Since its rise in the 1970s, the allure of punk rock has always been its blatant rejection of the mainstream. Adopting a cutting-edge DIY approach to not only the music but also the fashion, punk rock stuck a middle finger in the air, told you to “f**k off,” and looked effortlessly cool while doing it. So do The Chuck Norris Experiment.
Hailing from the greater Gothenburg area, CNE have been in the Scandinavian punk rock scene since 2004 and delivered their tunes with a ferocity that rounds out their attack and turns into high energy live shows that they’ve brought all over Europe, especially to Germany, and all the way to the United States.
Messed!Up caught a train to their home turf in Kungsbacka south of Gothenburg and sat down with Chuck the Ripper and Chuck Ransom (everyone is a Chuck) and chat about the band’s history, their turn to classic hard rock on their upcoming 2021 album, and how a band that always play live deal with canceled gigs and a general lockdown of the live scene.
Two Decades of Punk Rock
Let’s start from the beginning; The Chuck Norris Experiment have been around for almost two decades by now.
Chuck Ransom: Yeah, it all started in 2004, the year we released our debut album, but we didn’t have any plan for it to become a permanent project, everyone played in other bands. But when we had a break from the other bands someone came up with the idea “Let’s do ten rehearsals and then we’ll record some songs”, and we did. We rehearsed for about two months, went into the studio and recorded our debut album, and on the back of that record, the band started.
It all happened very fast and the line-up has changed a few times because people had other bands or just didn’t want to continue. Anders, our first bassist, played in Tiamat and they were a tiny bit bigger than us at the time (laugh) and he left Chuck Norris to continue their quest. We forgive him for that (laugh).
Chuck the Ripper: I wasn’t in the band from the start abut joined in 2007 just before we started recording the third album, but I had to start as a bassist. In Chuck Norris you have to earn yourself the position as the lead guitarist by hard work (laugh).
Chuck Ransom: You have to show some skills before you’re allowed to take on the important positions in the band (laugh).
Every band starts with some sort of goal whether it is playing live, touring Europe or just having the ambition to get the music on record. But what has changed along the way for you?
Chuck Ransom: I would say that not much have changed, not for me at least. When we started we already knew that we never would play sold-out arena shows. It doesn’t matter that we think it should be like that.
Chuck the Ripper: Not much at all actually, but the band is about having fun together.
Chuck Ransom: We don’t do longer tours anymore, that’s a change. Until a few years ago we would be out for three weeks straight, today it’s just a few days, usually a weekend, and then we’re back home again. But that could also be a bit frustrating for our families, to spread out touring across several weekends. Sometimes it’s better to do three weeks and then it’s done.
Chuck the Ripper: It’s not fun to play a Monday in Düsseldorf anymore, it’s a lot better to just play Thursday to Saturday.
Chuck Ransom: We’ve left Mondays to the new generation of bands, it’s an opportunity for them to learn to play bad gig days (laugh). Mondays and playing every day are things we don’t do anymore.
But during your sixteen years of being together as a band you never ever reached a point where you struggled to keep it together? As life changes conflicts tend to arise between band life and normal life.
Chuck the Ripper: I never really had that feeling, we still have a great time together. The biggest change for me is that I find it more rewarding to write songs today; a few years ago it was all about playing live.
But we had a rough period just after I joined the band. Band members changed a lot.
Chuck Ransom: Yeah, that period wasn’t that fun at all, it was tough for me personally and I was very close to do leave the band and do something else, but in the end we pulled it through. The last ten years have been pretty much the same people and that’s quite unusual for people in our age (laugh). But it’s more than just hanging out in the band, we’re really good friends doing things together when we don’t play music as well. Too many bands just hang out when they rehearse or play live, and that’s not enough to make it in the long run.
Being in a band is just like having a relationship. You need to date a few people before you find the right one, and when you find that person you can build a great family (laugh). That’s what happened in CNE, we had to break up with a few people along the way.
