Tribute to Gus Chambers

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Tribute to Gus Chambers

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'Hot Music Live Presents Volume Eleven' is dedicated to the memory of Gary Kenneth "Gus" Chambers (16th January 1958 to 13th October 2008): one of the great pioneers of Coventry & Warwickshire music. Taking over from Terry Hall as lead singer with Squad, the first punk band in the area to form from scratch, (he sings on all their releases), he was later in other bands including 21 Guns, Grip Inc, and finally Mantra Sect.

On this album you can hear Gus on the Mantra Sect track "Mercytron"

"I knew Gus before he was a punk. He used to come to MR GEORGES and REALLY get into the pogo-ing thing -in fact, up until then pogo-ing was a pretty tame affair. When the Cov kids got hold of it, it became a brawl! The birth of the mosh pit….

Gus quickly embraced the visual side of punk turning up one night looking like a gothic cross of Dave Vanian and Johnny Rotten -this was before he settled on his trademark bleach-blonde spike.

And like Terry Hall before him, he had serious confidence issues about singing in front of people, but much like I'd managed with the renowned Specials frontman, I managed to encourage him to make a bona fide noise-it wasn't a great sound, but no matter, it got there with time -and a true Cov punk legend was born.

My enduring memory, among many is of me and Gus holding up the teetering PA stack at the Pistols' legendary MR GEORGES gig. We probably saved Sid Vicious' life that night…" (Sam Mcnulty of Squad).

"Gus was a friend, ace front man and a legend in Coventry. I first met him when Sam McNulty a school friend invited me to see his band at Mr George's. They were doing a soundcheck and Gus arrived, ignored me and jumped on stage to do his thing!

I was paralyzed by his presence and attitude and couldn't take my eyes off him. I gave nothing away but inside knew I had to get in this band called Squad.

That night they played brilliantly and split up after the gig?? I was in Squad now with the best front man in Cov who was loved everywhere he went. The rest is history , "8 Pounds a Week", "Red Alert", the rollercoaster ride had begun and I was sitting next to Gus. God bless, never forgotten." (Danny Cunningham of Squad)

"We were brothers together; he always seemed a jolly happy guy who never had a bad bone in his body. Colour was never an issue with him.
Together we helped change the face of Coventry music" (Lynval Golding of The Specials and Fun Boy Three).

"'Gus Chambers was a very successful Coventry musician of note who contributed hugely to what we call the scene. I was saddened to hear of his untimely death; his talent and enthusiasm will be greatly missed" (Neol Davies of The Selecter).

"21 Guns was a really good band: we played all over the country and were on the John Peel music show BBC radio...Gus was a top man." (Trevor Evans of 21 Guns)

"I first met Gus in the early punk days of late 1977 when I was 15 and still at school he was 19, around Coventry punk gigs and discos that happened nearly every night back then and watched him many
times in Squad, including going to Liverpool Eric's and The Marquee in London on coach trips organised by Bev Jones for Squad, until he upped and left one day for Los Angeles. Must have been around 1980-ish.

I never saw him again until I bumped into him in the Jailhouse, Coventry one night, late 2005. We chatted all night long, he had so many stories to tell and what was so nice was that he listened to mine too which I loved! Gus loved to chat, and for hours we did along the way! He did mention starting a band with me, but I didn't think he was serious, not after all he'd done with such an incredible band as Grip Inc with Dave Lombardo, all over the world. Grip Inc actually did 7 world tours and 4 incredible, influential albums! But he phoned me a couple of days later and I was high up a ladder fitting a sign and he said "Is that the Rickenbacker Rocker? It's Gus!, when are we starting this band then"! I was so chuffed I nearly fell off the ladder!

I was always in awe of Gus since I first met him until the last though he honestly didn't want me to be, but I couldn't help that! There was just something very special about him that was palpable. I'm sure anyone who saw him would agree! Anyway, me Sam, Whippet and Gus started rehearsing and literally just jamming at Whippet's house and it took almost a year to have enough songs to do our first gig late in 2006. Apart from the song " King Midas", a past demo he'd recorded which we loved and started us off, all the songs would start from my made up basslines! Jamming them out between me, Sam and Whippet for hours!

Gus was away a lot the first year or so as he fronted a band called Squealer A.D. in Germany at the time and would go over to do gigs and record an album with them during this time. (Me, Sam and Whippet even drove over to see Squealer live in Germany once using the Channel Tunnel which was fun!) So this worked for us as a band as Gus always had lyrics to hand or in his head! He wrote lyrics out all the time at home. I've still got many of his handwritten lyrics at home. He seemed to make them up on the spot sometimes too, like one jam ended up with him bellowing out with his huge voice about an 18 inch power fan one night reading the box of said thing in Whip's rehearsal room:,so funny cos it didn't even sound like a joke with his conviction! and he would pull our ideas together really quick into completed songs! Like a maestro! There was just such a chemistry between us 4 I've never felt with any other band. Plus Gus was absolutely hilarious at rehearsals too and I'd say the funniest daft person I've ever met so rehearsals were always fun with him. During our 3 years together, he phoned me every single day around 11am, even when he was away abroad!

God knows what we talked about every day, (though it would often be about having fire eaters onstage with us one day!) but some of Gus's lyrics were very personal in Mantra Sect (and Grip Inc) and I learn't much about him through his lyrics as he was quite private in many ways. He did have to explain some to me though as they are very deep. We carried on gigging mostly locally until we were ready to record an album of 11 best songs in Gernhart Studios in Germany produced by Martin Buchwalter, (an amazing drummer too in Squealer) in February 2008 staying in a lovely villa down the road, all focussed and united for two whole weeks!. Gus had lived near there for 8 years too and recorded Squad 21 there in the past so Gus could speak a lot of German too. It was the best fun two weeks I've ever ever had being in a band. I had the skull tattoo done on my arm done just before we went there as I was so excited to go! It felt like I was in a really special band in Mantra Sect. And I've been in 11 gigging and recording bands now!

Sadly Gus passed away October 13th 2008 and we couldn't carry on without him. So our album never really got released as he was still pitching it to record companies and reviewers just before he passed away. A track did get released on a huge music magazine compilation free CD over Germany. I think it was our track "Jesus Slaves". I often wonder now how we could have grown as a band in it's future but sadly, it was not to be. The last couple of songs we started working on towards the end, gave us all goosebumps at rehearsals, like we were really really finding our own true Mantra Sect sound! I wish I had recorded them at rehearsals. We miss him terribly but have so many fun memories with him. I'm so proud of our album ‘The Brave Die Lonely' and treasure every moment we had in Mantra Sect" (Wendy Seenan of Mantra Sect)

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