Up Close & Personal: PUKK

Irish born singer songwriter Joe Chalmers and drummer Mark Beamson are PUKK. The name is unique and so is their sound. Formed in the West Midlands in 2016, this fruitful partnership has spawned four singles and their debut album is due in June. We spoke to Joe and got the low down on that name, pawning guitars to pay the bills and angry Finnish death metal bands.
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So Joe, who are PUKK and what are you all about?

The short answer is…I’m PUKK.  I write, sing, play guitar and take care of everything PUKK related, from artwork to admin. I recruited an old mate (Mark Beamson) on drums and booked some studio time without ever having played together. We knew each other from college and we’d bump into each other now and again. He’s a talented singer songwriter, multi instrumentalist and also plays drums with local band The Gold Room. I wanted real drums rather than a drum machine, so I got in touch and brought his skills to the recording studio. We’ve not looked back since!

PUKK…come on, put us out of our misery and tell us about the name.

I’d been making home demos for years on an old 4 track tape machine. They were rubbish but it was all a learning curve. I’d label the tapes when I was done and one tape in particular was labelled after it’s distinctive sound…’Pissed Up Karaoke’…PUK. The name stuck, except with the later addition of an extra ‘K’.  After the release of Sunshine Kisses I was contacted by a Finnish metal band, also called Puk. They weren’t happy that I was also using the name, so for individuality and to avoid any aggravation I added the second K. PUKK was born. It got a bit weird when I found out that Gavin Monaghan also had a cat called Puck. That bent my head a bit, what are the odds?
Pro tip, kids…check your proposed band name on a site like www.musicbrainz.org before you release your music. You might have the coolest name around, but if five other bands have the same name you won’t stand out and fans won’t find you easily.

You’ve got an eclectic that clearly draws on multiple genres. Who are your biggest musical influences?

My Mum used to play records all the time when I was growing up. She’d have on old Motown and Stax compilations, The Beatles, those K-Tel compilations of the latest hits. When I was ten I found the Street Sounds Electro series. That was it, I was hooked on hip hop for the next decade. When I was fifteen I used to trade tapes with friends. I came across Factory records, the Manchester scene, alternative American indie bands and I got on board with that too. Musically it was a great time to be alive with so much to discover and so much creativity around.

What about your own music? What tracks are you most proud of?

I’m really proud of Sunshine Kisses, All The Stops and Rank Amateur. All The Stops marked the point when I realised I could actually write – and pull off – a ‘grown up’ song. Sunshine Kisses was the point where I knew I was finally getting somewhere as a writer. BBC Introducing played it a lot and it was song of the week on The Premium Blend Radio Show. If it hadn’t received any radio or interest I would’ve packed it in and sold my gear. That was the turning point. I wrote it when I was 42 and on holiday in Lanzarote. I just had a pen and pad with me. The melody and lyrics were 99% finished by the time I got home and picked up a guitar.

We love the tracks you’ve already released but what else is in pipeline?

I’ve self released a handful of singles so far under the label Tidy Karma Recordings. These are all on the usual digital sites. Next up is the ever-evasive debut album. It’s pencilled in for a June release but that may come forward depending on how quickly I can get the remaining three tracks done. The album is called ‘Feckless’ and has a common slacker element that connects the songs. There are themes of escape, fresh starts and wasted time popping up throughout. It’s been a long time coming. It’s a bucket-list item that’s been twenty years in the making, but I’m almost there! The mad thing is, now I’ve got some momentum going I’ve got three other projects in my head that I want to do! I’m really happy with the quality of the songs and the production. Gavin Monaghan (The Sherlocks / Jaws / Editors) has produced the album and done an excellent job. The next step is getting the money together to get it pressed on vinyl.

Twenty years in the making?! Sounds like your relationship with music hasn’t all been smooth sailing then?

You could say that! I do myself no favours. I have a history of poor life choices. I over think to the point where I realise I’m over thinking, then I make rash decisions because I’ve taken so long to make a decision. I’m a bit of a nightmare to be fair! I wouldn’t work with me if I didn’t have to! The words ‘basket case’ come to mind. I’ve had fits and starts over the years where I’d get melodies and lyrics together but couldn’t play guitar to match the melody. I only really became reasonable at guitar when I was about 40. I’d bought guitars in the past, I’d play them badly, get frustrated and at that point they’d gather dust until I was skint. I’d dust them off and sell them. This happened a lot. I’ve never been great at explaining things either so trying to convey a musical idea to a friend when neither of us had the musical knowledge of how the nuts and bolts of it worked was fruitless. I got so frustrated around 1999 that I took a folder full of song lyrics and notes I’d written over the years and put them in the BBQ in our garden. Granted, I’d had a few drinks at the time. It seemed like I was banging my head off a wall trying to write songs and not getting anywhere. I set fire to the lot and didn’t think about writing again for years. In 2008 I took redundancy from an old employer and bought myself another guitar…

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