INTERVIEW BY MARKO SYRJALA
Anita Chellamah is a British singer and actress, best known for her career with the pop band Toto Coelo and rock band Cherry Bombz. The latter was formed in 1984. The lineup consisted of Anita, ex-Hanoi Rocks members, Andy McCoy, Nasty Suicide, Terry Chimes, and bassist Timo Caltio who Dave Tregunna later replaced. A short-lived band released EP CHERRY BOMBZ, a pair of singles, and a live album COMING DOWN SLOWLY before disbanding in 1987. Chemallah retired from the music scene, and later on, she did small roles in various films and commercials. She also had a show on Sky Channel. It’s now been over 27 years since Cherry Bombz broke up, and now Anita is finally back. I met good-humored Anita in London in July, and here are the results of our exciting discussion, including the past, the present, and the future of Anita Chellamah.
WHAT’S GOING ON?
Metal-Rules.com: Let’s start with this critical question, Anita, do you still “Eat Cannibals”?
Anita Chellamah: It’s really strange. I had a message yesterday from two old pensioners, and they’ve got a blog, and they dissect songs, and they’ve contacted loads and loads of people from the police to analytics. It’s a whole list of people, and I literally yesterday got a message about they’ve totally dissected the song “I Eat Cannibals” and sent me an email. And, strangely, you said that because about two years ago, we had a phone call about Toto Coelo, it was a record company in America. They wanted me to re-record it, and I contacted those girls, so we re-recorded it for this company in America. But then we haven’t, apart from doing that about, I think it’s about two, three years ago. Apart from that, I’ve never. I haven’t eaten any cannibals recently. “Laughs.” I was a vegetarian when I was eating cannibals; actually, I need to say that. We were doing an MTV show live, and they were doing why “I Eat Cannibals,” and we were picking it, we were cutting up the chaps and the steaks, and unfortunately… I think it was CBS and Chrysalis? However, two big companies were merging. And when they were merging, they lost interest. One of them felt it was great, and they were promoting it. But the other one thought differently, and we lost the record. We got to number 60, and it was going up. And I remember sitting in MTV talking about “I Eat Cannibals” and thinking, “Actually, I’m a vegetarian.” But I’m not now, but I was then.
Metal-Rules.com: So that was the answer. You don’t eat cannibals anymore. “Laughs.”
Anita Chellamah: I don’t. “Laughs.”
Metal-Rules.com: So, what things are you currently up to? I read from Facebook that you’re working on some new music, and you’re doing gigs again?
Anita Chellamah: For a long time, I did not make any music and performing as my life took a very different turn, but I realized I missed it and wanted to do it again. I contacted Timo Kaltio on Facebook and told him that I had some songs, and we both agreed and wanted to get together. Timo said Dave Treganna was also up to get together, and Dave brought in Danny Fury and my lovely friend Lynette. Also, Terry Chimes was interested. He’s been a close friend since The Cherry Bombz days. He had just to play started to play again. I have loads of ideas, melodies, lyrics, and songs in my head and on my phone, and Dave and Timo are great at working out chords as I don’t play an instrument. Also, we have co-written songs together as well. The guys are great creative musicians and songwriters. I am just loving the creative process of working with fantastic talented, lovely people!!!!
Metal-Rules.com: So, what do you call the project at the moment?
Anita Chellamah: Well, it goes under my name. Because I started doing those songs, wrote one the other day, and ideas are coming to me, and I just wanted to do something under my name because I do a solo project. But it’s not a solo project. I’m working on it with Timo and Dave, and Terry. Also, Danny played drums on a few tracks and another close friend of mine, Lynette, who I’ve known for many years, is a part of it. We were in the King and I together, and we’ve done lots of other things together. She is like my sister and a great actress, and she is doing backing vocals for me. So, it’s just sort of really nice to work with people that I really love, care about, and respect, and it can’t get much better than that. And it almost doesn’t matter whether you are doing, I mean, of course, it’s important to have an audience, and there are so many bands there playing rock, but it’s about doing it. You remain, and that’s why I’m really in touch with it. I just love doing it. Love it.
