I had the pleasure of talking with Rob ‘’Chappers’’ Chapman, a.k.a. The Monkey Lord, of YouTube fame about what was going on in his world and what some of his plans are for the future! Check out the video below to get an idea of who and what the Monkey Lord is/does and then read the article below to get an idea of what goes on in his world! HERE is the official Monkey Lord YouTube page.
1) How are you doing?
You know, I’m really good. Continually amazed at the shit that’s going down because the thing that I think people realize about me, which is the truth, is that I’m just a regular dude. I’m just like you, y’know? You go to bed like me. And I never in a million years dreamt that I’d be making a living playing guitar, via YouTube, G-list celebrity, owning a guitar company, y’know, running a festival, working with huge brands. So I’m kinda like this [makes amazed face]. That’s how I feel and I’m working my ass off from 10 in the morning to 3 at night. Yeah, I’m tired, perpetually tired but I’ve still got that bubbly, excited, caffeine blast shining through my hairy veins. So, it’s pretty good to be me right now. I guess to surmise, tired but excited.
2) How did you create such a strong interaction with your viewers?
Well, it wasn’t really a decision I made, it was just something that I do. I just like people. And when I posted my first guitar lesson and someone asked me a question, I instinctively wanted to reply because I like guitars and people and I just thought I’d reply. And it’s the whole sort of “boiling a frog” analogy. You get a pan of water and put a frog in it and then slowly increase the heat and it just sits there and boils to death. And that’s kinda what happened to me on YouTube. I sat there answering comments and before I knew it, I was getting…I mean, right now, my subscriber page is growing my 6.5 a month, which means that I get 15,000 views a month. And of those 15,000 views every month I get something like, I don’t know. It’s hundreds of hundreds of comments and I try to reply to them all. I sit down, I release and video and BAM, comment, comment, reply, reply, reply, until I kinda get hand cramp [laughs]. And what’s happened now, I guess, is that some people, the avid Chappers fans, have started answering for me which is real nice. But I have had many a chat with my wife where she said, ‘’You gotta stop answering comments, man.’’ And many artists have said to me, ‘’I don’t know, you’re lowering yourself to talk to people. You don’t need to do that. You can be an artist and, you know, whatever an artist encompasses.’’ but that’s just bullshit, isn’t it? Because, like you say, I think a lot of the reason I’m so successful is because people feel like they can talk to me. I’m just like them, I just share the journey and everything I’m doing and I really enjoy being, involving with people. I love collaborating and taking people along and letting them see cool places and, you know, who the fuck wouldn’t? I don’t see people wouldn’t enjoy that.
3) The ML1 was a collaboration between you and your viewers. Is that going to be the standard way of creating new models for the Chapman Guitar line?
Absolutely. I literally just today started a new initiative for Chapman Guitars. Most people know, Chapman Guitars was only going to be 100 signature models for me and I was just honored to crap to have a signature model! And I just didn’t…I wasn’t even thinking this is a great marketing idea, I just thought I’d ask people what they want, because, they’re gonna buy it, so it makes perfect sense to ask them what they want and it was really fun. And, the interesting thing is that it averages out to make something great. You don’t end up with something crap because people, the sort of consensus, the mass of people tend to want good things [laughs]. And so everything that Chapman Guitars make, well with the exception of one line of guitars, will always be collaboratively designed. Right now, on my forum, we are…again, this is exclusive but you can have it and tell people, because it doesn’t really matter. From now on, Chapman Guitars will only be hand-built in the UK. I found a luthier, a very good luthier, whose lineage stretches back to the 15th century in England. His family has always made wood for the French Court and all sorts of people and he’s ridiculously skilled. And we simply call him, ‘’The Carpenter’’, there’s a horror reference for you there [laughs]. And The Carpenter doesn’t sleep: he waits. And he sweats lemon oil. And he [laughs], he’s the Chuck Norris of guitar building, man. He’s just unbelievably skilled and a lovely guy. And we struck a deal where from now on, well, I collaboratively designed that a concept for a guitar, for example this one is going to be an Explorer, based upon my Ziggy. When we collaboratively design one, when we have a standard model, it will be built to order. So, every single guitar will be hand-built in the UK by The Carpenter for Chapman Guitars until a few years have passed and I’ve established a brand and then we’ll collaboratively build and have them made in Korea or Japan to have an affordable range. But, we’re gonna start off with the higher end stuff right now because we’ve got the affordable ML1. But collaborative design is an absolute no-brainer. It’s win-win because the people enjoy it, they feel part of the whole process, and then because they’re part of it and they’re proud of what they’ve achieved, they want to buy it. And that’s really cool. The ML1, we made 500 guitars and before they landed in the UK, we’d sold 60 of them. You think, that’s a lot of guitars on pure faith. Blind faith they’re going to be good, you know? And it’s a lot of money. Sixty times 300 pounds is a lot of cash just to get from people to trust me, so I’m fucking honored. You know what I mean? It’s ridiculous. And now they’re in retail stops and they’re just flying out and people are loving it. So anyway, the whole collaborative design process is something that I ABSOLUTELY stumbled upon by pure accident, just through the nature of loving involving people in what I do and liking to share and it’s just served me beyond any comprehension. Which leads up to a contract I’ve just signed with one of the biggest amplifier companies in the world to work on a project that will be launched in some point soon.
