Here’s another one of our second wave of 2020 High Fives. The band CHOPCHOP hails from Brighton and are described variously as out there, a mad crew, part jazz/prog/post-punk/hip-hop and funk, led by a mad Galician performance poet. Here’s how they managed to get the best out the dogpile that was 2020:

We started 2020 fully pumped up as the album we’d been working on for the last few years, “Everything Looks So Real”, was ready for launch and we had a tour lined up. All set to go with our new guitarist, Ade, we played two very sweaty and raucous gigs to kick this off – a Baba Yaga’s Hut gig at the Moth Club in Hackney and the other our album launch at the Hope & Ruin in Brighton. By the third gig however – at Worthing’s Bar 41 – whipping up a room into a sweaty mess was starting to feel distinctly jarring, as the seriousness of the pandemic was starting to set in.  The venue has one wall that is covered in acrylic fur and there was the uncomfortable sensation that to come close to it was akin to running through a field of Covid grass with your arms wide open.  Then shortly afterwards there was the realisation:  we might not be doing this for quite some time, and yes – rest of the tour has got to go in the bin. So, not such a high five this, but to rewind to the start – our debut album finally came out, it went down well – so yay to that! 

Xelís, our vocalist, is originally from Galicia in Spain, and as the worrying news of daily rocketing cases there was coming in, and the prospect of the first lockdown loomed, it came to crunchtime and he took one of the last flights out to be with family and friends. So with the band now spread far and wide we tried at first to play and write together online, but it just didn’t work as a live thing – too laggy and disorientating no matter which app we tried.  Abandoning that we instead went for ’email tennis’ – each of us starting a track and adding sections and passing it on. This felt like it unveiled a whole new load of dynamics and ideas that wouldn’t usually surface – so that’s been a definite upside to the whole thing.  

Outside of music we were all looking for ways to keep ourselves stimulated – for me I found it in walking and discovering parts of the outskirts of Brighton I hadn’t come previously across in my 25 years here. One favourite walk was to Coney Wood, where I came across this fungus which resembled almost identically a pork pie on a log.

It was a year with no big road trips or far-flung adventures, so any bit of magic or mystery close to home became extra special. Towards the end of the summer I was looking out to sea and spotted a man emerging from the water cradling what looked like a very heavy and brightly coloured object.  It turned out to be a 3 foot high Ganesh, which must have been cast into the sea as part of the Hindu Chaturthi ritual that usually happens in September. A crowd gathered round as the man hauled him up the beach and set him down on the pebbles, everyone charmed by this unexpected visitation. What was nice was that he stayed there for a month, with people leaving gifts and going to say hello, then come the high tides in October he was taken back by the sea, with just a few fragments of him left, smashed on the promenade.         

In Galicia, Xelis is better known as a writer than for his CHOPCHOPing, and November saw the release of the first translation into English of one of his books: Feral River – a collision of all the stories with a river as protagonist that have inspired him over the years.  

Around this time we were also able to go to a couple of low-key gigs in town, one a Miles Davis tribute in a church, and the other a VR gig-cum-immersive theatre experience at our favourite venue, The Rose Hill, who have also started a label and released our album, Everything Looks So Real.  The feeling of excitement that you were at an actual real-life gig was immense, and a good reminder of how precious a thing live music is. 

With all of us back in the same country, and with Xelis post-quarantine, we were able to resume our weekly rehearsals. In a year when there was often a feeling of disconnect with others, and where events came mediated through screens, it was a real salve to be in a room playing and creating with other live humans.  This was also the year we welcomed Ade properly into the band and it was exciting to hear the new ideas he was bringing in every week. Come the new restrictions in mid-December this all had to be knocked on the head of course, but while they lasted these sessions were the thing I was most looking forward to every week, so let’s call them High Five 5! 

Here’s an interesting Christmas Eve take on the High Five theme. Art Terry is a singer-songwriter and musician from Los Angeles whose songs explore sexuality and black politics. He also hosts a radio show ‘Is Black Music’ on Resonance FM. What makes Art’s contribution slightly unusual is that it’s a celebration from someone who’s managed to have a fairly good year against the background of the virus and other plagues. That has to be good for  the last High Five before Christmas. Over to Art:



High Five 1

My family is originally from Tennessee, so when I was offered January gigs in Nashville I said ‘Hell Yeah’! It was my first time playing in the South. Both my parents are from small towns in Tennessee and met in the great music city of Nashville, where the High Street still has a drum set and guitar player in every window.
It had been 10 years since I had visited their small towns close to the Appalachian mountains. So after the Nashville gigs I waved goodbye to the rest of the band and took a Greyhound bus there. I hung out for a week and discovered a lot about myself and my heritage. 
Here is a photo of my grandma I found buried in some of the family treasures there. I was told the lady on the left was my grandmother. And the lady sitting down used to like the way my grandfather cooked possum and sweet potato.


High Five 2

During the spring lockdown, my partner Helena Smith shot and posted a video of me performing a new self-penned song each day for 52 days consecutively. The highlight of it was when my daughter Naomi arrived from Sweden to isolate with us. She sung with me and helped us conceive the videos during the final 10 days.
On day 48 we did a song about how rare and fleeting are the moments we have been able to spend together. It was only after I saw the video playback that I realised Naomi was fighting back tears while she was singing with me.


High Five 3

On August 1st every year, the Black community in London march from Brixton to Downing Street to demand the government stop the continuing African Holocaust which began 400 years ago, and start reparations.
This year they took a different tack and occupied Brixton on the day instead. For my radio show that week, we did special programming around the event, including interviews with Esther Stanford-Xosei, one of the movement’s most eloquent speakers.
But the coolest part was taking over Brixton and marching in the streets with so many hundreds of people from different cultures and communities.


High Five 4

I really admire Extinction Rebellion. They are bringing awareness to the most important thing on the planet. And that thing is the planet itself. One day I went to take a look at the beautiful Happy Man Tree in Hackney which is in danger of being cut down because of lazy and misguided planning.
  I couldn’t help but get involved with this passionate campaign and played a outdoor benefit gig there for the tree. After I finished one of the arborists (tree surgeons) offered to rope me and pull me up high into the tree to do an encore. OMG what a life changing experience. To be up there to see what only the birds normally see. Up close in the trees limbs, so beautifully balanced and longingly extended. I stood in the tree with my guitar singing songs for 20 minutes. Close to the sky, far from the ground. That evening I felt like the tree entered my dreams.
  Since then the Happy Man Tree has been named Tree Of The Year 2020 by the Woodland Trust. That has not deterred Hackney Council and its clumsy Berkeley Homes developers from their plans chop it to pieces. So please help if you can.


High 5 Five

It seems the end of every year is its own highlight. We like to end with a bang by celebrating the holidays. I love Christmas, and just like most things in life, the best part is the music. I’ve always wanted to contribute to all the great Christmas songs written, and for the last few years I have been working on my own. This year, thanks to the incredible genius of my producer Raphael Mann, we created one. It is titled “It Ain’t Christmas”.
It is a Christmas song for 2020 about how much we have missed each other this year, and will miss each other this Christmas. Merry Christmas.

Art Terry released his album “Sex Madness” this year on CD/Vinyl and digitally on his own Alt Soul label.