Metal-Rules.com: So, as you said, you were not a Facebook lover until now. “Laughs.”
Anita Chellamah: No, not at all.
Metal-Rules.com: And now, as you know, these days, it’s tough to get your music heard without having social media and the right channels in use?
Anita Chellamah: Well, the music business, it’s totally different now. I must admit, I’ve thought, “My goodness! If I want to get this…” So, I’m doing it now. I’m feeling like, “Get everything finished, then there is something there.” Because I did stuff with Toto Coelo and Cherry Bombz, but that was in the ’80s. And musically, I haven’t done anything since then. And I just thought that if I want to play this to people and do things, it’s a totally different way of doing it. Because it’s not like, once you look in back then, I sort of fell into things. Why is this time going off, “My God? How do you do all this?” But it’s just like you say it is important now. My son has got better skills I might have about all this sort of stuff. But it’s about doing; you need Facebook, you need that sort of thing.
Metal-Rules.com: You need to be social nowadays.
Anita Chellamah: Yeah. I am quite social, as you can see “Laughs.”
Metal-Rules.com: But you need to be social on the Internet also. You like it or not, “Laughs.”
Anita Chellamah: I respect what it’s about and how you can use it as a tool, and I can’t knock it anymore because I know, for instance, this interview is great, And this has happened through that. Really. So, without the Internet, I wouldn’t be in contact with Timo again. I did lose connections with everybody apart from Terry. I lost touch with so many people from then because of my life, as I said, it took a very different turn, and I pulled away from many things for quite a while. I went on a totally different path. And so, to get back in contact with people, I think it’s great. Because if it weren’t for Facebook and the Internet, I wouldn’t have been, because we’d have all been living in different places and don’t know how to contact each other?
Metal-Rules.com: You have been out of the picture for a long time, but it’s the same thing for Terry. Was he out of the music scene a long time as well?
Anita Chellamah: That’s true. We were laughing about it because I said, “I’m thinking of going back.” Because we see each other, we live quite near, not far from each other as well. And so when I said, “I’m thinking of making music again,” he was a bit amazed. When he started doing stuff again, like The Crunch, I remember when he was doing the book. Because that was weird, that was strange as well, because Terry had been around, we had been hanging out a lot. My husband, my son and Terry, and myself we were always sort of hanging out together. Then the next day, we were going over for dinner. I think it is kind of what we were going over. Sulo Karlsson was also there, as he was writing a book and interviewed Terry. But anyway, Terry said, “By the way, I’m doing this music thing. Do you want to sing?” I went, “Yeah. That would be great”. He went, “What are you singing?” So, I said, “Okay. What about “100 Degrees in the Shade”?” He said, “Okay.” So, I went to over his house, and he had wooden spoons because he didn’t have drums or maybe he chose to use wooden spoons. Sulo (lead singer of Diamond Dogs and The Crunch) played guitar. And so, we did “100 Degrees in The Shade,” And then the next thing they set about, I think then the idea of the Crunch came because of the people led into. But I just thought, isn’t it how things happen.
Metal-Rules.com: One thing leads to another.
Anita Chellamah: One thing leads to another. And I said, “What is that sort of thing?” I just think that’s what happens. Things just evolve. If they are meant to be, they will happen. You could put the work in, and you got to work, but it sort of feels, I feel this time, I’m enjoying what I’m doing. I enjoyed what I did last time as well. Don’t get me wrong, I really did. I have always enjoyed performing, and I enjoyed working with different people I’ve worked with, and at the time, you don’t always realize it. I think I took for granted a lot, you know, but things are different now.
Metal-Rules.com: You have been in touch with your other old friends and bandmates, the guys you knew in the ’80s? I have seen a photo where you are with Sam Yaffa. It wasn’t a long time ago?
Anita Chellamah: Yes, yes. We did a gig. It was at the Baboons. And we went to do a gig there when he said that they were going to do their acoustic gig in the Baboons. And he said, “Do you want to come to do their support?” He didn’t actually say support. He just said, “Do you want to come and do the gig?” And I hadn’t seen Sami since Cherry Bombz days. That was the last time I had seen Sami, and that was nice, and I really enjoyed their gig, and I enjoyed doing the gig. I appreciated their gig. And it’s amazing. It’s happened with the girls of Toto Coelo. I contacted a few girls about getting together to do that thing for that record company in L.A. It was amazing, so we all got together again. It was just so bizarre singing “I Eat Cannibals” again. It was just more lined great fun. That was nice.