4) Is any work being done on an ML2? Is so, what can you tell me about it?
The ML2 is the Explorer. The way it works is that Chapman Guitars have four types of guitars. The Chapman Guitars ML series are affordable. They’re gonna be the LTD to ESP, for example. Then, the next line I’m working upon is again collaboratively designed, except it’s the Chapman Guitars Original series, so CGOS. They are built to order, they’re collaboratively designed but you get to pick the pick-ups and the color. The one we’re working on right now is an Explorer shape. It’s gonna be made of Korina, it’s gonna be a 25” scale, like a PRS, it’ll have 24 frets, it’ll have an Indian Rosewood fretboard, jumbo frets, it’ll have a hardtail, I think, unless the dudes collaboratively design that it doesn’t [laughs]. But this is it! I don’t know what my guitar is gonna be like until they make it which I think is really cool. Because, the thing is, I love all guitars! I get a lot of heat on YouTube from people, who you’ve probably seen, saying, ‘’Oh, he should be playing his own guitar.’’ Here’s the thing: I don’t make PRS guitars, I don’t make Fender Strats or Gibson Les Pauls, and they’re all brilliant guitars. I make Chapman Guitars and what I really want is to have a Chapman Guitar one day that’ll make people go, if you go to a session, ‘’If you’ve got a Strat, a Tele, and a Chapman, you’ve got what you need.’’ See what I mean? So, like, working with people like Eddie Kramer, you cannot have the mindset of, ‘’I’m Chapman Guitars therefore I play Chapman and nothing else exists.’’ That’s bullshit. Gotta have a Les Paul, gotta have a PRS Custom 24 because that’s its own sound there. It’s funny isn’t it? It’s funny that people feel that way. I can understand why they feel that way. I have to say, I think it’s more the Americans that have this real sense of loyalty to brand, the British people don’t have [laughs]. I noticed it’s just been a lot of the U.S. guys, lots of the German guys who have said, ‘’Well you ARE Chapman Guitars, you SHOULD just play Chapman.’’, and I’ve sorta said, ‘’Well, but I love all guitars! Why would I lie to you?’’ And I think it’s a very Buddhist mentality to say to people, ‘’I believe in Chapman Guitars so much that I will tell you to buy whatever you want. If you want to use a Strat, use a Strat. If you want to use a Tele, use a Tele. If you want to use a Chapman, use a Chapman.’’ I’m never going to tell anyone what to play, so don’t tell me what to play, right?
5) Tell our readers a bit about your band and where that’s headed.
So, Monkey Lord the band was originally just going to be me playing instrumental rock and then I found out I could sing after a visit to my chiropractor…So, now there’s a need for a band. I’ve got the best drummer on Earth, Stick, who played in a Led Zeppelin cover band for many years, quite a good one in England. And he has…that feel. He is, a ‘’feelster’’. He doesn’t play to a set rhythm. He chooses the rhythm and then he goes there. And I love that. He retards it and pushes it forward and he breathes and lives with it rather than going…like a metronome, you know? And we have exactly the same taste, exactly the same feel, we are in each other’s minds. It’s as if I’ve known him for fucking years. He’s a great guy. We are currently looking for a bass player. We had a bass player and unfortunately he had to go, purely because he was a session jazz player foremost, and I hadn’t realized that, and so his feel was very different from the way I would feel stuff. So he had to go. We are auditioning bass players actually weekend after next. Got a couple of guys, one guy I’m feeling very good about is a guy called Matt who is a 12-string acoustic playing genius…He sings, he’s played bass guitar in a bunch of heavy metal bands for years and he’s a dirty, low-down, drinking, scumbag, filth whore. So, I’m pretty sure he’ll fit in fine [laughs]. The plan originally was to release a single every month with a music video and have a competition in turn to promote the single. It took a backseat because of the whole sacking-the-bass-player fiasco, and I’ve since decided that what I really want is a rhythm guitar player as well so that when I sing, I don’t have to forsake the guitar. Because, I’m realizing that although I love singing, I’m so new to it. I am three times the guitar player then I am a singer but unfortunately the fans want me to sing. Now I’ve done it! They want me to sing on every fucking thing I do! So I’ve gotta sing so I need back-up. I can’t do it. I can’t play the riffs, they’re all syncopated, they throw me out mentally. So, I need a full band. So, we’re waiting for a full band and then we’re off to tour at the end of the year. We’ll then be recording an album with Eddie Kramer in Los Angeles probably the year after this, depending on a few projects and how they pop along. I’m actually recording a new tune the weekend after next, called ‘’Holy Fire’’, which is an instrumental tune. Should be a lot of fun.