Chuck the Ripper: And dated an older member again (laugh).
Chuck Ransom: (laugh) Our big love was allowed to come back. One of the original members left the band after the second album, he wanted to focus on his day job, but he got bored after a while and asked if he could come back to us.
The punk rock scene is quite big in Germany but in Sweden you rarely hear anything about the scene. Is there a scene at all?
Chuck Ransom: Not really, we never play in Sweden anymore. A few years ago we did some shows every year but in the last years we haven’t even played once a year.
Chuck the Ripper: Sweden is all about action rock or classic hard rock, bands like The Hellacopters, but not punk rock.
Chuck Ransom: There’s a vibrant punk scene, but it’s a Swedish punk scene. But what is punk rock? Sator play punk rock and were quite successful.
But you’re right, there’s no good scene for it in Sweden. Punk rock bands from Sweden that make it in the scene play in Germany, like Psychopunch and The Bones.
Classic Hard Rock on the Upcoming Album
For fans of any band, having their favorite bands make a huge stylistic makeover is like getting punched in the gut. Many bands change their sound and music style during their careers as part of a natural progression.
The Chuck Norris Experiment’s latest record “Shortcuts” is a classic punk rock album lasting only twelve minutes, but there’s a change on the horizon. The band spent lots of time writing new songs during the corona lockdown and in early spring 2021 there’s a new CNE album in your local record store. And it is a turn to classic hard rock, but with the CNE spirit hovering above it.
Your latest record ”Shortcuts” is a furious punk rock record with ten songs in twelve minutes, and you have a new record on the way. How is it different on the new record?
Chuck Ransom: Our next album is not much of a punk record at all, it’s far from “Shortcuts” which is a perfect punk rock record in just 12 minutes (laugh).
Chuck the Ripper: A few songs will stick out as more punky, but it’s a lot of classic hard rock on the album. The biggest change for us is the diversity of the sound, the variety of songs, and that’s a progression for us.
Which means that you will end up as a classic rock band soon rather than a punk rock band?
Chuck Ransom: I do hope so (laugh), that’s what I want. There’s already a song on Spotify from the upcoming album called “Spin It Round” sounding like any AC/DC hit song out there (laugh). I love it, it’s just awesome music. On the other hand, if it sounds like punk rock it’s me you have to blame for it, I write those songs (laugh).
Chuck the Ripper: But it’s also part of our DNA and trickles down to everything we write. It doesn’t matter if it sounds like classic rock music or punk rock, it still has the Chuck Norris spirit on the songs.
Chuck Ransom: And that’s something I’m really proud of. There was this guy somewhere in South America sending us an email a few days ago, and he told us “I heard the new single [“Spin It Round”] on the radio and although I didn’t know who it was it sounded like CNE”. That’s just awesome, people can identify us by something in our sound. Then it’s not important whether we play punk rock or classic rock, it’s about the Chuck Norris spirit.
If you’re being ambitious and try to go through your discography you have released heaps of EP’s singles, albums, and split singles at a level where it feels like you’re always in the studio recording something.
Chuck the Ripper: (laughs) But we always have something going on.
Chuck Ransom: And it has been like that for a while, but I don’t know if it’s good or bad. What’s important is that we have lots of fun doing it. I love these weird limited editions we release, like the recently released split single together with punk legend Sonny Vincent. It was only released in 60 copies and sold-out in an hour.
The first years of CNE were every productive and we released a new album almost every year.
Chuck the Ripper: The year I joined the band and we recorded the third record, we released it a few months later in the fall, and in the spring the year after we released the next record.
It’s not that we feel pressured to release new music every year, we kind of like working at this pace.
Chuck Ransom: And that’s important to point out. If we would have felt pressured we wouldn’t have been able to do it. The only type of pressure that turns up at times is if we’re doing something for a tribute record and the label releasing it is on you every day to get it done. That’s the only type of pressure we ever encounter.
Will the new record be released before the end of the year?
