|Kenny Chambers, left, with Jay Arcari on drums and Chuck Freeman on bass in 2016. Photo: ColemanRogers.com|
Keep your ears open, know a few key people and you’ll find the cool stuff.
When I rolled into Boston in the summer of 1986 with the Corrosion of Conformity guys for a gig at the Rat, there was a buzz around the scene about a new album chugging its way into existence: Moving Targets’ “Burning in Water” on Taang! Records.
While I dug the COC punk/metal hybrid barrage, I grew up on pop and rock songs and was always a sucker for the punk bands that planted those styles onto their musical landscapes. I’m up for a good headbanging, but there’s something other-wordly about locking in with an infectious melody along with those buzzing guitars, gouging bass and riveting drums.
That’s Moving Targets for you, and XxX fanzine editor and our host for the night, Mike Gitter, gave me the lowdown on the band. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the record.
It was everything I could have hoped for after following bands like Husker Du, the Clash and like-minded groups throughout their careers. The Targets' jarring, emotion-wielding tunes hit the spot.
I kept a firm eye on Moving Targets along their exceptional musical road as well, which ended in the mid-2000s.
Original vocalist/guitarist/lyricist Kenny Chambers now lives in Denton, Texas, with his wife and is resurrecting the band with Canadians Emilien Catalano, who also drums for the Nils, and Yves Thibault, bassist for Out Of Order.
They've got a European tour on the docket with dates in Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands and United Kingdom in October and November. Ten dates are confirmed and there's more to come; check the band's Facebook page for full details. There's also an album release of old demos and live tracks from 1983-2007 slated for September/October on Boss Tuneage Records.
I recently phoned Chambers and here's what we came up with during our half-hour chat about the Targets and his life in music.
The band formed on the North Shore in Massachusetts on June 16, 1982 -- so today's the 36th anniversary of when it all began.
** You just released that career-spanning box set on Bandcamp. Why did you decide to do that now?
I've always been into home recording for many years. I just had all the songs, nothing was ever gonna happen to them, and I wanted to get them out there. And there's a lot of live stuff, some Targets things, everything. I just kind of wanted to have it all in one place. As much for me as anyone else. And I thought other people should hear it, too. It's kind of like a Ken Chambers bootleg (laughs). There's stuff on there that maybe you wanna hear once. A live thing from '94, it's really worthwhile. This band that I was in with some friends, very short lived that got recorded, etcetera.
I did that, it was kind of some happy accidents this whole Targets thing. I had been in touch with this guy, Emelien, who I met once when I was in Massachusetts, he and some friends came from Montreal to see a show I was doing. I knew he was a drummer and he posted this YouTube video of him playing "Let Me Know Why," and he was phenomenal on it. I did the Bandcamp thing, he posted that, within two weeks of doing that, there's this Moving Targets tour.
** The Bandcamp thing goes from when you were very young until now. How does it feel to look at that? Does it bring back some good memories, some bad memories?
All good memories. These songs, when I finally got them all together, they're kind of part of my DNA. Some of them I heard fairly recently in the last year or two and some of them I hadn't heard in a long time. Going through them, I kind of remembered all the solos, it was very nostalgic for me. Even the Iron Cross stuff, I thought the stuff was kind of cheesy, but I'm kind of glad I put it on there, 'cause in hindsight, you know, I was just young and Mark and John (Norris brothers) were young. It's all cool stuff. I have affections for all of it. It's kind of like my kids. I don't have kinds, those songs are my kids.
** It's part of who you are, so I think it's cool and even in the case of the younger one, maybe a little bold to put stuff out there and show people what you're about. I think that's the same for all of us, we should be proud of who we are all the way through.
Warts and all.
|Chambers in 2016. Photo: ColemanRogers.com|
** Not too long after that, you put up that re-recording of "Less Than Gravity" on SoundCloud. What made you think about that particular song and to revisit that one 31 years later?
I just kind of did that for fun mostly. I just messed around with home-recording stuff. I wanted to see if I could still play that and sing it all these years later. I mean, I thought I could, so for better or worse, that's pretty much why I did it. See if we can pull the thing off, playing with a couple of young bucks like Yves and Emelien, keep me on my toes.
** Any particular thoughts roll through your head when you looked back on that song? As far as the Targets' catalogue, a pretty crucial one. What does that song mean to you?
I really don't think about what it means to me or didn't. Re-recording it, I had a lot of fun doing it, and obviously it was just me, different from the Targets' version. I thought it was kind of cool the way I did it. It's just kind of self-satisfaction or whatever you're doing, recording a song or painting, what you may get out of that. I thought it was a cool song.
** The European tour, tell me a little bit about how that's happening.
Emelien posted that video, and I left a comment kind of joking, "Let's go to Europe." He said he knew a bass player, and I saw him play and I said, "Wow, this could work." I kind of just said I'm gonna post that we wanna go to Europe and see what happens, and a couple days later, some people had gotten back to me. A guy Jens from Truemmer was into it. The tour is happening. A lot of people reached out from venues and things like that (which) had the Targets 25-plus years ago that wanted to have the band. I never thought I'd go back to Europe. When I did the Bandcamp thing, I was basically in semi-retirement.
** Are you maybe a little reticent about it or did something just kind of spark inside of you and you're kind of like, 'All right, let's go for it?'
