The Chillun: an autobiography by Andrew “Angus” Russe

The Chillun
An autobiography by Andrew “Angus” Russe

The Chillun sprang out of a bunch of musicians at Exeter University.

There was a collection of heavy-rock wannabes rehearsing called Ego Rising. Ian Thompson (Gnasher) of the reasonably successful campus band Fast Breeder was playing bass in it (he’d also been in a powerpop trio called Vortex). He was rather embarrassed about being with this crowd of novices that didn’t seem to be going anywhere and was trying to get out of it without hurting anyone’s feelings.

I’d been doing acoustic stuff (as I had been at school) and was beginning to think I’d like a backing band. I’d got in touch with a bassist and drummer and had one rehearsal with them. Either Ego Rising or Fast Breeder were rehearsing at the same time, Gnasher spotted us with guitar cases in the bar and was wondering whether he could interest the bass-player in replacing him.

A few weeks later, very drunk, I bumped into him and Conrad Pizey (novice guitarist of Ego Rising). They had just decided to “sack” Ego Rising’s lead-guitarist. They saw me staggering down the road (they knew of me because I was another distinctive long-hair round campus). Gnasher told Conrad “he plays guitar”, so Conrad approached me and we started chatting. They had a rehearsal next day and I agreed it would be a laugh.

When they showed up to collect me they were convinced I’d have forgotten, but they found me ready with guitars and amplifier. I didn’t think of myself as a lead guitarist at that moment, I wanted to be, but I didn’t realise I could do it. The start of the rehearsal with Conrad, Gnasher, and Baz Perrin the drummer, was somewhat shambolic. Then I started playing the chords to Hey Joe, and they joined in. Geoff Marshall had set a mic up for them, so I sang it, and we knocked the place down. During this performance, Steve Richardson walked in. At the end of the performance, the assorted hangers on went wild. And then Steve, looking a bit peeved, went up to the mic and went “right let’s do Doctor Doctor then”. It turned out he was the (extremely novice) lead vocalist!

They gave me the lead-git job there and then, but didn’t tell me until after a few more “rehearsal jams” some weeks later. They were always quite secretive and had a siege-mentality over all things band-wise, and I think they were trying to figure out how to entice me into joining. Needn’t have bothered at the time!

Over the next few months I helped them establish an “image”, renamed them to Incubus, wrote their first set, and helped figure out with Conrad and Gnasher how to get our three instruments to gel for heavy rock.

Meanwhile, Fast Breeder’s drummer Martin Gorman (Boggie) heard the buzz about this new guitarist in town and started showing up at rehearsals. I already knew he was the drummer I really wanted, and it turned out he wanted to form a blues band with me. We talked Rory Gallagher etc, he introduced me to lot of American music, and talked me into learning slide guitar. He brought in Guy Clarke (bass) and Steve Clarke (keyboards) from other things he’d been involved in. We called it The Devil’s Chillun (we dropped the Devil’s and loud set openers because we struggled with people thinking we were a heavy rock band).

I was in both bands for a while, and in fact, The Chillun gigged first. I played in the first few Incubus gigs (and supported them with my acoustic set!). But it was obvious to me I couldn’t keep the Incubus side of things up. I found Jerry Pett on campus and manoeuvred him into replacing me.

After 10 to 20 Chillun gigs, Guy Clarke had to move on to other things, so we searched around for a new bass player. By then I had a girlfriend at college in town. She knew of a bassist at college and set me up with meeting him. That was Nick Banwell.

As various people left Exeter after university, the band went on hold for a move to London. Steve Clarke left anyway, and Russe/Banwell/Gorman were going to take on the world.

Nick Banwell never made it to London. Me and Martin started rehearsing my new material in Reigate without a bassist. Then Ian Thompson arrived in London and we got him involved. We did a LOT of gigs (including several trips back to Exeter) and recorded several demos. Ian is the bassist on the third one. Sleighride, incidentally, was written for The Chillun, but I gave it to Incubus first. I actually didn’t think much of their version, and the riff to Your Fault Not Mine is a deliberate re-use of the Sleighride riff! When Ian joined us, it was obvious we should do Sleighride (but we did it more like I’d been intending originally).

Eventually, it was me that left the band. I was getting married, and being in the Chillun was seriously getting me down.

After trying to carry on for a while, Ian retired altogether and Martin moved on to various other bands.

A few years later, Ian was getting married. That put me and Martin back in touch. My marriage had just broken up and his relationship had gone as well. We thought about getting a band together with Chris Nicholson on guitar and Tim East on bass (both of whom had been Chillun fans in London). That turned into something called “Stick”. Tim left to follow his heavy rock leanings and we drafted in Martin’s brother Dave.

In comparison, the live Stick knocked The Chillun into a cocked hat. But it didn’t have the naive blues-rockers thing that The Chillun did. I know some folk who saw both were of the opinion that although Stick was obviously “it”, they still preferred The Chillun. No worries, you don’t have to like everything!

We did a few gigs and recorded a CD. But life was still bad for me (and Martin). I got very depressed and one day I woke up and realised that the thing that I thought was my reason for living – music – was what was actually killing me. I dropped the whole thing there and then, and started getting better.

I nearly burnt all the guitars and songs – but someone talked me out of it!

When my (then new) wife met me, she thought I was an artist. There was one resonator in the living room that I sometimes played, but otherwise I was a painter. She started to discover what the cases in the attic were for, started hearing recordings, etc. It was her that talked me back into music. By then, it was possible to do the whole thing and record it yourself at home – which suits me a LOT BETTER.

I now have a “recording studio” in the new house, and all sorts of sh1t comes out of it!!

If you’re interested, you can find all the stuff I want to make public on alonetone:

Martin emigrated to Canada, and I believe he’s happily married now, same as me.