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:: Spotlight :: Getting up close and personal with Chanel Cole and Spook

By: Gabrielle Phillips

Chanel Cole was born in Hamilton, New Zealand. She made it to the top five Australian Idol finalists in 2004. She was one of the most unique voices to have ever graced the Idol stage, and although she did her best to conform to the shows search for common pop talent, she always added an interesting and alternate twist to her music. She constantly surprised audiences with her music choices, and developed a strong and loyal fan base.

After Idol, Chanel was reunited with now partner, Daniel Belle. The two television stars joined with musicians Statler and Waldorf (aka Dennis Gascoigne and Leo Hede); to form the band Spook, and start an independent music label called Ghost Music.

Defecting from common Idol style music, Spook released its debut album, "The Dusk Sessions" recently, which is a mixture of triphop style beats that can be dark, uplifting, simple and yet emotionally sophisticated all at the same time. "The Dusk Sessions” is a mixture of intriguing music that is both refreshing and unique. Most songs have been contributed and added to by each of the artists, to create a mixture of sounds that is both unexpected and extremely enjoyable.
I spoke to Chanel about her career to date and future prospects.

You have just released your new album with Spook, and you have been getting some great reviews. Are you happy with the way it has been going?

Yes, I am, its been great. Of course we thought it was fantastic, but it’s always nice to hear that other people like it too! (Laughs)

Well it is fantastic, very original. How would you describe it to people that haven’t heard it before?

It’s triphop; just triphop you know. It’s nothing too boundary pushing. It’s really a re-look at some of our favourite influences, and it’s really nice to put on to ‘chill out’ to. It is not a really demanding album. I mean, if you pay attention to it, it is rewarding, but you don’t have to. Some CD’s you can’t leave on in the background, but this one is good for that.

It’s very different from the stuff you were doing on Idol. Is it music you are quite used to playing, or is it new for you?

It’s quite different from what I do. I mean it’s definitely related but…

Well, just going back to your roots for a second… to where it all began…

Well, we travelled around a lot in New Zealand so I don’t really have a home town. I went to twelve different schools, in as many different cities.

Were you travelling around with your dad?

My mum and dad; I lived with my mum until I was ten, and then my dad after that.

Where did you get your musical talent from?

Well… you know when you’re really little you make up songs about anything. I remember my little brother making up a song about crossing the road… (laughs) but when I went to live with my dad he said it was really important that we got a musical education. You know… guitar, flute, piano and ‘what not’. I played the flute for three years, and it turned out that I had to choose between that and speech and drama. I love speech and drama as well so I thought I could do grade four flute or I could do grade seven speech and drama. I thought… um… speech and drama. I was sixteen when I had my last piano lesson. Ten years later I thought I would pick it up again and see how I went.

Very good idea! And has it been absolutely’ flat out’ with the release of “The Dusk Sessions?”

It was for the first couple of weeks, but it has been fairly quiet since then; which is good and bad. I have taken up going to the gym, and Daniel and I did a celebrity football game. I have decided that I really like football.

How did you all meet up?

I got a call from Statler. He actually got in touch with me through the fan forum because he had no idea how to get in touch with me. We happened to be in the Gold Coast after the very last performance of the tour, so we hired a car and drove over to check them out and see if we all liked the look of one another. We planned a ten day writing trip to see if we could work together, and instead of coming out with a couple of songs we came up with most of an album.

How much of it was a collaboration?

It was a real collaboration. We got there and the boys had some instrumental tracks that they wanted to play with and they gave them to me and I think I wrote vocal lines to about three of them that first night. The idea was to get there and play some music, see if we could get where each other was coming from. I have never really worked with anyone before but it is so much easier when someone has already given you the cords. I mean, you can rearrange things as you go along, but it is like playing with some kind of three dimensional sonic puzzle. Everyone would add their bit and then pass it on. It was really cool. Daniel was a little hesitant at first, but half way through the first day he made up some really cool harmonies and then… that was it. He really is amazing. He has great attention to detail. Anyone can work out a bunch of strings, but to have them actually counterpoint the melody to a song is quite a different thing.

I did notice on your album that all the songs are quite individual and very different from one another…

Yeah, good, I really like that about it. We have managed to get quite a ‘scattergun’ effect with it, and you don’t want to hear the same thing over and over.

Do you find that your music is always changing?

Well, I just wrote a song today with ‘The Bureau’ so… (Laughs) … but when it’s mine it has a definite flavour that’s just me. With my own songs I am very particular about how I want them to sound… before they go around getting their hair cut and putting on new clothes (laughs). I have to stop writing such difficult melodies though!

When will we hear the finished product of the song you wrote today with ‘The Bureau’?

I’m not sure. We recorded it live so I’m sure they will give me a call when they go in to do their album.

How are you feeling in general. Has all of this – Idol, the album – been a real buzz? Are you still reeling…?

Oh, yes… I guess the whole problem is that thing… you think; ‘I will be really happy when I have done this…’ As soon as the album hit the shelves I was thinking ‘What’s next!’ Now I really want to perform it live.

What is next for you Chanel? I heard an interview in 2004 and you were discussing doing some sort of international project. Has that come about?

(Laughs) That is just wishful thinking at the moment, but I really hope that it will happen.

Are you ‘gigging’ any time soon?

Yes, we’ve got a couple of gigs in Queensland coming up. We want to do a national tour but that takes a lot of planning… but we are all quite keen to do it. I would like to see a bit more of Australia, because when we did the Idol tour it was really quick; we didn’t really get to see much.

You’re interested in photography. Have you had the chance to contribute any of that to the album design?

Oh no, I haven’t had a chance to do that for so long. It has been knocking on my subconscious and every week at least once I think, ‘I should go and take some photos.’ It will happen.

Do you have any idea for your next album yet… or is it too soon to ask?

Yes, I should say that it's going to be really hard and difficult… but its not going to be like that at all. We all get along really well and function really well as a group. It will be quite easy and we are all looking forward to it. I am going to do my own album first. It is going to be all completely organic, no electronic stuff or anything like that. And then we also have another project in the works… I can’t tell you too much about that yet. You will find out though, don’t worry! I could just sing and write songs forever, it would be so much fun. I love writing melodies, putting words to music. Writing songs is easy… it’s getting through every day that can be difficult, I don’t know why but, it’s just like that.

Thank you very much Chanel. It has been an absolute pleasure talking to you.

Thank you.

For more information, visit

www.chanelcole.com.au