Metal-Rules.com: By the way, have you also been in touch with Nasty Suicide in a while?
Anita Chellamah: Well, I see him on Facebook, and I spoke to him. I think it was last year on the phone. I haven’t seen him. It’s just so lovely when I say, and I know he seems happy. I’m just so happy for him.
Metal-Rules.com: Do you know what he’s up to now?
Anita Chellamah: He was doing pharmacist.
Metal-Rules.com: Yeah. And actually, he’s now working in a pharmacy company. Knowing the history, it’s a bit ironic, in my opinion, “Laughs” At least he knows what he’s talking about. “Laughs.”
Anita Chellamah: Yeah. He’s learned about it. I have got the utmost respect for Nasty. And that was lovely when you hear that people are still here. I think that’s a thing. It’s nice to know we are all still here. Because at one point, I wasn’t sure where we would be, if I’m honest.
Metal-Rules.com: Do you remember his latter band Cheap and Nasty?
Anita Chellamah: That was after Cherry Bombz and I went to work at Sky. I had my show on Sky Channel, and I did that for about two years after that. It was 1998 where my life changed, and I just placed a card. I sorted myself out. And to do that, I had to pull away.
Metal-Rules.com: So, during all these “off years,” did you ever went to see the new version of Hanoi Rocks?
Anita Chellamah: New version? No. Were they here? When was that?
Metal-Rules.com: They played in London and the UK several times, and they already split again in 2011, “Laughs.”
Anita Chellamah: When I say I dropped out, I really did drop out of everything. I spoke to Andy, and I also spoke to Angela, but no, I never saw them when they played. I wasn’t in contact with them at that point. I’m in touch with them now through Facebook again, to be honest with you. And, I think, stepping back into things, you start stepping back into the past. Then you start seeing people in that world, really, in this world. But no, I never went to see these shows. So, I can’t judge. So, I don’t know. I just remember that Andy is really talented and an amazing guitar player. So, I haven’t seen him recently. But I would hope he still is doing fine?
Metal-Rules.com: Andy is still Andy.
Anita Chellamah: Okay “Laughs”
ABOUT RENE BERG
Metal-Rules.com: I was going to ask. Did you ever know Rene Berg?
Anita Chellamah: Rene, yes. I liked him. I did a pilot, I was a radical rapping mermaid for him in a pilot, and I’ve got the photos. He was at the reeking fisherman, and he did this pilot, and it was like a rock n roll fisherman show. I know it sounds bizarre, and it was in Devon, Bovey Tracey. I think that’s in Devon. And he asked me to go and do some stuff on it, and it was just a pilot show, and I was going to try and get series. And I went down there, and they put me in this shell, great big shell, and I had mermaid tail, false eyelashes, shells, a net, and I rapped in a Rock N Roll way. In the middle of a lake, and it’s like 4:00 in the morning with candles, and they were filming it. An idea of a show he had, he was such a beautiful person. It makes me feel sad actually that he died. It does because he was such a gentleman and he was such a nice person. And it’s sad. He died and the way he died. Sad.
Metal-Rules.com: Rene was a very private person. Only a few people know much about him and his life, or what happened at the end?
Anita Chellamah: I don’t know what happened because I didn’t see him at the end of his life. After the Cherry Bombz, I just remember I went to a gig he did in Camden, and I cringe when I think of this. He was performing on stage, and I was really not with it, and I decided I needed to… I stopped doing whatever I was, and he said, “Come up on stage.” And I don’t know what to say, what I sounded like. I’ve just got memories of it, which is really sad. But that’s what it was. And he was such a gentleman and sweet person. He was always very; he was just a charming, lovely person. And I was really sad to hear he died. Really sad. But I don’t know what happened to him because, as I said, once I finished the Cherry Bombz, I was sort of out of that total. And I did that presenting thing for a couple of years, and then I sort of waited and sorted my life out. I reached a bit of rock ’n roll life, and I’m grateful I’m not a casualty, I’m thankful I’m still alive, and I’m where I’m at with it. And you know. Looking back, I’m fortunate and very blessed. Really.