Chuck Ransom: No, not until early spring next year, before all other bands release their records. You don’t want to disappear in the crowd of bands releasing albums next year. Most bands have spent this year recording new albums and next year will be chaotic in terms of releases.
Canceled Gigs and Dreams of Another American Tour
If you think the coronavirus pandemic’s only affected massive festivals like Glastonbury, Wacken and Roskilde, and big-scale tours, think again. As more countries and metropolitan areas take necessary steps in an effort to contain the virus’s spread, thousands of smaller acts are having their entire year completely wiped out. Even in the best-case scenario, the spate of nationwide event postponements and cancellations will likely affect concert bookings until the end of the year, drastically changing the live-music landscape for the rest of 2020, and probably 2021.
This is just the reality of the situation now for bands like The Chuck Norris Experiment, but they’re not the only band this has happened to: all bands suffer from this pandemic. But Chuck Ransom is quite fine with the situation at the moment.
The record is released in the spring, what’s next in the schedule? Compensating for the canceled shows in Germany?
Chuck the Ripper: Exactly, we had to cancel a few gigs at clubs and festivals in Germany and Denmark. A few gigs were re-scheduled to next spring and we just hope it will work out.
Chuck Ransom: We’re hoping for Düsseldorf and Denmark in April, and maybe a festival in July, but I don’t think it will happen. Logic sense tells me that we have to wait until 2022. At my work, everything is canceled or postponed at the moment and it continues next year as well. Why would it be any different on the live scene?
It must be quite hard for you to not play live considering that you tour quite much.
Chuck Ransom: Yeah, we have toured a lot, but to be honest I like the situation to not play at the moment (laughs). It doesn’t bother me at all, but for others in the band it’s devastating, they want to be on tour all the time.
Chuck the Ripper: I’m one of those and I miss it even more now when I know we can’t tour at all.
Chuck Ransom: But we recorded a new album instead and continue writing new music while waiting for things to go back to normal. There’s a lot of time to spend on writing music that we used for booking tours and play gigs.
2021 will see an explosion of record releases. I just hope that people kept their gig money and buy records instead.
But you’re not interested in doing a tour of 50-shows or whatever the limits are at venues?
Chuck Ransom: Absolutely, that’s what we did for many years in the beginning anyway even without corona (laugh), and not even that many. But it’s also about how much people want to pay for a ticket. A 50-show will cost more money.
I just found out that a venue in Düsseldorf we usually play, books small acoustic shows with a seated audience, which could be fun. And that’s what’s important for us. Going away for a weekend with the band isn’t about business, it’s about having fun with friends. Some people go to Spain for a golf weekend others to Turkey for scuba diving, and we hit the road to play punk rock with friends because we like to hang out. We haven’t had a fight in ten years!
If the pandemic allows for it, we would love to go for a seated tour in Germany, that’s a unique tour you won’t do more than once.
Why does it work out well for you in Germany? How did it come about?
Chuck Ransom: We were lucky right from the start and more and more people came out for our shows, and it still increases. I thought people would get bored after a while but apparently not (laugh). But I guess we have progressed and kept our fanbase because of that.
Getting back to the question, our label is Swedish but we’re working with a few satellite labels on different projects, like on split singles, and in Germany we’ve had some great support from No Balls Records in Frankfurt.
Our first German tour was booked all by ourselves, we contacted venues on our own, but soon after we ended up on a German booking agency who have been really helpful. We love to return to venues we played a lot because they’re our friends today, it’s just like meeting your family after being away for a while, but it’s great to get shows at new venues as well.
You also did a short stopover in America for a few shows. Is that something you plan to do again?
Chuck the Ripper: I would love to but we need to find the money for it. That was an amazing tour actually. Sure, it’s more fun to play Germany because of the rowdy shows, but it was an adventure to travel through America and play. It’s a different experience.
Just imagine to play clubs and meet people you just have read about, that was amazing. Most definitely something I want to experience again.
The Chuck Norris Experiment pages