Sunday, January 13, 2008

Interview with Mike Chappel of Sweet Cheater

Sweet Cheater were playing around the Boston area in the late 1980's and early 1990's. They recently reformed and released a really solid album called "Eatin' ain't cheatin'" on Perris records back in early 2006. I recently got to talk to vocalist Mike Chappel to find out more about the band's history and their future.


MM-When and how was Sweet Cheater formed?
MC-Sweet Cheater was formed in the late 1980's. Tom Flaherty and Chuck Star Leger formed the band over a few year period. They made changes along the way, fine tuned their skills, hired Chuck's little brother Tommy and bassist Mark Rahilly.I met Tom and Chuck Star in Salisbury Beach Ma. I was playing in a cover band called Maniax. They had a limo, great hair, the whole package. They played a demo of Summer and I thought it was pretty good. I recorded a few tunes with them in Rhode Island. It was tough for me for a while. My cover band was my job at the time and schedules started to be a problem and I had to make a choice and I chose Cheater.

MM-When and why did the band break up?
MC-When the band broke up in 1995, I think?. We were at the top of our game. There were no real warning signs. I was shocked, we were all frustrated with the way things were going with the labels. We fired our manager, and things just started to go downhill.

MM-Did you get any interest from any major labels?
MC-There was quite a few major labels interested. MCA was at the top of the list. Mark Dean (Wham) was following us around for a while. We found out later on that our management was looking for more money then the label was willing to give. We finally were offered a deal with Music for Nations and we turned it down.
MM-Why did you turn down the offer from Music for Nations?
MC-We turned down the Music for nations contract because we were looking for a major label. Our management had us thinking big, in the millions and we believed it would happen too. It was a massive letdown for us. It was a big reason why we broke up. Looking back we should have taken the deal and worked our way up the ladder. It's a long road, when you are at the top is when it's hard. You can only go down from there.

MM-What was the metal/hard rock scene like in Bostom back in the late 1980's-early 1990's?
MC-The Boston Scene was Rocking! 1,000 bands. We were lucky and we were playing the best bills at the Channel and Narcissus. Extreme was on the verge of something big. You had to bring your "A " game every night. We would always hit the clubs and make as many friends as possible. Big hair was a must! Image was important.

MM-What bands did you open for?
MC-We were playing with Extreme a lot. They were selling out every night. We have played with Cheap Trick, Kix, Savatage, Foghat, Guess Who, and a ton of other hair bands that came and went.
MM-How did you manage to get such good opening slots like with Extreme? Did you know someone or you just promoto your band a lot?
MC-We got a lot of the big shows because we knew the guy's in Extreme, everybody knew everybody. It was alway's a big party and we always brought in a lot of women, all the guy's wanted to go where the women were. The clubs were aware of the money they made when we played and it all goes hand in hand. Sell drinks, get gig's and we did do a lot of self promotion at first, but After awhile everybody knew us. We played and they came, it was pretty easy for us. Other Boston bands wanted to play with us so they would advertise they were playing with Cheater. John Osterlind, who was a big radio personality in Hartford Conn. was a big help. he would hype all our shows and he was playing us in prime time. We were the hottest band from Boston to Hartford and we were the luckiest band around. Free airtime, free advertising, but it was a real blow when the word started to travel that we split. I could not go anywhere without having to talk about it and I felt like we had let so many followers down. It was the hardest time of my life. I never take anything for granted anymore.

MM-What did you guys do after Sweet Cheater broke up?
MC-After Cheater broke up I played in a few bands in the Connecticut, Western Ma. scene. I had a band called Kid Justice. Jimmi Bell and BJ Zampa from the House of Lords were great guy's to play with. I later had a 70's tribute band with Paul Romenko from Shadows Fall and I even had a band called ChappelTom Flaherty still believed Sweet Cheater would someday make a return. He did a lot of recording and producing bands in the Boston area. Chuck Star and his brother Tom played in a bunch of beantown bands like the Skillet Liqours and Fighting Cocks. Mark Rahilly was playing in a Tuxedo wearing Wedding band. Something I've alway's wanted to do, great money! Lot's of hot women!
MM-How did you come to reform and record an album?
MC-I got a call from Tom Flaherty one day. I hadn't spoken to him in years. it went well we both realized how much Sweet Cheater meant to each other. Tom invited us all to his house for a reunion. It was great to see the guy's again. A reunion show was planned. We played a small room at the Paradise in Boston. We packed the house with familiar faces and old friends. Even some who heard the stories but were too young back in the day.We played for over 2 hours and Sweet Cheater were back. Later that week we signed with Perris records. We always believed our music stood the test of time so did Tom Mathers from Perris. He had seen us with Cheap Trick a few years back.
There wasn't much to do for the first release. Just artwork, thank yous and out it came "'Eatin aint cheatin". The name came from my so called "rules" when you’re on the road. Please don't tell my wife.

MM-What are you currently working on?
MC-We have been working on the new cd for a while now. No shows are scheduled so we can concentrate on recording. We have been trying different and new ways to record. So much has changed form they way we used to record. We really want this to happen and we want it to be something WE most of all can be happy with. Most importantly, unfortunately Chuck Star has left the band. He is a most major, founding member, chief songwriter, and most of all our friend and brother. We still love him dearly and always a part of Sweet Cheater. There will be some new material and some Cheater classics. We are producing it on our own and we have matured a bit. Not so much about fast cars and excessive drinking, anymore. We have a slew of ballads we have to choose from too.

MM-Is there any difference between playing now and back then?
MC-We all have to try to stay in shape since the old day's, but it's not as important as it used to be. Our hair is just a little shorter, and thinner!. We know were not going to be millionaires from playing music. We all know our lives are better making music together. We don't travel with a big light show, no huge P.A. anymore. We can't afford the road crew we used to have and we don't make the money we used to. It's fun, kid's in Japan or anywhere in the world can listen to us now. Who knows what could have happened?As far as doing things different, I wish we would have stuck it out longer. You take out your problems on the one you love. They listen. We stopped listening. I

MM-Do you think hard rock is making a comeback?
MC-I'm glad to see our style of music is making a comeback, it's fun music. I'm glad Van Halen and other bands like them got back together. I know they are not what they used to be but it still makes people happy. Music has been angry for a long time, I know because it killed all us 80's bands.

MM-Is there anything else that you want to say about your band or your music?
MC-I can promise Sweet Cheater will give you an honest effort to keep the ship straight. I hope sometime in 2008 we will be listening to a new cd. I don't have any seceret's on the music bizz, but I know being a good person goes along way. You have to care what your fans think. Care about your band. It all matter's. You will miss it when it's over. You will probably reunite 10 years from. Then you will understand.

-Thanks to Mike for doing the interview.


Blogger scottayrock said...

mike is awesome knew this kid in the 80's ct bars too bad he never made it liked him in vice too



10:56 AM  

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