THE CHERRY BOMBZ DAYS
Metal-Rules.com: What if we talk about the past and Cherry Bombz next. It’s now been almost 25 to 30 years when you were in that band. How do you remember those times?
Anita Chellamah: I remember that well. I’ll never forget that time. I think it was Terry who says a band is quite often looking up to their name. I think. I remember it being a real explosion of everything. When I look back, it was amazing how that happened because when I left Toto Coelo and there was a guy who had been a producer in one of my videos. I wanted to go solo, and I started working on new songs with him. He then said, “I think we need to write with him.” And it was Andy. I was writing songs for a solo album. That was the thing. I was working to do a solo album. And when the awful thing happened withRazzle, he got killed in the States, and then we did the Cherry Bombz together. I just sort of evolved, and I didn’t even realize how everything happened because I came from this pop world. And I didn’t realize how huge Hanoi Rocks was. I was quite naive, because when I went to see their gig then and I was like, “Wow! They are popular.” Those people were like, “My God! I never knew they were so huge.” And so, when we started working together, and I look back, it was amazing because when I was young, I had always loved writing poetry. And when I was at school, there was a teacher who got through my work and says it is wrong, and I’d go, “What? What’s wrong there that’s not right?” And she never said. And I didn’t realize that when I started writing with Andy. I had never written, and I had got a blog about it. So, what was amazing for me personally was the fact that I just started to write again. I co-wrote “House of Ecstasy” and “100 Degrees in The Shade” with Andy, which was fantastic. So that was a real sort of, I’m doing this and then performing and then doing gigs, and then the whole thing. I look back now, and I think it was wonderful. I mean, still, we had our moments, we had our moments. You are going to have your moments when you got strong characters in the band. When I look back, it was a fantastic time. There was so much, so much amazing stuff about it. And I always think it’s so short. You don’t realize it when you are in it. You don’t appreciate it. There were things I didn’t appreciate till after looking back, and I look back, and I think, “Wow! When we did Reading Festival” Because that was amazing.” But at the time, we were like, we’d come back from a ten-week tour in the States. We were all knocked, and we were arguing, and Andy and I had been arguing, and then we both are leaving the band. And it was just really, we were all tired and stressed and funny enough Terry was never like that. I remember that Andy and I used to have our moments of arguing about things. We were like brother and sister, “Laughs.”
Metal-Rules.com: I remember the time when Cherry Bombz made a lot of headlines in Finland.
Anita Chellamah: Did we? About what? Tell me, because I don’t remember, but I might remember if you tell me.
Metal-Rules.com: One of the biggest headlines was that you and Andy were having an affair, and that was one of the reasons why the band broke up?
Anita Chellamah: No, no, no, that wasn’t the thing. No. I can honestly say the band did not break up because of that. The band broke up because there was so much… I couldn’t tell you exactly why we broke up, and that’s the mad thing about it. When I look back and look at it and see everything is like when you are in that bubble, and I remember being on tour, it was ten weeks in a row. And we were in this mini-bus, and I remember that Andy’s wife Stacy (rest in peace) was there and Nasty’s girlfriend and others. We were all in this very contained space, doing very long drives for ten weeks, and I think what happened is for any sort of family when you are in that contained space with no-one asleep and things happen. And things are small, then get blown up un-proportional, and unless you can take a step back for a bit and then view it. And in those days, I didn’t do that. I never really took steps back and do it. And so everything went… When I look back because I remember when we came back from America, we did the Reading show. And I remember that was when we were told, Richard, our manager, said, “Elektra in New York are going to offer you a record deal.” And I was going, “No, that’s it.” And Andy, I think, had left by then, and I said, “No, no.” And he said, “Well, you’ve got two represent…” I go, “No, no. I can’t do it. No, it’s too much. I need to take it low.” My head was also much messed with many other things as well, which isn’t today.