Just the way it came together, it was just so easy. I knew Emelien a little bit and started talking to Yves and they're both super fired up. Yves had heard of Targets, never heard anything. So he heard the stuff, he's like, "I fucking love this. I can't wait to do it." As we speak right now, they're practicing, 'cause he just got back from a European tour with his band three days ago, so today's (May 20) their first get-together, they're gonna send me some videos. We haven't even been in a room together and played, but we all know it's gonna be good. We're fired up.
They're coming here in September for 10 days, and so we'll rehearse here at my house and we're gonna do some recording. I sent them a few things that were on Bandcamp that were intended for the Targets, stuff that we had actually played years ago towards the end, like 2006-2007 when we were last together. I think we're gonna do a six-song EP, friend of mine's got a place like five minutes down the road, a studio, it's gonna be fun.
It was easy for me to jump back into this. I love playing, but I'm also pretty lazy about it sometimes. Something that's easy like this -- it's perfect.
Obviously, it's only me from the band, but to play with these guys, we can concentrate on the "Burning in Water" stuff, which is a lot of fun to play. I've played Targets songs with other people besides Pat Brady and Chuck (Freeman) and Pat Leonard, but this is gonna be the closest to the Targets. I'm not saying this is just gonna be a one-off, I have no idea, but to put like a little good stamp with the Targets towards the end of it.
(Editor's note: They may play a show in Montreal and one in Massachusetts to gear up for the tour.)
** Tell me about the start of the Targets. What kind of kicked it off for you guys? How old were you guys when you all got together?
I was 18, Pat Leonard 17 and Pat Brady 16. Pat Leonard and I were playing in the band for about a year and a half, Iron Cross, not the first band I was in but a continuation of that. We wanted to play punk rock, so just put an ad in the paper and Pat Brady's mom showed it to him and we went over there. Just moved our gear in.
**What was it like when you guys started off? Was it pretty rough at first or was there maybe a glimmer of something good you knew was gonna come out of that?
It was so phenomenal right from the first time we got together. Pat Brady was the greatest drummer I've ever seen and still I've ever seen to this day. Pat and I couldn't believe it. Pat Leonard was perfect with him, the style that we played, they just locked from the first night. After a couple weeks, we had like 30 cover songs, all punk rock stuff, maybe one original. After a month together, we started playing parties and stuff 'cause it was summertime.
** Sometimes the magic happens so naturally.
That's the only time in my life something like that's happened, playing with someone. It was like a bolt of lightning, it really was.
(Editor's note: Leonard and Brady both passed away in 2008, within six months of each other.)
** What did you think of (your first) recordings for the "Bands That Could Be God" (1984) compilation?
We were super happy with that. It's the first time we recorded with Lou Giordano, he was great. First time any of us had been in a real studio, so it's exciting as hell. A few songs, super fast, Lou did a great job capturing it. I think the stuff is so cool. I'm proud to have been part of all that stuff. The compilation was great, we were friends with a couple of the other bands: Sorry, Busted Statues. Gerard (Cosloy) was really cool, Conflict, and he was putting on a lot of shows. (He praised the band Christmas on the comp.)
|Chambers, Leonard and Brady. Photo: T Maxx|
** "Burning in Water" didn't come out until '86. I know you were away from the band and then you got it back together again.
We were split up for a little over a year, and that's when I met Chuck and we did Smash Pattern with our friend Scott (Towne). The Targets drifted back together and we had a friend of ours, Ken Brooks, who actually loaned us 3,000 bucks to do the recording. We did it ourselves and with Lou and Curtis (Casella) heard about it and he got a demo or something and that's how the whole thing started with Taang!
** And talk about coming back strong because that album, a lot of people really revere that album. How do you feel about that album when you look back on it now?
I think right place, right time. Lou's a great producer and we did it pretty quickly and it was captured. Some of that stuff I think the band was captured at their peak. To me, my Targets records, that's a good record. The other records had some good songs, but that's the one that has the great production, kind of like coming out of the gate. I was very lucky and lucky my whole life playing with different people, but especially in the North Shore, Massachusetts, small town finding two other people like that to be in a band with. I think anyone that loves drums, would love that record; anyone that likes pop songs would maybe like it as well. It's got a lot of stuff going for it.
(Editor's note: Chambers said to receive praise for the album is gratifying. It's special for a kid who first picked up a guitar at age 12, and someone who was out of the loop with the music scene for a long time, to even be doing this interview, he added.)
** Bill from Buffalo Tom wrote the liner notes for (the Bandcamp release). That's some pretty good praise.
He had written about the Targets before, and when I read what he wrote, it was emotional to me. He captured it beautifully. It was kind of surreal, it was almost like I wasn't really reading about something that I had anything to do with.
|Brady, left, Chambers and Leonard. Photo: Bruce Rhodes|
** Some of Chambers' early music memories were receiving the Beatles' blue and red albums from him mom when he was 10, and then glomming onto punk bands like the Clash, Sex Pistols, Dead Boys and the Heartbreakers when they hit the scene. He played guitar along with punk albums for hours in his bedroom.
It's kind of funny, I hadn't played Targets songs, and then when I did "Less Than Gravity," that kind of got me thinking, "I gotta try and play these songs again now." I was just out in the back yard with the electric and I started playing punk shit, because I was thinking when I was writing these songs and playing these songs, I was listening to punk rock. Started playing the first Dead Boys record and stuff like that.
I'll be 55 this summer, so I gotta get my chops back.
** For tons of tunes, visit Chambers' Bandcamp page at https://kennychambersmusic.bandcamp.com/
"Less Than Gravity" 2018: https://soundcloud.com/kaiser-kenny-1/less-than-gravity-2018