Chubby And The Gang Rage Again On The Mutt’s Nuts

Pooneh Ghana

Chubby And The Gang Rage Again On The Mutt’s Nuts

Pooneh Ghana

“Guess who’s back, back again?” Chubby And The Gang’s Charlie “Chubby” Manning Walker roars inside the first minute of the London punks’ second album The Mutt’s Nuts, as if Eminem fell from the sky into a grotty London basement. “The gang’s storming through, go and tell yer friends.”

“Welcome to the Chubby And The Gang show everybody,” Manning Walker winks at the track’s conclusion, and what follows is a sophomore record that propels the band forward into new territories, while always maintaining the hardcore spirit and freewheeling energy that gained them their name over the past two years.

The five-piece’s debut album Speed Kills, released in January 2020 via Static Shock Records, was the UK’s main breakout punk album of last year. Produced by Fucked Up’s Jonah Falco, a mainstay in the London punk scene, the record touched on hardcore, punk, pub-rock, and oi, all presented through the mouthpiece of a righteous, angry, and intoxicating Manning Walker.

By the time the band had signed to Partisan Records for a Speed Kills reissue, which landed last November, they had already finished work on its follow-up, The Mutt’s Nuts. Continuing the frenzied pace of Speed Kills, The Mutt’s Nuts starts with a lightning fast run of six punk songs full of precision and anger (“Did I stutter? Did I fuck,” Chubby says on “It’s Me Who Will Pay”). Then, from the album’s midpoint onwards, things get weirder and more diverse.

While Speed Kills‘ influences could be firmly placed in the late ’70s, The Mutt’s Nuts see the band borrowing from the ’50s and ’60s, too. Recent single “Life’s Lemons” is a genuine old-school ballad, while “Life On The Bayou” sees Chubby backed by widescreen synths and jangling piano, taking them to new sonic plains. However far the songs travel musically from the band’s punk and hardcore roots, though, Manning Walker’s pub-rock growl at the front keeps everything connected to the punk basements they emerged from. Lyrically, The Mutt’s Nuts is a departure, too — more thoughtful but still urgent and vital as Manning Walker dissects institutional racism, hearing songs an ex-partner loved on the radio constantly after a breakup, gentrification, and social inequality.

“We’re a really solid unit on this album,” Manning Walker says. “It’s not a jack-of-all-trades situation any more. Everyone’s a master of their own piece, whereas Speed Kills was everyone scrambling to get their shit together.”

Ahead of the release of The Mutt’s Nuts at the end of the month, I spoke to Manning Walker and guitarist Tom “Razor” Hardwick about the creation of the new album, how the frontman says the London punk scene is “as strong as it’s ever been in my lifetime,” and why their upcoming 40-date UK tour is set to be a walk in the park compared to previous grueling schedules or day jobs.

How far back do some of the songs on this album date? Did you start work on it right after Speed Kills?

TOM “RAZOR” HARDWICK: It’s been a year since we recorded it. We recorded it in late July and early August last year.

CHARLIE “CHUBBY” MANNING WALKER: Me and Razor would be WhatsApping each other voice notes of ideas. We couldn’t meet up and practice, so it took a little bit of long-distance stuff to get it together. Then when we actually got in a room together, it was basically already there, and came together very quickly.

HARDWICK: There were basically at least two versions of every song that is on the record.

MANNING WALKER: Yeah, lots of the songs have a slow, medium, and fast versions demoed. The songs were there, it was just getting them into a shape that we were happy with.

The record goes to some slower, more heartfelt places than Speed Kills. Was that a premeditated move to try new styles, or did it just come out sounding that way?

MANNING WALKER: We weren’t trying to prove to anyone that we could make a slow song, because we’re not trying to prove anything to anyone. It’s more a case of it being for us, and that we would like to do this, rather than consciously edging people towards a slower Chubby And The Gang record. You can hear music that’s forced.

HARDWICK: With Chubby And The Gang, I don’t think there’s ever been a conscious stream of thought where we think we want to appease this type of person, or this type of listener. We’ve only ever done things we like and we think are good, and the tunes speak for themselves.

MANNING WALKER: In 2021, it’s quite arrogant to think that everyone should like your music. I’d rather 10 out of 100 people love something than all 100 sort of like it.

HARDWICK: If you get the diehards, that’s the win.

Lockdown allowed everyone time to stop and contemplate their lives. Do you see that period of time reflected in the lyrics on The Mutt’s Nuts?

MANNING WALKER: I think so, yeah. Speed Kills is much more “I don’t like this, and I don’t like this, and I like this but I don’t like this.” The Mutt’s Nuts has got more of a narrative to it, and is a collection of experiences and thoughts. I grew up in a part of London that there aren’t many songs about, and people don’t really talk about it that much. Someone said I should write a song about being a minicab driver for five years, and I thought that it sounded shit and no one wanted to hear it. But [in lockdown] I did it and I’m glad I thought about it. We had a bit more time to contemplate what we were doing rather than just racing through it.

