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Chris Connelly: Bowie and Sons of the Silent Age
NUNN ON ONE: MUSIC Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times
2013-01-08

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Scottish musician Chris Connelly has rocked the industrial music world for decades with such memorable groups as the Revolting Cocks and Ministry.

His vocal style has been compared to David Bowie, so it is only fitting that he would bring his latest project—Bowie songs—to the Metro. Connelly has teamed with Matt Walker from Morrissey's band and Shirley Manson of Garbage to form Sons of the Silent Age to benefit the Pablove Foundation, which is for cancer victims and their families.

Windy City Times talked to the local musician while on break from his job at Reckless Records in Chicago.

Windy City Times: Hi, Chris. I've been listening to groups you've been with since college, from Pigface to Revolting Cocks.

Chris Connelly: Well, I'm pleased to hear that.

WCT: Did you grow up in Chicago?

Chris Connelly: No, I grew up in Scotland. I moved here in 1988. I didn't intend to stay but I did. It was a lot easier to live here than in the United Kingdom in the late '80s. I can't speak for them now but back then I just decided to stay and see what happens.

WCT: Now you have a wife and two children, and work at Reckless Records?

Chris Connelly: I do. I've been here for almost 18 years.

WCT: Do fans come in Reckless Records looking for you?

Chris Connelly: It has happened. It doesn't happen that much but when people hear that I work here then they want something signed and they will come by the store. I am pretty much left alone, though. I like that but I am very flattered that anyone would want an autograph. I am usually unclogging a toilet or something like that!

WCT: It sounds so glamorous.

Chris Connelly: Exactly.

WCT: Who are you listening to these days?

Chris Connelly: One of my favorite artists with an album from 2012 was Bat for Lashes. It is called The Haunted Man. It's just gorgeous. There is also a new Scott Walker record, but he is not an emerging artist by any stretch of the imagination.

WCT: How did this special night at Metro come about?

Chris Connelly: It was myself and Matt Walker, who plays drums in the band. I have known Matt for, like, 20 years. His brother was a bass player in my band. We have always stayed in touch. I was doing vocals for one of Matt's songs, and it had a hint of David Bowie in it, but it was nothing I could put my finger on. I just thought that it would be so much fun if we played some Bowie songs so I mentioned it to him. He had a connection at a charity and we decided to make an event out of it. We put a band together and started rehearsing.

WCT: How did Shirley Manson get involved?

Chris Connelly: We are both friends of hers. I have been a friend of hers for about 28 years. We go way back. We met at Edinburgh and became very close friends. She met Matt because he has played with Garbage a few times when Butch Vig has been doing other stuff. We both had mentioned it to her and she wanted to do it, too. She is very familiar with this charity and done some very good work for them. We were delighted to have her with us, obviously. She had some songs that she wanted to sing and then there are some songs that she and I will sing together.

WCT: The Waco Brothers will be there as well.

Chris Connelly: Yes. Jon Langford is an old friend of mine. We have done several things together over the years. I saw that his band was playing T. Rex songs. I thought it would be perfect and create a vibe for the evening. This will be firmly imbedded in '70s culture in a way. It will be a glam sound that people associate with these artists. In a superficial way, glam rock with David Bowie, T. Rex and Roxy Music jump to mind, first of all. Those artists transcended that genre very quickly. It makes the night fun and that is what we want.

WCT: What made you decide on the name Sons of the Silent Age?

Chris Connelly: Matt and I batted around a few names, but that song is one of my favorites by Bowie. It was a collective noun with a very obvious band name. We came up with a few others that are slightly more obscure than that. We are all real Bowie fans and know all kinds of obscure things. We wanted something people could connect to without calling ourselves "Space Oddity" or The "Heroes."

WCT: Would you ever want to do a recording together of it?

Chris Connelly: Not really, because there is nothing we can do to make our versions better than David Bowie's versions. I think it is a live experience. That is coming from someone who has been listening to him almost on a daily basis for 36 years, since I first bought Station to Station when it came out. I think playing his work in a live situation is the best thing to do and I would like to keep doing it.

WCT: Could you get a message to Bowie about this event?

Chris Connelly: I actually tweeted his son Duncan regarding it, hoping that he might be able to get the word out. We also got support from Gail Ann Dorsey, who was his last bass player and his guitar and keyboard player, as well as putting things on the website.

David is very reclusive and I absolutely respect that.

WCT: Did you ever meet him?

Chris Connelly: I met him twice, once when he played with Nine Inch Nails. I have been friends with Trent [Reznor] for a while and he made sure I met him at that show. The other time was when he played at the Aragon here in Chicago. He was very funny and charming.

WCT: How do you keep in touch with all these people and make different bands with them?

Chris Connelly: I've found that the Internet has been very key in this kind of thing. They are people that I collaborate with that I really respect their work. Sometimes I just like them as people. I tend to be quite loyal with my friends. I like working with them. I have kept in touch with many people over the years. I basically cherish friendships above everything else. It's like when Shirley and I met. I was 19 and she was 18; we got to be friends and there was no question.

WCT: There is such a gay following for her group Garbage, and for Bowie, also. I want to get the word out.

Chris Connelly: I really appreciate that. That's fantastic.

WCT: I will never forget your Revolting Cocks song "Beer, Steers, and Queers." So we have it all at the show! [Both laugh.]

Don't miss this once-in-a-lifetime show at Metro Chicago, 3730 N. Clark St., on Friday, Jan. 11. Donations can be made at www.pablove.org .


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