You may not be familiar with Chas Palmer-Williams just yet, at least not as a solo artist. Following in the footsteps of other former punk band members turned solo troubadours (see Frank Turner, Chuck Ragan and Franz Nicolay), Chas was the singer in Lightyear; one of the most successful British ska-punk bands of the early noughties. Signed to Household Name Records alongside peers such as CapDown and Five Knuckle, Lightyear were famous for touring their socks off, and at times, taking their socks off. As well as the rest of their clothes.
Working hard and playing hard, Lightyear were one of the craziest live acts on the scene. I’ll never forget seeing them unfold a cardboard boat and “row” their way across the stage. I also vividly remember Chas, stripped naked, throwing a cooked chicken at the crowd at a gig in Birmingham. Ridiculously fun, funny, and a bit silly, Lightyear’s lyrics were often overlooked but they were full of clever wit and managed to convey a positive message amongst the madness.
Now older and (a little) wiser, Chas is embarking on a solo adventure. Having already released an EP, Chas is currently working on his debut album, and touring as relentlessly as ever. We were lucky enough to catch up with him for a quick chat ahead of some gigs in Ireland later this month. Here’s what he had to say…
Favourite Lightyear moment?
“So many really but it would have to be after playing Reading festival, sneaking on stage with Ice-T dressed in a pantomime horse costume. I just remember peeking through the hole in the suit, seeing Ice-T saying “these fools are going home in body bags”. It all kicked off, passes were taken off us and a chase ensued – we had to run to the side of stage using Dizzee Rascal as cover.“
Any chance of another reunion?
“Probably not now. We’re all getting pretty old and now there’s social media about, our kids won’t want to see us getting up to the stuff that we did.”
What’s it like going from being in a band with lots of people to going solo?
“Erm… different. A bit difficult at first, there are moments on stage that happen which only you and your mates in the band experience, that knowing glance but now I’m beginning to really enjoy it. I can prat about on my own now. I’m much more mobile as well.”
“Well there are loads… The Holdsteady. The Weakerthans. Pharcyde. Beastie Boys. Propaghandi. M People.”
You’ve been to Ireland before – any stories/highlights?
“Yeah, I love it! We were staying in Dublin years ago and Woody from Lightyear, who is normally very quiet (until he has a drink then goes ballistic), decided to shimmy round a hotel naked in the middle of the city. People were stopping and pointing. He got all the way around then jumped in somebody else’s window while they were in bed together and ran through their room. Sounds like a bad film! “
You know the guys in Mojo Fury, right? Are you looking forward to catching up with them?
“I do a bit of tour managing and I’ve toured with those guys, my first proper encounter with Michael was when we were in a bar after the first show – he bent down to pick up something he’d dropped and about 20 knives and forks dropped out of his jacket that he’d “acquired” from the bar. He quickly picked them up again and carried on as though nothing had happened. I instantly liked him. Also they are a kick ass band.”
What can we expect from your live show?
“Bad singing, too many lyrics, hopefully clothes but a ruddy good time! p.s. Do you think you can get me a smoke grenade?”
Chas Palmer-Williams plays in McHugh’s Bar, Belfast on 18th August. Support comes from Michael Mormecha (Mojo Fury) and Skip Cloud.
Tickets are £7 on the door/£5 in advance.
*As originally published on Folk and Tumble - August 2013*