We recently caught up with Chris Chameleon on the release of his brand new English album, ‘Firmament’.
Congrats on the release of Firmament. This is your first English album since 2008 – why did you decide to do an English album?
Thank you! I’ve found that I express myself differently in each of the four languages I can muster a decent conversation in. It’s as if my thinking changes, the way my heart connects to the words. So an album in English will have a different feel, a different heart language than an Afrikaans album (I haven’t made albums in either Dutch or German, my other two languages). Like most artists I am also constantly exploring my expression. Also, I started out as an English only artist – spent the first 15 years of my career making only English music. It will always be a part of me and an important outlet.
The album is already doing very well. Tell us more about the theme of the album, and he name Firmament?
Having named the album ‘Firmament’, I was rather surprised at how many folks don’t know the meaning of the word. I grew up with the word and have always taken it for granted as staple vocabulary. So I’ve had to explain it quite a lot lately. It means the heavens above, the stars, the galaxy, the universe, if you like. But it also has this cool association to it, in the sense that it contains the word ‘firm’. And that’s where I’m at in my life at the moment. I’ve been thinking, feeling a lot about my place in the universe. The title acknowledges this awareness and these considerations. The title track actually deals with the realisation of the immensity of the firmament, how small we are and, from that, the comforting conclusion that our problems cannot possibly be as big as we sometimes imagine them to be.
What was the writing process like for this album?
It takes only a few minutes to write a decent song, but it takes a few hours to get into those minutes. I call many of the songs on this album ‘shopping songs’, because they’re songs I write when my beloved quickly goes to the shops. I have been single most of my life and now that the love of my life lives with me, I have some difficulty writing, knowing that someone else is in the house and can hear the (painful) birthing. So I get into the zone, and when the shop runs happen, the song falls out of me, fully clothed an voila! This has actually been a very satisfying process. Most of the songs happened quickly. However, the last song on the album ‘Starburst’, comes from basics I had already laid down in 1989! The song ‘For Friends Departed’ is about a ‘friend’ I made on Twitter, this witty guy from Long Island, New York. We started following each other about five years ago. At some point I noticed a change in his tweets, some darkness creeping in. Then, one day, it stopped altogether and then one of the people close to him, whom I’ve also been following, announced that he had killed himself. Although I only knew him through Twitter, I found myself grieving for him and the song is what it caused in me.
You went back to Theo Crous for this recording. How do you decide who to use when it comes to recording?
It’s easy, I think about who the best person would be and then Theo’s name comes up first. But jokes aside, I know the man very well, he is a sensitive, musical soul with a lot of sonic wisdom. And crucially, he knows how to make me laugh.
What can fans expect from you for the rest of the year?
I am touring the album at the moment, and have also been busy in the studio with the next Afrikaans album.