peter Holsapple (guitar/keyboards), Mauro Ruby (drums), Lisa Mednick (keyboards) and ex-Clay Idols Steven Schayer (backing vocals) they went into the studio to record their new album 'Soft Bomb'.
Holsapple had worked with Van Dyke Parks, a legendary and eccentric artist much admired by Phillipps for his work with the Beach Boys and Randy Newman. With encouragement from Holsapple, Phillipps approached him to do a string arrangement for the song 'Water Wolves' originally intended for the on the b-side of 'Part Past Part Submarine Bells album but ending up Fiction' instead. Parks was thrilled with the opportunity and was given free rein over the song which he made into a dramatic soaring studio piece, performed by a small string orchestra with a suitably eerie vocal by Phillipps.
Following the recording a new line-up emerged, The Chills phase 13, with Phillipps (guitar), Moore (bass), Mednick (keyboards), Schayer (guitar) and Earl Robertson (drums) who had played with Philadelphia's A Subtle Plague for six years.
In July they began a world tour in New Zealand, with 100 gigs lined up until Christmas. Although the audiences were a little less excited than on their previous tour, following the release of receptive and tickets sold Submarine Bells , the crowds were still well. However during the New Zealand leg of the tour the band was not fitting together as well as hoped and it became evident Robertson's drumming was the problem. Following the Australian gigs Phillipps had no choice but to replace Robertson and ex-Abel Tasmans Craig Mason took the position. Mason had toured with The Chills for many years as lighting man so with his good knowledge of the material fitted in quickly.
'Double Summer' was the second single from the album to be released, backed by demo tracks of 'Halo Fading' and 'Sanctuary' recorded a year earlier by Phillipps and Moore with James Stephenson on drums and sounding radically different from the album versions.
The US gigs were well received but lower than expected ticket sales and lack of band cohesion were causing problems, and following technical difficulties at the Los Angeles show Warner Brothers decided not to promote the album further. The situation was worsened when Slash deleted sales of Soft Bomb in Europe made 'Submarine Bells' from their catalogue and low Slash's UK distributor, London Records, withdraw tour support money.
With no potential source of income and rising debts the band had no choice but to give up. At their final American gig in New York Phillipps made the sad announcement that it was to be the last ever Chills concert. As Phillipps was effectively the employer of the band, he was left with a very substantial personal debt to Slash records.
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New Chills Videos - This Week TV3 & TV1
Posted: Tue Nov 9, 2004 8:20 am
Martin and The Chills have recently completed 2 videos of songs from the newly released 'Stand By' CD.
'February' and 'True Romance' were taped at the beautiful Temple Gallery, Dunedin over the weekend of 23-24 October.
The 'February' video will debut on the John Campbell with A Queens Tour show, TV3, Thursday Nov 11 9.30pm NZ time.
For details on A Queens Tour see: http://www.tv3.co.nz/listings/index.cfm?day=6
The 'True Romance' video will debut on the Hum music show, TV1, Saturday Nov 13 10.30pm NZ time.
For details on Hum see: http://tvnz.co.nz/view/tvone_story_skin/442586%3fformat=html
Special thanks go out to Lisa, George, Michael, James, Peter and Tori, Graeme, Chris, John, Megan, Michael, Strawberry Sound, Taylormade, TV3, and TV1 for making this happen.
Location: West Coast
Chills New EP
Posted: Sun Oct 17, 2004 6:02 pm
The Chills new release "Stand By" has finally arrived - details available from their web site www.softbomb.com
Posted: Fri Dec 6, 2002 5:58 pm
Thanks to Median Strip for the following info:
Martin Phillipps and his current incarnation of The Chills have been recording. The band went into Dunedin's Arclife Studio in November for four days recording, aiming for an EP in the near future and an album some time next year.
"We've come away with very strong rhythm tracks (the drums, the bass and some percussion) for the five songs thus far attempted," reports Phillipps.
"We're doing a cover of Neil Diamond's Solitary Man which has been going down well at our recent live gigs and this track will be the one donated to the next Arclife compilation, now scheduled for early 2003.
"Part of the aim of this EP is to capture some of the few new songs this line-up has been performing for the last couple of years to clear the table before the main course arrives in the form of next year's album."
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