6) What are some of the future plans for The Monkey Lord?
Uh…what can I tell you. [long pause] That’s tricky [laughs]. What I can tell is you that Monkey Lord the Band, see this is the problem: People call me Monkey Lord and I decided to call my band Monkey Lord and it’s a difficult thing because what I decided was that, to survive in this industry, Monkey Lord was a brand AND a band. If you have a brand, you can sell products on the side and have other income streams. If you’re just a band, you’re competing with millions of other bands. I’m good but I’m not Malmsteen or Joe Satriani, so I needed to become a brand. So, Monkey Lord the brand is launching a festival in 2011 called Monkey Fest, which will be the first Glastonbury for guitarists. It will be a real camp out festival in Wiltshire. It will be sponsored by Marshall amplifiers and Lick Library. It’s gonna be a big deal, big open stage, camping out, beer, meat, naked women, that kind of stuff. Lots of tuitionists, learning guitar from brilliant artists. Marshall are bringing a headlining act as are Lick Library, so it’s very exciting. That’s a Monkey Lord brand event. Monkey Lord the band will be on tour with a promotions company that work a lot with Richie Kotzen and Vinnie Moore. I formed a partnership with them where, ironically, although they’re a promotions company, I’m gonna be promoting them [laughs] and in return they put me on tour. Which is great, because touring is very expensive and they’re paying for it which is very nice. So, band on tour, we’ll release an album. And then, I guess that Chapman Guitars is a part of Monkey Lord in as far as it’s the same fans. So, we’re gonna be releasing these various different kinds of models. We’re gonna be doing Private Stock, Custom Shop, Limited Editions, that kind of thing. And I think the last thing you’ll like is that the ultimate goal of Chappers is to make a movie! And I will make a movie. And it will be awesome. And I have some very strong contacts in the industry to make this a reality. For start, I have my own film crew: I have the wonderful Andy McCreath who’s been a professional lighting camera guy for years and years and years and he filmed my DVD and the DVD we’re shooting the weekend after next, called ‘’Shreducation’’, which is a live clinic that will be filmed and turned into a DVD. And Andy and I, well I have this idea for a movie that we’re going to create at some point, that’s all I’m going to say [laughs]. I can’t say anything else about that movie. But I want to make a movie and you know that my favorite movie of all time is ‘’Big Trouble in Little China’’, so you can take that, throw Monkey Lord on it and whatever happens, happens. It won’t be serious, I can tell you that [laughs].
7) What are some of your favorite horror movies?
Here’s the thing, I don’t know if this really qualifies as horror, but ‘’Eraserhead’’. Terrified the living shit out of me. When I was 14, I saw it at school and I think the reason it terrified me so much, it wasn’t the visuals, it was the audio. Because, when I hear something, it’s stuck in my mind forever, it will never go away, and there’s the continual kind of low resonant hum, all the way through the film. And the dancing on the falling fetuses or whatever the fuck they are and the radiators, it just is so fucking creepy! I mean, it ruined my sleep patterns for many years, so that’s my all time favorite horror film if you class it as a horror film. Obviously, ‘’Big Trouble [in Little China]’’ is a comedy, action, kung-fu, horror so that has to be my horror film of all time. [John] Carpenter is a freaking legend. There’s not a lot he’s ever done that’s wrong. And something that I think he’s really underrated for is his music. His music, for me, is so atmospheric, so emotionally stirring, so simplistic. And it kinda sounds cheesy too, but I kinda like the cheese [laughs]. Nothing wrong with McDonalds music, it’s just got something to it that he really means when he plays it, and I like that. So, ‘’Big Trouble’’ is the ultimate horror film. Something else Carpenter did was, fuck what’s it called, ‘’Dusk ‘Til Dawn’’, which is another massive one for me. Wait, was that Carpenter?
No, that was Robert Rodriguez, wasn’t it?
Oh that was Rodriguez! So, I guess ‘’Eraserhead’’ scared the crap outta me, ‘’Big Trouble’’ changed my life and ‘’Dusk ‘Til Dawn’’ got me excited about vampires [laughs].