Metal-Rules.com: Right. I remember Andy blaming you about the split in the press, and then he was saying like, “Yeah, we had to get rid of Anita because she was drinking too much” I think he is not the best person to say things like that. “Laughs”
Anita Chellamah: Well, we’ve spoken since. And the thing is we both… We are not a brother and a sister, we’ve got good feelings, and I think we were crazy and out of control as we were young. And there is no coincidence with the band called the Cherry Bombz. It was explosive. And it was explosive. It was great. But we thought great stuff comes to the other stuff as well. So, whatever I said was in the past. And we both wish each other well.
Metal-Rules.com: So, after all, Cherry Bombz was a short-lived project. It lasted only like two to three years, right?
Anita Chellamah: It was so quick. It was formed in 1984, and I believe that the last thing was ‘in 1987. I think it lasted about three years, two, three years?
Metal-Rules.com: So, how you now like the legacy that Cherry Bombz left behind. You did one studio album, one EP, one live album, and a DVD, which came out afterward, like in 2004 or something. Have you seen that DVD, by the way?
Anita Chellamah: No.
Metal-Rules.com: Okay. I think it’s a pretty good one, and it’s a whole show on it.
Anita Chellamah: It’s that the live one from the Marquee?
Anita Chellamah: I have seen it. Not in 2004 or so; I saw it earlier. I love the energy, and I think the fact is when I look back, it makes me smile, and I have really fun memories of it. It’s like, I don’t know. When I look back, I think it was great fun; it was great fun at the time. 100 Degrees in Shade” is so far the only cherry Bombz song that I’ve done with the band, but it’s not that I won’t do others. But it sort of felt, I don’t know. I look back, and when I see the DVD, it does. It makes me smile. It really does. And I think the thing I love about because somebody was talking about. Would we do a gig as the Cherry Bombz? And I have never ruled out. I’d do a gig. I’d love to see everybody again, maybe. They are amazing musicians, and it was great to play together, whatever. But I think it’s about recognizing that’s why the music I’m doing now; it’s singing for what it was and respecting it for what it was. Like what you see ’80 bands doing ’80 stuff. Doing and singing, and sort of… I don’t know how to put it? I respect it for what it was, and it’s lovely. And I’m not saying I’d never do something with the others again. It’s obvious I’m doing stuff with them now. I don’t know if that answers the question or was that a question “Laughs.”
Metal-Rules.com: Never say never.
Anita Chellamah: Yeah. Never say never. Because I have such fun, we did have fun. Take away all the madness, “Laughs.”
LIFE AFTER CHERRY BOMBZ
Metal-Rules.com: Do you remember Shooting Gallery, the band Andy had after Cherry Bombz?
Anita Chellamah: Funny enough, I went over to America, so I would go and live in America for a while and see if I could get a deal over there. I stayed there for a while, and I remember going to visit him and Billy (G. Bang), who was doing the band with Andy. And I didn’t know much about the band. I’ve got to be honest. I didn’t know much about their music because, at that point, I just went over and said hi to them. And Billy seemed to be a nice guy. And Dave Tregunna also played in that band, yeah. So, it’s funny. It’s kind of a small world, really; it’s quite a small world.
Metal-Rules.com: I was just going to ask if you remember that when Andy put out the Shooting Gallery CD-like two years after the break of Cherry Bombz and then recorded a new version of “House of Ecstasy”?
Anita Chellamah: I saw the video of it. This is weird. I really did drop out of the music industry. And I saw the video about six months ago, and I like it. I said to him, I messaged him, and I said, “I like your version, I like what you did.” Because Billy has got a great voice, very different. And I think it’s flattering if somebody does it, because me and Andy, we co-wrote that song together. I have no problem with him doing it at all, and that’s how I look at it.
Metal-Rules.com: Billy was out of the music business for a long time as well, but now he is also on Facebook, and he’s chatting with fans all the time in there “Laughs.”