Charlie, do you see Chubby and Charlie as two different people, and does stepping into that character allow you to express yourself in ways you couldn’t have before?

MANNING WALKER: It’s so funny, people say that it’s my alter ego. I’m thinking, alter ego!? Do you think I’m a cartoon character or something? This is just how I feel. I don’t know whether people think I’m too ridiculous to be a real person, but that’s just how I am.

It surprised me to learn that you hadn’t sung in any bands before Chubby And The Gang and were principally a guitarist, as your lyrical voice already appeared fully-formed on Speed Kills, like you knew exactly what you wanted to get across.

MANNING WALKER: I’m a gobby little shit anyway, so I will tell people how I feel all the time. It just naturally came out like that. I was really sick of hearing vocalists say a lot and say nothing at the same time — people just talking, talking, talking and then you come away from it with no real understanding of their perspective. My approach was making it sound the same way as it does when I’m talking to someone at the pub. I’ll tell them that I don’t like the government, and I don’t need to go into some academic description of it. I just need to tell you that this is how I fuckin’ feel, and fuck ’em.

As with Speed Kills, you worked with Jonah Falco on the new record. Was that always going to be the case, and why do you work so well together?

HARDWICK: It was, and I think it will be for the foreseeable future.

MANNING WALKER: He’s our boy, and we hang out with him outside of working together. He has a way of helping you manifest what you want.

HARDWICK: I hear horror stories of producers getting involved in records and steering things in certain directions, but Jonah is like a wizard. He’s aware of what you’re good at or what you’re into, and he’ll draw it out of you. It’s not a case of, “I’ve got this idea, you should do this.” Instead, he’d say, “You’ve got this idea, and I’m going to bring it out of you.”

As members of a host of bands in the London punk scene, how do you see the scene at the moment? Is it in a healthy place post-COVID?

MANNING WALKER: From the couple of shows I’ve been to since the restrictions have been lifted, the scene is as strong as it’s ever been in my lifetime. The thing about the punk scene now compared to when I was younger is that it’s way more varied now, and comfortable in its eclecticism. You can have a band like Island Of Love that’s almost a Weezer-type thing, and it can sit next to a band like Nation Of Unrest that’s hard techno. When I was younger, a mixed bill was seen as a dirty thing, whereas now people are happy to see that.

“The world is burning, Minneapolis too/ Set alight by the boys in blue,” you sing of the Black Lives Matter protests in the opening lyrics to “White Rags.” Do you feel an obligation to discuss these things in your lyrics?

MANNING WALKER: Initially, the song was about something else, and then we went in and demoed the music out, and were really happy with the music, but I wasn’t sure about the topic. Then everything happened with the BLM protests and a bunch of killings, and a lot of people in the UK were talking about it like it was an American problem. They were saying, “They do this thing in America,” and talking about American cops. It’s not an American thing, it’s a cop thing. I don’t want people to sit there and remove blame from their own police force because it’s happening in a different country. You can’t tell me that the police force in England is without racism, because statistically you can show it isn’t. I felt like people needed to be put right. I wrote the lyrics, and then ummed and ahhed about doing it, because I’m this white guy from England, what do I have the right to be talking about racism? But then I thought fuck it, I’m just going to fuckin’ do it, and if people have a problem with it then fine.

My experience of the Metropolitan Police before I got into punk music was negative. From an early age, growing up in inner-city London and having a multicultural friendship group, there were people around me being pressured by them, and I witnessed how I was treated versus how a friend from a Jamaican background was treated. Maybe it’s a factor for me getting into punk and having a suspicion of authority, but when you grow up in a big city, you can see how they react to different ethnicities, you know.

Looking forwards, you’re heading out on a 40-date UK tour this fall which takes you to every corner of the country. I haven’t seen a mammoth national run like that announced in a long time…

MANNING WALKER: Our booker said, “Please try and do a 40-date tour,” and we said, “Mate, we can do a fuckin’ 40-date tour any time.” Not to be a cunt, but when you’re in punk bands playing squats every night and there’s needles all over the floor and dog shit smeared up the wall and people are getting in fights every night, doing a 40-date tour of proper venues is pretty cushy. Me and Razor went on tour in America once and we played 55 nights back-to-back, and most nights we were doing two gigs in an evening. I don’t understand how people can complain about tour and say it’s hard. Try mixing cement… ’cause it’s worse.

The Mutt’s Nuts is out 8/27 via Partisan Records. Pre-order it here.

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