By Eric Schelkopf
Chicago musician Chris Connelly has lent his unique musical vision to such bands as Ministry and Revolting Cocks.
Now Connelly has formed Sons of the Silent Age with drummer Matt Walker. Joined by guest vocalist Shirley Manson of the band Garbage, Sons of the Silent Age will perform the songs of David Bowie on Jan. 11 at Metro, 3730 N. Clark St., Chicago. The show will benefit the Pablove Foundation, an organization dedicated to funding pediatric cancer research and to the empowerment of the families of cancer victims.
Also on the bill will be the Waco Brothers playing the music of T. Rex and Death on the Autobahn playing the music of Kraftwerk. The all-ages show starts at 7:30 p.m., and tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door, available at www.metrochicago.com.
I had the chance to talk to Connelly about a variety of topics, including what he thought of the Chicago music scene.
Q – Sons of the Silent Age sounds like a great project. How did the idea come about? How did you go about choosing what David Bowie songs to perform at the benefit?
I was working with (drummer) Matt Walker on one of his tracks, contributing vocals, and I mentioned that it put me in mind of David Bowie; not any particular song or sound, just the feel of the track.
A few days later I asked him why we’d never played [Bowie’s] music before-we love it and are very intimate with it, [so] it seemed like it would be great fun.
Q – How do your think your music over the years has been influenced by David Bowie? Is Sons of the Silent Age just a one-time project for the benefit or can we expect more from the band in the future?
In many ways-on one level, melody, lyrics, phrasing, and on another level, change: how to challenge an audience and still sound commercial…I’ve tried all these things; I just never sold any records!
I would like to carry on with this project – I think we ALL would; we have/are putting a lot of work into it, and it’s great fun!
Q – You have said that you spent most of the ’90s wondering what to do with your career. Are you happy with the current direction of your career? Which do you prefer, writing music or writing books? Or do you need both in your life?
I am happier now because I have learned where to keep my past-the stuff I did in the ’80s/early 90s which I spent so much of the mid to late ’90s trying to disown!
Now it has gained some respect from a lot of people whom I respect musically too. As far as the music I make now, I wander far and wide; I am exploring a lot of different sounds – I wish I had a little more time, but I am compelled strongly, so I make time!
Books are hard; I have had one sitting dormant (i.e. not finished) for a few years now, but I think it’s a good story: just how to get it on to paper, I find records a lot easier to make
Q – How do you think the current Chicago music scene compares to when you first arrived here? Is it as creative? How do you think Chicago’s scene compares to other parts of the country?
Right now, at this minute, I’m afraid it seems a bit stale. I don’t know why; there maybe just are not any exciting bands in my immediate view.
I usually wait until bands hit me in the face; I don’t actively search for them. However, I could say that for the entire current climate. If you’d asked [me] that about a year ago, I would have said different, but it will change again.
I’m not one of these older musicians who complains that nothing is good any more. I am constantly inspired.
When I first got to Chicago, I was in a bit of an industrial/Euro-dance bubble, but I was soon introduced to a lot of exciting things musically and indeed culturally; people working together in giant loft spaces, making films, sculpture and experimental music!
Q – Is is easier or harder to be a musician these days? What advice would you give to an up-and-coming band?
It’s always going to have it’s challenges, isn’t it? But if you want to do anything creative, rather, if you are compelled to, then you will find a way, it is as hard now for me as it was when I was playing to nobody with the Fini Tribe back in 1983, but I chose a pretty unconventional path [and] still do.
What I will say is at least you can make decent sounding records at home without having to pay for studio time; that was always a big problem.