Anita Chellamah: Well, I think that’s a great thing because when you strip away as I did. I didn’t want to be involved in the music industry anymore. I’m not blaming the industry because it was me that was a bit messed up. Getting involved unless you are grounded out unless you are grounded in some way and deal with things that come. You can go a bit nuts, and then on top of that with everything else that was going on with me, going a bit nuts. Because I thought it was a few years back, and I thought, “I do feel I want to make music.” And I thought, “My God! There is so much there.” And I was thinking about my age, and I was thinking about this and that. And I thought, “You know what? Do it because you love it.” And the people I look up to and admire and all different. I’m very eclectic with my music. I like so many different styles and different people. All the people are wooed to or true to themselves. And it doesn’t matter what age they are. And I look at my friends, and my friends are such a diverse age, so I just saw it’s just about doing and not worrying. And that’s the beauty, I suppose now. It’s not worrying what people think. That might come in, of course. I’m not immune; I’m not Teflon-coated. But at the same time, it’s about, that isn’t the most important thing. The most important thing is that I like what I’m doing and I’m enjoying it and having fun. And that has been great because I think it’s added to my music and me as well. Because just to look at yourself and learn from what’s happened, and to know the past occurred, you can’t change it. But you can learn from it, and you can use things, and things could be positive. Do you know what I mean?
THE FUTURE OF ANITA CHELLAMAH
Metal-Rules.com: So, it’s time for the last questions. At the beginning of this interview, you told me about your upcoming album and showed me what you’re going to do. Do you have any plans to tour outside of the UK, like in Finland, for example?
Anita Chellamah: I’d love to. I would love to do shows wherever, in Europe. But it’s about doing it. It’s about being able to do it. It’s getting a promoter who will be willing to get us over, get me over there. Because it is, it’s like stepping. I’m open to it; it’s stepping back into a world that I haven’t inhabited for a while. So, getting people to be interested enough to go, “Yeah, we’d like you over here.” And I’m not the first to do supports to most gigs and stuff.
Metal-Rules.com: Maybe Timo can help you out to get gigs from Finland as well?
Anita Chellamah: I’d love to. We were talking about what being able to do. It’s just getting someone who actually to bring us over there because I’d love to. So, I’m always open to anyone who is up for it and is interested in doing it. So, I’d love to go to Finland again. Now where I’m at, I’d like to experience that at this point in my life. Because I remember, I did something for… What’s the band? I can’t think of the band anyway. But I remember doing something when I was in the Cherry Bombz when we were there. And I was going, “If I see another lake and another tree and…” And I was all thinking about it. I saw so many lakes and so many trees. And then, when I sort of turned my life around a bit, I went, “The lakes, the trees.” Just different thinking from a different headspace. So, I’d love to revisit Finland, and I’d love to revisit thee and do gigs.
Metal-Rules.com: When was the last time?
Anita Chellamah: With Cherry Bombz in ’86. So, I’d like to get back where I’m at now and do some gigs. I’d love to. But it’s just whether or not that can happen or not. It depends on… It just depends on somebody who will focus and get so far.
Metal-Rules.com: Timo has played several shows in Helsinki with different bands during the last years. Maybe you should try to get a show in a club Tavastia for example. Do you remember that venue still?
Anita Chellamah: Yes, I do. I remember the place; I very clearly remember “Laughs” I remember it well like yesterday. I remember doing gigs, but I can’t remember in and out. I remember a place called The Rose something, The Rose something? I don’t know if it was a club or a bar or a restaurant, or I’m just making it up, or it’s a dream. I’d love to go; I’d love to go over there, so if you know any promoters that want us to do gigs. Please, please, I would love to.
I’m open to anyone because the reality is I don’t… It’s so funny because I said it’s like my career has gone the opposite way around. I started off doing these big stages and things and now coming back. Because somebody said to me, “You are really under the radar.” I went, “Yes, I am, but I don’t mind being under the radar.” Because in my head I didn’t know what, getting back into it again, I wasn’t sure what will happen. It wasn’t like a life planned. It’s just doing. So, someone said, “You are really…” And so now I suppose these things are slowly taking over. I’m quite open if people want to help. They can get gigs, something nice. I’m up for it. I love doing it. I love it.
Metal-Rules.com: Okay. This is fine. Thank you.
Anita Chellamah: Thank you. Fine.